Paint to play or play to paint? Which one are YOU?

When I got into 40k three years ago I was not very good at painting. There were no decent tutorial videos out there (Which I fixed!) and the GW instructions are written along the same lines as instructions on how to assemble a book case. I struggled through trial and error and my first Ultramarines just didn't look good. I, like probably 80% of guys who try the hobby, threw up my hands on painting and just focused on learning how to play from Fritz and hacked away at painting here and there. I bought a bunch of poorly painted old crap off ebay and used that on the tables.

But then I decided to focus on painting. I got some high quality brushes, practiced my technique on my crappy models and actually developed some skill. The first model I painted that I was proud of, which is horrible by my current standards, was the Chaplain with Jump pack and I still have him! He was mostly Red Gore and looked like a Khorne Berzerker. I had no clue I used the Khorne color scheme until Black Matt pointed it out to me. I started truely looking at models on line and started to truely see the level of detail that was possible and what I could do. The point of that is that just about any color scheme that works well is already done. As a beginner, don't try to reinvent the wheel and make up your own scheme. Pick an established scheme that you like and go with it. Like I did as I finished that chaplain that looked like a Khorn Berzerker. I used what was already done, and I made it my own.

Then the new BA dex came out, I started using Blood Red, and then my current level of painting was born. I came in with some more models, much improved, and showed Matt again. I told him I was looking at the Golden Daemon stuff in White Dwarf for inspiration. He asked "What do I want to accomplish?" My answer was to win a Golden Daemon after some thought. He smiled and wished me luck, saying if I think I can, then to go for it!

Not long after I won my first of several Best Painted awards, almost won Players Choice at Baltimore GT and was in the top runnings at any tournament I played at.

Now I am flattered to say I am considered a "Pro" and guide hundreds of people in their own painting!

What is the point of all this rambling Jawa???

I ask you the question. Do you paint to play? Or play to paint?

When is started, I painted so I could play. Painting was secondary. I wanted to get good at the game. But then I realized I could paint, and started focusing on that. My goal at tournaments became to go to win Best Painted, standings be damned. That happened pretty fast. Then what?

I was going to tournaments, winning Best Painted, but getting crushed on the tables. I was cool with playing to paint, but let me tell you, my competitive ego was taking a bruising every time.

Flash forward to Toywiz Conflict GT 2009 last Jan, out of about 40 players, I took best painted with my Blood Angels, but also took 6th overall. What? I wasnt 3rd from last? I went to a tournament and won games? The truth of it is that had my buddy Greg not stuck it to me in game 5, I could have won the whole thing. We all have a thousand of those stories, I know, but the fact that I could have actually won stuck with me. And grated on me! My painting is what pushed me into the upper reaches of the tournament. I was one of, if not the only guy to score maximum points for painting. I realized, that with good painting, decent playing, and a little luck, I could compete for the whole shabang! Especially since most guys who go to tournaments are of the Paint to Play mentality. (Getting some gaming quality painted models on the table so they can play their army.)

So boom, the arms race begins. I start refining my list. Next thing I know I am showing up for tournament after tournament with a new list, improving on what I had done before. I am playing casual games with the intent to tweak my list and get the most efficient use of my points I could. A few months later WHAM! I won a tournament. Then another! Then a 4th place... (I was on top table game 3 and drew.) Then I took a third at Mechanicon... I was playing for the win overall, but tie breakers, and my poorly finished army, dropped me to third. Thats right, I said poorly painted army. In my obsession to win games and score battle points, I neglected what I did best, painting. All of my tweaks and army changes left me with using only a Tactical squad and a rhino that were in my first Best Painted win. Everything else was new. I was throwing together models and painting them over night to table top standard, just so I could field them... I showed up there with a tactical squad with no insignias, drop pods with no highlights and half finished bikes. I became one of those guys!

Painting to Play might be what cost me 1st at the Mechanicon GT. It definitely cost me Best Painted at the recent Battle for Salvation tournament. (But I did win best overall.) I thought I could show up and let the impressive stuff in my army outshine the poor quality overall. While my army still looked outstanding, I was putting models on the table that I was not proud of and doing myself a disservice.

Finally I will cut to the point. If you want to win tournaments, you need to focus on both painting and playing. If you look at all of the Best Overall winners, they not only crush their opponents, but their armies are beautiful... Usually, sometimes guys are just so good that painting doesnt matter, but they still have at least good looking armies so as not to lose points.

This January I will come full circle. I will play in the 2010 Conflict GT and try to defend my Best Painted crown, AND win the whole thing! Personally I am no longer trying to paint to play, or play to paint. Best Painted and Best Overall. I want it all! Is that too much? Ugh... I have visions of that obnoxious girl from the original Charly and the Chocolate Factory. :)

More to Come...



Lord Captain Valentine said...

I have always felt wrong about fielding unpainted models, so I have rushed some things in order to have a fully painted army for a tournament or just in general. BUT, I go back and finish the models and get them up to standard.

I am definitely a play to paint guy. I want to make terrain and whole special tables (wish I had the time and space) and do all sorts of stuff. I wouldn't play a game with models that you have to build and paint if I wasn't in it to build and paint models...and then have them beat face.


Spoonfunk said...

I however am one of those guys, that for years didn't even paint my models because 100% of the enjoyment of the game was playing casual games. Pretty soon after I began to take the game a little more serious and began to think about playing in tourney's and so forth. I started learning how to paint, a process I am currently struggling with.
Once I began painting my models however i realized how fun it was and have been focusing more on the modeling and painting aspect than I have the playing part.
Oddly enough it was once that I began to get serious about the playing that I began to enjoy the painting.

Kevinmcd28 said...

Back when I first started I was all paint to play, and I had hundreds of grey guard so that really stuck me to that. But since I majoritally (word?) finished painting Im going back and adding detail and even handpainted stuff on my rhino and land raider and I <3 it even though its only ok. m starting to find that Im painting more for enjowment. Even though I got like 3 paints that are all old and super thck and a couple non model painst and gorilla glue and shoe goo to fix models.....=]

RealGenius said...

Hey, I got into our local store end of year tournament by attending all the monthly tournaments and being fully painted. Not ashamed to say I never won a single primary objective. :)

Flekkzo said...

I'm somewhere in between. I like playing the game (when I get a chance) and I enjoy painting (when I get to). I should win a game or two but would get creamed by the "pros". I paint as good as I can (see my blog) but I'd be surprised if I ever won best painted (unless I go up against kobolts).

But all through this I have fun with my hobby, and I always play to win:)

Good luck with your "new" army. Look forward to the updates:)

Parcival said...

I clearly play to paint. Painting is for me the more fun part as it allows my thoughts to wander, be it either over "real life stuff" or the glory and the heroic accomplishments of the Blood Angels.

I am a rather slow painter and I only play with painted miniatures, so my army lists are rather weak and I loose many times. However, it's better to loose that way and be true to one's army rather than being that type of guy who always plays the latest Codex with unpainted models and proxies so far beyond recognition that you have to ask every time what it actually stands for.

liforrevenge said...

I'm a paint to play guy all the way. Neither me, nor anyone else in the store I go to mind unpainted models- we all have them. It does bug me a bit when they are all playing proxies of the "flavor of the month" army, but it doesn't make that much difference to me, the game's the game.

It's not like none of us are just leaving our models primed black and white. We are all working hard on our models and a lot of them are pretty good painters (I am mediocre)

Every now and then, though, two fully painted armies get pulled out, and it's a happy occasion. But I'll be honest: I don't care.

Zac said...

hey jawaballs its littleman345 and i kina did the same thing u did i painted a marine like the death company color scheme and then i got a little better ive watched some of ur vids on how to paint and they helped alot ty aggain

Zac said...

o and im probably a paint to play guy i love to play lol

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