Monday, 16 September 2013

Painting Scores

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

Not the result of Painting Scores...

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,



  1. ignoring all the relevant stuff on first read through I thought you spent 11 hours a day 'working on your wife', and thought that's an impressive commitment. Sadly on rereading it was 11 hours working and a wife, a far less interesting mental image.

    I'll slightly dodge the whole paint scores thing aside from saying I'm a big fan of scores that everyone can get but do penalise people harshly not not hitting the basic standard.

    As soon as you apply it on that basis you can ignore the fact that it's anything to do with painting ability really and what it actually becomes is favourite gamer topic number 1 - Comp.

    Painting scores is comp against people buying whatever is the latest netlist and dumping it on the table because 'it's the best thing under the rulespack'. Instead they're restricted by what they are able to get painted in the relevant timeframe. Listen to the Black Sun and they regularly talk about how diesel switches his army to whatever is the 'latest filth' for an event. There was the pre-SCGT warm up where he turned up with his army still on the sprue as the most extreme example of this. It's removing any element of hobby and making it entirely all about the game. Now there is a discussion about whether that should be what tournaments focus on but personally it's not what I'd like to see.

    If you listen to some US WM&H podcasts there have been some comments I've heard about people turning up without brining an army. They buy and assembling the best list as bare metal play it at the event and sell it straight after, the only thing that matters is having the most cutting edge army for the event.

    I think painting comp is there to try and limit the number of people who set out to 'break' any given comp pack by restricting the options they have down to what they have got painted and in that regards it can help hide the issues of some packs as historically packs were unique to the event and not rolled out across a number of tournaments for many months. So people painted a rounded army that fitted into most packs and just lived with the fact it wasn't the best possible thing at any given event.

    1. Lol – well, there are another 13 hours in the day to account for ;-)

      I don’t disagree with any of the above – though on the Diesel point, he now simply sidesteps the issue by paying to get the “latest filth” painted for him. Does mean some downtime though.

      Interestingly was working on an article comparing the WFB scene – where discouraging the latest filth/netlist is seen as a Good Thing, to 40k – where if you listen to the tournament-orientated podcasts the whole scene (at the top end at least, especially in the US) appears to be geared towards fine tuning the bleeding edge of the meta, unsurprisingly paint scores do not feature (though obviously they have painting awards). This means, I think, that 40k is far more “competitive” that WFB – though this is not by any means a “good thing”. *Broad generalisation* - It seems that WFB players like/love their armies far more than their pew pew brethren.

      I am ok with “minimum standard” painting comp, I just don’t think that elaborate systems offering a lot of points do what they wish they did.

    2. Good article there Raf and an interesting read. May I humbly suggest another method which I think would tick all the boxes: Follow the Yanks.

      Now normally I would discourage imitating our back water colonial brethren but in many respects their scene sounds the best of both worlds (well at least according the Midwest podcasts). Adopt a "Best Overall" and a "Best General". Best overall factors everything including painting (and any other soft scores deemed necessary) which determines the best person at the event from a gaming and hobby point of view. Best general is purely scored on battle or victory points with no consideration to soft scores (or list submission etc etc).

      Crucially however Best General is the only ranking uploaded to Ranking HQ.

      Now I should state that I am strongly in favour of hobby and playing with and against painted armies, hopefully that is made very obvious by my blog name (if not content lol). However I cannot ignore evidence or indeed the demands of others not so like minded. Raf, as you have said above you are not a painter and never intend to be and others are in the same boat as you, for you the hobby is gaming and socialising. I do not(nor does anyone else) have a right to enforce monetary/time compulsions upon you to prevent you from enjoying your hobby. I will never agree with you that models become x/y/z during game as to me this really makes the hobby what it is compared to a computer or board game. Whether it is story immersion or just aesthetic disposition a painted army will always (in my opinion) make for a better playing experience. Whether it is a work of art or bare minimum job it is better than an unpainted force.

      This method does not seem to influence the quality of armies in the US, on the contrary theirs seem to be excellent with many if not all featuring display boards and or fluff.

      Hopefully that compromise would appease both factions but I think it would take a brave individual to take the leap and impose it.

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    4. “May I humbly suggest another method which I think would tick all the boxes: Follow the Yanks.”
      Arrrrgghhhh! ;-)

      Actually not a bad shout – and a point that has been made to me in my discussions with Garagehammer (over --> somewhere) on the subject. I did not realise only the gaming scores were submitted, that sort of changes things. Not for the rankings though (I’ve already achieved all there is to achieve on that front ;-) ).
      My understanding of it was that they awarded “best general” and that other placings were then done for the overall. The reason I had a problem with this is that it matters as much (and often more) to someone if they come 18th or 42nd due to painting scores than to the person who comes top (in the UK at least these individuals tend to get full painting marks anyway). If results were published for both “Best Overall” and “Best General” this would go a long way to appease most people I guess. Does mean more work (and printing of more paper! :-) ) but could work.

      On a side note, my viewing of things purely as units x,y,z are actually (perhaps bizarrely) a side effect of my immersion into the story of it all. I tend to view a battlefield as broad narrative, focusing on the themes and events rather than the specific units and how they look. Different ways of looking at the same thing I guess!

      Oh, it goes without saying that if for some reason anyone is reading this and does not read your blog – they really should (once again, over --> somewhere).

    5. Lol thanks Raf, shameless plug aside (;)), I might have got mixed up on the rankings submission in the US however it seemed that way to me? Think that should get clarified!

      I can see that being a bug bear of some that rankings should be purely gaming. I mean lets face it if sports were judged on how presentable said player was then Andy Murray would never defeat the likes of Raf Nadal (Seems that name is synonymous with excellent good looks!), it would only be right that from a "skill" point of view painting has no correlation to a persons gaming abilities. In all fairness sorting a spread sheet on gaming scores is hardly an Everest like task, and I think some tournaments already do this! There definitely should be a mechanism to encourage hobby and I would personally much rather be the "Best Overall" than the "Best General" but that is my personal preference!

      Ah well that's my two pennys!

  2. Hi Raf, sorry if this comment has nothing to do with the post (which I appreciated by the way), but I needed a way contact you.
    I'm moving to London in the following month (from Italy), and as an hardcore warhammer player I would like to kickstart as soon as possible into the UK tournament scene. I figured you could give me some help with that, pointing me to gaming clubs, maybe even going together to tournies. If you want to contactme ,here is my mail:
    Thanks and sorry again for derailing the post.