About eight years ago, I finished these Hundred Years’ War miniatures from Black Tree Design. They represent a turning point in my painting. They’re wrapped up in the story of how a became a miniature snob.

I had resigned to the fact that completing miniatures to a decent standard takes patience and time. II felt like I needed to take things to another level. No more short cuts.

Time to learn more about shading.

Time to learn how to paint eyes.

And time to stop being so anxious about the finished result!


Well, that anxiety never quite goes away if you’ve become serious about painting. These miniatures aren’t great, but they work.

I’ve discovered, however, so long as you make an effort, most gamers who paint their miniatures well won’t turn their noses up at you. In fact, they might give you advice if you ask for it.

These HYW men-at-arms have seen their time on the tabletop over the years and nobody’s said anything negative, save for one instance, which had nothing to do with their paint job, which I’ll relate below.




Around the same time, I’d also begun dabbling in Warhammer, slowly building an Empire Army.

When an acquaintance learned of this, he offered to pit his ork and goblin against mind. But I didn’t have enough miniatures painted for a standard 2000 game. So I asked him if I could proxy these HYW miniatures for Empire militia.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I’d have to see them first.

Fair enough. In the meantime, I quickly painted up a small unit of Empire mounted knights for the game.

After I arrived for our game, my opponent remarked that all my miniatures were painted. I felt a little diffident, because I didn’t fell they were painted well enough.

But when he showed me his miniatures, I went speechless.

From a distance each miniature resembled a blob of marshmallow dyed dark blue here and there. At first, I wasn’t certain if they were actually miniatures, more like something made out of bits of white and blue modeling clay. Yet they were orks and goblins, made by Games Workshop.

At arm’s length they looked liked Smurfs. Badly painted Smurfs.

I wanted to be polite, but it was hard. “They look like Smurfs,” I said.

His eyes lit up. “Yeah. That’s the point. I did paint them to look like Smurfs. They also double as frost orks and goblins in my D&D campaign.”

He grinned and looked proud of himself. He said he’d bought them from a friend for cheap, a fraction of the normal cost at retail. I couldn’t blame him for that, I bought most of my Empire figures at a bargain, too.

Then he said:

“Yeah. I primed them with white spray paint and then just painted on the blue parts. They’re good as done.”

I think I kept a straight face.

Then he pointed at my Hundred Years’ War swordsmen. “Yeah… you can’t use those.” They weren’t “official” Games Workshop figures. “And they aren’t based right.”

I frowned. “I’ll have to re-do my army list.”

“Well, they just don’t allow proxies and humans have to have the smaller bases.”

Maybe he really believed in playing by “official” GW tournament rules. Who gave a damn what GW thought? This was our game.

Or maybe he was trying to get me to remove a unit so he would have to face full-strength army. To this day, I don’t know. But it was obnoxious.

At that point, I didn’t care. Looking across the table at his sloppily painted Smurfs, I started to feel angry.

I had made an effort to get those HYW figures done, and to finish those Empire mounted knights. And here this guy was gloating about he did everything on the cheap.

“Nevermind.” I started packing up. Enough time had been wasted already.

And, now, whenever I feel my miniatures aren’t quite up to quality, or get envious of other people’s excellent paint jobs, I can say to myself: “At least my miniatures don’t look like Smurfs.”

I guess that’s the moral of the story.