Game the Game is Geek & Sundry’s tabletop board game show that airs every Wednesday starting at 4PM PT on Twitch and Alpha. Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best boardgames the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! This week, she’s playing Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire – learn to play it yourself by checking out the video at the end of the article.
If you’re relatively new to boardgames, it may seem like every other game has incredible miniatures in the box: as if they’re as common as cardboard tokens and meeples. In fact, it’s only been a recent trend for these highly characterful and detailed components to be considered commonplace in the realm of boxed board games. Before that, miniatures lived in the realm of miniature wargaming: a niche of tabletop gaming where collecting, building and painting the components of your army is as much a part of the experience as actually playing the games.
With Games Workshop’s first big entry into the realm of boxed boardgames, Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire, being played on Game the Game this week, I thought it’d be a great time to talk about why people like me play miniature wargames.
Painting Miniatures Is Fun And Rewarding
Painting your miniatures is a creative outlet. If you’re an Alpha subscriber, you may have gotten some insight into how much fun painting miniatures can be from our show Painter’s Guild. From picking out paint schemes to the final product, you get to choose everything. Your Stormcast Eternals don’t have to be painted gold and blue if you don’t want them to be. They can be whatever color you want them to be, and no one can tell you they are painted wrong.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out, there is something satisfying about placing your army on the table fully painted and able to tell figures apart. There’s a term used in miniature gaming called table-ready. All that means is the miniature looks good at arm’s length. After all, people don’t play games with their miniatures three inches from their noses. There’s nothing quite as spectacular as putting down an entire army of painted miniatures. Side note: no matter how you paint your miniatures, most gamers will tell you painted miniatures roll better dice (and personally, I always feel that my army performs better when it’s painted.)
It’s also a skill you can improve upon. There are so many great resources to check out, and about a thousand different ways to get the effect you are looking for. From books to videos, to that amazing painter in your group, most people are happy to explain how they paint their army. Even Games Workshop has a free app ( The Citadel Paint App) that shows you how to paint as well as what paints you need to get a specific color or effect.
Painting is also a social activity in my house. Our friends come over, we pop in a TV show, and we sit around and talk while we are painting. It doubles or triples our available colors because everyone brings their own painting supplies, and it gives you instantaneous feedback. Sometimes we mess around and don’t get anything finished and other times we are hyper-focused and get half a unit of minis painted. Even if you don’t have a group of friends to paint with, there are online communities that paint together online, like the Hobby Hangout, where you can sit on Hangouts with painters of all levels, be social, and maybe even learn a new technique or two.
Finally, painting is also relaxing. There’s something zen about focusing on something so small that takes your mind off of everything else. It’s amazing how easily you can quiet a mind by painting belts and armor on tiny soldiers and being present in the moment as you do.
Playing Games Is A Fantastic Social Experience
When you play miniature games, there’s an entirely different social aspect to it. Pick up games are entrenched in miniature wargaming cultures. Unlike a board game or RPG group, where your group tends to be the same small group of friends, miniature wargamers continually seek new opponents and new armies. You can pick up a game pretty much any time there are two people with armies and a table. Most game stores will have specific nights dedicated to miniature games to help facilitate gamers find other like minded people. One of the best ways to break the ice with a wargamer is to ask them what army they play. Regulars of the store generally keep an eye out for new players and make sure they feel welcome in the community.
Playing against a variety of people helps sharpen your skills. If tactics and strategy is what draws you to these games (and there’s plenty of it), most players are more than happy to help you break down game theory and army composition because better players make for better games. I can’t tell you how many nights I lost a game and sat with my opponent and talked about how we could improve my army and my strategy. A week or two later, we’d play again and I’d come out on top.
Finding that kind of support around games that are all about conquest and confrontation speaks a lot about the things that knit together miniature gaming communities. From sharing painting techniques to tactical advice, there’s a common thread of generosity in these circles that is welcoming. It’s ultimately the best of gaming culture in a nutshell.
Don’t forget to tune it at on Wednesday, October 25 starting at 4 PM PT on Twitch and Alpha to catch Becca and friends play a game of Shadespire on Game The Game! Check out the how-to-play video below!
Want more miniature wargaming?
- Learn about why we called Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire is a contender for Game of the Year.
- Find out why now is the perfect time to check out Warhammer 40K.
- Check out our beginner-friendly advice for painting miniatures!
Image Credits: Teri Litorco (gif excerpted from Shadespire Painting Tutorial)