Playing with Unpainted Models


A divisive topic for sure.


Whether to use unpainted models on the tabletop is a subject that can be cut, sliced, observed, examined in so many different ways. So today wanted to share my theories for what looks good on the tabletop…

For an army to look great on the tabletop it must look cohesive. Each unit must overwhelmingly compliment the others.

Before I explain what I mean by that, I think we all know what sits at the opposite end of that spectrum…


To me this is the antithesis of what makes a great looking game.


However, in no way am I saying the way these players choose to enjoy their games is wrong.


Far from it.


What I am saying is I know what "I" like!


Most fictional tabletop armies, be they space marines, gribbly monsters, elvish knights or flower people, benefit from having a nice bright shiny colour scheme tying them all together. Even historical forces will generally be uniformed similarly. However sometimes your army will have different uniformed units, multiple banners or different colours...

Picture borrowed from The League of Augsburg blog


The above army from The League of Augsburg blog has plenty of different uniformed units but the force is unified, why?

The single biggest element that creates cohesion and complimentary units is the basing.

Make sure the bases all look the same, same colours same flock and the same scaled textures and in my eyes, your force will look spectacular on the tabletop.


So, if a fully painted and based force looks great can you achieve something vaguely pleasing when it is not painted?


Let's go back to my initial statement...

For an army to look great on the tabletop it must look cohesive. Each unit must overwhelmingly compliment the others.

Notice I don’t actually mention fully painted models.


What about a force that is entirely assembled, with bases that have been textured and everything is undercoated?


What about a force that has been assembled and the bases and movement trays textured?


What about force that has only been assembled, but nothing else has been done, fully unpainted?


I find a fully unpainted army pleasingly unified when arrayed against me. The same with an army all undercoated.


I will even find an unpainted army that has every trooper missing his head and backpack (because they are being undercoated separately) pleasingly impressive.


What drives ME crazy is an army of half assembled, half painted units, with the units that are finished all based in differently...


As with most things in life I do have one exception to this idea of cohesive armies...


The one caveat is that I don’t mind assembled unpainted units fighting alongside finished units. Just make sure the army is full of units that are in one of two states, finished or unpainted.


I know everyone has their own ideas on painted versus unpainted models hopefully I’ve given you something to ponder for a few moments.


Ultimately everything I have said here constitutes my own rules that I hold myself to. It is not my job to police others or decided what they find pleasing or how they should enjoy their hobby.

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David Robotham, London, UK

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