Warmachine: Pain-ting Units


Why is it such a pain to paint Privateer Press unit models for Warmachine and Hordes?

Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, with some thoughts on the pain of painting units for Warmachine and Hordes. So I’m a veteran painter across many systems for many years, and for some reason painting unit models for Warmachine and Hordes seems to take longer than any other painting I’ve ever done. I started to notice this phenomenon this year, when I set myself the goal of painting 500 points of models in a single year (it began as 365 points as part of the Paint 1 point / day challenge through the Warmachine and Hordes painting Facebook group, but when the points values increased I set a new goal of 500 points). I’m currently at 445 points completed, and yet only slightly more than 10% of those points are units. I’ve noticed that I have even selected warlocks and warcasters that run all-battlegroup or battlegroup dominant because of how longit takes me to complete units. Somehow with 40k and Warhammer fantasy I was able to crank out units like no one’s business (so many Orks and Skaven over the years), and I’ve recently started painting a Bolt Action Japanese army and I’m flying through those troops. Talking with other friends who play Warmachine and Hordes, they confirmed that in their experience it takes longer to paint units in this game than other models/other games.

So I gave some throughts to why this might be (if it’s not just me experiencing this). I came up with three theories for why painting units for Warmachine and Hordes takes so much longer than comparable models from other systems and/or longer than other models for these systems–all of which may be true simultaneously. My hunch is that the models are complex, that variety of pose figures into it, and that the number of models in the game itself affects the care taken. I’ll tackle each in turn in an attempt to get to the bottom of the feeling, even if it’sjust my own particular hurdle.

Warmachine and Hordes Unit Models are Complex


This one is a positive, at least in terms of the models. Privateer Press models are often really, really complex. There’s a lot going on with many of the models. Just look at the Dhunian Knot above: so much detail in terms of the rings, bangles, and layers of clothes. Add to that the tartan design on the kilts (optional of course, but still…), and you’ve got some crazy complexity in terms of painting the model. Part of it is the style of the models that Privateer Press has chosen. Compare the way that so many forces have filigree elements in their armor compared to other companies that limit that sort of thing–40k models for instance often (tho increasingly less so in the past two years) have larger and flatter armor surfaces to be painted. While Games Workshop models often have units that can be made more complex if the painter wants, Privateer Press’ complexity is often on the model itself. I’m not saying it’s a hard and fast rule of course (there will be exceptions), but it strikes me that complexity is a key factor in why they take time to paint. Even comparisons within-system seem to match this: while a Titan and a Praetorian both have filigree armor, the Titan’s is larger and more easily painted.

Warmachine and Hordes Unit Models (Can) Lack Variety


This one is the more negative one about Privateer Press’ choices with Warmachine and Hordes, and it’s one rooted in their production methods more than other things. Privateer’s infantry used to be all metal, and even when they started going plastic the kits remain single pose or limited variation sculpts. That means that in a given box of 10 models, there’s usually 3-4 poses and the unit leader. Even the new plastic kits retain only so much variety in this way. There’s something about painting the same exact pose model over and over that seems to slow me down at least. With assemble kits, like the plastic Bolt Action squad I just put together, I could make sure that every model in the unit had a unique look to them. That’s huge in my ability to feel excited about what I’m doing when it comes to painting. Yeah, it can help with assembly-line style production, but still, it can take more energy (in a sense) to get them done.

Smaller Model Count Affects Care



I think this is the critical reason that it takes me so much longer to finish unit models than others. The average model count for Warmachine and Hordes is just lower than many other games. For instance, the Convergence All-in-One Warmachine Army box above has a mere 28 models to the force. With so few models, the viewer looks more at each model than they would in a larger army. Maybe this is the psychological one… I know that each model is a larger relative share of the overall army. Thus, I take more care on each of them. With my huge Skaven army from back in the day, people would hardly see all the models in the rows. I spent time on them, but I also chose a particular level of painting (2 highlights rather than 3+) because of the sheer numbers. They still looked great (at least I thought so), and I would be okay with my opponent pulling out any one model and giving scrutiny. Yet somehow fewer models seems to make them all the more critical in Warmachine and Hordes forces. That might be making me stress more about them, so that means likely avoiding the ones that seem like “a lot of work”–running to Warjacks, Warbeasts, casters, and solos long before I attempt a unit.

These three factors, I think, are what conspire to make units take far longer to paint in a per-model time than other models in the factions and compared to other systems.

~ Am I alone in this? Is there something about the models? About the game system’s size? Do you struggle with units when it comes to painting, or are they a breeze? Why am I experiencing it for this system alone? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

To witness very few painted units (and lots of painted “the rest”) take a look at Chalkboard’s Warmachine and Hordes blog at:


  • Malevengion

    i’ve noticed that I take longer on my Warmahordes models too. I blame it on psychology. There are many small units and solos in the forces I like to play and I put more work into the small units. Then when it comes to painting a full sized unit and I feel compelled to lavish the same amount of time so the army looks uniform. I could say the same thing for Infinity too.

    • ZeeLobby

      Both systems are great model painting showcases. They never get lost in the masses.

      • Malevengion

        True, although I find it easier to paint Privateer Press over Corvus Belli. The detail on the Infinity minis is sometimes too fine for my old eyes LOL

        • ZeeLobby

          Very true.

  • Nvision

    Also, restic. I love the game and the models, but it needs to be eliminated from the line. I’m painting the new box of Khador Black Dragons now, because I need them for a tournament list. I have had them for almost a year, but they’ve just been sitting in the box for most of that time. Cleaning their restic is the most painful process, mold lines are always terribly placed, it burrs with filing, and is just tedious. I did it in chunks, and hour here and there, but the process took over a week to complete. I didn’t want to touch them afterwards.

    Don’t get me started on Convergence of Cyriss… I’m a masochist.

    • ZeeLobby

      Haha. Agreed. I’m hoping they’ll move more and more to proper plastic. The issue I’ve had with restic is the inconsistency. Some of the units came out great, others were horribly mangled. Luckily PP is pretty good about replacing them for free if you send pics of how bad they are (had stormblades replaced).

  • Hawt Dawg

    I am in the same camp. Painting models (terrain I love to paint) have always been sorta dull but PP models are just tedious chores at best. I have yet to figure it out since I am sold on the game and the lore.

    • ZeeLobby

      The only thing that keeps me going is the unconventional color schemes. It helps a lot. My Cygnar will be rocking yellow lightning instead of blue, etc. If I did Khador I think i’d actually go for camo instead of the traditional red. It’s one of the things I have always liked about 40K where you can create your own chapter scheme. In WMH you feel obligated to follow your factions colors, though you don’t have to.

      • zeno666

        Some armies have some alternative paint schemes if you want to follow the lore and such.
        Khador I believe come in the classic red, but also white, brown and, my favorite, olive drab for 5th Border Legion.

        When it comes to cygnar I have decided to paint mine like the artwork, which oddly enough the official paint scheme doesn’t always match 😉

      • Hawt Dawg

        I have an assembled MoW army in a bag with everything (tokens, Khador dice etc.).

        That bag is saving my models from melted dust…

        I really need to find a way to paint them fast to my usual standard. But I’ll probably end up playing Skyrim SE on my laptop instead.

  • kaptinscuzgob

    i just dont think the models are very good, sorry. example: just got the krielstone bearers unit. £40 got me six metal models, three of which are unique, the others duplicates. The sculpts are okay, but theyre kind of boring; just burly guys in robes with axes. compared to what £40 gets me from GW (usually a 5 man plastic kit with a ton of options) and i fail to see why warmachine is the cheaper option when you consider the quality of what you get instead of how much you need to run an army. its a good job i enjoy the game itself, otherwise id never be getting PP’s miniatures

    • ZeeLobby

      I think most cost arguments come down to quantity though. I don’t think anyone ever argues that PP models are both cheaper and look better than GW’s. That said, their recent over-explosion of detail has made me hesitant to pick up the brush for some GW models. I like having larger flat areas to free-hand or show contrasts, and sometimes with GW I feel that every inch is a skull, or bobble, or a jewel, or whispy magic smoke, etc.

      • Aezeal

        I think a lot of people would argue about which look better…
        I really think the majority would say GW’s are better (or is that what you are saying.. the first like confuses me a bit).

        • ZeeLobby

          That’s what I’m saying. That no one argues that PP models are cheaper and look better. That said, there are definitely some models in PP’s line that I personally think show more character than many of GW’s most recent offerings. But say comparing DE wyches to satyxis raiders there’s no contest, GWs look much much better (I’ve actually used their chain flails to replace the bulky satyxis ones).

          • Aezeal

            Ok sorry my knowledge of english is failing me again 😀

          • ZeeLobby

            No worries, when you pointed it out, and I re-read my own writing, I almost changed it cause I thought I was wrong 😀

      • kaptinscuzgob

        yeah, GW does go nuts with the detail, probably because they CAD design stuff now and its very easy to just copy paste a skull everywhere.

    • Sparowl

      You could probably pick a better unit then Krielstone bearers for your example – a unit that hasn’t been updated with new models since Mk1. Go look at the Northkin Fire Eaters, or the Dhunian Knot instead.

      Unless we’re going to pick a unit from GW’s first few years to compare it to? (I notice you didn’t actually put down a comparison, just a vague “5 man plastic kit”.

  • ZeeLobby

    Personally I love the smaller scale of the game. I usually have to only paint one, or at most 2, of a certain model. Most of that is due to rules limitations more than due to the models themselves, and it makes the painting experience a lot less exhausting. Anyone whose ever painted Orks knows what I’m talking about.

    • Nvision

      Heh, that’s why I sold my Tyranids. Legion is close enough for running gribbly glass-cannons. I do like that units of 10 generally have four unique poses. It makes it a little easier, mentally.

  • petrow84

    First, I had to accept, that I am nowhere near the level of the ones, painting the WM/H armies for showcase. And due to the lack of time to practice, I will never will. Once, I was done with it, I started to paint the armies on my level, with a reasonable speed. It’s now not a masterpiece, but gives an overall, unified look for them on the tabletop – and ives way more pleasure during play, than fighting with the blu-tac theme list with the lead of Major Undercoat Stryker.

  • zeno666

    I guess some people just don’t advance past the Duplo Space Marines when it comes to painting.

  • Richard Mitchell

    This was a pretty good write up. All the infantry model, the the exception of CoC, have alot of small details going one so they do take a longer to paint and since there aren’t many models on the table, I take longer to paint them. I can paint up three jacks in a month but a full unit with all the fixes can take over a month easy. In the end though, painted up PP models do look great once you get them done.