What’s the point of painting miniatures?

Back at the end of 2020 I wrote a post about my plans for getting my Imperial Guard painted up and playing some games of 40k and Kill Team in a narrative campaign https://lasgunsandroses.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/march-to-victory/.

For a myriad of reasons this didn’t go according to plan (as usual…), however I’ve managed to get quite a few models painted up.

I’m not a potato face painter, and like to think my models are at a ‘good’ tabletop standard. Some are better than others, but I’m proud of how my skills have developed.

On my Christmas list this year is some storage for my painted troops, as they currently reside in boxes, and I settled on some of the traditional foam cases (from KR if you’re interested). The reason I mention this is that it really forms the crux of the title of this post. Why did I paint these things?

For me, wargaming has always been about more than the game itself. After all, while beautiful miniatures and scenery make the experience an aesthetic delight, something similar could be achieved through the use of counters or a computer rendered simulacrum.

While there are hundreds of thousands of people that play 40k, even more indulge in the setting itself, my opinion of the game itself is that it doesn’t really work for me as an abstraction, that is, my battles have to have meaning to them. Combined with the fact that I am not a competitive person, I would much rather experience the story of what happens in a game, than be more concerned with a ‘win’.

I’ve been looking a lot more at competitive 40k gaming over the year for the simple reason that it explains why the rules are the way they are, and because my sons are much more competitively minded than me, they tend to approach the game more from the abstraction approach. Therefore my immediate play opportunities are restricted to the house opponents, with T’au, Necrons, and Dark Angels providing the potential foes.

Now, a game can be had with assembled and unpainted minis, especially when playing with your friends (or some strangers), but as I said above, that’s not what really attracts me to the hobby. The painting of miniatures has always been about ‘making them mine’, utilising the paintbrush to transfer my story or head canon into the physical realm. While I cannot fly a spaceship, or shoot a lasgun,that model on the table can. The rules then form a framework within which the ‘magic happens’.

When 9th edition was released with Crusade mode baked in, I was hoping that it would encourage a more narrative style of game.

Disclaimer – I haven’t played a single Crusade game (yet), so if I’m wrong, please leave a comment telling me why.

I actually think that the Open Play mode is better suited to narrative. It’s less restrictive with no requirement to battle forge the army, your units can be whatever size you want, no army keywords to worry about, the missions are more variable especially when creating your own. Reminds me of taking my potato face models to the GW store during the fight for Ichar IV back in ‘95. Crusade feels more like a Matched Play Open Campaign when reading the rules and missions.

With that said, I’ve been working on structuring my Guard into a different 50 power Crusade list than the one I posted last December, and I’ve been working on the names and narrative a bit more. While my immediate opportunities to play are limited, I’m hoping that I can make use of that Xmas storage present to take my crusade to the wider galaxy at some point.

This time, the initial force I’ve chosen reflects my intended narrative a lot more. A further post will set this out, but due to my aging Chromebook not being updated anymore, all my posts now have to be done using the WordPress app on my phone so they take me longer to put together, especially where I have to grab info and pics from a variety of sources.

Why do you paint miniatures?

5 thoughts on “What’s the point of painting miniatures?

  1. Enjoyed reading this but don’t get me started about Chromebooks!! Wasn’t aware of that “issue” until my wife’s Chromebook came up with its final warning in June! Anyway, I used to be more competitive in wargames when I was a teenager but that’s been long hammered out of me and now I collect my armies (and attempt to paint them) to enjoy the researching and creating part of things. I’ll tend to mix between more well known conflicts (like WW2) and less well known ones (like the Paraguayan War and Mexican Adventure). So I think I can appreciate where you’re coming from in wanting to create a depper, more meaningful background for your forces. I quite liked playing the Crimson Skies boardgame because it let you create a band of air pirates, militia or law enforcement pilots and advance them through their achievements during games (and it remains the only game at which I am still competitive)!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I did start a Crimson Skies campaign last year (https://justneedsvarnish.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/bandits-ahead/) if you’re interested (I’m lousy with tags but you should be able to spot the subsequent games). Unfortunately I was off work for three months near the end of last year and never got the final game finished – I keep nagging my opponent that we should get it finished but he’s more competitive than me and not in an easy position in the game where we left it (i.e. if we finish it, I might stand a chance of winning)!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For me at least, painting is both a means to an end (an aesthetically pleasing spectacle on the tabletop) and an end in itself, as I (mostly) enjoy painting, and especially enjoy the satisfaction of completing a model.
    Things like the lore, or actual history enhance both experiences.

    Liked by 3 people

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