A Tale of Four, No Five, Armies

I have written a couple posts about my gaming history. Buried in the all the gaming are spurts of actual painting models, too. Not as much as there should be, but I do paint my own models. Not that paying someone to paint your models s bad. I’ve looked into it. My ACW models may end up coming from Gajo Games in Utah, as the prices for painted models seem quite reasonable. I have at least five units of models painted by other people. I bought them to strip and repaint, but the paint jobs were at least as good as my own, and actually fit right in with my style. So why waste time?

This post is not a history of all of my painting, but rather a focused look at a period of total insanity. I call it the ‘dark years’ or ‘my mad time’. I was both over optimistic about my abilities and woefully unprepared for how soul-crushing a project like that would be. Utterly, entirely, and completely draining. It was awful by the end. But I am getting ahead of my narrative.

Sometime in late 2010 (my first post on Heresy-online was Dec. 17, 2010) I had the grand idea to buy, build and paint four Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB) armies. All at once. Like a crazy person. Up to this point I had only built one army at a time. Ok, when I first bought WFB in 1996 the boxed game had two armies in it. If I remember, it had something like 16 Saurus warriors and 20 Skink skirmishers for the Lizardmen, plus 8 Knights and 16 Archers for the Bretonnians. I primed them all, and half painted the lot before shelving the game in favor of Warhammer 40K.


I picked up the Mordheim box a few years later. I built the core box models, then bought and sorta painted the Witch hunter faction. That got traded in away in the one trade I completely regret.


The Catachan army that started me into 40K was completely painted and based, but not that well as I look at it now. Immediately after the Catachans and some Imperial Guard support, I built and painted a largish Space Marines army. It has around 125 marines, and eight or so vehicles including three land raiders. Everything was painted and based.

By that point I had painted around 250 models. None were painted extremely well, but I was learning how to paint. I started painting a Flames of War U.S. paratroopers army after that. That army expanded into two battalions of U.S troops and a decent sized German kampfgruppe. All of that is probably three quarters painted. Ok, that is a lie. It is more like half or less painted when you include all the models I have in the lead mountain. Sometime while I was painting all those I dabbled in a Undead army for WFB. I was building and painting those figs while I was at a training academy far from home. I sold those figs soon after. I don’t quite remember why. That was in 2002 or 2003.

I don’t recall buying or painting anything other than Flames of War up until I had that crazy idea.

The idea to build and paint four armies at once. They weren’t all for me. It was a family project. I would build and paint an army for each of us. Everyone picked an army and the kids signed off on color schemes. Half the idea was an excuse to spend more on miniatures than I had been. Let’s be honest, Games Workshop minis are not the cheapest on the market. And a 1500 point army will have 50-100 models in it. But I wasn’t going to have one 1500 point army. Or stop at 1500 points. Of course in my innocence I really was not planning for the insanity to grow to the levels it did. I had a plan in the beginning. I really did. Since my kids were young and had never played WFB, and neither had my wife, I was going to start small and simple. The first units would be a leader model and a unit of infantry to learn the basic mechanics of the rules. After that we could add in missile troops, cavalry, light cavalry, monsters, etc. as I completed more units.

I think I had made a really big order from The Warstore and had all the first units stashed away. For those that don’t know, most WFB models are plastic multi-part models that have to be assembled before they can be painted. Multi-part as in the head, arms, sometimes legs, and weapons are separate pieces. All those parts have to be cut from the carrier sprue, sprue marks and mold lines carefully cut and sanded away, and then glued together. In WFB the models have to be assembled so they fit together as a unit as well. In this game most models fight in tight groups of ranked models. Weapons have to be glued so each model fits next to the ones on either side and front and back. Once all that is done, painting can begin.

dscn1377.jpgFinished Bret Lord


It started with these four models. A High Elf Noble, a Wood Elf Noble, a Bretonnian Lord and an Empire Captain were the very first fantasy models I painted in more than a decade.  Looking back, my painting skills had come a long way since I last painted Warhammer models. Those first four models still hold up. I watched a ton of YouTube videos ad bought a good paints from Vallejo. I’ll never win awards for painting speed, but I got those four models done.

With the leaders done I moved on to the first units of infantry. I believe the first units were High Elf Warriors with spears and shields, Wood Elf Eternal Guard with double ended spears, Bretonnian Men at Arms with halberds and shields, and Empire State Troops with swords and shields. These were in units of 10 to 16 models so they took way longer to paint. I got them done, too, and it was time for the more units.

My idea was to add missile troops next. We had played a few small games with just hand to hand troops, so this was the logical expansion to the rules. I built and painted two more units. This time it was Wood Elf Glade Guard bowmen and Bretonnian Peasant Bowmen. The plan was that each new unit would add new rules also. That way, we could all learn the rules together a bit at a time. These missile troops got painted, and now there were two units for two of the armies.

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The next models I painted were magic users. I painted up a pair of damsels for the Bretonnians, a spell singer for the Wood Elves and a mage for the High Elves. Those three went pretty quick, so it was on to the first cavalry models for the armies.  I painted at least five mounted models for three of the armies that included Bretonnian knights of the realm, High Elf Silver Helms, and Wood Elf glade guard. These all took longer of course. A cavalry model is really two models, rider and horse, and these were the first of many horses.


he-mage-lord-6.jpgEmpire Wizards 002

I was cataloging all of this on a project log on heresy-online.net. You can find it here if you care to read through 18 pages of pretty old posts. On Heresy I also discovered the annual painting challenges, and ended up participating in two of the, one in 2012 and the other in 2013. I completed both successfully.

The reason I stopped strictly building a unit of each type for each of the four armies was a lack of interest from the family. In the beginning we played a fair number of games. My need to paint cut into game time. My inability to paint fast also meant the whole process was taking forever. Kids have short attention spans. And I wasn’t good about making it all a priority. You know, life and all of that.

I started the Heresy army painting challenge in 2012 a bit selfishly with my army, the Empire. The first unit I painted was a unit of halberdiers, the core Empire army troops. These were followed by Knights of the White Wolf (with some green stuff conversions and a pair of wolves from the Space wolves range), a unit that screamed ‘Middenland’, my province of choice. Month by month I painted a great cannon, more halberdiers, hand gunners, a pair of battle mages, another unit of hand gunners, huntsmen, pistoliers, crossbowmen, and a helblaster volley gun. The last units I finished were the leader models, a mounted lord (converted from the Valten model), a banner bearer and warrior priest, and lastly a unit of militia. I made it a full twelve months and a successful challenge year.

Empire Command 1

I spent the next bit adding to some of the units and painting battle standard bearers for the High Elves, Wood Elves and Bretonnians. When those were done I got ready for the 2013 Challenge and painting High Elves. I picked the High Elves for the second challenge so I could keep my son involved and excited. He was the most excited about the whole project. He played with the finished models more than the rest of us, and even at 10 or 11 got the rules.

Finished BSBs 007Finished BSBs 001

Bret BSBEmpire Command 6.jpg

I have a love-hate relationship with High Elves. They are pretty cool models, and the key models have very dynamic poses and lots of bits for customizing. The units are cool and evocative of fluff of High Elves in the Old World. But, and this is a big but, they suck to paint. They have so MANY little bits and ribbons and details that need painting. And the gems. The freaking gems. Painting gems on High Elf models almost broke me mentally. Every time I thought I had all the gems painted I found another one. They are so tedious to paint, and fiddly. Any mistakes meant the gold paint and sepia had to come out to cover the errors. Every gem had five or more colors on it, plus the gloss coat. Tedious. I despise painting gems. But I have to do more to finish the two elf armies. Yeah, I discovered that Wood elves have gems, too. Just not nearly as many…

So, despite the gems, I started painting unit after unit of High Elves.  I painted archers, a bolt thrower, a mounted Lord, Reaver Knights, Phoenix Guard, Shadow Warriors (super cool models), and a unit of Sword Masters and a great eagle. The plog on Heresy ended at that point, and since that isn’t twelve units, I don’t know if the challenge died, I quit/failed, or never added the rest of the pics to my plog.

HE Lord 8

I painted a few more units, including some knights errant and a trebuchet for the Bretonnians, and a treeman for the Wood Elves. But I lost my mojo. Literally. I put away my models and paints and brushes and didn’t paint a thing for a couple years. I was completely burned out. Even rotating through armies and occasionally painting something odd led to a lack of will to paint another fantasy model. The entire project languished in foam and cardboard waiting for the dawning of a new day. I didn’t even keep up on the goings on over at Games Workshop and missed that the Bretonnian models were being discontinued, which led to an endless search for particular models to complete that army.

Army pics 001

Army pics 012

Somewhere in this project I lost focus and blew past any reasonable goal of completion or points limit for these armies. The Wood Elves were stuck at 1,000 points, but I had more models stashed away. The High Elves were above 2,000 points by then, with many more points still in boxes to build and paint. The Empire climbed past 3,000 points, a secondary or tertiary points goal. The lowly Bretonnians, due in part to my error in missing their discontinuation, sat at a somewhat lower points total.

And for a year or two, I didn’t care.

Or maybe it was three. Or four. It was dark period in the galaxy… Wait, wrong movie.

I had found Star Wars: X-Wing at the time and poured money and time into that game. But I didn’t paint any figure models. It wasn’t until sometime in 2017 that I dug out all my painting tools, took stock of what I had, and I went on a EBay and Bartertown bender. I bought a pile of minis, and even traded a bunch of unpainted 40K models for nearly an entire Lizardmen army. A fifth army. In essence I had gone insane. Again.

But in a good way.


2018: The Results

The year in review

As December flew by I looked back and wondered where all the time went.  It seems like a week or three ago it was January and I was looking forward to a year of painting, modeling and gaming. I had an ok 2017, and knew to have a great 2018 I needed planning and motivation. Mostly because I am a lazy git.

So I set a goal for painting in 2018.  A few years back I entered a painting challenge over at Heresy-online.net. In it you had to paint one unit or vehicle for a war game each month. There was a guy in charge, and there was a set of rules to abide by. Everyone posted plans at the beginning of the year. One change in armies per year. One mulligan. Miss 2 months and you were out. The prize?  The honor of completion. And a cool graphic for your signature line. The honor was mine. I made it through the most of the year, and painted about 10-12 units. Most were for my Warhammer Fantasy Battles Empire army. A Middenheim army to be exact.  But looking back I see that some were from my sons High Elf army.  How the memory fails me…

Taking inspiration from that challenge, I set a goal to paint 2 units per month from any army, in any scale. That way I could switch around what I was painting to keep my interest and drive up. No way was I getting burned out again. I started out the year painting 28mm World War Two minis for Bolt Action and Chain of Command. German and U.S infantry and a few armored vehicles. I moved into 15mm Ancients after a few months. Then I ended the year painting 28mm again, Dark Age Vikings and Anglo-Saxons for SAGA. Here is a complete list:

Jan: 10 G.I.s and 8 Grenadiers

Feb: 10 G.I.s and 8 Grenadiers

Mar: 6 Waywatchers and 5 Pulp bad guys

Apr: 8 Grenadiers and 5 Pulp Good Guys, a Wood Elf Lord and a High Elf Mage

May: 8 Grenadiers and 10 G.I.s

June: 7 Swarm bases for WFB Lizardmen and 8 French civilians


July: 15 bases of Romans and 17 bases of Germans

Aug: Nothing…

Sept: Nothing…

Oct: Nothing…

Nov: 4 Berserkers and 12 AS Levy troops plus 3 SdKfz 251 half tracks

Dec: 4 AS Hearth guard and 12 Viking Archer levy troops plus 2 M4 Shermans and a Panzer IV H

As you can see, I wasn’t entirely successful. But, I do feel that I painted more than I would have without a self-imposed challenge. I also built and painted at least one scenery element each month. Those were houses and stores, my first crack at acrylic caulk roads, a fenced garden and a Wood Elf altar.

I already have a lineup of minis to paint for 2019, and I am hoping to better my painting rate while I paint Dark Age and Fantasy models by trying some colored primers for the first time. If I keep up this rate, and don’t buy too many models, Ill finish painting all my models sometime around 2035. Hahaha!

Painting and modeling was only part of what I accomplished in 2018. In my ongoing search for great games, I explored several new board games and a few new rule sets for miniatures gaming. I’m still waiting on those GMT games I ordered through their P500 pre-order system. So I am short one FIW game and my first sailing game. I have no idea when those will show up, but I am anxious to give them a try. I did play 2 new games in 2018.

One was from Worthington Publishing and is an adaptation of the Richard Borg Command and Colors rules set in the American War of Independence. This game is somewhat similar to Battle Cry! in setup and play. It uses the familiar 3 section map board and hex terrain, as well as similar command cards. The British have troops representing regulars, lights and elites, as well as cavalry and artillery units. The American player has regulars and elites, as well as militia troops that have some unique rules. I believe there are a couple of upgrade packs, adding in Hessians and a set of pieces to move the game back into the FIW.  I definitely need those to add to the playability and longevity of the game. It played well, and like Battle Cry!, I think it represents linear warfare very well.


The second game I finally played was GMT’s Wilderness War. It is a grand tactical game representing the entirety of the French and Indian War if you care to play the long campaign. We haven’t yet, but will soon.  One of the more novel things, in my opinion, was supply. Like many games, you must trace supply from forward units through controlled areas back to the coast, or a city or fortress to allow troops to maintain supply. Additionally, forts and villages on the frontier could only support so many troops in the winter layup. Too many troops and you took casualties from “disease” and “starvation”. I believe we lost more troops to those sources than actual combat. The siege rules really worked and demonstrated the difficulties of sieges at the time.  Many forts were raided and burned by the British, and I ran a holding action and concentrated pushes, but in the end came up short. It was a great game, and added in the differences in troop quality that is not present in our favorite FIW game, a Few Acres of Snow.

I looked at many other games in a variety of genres throughout the year. I continued my hunt for GDW’s The Third World War and bid on several offerings on eBay. And I got sniped every time. I’ve decided until I am willing to spend at least $150, I am probably NOT winning an auction for that game. So I settled for Victory Games’ The Next World War, another WWIII strategy game. It was un-punched when I got it, and I am still trying to decide if that is a bad sign!  Have read the rules once, and need to read them again before my son comes home for Christmas break. That is one of our must-play games for his time home from university. One rule I did remember was if nukes get used. If they do, there is a 50/50 chance the player that deployed them loses the game. That is a big risk!

In the hunt for a WWIII game and reading blogs and websites and reviews, I kept coming back to Team Yankee by Battlefront. I have a long association with Battlefront, playing their flagship WWII rules since the playtest days. I have watched the rollout of Team Yankee with great interest, and even read Harold Coyle’s Team Yankee book this summer. Heavy main battle tanks? Yes please! A-10 tank busters? I’ll take a pair. Cool anti-air assets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and modern war have a bit of a draw for me. I even picked up the main rule book to give them a look. But, then I stalled. While I love the size and detail of 15mm models, the scale is just too big for the space I have to do justice to modern combat. In modern war it is the weapon ranges. I wrote about this previously for mortars in WWII. Missile ranges in moderns are even worse. So I am still on the fence for the era and scale. There aren’t any modern tanks or APCs hiding in my lead mountain. Yet.

For most of the year I only bought models I needed for the current emphasis projects I have going. The TY rules were one of only two rule sets added to my bookshelf. Then I went to Fall In!…

As reported in my Fall In! post, I picked up the Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant rules. I am still looking at them as a replacement for WFB. But the more I work on variant rules, the more I think I’ll just stick with WFB for gaming with all the GW models I have. If I was just starting out and looking for a fantasy set of rules, I’d be all over Dragon Rampant. But, I have largish WFB armies and the skirmish nature of the DR rules makes them unsuitable for mass combat.

The other “rules” I decided to add to everything I have, is Wings of Glory. After playing Peter’s fantastic Balloon Buster’s game at Fall In!, I had to get this game. I ordered the duel pack with the Albatros D.Va and the SPAD XIII from Miniature Market and the No Man’s Land game mat from Noble Knight Games. I’ve already introduced my daughter to the game, and she is a fan. She prefers it to X-Wing as it is simpler to play than X-Wing, and she liked the 3 phase planning. I have been going over a long list of models to buy to play this on a larger scale, with more scenarios, and to ensure that I can play through the 4 years of the war. There are cool campaign rules from the fan base and the increasing capabilities and lethality of the planes begs for campaign play. It is the second must-play for the break.


The last game we will fit in is Triumph! rules from the Washington Grand Company. I am looking forward to teaching both of my kids to play this one, and really looking forward to expanding my armies so all four of us can play together. Romans and Visigoth allies along with Germans and Dacians threatening the Empire should make a great game and campaign.

So what do I have enough painted stuff for at this point? I lack terrain for everything, but do have enough buildings for 15mm and 28mm WWII. I have a couple Dark Age buildings close to being finished, but not enough for a village, yet.  What I really lack are roads. They are so expensive to purchase ready-made, and a bit time-consuming to make. So I don’t have enough. I’m going to have to suck it up and build enough dirt and asphalt roads this coming year, and buy some cobblestone streets. I need a solid week of nothing else on my plate to knock out the bocage and fences and roads and tree stands I need. Then I need another week to build the jungle terrain (thanks Mel… Your Burma board has me super jealous) and Lizardmen temples and spawning pools I need for a half-planned WFB campaign involving an island that reappeared off the coast of the Old World and is shrouded in mist and jungle.

What I do have is enough Germans and Americans in 15mm to play any number of scenarios of WWII combat. I have enough Germans and Americans in 28mm now to play almost anything I want in that scale as well. I have two armies for Triumph! all painted up, plus some felt terrain. That needs to be upgraded at some point, but for now we can play. There are four 1,000+ point fantasy armies painted, and a bit of terrain. Before my son went off the college he played WFB with a friend or friends quite regularly. I have 2 points each for Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Not quite enough to play a game of SAGA. But, 2019 will definitely see more minis gaming along with the board games.

2018 also saw me start blogging. And not do a great job all summer. No excuses. I’ll try to do better. I am amazed at the people that can put out great content month after month. And I understand why some slow their posting. Good ideas are hard to come by! Winter is here, so I have a bit more time to write and post, and hopefully some good short story ideas crawl out of the shadows of my brain.

I was able to attend two Cons through the year. One Comic-Con and one gaming con. I am hoping to fit in at least 2 more gaming cons in 2019 (FlintCon and Historicon) and possibly another Comic-Con. Oh, and I am going to the Star Wars celebration in Chicago in April. I’ll be attending with my friends from over at The Credible Nerds podcast, Justin and Marc. That should be all kinds of awesome.

2019 should be a heck of a year.

Stone, rock, gravel and sand

Building linear terrain takes lots of two things. Time. And materials. In my quest to actual build terrain, I have started stone walls or fences.  I am going for a rubble look, the random 1st one fences built by farmers over the centuries as they clear their fields.

My effort involves vinyl floor tiles, foamcore board, little stones, and lots of hot glue.



I cut the tiles into strips and corners of various sizes. Something like 10 feet of straights, several corners, a destroyed wall section, and a couple gates.


After hot gluing a foamcore board core, I went at the sections with stones hot glued in place. One. Stone. At. A. Time.

I was at the table for hours and only completed a couple sections. And I blew through hot glue sticks and two bags of Woodland Scenics Talus in no time.

The talus is nicely sorted and a uniform color, and not too expensive at $4.99 a bag.

20180516_234727 But I will need ten bags?  More? So I needed more rocks, of the right size at a better price.

How’s free?  At my church a guy recently moved in who manages a sand production facility. He saw my Facebook post on building the walls and asked about the stones/rocks I used.  I described the rocks and size and he asked if I could use a 5 gallon bucket of them. Could I? Uh, yes, please!

And he delivered. On Sunday he brought me a bucket. Mixed diameter rocks, but I am a gamer and could figure that out.


Some cheap buckets, a couple drill bits, and some time led to enough stones to fill two or three of the WS bags, plus, the rest of the bucket to go. Stones forever.


I’m chuffed as my friends across the pond say.  A little more time sifting and I will have enough rocks to build ALL the fences I will ever need.

So, thanks Shane! You rock!  Hehe.

I have lots more work to do to finish these walls, but I have enough stones to move forward as time allows. Off to pick up more glue sticks!

If you want more info about how I have constructed these walls (or fences), just let me know in the comments.

BG out