Monday, 15 October 2012

Grownup Dilemma

When I started this blog the aim was to write about a number of things, - chief amongst them was how being a grownup affects your wargaming in both a positive and negative way. Some of the earliest posts were about how I paint armies. The technique is designed to produce armies reasonably quickly in a series of hour long bursts. They key thing was to finish each stage in an evening so that figures dried overnight. This was ideal as it gave me an hour long wind-down activity after work and also meant that broadly speaking I completed and based at least one regiment a week. 

Of course all of this relied upon me finishing work and getting home in a reasonable time and, to a lesser extent, not having to get up really early in the morning. It also meant that weekends were free for bigger projects (doing scenery for example) or actually doing proper grownups things such as mowing the lawn or decorating.

Things have obviously moved on. The change in working conditions mean that I’m now commuting 2 hours each way to work, thus getting up earlier than I’d like and getting home later than I care to think about.

Weekends likewise have become more complicated following the decline in my parents’ health and my brother’s car accident earlier in the year, with at least one day spent running around after my mother & father doing odd jobs or taking my mother shopping.

This weekend I did get some painting done, although I discovered an extra use for the Ronseal varnish I use in place of “army painter” tinted varnish. Apparently you can use it to varnish woodwork too. Anyhow I’ve finished the paint work on another regiment of Spanish Civil War cavalry and glued them on some bases so they’ve only got a couple of night’s work to finish them. And I’ve started work on a regiment of Sikhs I’ve bought to use in my new Chinese game, all of which is good, but it is so slow.

I’ve always regarded the painting of the figures as an important part of the process. They get me emotionally connected to the armies and I start to develop an attachment to the various units based not just on their actual history but how tractable they were as I struggled to bring them to life for the wargames table. The idea of buying a completely new army from a “bring and buy” has always seemed anathema to me, and as for getting figures done by a painting service….well that’s even more impersonal. I had a colleague at my previous place of employment who worked such long hours that he used a painting service (although he never got round to basing the stuff up or even arranging a game so that seemed to me to be a bit of a waste anyway).

Recently I’ve been reconsidering the idea. Especially as I’ve offered a session for CoW next year, - in 8 months’ time – and my progress so far is the paint work on the Sikhs referred to above. I haven’t even bought all of the figures yet. 

So maybe a service is the answer. And if I varnish with Ronseal and do the basing myself they’ll look like my figures.

But I’ll know.


  1. When you mention 'woodwork' you mean mdf bases - right?

    1. Alas no. It got used on a door frame.

      Still, it means it counts toards the household not the hobby budget.

  2. Its a tricky one. I too have a 2 hour commute and most of my painting is confined to an hour upstairs while the wife is watching crud on TV and snatched hours during busyt weekends.

    I definitely feel that painting is a key element of the hobby. I normally fins it relaxing but recently the efforts in getting two Japanse samurai armies painted and finished in time for November is proving a real drag. The unpainted pile seems no smaller - despite me knocking out around 48 figures a night (6mm you see).

    I've never bought a painted army but if a 6mm Baccus army came up now I'd snap their hand off!

    1. I'm down to about 20-30 minutes in the evening between meals and other commitments. The commute lets me read, which just whets my appetite for more figures!

      I can wargame without toys, - and have designed and still design games that don't need them. It's just painting and ifnishing armies is very satisfying.

  3. Trebian,

    I generally resisted buying painted armies in the past ... but when I did I based them myself and did a bit of detailed 'touching up' so I felt that I had had some input into them ... and I have enjoyed using them ever since.

    I am currently considering getting some of my figures painted by someone I know. They have painted figures for me in the past, and I deliver them to him cleaned of flash and undercoated. He then paints in the main detail and I add the odd finishing touch before I base them. Because I have been involved in the process of painting them I feel that they are 'mine'. It is my simple answer to a psychological barrier.

    All the best,


    PS. I still enjoy painting figures (and modelling), but I do not always have the inclination, hence the need to get some 'assistance' with getting some of mine done.

  4. It's at times likie this I realise that being in the business side of the hobby is fine by me. Many years ago I did a roughly hour commute to work- by bus less if the bus was on time. I now reckon that NOT having to commute is woth at least 10 grand a year.. The idea of a 2 hour commute daily fills me with "fear and loathing" .
    I've now been in this business almost 21 yearsand my "commute" is about 2 minutes as I walk downstairs to the "warehouse" . Mind you there is a good bit of weekend working - Derby for instance a3 hour Trip but thats a piece of **** compared to the daily 2 hours .
    As for painting. I still like to paint but am always on the lookout for respectably painted units that fit in- even if I almost always rip the bases off to make them fit in with those armies I already have.

    1. Andy,

      I admit that I have been spoiled in my career. I had a great (and well paid) job and a "commute" of about 15 minutes. If not commuting only cost me £10k I'd jump at the chance!

      Derby was just over an hour for me.

      I think that the basing may be the key. That, together with a ocat of Ronseal, will make things fit in.


  5. If you enjoy painting figures and find it relaxing, then it is worth doing for its own sake. But as you can't devote much time to painting nowadays, I suggest a compromise would be to acquire painted rank and file, but paint unit colour bearers, commanders and generals &c. yourself.

    That way, you could enjoy painting individual officers with more elaborate/idiosyncratic uniforms, without suffering the drudgery of production-line painting of the other ranks.

    You would 'own' the resulting units because you provided the essential command and leadership without which the ranks would just be a disorderly mob. And you did pay for their uniforms - just like Lord Cardigan and the 'Cherry Bums'. Everyone knows officers are far more important than common soldiers...

    I think this moral qualm about fielding units painted by others derives, in part, from us belonging to a generation that could not simply purchase armies, scenery and buildings off the shelf, but had to paint, convert and make them ourselves.

    Perhaps we feel some sort of Puritan revulsion against acquiring wargame armies simply by sending large sums of money - that I could certainly never justify on my hobby - rather than investing time, research and effort into mustering them?

    Best wishes,

    1. A number of very well judged points. i like the officer approach, although I've always derived a lot of pleasure out of churning out a regiment and having something concrete to show for it all.

      I agree as well with the "throwing money at it is wrong" point of view. I like making my own roads and buildings where I can and it annoys me that those skills no longer needed.

      And if I make a mistake on my figures' uniforms then it's my mistake. If i buy it with a mistake in i'll feel cheated.

  6. I think you should buy the figures with a basic paint job and allow yourself a corrective and finishing phase. Just think of it as 'pre-undecoated', then personalised and finished by you.

    It is all relative. Where do you draw the line between the raw figure and 'finished, based and varnished'? I think the genuine ownership is weighted heavily at either end (selecting, organising and occasionally adapting the figures ... finishing, basing and presenting them) - some of the intermediate phases are impersonal chores.

    Try commissioning something that will be interesting and useful (but have a good resale value - say WWI stuff which everyone will want to dabble with in a couple of years time).

    Finish it yourself, do some development games ... then sell it at the end of the project if you still have bad faith: you will doubtless get back much of the value.

    I look forward to reading your 2015 blog episodes .... 'I never intended to keep this army once I had done the 1914 rules - but now I just can't bear to part with them: even though I did't do all the painting, they still feel _mine'

    Phil (must dash - figures to paint!)

    1. Early WW1....I have enough 1916 stuff to fight major engagements, so I think not.

      I've laways been such a "soup to nuts" sort of guy on army production that breaking up the process is something that I'm obviously finding challenging but I may be on my way to a solution.

  7. I know that personally I have a much greater attachment to figures that I've painted than to those I've purchased already painted (even when the latter are better painted than mine) . . . so I fully understand and agree with your stance on the subject.

    -- Jeff

    1. But you do have an attahcment to those you just bought? well that's encouraging.

  8. I know about lack of time too, Trebian - my solution is to play smaller games with fewer figures; not ideal, but necessary given my life routine ;)

  9. Even though I share and understand the attachment, pride, and sense of accomplishment that comes with painting your own, I have always viewed painting as a sort of penance that must be endured. Nevertheless, it is only recently that I have started buying pre-painted, for many of the reasons listed. I, too, had been of the mind that unless I had painted them, I would not be able to embrace them.

    I have been surprised, though, that this has not been the case. There has still been a substantial enough effort invested in rebasing, touching up, correcting uniform errors, painting round-out and specialty figures, and giving the collection an overall coherent appearance, such that I do have a sense of ownership with, and connection to, those units. As a matter of fact, I have found that in practice, the origins of the figures does not at all detract from the satisfaction derived from taking in the array.

    Your mileage may vary, but I would suggest you give it a try on some small scale and see if there is enough of a project there for you to feel similarly invested.

    Ed M

    (I hope to have a blog of my own sometime this year where I might be able to illustrate such things)

    1. Ed,

      I think that the answer is in sight. Basing and varnishing will be key elements of ownership.


  10. Painting has never been a pennance- I've always thought of myself as more of a modeller/painter than a simple games player. The ownership thing is pretty apt- I've had a good number of units painted by quality pros in my time- mostly for the show display case though some have gravitated to my personal collection- mostly the ECW- the basing and finishing does stamp ownership on them but I've now had most for 10 years or more so they are mine. Though perhaps - once I get my head round it- a small cull is on the way.

    1. It's not so much a pennance, - it's just it doesn't get done! I have figures in display cabinets i've painted myself (or won at games days and the like).

      So, - who would any one recommend for basic wargamer quality?