“You can paint them however you like”: Race and representation in Warhammer 

Representation is an interesting topic for some and merely a passing thought for others. In miniature painting, a hobby that is decades old may never have occurred to you. You might never have thought about it even if you’ve been there since the very beginning painting heroes, villains and monsters. To some, this essay will appear as common sense, but for some, it might provide a little insight into how hobbyists of varying backgrounds think. I can only ever speak for my experiences. In my experience, I’ve found diversity and representation to be of varying interest. It’s with that in mind I’ve decided to take a bit of a longer jaunt in the realms of exploration, into realms undiscovered and into fantasy. 

The Fellowship of the Ring Screen print by Juan Esteban Rodru00edguez is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

In Warhammer Fantasy specifically, there have been unlimited boundaries, in theory since the beginning. In worlds where Elves, Dwarfs and Men exist, why too wouldn’t people of marginalised genders and ethnicities? Of course, they would, but you don’t see them as much as you’d think. A lot of modern fantasy has routes baked in older 20th-century fantasy, the likes of which penned by giants like Tolkien and interpreted by the folks at Wizards of the Coast in early Dungeons and Dragons, adapted into Movie form like the Lord of the Rings, or imagined on the tabletop by companies such as Games Workshop. I’d like to talk about representation in fantasy as expressed through miniature wargaming, particularly examining the universes of Warhammer Fantasy and its successor Age of Sigmar. 

The World of Warhammer Fantasy was mostly based on our own; the map was an analogue of the real world map. Continents and cities take obvious inspiration from real-world places. Albion looks a lot like it could be Great Britain, Lustria looks a lot like it could be South America, Nippon looks a lot like it could be Japan and the Southlands,  Africa. Much of the narrative of the Old World was set surrounding the Empire, which sits in an analogue of Western Europe and the Empire was the seat of our protagonists. In each land were close approximations of ethnicities you’d find in the real world. But the proportion of that you saw was definitely skewed. 

“Any of them could be you, but none of them could be me”

I remember to this day actually explaining to a friend what representation felt like, someone I’d been hobbying with for about a decade. I picked up the Empire Army Book and pointed to the vast legions of Germanic-Inspired soldiers. The overwhelming majority of their art and models are male and white, bearing the heraldry of the Empire. I said to him ‘Any of them could be you, but none of them could be me, and this is the focal point of our story. They are the bastion against beasts, and the lands less civilised in their eyes’. The Empire fought against many threats, from the forces of Chaos from the Northern Wastes, the Lizardmen from Lustria and the Vampires from the East. It was pretty clear cut to me that they were what civilization looked like, these were our protagonists. They were who we were going to be rooting for, and I couldn’t see myself as any of them. Warhammer Fantasy was a game with plenty of options for you to play, yet feeling like you can’t associate with one faction probably isn’t that uncommon a feeling. But were there a couple more people of colour in the Empire, were there more signs of the women of the Empire, then they might have had the attention of a few more of us? 

When we move to the Age of Sigmar, we see a dramatic restructuring of the world. The old world is gone. In its place, there are Mortal Realms, each aligned with one of the many winds of magic. Traversable by magic portals known as Realmgates, one could step from one plane of existence and familiarity to find wonders untold and realms unknown. Each of these realms was, while carefully curated with locales and features, loosely defined and ripe with possibility. We’re still uncovering patches of these planes seven years after the game’s release in 2015. Each of these planes is dotted with evocatively named places and opportunities for embellishment and population either by source publications or ourselves as hobbyists. There’s not too much detail on what the land might look like in some places, never mind their people. This opens up wonderful room for interpretation. This intentional lack of canonicity helps hobbyists come up with their own pockets of the Mortal Realms, where their characters are no less valid than the characters in the sourcebooks. The Mortal Realms are vast and uncharted and wherever you choose to lie, you will not be missed.  This time, it really feels like it. 

I’m going to use the example of Stormcast Eternals here. While there can be a little enmity held against them as the most visible faction, I’d like you to keep the Empire in mind while I talk about them. Stormcast Eternals can be many things, but one thing they all are is brave. They’re superhumans, made from cosmic energies, forged into new bodies with celestial lightning and unleashed upon the forces of Death, Destruction and Chaos. Their martial prowess can often be second to none, but this is a learned skill. Stormcast Eternals can learn the ways of martial combat, the way to tame beasts and the way to command mighty magics. One thing they cannot learn, however, is the ability to be good. Their souls are drawn from those across the Mortal Realms from every town, city, kingdom and plane of magic. All they had in common was that they were good, pure of heart and noble of spirit. They comprise visibly masculine and visibly feminine new bodies. This is represented in their model range wonderfully. When they were released in their first iteration in 2015, the first wave of Stormcast Eternals was visibly masculine. In their second iteration in 2018, their feminine counterparts emerged from the heavens to fight alongside them.  Since then, their releases have had a wonderfully diverse mix of genders, featuring some of the greatest head sculpts for you to populate your Stormcast Eternals legions with. You can also use these interchangeably with your other miniatures in your collection. This progress has come leaps and bounds from Warhammer Fantasy, in which units entirely made up of women were niches and a novelty used to differentiate the army from other armies in their range.

Stormcast Eternals also exhibit ethnic diversity. As a person of colour, it’s been a difficult time in the miniature painting community. A lot of rules exist that you can interpret correctly or incorrectly regarding canonicity. When art may depict an entire faction of one ethnicity, it can draw questions from a particular kind of hobbyist for you to divert from this canonicity. 

It should come as a side note that this is unacceptable. It’s wonderful if you find joy in accurately recreating the lore, the art and the imagery to the letter and to the brush stroke. But if someone else does not, it is unfair to make them feel uncomfortable for choosing to paint their miniatures how they like. This should go without saying, but it happens often, so I’m using my modest platform to say it. The lore can be a wonderful source of inspiration, but the second it stands in the way of your individual creativity, it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Go wild. 

Some of you reading this might ask, and innocently enough, why it really matters. Why does it matter what the ethnicity of the sculpts, the art or the characters is when this is a hobby that provides you with unpainted miniatures? ‘You can paint them however you like’ is the language I’ve heard more times than I can count. And this is true, you’ve always been able to paint miniatures however you like. But when hobbyists of colour can’t see themselves in art, when you can’t be seen on the tabletop in your favourite worlds, then it’s easy to feel like you’re going against the grain.

Painting figures how you like isn’t always easy when it comes to painting skin tones that aren’t typically white. For a long time, there wasn’t a lot of knowledge popularised on the internet. In recent years, you’ll find video tutorials about painting dark skin or varying non-white skin tones. With resources like the Citadel Colour app and website, you’ll be able to. This wasn’t always the case though, and while I’m happy to have these tools now, a lot of people aren’t sure they’re out there. While it’s true that there’s a lot of hobby content on the internet out there and it’s fair for some of it to be a little buried, the volume of content regarding diverse skin tones is a little lacking. This is something I and others are trying to remedy through social media, blog posts and video tutorials. The question isn’t always how to paint the skin though, it can be what colours to use. Until recent years, paints used to paint white skin were called ‘Cadian Fleshtone’ and ‘Elf Flesh’. When you would scour the shelves for the paints for something that resembled your own skin you’d be pointed to a paint called ‘Rhinox Hide’. What on earth is a Rhinox? Do I have a hide? Or do I have a skin tone I’m proud of? 

Photo by Daian Gan on Pexels.com

Accessible painting sets often came with one advertised overtly flesh colour. What then does the hobbyist of colour use to paint their miniatures, the one advertised leather colour? If so, what do they paint their leather? This makes the hobbyist who’s just getting started need to purchase additional paints to accurately represent themselves on the tabletop. This further introduces a financial barrier to that hobbyist’s journey. While it’s fair to expect a limited range of colours in a starter set, it’s about acknowledging the colours and products that make some hobbyists think again when you tell them ‘You can paint them however you like.’ It isn’t always so simple. If I had my own paint line one day, I’d take steps to ensure there are a number of named flesh tones. Little things like that can go a long way. When I see new paint ranges pop up from enterprising individuals, this is the kind of thing I expect, but don’t always see.

Steps are being made in the right direction in the Age of Sigmar. In the visible protagonist faction of the Stormcast Eternals, the highest-ranked character is a man called Bastian Carthallos. He is the Lord Commander of the most visible chamber, the Hammers of Sigmar, the blue and gold-clad army destined for printing on every box, every book, every battlefield. He is a Black man, a visibly Black man, with a nose like mine, with lips like mine and with strength like mine. His face is sculpted definitively with these features. That means a lot to a hobbyist who couldn’t see themselves in the Empire, but they can see themselves anywhere in the Mortal Realms. Anywhere the lightning takes us. 

Thank you so much for reading this opinion piece on representation and the Age of Sigmar. I’d like to continue further study into these universes, looking into the realms of Warhammer 40,000 and similar. These articles do take a little longer than the average army showcase, however, which is why I appreciate you checking this somewhat different article out. 

I’d love to hear from you, regardless of your background, or your experiences. 

How have you felt about representation in the tabletop wargaming hobby? Have you felt an abundance, have you felt a lack, have you never thought about it at all? Do you feel like more could be done? 

Everyone’s opinion is valid and contributes to the wider discussion and understanding of how we all may better enjoy these shared words we choose to inhabit together.
If you found value in this article, please recommend it to a friend. 

If you really loved it, and you found value in this admittedly different kind of Warhammer Article. You can always send a tip to my Kofi. Smaller creators like me do appreciate the support, especially when braving the unknown to write on topics that are close to their hearts but don’t necessarily get the air time they deserve. 

Feel free to get in touch with me at @PrinceofBielTan on Twitter or via the platforms in my Linktree. 

Thanks again, and wherever you may go, may you be seen.

Seeing yourself, diversity and hobby positivity with AnnieGreenGable

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the wonderful Youtuber, Hobby Blogger and Warhammer Community Contributor AnnieGreenGable on her new show Roll Diversity. This show aims to put a spotlight on hobbyists from marginalised communities, ethnicities, genders and more.

Why not give our chat a listen? I cover how I got into the hobby, the games I play and how my experience of diversity and representation has changed during my time in the hobby.

It was a really great discussion. I’d like to thank Annie again for sharing her time with me and giving me a platform to talk about how this hobby I love so much has changed my life.

Just one more thing. As I’m daring to give this whole content thing a proper stab, I’ve created a link where you can support me.

So if you’d like to Buy Me a Pot of Paint, you can!

You are under no obligation to do so though. Quite frankly I’m not sure who would but if that’s you, know that it’s going to support a hobbyist of colour in his humble quest to be visible!

What did you think of the interview? If you’ve got any thoughts I’d love to hear them, whether my words have resonated with you as one of the hobbyists of colour in your area or whether you got some new insight into how some of the folks down at your local game store might be feeling. I’m excited to hear about it in the comments, or you can chat with me over on Twitter @princeofbieltan

Thanks for reading and watching, catch you in the next one!

This Month in Miniatures: April 2022 

Hello, I’m Josh and it’s time for our monthly hobby update. This is where I show you everything that I’ve been working on a month to month, so you can follow along with my projects. So without any further ado, let’s kick-off!

The first unit I finished this month was my Orc Warriors for my Middle Earth Battle Companies campaign. I decided to paint these guys yellow to make them stand out from another orc player in the campaign actually. 

At the time of writing, we’re at the halfway point and the Cracked Tooth Clan has expanded by another fighter or two. But compelled as I was to contribute to a campaign, I couldn’t leave these minis as bare plastic. They’re painted primarily with contrast paint and dry brushing to get the job done and what we’re left with is a great battle-ready standard.

The next project I painted was my Frostlord on Stonehorn. This is the second one I’ve painted as part of a wider collection I’m taking to Armies on Parade this year. I started the challenge in January and the collection has grown pretty exponentially since then, with me recently completing my first 2000 points. This mini was an opportunity to show more of my followers how to paint different darker skin tones too.  I had fun experimenting with the different colours that were out there. Here I used a Wraithbone base, followed by a thinned Wyldwood to create dark shadows. Afterwards, I used Gore-Grunta Fur for the flat surfaces and highlighted them with a dry brush of Cadian Fleshtone. I’m pretty pleased with how he turned out and as I’ve mentioned before, finding ways to paint dark skin is new territory with plenty to be discovered! 

Moving onto the Nighthaunt, these minis were picked up on a whim to enter a local painting challenge. Compared to everything else I painted this month, these models were very different, with smooth surfaces, a limited palette and an ethereal vibe. I wrote a whole article on the painting process you’ll be able to read on this very blog if you haven’t already! 

Finally, I completed a unit of Mournfang Cavalry to take the Ogor army all the way up to 2000 Points. It won’t be long before I get to have a game with the army that will make every brush stroke worth it! I left the battleline units until last as a nice breather from the more complicated Stonehorn and it was a welcome respite. The army still has a ways to go, and I have many more checkpoints to complete until Armies on Parade. But the fact that we’ve got the army to a serviceable gaming standard is well worth celebrating in my eyes. Here I tried the Games Workshop recipe of Catachan Flesh – Bloodreaver Flesh – Knight Questor Flesh. Once again in the interest of trying out new recipes for different flesh tones. This one is very easily available on the shelf so if you’re interested in trying out those paints, it’s very accessible. Why not give it a try?

So there you have it, that’s all the miniatures I painted in April. I’ve got some things lined up for May but it’s a little too soon to spoil those!. What about you? Did you get anything fun painted this month? Let me know in the comments or as always, you can contact me on Twitter @PrinceofBielTan.

You can also, Buy Me a Pot of Paint. If you’ve enjoyed my content.

Battle Ready Battle Companies: 

“No Admittance, Except on Party Business”

 – Bilbo Baggins

Warhammer and miniature wargaming as a whole is an incredibly rewarding hobby. It can be enjoyed alone, with a friend, partner, family or for many of us, as a gaming group. 

I’m a social creature. This should come as no surprise to those of you that read my random tweets every day. One thing I love about this hobby is the element of the community; how we learn and grow through interacting with passionate hobbyists like ourselves. 

I’d never played the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game (MESBG, to the fans) until recently. I remember in the early noughties when the incredible Lord of the Rings films were released in cinemas and Games Workshop released their adaptation of those cinematic worlds on the tabletop. I remember as a child asking my parents for the Mines of Moria starter set, but they quite rightly pointed out that I’d already gotten a Warhammer 40,000 starter set. After all, I’d need to paint all the models from that box before I started another game. The advice I definitely took to heart throughout my hobby journey. 

Fast forward twenty-something years, and as a twenty-something myself I come across this game ‘Battle Companies’ also from Games Workshop. This game seeks to emulate the feeling of The Fellowship or that tightly knit pack of Thorin’s Company. Each player amasses a small collection, often assembled out of one or two boxes of figures, to create their own narrative company trying to control their section of Middle Earth. I recently found a local group who were starting a Battle Companies game. Over several weeks, we would be watching the growth of our companies into regiments of renown, known across Middle Earth for their deeds or misdeeds. Now, I don’t have any painted miniatures and I’m a fan of playing with them when possible. This is how I learned to love ‘Battle Ready’.

I Don’t Want to Be in a Battle, but Waiting on the Edge of One I Can’t Escape is Even Worse” 

– Peregrin Took 

Battle Ready is a term introduced by Games Workshop in 2019. Prior to this, there had been a bit of an unspoken rule of what was an acceptable standard of painting. But with Battle Ready, it was advertised first and foremost to be for ease of access to prettily painted wargames. It’s about not setting a boundary that hobbyists have to meet to be accepted into some kind of club. It’s about setting an accessible, achievable, universally accepted goal that hobbyists can easily meet. I’m a fan of naming this style of painting and encouraging it, as it’s friendly to new hobbyists.,This also helps veteran hobbyists break out of the mindset that everything has to be perfect. Battle Ready means minis can just be ready for the table.

Something we don’t speak enough about in this hobby is accessibility. Hobbyistscome in all shapes and sizes. Our bodies are unique and some things are a little easier for some of us than others. Recognising and celebrating this difference and encouraging equitable treatment allows everyone to feel comfortable in this hobby. Some of us bear invisible disabilities, and visual or motor conditions. Some of us also have restrictions on the time we can spend painting, for many reasons. One thing hobbyists have in common is passion, love and care to see themselves in these imaginary worlds. Talking about and encouraging Battle Ready allows anyone can show up at game night with their Battle Ready collection of minis and feel that their games are just as beautiful as everyone else’s because they are. 

Budget Ready? 

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter 

Another incredible feature of the Battle Ready mindset is it caters to those of us on a budget. It’s no secret that life is getting more expensive, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to indulge in the hobbies that bring us joy. By limiting extraneous steps in painting recipes, hobbyists are able to keep their paint collections and palettes to a limit. This lowers the cost of entry for new hobbyists who can pick up the excellent ‘Citadel Essentials Kits and find everything they need to get started in miniature painting without feeling like they’ll never get to the point that some of their more established friends have reached. And wouldn’t you like some new smiling faces at the gaming club?

Could Battle Ready Be for You? 

“All we Have to Decide is What to Do with the Time that is Given to Us.” 

– Gandalf 

Well, it was definitely for me. I needed to join this game of Battle Companies as soon as possible., As the only one with an unpainted Warband, I wasn’t ostracized or told that I couldn’t join in unless my models were painted. However, I knew I wanted to turn out fully painted and proud so we could all contribute to brilliant looking games together. I ended up painting ten minis for my Battle Company in one afternoon primarily using contrast paints. I used texture paint for the base and one highlight colour, which covered the cloth and the dirt on the base. Say hello to the Cracked Tooth Clan.

Battle ready is great for those of you who really want to get an army or collection onto the battlefield quickly. There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a unit of miniatures, stepping back and taking in that painted unit. With Battle Ready, you’ll be doing that all the sooner.

What do you think about Battle Ready? Let me know over at @PrinceofBielTan on Twitter. 

We Have Golden Daemon at Home: My Experiences Entering a Painting Competition & How to Paint Nighthaunt Dreadblade Harrows

Golden Daemon is Games Workshop’s prestigious painting competition, where painters the world over apply their brushes to creating miniatures that are no less than fine works of art. It’s held in several places across the world but due to the pandemic, some hobbyists have had to wait a little longer than others to enter. Now, Golden Daemon has returned. Thousands of hobbyists made the journey to enter their projects at Adepticon 2022. What came out of Adepticon was simply awe-inspiring. Golden Daemon left me and many hobbyists thinking, I could give that a go. I could enter, or maybe just take a pledge to get out there that little bit more. 

I’m definitely one of the latter group. Painting wise, my skills leave a lot to be desired. In fact, I took a big break from painting due to a health condition last year and I’ve had to relearn a thing or two. The joy of painting never left me though. While Golden Daemon is a long way away for me, I thought, maybe it’s worth me putting myself out there. Maybe it’s worth experiencing more aspects of this hobby we love so much. Maybe it’s time to enter a painting challenge. 

I took myself down to my local Warhammer store, where coincidently they were due to start a painting challenge. The rules were simple; your entry had to be any unit, any box of figures. This meant no single figures, no characters. But so long as it came in a box and had more than one figure in it, then it was fair game to be entered into the challenge. I took a while browsing the store, thinking about what I could paint up best. I was a little stuck with ideas. This was my first time painting for the sole purpose of being judged, so I had no idea what to paint. I decided to set myself up for success and enter a modest unit. Dreadblade Harrows from the Age of Sigmar Nighthaunt Range.

Newly assembled Dreadblade Harrows, Models from Games Workshop

Dreadblade Harrows ended up being the perfect choice for me. There were only two models in the unit, which made painting it up in two weeks a realistic goal for me. In addition, I’d never painted these sculptures before or really anything from the Nighthaunt range. They’re ethereal, spooky with lots of fluid design and motifs of objects blending into one another. As you can see, the sculpt depicts the rider and the steed merging as one as it appears to simply manifest out of the night sky. I thought I’d challenge myself with these smooth surfaces; they’d be interesting to paint. I’d have to work at blending colours together and layering on a miniature that wouldn’t leave much room for hiding mistakes.

The miniature I chose to paint first as a test.

This was my test miniature. I painted them one at a time in case I wasn’t keen on the style I went for. I had a couple of ideas. For the longest time, I was going to paint them with different schemes. One inspired by fire, the other by ice. This stuck with me until I sat down to paint them and thought, let’s just see what happens. In the end, we arrived at this pastel colour scheme. Warhammer as a game is plenty full of grimdark dingy schemes, so why not make something a bit spooky and brighten it up? The lighter colours echo the ethereal nature of the spectre, and the colour transition really lends itself to defining the otherworldly feel of these miniatures. This is complemented by a fairly monotone base to let the model do the talking. Finished off with some flowers to match the colours of the miniature, I was pretty pleased with where this experiment ended up.

The second Dreadblade Harrow, at this stage the thinned blue and purple were mixing together to create a quick and easy blend!

I started to work on the second miniature. Here I’ll go a little into the paints I used: 

1. Primed Wraithbone Spray Paint
2. The front half of the miniature was painted with a 1:1 mix of Contrast Medium & Aethermatic Blue
3. While the front half was still wet, I painted the back half of the miniature with a 1:1 mix of Contrast Medium & Magos Purple, letting it mix in the middle.
4. I painted the bone with Skeleton Horde Contrast Paint

5. Basecoat the metal with Leadbelcher Base Paint
6. Painted the base with Basilicanum Grey Contrast Paint  

7. Once the Metal was dry, I washed it with a 4:1 mix of water and Mournfang Brown Base Paint
8. Drybrushed the newly browned metal with Fire Dragon Bright Layer Paint
9. Drybrushed and layered where appropriate the blue and purple mix with Ulthuan Grey
10. Drybrushed the bone and the base Terminatus Stone Dry Paint 11. Painted the eye sockets with Iyanden Yellow Contrast Paint
12. Painted the rim of the base with Abbadon Black Base Paint

The completed unit, ready for entry to my first painting challenge!

And here you have the finished unit. I ended up having quite a busy week and it took me until the morning of submission to complete these two models. That being said, when I did sit down to paint knowing there was a deadline and an expectation of submission, I was able to get the unit completed. They were featured for a week in the display cabinet at my local store. I was eagerly able to check out everyone else’s entries too. In the end, the ghosts didn’t manage to win the challenge, but I learned a lot about myself, by painting these new miniatures. I was inspired by the hard work and dedication of the hobbyists in my local area. It felt lovely to be connected with these wonderful people, unified by the knowledge that we’d all tried our best. 

I hope this article spoke to you if you’re a competition or challenge painter. I’d love to hear about your experiences. If you’re looking to paint up something different I can strongly recommend these minis, I had an absolute blast. As always you can chat with me @PrinceofBielTan on Twitter to show me what you’re working on right now.

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!