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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.