Sunday, 12 May 2013

Initial Problems (or How I Learned to Love Mass Production)

One of the most common problems I have encountered during my time in the wargaming hobby is that of 'keeness'. Many wargamers suffer from it and as with other sufferers of keeness it tends to come in waves.

Keeness often starts off with the introduction to a new subject, scale or system. Rampant surfing of the internet and grand plans are the initial symptoms, and it often ends up with you having more models in your possession than you know what to do with. Or where to start with. This is when the wave of keeness tends to recede, and unless topped up with deliberate exposure to the original source of keen, the keeness can pass altogether. Leaving nothing but a pile of lead and/or plastic, no storage space, an empty bank account and/or an angry spouse.

I have often found myself in this position and over time have grown to realise it is part of the conundrum of the hobby. Starter sets often offer the best way into a hobby (assuming there is a starter set that caters for the army you want to collect, something that GZG have got very right) but starter sets often leave you with a lot of new models at once and little experience in painting them. On top of that you add a little of this, one of those, some of those, etc... Still with the initial starters still to paint. In my recent case, the Flames of War British Late War Infantry Company (BBX11) box contained 125 15mm figures.

I mentioned before I had attempted to collect a FoW army previously, but had run out of keen in the face of lack of playing time and my main potential opponents first purchase being 4 x King Tigers. I had some experience of painting these infantry, but hadn't done so for a long time, and had only painted a Infantry Platoon. This box would give me 3 Infantry Platoons plus company command teams and three sniper teams.

I spent a lot of time researching online what colours to use (I use Vallejo paints almost exclusively, however I do use 'Miniature Paints' for flesh colours and primers - I believe these are produced by RPE Miniatures). Eventually I decided to go with a web article that was published on the Flames of War website as my colour guide.

I cleaned up all the minis using a craft knife, clippers and set of modelling files I had. this task took several nights of work but did get me familiar with the various poses of the various models. While I can still see the odd mold line I've got better at this as time has gone on.

Next, I washed the miniatures. This is something that I never bothered with in my 40k days, but of late I have figured it can't do any harm (just remember to put the plug in...). I use warm soapy water and an old tooth brush just to give all the models a quick clean. Laying them out on a tea towel and giving them a quick pat dry then leaving them for a day took me to the next step.

Based on a very handy series of articles on The Model Dads website (article 1, 2 and 3) I decided to mount my models on 'lolly' or 'Popsicle' sticks like these, which I picked up from a local store. I did this using a dab of PVA glue - one of the things I found out is that the amount of PVA can be important. Too much and the PVA swamps the base of the model, meaning on removal the PVA peels paint from the model itself. Too little and the model falls off at the most annoying time possible.

Then, the whole point of the article. I sat daunted by the sheer number of these sticks covered in models (somewhere in the region of 25, as you get approx 5 per stick). I knew, faced with this amount of work if I tried to use my usual technique of doing one step to every model before moving to the next step, the task would never get done.

So I split them into batches.

Sounds simple, but for me it was a major breakthrough. I could set myself a small target, still work in stages and had enough going on that by the time I finished priming the last of the 5 sticks worth, I could start the next stage on the first one as it had dried.

This allowed me to focus, not be disheartened by the lack of forward movement and using slight variations in each batch meant that the models would not be totally identical. For example, I varied my webbing colours between Khaki (VP988), German Camo Beige (VP821) and Green Grey (VP886). It also meant that as I finished each batch my skill level increased and I improved both the speed and quality of my painting.

So that's my first top tip for any war gamer trying to get into the painting thang. Work at the squad or platoon level, focus on getting that sub unit done and then move on from there! Characters (like my wee piper) get left till last. Eventually you set your brushes down and realise you have painted everything you had set out to do!

The completed Company (prior to the Universal Carrier being finished)

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