Winning “Best Appearance” at wargaming events

Best appearance, best painted, and player’s choice awards are highly sought after by many wargamers.  This is not just a painting competition. There are multiple factors that contribute to each victory just like in a game of Warhammer. Sometimes the determinations are made by staff using a checklist, and sometimes votes are collected from the players. This guide is directed towards voting, but much of this will also help you maximize your paint score or succeed in checklist scoring.

My credentials: I have won 40k best appearance type awards at events three times now, and not won many more times. I have been in wargaming for about 19 years. I like to study the results at my local event (TSHFT) and compare that to what I saw of the armies at the event.

Every tournament will have a new mix of players, with different preferences and quirks. Some people will always / never vote for a particular kind of force, or a particular style of painting. That’s okay. The crowd is fickle, but more predictable than you might think. There is plenty that you can do correctly to mitigate people’s biases and the occasional chipmunk.

It is not enough to have a decently painted army and a few outstanding centerpeice models or characters. To win against dozens of other player’s armies you need to stand out in every way. If you want to win, try to excel in each of the following areas. You don’t need to hit every mark, but every mark helps.

Quality of painting

  • Highlights and shading, blended is best
  • Pops of bright color and high contrast attract attention
  • Clean and neat where appropriate, or blacklined
  • Weathering: drybrushing brown or using weathering powder, metal scratches
  • Basing

Quality of modeling

  • Models should be trimmed of flash and cleaned up
  • Models should be assembled in a believable pose, paying attention to weight
  • Conversions: kitbashing, 3rd party bits, sculpting


  • Introducing yourself to new people
  • Socializing, hobnobbing, gladhanding
  • Complimenting others on their work
  • Check the ego at the door

Display board

  • Mandatory for winning
  • Theme and quality both help
  • Portable boards will make your life easier


  • The army will be judged by its poorest model as well as its best
  • No bare metal, plastic, resin, glue, or putty is showing
  • The army should share unifying colors and a limited palette
  • Models should be WYSIWYG, or close enough in the case of conversions
  • Models should be compatible with 40k background or a fully thought out project

Over the top / wow factor

  • Amazing conversions, scratch builds, sculpts, “counts as”, or gimmicks


  • Name prominently displayed
  • Creative or professional looking signs help
  • Army displayed in an accessible, high traffic area


I hope this helps, and as always feedback is welcome.