Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Well the Sons of Sek got finished right under the wire. The GT was a blast and I'll have full coverage by this weekend. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Strategies for Painting Armies

Inspiration for the Sons of Sek

Let's face it, there are quite a bit of unpainted armies out there. And some of these armies stay unpainted for quite some time. There could be a lot of reasons for this: slow painting ability, real life gets in the way, no incentive to paint, drastically prefers gaming to the modeling/painting aspect of the hobby.

I'm predominantly a tournament player. I am a TP for a couple of reasons: (1) I don't get to game that often, and playing in tournaments allows me to get 3 guaranteed games in a day; (2) I enjoy the competitive aspects of gaming; (3) I like that most tournaments focus on the hobby as a whole, which why I tend to disfavor the 'Ardboyz format.

I think that as a dedicated tournament player I have an incentive to paint (as well as the intrinsic incentive to see me complete a painted army), and I'm forced to place an equal value on painting as gaming (which I already intrinsically have). So for me those two reasons for not getting an army painted are dealt with. In many ways, these are the easier reasons to deal with. The other two reasons I gave are best dealt with a plan.

I lot of hobbyists don't have a plan for their army. They buy something here and there. They paint one figure from a squad, before moving on to half-painting a dreadnought, and then they decide to paint a figure from WHFB. Next thing you know, they've been playing with a partly primed, partly assembled, minimally painted army for months or years at a time. I'm no exception to this. I currently have a 'Nid army and a Skaven army that are in similar states. But I also 6 fully painted armies of substantial size between 40k and WHFB, that at one time or another have each won at least once a Best Painted award in a tournament (that doesn't include my Tau - but I don't like to talk about them).

Since I got back into the hobby 6 years ago, my Thousand Sons and Lizardmen were my first armies. With them I had no plan, and I spent a lot of time being distracted, and it took quite a while for me to place fully painted armies of them on the table. But since then I've made plans, and it has made me more efficient.

1. Set a goal. When do you want this army completed by? Is there an event coming up? Do you just want to set an arbitrary date?
What point value do you want to have done? Do you want just enough models for one list at that level, or do you want options?
To what degree do you want them painted? Minimum to be tournament legal? Enough to get a good painting score? Enough to give them a shot at winning best painted?

2. Plan your purchases. Ideally you'll be able to buy everything you need at once. This, obviously isn't always the case. When I used to work at Imperial Outpost, this was easier for me to do. Also if I got a bonus from work or just sold stuff on ebay, or whatever. But usually, most people can only buy a little at a time. If that's the case, know exactly what you have to purchase for your army, and stay committed to a purchasing plan. Don't get distracted by new stuff for another army. Stick to the plan!

3. Create a Schedule. This needs to be realistic.
3a. Figure out how much time you can devote to building/painting on an average week.
3b. For every unit in your army, estimate how long it would take to paint them (this is easier with the more experience you have). For example, I know that when I'm batch painting I can paint one 40k infantry mini in an hour. So a squad would take me 8-10 hours depending on the size. Even if your estimates are off, this is creating a framework that will help you spread out your workload.
3c. Compare the total estimate of hours to complete the army to the total time you can give per week over the length of the project. Adjust your completion date if necessary. Alternatively, if you can't adjust the completion date, can you increase the amount of time you spend per week? If this still isn't enough, are you willing to sacrifice quality? If you're not, then you may need to make the hard decision that the project just can't be done on time.
3d. Assuming you've adjusted your schedule as needed, do your best to stick to the schedule. I often over estimate my figures to give me some leeway.

4. Use an assembly line method. If you build and paint one model at a time you will have a better over all product. In the case of small, elite armies, this method is ideal (see Ron Saikowski's Emperor's Children). However, I prefer to use an assembly line or batch building/painting method. This enables one to paint more things more quickly, and if it is done right without much loss in quality. This is ideal for a bunch of rank and file models.

This can be done in one of two ways: 1) by squad/unit, or 2) by like models. Some people will do an entire squad including special weapons and sergeants. Usually this approach is fine. However if you're doing a horde army, or just an army with a higher than average model count, consider building and painting like models at a time. Paint all of your plasma gunners together. Paint all of your Sergeants together. This is best accomplished if you have the entire army purchased before you start.

If you use this method, know how many models you can get painted in one or two sessions. I usually try not to paint more than 8 models at a time. Also, keeping a simple pallet is helpful.

5. Keep things interesting. It can be hard sticking to a schedule. Sometime you just have to push on, sometimes you need to take a break, and other times just switching things up can make a difference.

If you want to get started playing right away, then by all means build the army first and get some games in. However, sometimes building and converting models might be a nice change of pace from painting models.

Also if you've been painting nothing but grunts for a while, switch things up and paint a character or a vehicle.

Stay entertained while you paint. Listen to music or watch movies. Also paint with other people at the local shop, or have a painting party at your place. Time is your biggest enemy, boredom is the second biggest.

The Plan in Action
1. Set a goal.
I want to take my Sons of Sek traitor guard army to the Vegas GT on September 6th. Including this week that gives me 13 weeks to paint 179 models. Each model will be heavily converted, and the plan is to paint them to a level that will earn them a high painting score. I'm prepared to cut corners on some of the rank and file guys, and spend extra time on some center pieces.

2. Plan your Purchases
I knew that I would not be working on this army until the summer, but I started making my purchases for the army back in the winter. I'd by a box of Cadians here and there. So now that I'm ready to start, I have everything I need, including material for conversions.

3. Create a Schedule
3a. I'm planning on devoting about 20 hours a week to building and painting this army. I'm in a fortunate position to do this, since I don't have classes, and the only work I'm doing is a 20 hour a week internship.
3b. I have the following models to build and paint:
1x Heroic Senior Officer - 5 hours
3x Lieutenants - 12 hours
12x Body Guards - 15 hours
4x Standard Bearers - 16 hours
3x Veteran Sgt's - 4 hours
6x Veteran Melta Gunners - 8 hours
1x Veteran Plasma Gunner - 2 hours
2x Veteran Flamers - 3 hours
3x Veterans - 4 hours
2x Demo Charges - 2 hours
4x Flamers - 4 hours
12x Sgt's - 16 hours
3x Melta Guners - 3 hours
9x Plasma Gunners - 9 hours
12x Vox Carriers - 12 hours
90x Joe Schmo Guardsmen - 90 hours
2x Sentinels - 16 hours
TOTAL - 221 Hours
3c. I've estimated that I can spend 20 hours over 13 weeks, which gives me a total time available of 260 hours. That should be well enough time to get this project finished. It also gives me some leeway in my schedule, and allows for errors in estimating. So next I'll schedule out the weeks, trying to stay as close to 20 hours worth of work a week (I'll front load my schedule).

Week 1: Sentinels
Week 2: Veterans
Week 3: Vox Carriers, 8x Joe Schmo Guardsmen
Week 4: Standard Bearers
Week 5: 16x Joe Schmo Guardsmen
Week 6: Officers
Week 7: 24x Joe Schmo Guardsmen
Week 8: Body Guard, Flamers
Week 9: 24x Joe Schmo Guardsmen
Week 10: Sgt.'s
Week 11: 18x Joe Schmo Guardsmen
Week 12: Melta, Plasma, Demo Guardsmen
Week 13: Leeway week, or build display board

Steps 4 and 5 will be documented here on the blog.

That's quite a tall order. It's definitely doable, but will take a lot of effort.

There's nothing like seeing two fully painted armies battling it out on the table top. Sometimes you can't avoid playing with unpainted armies (you might be playtesting, or you need to get some practice games under your belt while you paint the army). But it'd be great to see more games with painted armies, and sometimes direction and planning are what's needed to accomplish that. Let's see if I can follow my own advice this summer.


RonSaikowski said...

Outstanding post!

I would add something I learned while building my EC but you've hit everything I know and more.

Excellent read, I'll be back to see your army shape up over the summer.

seemyinnergeek said...

Great information!

I see a lot of my mistakes in your post. Of course, I've been making them on and off again for YEARS. I think my biggest problem is distractions. I am getting some good progress done on my Guard, and suddenly I think I need to work on an Eldar army... or go back to work on my Marines. This is usually instigated by some new release that catches my eye so I guess I'll share the blame with GW themselves!

Sean Ramirez (dvdhwk) said...

Ron - Thanks for the worthy of note link on FTW. Stay tuned, I'll be posting some progress pics of my sentinels (converted penitent engines).

Seemyinnergreek - Glad you liked my ramblings. I have some projects that just aren't priorities, and I might come back to them every now and then and do a little bit here and there. But the kicker is that, I know if I dedicated myself to finishing that army and making a plan to do it I could.

About every new release I'm on the verge of being distracted. When wood elves came out, the distracted me from my lizardmen, but on the bright side I got the wood elves done fairly quickly. I guess its a good thing that there are so many things with the hobby that we want to do!

Techpriest said...

Excellent post. I've basically followed the same steps with my BP army, with the exception of setting a finish date. So I'll set one now: I'm going to try to match your finish date. My army's going to be quite a lot smaller than yours (~50 models and 8 vehicles), but I don't have everything I need yet, and tons to do.

This way, too, next time I'm in Tuscon or you're in Phoenix, we can have a BP vs. SoS game!


Sean Ramirez (dvdhwk) said...

Eric- Lets get a chaos civil war going!

I'll be watching your progress. Good luck on your deadline!

Current Progress on the Sons of Sek

Current Progress on the Sons of Sek
Sept. 5th, 2008 - They were finished literally at the table before the first round began.