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Painting miniatures? You’re probably overthinking it

Whittle down your plastic pile of shame with the #slapchop method

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to miniatures gaming is getting those miniatures painted in the first place. Tournaments will often require that your minis be painted before you can even participate, and everyone likes to see their Skaven or their Space Marines looking their best before taking the field. But while there are ways to scrimp and save on the minis themselves — 3D printing chief among them — often your time is the most precious resource of all. So what if there were a way to paint miniatures faster? Allow me to introduce you to the “slapchop” method.

Slapchop was the subject of a delightful little YouTube video from the team over at The Honest Wargamer last month, which only trickled into my feed a few weeks ago. In it, founder Rob Symes makes some very salient points while gently taking the piss out of an assortment of over-serious YouTube painting tutorials making the rounds at the moment.

As Symes points out, a given army has a very limited shelf life before it loses whatever slight advantages it might have had in the overall meta. Once you’ve put down the money on some new miniatures that you’d like to use, the clock is already ticking down to the moment they get nerfed. That makes getting them painted and ready to play an urgent necessity.

For the slapchop method, Symes has folded together the heavy drybrush technique made popular by the team at Artis Opus and the newly-released Citadel Contrast and Army Painter Speedpaint lines of specialty paint. The drybrush is used to create a high-contrast basecoat, and the Contrast/Speedpaint does its thing — providing a nuanced layer of color and a highlight in a single coat. Done with grace and precision, the results look fantastic.

Will this method win you a Golden Demon any time soon? No. No, it will not. Will your miniatures look like they’ve been kissed by a fey creature, granted a light pastel tinge, and sent to an Easter picnic? Maybe. Depends on the colors you choose, really. But will you get that army painted faster than ever before? Yes. Yes, you absolutely will. And later on, if the mood strikes you, you can go back and paint over those few units that really catch your fancy using all the other elaborate tools in your toolbox — thinks like wet blending and edge highlighting and all that other stuff that takes hours and weeks at a time.

At the end of the day, quantity has its own quality, as they say. The phrase is commonly used to refer to the number of fully painted miniatures you’re able to put on the table. But it’s just as true of the number of games you actually get to play before your army goes out of style. So, get crackin’.