Early in 2022 I found myself thinking a lot about the way I’ve been going about this hobby, and the things I have and haven’t been painting. I think I’m a fairly prolific painter, admittedly not as much as some but I churn out a lot of models and on the whole I’m happy with the quantity and quality of what I produce. Despite this however there are a lot of projects that I’d like to see completed but which, for whatever reason, never seem to get done. By “projects” I mean sets of miniatures; an army, a Necromunda gang, a Warcry warband, a Blood Bowl team, the contents of a board game – you get the idea. By “completed” I generally mean; painted to a stage where we can get a game with it or where I’ve painted all the models in a particular set. So for example my Daughters of Khaine for Warcry is a completed project, even though I have some “bonus” models like a Medusa that I’d like to add to it. Blackstone Fortress on the other hand I’d call partially completed; I’ve painted enough models to play a game with it but I’d still like to paint up the rest of the box so we have plenty of options when we decide to get a game in. I know this criteria is a little vague but the key thing is, it works for me. If you’re thinking of attempting something similar with your own backlog then work out what works best for you and go from there.
Over the years my approach to the hobby has very much been a case of “this is for fun, paint whatever appeals in the moment, follow the hobby butterfly wherever it leads”. This has given me a lot of pleasure and has seen me paint a lot of models but whenever I look back at everything I’ve done I’m struck by the things I’ve still never finished and the models which I’ve been going to tackle “soon” for a very long time. So, over the last few months, I’ve been trying to do something about that.
Partly this is about changing the way I look at the “pile of shame” (or as I now call it, the “Mountain of Madness”) and my efforts to tackle it. In the past I’ve tended to view the backlog as a single entity which could be wrestled into completion through a combination of time and Herculean effort. All my projects would be completed as a side effect of this (that is to say, if all the models I want to paint are contained within the pile then by painting everything in the pile I automatically complete all of my projects).
This bias in my outlook cosied up neatly to the tally of models purchased and painted that I’ve been keeping in recent years. New models excite me and so I buy them – but the growing number in the “bought” column doesn’t look so bad if there’s a large number in the “painted” column too. Thus if I had the choice between painting 100 models and completing 2 projects or painting 10 models and completing 10 projects I’d have chosen the former – up until recently that is. The interesting thing is, by changing tack to this more “project focused” approach I’ve actually ended up painting more models than I have in previous years. My current tally stands at 191 miniatures painted so far this year – that’s more than a model a day and vastly outnumbers the 83 I’d painted by this time last year. In fact it’s more than my total output for the entirety of 2020.
In trying to overcome the backlog in this way I had to work out an inventory of how much I’m up against and compare this against how many models I can reasonably expect to paint (I know many of my readers are also fond of spreadsheets – really is there such a thing as a problem that can’t be solved by a spreadsheet? I think not). This gave me a reasonably accurate idea of the scale of the task and unfortunately it’s a biggie. If my goal is to just paint everything I have, I don’t buy anything else (some hope!) and I continue to paint at the current rate (doubtful – for various reasons) it’ll still take me several years to get it all done. Realistically though the more time passes the more likely it becomes that any given project will never be finished at all. And even if things do turn out exactly as the spreadsheet predicts do I really want to wait that long to get around to my Delaque gang, painting up Cursed City or whatever other projects find themselves falling to the bottom of the list?
Since I first wrote about this back in February I’ve put together a list of projects and started trying to focus on them. From there I worked out how many models were needed to complete each project and how close to being fully painted said models were, and then started with the ‘easy wins’.
So how did I decide what to paint? After all, any way I slice it there’s still a lot of stuff in the heap to be tackled. The journey of a million miles may well start with a single step, but which step should it be when there are so many to choose from? To answer this I applied three key criteria.
- 1. Inspiration and enthusiasm. At the end of the day I’m still very much a believer in the idea that this is for fun, it’s a hobby not a job. I’m here to enjoy myself, not to saddle myself with extra chores. Plus I’ve always found that if I’m excited about painting something I get in the zone and power through it, and if I’m not then I really am better off leaving it for another day – the process will be dull and the end results uninspired.
- 2. How many models did I need to paint? I made a list of all my projects and worked out how many models each one needed to be called complete. The fewer models needed, the further up the list it went. If a model counted for multiple projects so much the better. My Khorne warband for Warcry needed just two models so I decided to tackle it ASAP. My Orc and Black Orc teams for Blood Bowl both needed just one troll (and better yet it was the same troll!) – they too got fast tracked. My WHFB Dwarf army needs around 130 models – needless to say it’s not currently a priority (another insult to be written down in the great book of grudges..!).
- 3. For my third criteria I used a little mental exercise. Imagine that I discover that I’m going to live a very long, healthy and happy life (hopefully this part is true!) but that I’ll never be able to paint a miniature ever again (hopefully this part is not true!). What models will I look back regretfully and wish I’d painted for my collection? In some ways this covers similar territory to criteria 1 but the fact is there are quite a few models I’ve been really wanting to paint for ages – and yet every time I look at them I think “Not today, there’s something else I ought to paint first”. Well why not today? It’s my hobby and I’ll do what I want damn it! Time to stop putting off fun and get them done. And don’t worry; it really is just a mental exercise – I’m not going anywhere!
Up to now I’ve not really talked about what specifically I’m planning to tackle so the aim of the second half of this post is to lay that out and look at what I’ve managed to complete so far. It’s a living list, things will undoubtedly be added as and when inspiration strikes, but I’ll be aiming to look at it and talk about how I’m getting on every quarter or so – and as we’re now at the end of June this is a perfect moment to take a look back and see what I’ve managed so far.
Let’s start with somewhere that significant progress has actually been achieved already. I find Warcry is a great excuse to work on little skirmish warbands from all over the Age of Sigmar setting, putting together small groups of models that appeal without bogging myself down in painting large armies. Warcry is one of the few games I actually play on a semi-regular basis and I really like the idea of having a range of factions to call upon. This is an area where I’ve already made great strides and even before I started on this challenge I had warbands from 13 different factions in my collection. The forces of Order were represented by the Daughters of Khaine, Death by the Nighthaunt and the Flesh-eater Courts, and Chaos by the Daemons and Mortals of Nurgle, as well as Skaven borrowed from my WHFB army, and the Iron Golems and Untamed Beasts which were released specially for the game. The forces of Destruction have been particularly busy, unleashing three types of Orc (the Bonesplitters, Ironjaws and Kruelboys) alongside mighty Ogres and scheming Gloomspite Gits. Over the last few months I’ve added Soulblight Gravelords…
…Stormcast Eternals in Thunderstrike Armour…
…Warriors of Chaos…
…and Khorne Bloodbound.
Speaking of Khorne I also painted this Bloodmaster (that’s a herald of Khorne if you’re an oldster like me). The range of Khorne deamons for Warcry isn’t all that extensive (just bloodletters, flesh hounds and juggernaughts) so I had planned to just take a relaxed outlook on the rules and include a few daemons alongside my mortals rather than putting together a warband that might feel a bit “samey”. However now I’ve got the Bloodmaster painted up I’ve got options, so once I’ve retrieved my bloodletters and flesh hounds from storage I can unleash an entire band of Khornate daemons should I feel the need to do things strictly by the book.
As well as all these factions borrowed from the wider Age of Sigmar setting there are a number of warbands which have been created specifically for the Warcry game. In many ways I think of these as the real Warcry warbands and I’d love to paint all of them, each one is weird, exciting and unique. As things stand however I’ve only managed the aforementioned Untamed Beasts and Iron Golems, both painted back in 2020. I’d very much like to add to that list before the year is out.
Another major project has been to complete all the terrain from the original Warcry starter set and with the completion of this building that’s done at last.
By adding it to all the other terrain I’ve finished we now have a small ruined town to fight over should we so wish.
Of course this is just the beginning, I’m still planning to work on all the terrain from the Catacombs and Red Harvest sets as well. On top of that I’d like to expand my collection for Warhammer 40k and Necromunda, and with a solid start made to the fantasy side I’m hoping this will take the drivers seat over the next few months. In the meantime I’m calling this goal achieved – although there’s still plenty of room for bonus “stretch goals” yet to come.
Kill Team/Warhammer 40k
I’ve lumped these two together for now as they essentially cover the same territory – one at the skirmish level and one at the army level. As a whole the 41st Millennium is a setting that I love and for which I have a whole heap of models, both painted and unpainted. As games however these two leave me cold, for a range of reasons that would take a blog’s worth of text to elucidate. Thus when I first sat down to address the clear out back at the start of the year I thought I would probably give them only the minimum of attention. To begin with my only set goal was to complete this Death Guard kill team, something that required only a minimum of effort.
Now I’ve heard that a plague marine fire team now runs to 3 models which, if true, only serves to illustrate one of my key objections to these games – GW’s constant tinkering with the rules which means that nothing stays the same for more than 2 minutes before an errata is released for the FAQ of the designer’s notes that explain the latest changes in the codex that’s just arrived for the game’s 170th edition.
However, rules be damned, I love the models and I have a lot of them that I’d like to get painted – many of which are already half-done and lurking in boxes. This situation is nothing new, I’ve not played 40k in any serious way since the early days of 5th Edition and it’s not stopped me painting plenty of them in the years since. However without a rules framework it’s harder to describe exactly what I’m planning to do here. Looking through the pile I find plenty of Orks, Chaos Marines, Death Guard, Thousand Sons, Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Necrons, Adeptus Mechanicus, Genestealer Cultists and Eldar, plus a few Sisters of Battle. Plenty to be getting on with in other words. Of these some command large numbers of fully painted miniatures, and others are a little more sparse… I’m aiming to at least get together some small armies for most, or if possible, all of them – think something akin to a “combat patrol” (i.e. a couple of squads, a vehicle, a hero or two and a dreadnaught) but as goals go it’s deliberately ill-defined. Obviously some of these factions have already exceeded this goal, in some cases by a considerable margin, but I’ll still be adding recruits to them here and there because I want to, damn it, and all work and no play makes Wudu a dull boy (see also Criteria 1 and 3 above). So far my attention has been focussed on the Necrons and I’m pleased to say I’ve shaken a few of them out of their dusty tombs – enough that I could probably call this goal achieved in their case if I was feeling generous (and I am). Plenty more androids to come in the next few months though!
This feels a bit like cheating (but that’s Blood Bowl right?) because I’m counting one model towards two projects, but I’m going to call it efficiency. I’ve been promising to paint this sporting troll for absolute donkey’s and so when I started this project I fast-tracked him to the front of the queue.
This completes both my Orc team…
…and their even tougher cousins on my Black Orc team.
Since then I’ve been been chipping away at a team of Necromantic Horrors and a heap of Snotlings, neither of which have achieved full-team status as yet.
I also have a number of other teams I’d like to paint up so hopefully we’ll be looking at a whole load more Blood Bowl by the time we get to September’s round up.
Ah, my beloved Necromunda – my home away from home amid the overcrowded hives, the stinking sumps and toxic ash-dunes! I have so many projects I’d like to tackle here but alas the last six months have seen bugger all done. I shall mend my ways by the September round up I promise – and if I don’t you can sell me to the Guilders.
This one is nice and straightforward to describe; my goal is to paint everything in the Wings of Vengeance box and so far I’ve completed none of it. Just to prove I’ve not been entirely idle though here’s my first assembled Ork Dakkajet. Who knows, I might look to complete the whole Ork half of the set in Orktober.
Picture it – two armies of tiny titans, one sworn to the God Emperor, the other to the Warmaster, beating seven bells out of each other as the Imperium burns. What have I done to make it happen, aside from snapping up a few models when they were going cheap a few years ago? Not a thing!
We played a fair bit of this a while ago and it’s one we’d like to get back into, so completing all the unpainted models is one of the key projects on my list. Previously I managed to complete most of the miniatures from the core set, minus one or two of the heroes, as well as both models from the Traitor Command expansion and all the heroes from the Escalation expansion. My next goal is to finish up all of the other expansions and the heroes from the original set that I never got around to.
Sticking with Warhammer Quest we move from the far future to the grim darkness of a city overrun by the undead. My aim with Cursed City is nice and straightforward; paint everything in the box. So far this year I’ve been working my way through the various baddies that roam the haunted streets and crumbling thoroughfares, starting with ten zombies (borrowed from the wider Age of Sigmar range)…
… and two mighty ogres of the Kosargi Nightguard.
I had hoped to get a few more heroes done by now (so far only Emelda Braskov is complete) and finish off at least one more squad of baddies but it was not to be. I’ll see what I can do about that over the next few months.
A Song of Ice and Fire
At the moment I have two projects on the go here; a House Stark army and their rivals from House Lannister. My aim is to get each of them up to 30 points (enough for a small game) and then keep expanding in 10 point increments until I get to at least 50 points each – enough for a large game or to mix things up in smaller games. Beyond that I’m tempted by some of the other factions in the game but that can wait until I have these first two armies up and running.
So far I’ve been quite focused on the Starks and, as well as various characters and the beginnings of several squads, I’ve got a whole unit of Sworn Swords fully painted. I had hoped to have at least one more squad done by now and put together a nice group shot of the army but alas it was not to be – I promise to do better before the September round up rolls around.
My Lannisters meanwhile are a little further behind, but the Mountain is well on his way to summoning all of his men so I’ll aim to get this squad completed in the near-ish future.
At the moment I don’t have any set goals that I’m working towards here, I just really like the models so I’ll keep chipping away at them whenever I feel like it. Expect to see the odd one pop up whenever I fancy painting some crazy barbarians.
I’m feeling pretty chuffed with everything I’ve got done this year, especially as the past few months are always the busiest at work (and this year has been no exception on that score). By the end of July work will be getting a little calmer but other commitments look set to take over so how much time I have for painting as the year progresses remains to be seen. That said I’m going to list a few key targets that I’d like to achieve by the time we get to the end of September and the next quarterly progress report.
- Necromunda – get another gang up and running, most likely the Orlocks. More if possible.
- Warcry – get at least one of the “core” warbands painted, the Spire Tyrants look like a good option here.
- Blood Bowl – get the Necromantic Horrors team finished. As that only needs 2 ghouls I’m going to aim for getting another team up and running as well.
- Blackstone Fortress – complete at least one expansion.
- Cursed City – make significant progress. Hard to quantify on this one, I’d love to get it finished of course but I’m not going to try to bite off more than I can chew. A squad or two of mooks and/or some of the heroes would count here, whereas a single corpse rat just isn’t going to cut it!
- ASOIAF – make significant progress. Again I’m not going to put an exact figure on it here, just that I want to get something done and again one model isn’t enough!
Really though this is the bare minimum I’d like to achieve. More would without doubt be merrier. Keep an eye out over the next few months and let’s see how I get on.