How to win Best Painted/Player’s Choice

Hi guys, Jarrod here. I’m writing today to discuss some ways you can ensure you maximise your paint scores at your local gaming event, and possibly even take home a prize.

Many tournaments these days have “Best Painted”, “TO’s Choice” or “Player’s Choice” awards. Some tournaments even have certain overall tournament points allocated to Painting scores.

These obviously have the ability to affect your overall tournament score, meaning someone who’s great at the game, but has an unpainted army, can still lose the event to someone who’s pretty good at the game (or has some lucky games!) with a beautifully fully painted force.

Not everybody has the skill level to paint an entire army to a Golden Daemon standard, in fact most of us don’t, however the good news is, anybody at any skill level can do certain things to maximise the points they are given in any painting category, and increase their chances at winning Painting awards.

The greatest piece of advice I can offer is, read the player’s pack! This will often outline exactly what points are given for, and can help ensure you don’t miss anything when chasing those points. Let’s go through what a typical tournament allocates points for.


It is a pretty fair statement to say that when it comes to Painting miniatures, there is a certain level of skill that is involved. However, even without being the most skilled painter, you can usually achieve very high paint points. In this case, it is definitely a case of effort going 4/5ths of the way. This is offered referred to as skill/will. Skill is how good you are naturally at doing something. Will refers to the effort and actual motivation of you trying your best.

Paint points often are attributed using a ‘tick box’ method. This means rather than saying ‘Your army is an 8/10 in painting’, it is broken down into categories, with points given to specific things.

3 basic colours/Highlighting/Shading – The easiest points to achieve. Pretty much all tournaments will set an expectation of 3 colours painted on each model. This is really the base minimum and should always be met. Generally extra points will be awarded for highlighting and shading. This does not mean every armour panel is wet blended through 3 different shades, but simply a shade and/or highlight has been applied. As long as you can show this on 80% of the army, this should suffice.
A shade can be as simple as using a black wash or ink in crevices, whereas a single edge highlight on a model will not only tick this box, but really make your paint job pop on the table.

Cohesion- Is the army painted consistently? This will generally refer to the same scheme being used across the armour, or the same colours tying it together. For certain armies, namely Eldar, who have unit types that differentiate colour schemes, this can be achieved by consistent basing across all units.

Freehand- Freehand is often the thing that intimidates people the most. We’ve all seen examples of massive, impressive detailed freehand painted onto banners and thought ‘there’s no way I could do that’. Well, I’m not going to tell you that you can, in most cases, you can’t. I know I certainly can’t. However, there are a few ways you can still earn these points.

freehandSome examples of freehand, ranging from a. basic lettering on banner b. freehand squad marking c. intricate banner freehand

The other thing I have hear from people is this idea; ‘But I play necrons. They don’t have banners. How can I even GET freehand on the models?’.  There are several ways that freehand can be incorporated into those armies, from simply creating objective markers that can have freehand, to very basic unit markings (a glyph on shoulders for example). See below for an example of a I have incorporated freehand on a daemon prince model.

using a sign from the Citadel Wood kit on the basing allows for a flat surface where freehand can be displayed, on a model where this would typically be difficult to include freehand

As long as you can show the TO an example of having freehand somewhere in the army, you should qualify for the points.

Squad/unit differentiation

Points are commonly awarded for what we call ‘unit differentiation’. This refers to a way where you have some way to distinguish models from different units, even though the model itself may be the same. This is particularly helpful for yourself and your opponent when multiple units are involved in one combat.

This in itself can be as simple or complex as you like. A stripe on shoulder pads, a different eye colour, or intricate squad markings all suffice. A really simple way is to simply use the unit’s base to distinguish separate units, and has the added benefit of being able to be painted over without affecting the model’s paint job, should you wish to take larger or smaller squads in the future.basingcolour

These chaos cultists, while having the same scheme, can be identified in separate squads due to their differing base colours. Artist: Duane Wood


These Salamander tactical marines can be identified in separate squads due to having unit numbers painted on their right shoulders.


Conversions may be another tick box when it comes to tournament paint scores. ‘Conversions’ is such a broad term that there’s no chance of covering everything possible in this article. The important thing here is that there are a huge range of things that can count as conversions. Kit bashes (using bits from multiple kits eg. Sternguard Veteran bits mixed in with Tactical Squad units) to scratch building and even green stuff sculpting! It pays to have at least 1 or 2 models that you have altered or customised in some way, to ensure you can qualify for these points.


Some, but not all, tournaments allocate points towards fluff, or army background. A lot of players might get intimidated by this, but to include this in your army’s presentation is really simple.  Many players aren’t really concerned with the story line of 40k, they simply enjoy the game.

When writing fluff, it can be as simple as writing a short paragraph. Why is your army fighting? Who is the commander? What are their goals?

Even easier, you can simply base your army’s story on a short story direct from the codex itself. Potentially you can scan/photocopy a page from the codex, and someone else has already done the work, but this ticks the box, and scores the points.


Lastly, I’d like to discuss army presentation as a whole. This encompasses several different elements, but essentially, it is all about how you display your army when it comes to people voting for their favourite army.

This often includes an optional display board, something that your models can sit on as an extra display piece. It may also include things like customised themed objectives.

I find that presenting any fluff you have written for the army in a creative way also helps go the extra distance. Something nice and simple like a cheap document stand from Officeworks (see below) can be a great way to add a little ‘zing’ to your army.

See below for an example of an army on display, including display board and fluff.


Final Words

The last piece of advice I can give is this – do not be modest. Quite often TOs at events will come and speak to you about your army, and give you a chance to draw their attention to any particular points they might not have noticed immediately. A lot of players tend to shy away from bragging about their work too much. While in life, it pays to be humble, this is your chance to show them how cool your army is! Pointing out specific conversions of freehand may just give you the couple of extra points you need, to go from 3rd place to 1st!



All images used are of my own painted miniatures, except where credited otherwise.


This has been reposted as an article, originally written in April 2016 as a forum post.

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