Listening to a podcast the other day got me thinking about the differing elements that come into play when putting together a new army. This process normally starts even before your first purchase and will begin with:
Why would you choose a specific army?
I feel there are 3 main factors that influence this:
1) you love the models in the range.
2) you enjoy or want to try the perceived play style of the army
3) you like the background fluff.
You could argue that there is a fourth option: Cost, but i cover that later.
I personnally feel that 1 is a no brainer, why would you spend money on something you don’t find appealing? However it may not necessarily be the primary reason.
The other two are more conditional and will likely depend on the system you play. In warhammer fantasy (and to a lesser extent 40k), I was heavily invested in the fluff. When I decided to start collecting Dwarves the fluff was my primary reason for doing so. Yes there are great models out there too but it was the image of implacable holds in the mountains and the remains of the doughty race inhabiting them that made me want to play them. In a similar vein I could only ever play Space Marines or Eldar and went with the former, mainly due to the cheap second hand market.
Conversely I started to collect Beastmen because their style of play was inherently opposite to the Dwarves. Rather than hang back and shoot shit, it was run forward and smash face.
My other two current armies are both elves (wood and high) and these were picked up over the years because I loved the models.
So you’ve decided on your army, so what next?
Purchasing your models is likely to be the next step and here you reach your first dilemma and this will probably be based on two considerations: available cash and whether this is your first army.
There’s no beating around the bush, this plastic crack addiction can be expensive. As such a slow burn project buying a unit at a time is much nicer on the pocket and if you already have an army (and have the patience to do this) it’s quite doable. However if you are like me (and I hope for your sake and sanity you aren’t!!) and suffer from a lack of patience or it’s your first army, then you will likely buy or want to buy a larger number of models, at least enough to play a smaller game.
If you are buying GW models be prepared to spend a pretty penny. I won’t deny that a lot of their models look fantastic, however they are at the top end of the price range. However there are a lot of other companies out there that make great models and if you are still buying for use in warhammer fantasy, then for some armies you won’t have a choice but to use them (or ebay) as GW have discontinued large chunks of the old world range. At a later date i’ll post some of my favourite companies and the ranges I recommend for them.
Build or build and paint
So now you have made some purchases, what is your preferred method of putting them all together?
You again have several methods, you could build one unit at a time then paint that unit. If you are doing a slow build this might be a preferred method. I personally love putting together models and take immense pleasure from putting them together so am more likely to build everything before painting. However this has the drawback of leaving you with the daunting task of then painting it all in one hit. Just the thought of that is depressing so I now try and mix up building with painting.
Now you are ready to paint you again have a plethera of choices. Have you decided on a paint scheme for the unit? Do you paint a test model first to see if it works? Sometimes for me, the hardest decision is whether to undercoating black, white or a different colour? I’m a bit of a traditionalist and normally use black or white. Which I use will depend on what colour scheme I am likely to use. If it involves a quantity of light colours (white or yellow for instance), it will be white as it makes the colours stand out more (and I don’t have to use repeated layers!). If the model has large amounts of armour, then i’ll probably use black. One of my mates tends to just use black as he says it makes shading in crevices better and it is easier to see if he’s missed painting a section.
The one time I use a different undercoat is on space marines where I have been using Caliban Green as the base. As the majority of the model is that colour, it makes painting it easier (and no they aren’t painted as Dark Angels).
For me the last decision to make is normally around how to base them but this is because most of the time I haven’t put much thought into this and just do a basic flocking. Very occasionally for me and for many others, the base is something that is looked into after a model is purchased but before it is even built (I tend to only use them on larger models such as chariots). A good base can really make a model or even bring an army together with a specific theme. Most model companies provide plain plastic bases with a purchased model, however there are a multitude of firms that sell sculpted bases. Anything from fairly basic with rocks on to plinths. One of my favourite bases (and themed armies using them) was a pirate ogre army with bases looking like the decking of a ship. There is also at least one firm that sells different textured rolling pins that allows you to create your own bases using that to imprint green stuff and it looks really good.
I’m sure i’ve missed out lots of other options but the point of this post was just to make you think about what your process is. Do you use a tried and tested method or do you switch it up each time?