Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cryx: Night 1 tasks (almost) complete

I'm almost done with trimming all the figures and gluing them to their bases. Thought I was finished, but I remembered a couple more figures that I want to paint at the same time, using the same approach. I'll probably get those finished tonight, but will probably be pretty tired. I'm taking the day off to take the kiddles to the county fair today. A long day of noise, chaos and sun probably means a short night on the couch followed by a dead sleep in bed.

Anyway, it's progress. More updates and the progress continues.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

But what about the hair curlers?

Well frankly, they're going to have to wait. I know some of you have been checking here for progress on that project, but I'm going to have to follow my muse here. Those of you who've read this blog know that this is my curse.

I'm HOPING and planning to get this Cryx army done quickly, and then return immediately to the hair curler ACW armies.

Here's the road map. There are about forty figures in this batch of Cryxians.

I get to paint maybe 2-3 nights each week, for maybe 1-3 hours each night (depending on when the kiddles get to bed). The steps for this army, for each painting night, look like this:

  1. Get all the figures trimmed and glued to their bases.
  2. Glue down odd bits and sand to bases.
  3. Spray prime all the figures white
  4. Base coat all skin in grey
  5. Two shading washes, in medium and dark grey
  6. Final toning wash, applied in specific areas (so this takes longer)
  7. Apply bruises and wounds with washes of red and purple
  8. Highlight skin. Base coat all metallics with steel.
  9. Wash metals with shading wash of brown ink.
  10. Wash metals with shading wash of Smoke.
  11. Glowing eyes.
  12. Touch up and details (e.g. belts)
  13. Paint bases
  14. Matte spray finish


So, at 2-3 painting nights a week, and assuming I've paced that right, it looks like we're talking about...urk...5-7 weeks. Yipes. That's a REALLY long time. The Distraction Daemon is almost sure to visit again in that length of time.

How to cut this short...

Ideas include:
  • Abbreviate the skin steps by applying the base coat with much-thinned paint, to get the first layer of shading in a single pass.
  • Leave off the final highlights of the skin for later.
  • Stick to the brown ink for the metals. The Smoke wash can wait for later maybe.
  • Simplify my approach on the glowing eyes, leaving off the Source Lighting glows around the sockets and sticking to green eyeballs for now.
  • Pray that things don't take as long as I think they will.
We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck, and let me know if you see any other ways to make this go faster.

Three birds, one (necrotic) stone

I've decided to depart a little from the game plan. Warmachine is FUN! And I'm really enjoying playing games with my friend Charlie again. And some time ago I posted about speed painting. And I'm really interested in the Horror genre right now.

How to handle all this at once? I'm going to attempt to speedpaint a viable 350 point Cryx army, in "natural" colors that will work well in my horror/sci-fi/superhero game setting too. See my earlier post for more about that setting.

I spent the last few nights testing out color schemes and speedpainting techniques for this project. I'll get some pics up in the next couple of days. None were very satisfying, until the last test. I painted up three Heroscape zombies in one evening, with a color scheme I like (grey flesh with purplish bruises and wounds, and decaying rusted metallics). Fast, and effective.

I trimmed and based up the Cryxian horde, plus a few more models that don't fit in 350 points but share the same paint scheme, and will get the primer on tonight or tomorrow.

If I finish this, I'll actually have a complete army. And, with the addition of a few intrepid heroes, I'll have enough figures to get a skirmish campaign rolling in my newly adopted gaming genre. Coolness!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Man-O-War Madness


Those Khador Man-o-war troopers are TOUGH. Heavy armor, decent DEF, a shooty gun and reach. At 60-ish points for three or them, no less. Ouch.

My friend took four of these guys, Sorscha, four Widowmakers and a Destroyer. That's a sweet list. He picked me apart from a distance, used Sorscha's Feat at just the right moment to knock me to pieces with another volley, and stood with me toe-to-toe in Close Combat once I got close.

Those Widowmakers are DANGEROUS, too. I exposed Kreoss to their lovin' attention and before I could blink he was down to four boxes left on his track. Yowza.

Well played, Charlie. And thanks for the game. I've got a brand new respect for Khador, and need to think hard about what to paint up next to defend the Protectorate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mass Mechanical Mayhem tomorrow

I'll be stepping back into the Warmachine arena tomorrow at lunch time. A friend and I will be playing again, after a break of several months. I spent the evening reviewing the rules, and creating a Mind Map for them.

A Mind Map is basically a way of organizing concepts, using software like FreeMind(my favorite). Like it was in my college days, the act of writing down my notes helps me recall them later. And, Mind Maps let me organize the concepts according to the way I think about them. That's often pretty different from the way the rules author thinks of them.

Anyway, we'll see if it works tomorrow. I'll let you know.

Can't wait to get my steam-powered brutes back on the table. Warmachine is such a cool game :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Having a Tidy

I spent most of today cleaning up our office / guest bedroom / hobby room in preparation for the imminent arrival of my father-in-law. While it's not exactly painting miniatures, the process of re-organizing my projects and restoring the hobby room to some semblance of order is very therapeutic. And, if I'm not painting, I'm at least handling the little critters and thinking through the projects they go to.

But the real victory today is that, despite going through piles of old projects (Cryx Warmachine, 15mm sci-fi for Alien Squad Leader, Beastmen and Empire/Estalians for Warhammer, 25mm ECW skirmish, 54mm ACW skirmish and a half dozen terrain projects, to name a bunch), the Distraction Daemon didn't come knocking. OK, for a moment I was tempted to put the hair brush figures and horror project aside to paint some lovely Pirate of the Spanish Main prize busts. But that passed. The hair brush armies and horror figures are still front and center.

Then again...I did just hear from my long-lost Warmachine opponent. He and I are going to play next week. My Menites could really use that Zealot unit I started a few months ago...

Help me. Please. Somebody...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Painted ACW test strip

Here's the test strip of hairbrush 6mm "figures" I painted up for my budding ACW armies. The pic really shows off the blemishes! You've got to remember that these fellow are only about 6mm tall. To the naked eye, they look more like the thumbnail you'll see in this blog entry than the monsters you'll find if you click on said thumbnail.

Anyway, hopefully you'll agree that you can get a decent representation of a man in uniform with a few strokes of paint. When ranked up and in their hundreds, these little fellows should really give that "mass of humanity" effect I prefer for large scale wargames.

Not as nice as purpose-made 6mm figures, certainly, but the price is right and I think they'll be a lot faster for me to paint. That, hopefully, will be the difference between yet another abandoned pile of lead (er...plastic) and a finished pair of armies I can have some fun with on the tabletop.

If you closely at the full sized pic, you might be able to make out the muskets and bayonets I painted onto the left side of each figure. If you look at the won't. Given that, I'll almost certainly omit this detail on all the following strips. It's just extra work, with little/no benefit to the overall look of the army.

I'm getting ahead of myself, but if this works out, Napoleonics will be the next project to get the hair brush treatment. Peninsular War British/Portuguese and French, in case you're wondering.

Hair Brush Pics (finally)

I finally got some pics taken of my work-in-progress with the hair brush armies. Along the bottom of the first shot is a spine of hair brush bristles. The bristles poke up through holes in a rubber retainer. The spine along the bottom holds them rigid.

To the left, there's a trimmed piece. The bristles have been shortened to about 6mm, and the piece has been cut to length, such that it will fit on a 40mm wide base. Three such "ranks" of figures will be glues to each base, one behind the other, so that I end up with thirty figures in three ranks, for each base of infantry.

To the right is another trimmed piece, from a different brand of hair brush. These bristles have a little notch around the base, to hold them in place in the rubber retainer better. This notch is just about perfectly placed where a uniform coat flares out over the pants. These brushes are harder to find and more expensive, however, so I'll be using the straight black variant for most of my armies.

At the top is a line of cavalry "figures." This is a single strip of brush bristles, trimmed to a shorter length, then sandwiched between three pieces of rectangular plastic stock.

Each piece of stock has been sanded to more closely approximate the profile of a horse. The back piece has had the rump sanded round. The front piece is unmodified, and the "head" piece has been rounded on three edges, to form the front of the head and the curve at the back of the head.

I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to visually separate each horse by shading the area between them with paint. It'll take some experimenting to get the right look.

I'll get a picture of my one painted test strip of infantry up in a bit.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hair Curling Horrors

I trimmed some more hair brush bristles to 6mm last night, but didn't have the energy to get out the camera. Hopefully this evening.

Meanwhile...a new distraction has emerged. At the local game store, they're clearing out a few of the CCGs that aren't moving. They marked down the Call of Cthulhu CCG to a buck a booster, so I bought up twenty of them. I don't play the game, but I thought they'd serve as a deck of "inspirations" for horror games. At a loss for a new scene or scenario? Draw a card. "Paranormal Researcher" eh? It seems the group has been contacted by a local university researcher, who's made a startling discovery and needs their help. What kind of discovery? Draw another card. "Cult Fanactic." Aha! She's unearthed a group of cultists operating out of the university and is afraid they know she's wise to them.

You get the idea?

Anyway, that got the ball rolling. I intended to just use the cards as they were. But...they're perhaps a little too specific to the Cthulhu mythos. Fine, if you're into that, but I prefer my mysteries a little closer to reality, and I have my own setting to game in.

So, I started compiling lists. Lists of strange sights, smells and sounds. Lists of story threads. Lists of NPCs one might encounter. Lists of mysterious locales. Lists of objects. Eventually I'll put D100 ranges against each list, so I can easily generate ideas/ticklers/leads from them. Let me know if you're interested, and I'll post a couple here.

The cards were my first source for these lists. The titles, pictures and background texts were all rich veins of inspirational ore. Then I went to the local sci-fi / fantasy / horror / mystery bookstore and bought a copy of one of the Lovecraft compendiums. And subscribed to the Pseudopod podcast. These are providing a lot more fodder for my growing appendages...I mean lists.

I have in mind a campaign setting that folds three interesting genres together. Picture a near-future sci-fi world, dominated by corporations, personal electronics and genetic engineering, into which the old powers are returning. Some of the effects are "positive," yielding a crop of gifted heroes, and some are horrific and villainous. It's Bladerunner, with a big thick ribbon of Heroes and the Blair Witch Project running through it.

I'll be digging through my collection of minis soon, looking for suitable figs. And surfing the web, looking for miniature things that go bump in the night.

But first...back to those ACW hair curler armies.

Paperworlds is back, in a new guise

It appears that the rumors of the death of Paperworlds are only partly true. While is no more, so of the content that was there is now being hosted on a new site.

Most of the regular contributors to Paperworlds seem to be active on the new site as well. If you're looking for paper figures, or interested in forums about them, check it out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Man, I hurt. My back is like one big charlie horse. Apparently golf uses a bunch of muscles not used for anything else. At least, anything else _I_ do.

No painting tonight. It's family game night at our house. We play the "Empire Builder" series of train games from Mayfair. Awesome, awesome games, with virtually unlimited replayability.

I'm looking forward to Wednesday night, when I should be able to get some time with the brushes in hand and put some of these hair curler figures in front of the camera for you.

Monday, June 11, 2007

America's Got "Talent"

Do you think Piers, Sharon and David would enjoy watching me paint miniatures? SURELY it's got to be more entertaining than some of these unbelievably bad acts. Maybe I could even do it to a beat? Or in a costume?

Golf and the miniatures gamer

Well, the hair curler armies lay unattended, as I was playing in a charity golf tournament all day today. Now, this is only the second time in my life I've played golf, but I had a great time. The other guys in my foursome were my best friends, and we spent the hours kidding around and trading good-natured jibes about particularly ill-hit balls (of which there were plenty).

Anyway, more on the hair curlers a bit later this week.

What's this got to do with wargaming? Not much. I did scrounge up as many broken tees as I could find. I glue them inverted onto bases to make inexpensive flight stands for space ships. Ultracheap (free, even) and they look pretty good when painted black.

Comedy moment of the day: our parish priest attempting to set up his ball at the tee-box, using a gag tee someone had slipped into his pocket. This kind of tee has no indentation in the top of it :-)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Hair brush ACW, progress report

Well, I hit a little snag with my hair brush armies this morning, but thankfully there's an easy solution.

When I painted up my test strip of Union figures, all was well. The neatly cut top of the brush bristle did a fair approximation of the Union Kepi. But, how to handle the typical slouch hat of the Confederates (and, of course, many Union troops too)?

I tried a little blob of superglue, but that was hard to control.

I tried heating a knife blade to squash the tip of the bristle a bit, but this particular plastic just fuses to the hot knife and refuses to smoosh.

The I got primaeval. We have these long-nosed lighters at home, to light the fireplace with. I sparked a flame and held it close to the tips of the bristles. Bingo. The tips melted and blobbed up a little, making for an abstract but very suitable bit of headgear. With appropriate paint, they'll make fine slouch hats in this scale. Or busbies. Or turbans. Or cavalry helmets.

The smell was a bit noxious and, I suspect, possibly toxic. So all further experiments with molten headgear will be done outside. And, you need to be careful with the distance. The distance between melting and burning is pretty short.

No pics wife had the camera this morning. I'll try to get some up tonight or tomorrow.

Inspiring Sculpts

Inspiration and distraction can also come in the form of a spectacular sculpt. A miniature I just have to paint. New figures are coming out all the time, and the quality these days just keeps getting better. Werner Klocke's figures, for instance, are just paint-a-licious. Most of the Warmachine and Hordes lines (with a few truly ugly exceptions) are fantastic and great fun to lay a brush on.

I bought up a huge Menoth force, and managed to get a few jacks painted. The Repenter jack is almost universally panned for playability, but it's one of the nicest sculpts in the line, in my opinion. Flamethrower, huge flail and a linebacker's hunch? Come on! Awesome in a carapace.

The local game store has a "bits bin." They buy up used figures cheap from people who can't be bothered to sell them on-line, then sell them at a discount. The discount is great, but really it's occasional access to long out-of-print miniatures that keeps my diving this particular dumpster.

Jes Goodwin is one of my favorite sculptors. I bought a huge army of old metal Skaven mainly because he sculpted them, and because of an article in an ancient White Dwarf showing his dirty, ragged, dare I say "ratty" Skaven army. It was a rare breath of "reality" during a time when every army coming out of the Citadel studios seemed to be bright red with danger stripes or checkers all over it. I was inspired by that article, and jumped at the chance to scoop up his Skaven sculpts years later. I even painted up three whole units of Slaves for that army! Farther than I ever got with any other Warhammer army.

But as nice as his Skaven are, my favorites are his Wood Elves. A couple of them showed up in the bits bin a couple of years ago, and promptly sidelined a WWII 15mm project as I painted them up.

Along the same lines, the Everqueen model (sculpted by Trish Morrison, I think) is just a joy to paint. The fine details and flowing lines make this model love the brush. I haven't had more fun painting a figure in a long time.

I love to paint miniatures, and there's nothing better than painting a really fine sculpt. Except, maybe, finishing an army. Wish I knew what that felt like :-)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Ultracheap mechanical spiders

Some years ago I got into Deadlands: The Great Rail Wars, big time. I love that game. The system is simple, and elegant, and plays really smoothly. Wonderful stuff.

I played Wasatch, mostly - a faction that specialized in mechanical steampunk wonders. Among their unit types were a nasty little unit made up of clockwork tarantulas. Now, I like most of the Deadlands miniatures. But the clockwork tarantulas were...uhm...well I couldn't see myself painting some up.

I was in a local craft store, and came across a package of glow-in-the-dark tiny plastic spiders. I suspect it was around Halloween. A bit of black primer, some silver and gold paint, a couple of washes, and I had these beauties.

A search of the web for "plastic spiders" should net you plenty of cheap options to choose from.

Next to their big brothers (gatling-armed automatons), they look pretty good. And they were only a few cents each. The spiders, or their big brothers if you can still find them, would be a nice addition to any Steampunk army.

Of course, this wouldn't be an appropriate entry for this blog if I didn't point out that these two units were the only ones I actually finished painting for my army. :-)

Speedpainting, pro-painting and hair curlers

One solution I've tried is speed painting. The goal here is to paint an army so quickly that the inspiration genie doesn't have time to visit and work its magic on me. I've had some success with this, actually. I once painted about a hundred German Wehrmacht in 20mm plastic using this method. Even got them based up for Command Decision back in the day. But, I never got around to painting the American counterparts. Half way there, though. That's a lot closer than most of my other attempts at army building.

The method I've had the best luck with works like this:
  1. Find a large batch of minis you can paint at once. Common uniforms across the lot help a lot here. I should say in advance that this approach works best with uniforms that have dark or natural tones to them (e.g. uniforms from the dawn of Khaki on, undead, ACW figures, especially Rebs, etc.). Uniforms that require a lot of bright color to look crisp (e.g. Napoleonics, Medievals, etc.) will suffer badly.
  2. Mount the figs on painting strips (e.g. popsicle sticks, whatever).
  3. Prime the flat black.
  4. Drybrush heavily with medium gray.
  5. Drybrush lightly with white.
  6. Stain paint the figure, using very dilute paint. It should color the white parts, but the shading should show through. Paint thinned to about the consistency of milk works for me.
  7. Use a wash of black or dark brown (depending on the over cool colors, brown over warm) to add a bit more shading, and to tie the figure together visually.
  8. Seal with your favorite coating.
  9. Base
  10. Get distracted by the next project...
I'll try to get some step-by-step pics up in the next couple of weeks.

So, speed painting is all well and good, but still hasn't proved faster than the Distraction Demon, at least for me.

I've got one more approach in my bag of tricks, that I'm trying out now. Hair Curler Armies. I first heard about this approach over on the freewargamesrules blog. Have a look over there for the details. A scan of the original Andy Callan article can be found on his site too. As discussed on the ultracheapminis Yahoo group, I had a lot of trouble finding the right kind of hair curler in the United States. In fact, I struck out. But...I found a solution. At most drug stores, I've found hair brushes that are made of stiff plastic bristles poking up through a rubber base. The base is easily slid out of the handle, and when opened up it will reveal that the bristles are actually joined together in long rows. These can be trimmed to make 5-6mm infantry easily, with spacing between the figures that looks natural, even if it might not match the parade group training manuals of your favorite era.

I've painted up one little strip of these, in Union uniforms from the Civil War, and it was REALLY fast. I had the strip done, with six colors, in about twenty minutes. And they look pretty good. The next step in this experiment is to paint up enough strips to make up two entire army for the Humberside extensions to DBA. I'm basing the infantry three strips deep on a 40mm frontage. I'm making cavalry by mounting one strip (with shortened "rider" pins) between three strips of plastic stock sanded to look roughly horse-shaped in profile. By keeping the scope small (54 stands to field both armies, with all variants) and painting both armies at once, I hope to actually complete this project.

Pictures of THIS experiment, which I'm actually working on now, will be forthcoming before pics of the speedpainting approach above.

OK, so this looks good. It's an approach that will give me a pair of painted armies, with a good "mass" feel to them, and will let me play games in one of my favorite gaming periods.

But what if it doesn't work? What if I get a short way into this project and some really cool special on the Carthaginian Wars shows up on The History Channel?

Time to talk pro-painting, I think.

The local gaming group recently placed a large order with one of the painting services out of Sri Lanka. They were all quite happy with the speed, quality and price. Now, I have some reservations about contracting my painting out overseas. But, it's hard to argue with the results. The prospect of having fully painted armies ready to play with is haunting me (or there wouldn't be any point to this blog), and this looks like a way to get there.

I've got a massive pile of unpainted lead. By judicious thinning and selling off the extras on GamesOnTheGo or Bartertown, I could raise the capital needed to fund the painting of several armies.

It's an option. I do love the idea of painting my own figures, though.

We'll see how the "hair curler" thing goes, and how it looks on the table.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Big armies, small battles

sgtjj posted a comment, suggesting that I might be able to solve my problem by playing smaller battles with my figures.

First, thanks for the feedback, sgtjj.

I've been down this path, and there are pros and cons.

On the positive side, I get to play battles with painted figures. Good stuff, for sure. And, actually playing battles with my figures is usually a great source of the inspiration I need to sit down and paint more of them for that game/collection/army.

And, I like small skirmish games. I have a lot more to say about that kind of gaming, but I'll save it for another post.

The biggest downside is a bit hidden. If I start playing small games with a set of figures, it's very very tempting to start to build out that set of figures just for that purpose. This usually means using a different set of rules (e.g. Pith Helmet or The Sword and The Flame for small battles and skirmishes, versus Battles for Empire for large colonial slugfests), which usually means different basing schemes.

And, once I start thinking in the "small game" mindset, what I want in the collection changes, to include a lot more variety and character type figures, and fewer (relative to large armies) of the same old Line Infantrymen.

Once upon a time I started down the path of 25mm Napoleonic gaming. I started by painting a single unit of 24 French Line Infantry. So far, so good. But, thought I, I could play some skirmish games with them while I paint up the rest of the army. So next up were some lovely British Rifles, and a foray into the Sharpe novels while I wasn't painting. Then I bought up a collection of light cavalry, officers, civilians, and spanish guerillas and...watched Glory again. And these poor chaps sat unpainted at the back of my painting table until I sold them off on Bartertown a few years ago.

So, it's a good suggestion, sgtjj. And, with a little discipline ("I swear, I'll be better this time!") it could work. I shall think on it, but it's a road I've travelled to distraction before.

Thanks again for the feedback.

Paper Miniatures

OK, it's only a little later in the day, but I've got a few minutes and have the energy to keep this going, so...

One of the things that prevents me from completing an army is the time it takes me to paint miniatures. When working on a 25mm character figure, I can easily spend 6-10 hours on it, spread over a week of evenings. I can paint units a little faster, in batches of 10-12 25mm figures, or maybe 25-100 15mm figures (the high end only if they're all in the same uniform).

At that pace, I could probably paint a DBA army before the Distraction Demon came a-callin', but nothing more ambitious. In fact, I haven't even done that. I'm about 80% done with each of three 15mm DBA armies. Sigh.

Then, a few months ago, I discovered paper miniatures. There are lots of places to download them from on the web. Sadly, the largest collection on the web by far, has apparently disappeared for good. Still, with a little digging you can find all kinds of things.

Paper miniatures don't look as nice as painted metal. Definitely not. But....

1) You can put together an army QUICKLY. I printed and assembled a huge skirmish collection for Wild West gaming, consisting of about 300 figures covering all kinds of different figures, in a few weeks. In that same time, I might have been able to paint 12-24 25mm figures.
2) You can store the entire army in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. That's a big deal, for me, since I have three kids and very little space in which to store my figures.
3) They're CHEAP. OK, the print ink isn't cheap, but compared to metal and paint, they're REALLY cheap. This means I can build a collection that's larger and deeper than what I'd be able to afford in metal.

Some other time, I'll post about my interest in solo wargaming, but paper miniatures are perfect for solo gaming. They don't look as nice as metal, but they look plenty good enough for my home tabletop.

Let me underline the key point, though. I finished an army. And then some. I have all the Wild West figures I'll ever need in this collection of little paper desperadoes and lawmen. Cowboys too. And Apaches, and US Cavalry, and Plain Indians, and miners, and citizens to line the streets, and hitched horses to line the rails along those streets, and paper buildings to provide the essential backdrop, and wagons, and cattle, and buffalo.

This is huge. I can now play games whenever I want, without an unpainted figure in sight. This feels GREAT.


This success has underlined the problems I have with my metal armies. It has made more acute my longing to have nicely painted ranks of Napoleonic and Civil War facing off against each other across a nicely modeled field of battle. Having this Wild West collection finished and at my fingertips makes me want to get to the same place with my other collections. In fact, this success is in many ways the reason I started this blog.

Oh, and after a bit of research, my copy of Wooden Ships and Iron Men is looking better and better for those Age of Sail games. And with some tweaks, my Wizkids Pirates ships might serve nicely! Not as nice as well-painted GHQ Micronaughts, by a long shot, but I could have battles going soon, and probably have enough ships to fight all but the largest battles, even if I leave out all the colorful ships (come on...bright blue ships?!?!) and the "undead" looking hulks. And all the ones that look like the captain has an overhead projector aboard, shining a huge skull-and-crossbones slantwise on the mainsails. Yeah. This will work. All I have to do it touch up the unpainted edges of each plastic piece, get some spare "sail" masts and glue them to the foremasts, make up some scenic bases, create a play board with hexes in the right size, ..., all before the next inspiration hits. Sigh.

The vicious cycle

I've been playing wargames and painting miniatures for them for ages. And, to this day, I haven't completed a single wargaming army. Or, really, even brought one to the point where I can field a reasonable force of painted figures.

I have maybe 100 painted 15mm figures for Ancients, another 100 for Napoleonics, and another 100 for Colonials. But they're from any number of armies in each of those periods. Nothing cohesive. Nothing worth putting on the table en masse.

I'm a good painter. I'm very happy with my style and the final product. But I am constantly starting projects, making a little headway, then getting distracted by a new period, a new army, a new miniatures vendor.

I look forward to a new issue of my favorite miniature wargaming magazines with a nasty cocktail of one part addict's hunger and one part morose acceptance that the hobby project on my painting table is about to get covered up in nice new white metal.

It's a predictable cycle. That new magazine arrives at the local game store, or I buy a new historical fiction novel, or I see 300 (or Gunga Din, or Glory, etc.) and a new cycle begins. I start thinking about the rules I'd use. I start thinking about the figures I'd want. It's an even tastier cycle if I don't have any rules or figures for the period yet. I start surfing the web, looking at the ranges available out there, collecting uniform reference pictures, searching for first-hand accounts from the period. Before I know it, I'm ordering more figures and breaking out the files and knives to get them ready to paint. If I'm very lucky, I get a unit or two painted up before the next shiny new period finds it way into my field of view.

Did you notice the missing little something in that cycle? That right. I never mentioned an opponent. Frankly, whether or not anyone else will want to play this period never enters my mind. I've started armies for 54mm Three Musketeers skirmish gaming. For 15mm sci-fi. For 15mm ECW using a web-published set of rules with non-standard basing that even I can't find anymore. All without much hope that anyone in the local club would be interested in these games.

I don't really have any solutions. OK, I've found one that worked a little. More about that soon. For now, I'm a bit depressed thinking about all that unpainted metal and plastic in my garage.

I'm off to search the web for the best rules and figures for the Age of Sail. Just finished reading a Jack Aubrey novel, you see...