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40K: Painting in Competitive Play – A History

5 Minute Read
Mar 13 2020
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Hey everyone! Adam, here to talk about the twisting history of painting standards in competitive 40k.

Hey everyone! Adam, from TFG Radio, here to once again talk about the shadowy underbelly that is competitive 40K.

There is a lot that goes into a game of Warhammer 40,000. There is even more when it comes to games being played at an event or tournament. There are the playing mats, tokens, terrain, missions, rule sets and other things that are bedded just to get the event space ready. Then there are the people that need to help set it all up. There are a lot of moving parts that go with running a tournament, for the organizer. The players themselves also have a lot of tasks that need done.  Formulating battle plans, building army lists, reading blogs, and listening to 40K coaches tell you how to play, are just some of the activities we all go through to get our armies tournament ready. One of the things we must do for most tournaments is to paint our army. There are different  ways to get this done and even different requirements, depending on the tournament.  Today we will discuss the history of painted armies in tournament play and what the general attitude is currently.

Break out those paintbrushes everybody – I said FULLY painted.

Early Games Workshop Years

In the beginning was Games Workshop’s Rogue Trader Tournaments(RTT) and Grand Tournaments(GT). This is really what set the standard for many years. They required that models be fully painted and based. Not even 3 color minimum, but actually painted. There were not many third party makers back then but there were enough that Games Workshop had a rule that a model had to be a certain percentage of GW parts for it to be eligible to use (it varied from year to year). Even back then there was the issue of armies not painted by the player. For many years it was based on the Honor System and Games Workshop would trust the player to report themselves as not having painted the army. I can’t say if people won Best Painted awards and did not paint the army themselves but it wouldn’t really surprise me.

I feel an unpainted disturbance in The Force…

As the company moved away from doing tournaments they did the ‘Ard Boyz format, in response to the rise of Privateer Press and Warmachine. It was basically a power gaming tournament at 2,500 points. More importantly, it had no painting requirement. As a result, you had two metal, or metal and plastic, armies playing against each other for the top spot. This decision, along with one other, would have a lasting affect on the hobby.

The era of phoning it in…

The Independent Years

Shortly after running a couple ‘Ard Boyz tournament, Games Workshop removed themselves from running large tournaments. This created a vacuum that needed to be filled by someone since there were players that still wanted to have tournaments. Many local organizers created their own tournaments and many of them are still around today. During this early time, they continued the practice of allowing unpainted, or primer only armies. Many times this was done to try to get people to come to the events. As time moved on, tournaments began to require at least some paint. this is when we get the “3 color minimum” rule and the infamous “white primer and 3 colored dots” marines. There were some tournaments that even considered a wash, GW wash for example, as a color. This led to a lot of questionable 3 color armies as players would even game this system in order to keep up with the meta. Recent events in the last few years seems to have caused a shift in the attitude of the paint requirements for events.


Gotta look good for the viewers!

The Return of Games Workshop

Two things happened that helped lead a shift in attitude about paint requirements. One was the increase in the streaming of the tabletop game, the other was that Games Workshop coming down from their tower and engaging the community again. Games Workshop starting running events again, and with that they brought back the paint standards from years ago. For some organizers, following the GW example was only natural. For others, it would take the lure of twitch to help get the ball rolling back to those days. More and more people in the hobby today look to video as a means to consume competitive 40K. They watch Twitch streams and YouTube battle reports to learn about the game and the armies being played. As a result, it is important for the content providers to present a good looking product, otherwise people will watch some other channel or event. This has recently led to many event increasing the painting requirement for their events. no more bare 3 color minimum, not there must be some good faith effort to bring models up to the Games Workshop bare minimum, which is much more involved than most other tournaments require. Hopefully this will get people to start to actually get their models painted. This doesn’t really solve or address the “Pro Painted” issue, but that’s a discussion for another day.

~That’s all for this week. I hope you enjoyed the article. Let us know what you think of today’s paint requirements for event, and what would you do different, in the comments section below.



Author: Adam Solis
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