Monday, November 19, 2012

Armies As Art

Van Gogh is always only half listening.

by Rich K.

The Web pounds us over the head with the “fluff” and “competitive” labels but should there be a third type of table top gamer: the artist gamer?

Fluff players are characteristically those who value the back story over all else in the game, e.g. if that particular space marine chapter doesn’t use Terminators in the fluff, the army a fluff player fields will not use Terminators on the table, no matter how much ass Termies kick.

Kraut Scientist's work of greatness.

Competitive players are typically those who play the game for the gaming side of things. They work towards maximum efficiency in their lists and don’t adhere at all to back story. It’s a chess match, a tactical exercise, a mental contest against a worthy opponent for them.

Ron at From The Warp is responsible for this excellence.

I’m neither of those to any great extent. I know virtually nothing of the fluff and I certainly feel no compulsion to follow it. Though I love the gaming aspect of 40k, I’m more interested in a close game with some good friends than winning consistently. I certainly don’t have a winning record and that doesn’t keep me up at night. Also, I have been known to use a unit that is utter crap in-game just because I like the way it looks.

Basically, what keeps me interested in 40k is the art of it all. I put a lot of time into this hobby and really enjoy having models on the table that are unlike anyone else’s.

RatCatcher's amazing DP.

I think this is because I have a background in art from when I was a kid; I spent more time in school drawing X-wings and TIE fighters in combat around the Death Star than I did practicing my multiplication tables. I used to build WW2 model planes and hang them from the ceiling in my bedroom with fishing line, as if in an endless dogfight over Europe or the Pacific. My first attempt at college was as an art student.

I truly believe there is art in what we do for the table.

Stupendous work by Myles of There Is Only War.

What inspired this post was that the guys at Frontline Gaming are looking to recruit a dedicated painting judge for the next Bay Area Open. They will provide a judging rubric for the competition which, of course, will help keep things fair. But what struck me was that the judge must be familiar with “advanced modeling and painting techniques.” Is how the person achieved the look of their army all that important?

The completely logical explanation I was given was that if they don’t have a strictly technical and, most importantly, objective judging criteria they get a lot of complaints. To me, they are placing themselves in a nearly untenable situation because art is always subjective.

This one is Black Matt's superlative kit bash.

Often times the most basic techniques yield the most striking results. For example, I really like the look of dry brushing. I think it gives models a cell-shaded (comic book) feel that lends energy to the actions depicted by the model. Like the “Ka-Pow!” cut-aways in the old Batman TV show. The goal with my modeling is to depict action and energy. Making a model look “real” is not very important to me.

I’m still extremely happy with my dry-brushed Plague Marines and they have about the most non-technical paint job there can be.

My PMs.

We each have different aspects of the game that we are just more interested in than others. But, whatever type of player you feel you are, try and appreciate the art of it all, no matter what techniques are used.


  1. Thank you for the kind words regarding my tank, though that army is probably the most efficiently, non-artistic army to ever grace the North-East, hahaha.

    Your plague marines look great and the quality of your photos has gotten a lot better!

    Keep it up!

    1. Thanks, Myles! I broke my camera at my FLGS this weekend so no pictures from me for probably about a week. I had it in my back pocket and leaned on something, I think, and broke the screen. I ordered a replacement, so expect a tutorial on replacing the display on a Coolpix L22 in the next couple of weeks.


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