Until recently, I was a hobby purist. Armed with excessive free time, I was proud that all of my miniatures, terrain and other hobby accessories were mine. I built them, I painted them, I had made them as unique or as conformed as I chose. Even when I was young and my painting was admittedly terrible (not that it is much better now), I loved the fact that what I put on the table was 100% the work of my own hand.
I didn’t understand people that bought armies, or had their buddy paint units. I viewed painting hiring services as cheating and really wondered why anyone would pay a premium on Ebay to lose out on one of the most enjoyable parts of our game. If I had to have troops ready to go with no work, I would have played a video game. I just didn’t make sense to me.
Then I started working. I went from having 16 hours of potential painting time to roughly two and a half. I get home late many nights and my wife, like a mother herding children to sleep, makes me accompany her to bed at 10:30. Within those few hours I also have to make time to hang out with her, to cook, to play with the dog and to do any social things I want to do. Quite obviously, painting becomes a secondary (or tertiary) concern very quickly. Units that would be done in a day become the result of a solid week or two of painting for twenty minutes here or there. The joy of placing a finished unit in its place on the shelf has become an all too rare event.
I bought my first painted miniatures a few months ago almost by chance. I had come into owning a stupid number of old metal Tallarn imperial guard figures through various trades and I knew I would never use them. I put them up on the trading sites and got a very intriguing offer. A guy in Nottingham had a very large DAK force, unpainted and well stocked with units I like that he wanted to trade. (Shoutout to Mark Owen – I’ve since traded with him several times and always a fantastic experience) I love the desert war and had been thinking about playing DAK at some point. However, his DAK force wasn’t quite at the level of the Tallarns in terms of value (it was like $1,700 in guard). He did, however, have random bits and pieces of other things.
One of his “bits and pieces” was a fully painted, based and in carrying case late war Russian Guards Heavy Tankovy force with 16 (16!!) KV-1e tanks (I will feature it in a post sometime soon). Talk about a cool army that I would love to own but would never ever build myself. There it was, completely done. I literally had to do nothing to field it. I thought about it, and decided maybe it was time I should start cutting myself some slack and let some other guy do the work. Although I haven’t played the army much due to the fact that it hits like a little girl, I’m glad I own it and I know that had I bought it on my own it never would have gotten done.
Since then, I have bought various units here and there. It’s easy to buy a whole army where the painting will match, but buying individual units becomes hard. They have to fit into whatever scheme you are using and not be either too much better or too much worse than what you have painted.
A few weeks ago I featured a unit of Hetzers in my post on overloaded vehicles. Those were one of the painted units I purchased. They fit the scheme I wanted to use, were cleanly painted and were a unit I wanted but would never reach a high enough importance to get painted. Now, I have a unit I want to run, fully painted and they fit in perfectly. Had I bought them at the store, I would have had to spend hours assembling, painting and weathering to get the same use I have now. Even worse, units that I really want to paint would have been pushed back in priority to where they maybe would never have been done.
I recently got a couple more units from the same painter. These followed the same lines as the Hetzers: units I would love to have that maybe only fit into a few lists and that I know I would never paint even if I bought them. I got a unit of 5 German T-34 tanks with one T-34/85. The Desperate Measures tank list has a ton of options and this little unit is about my favorite. I’m really excited to field the unit, but if I had not seen them for sale I never would have made them. They are usable in literally one list. Why would I paint them over say a unit of artillery or some jagdpanthers that I could use in tons of lists?
The second unit that I got was Auflauker 38-Ts. As you know from my other posts, I love small units of recon armored cars. They zip, spy and annoy all day. The 38-T is among the cutest and most interesting of these armored cars, but much like the T-34s they are not used in many lists. These models are not the actual models, but PSC 38-T hulls with the sdkz 222 turret on them. Accordingly, they have an additional machine gun. The guy I got them from was worried they wouldn’t sell and so he tossed them in with the T-34s (I disagree on them selling, but I’m happy about it). I never would have gone out and bought 3 blister of these in lieu of recon 250s or pumas, but I’m super happy I have them.
I still find it difficult to take a unit or army that I didn’t paint and slap it on the table. I have to make in mine in some way. With the Hetzers, I changed their track color to match my other units, did a customary very light drybrush of Iraqi Sand (makes any vehicle pop) and did some line inking. I haven’t had the opportunity to do the same with the new vehicles, but they will end up going under the brush for some minor additions. I feel that if I put something of mine into them, it feels less like “cheating”.
For the Russian army, I’m looking forward to having a free few hours to completely update the basing and inking of the whole army. I did ink lining of each of the KV-1Es, and I’m thinking to mud the tracks and give a light drybrush of dust and mud to make them look well used. There is no way KV-1Es that have survived until late war look anything like pristine. When I do give them the weather treatment, I’ll make sure to do a step by step so the readers of the blog can see how I weather units (as can be seen in my earlier picture of the American tanks).
I initially had great reservations about buying painted miniatures, but more and more I become a fan. I get great looking toys that fit my armies. It saves me a ton of time and effort, while allowing me to not disrespect my opponents with “silver surfers” or the “black on black” armies of unpainted toys. Those I buy these miniatures from are able to get some return on their hard work too, and that always helps the hobby.
This change of heart has come about due to changing life circumstance, but it has made me think about what role “ownership” of one’s work plays in the hobby. Is it ok to turn up at a tournament with an army you didn’t paint? Are you less of a hobbyist if you do? How much work on someone else’s miniatures must be done until it’s yours? Should we care?
I’m not sure about the answer on any of those, but what I do know is that I’m glad I got over my pride and bought some painted units. My armies get more interesting and more painted, and I still have time for those unique, difficult units that I truly want to paint.