Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unit Fillers & WYSIWYG

Today I'll return to a favourite couple of topics, the rise of the unit filler and the hallowed WYSIWYG.

Over the last couple of years the building trend of including unit fillers has intrigued me. Initially I wasn't all that taken with the idea, a unit of troops should be a unit of troops after all! Fairly quickly though, I realised the potential for adding dynamism to units with the addition of a unit filler in keeping with the theme of the unit/army. The potential for adding lots of points of interest as well as a little height and movement to a unit won me over. I determined to add at least one filler to each of my fimir units, as as well as an aesthetic addition, they are a modeller and converter's dream.

This does bring me to a point of note on fillers though, and the main reason why folks can take against them.

Unit fillers should be as much, if not more work than the models they are replacing. There. A single goblin on a 40mm x 40mm base is not a unit filler in my book. A howling goblin standing on a burning dwarf baggage cart while his two mates loot the dead driver, that's a filler, and boy, do they look good if done right. Now, you can go overboard. A ruined cathedral in the middle of your skeleton unit, that's too much. Some crumbling pillars here and there, now you're talking. I've seen this very thing on the Painting Tabled forum recently. Just on the cusp of too much, in my opinion, but still beautiful models.

I have seen some great examples over the last couple of years, from Ben Johnson's wonderful skaven fillers, which are really small dioramas, telling the story of the army as much as providing the viewer with some gorgeous eye candy, (incidentally, Ben Johnson, what's with that guy? Legendary player and able to produce beautiful converted armies in jig time? Sometimes life just isn't fair.) to Greg Person's excellent vampire counts fillers, it's coming to the point where I'm now mildly disappointed if I see a unit of troops without a good filler expanding the narrative of the army.

And there we have the cusp of it for me. Narrative. I'm a sucker for building a fairly detailed back-story for my armies. I know it's not for everyone, but for me it makes the whole process of building, painting and playing with the army infinitely more enjoyable. It's always more fun to use a character with a name, history and favoured enemies than X lord choice. Fillers allow me to inject some of the story of the army into the actual units, building a theme that hopefully makes the army much more enjoyable to view and play against, so that you're now facing the infamous ember horde, destroyers of Ungerhaven, than just forty hand weapon & shield hobgoblins in 5x8 formation.

I've put together a few fillers for the fimir so far, and they have all added to the units the sit in. The boundary stone in the fimm unit adds some nice height and reinforces the Celtic theme, as well as allowing some movement with the ravens. My next filler, a fimm slave driver standing on a rotting swamp tree, does the same job, but also, by adding a prominent fimir model to a unit full of animated bog bodies, ties a unit that might seem out of place otherwise into the army.

They are immense fun to work on, and I plan on adding a goodly lot more to other units.

The second part of this post has to deal with WYSIWYG. Now, generally I'm fine with this, but how does this apply to fillers? Does the chaos warrior standing on the pile of corpses have to have a halberd if the rest of the unit does? Common sense comes to the rescue here, I can't see too many players having problems with decent fillers if it is apparent what the rest of the unit is armed with.

From my own point of view, I do think that a unit of crossbowmen should have crossbows, a unit of spearmen should have spears, but, I do think some more common sense needs to work in here. As long as your opponent knows what the unit has, all is well. My fimm warriors are proxying chaos warriors, which is another post entirely. Secondly, I've modelled them so that all the weapon options appear in the unit, some halberds, some hand weapons etc, because it looked best that way. I may want to field them with one weapon option in one game, and another in the next, and I'm damned if I'm going to build two or three fimm units just to cover all the weapon options, but I can see how this might irk some people. I do make it plain what each unit is before the game, they are all on the correct base size and it's faaaiirlllyy obvious what everything is, but I am banking on my opponent's good will. I'm hoping facing a themed army one does not see too often (or ever) makes up for the slight fuzziness over WYSIWYG, but I'd sure be interested in what ye all think...


  1. Well said, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Unit fillers flesh out the background, provide an extra point of creativity, and just add dynamism to an army.

  2. Our local gaming club for the longest time was against Unit Fillers. Due to the nature of the gamers and the thought that it would just be a way of skipping having to buy and build up a proper army.

    They are now coming around seeing the benefit of it though, and some really cool ideas are coming from the people we thought would exploit it! Which is great news, and a nice reinforcement that you can't judge a book by it's cover.

    All the points you made in your post are spot on, and looking forward to seeing many of your future UFs and units in general ( be they properly equiped or not ;) ).

  3. what a passionate post about UFs... Personally, I am a big fan of them to a point that I generally plan the UF first, when I start doing a regiment.

    I like do them as mini-dioramas as you said in your post. It is very easy when you're dealing with dwarfs; but you can always get more creative there. It breaks the monotonous process of painting line troopers, so win-win I say.

  4. Unfortunately, most of the gamers (and by most I mean this part which is not interested in painting and converting miniatures) see unit fillers as the cheap way of making big units. And there is nothing worse then seeing this kind of fillers (well, maybe very bad "conversions" for existing miniatures - done to not pay for actual figures - are on par with this) on the battlefield.

    1. That would be the single goblin on a 40x40 version of fillers, which doesn't look good. I once saw an arcane ruin stuck in a unit of skeleton archers, counting as most of the unit. There were no archers in the ruins. THAT was cheeky.

  5. For WYSIWIG good old 3rd ed is the voice of common sense!

    "Many players prefer to assemble a force in which every model is different, which means every model is differently armoured and armed of course! This is acceptable - it is simply assumed that every model has an average amount of armour and is carrying the weapon most commonly represented."

    If you have a fairly even spread of weapon types that should mean you can be flexible with your choices as long as your opponent knows what you've opted for.

    As for unit fillers - Not something I've considered doing myself although I enjoy others' work exactly for the narrative and creativity they bring to an army. There are, as you say, some that go too far in their size and cheeky ones with too little going on.

    1. Don't quote me on it but I think its still the rule that as long as two-thirds are armed appropriately that's all that matters.

      It's how we play anyway.

  6. I have seen some lovely unit fillers and some dire ones.

    Worst one ever?

    A 200X100mm rectangle with an arcane Warhammer piller on it. That's it. In the centre of a unit of hobgoblins to take it to 101 models.

    1. At least its was painted and based...LOL

    2. I guess. I can understand folks trying to save money, but a 200x100 base? Nah.

  7. I agree with your assessment that the unit filler should be as least as much work as the models it replaces, if not significantly moreso. Seems like a great rule of thumb to me.

    Having just plucked my Vampire Counts army out of storage and seen how boring a unit of 50 rank and file skeletons looks WITHOUT a filler to break the monotony, I think it's a great tool for us conversion fanatics and I wholly support them.


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