Adding Life and Character to Your Models and Army

Grimtech Painted
Someone else took this picture at a tournament, but I thought I’d share it because it’s a good shot.

This was spurred by an article of mine showing my WIP Warpsmith. A problem I was having with the model was knowing when to stop; when it was complete. There’s often a fine line between perfection and overdoing it. Well, in response to Dave G. in the comments, I was saying how I really enjoy working on models like this, the ones that take some time, because it creates character and I felt like expanding on that train of thought here.

We all have our favorite elements in whatever gaming system we play. For me it’s the modeling and painting, in this case Warhammer 40K. I also love creating fluff, even if most of the time it never gets put out there and it stays in my head.

I create fluff most often as a result of some game that had epic moments that were inspiring, or because I created a model I absolutely love.

Modeling

I have created a lot of models in my armies. Most of the time it’s a HQ option, a one-off. The more time I work on a model the more character I find is infused into the model. I don’t know how else to say it, or make it sound less lame. It’s as though at some point in the process the model just takes on a life of its own and actually becomes what it’s representing.

It’s hard to quantify, but hopefully some of you are nodding your head knowing what I’m talking about. Character isn’t just for models you built. It might be the paint job you did just brought the model to life. That feeling is awesome; the pride of putting down models you’ve poured your heart into.

Chaos Lord Soulgore #1There’s so much more enjoyment in a game when you are using models you are enthusiastic about. I mentioned the other month that in a tournament I was playing in, I was using Soulgore, a Chaos Lord of mine. Every player I faced knew Soulgore, and called him by name during the games instead of a Chaos Lord.

I can’t tell you how cool that was. I have way more fun putting down these models with character, even when they fail me in a game, then I would if you handed me an army guaranteed to win every time, but lacked that unquantifiable character. Armies with character just have life on the table and demand to be used.

That’s a reason I always create my own army and never use anything established. I love the freedom to create my army in my vision and foster character. Everything from the models, to the paint scheme, to the fluff, is just another layer to establish the army; and eventually it takes on a life of its own.

Gaming

Playing narrative games, and participating in campaigns, is another great way to infuse life into your army. I will often do things that aren’t strategically valuable just because it’s what the army, or model would do. I’m very much a fluffy gamer.

An army with character keeps me playing even when I get my ass handed to me game after game, which happens a lot. It’s what has kept me in this hobby for so long, and why you seldom see me complain about the balance of the game. I can’t fix the balance of the game, and power levels will ebb and flow, but I can always enjoy a game I play because I have created an army that’s enjoyable to field no matter what.

I’ve talked about this before, how playing campaigns is fun, so I won’t dive into it too much here. Suffice to say that I’m a big fan of forging the narrative. Again, the more life your army has to you the more fun it is to play.

Conclusion

At the end of the day we all do what we find enjoyable with the hobby. For me, it’s about stepping away from real life for a bit and living in the gritty, war torn setting of 40K, and I do that through the eyes of my army.

  • khorneinquisitor

    I agree. The more I do, the more I want to do. I get caught up with things, as you’ve seen before. :P I have a really hard time figuring out where that line is between enough and too much. I really like how your warpsmith is turning out, your conversions look very natural whereas I stuggle with that part, hence I often have to do massive conversions to make it look blended.

    • I suppose like anything it comes down to practice. Usually there’s a point in the process where things look good and I know doing anything more will either not add to the model, end up detracting from it or just ruin it. I tend to work off existing models as a solid core and try to enhance them where you’re often using some bits and creating a whole model. I think as a result it’s easier for me to make things look more natural, I have a basis already, where you don’t usually have that foundation in place to work up from.

  • I know how you feel. I enjoy the modelling and painting side of the hobby as much as the game itself and it’s much more fun to play with the models I’ve become attached to. I think the most brilliant aspect of the 40k universe is that it is so vast and intentionally open ended. It gives players the option to generate completely original concepts while staying within the boundaries of accepted canon.

    • There’s no denying GW’s ability to write engaging and awesome fluff that leaves room for players. I agree, it’s damn clever.

  • I reached a point for a while where I just wanted to paint… but I also wanted to get my army presentable on the tabletop. All I could think was “UGHHHH NOT MORE GREEN STUFF!!!” But I’ve spent a bunch of the last week just sculpting horns and hair on to my Warders and it’s been nice to work on something simple and relaxing, then sit back and think “Man those look good!”

    Character is so important in miniatures. So many minis have a boring “stoic” or “chiselled” look that don’t show any emotion… anything you can do to change that and bring them alive, even if it’s just for the key models you want to “pop” goes a long way to making your army believable.

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