At the end of 2021 I came to a startling realisation: despite being heavily involved in the warhammer community, writing for Goonhammer and spending most of my time talking to other wargaming nerds on the internet, I didn’t actually own any viable armies for any of the mainline Games Workshop games. My focus on the site has always tended to be on the smaller and less mainstream products anyway (from historicals to historicals-but-with-fish-monsters), but it’s still been a long time since I’ve not had any armies lurking in boxes. But after repeated clear-outs and sales, I found myself in exactly this situation almost by chance.
A couple of attempts to start GW projects in 2021 (Middle Earth in the 1st Age and half a Dominion box that I got bored of painting almost immediately) didn’t lead to anything of much, and I’d spent most of the year on my insane 10mm projects.
This basically left me with a blank slate, a completely fresh canvas. And unfortunately it also left me with no way to play the biggest and most commonly played games in Nottingham, UK where I live (for some reason Games Workshop is very popular here). As the possibility (maybe, hopefully) of “going outside” and “playing games with people I’m not related to” expands, I’m suddenly realising that if I want to take advantage of this I’m going to need an army. Well, not an army, but three armies: one for Warhammer 40,000, one for Age of Sigmar, and one for Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game.
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men
I have something of a reputation of… not finishing projects. I blame ADHD. But I have seen a distinct uptick in actually Finishing Things in recent years, and part of the reason for this is having a good plan, strong structure, and picking my projects so they’re ones I’m going to like actually engaging with.
To that end I made a list of the things that I like most in my hobby projects, and came up with the following:
- Character models and heroes
- Gross rot, rust, gunk and dirt
- Historical tanks
- Cool terrain and scenic items
- Cloth, flesh and chainmail
- Pointlessly elaborate freehand
I then made a list of things that I can endure in a hobby project:
- Simple schemes on massed units that involve, mostly, big blocks of colour, washes and dry brushing
- Historical platemail
- Basic NMM for modern firearms and weapons
Finally I made a list of things that I absolutely can’t cope with and trying to attempt will ruin me immediately:
- Modern or sci-fi plate armour with clean edges and lots of edge highlighting
- Complex blocking on massed infantry
- Sci-fi vehicles, hover tanks, and anything else that doesn’t feel “grounded”
Given my particular tastes and distastes, I was left to plan my armies…
Warhammer 40,000: The Malifean 6th
Warhammer 40,000 was going to be the trickiest one of these to work out because of that last list of things that I hate in hobbying. 40k is chock full of scifi vehicles with silly laser guns, infantry with plate armour that’s got lots of edge highlighting, and complex infantry deployed in huge blocks. I briefly dallied with sisters, painted a squad, and decided that while I liked the scheme and the minis it was too complex on just too many models for me to have a good time, and their tanks were either too crap or too silly to satisfy the nerdy historical modeller in me.
Realising that I wanted some pseudo-historical armour, my next stop was guard. The Astra Militarum are an army I’ve sometimes looked at and then dismissed, because the idea of doing that many infantry has been off putting. But a while ago I painted a platoon of 28mm models in about a week for a work commitment using block colours, washes and drybrushing, and I was extremely happy with how that came out so that worried me much less. The other concern was that the tanks wouldn’t scratch the historicals itch for me. After some consideration (and a wasted week looking at interwar tank designs) I came to the conclusion that while the Leman Russ had a very very silly main cannon, I could overlook that for the sheer number of rivets it would let me count.
Astra Militarum was my selection then! I immediately set about planning out an armour-heavy list to satisfy the tank commander inside me, and then a friend offered me some Forgeworld Krieg models they’d had sat on a shelf unbuilt for years at an extremely discount price. I snapped them up and happily began building my first squad. Then I began unhappily building them. Then I hatefully finished building my first squad. I painted the first few, but it became immediately obvious that my “block colours, wash and drybrush” method wasn’t going to cut it. The Forgeworld models are just too complex and fiddly. Finally the Krieg spell was broken when I looked at how much it would cost me to buy some heavy weapon squads to round out the unit, and I quietly shuffled them off to a drawer to lie in pieces for all time.
Instead I went back to the drawing board, using Cadian models as my choice of infantry. This had the huge advantage of all guard players I know having literally hundreds of these little fuckers, and so spares and second hand infantry was plentiful. I also snagged some cheap, free and gifted armour (my Christmas list this year was “tanks”) and I was ready to start on my guard.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: The Devoted of Rot
Character models? Gross rot, rust, gunk and dirt? Cloth, flesh and chainmail? Cool terrain and scenic items?
There really was only one choice.
This choice was confirmed by the arrival of a lovely birthday gift of a Vanguard: Maggotkin of Nurgle box. These chonky, filthy, cheerful lads would be my AoS army for this insane gambit of mine: low model count, lots of fun to paint, and some big monsters and cool scenic items on the horizon. I’d be focusing on the mortals more than the demons (though with a bunch of those for summoning), and other than that I was happy to just crack on. This was a no brainer really, and I expect this one to fly by.
Famous last words, I’m sure.
Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game: The Return of the King
If you’re going to be painting three full armies simultaneously it’s sensible for one of them to be a slam dunk easy option. MESBG, with the way that heroes work, was an opportunity to have an extremely low model count army that was still satisfying and viable on the tabletop. However, it’s the game system I know least well (despite being an enormous Tolkein nerd) and I wasn’t sure which way to go. I picked up a few Galadhrim for the aforementioned abandoned 1st Age project a few people were looking at, but despite being pleased with my paint scheme on them I quickly soured on painting them. Too fiddly and too intricate, with lots of plates. Plus, it’s something of a shock just how small and finely featured the Middle Earth minis are, and that’s coming from someone who regularly paints 10mm miniatures.
I was briefly tempted by the Mirkwood elves after seeing Louise Sugden’s stunning rendition of them, but some closer examination suggested I was falling into that trap of “lots of complex miniatures”. I was feeling really stumped when my sibling contacted me and asked if I wanted to play some Middle Earth this year with them, and if so would I want an army for free?
Nerd families rock.
After perusing the options available to me I snagged the Three Hunters (Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas looking badass) plus a whole load of Army of the Dead from the Pelennor Field box. I grabbed the King of the Dead command set to go with them and… it turns out that’s a whole army. In fact that’s too much army and I could run a couple of different configurations with that. Plus it’s a handful of super cool character minis and then a load of wash and drybrush miniatures that should look great.
First Steps into 2022
So that’s the plan: three armies for the new year, to be built, painting and played with in this year. I honestly don’t know how long it’ll take me, but at the end of it I should, fingers crossed, be in a position to actually do some gaming up at Warhammer World when it’s finally safe enough to. I’m excited to get some of these models to table with friends and family as well, so it’s looking like a great year for nerdery as long as I can keep my focus and get these projects done.
Next time I’ll take a more in-depth look at the Malifean 6th, my custom guard regiment, and how I went about picking units for it, designing the background and schemes and getting started on this insane journey.
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