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40K: Paint Versus Participation

5 Minute Read
Feb 25 2017

It is the event organizers who truly have the ability to set the quality of hobby on display? …where did all of the players go?

In a near perfect world, everyone who participates in a tournament-style event will have armies that are showing 5+ colors, great highlighting/edging, shading and bases that actually contain something other than a coat of paint.  We, of course, do not live in such a world.  There will always be those who choose to meet the minimum standard just so they can get that uber list to the table in time for the event.  “Always Stormcaller?” Yes, always.  And the reason those folks with the minimum expectations will always be able to participate is that event organizers want to maximize participation.

I want to paint like Dave Taylor when I grow up.

Whether you want to hear it or not, the truth is that the folks who invest the time and money to sponsor an organized, competitive event want a certain number of people to show up.  In the case of local events, maybe that EO/TO wants 30 folks to sign up.  They feel this a reasonable number.  However, given their community size, they know that only 20 of the armies that will be placed on tables will be well painted by hobbyists who have invested a great deal of time and effort.  These folks love the hobby aspect of 40K as much as they do the competition.  The other 10?  They know the minimum standard and will never put in the time and effort.  Are they lazy cretans who should be banned from competitive events?  Not if the EO/TO wants to meet that threshold of 30.

Or maybe like GentleBen

“Wait a minute, Stormy.  What about the folks who are new to the hobby?  Shouldn’t they be given some grace as they grow into more accomplished modelers/painters over time?”  Here’s the problem with that.  If they are not part of a community that applies peer pressure to force folks to step up their game, then they won’t.  If people don’t have a reason to change, they more often than not do not.  I have a strongly engrained commitment to bring well painted models to the table  because the folks I have known for the last 15 years take pride in well painted armies and expect others in our group to do the same.  They modeled the behavior they expected in others.   Is their an intrinsic motivation?  For me, yes.  I started building and painting models at a very young age with the encouragement of my father.  Many folks who come into this game, however, have not had a history of model building or painting minatures.

Duncan has some great tips for painters of all experience levels!

How do you fix this?  Well, what not to do is allow them to just keep showing up year after year with crappy models and give them a pat on the head saying “Great effort.  Here’s a cookie.” Here is where event organizers, either in competitive or social events need to step in and say “sorry, we have higher standards than that.  You are always welcome as part of our group, but you need to invest more time and effort if you expect to put models on the table and use them in games.”  Tough love?  Hell yes.  But I find that most folks, adults or younger players, rise to the expectations that are set.  Just human nature.  Set higher standards, get better quality.

So should the organizer compromise hobby standards and let plastic army men show up looking like they were built/converted/painted by 10 year olds?  This question is actually rhetorical, because we know the answer already.  No they shouldn’t.  But they will.  Let’s take a big example, the LVO.  Reece and Frankie have built this event into something amazing.  Over 400 players this year…insane!  However, try and convince me that if they had uniformly enforced high standards of appearance for every army that they would have achieved the same level of participation.  I saw videos and pics of some exceptionally well painted armies on those table.  Many well painted armies.  I also saw several armies that should not have been allowed to be placed on a table at such a premier event.  The LVO is an example of the compromise that in necessary in the Paint versus Participation conundrum.  The organizers achieved the spectacular level of participation they wanted.  There is, after all, the business aspect of large events such as this.  Does this in any way reflect on the love of the hobby that Reece, Frankie and all the folks who worked to make this event such a success have?  Of course not.  Any more than it does at any GT or other large competitive events.


LVO 2017 had a TON of awesomely painted armies this year – truly impressive!

The reality is that not every hobbyist who also plays in competitive events has either the skill or desire to do more that spray, wash and go.  I wish that every army I have played against was one that I would be proud to own myself.  Most have been.  To whole idea of hobby scores as a balancing factor is offensive to me because it is as pretentious as it is unrealistic.  Let’s also talk about the armies that are commission painted, and how that tosses hobby scoring on its head.  I can’t compete against that, and I am a pretty decent hobbyist.  Why should someone who paid to have another individual paint their army get credit for it in a competitive setting?  The best analogy I can think of is performance enhancing drugs used by athletes.  By the way, any player who takes credit for a well painted army that they had commissioned without giving credit to the talented folks who did the work should be thrown out of the building.  Moreover, hobby scores do not determine the winners of competitive events…period.  /Rant over.

I’d rather paint for the Joy of it, like Bob.


Bottom line here is that GW, unless it is an event that they themselves run (say at Warhammer World), it not responsible for maintaining the quality of the armies that show up for competitive events of any size.  And hobby scores do little to mitigate a lack of quality, as they are never the focus of achievement…it is always who wins the most games and scores the most points.  If there is to be an overall improvement in the quality of armies arriving on gaming tables, it is the responsibility of individual event organizers.  They are the gatekeepers here, and they have much to consider as they manage the complex task of delivering a quality gaming experience to each and every participant.


Where does responsibility for army quality live?


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