“The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.”
This time of year breeds resolutions like a fetid swamp spawns plague carrying mosquitoes. Gyms, health food stores and libraries get packed as legions strive for self-improvement after the decadent and sometimes soul crushing holidays. A newer better version of your life is tantalizingly close if you just change these small things, form new habits and check boxes off a list. Easy as can be right? Eat less, exercise more, be kinder, care less about work and more about friends, value experiences over things. Now resolutions rarely work, and often if you look back at previous resolutions you could just carry them forward year after year and nothing changes. Honestly, when you catalog what you don’t like about yourself, these are usually those things that don’t change, so you find some outward trait to attach meaning too. A month of pushing off hard in all directions, trying to do everything at once as part of the new you, crashes out, and by March you’re cheating yourself and by June you’ve forgotten all about it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though. This hard look in the mirror at the lazy bastard staring back at you is important, and can be quite positive, you just have to do it more than once a year. So this is the 1st of what I hope to be a monthly update where you have visibility into, and hold me accountable, to my gaming goals. Instead of just talking shit about all the things you should or could be doing, I’ll have to actually step up and produce. God help you.
I’ve been miniature gaming for over 25 years, but on examination I realize I was playing at miniature gaming even before that. My first experience were some ESCI Vietnam troops bought as a playset from a model train store. My friend and I would put them all over his copy of the board game Fireball Island and have tiny battles. I loved them. They were minuscule accurate versions of all the 80’s action movies we weren’t really allowed to watch but snuck a peek at when the parents weren’t looking. This was just a small upgrade in realism (and carnage) to our epic GI Joe battles previously so seemed like a minor step at the time, but considering these were proper figures, on a textured board, and at some point dice were used to determine something, I’d call this my 1st miniature gaming experience.
I didn’t wait too long for a proper wargame to come into my life luckily, but seeing as I always manage to get the less popular version of something (discussed in an earlier article here), my first object of affection was Fantasy Warriors by Grenadier. No longer was I fucking about with 1/72nd scale toy soldiers and made up rules, now I had a real game in my grubby little paws as well as 28mm figures (Gods own scale). Now the figures were a bit rough, and my grasp of the rules was only marginally better than completely making them up myself, but I was hooked. I’d spend countless hours setting the handful of figures that came with the game up in my bedroom and staring at pictures from the book. I didn’t even know how to get anymore miniatures, or even find an opponent (my brother had no interest at all). I would just set up little battles in my room and roll dice like it meant something. Now I don’t know enough about psychology or development to understand whether something was changed in my mind when I got that game and those figures, or whether that pre-disposition was there and it was just awakened, but from that early age it was locked in. Much to my family’s dismay, I was a miniature gamer for life.
I quickly transitioned to Warhammer Fantasy 4th edition, Rogue Trader and then Warhammer 40k 2nd edition as it launched. These games were my salad days of teenage gaming. There was an extremely sketchy and cliché game store at the time in San Diego that in my memories had no windows and strongly resembled Mos Eisley Cantina. This is probably being harsh on the place but I do remember it being dark and full of corners and tiny alcoves where product was shoved and was generally everything a game store shouldn’t be to welcome in customers. My parents hated it, probably even more so because I begged for us to go every chance I got, but it was a rotten little cave were shopping was barely possible never mind gaming. I met a fellow spirit at school around this time and he hung around at a newly opened store in another neighborhood. He was way cooler than me and wore black jeans and Iron Maiden t-shirts, so I obviously just did what he did. While only a marginal improvement from the other store in how it was run, the store did have tables, and a whole world was opened up to me. I became that little snot hanging out at the game store with a disgracefully painted handful of figures trying to play against the big boys. I was probably insufferable and I really don’t know why any of these folks put up with me, but I guess in some way, they were just desperate to get a game in as well. I try not to reflect on the weirdness of gaming, were the norms of social interaction around ages are so regularly broken, so I just put it out of mind and pretend all pre-teens were hanging around with a bunch of off-duty marines in their 20-30’s who swore about toy soldiers.
Since those days of hanging out in a store in San Diego, I’ve been gaming ever since. RPG’s, CCG’s and all sorts of other combinations of nonsense letters filled my days. Now I dip in and out of the hobby, going sometimes a while without playing a game, but I always find my way back in. At some point I began gaming historicals as well, which make up a large percentage of my collection, because frankly, the amount of fluff available about the real world is goddamn gigantic. So over the years I’ve amassed, and continue to amass, quite the pile of shame. That ever growing pile of unfinished, not started or just plain nonsensical projects that all gamers tend to get. The goal this year, is to attack that pile, and get some of it to playable condition. Having a shit ton of models is all well and good for the collector and shopper in me, but ultimately I want to get games in. So what will I be doing?
This post, and its follow-ups, are an attempt to add some order to my gaming chaos. Its goals are to focus some of my efforts to a result I can use. I intend to make choices about what is important to me, and impose some small process to help me get where I want to be. This is not going to prevent changes of direction, new passions or creativity as I strongly believe those form an important part of a healthy hobby diet. Instead, this is a plan that will be re-evaluated and ruthlessly prioritized as I go. So what the fuck is my plan?
Dwarves: I have a overloaded box of classic Citadel and Marauder Dwarves from the 1980’s and early 1990’s and represent some of my favorite figures produced by the companies. And that is just the box of classic figures. I also have Hasslefree, Oathsworn, Bob Olley, Reaper, Games Workshop, Mantic (shit) and others waiting in an entirely different tub. I’ve been slowly building a Warhammer army out of them but the great Sundering meant that is a less meaningful target now. Instead, they’ll morph into a multi-use Age of Sigmar, Kings of War, Dragon Rampant etc… army as well as my basic troops for anything in that genre (currently painting some for Frostgrave).
This is a big project that I’m really taking my time on so I just want to make meaningful progress. I’d like to add a unit of Iron Breakers, some artillery and some Long Beards and what else catches my fancy. Also looking to really up my painting game on some of these so expect frustration.
Saga: Saga is a cool fucking game and I really wish I could play more of it. If you don’t know what it is, ask me, as I love to talk about cool games I don’t have time to play. I’ve got painted up Rus (both Pagan and later) but wanted to expand out to some other forces so that I could provide figures for folks that have never played. I’m looking to make generic troops that fit for the two main types of armies (pants and no pants, seriously this distinction holds for 90% of the armies) and then just paint specialist troops for each army. Concrete goal is to have a Viking army ready to go. I also need to paint some Rus on single bases (most of mine are multi-based from an older army) to make things easier to play.
Chaos Dwarves: Classic or classically inspired Chaos Dwarves are also pretty amazing figures and there are some great modern manufacturers making them. I want to paint a small warband for some variation of a Slaves to Darkness game being cooked up.
Wild in the Streets: I told myself when I first heard about this game from Chris that I’d paint everything he put out and run some demos up here. This was an easy promise to keep when he had released one figure (which I painted quickly), but now that I have more, I need to keep it up.
Ancients: I have a small Alexandrian Successor army that needs to grow. About once a year I get together with some other neckbeard historical players and fight in-period battles with ancient armies in 28mm, and it is a truly impressive sight. I’ve been bringing slightly dodgy Thracian armies to the table and really need to up my game to the Cadillac of the era, the pike block. I also want to develop an ancient city fighting game and need figures for that.
Secret Dioramas: I have two secret projects on the go that I need to finish this year. One is Corehammer inspired and the other a gift for an old gaming group. I’ve never done dioramas before so it’s a steep learning curve. More on these when there is progress.
So the plan is a simple one…those are my projects, push them forward. They represent my backlog, my pool of things I can paint from. I have at least 20 more projects I want to do, and maybe at some point I’ll list them out, but when I thought hard, this was the top of the list. When I finish figures, what comes next comes from this short list. There is some variety there, fantasy, modern, historical etc… so hopefully it should keep me interested for a while. If I finish all this in a year (which I won’t) I’d be a happy fucking camper. Now I just need to get to work and start posting results, or excuses, I’m way better at the latter.