Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Building Armies - How Long, and How Many?

It's a quiet time in Warhammer at the moment. With 6th edition 40K about to launch and the next army book a ways off, there's a bit of a lull on at the moment, bar the new orc characters out this month. (The savage orc hero is marked for conversion in into a fimir fian to lead my second fimir unit.) With no new shiny to distract me, I've been looking at what armies I'm building, and how long it's taking me, and it's taking me way too long.

I have three armies I've settled on for warhammer. The fimir, the chaos dwarves and the vampire counts. My first love was the vampires, or the undead, as they were simply called when I first started to play them. I built my first undead army back the 80's, and since then I've been a huge fan. There's something about endless ranks of the dead bearing down inexorably on the living that punches my ticket.

About ten years ago I started a new vampire counts army. It still isn't finished. Yep, you heard me, ten years. Now, I might have been less than strict about getting it done, but still. As it stands, the army still has only four units and two characters painted, which is shameful.

This state of affairs changed in at the start of January 2011, when I decided to settle down with my three army choices and get cracking. I put the fimir first, as I'd long been wanting to build the army. It was an ambitious project, with no dedicated models I'd have to convert pretty much the whole army, but it was the wow project, so off I went. It took a few months to work out what way to build the army, get the bits, sculpt parts, make moulds and so on, but it went well. Now, nearly a year in, I have half the army built, and the first unit is pretty much painted and ready. Good going for me, but still really slow. I see other folks churning out entire armies, and really nice ones at that, in the same time. I guess I would paint maybe 3-5 nights a week for about two hours, so what the hell?

Paint me human, paint me damn you!
Now, I am pretty dedicated to getting this army done. I imagine it'll take another year to see enough done to bring it to 2,500 points, and I am planning on the first tournament this September. I just can't figure out what takes me so long. The prospect of a deadline has lit the fire a little bit, but I can't really pack in any more time than I do already. I wonder, does anyone else find this, or am I exceptionally slow at painting minis?

I think three armies is plenty for now. There are half a dozen other projects I want to do, like my all Tzeentchian warriors of chaos pilgrimage army, Orc and goblin Leonardo army, Drakenhof Deadskins undead Bloodbowl team, etc etc, but I am ignoring it all for now. How do people resist distraction? I know it's a common problem getting lured away by the shiny, but I'd love to hear how folks stay on project and get it done in a reasonable amount of time.


  1. I'm on the same boat. My Vampire Counts army was started back in the 1990, as Undead of course and morphed into current form. I did have a break of about 5-6 years of no painting and gaming at all and very slow 2 earlier years but still... VC are far from being done. There is a lot of ghouls and zombies to add, another units of horsemen, some monsters and new stuff from latest army book.
    And... I have a lot of unpainted miniatures for Empire, Warriors of Chaos, Chaos Deamons, Bretonnia and Lizardmen. And I would love to paint at least Empire and something else in foreseeable future.
    Add to this that I'm painting and playing historical wargames too and I can safely say that my pile of unpainted figures will grow and grow and grow...
    But I know why it is like that. I'm slow painter. I can't paint to very high standard and still it takes me a lot of time to paint even one miniature. I just want them too look good, so every surface has blending, shadows, hightlights, etc...

  2. I was very much like that too, and I still like my minis, even rank and file, painted to a certain standard, but I can't paint every mini in an army like a character, and that I guess was the first step to maybe getting stuff painted at a faster rate.

  3. Don't spend hours painting one or two regiment figures, you will get nowhere fast! You need to develop a technique that allows you to paint a figure in an hour. Not literally of course, 10 figures in 10 hours is your goal. If you can get that done in a week, than another 10 the week after, then have a week off (or build regiments or work on a character). At the end of a month you have a regiment and maybe a character painted up. Repeat that for three months if you can. That's the kind of system I try to stick to. It works.

  4. 10 figures in ten hours, good lord. I think I'll give that a go, but I doubt I'll manage it. I'll give myself a week. I find it hard to believe you work that fast considering your standard of work.

  5. Inks are my friend - watered down a little and mixed in with a bit of Vallejo matte medium to take the sheen off. That way I can quickly highlight the base coat without worrying to much about precision blending and what-not as the final ink washes ties it all together and provides the shading.

    Mind you the LPL forced me to go back and add a few more levels of highlights so that my minis wouldn't be totally outclassed - still somehow managed to churn out a team of at least 5 minis a week - not sure how!?

    As for temptations - I have several other projects boxed tightly away out of sight and almost mind! Mustn't think about my old Hogboblin warband, Goblin horde, Baron Kraust's motley army of Undead and Chaotics, the three Bloodbowl teams I've assembled and the Orc, Dwarf and Dark Elf Man O War fleets awaiting the paintbrush!

    Saying that I still need to dig out my notes and rephotograph the final battle for my Orc's Drift project...

  6. I hate saying this, but practice makes perfect? I think 10 in 10 hrs is doable, but if your heading for somewhere just above Table top. So enough details to look good as a whole, but maybe could use a bit more to push it over the top.

    I usually aim for 30 mins per model to get to tabletop standards, and then once a majority are finished, go back over them as required. But the highlight is I get more models on the table faster to be able to play with, and know that I can fix them up if required at a later date.

    Your Fimirs are definitely WOW factor. So TT or even TT+ is not enough for such a project is understandable, but maybe the tricks above might help speed things along a bit though.

  7. Thanks for the tips folks, especially considering you both produce great minis. I find I can't leave a mini until I'm happy it's finished. That said, I have taken on some techniques to speed things up. Putting particular effort into the faces, shields and bases for example. Batch painting, pre-mixing paints, washes, glazes and even the dip. I was VERY sceptical of the dip when I first saw it, but when treated as a wash, over a certain range of colours with further highlighting laid on top, it can be astoundingly effective with a good matt coat to take off the shine.

    I also find giving a mini a sexy base improves the whole model immensely, as it gives the eye something to soak up, and I love basing anyway.

  8. Your Fimir were never going to be quick, given how ambitious the project is. But then, when it's your pet project with updates going online for everyone to see, it's very hard to cut corners or do anything to a level that you find less than satisfactory (and you'll be especially picky).

    To a certain extent you just need to accept that, and just keep trying to make steady progress. It's funny how you can feel like you're not getting anywhere for ages, then you reach a critical threshold and you find things come together very quickly.

    Having deadlines will help you, provided they're not so ambitious that you're doomed to failure. And frankly, I think if you can get your army to a finished 2500pt level by sometime next year, it will be reasonable progress from where you are now.

    And try not to focus on the efforts of those freaks out there who pump out astounding stuff in unbelievable time - thinking too hard about that can be depressing. You don't need to produce things at that rate, so long as you're happy with your own efforts.

    Looking forward to seeing that first tournament force, ready to go!

  9. Crikey Hoodling, that was quite uplifting, thanks very much indeed. Posting online actually helps a lot, as I'm keen to keep posting updates and I get a lot of good feedback which helps keep me going.


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