HOW WE GOT HERE
The year was, I think, 1998. A young Mick, fresh off of years of successfully looking like the third, less attractive brother from the Proclaimers, somehow got his hands on the Playstation port of the first inarguably good Warhammer game, Warhammer: Dark Omens. Young Mick was aware of young women and vaguely aware of the pleasures that life could provide. However, young Mick was slightly more aware of Warhammer at this point in his life, having memories of seeing boxed sets of metal Cadians and Tallarn in the local toy shops as a younger boy. He also harboured a deep, unresolved desire to play HeroQuest from almost a decade earlier. I think he had even played Space Hulk a few years hence on the Sega Saturn, although that had clearly failed to make as lasting an impression.
Dark Omen gripped young Mick like very few things had to that point. White knuckle, pinpoint pupils, rapid breathing – the hooks were in. The point and click real time tactics, the RPG style loot and unit progression, the fascinating world of weird allied good guys fighting against the seemingly overwhelming hordes of undead. The Orges! The Flagellents! Oh, The Flagellents! The Bright Wizard! Vaguely aware that there were models attached to the whole concept, young Mick begged his parents to get him a set the next time they were doing the weekly shop.
Dark Omen remains in my mind the platonic ideal of what Warhammer should look like. Units of 10-20 men shaped creatures, maybe slightly more of little wimpy fellas or slightly less for elites. A couple of infantry units, a cav unit, some ranged, maybe a war machine and a wizard. A monster if you are really posh. I never liked the excess of 8th Edition with units of 40-60 models everywhere, it makes everyone feel a bit less important. When your entire army is 50 men, everyone counts.
That week, thanks to the Random Box Set Selected by Parents Method, young Mick ended up with a box of the new at the time multipart plastic Chaos Warriors. Well, that and his parents keen understanding that it was the lesser of many evils. Hold on, I’ll find them for you. Here they are, 24 years later and much worse for wear
Young Mick had access to humbrol enamel paints, brushes and glue from an interest in model kits a few years earlier and was able to jump straight in.
Now, if you are a right thinking individual who was also obsessed with Dark Omen as a teenager in the 90’s you will no doubt be thinking “Hold on a minute! There is no Chaos in Dark Omen! You must have been very confused!” Well, you’re right. I was very confused by these enormous meanies in heavy armour, confused and excited! There appeared to be much more to this Warhammer stuff than even Dark Omen had shown me!
A period of feverish, pre-internet information gathering followed. According to one school nerd I had accidentally stumbled across the absolute best troops in the game. This turned out to be hotly debated by another school nerd who proudly proclaimed that high elves were better and had dragons.
The long and short of this story was a family trip to one of the two Games Workshop shops (Games Workshops?) in Dublin at that time. My younger brother was wholly unimpressed. My Dad, God bless him, had absolutely no idea what was happening, but was supportive all the same.
Young Mick came home with the Warhammer Fantasy Battles 5th Edition boxed set. This very box set was the first in a very, very long line of box sets bought with the greatest of intentions and never painted. The very bedrock, the foundation, the cornerstone if you will, of the terrifying edifice that would grow to become The Pile of Shame.
The next 24 years (and counting) continued very much in the same vein, dipping in and out of the hobby over the years as interest waxed and waned. But we’ll cover that in the next section.
FACING UP TO THE PILE OF SHAME
So look, this section is probably not going to be a thrilling read. Like every Warhammer nerd I have accumulated a massive and shameful pile of unpainted minis. It’s probably getting close to enough minis that, being honest, will probably keep me busy for the rest of my natural lifespan. Compared to most humans, I have an incredible pile of unpainted miniatures. Compared to some, or probably in fact most of the people who have read this far, it is probably pretty small!
Recently an interest in oldhammer and 40k second edition, as well as 80’s and 90’s retro in general sparked a thought in me. Every single miniature that I’ve ever bought, assembled and half painted represented something that at one stage I thought was the coolest thing ever. So instead of focussing on cool new stuff coming out all the time, getting a thrill from spending money on more figures because I see in them some glorious unfulfilled potential, it is time to go back and fulfil the potential of 24 years of unpainted miniatures.
Rather than doing this chronologically, let’s break this down into what I am happy with, what I would like to finish/re-do and then the biggest pile of all, the sheer mountain of potential that is the unpainted pile.
Look it, I am a decent enough painter. I can, given enough time, reasonably achieve a ‘box art’ quality model. By way of example, here is Sniffles, my old 4th Edition Skaven Vermin Lord painted in the ‘Eavy Metal Style. Most of my models aren’t painted to this standard, but I did go through a three year period of really focussing on improving with the hopes of a shot at Golden Demon. The problem with this is, of course, a model to this standard takes me a month to paint and we are going to have hundreds of models to paint if we want to get anywhere in this project.
With that in mind, good old Asarnil the Dragonlord here represents a much more achievable level of quality. He also took me nearly a month to paint, but he is probably 50 times the surface area of our mate Sniffles there.
In terms of finished stuff, the only thing I have that is close to a fully painted and playable army is my Warhammer 40k 4th Edition Black Legion. These guys were painted very slowly between about the years 2004 and 2010. They represent the earliest stuff that I am happy with and therefore also the line beyond which we will not be stripping and repainting.
More than armies, boxed sets are what really get me going. A whole little world in a box. Easily my favourite ever Games Workshop (GW) product is the 2009 release of Space Hulk. An amazing box, incredible art and the very first of the new generation of CAD designed miniatures. It’s hard to over emphasise how groundbreaking these terminators were when they came out. I originally planned to paint this box up to the best of my ability at the time, but due to fear of the volume and the time investment required, it languished unpainted for 7 years. I finally painted it in 2015 using a base, shade, highlight scheme that Andy from Mediocre Hobbies probably doesn’t remember that he showed me, and was happy enough with the results. I love this game so much I even spent three times the cost of the game itself making full squads of Black Legion, Dark Angels and Space Wolves to sub in for the Blood Angels.
The momentum from finishing Space Hulk gave me the energy to carry through and also get my full Heroquest set painted. A lot was learned here, mostly in the realm of speed painting. This was my introduction to using shades as a kind of “proto-contrast’ method. I love this little set and am very happy with how it turned out.
The most recent dip in motivation was caused by another beautiful boxed set, 2019’s incredible Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress. Once again, a desire to paint everything as close to the box art as possible has stalled my painting out to the point that it would never get finished without this blog for motivation. Please enjoy this series of images which show a man’s motivation waning in a way words never could.
WHAT’S GETTING REDONE?
This is a pretty small pile thankfully, anything that was bought and painted before I learned to paint with my Black Legion.
I collected three things during that period which had any paint put on it: Dogs of War for Warhammer 5th Edition, Dark Eldar for Warhammer 40k 3rd Edition and a few random bits and pieces that caught my attention. The Dark Eldar plastics are probably mostly unsalvageable unfortunately, but I do have a few metal units that would love to get a modern paint job somewhere down the line.
The Dogs of War, being mostly metal, fared much better. Some of them, in fact, are close enough to acceptable that they probably only need a little bit of love, not a full repaint. Here, have a couple of pictures.
THE PILE OF SHAME
And now, the real meat and two veg. This is the unpainted pile of potential that we are going to deal with. This really handy box is jam packed with the detritus of years of collecting. The entire Warhammer 5th Edition starter box (Bretonnians vs Lizardmen) is in here somewhere. I think most of the Ork half of Assault on Black Reach is in here. At least 6 decently sized metal Dogs of War units. 4th edition monopose Elves, Dwarfs, Goblins, Skaven. A tiny metal nudey lady! This really is a treasure trove. This is the kind of box that a popular youtuber could buy and get a two hour unboxing video out of!
Let’s break this down by looking at manageable things like boxed sets and small collections and then big dumb decisions that will come back to haunt us.
Unfinished boxed sets:
Blackstone Fortress including all expansions
Blood Bowl 4th Edition
Warhammer Fantasy Battles 5th Edition
Warhammer 40,000 Dark Vengeance
Warhammer 40,000 Assault on Black Reach
About 1000 points of 2000’s era Chaos Marines
Small force of Gondor for Lord of the Rings
Small modern Dark Eldar Force
Strip and repaint about 50 Dogs of War models
Big Stupid Projects that should never have got off the ground:
About 3000 points of 8th Edition High Elves, including doubles of the Isle of Blood set
About 3000 points of 8th Edition Empire, based around units from the Uniforms and Heraldry of the Empire book
Warhammer 40,000 Conquest Magazine, full armies of Ultramarines and Death Guard currently painted to about week 30
See, not that much compared to many of you, right?
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
So what exactly is going to stop this from being the 5, 697, 747th unfinished, abandoned mini painting blog on the internet? Well, to be honest, nothing really. However! A recent change in job has inspired me to give this blog a go with a new ‘operating system’, so to speak.
There are many, many different ‘grow your business’ methodologies and styles out there, each more labyrinthine than the last. The one that I am currently working with is called EOS. EOS, humorously, is actually a trademarked and protected term, so we won’t be using a lot of their terminology in this blog, as I don’t know how to make that little TMTM appear.
The first thing we are going to do is divide the project up into quarters, four a year, each of roughly 90 days. Each quarter will have a couple of key priorities, rocks, goals, whatever you want to call them. These key priorities are the thing that the entire project will be aimed towards. If actions don’t lead towards achieving these key objectives, then they don’t happen. Now, obviously, this is my hobby, not my entire life, so this rule only applies to ‘hobby time’, not to the rest of my life. Look at it this way, if my quarterly goal is to finish my 1000 points of 5th Edition Lizardmen, we will not be getting distracted by painting a cool new Dark Eldar model that gets released that quarter.
This might get a bit businessy and dry now, so kudos if you are still with me.
There is no point in setting goals if the goals themselves suck. That is why our quarterly targets are going to be SMART. For anyone who knows what that means, skip this next part. Have a coffee. Paint some models. For the rest, SMART means, in our case:
Let’s take a look at the first two quarterly targets for Hammer the Backlog. Even though I have numbered them for convenience and readability, do remember that they are both equally important!
- Get 5th Edition Starter set Bretonnians fully painted, photographed and online by 8th September 2022.
- Have Blog and Instagram online with twelve update posts by 8th September 2022.
Is it specific? Yes, the starter set Bretonnians are clearly defined and we need to have them fully painted and shared online. You could argue that ‘fully painted’ is not specific enough. Anyone who has ever been involved in tabletop gaming knows that ‘fully painted’ can be a hotly debated topic. Maybe it might be better to say ‘fully painted to a display quality’? Thoughts, dear reader? Comment below!
Is it measurable? Yes! There are 12 Knights and 24 Bowmen. They need to be painted and photographed and blogged about.
Is it achievable? 36 models in 90 days. It will be tough. I do not normally stick with projects long enough to do this, but yes, it is entirely doable in the amount of free time I have without majorly encroaching on other aspects of my life. Speaking of, check out my podcast!
Is it relevant? If we are going to get rid of the backlog of unfinished boxed sets, the only way to do it is by painting unfinished boxed sets. We pass this one with flying colours.
Is it time bound? If we just said ‘Get 5th Edition Starter set Bretonnians fully painted, photographed and online’, I might get it done by Christmas 2027. If you are reading this close to the date of publishing, you will be able to follow along with the progress. If you are reading this in the bright and shiny future, you will already know if I managed to do it within the time limit.
So those are our quarterly priorities, the big things that are going to drive us. All hobby time, including the time writing this out, relates directly to one or both of those priorities.
I AM HUMAN
Regrettably, I am a human. Although my future undoubtedly holds robot legs and spleens, currently I am made of 100% weak, squishy, biological flesh. Being a human, I am prone to many human habits, including but not limited to; procrastination, cramming, forgetfulness, sexiness, being easily distracted. One of the other things we are going to do on this blog is ‘hack’ some of those human habits by having a weekly scorecard and review.
If I only had September 8th as my target, I would be super laid back until September 1st, then panic and spend a week hurriedly painting low quality models and writing shitty blog posts. You would do the same thing and you know it. Unless you are one of those future robot people from earlier.
Let’s break this down in a way specific to this project. Not all models are created equal. The time taken to complete a lonely Bretonnian bowman is not the same as a knight or even, bloody hell, a dragon like our mate Roary from earlier. For the purpose of scorekeeping I have broken down the world of miniature wargames into the following units.
|Infantry figure i.e a man, a goblin, a lady||1|
|Cavalry i.e knight on a horse||3|
|Monstrous Infantry i.e Orges||3|
|Character i.e a general, wizard||5|
|Character on Mount||7|
|Character on Monster||15|
|Warmachine (crew count as infantry)||2|
So, in order to stop us from succumbing to procrastination, we have a weekly score of 5 models painted to achieve. This could be 5 standard infantry, a warmachine and its 3 crew, a character model or 1/3 of a major centrepiece model for example
Our other scorecard items all make sense, I hope, if you relate them back to the two quarterly goals. Here is a quick screen grab of the www.instantagencytools.com scorecard I will be using. I’ll be checking in on this scorecard and updating every Thursday evening to keep us on track.
SOME FINAL THINGS
So that is our weekly and quarterly targets sorted out, what about the long term?
One year from today, July 16th 2023, I plan to have the entirety of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles 5th Edition starter set of Bretonnians vs Lizardmen fully painted. I also plan to have Blackstone Fortress and all of its expansions finished by that date. How we will break that task up in the 8 quarters between now and then remains to be seen.
Three years from today, 16th June 2025, I will have no more unpainted boxed sets.
So, if you have read this far, what do you think? Is this an achievable thing? Is it something you would also be interested in trying? How big is your pile of shame? Comments are active down below, I look forward to reading them.
Thanks, you’re good eggs.