Another random (and somewhat brainless) brain dump today.
I was going to talk about whether the WFB scene is truly competitive, or whether it is actually OK that events, even well-established ones, require players to bring their own scenery, but instead I thought I would touch upon everyone’s second favourite* (and not remotely divisive) topic: Painting Scores.
*We all know comp is the main one!
Now, a disclaimer – nothing here is aimed at any specific individual(s) or event(s). Honestly. Just my take on the subject as a whole!
Scarcely a month goes by when there is not some controversy (real or perceived) related to painting scores at an event.
Interestingly, though perhaps unsurprisingly given the time commitments they are prepared to regularly put into the hobby, the vast majority of the wide-reaching commentators on the subject are staunch supporters of high painting requirements. Perhaps even more surprisingly, despite this they are generally lovely people J
Now, I understand their point of view (on a side note for all the internet warriors out there, you should always at least try and understand the point of view of people you disagree with). The script normally includes several elements of the following: “No one wants to play against unpainted/terribly painted armies; painting is an integral part of the hobby; it’s an offence to people who put time and effort into it to have to see unpainted armies; anyone could put together a respectable army; people should be rewarded for their all-round hobby greatness” (I paraphrase).
Unfortunately, the world of internet discussion for seems to draw its participants into the extremes – those who do not like a heavy painting score at events are often decried as calling for the admittance of unpainted armies. Quite the opposite. In fact, I love beautifully painted armies – they are (literally) works of art. Personally once a game starts I couldn't care less (note – not could care less – that statement makes no sense) if the army I am facing has seven levels of highlights and smooth blending, they become simply “units x, y, z” etc as I enter my battle-trance J
My issue with painting points fall under several different categories:
- It rewards those with the talent, inclination and time to paint an army that scores highly. Sure, most (though not all) painting rubrics *can* be achieved from a standing start by most people if they have enough time. This is however a barrier to entry to those who do not have the time, or have an existing painted army that is short of these standards, or who simply can’t paint (for whatever reason).
- Painting point hits are a punishment for not meeting someone else’s standards. This seems wrong somehow. I don’t demand that people play better, or get offended when they do not live up to whatever gaming level I believe they should be at. I would not expect to get a points hit for casting a big purple sun through an Ogre army – surely as likely to ruin their enjoyment of the game as not having cohesive bases?
- Heavy paint scores for those that do not like to paint (or have not got the time) leads to two logical outcomes – not go to events with the scoring system (really, we want people not to go?) or simply paying for an army to be painted. That’s an expensive tax to pay to please other people.
- Most importantly though, it simply does not work. There are some stunning armies I have had the pleasure to play against or admire on the scene. Be it beautiful multiple- Arachnarok O&G, stunning mini diorama-laden Skaven, vibrant all-goblin armies, seamlessly blended Tomb Kings, narrative-inspired Empire, Napoleonic Ogres or even Christmas-themed Dwarfs (of all things) or one of the countless others I have not mentioned, one thing is clear. None of the painters painted their armies to these standards because they wanted to meet some painting criteria. They did so because they like to paint and have the ability and the time to do so. Seriously, hats off to one and all of them. Sure, a lot of the time they will be in the hunt of “best painted” trophies, and so they should – these are well deserved.
Given that some sort of painting requirement is always going to be there, there are a couple of approaches that should ensure all armies are painted:
- Any model not to “X” standard removed from play
- Any army that contains models not to “X” standard receives -1 million points. The “Tempest Method” means people can still play, they will just not win anything.
Now, I should say - I will happily admit bias on the subject. My life currently also does not lend itself to painting much – between spending over 11 hours a day either at or on way to/from work and a wife, hobby time is at a premium, and I personally like to use what little I have for playing. Even when I had the time, I honestly hate painting. At about a third of the events I have been to go to I am adversely affected by painting scores (either directly negatively for lack of cohesion/movement trays that do not match or some such) or because someone else is rewarded and leapfrogs me. So, yes, I am not a completely neutral observer.
Fundamentally though, my belief is that people pay for, travel to and attend events to *play* Warhammer (I accept that this belief can be challenged, and may even be incorrect, though I doubt it). Getting people to admire your incredible painting is a nice bonus.
One thing is clear from the controversies though – they tend to arise not from the existence of the scores, but by how they are implemented.
The number one (and most understandable) complaint on this subject is due to the lack of consistency in paints judging. Anything other than the very basic criteria is always going to be subjective to a point. On the whole this is OK if there is consistency within the marks at an event – though I think that the lack of consistency in marking between events is a nightmare. The harsh marks are actually not where most controversy is seen though – that is saved for the sceptre of penalties that are not enforced.
The past 12 months or so on the UK scene have seen this happen rather frequently – to the point where some individuals never getting penalised it is actually a bit of a light-hearted (I hope, I may have mentioned before that some people take this whole thing far too seriously) joke at times.
Now, wishing for, or even demanding, a painting hit for an individual is not a reflection of the best side of humanity it must be said. However, there is something to consider: If I take the time to ensure that my army meets the requirements in the pack (eating into the precious little free time that I have to do something I hate to do) there is an understandable expectation that this was done for a reason, and that those that did not do so will receive whatever the tournament pack has laid out as the just and proper punishment for miscreants (the same actually can be said for submitting lists on time in the right format).
Tournament packs are underrated documents. They are actually in essence the contractual framework of the entire event – Person X is offering to provide what they have laid out in the document in exchange for a sum of money. Sure, leniency is a Good Thing, however people are justified to complain if its contents are not adhered to. There have been numerous events in the past year or so where this leniency has been granted, and people have raised their internet voices in complaint.
I fully appreciate this is unfair on an event organiser – they want as many people as possible to have a fun time, and a tyrannical adherence to the pack could easily not be conducive to this. That’s fine – as I mentioned, I am a big fan of leniency. They should be prepared, however, for people to disagree with what they did. Disagreements are fine – healthy even. Unfortunately the advent of the internet forum age appears to also have coincided with the age of lack of temper control – people get all worked up about stuff (which is fantastic fun for the casual reader!).
On a tangential note, this ties into another pet peeve of mine.
There appears to be an attitude out there that I shall call the Vietnam Syndrome – if you weren't there, you don’t get to comment. This is patently silly. I don’t have to be in a rainforest to decry deforestation, to be victimised to decry racism, or own a football club to complain about the cost of players (a rather random sampling of examples, I’ll grant).
But I digress.
So, given that I hate painting scores and yet love well painted armies, what would I recommend as the “optimal” way of doing things?
Well I would like to see the following:
- Painting scores have no correlation overall placing
- All models must meet a basic standard (the classic 3 colour, based, movement tray seems to work)
- Top 3 “Best Painted Awards”
- “Judges Choice” award for technical excellence
- A “Best Painted” award for every race
A painting criteria aimed to get a “pass” grade is never going to motivate someone like me go above and beyond. I know I stand more chance of playing football for Brazil than of winning a painting award in the standard UK tournament field – the top end of painters really are exceptionally good. If there was an award for every race though… that could be a motivation for a lot of people to try and get an army to a level where it stood a chance within its own bracket. As in most things, competition is a healthy incentive (just don’t, for the love of all things holy, do not take things too seriously – this is, after all, a game).
Overall though, I see this, like taxes, a necessary evil. I go to the events that seem like they are going to be fun – to play, to meet up with people, and maybe for the odd drink or two. Hell, this weekend I am going to an event that has extensive painting scores AND makes me bring my own scenery (the two pillars of evil in this world if you ask me), because I expect it will be good fun. That does not mean I don’t think it could be better though.
Until next time,