For a long time, I’ve hovered on the edge of getting into miniatures. I spent ages weighing up whether to get the Batman Miniatures Game, I was intrigued by Star Wars Legion and came close to picking up Infinity. After much deliberation on all fronts, all I ended up doing was browsing. And that was my relationship with miniatures for many years, I’d love the idea of them but never wanted to commit my time or my wallet. And then a few years ago I picked up Star Wars: Imperial Assault. The copy I got was secondhand and some of the minis were already painted, so I set myself the challenge of finishing up the rest of the box. I made decent progress but once our campaign and expansion campaign ended, I lost momentum with a few of the core set, and all of the expansion, figures still going unpainted. Cut to the 2019 UK Games Expo and I get that urge to get into a proper miniatures game once more but all I keep thinking is that I have a box of primed and unpainted Imperial Assault to finish if I can’t finish those why should I get another box of plastic? The expo ends and I’ve flitted around some of the miniatures but stopped myself making that commitment. I’m happy, I think it was the right decision. Then on the train ride home, I buy myself the Warhammer 40,000 Death Guard and paint set. And it was the best spur of the moment decision I’ve made in years.
Little did I know at the time that this one little box would act as a gateway to the most relaxing, zenlike hobby I’ve ever tried. Once I got the set, I was convinced I would only really use the paints and leave the Warhammer because pffft Warhammer. It’s all big shoulder pads and angry men, right? I’m a grown-up now, I turn 30 next year (this year now, yikes). I should be looking towards my pension and not buy tiny plastic people I was deprived of as a child. I have never been so wrong. Not only am I now a convert to this plastic crack (I’ve graduated from the cardboard crack of CCG’s it seems), but I genuinely enjoy the lore and style of the game.
Alright, let’s get a little personal. For the past few years, I’ve felt a little lost and aimless (more so that usual). Fully healed after having nerve damage in my leg, I basically started a new career for the third time in 5 years, I was stressed, I spent 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen and then several others ‘relaxing’ in front of another screen at home. I can barely complain as I have/had a loving partner who supports me in everything, friends who I bothered on a regular basis and lived in relative comfort, but I was directionless, frustrated and sick of screens. This whim of a purchase renewed that initial vigour of painting Imperial Assault and turned it up to 11.
Now I wasn’t just painting these set miniatures to fit in with the Star Wars Universe, I was creating my own little warband and eventually army. Once I had built and painted the first three Death Guard, and gotten the ‘bug’, like any normal human I went hunting for a rules system. I’d lovingly painted these disgusting boys and want to see them run around an imaginary battlefield and take potshots at other angry creatures. It’s at this point I reconnected with a friend I’d not seen in nearly 10 years (shout out to Rowan and give him a follow on Instagram at Sigma.Two), who is in about as deep as you can go with this stuff. The nice man that he is, he agreed to teach me the skirmish game, Kill Team. Rather than requiring massive armies, Kill Team can be played with squads as small of four or five. As I already had three angry men, I figured this was as good a place to start as any and after a few matches, I was hooked.
From there I now have a 1,000 point Death Guard army, a decent number of Tau for a varied Kill Team and some Deathwatch veterans who can angrily shoot both sides. Every new project is a combination of a cool new model to paint and then getting to see it dash across a battlefield. When you add to that the wealth of novels, then you have an ever-expanding Universe where there is always something to keep you interested. And then, there is the Age of Sigmar which is the evolution of the Warhammer Fantasy line. As somebody with a love of sci-fi and fantasy, I picked up Mortal Realms at the start of this year and have been steadily building forces of Stormcast Eternals (demi-god knights) and Nighthaunts (pretty much ghosts), and I’m excited to start painting both factions. I’ve even had a go at some kitbashing.
Getting into Warhammer is never something I thought I would do. Somehow, I thought it was entirely the realm of the 13-year-old boy and that none of it would appeal to me. However, there is a certain amount of joy to be found in the campy cheese of the stories and over the top bombast of the models. It’s all been remarkably social. Chatting with people about various models, lists and stories have been a lot of fun. I’ve made new friends, caught up with old ones and all over something as simple as painting tiny people. Sharing my progress with others helps to keep me motivated and constantly improving, and always looking forward to that next project. It’s a hobby I’m happy to have found and one that allows me to shut out the world, put away the screens and just sit with a paintbrush and colour in some really angry men. Bliss.
For me, painting miniatures never really clicked until I had a story to motivate me. I’d painted some of X wing: The Miniatures Game ships with mixed results, “nearly” finished a few Shadespire warbands and a box of Deathwatch Space Marines. Then I decided to give Warhammer 40k’s skirmish variant Kill Team a go. Honestly? Didn’t enjoy it that much… but what I fell in love with was the story of my team. With kitbashing unique characters and building out the weird cast of my custom Inquisitor’s retinue (Inquisitors in 40k are basically sci-fi noir detectives). The thought of having to paint a tide of nameless grunts terrifies me, but when each model is a unique character that slowly adds to a growing narrative (“growing narrative” sounds better than fan-fiction that exists in my head) , that gets me excited to paint.
Eventually gave up on Kill Team as most local players were more interested in competitive play over trying to play games that told a story. Then I found Necromunda – a bloated, overcomplicated beautiful mess of a game that creates some truly brilliant stories to motivate your hobbying. With every game, your gang earns money and xp while risking permanent injury and death. Every game is a gamble that the mini you spent hours crafting and painting may meet an ignominious fate at the hands of some weirdo with a spanner. The gang I built were a spin off from my Inquisition team – one of the agents having been tasked by the Inquisitor to form a gang in the underhive, the lowest part of a mega city where the game is set.
“Motivation is half the battle when it comes to painting, the other half is knowing how to paint.” – Bob Ross?
It’s nice to now be able to look back over a year of painting and see where I’ve improved or just learned to do things quicker. There are some great channels out there for learning to paint, but I particularly like Midwinter Minis and Goobertown Hobbies – they encourage experimentation, learning simple new techniques and just generally encourage a positive attitude however your models turn out. Learning to find the joy in my small improvements and not comparing my efforts to other more talented painters has helped keep the hobby as a satisfying way to relax that eventually delivers a sense of accomplishment.
Thank you for reading. If you want more tabletop-y goodness, then why not read one of our board game reviews such as Tulip Bubble or London, and if you’re after some video games then read my retrospective of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
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