I find this idea fascinating. In brief, folks describe a model (or unit, or army, etc.) as “table ready” when it meets the requirements for…play on a table.
To some extent this is informed by general tournament requirements, which are more or less 3 distinct colors and “basing material.” The basing material bit tends to piss me off, as it usually means one has to not only paint the bases of the models but also provide them with some sort of texture…which I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t required, but since it is I chafe at the demand. It bothers me primarily, I think, since there’s a texture paint line GW sells–and those paints are just basically thicker paints. Which you’re generally then expected to drybrush, also potentially wash, and…pah. There’s already a texture to model bases, and it looks about the same.
What fascinates me more, though, is that I see some blog posts–and even have some War Party members–discuss “table ready” as a concept that has a personal element. In other words, folks look at a model they’ve primed, basecoated, washed, drybrushed, potentially highlighted, and theoretically done all that again…all before basing…and said something like: “That’s not very good, but I’ll play it.”
I do have models I’d say that for. They’re unpainted. Or they’re just primed. Or they’re half-based. Or maybe I just need to do the interminable detail work (see for reference all of my Chaos Marines). The idea of an additional layer of painting complexity for anything beyond a specific showcase model, therefore, very much befuddles me. If you’re painting your stuff, you stop when it’s painted. The tabletop standard and the “painted” standard seem like they should be roughly the same for the hobby. I suppose the general concept is one of eyeline and scrutiny; that models are table ready when you think they look good from a high vantage. That makes more sense in Fantasy, where there are many ways to goose a unit of models by recognizing what’ll be in the front rank roughly all the time. I do this in terms of how I build and place my sculpts, at the very least. I’ve had friends tell my wife that she can get away with only painting some of her troops from the waist up since they’ll be in the back of units—and she plays Ogres, so that’s not all that many bodies in the first place.
But table ready, as a concept, seems unnecessary for me. Or–and I think this is why the idea bothers me–it seems insecure. If your business is dope, it’s dope. If you’re unhappy with it, keep painting or start over. If you don’t care, put those gray plastic mans on the table and roll like a fiery god.