My Biggest Gaming Regrets

I thought I would be able to get a few more Star Trek miniatures painted this month, but I’ve been playing a lot of Horizon: Zero Dawn, and my painting time has suffered somewhat. Instead, I thought I’d post something without pictures and see how that goes…

I subscribe to Uncle Atom’s YouTube channel, Tabletop Minions, because he often has an interesting point of view about hobby stuff. Recently, he delved into his Biggest Wargaming Regrets, from buying the wrong army to not buying an airbrush early enough. His video got me thinking about my own gaming regrets; what do I wish I hadn’t done, or what would I do differently if I had the time and hindsight to start over?

Uncle Atom and I share some of the same regrets, although not buying an airbrush isn’t one of mine. Here, in no particular order, are my top seven regrets about gaming:

I don’t make enough terrain. (This is also Uncle Atom’s first big regret.) When I started wargaming, most of my games took place at the FLGS where I bought my stuff. There was plenty of terrain available, albeit of dubious quality: ruins made of Styrofoam trays, rock piles and scatter brush, printed cardboard terrain (like the walkways in the original Necromunda box) and the like. It wouldn’t win any awards, but it provided an adequate setting for some fun games.

Nowadays, any gaming I do is in my own home, and the friends I play with are not wargamers themselves. Thus, any and all terrain must be supplied by me, whether it is purchased or constructed. I would much rather paint miniatures than build terrain, as I consider the former to be fun and the latter to be work. There are some exceptions, but to be honest, terrain-building isn’t really my strong suit, so I often buy a lot of it (which can get expensive). There’s also the problem of storage; I have difficulty figuring out where the hell to put the stuff when I’m not using it (which, given how often I actually play, is most of the time).

I wish I had discovered smaller games sooner. Like many folks, my first introduction to wargaming was through Games Workshop and Warhammer 40K, with Warhammer Fantasy Battle soon to follow. As an AD&D player, I had collected and painted fantasy miniatures for years prior to my “discovery” of wargaming, so miniatures weren’t new to me. Gaming with them, though, was a new concept.

I soon fell in love with GW and the Warhammer world, and still have many fond memories of playing throughout my college years. The cost of GW gaming, while not as ridiculous as it is currently, was high even back then. I’m still amazed that I managed to put together the armies I had, given my budget. As a student I had very little money to spare. When Necromunda and Mordheim came out (GW’s skirmish games) , I pretty much ignored them in favor of the bigger games because I already had the armies and didn’t want to spend money on anything new. I couldn’t really afford to, anyway.

The only alternative to Warhammer, as far as I knew, was historical wargaming. I didn’t have much interest in historical gaming (I like wizards and dragons over Spartans and triremes). If I had only discovered (non-GW) skirmish wargaming sooner, I would have likely played a lot more games, and would have probably found more people to game with. Many of these would be the same folks who were put off by the entry cost (in both time and money) of GW gaming, as well as GW’s insistence on using only “official” miniatures in their games. Today, the market is flooded with smaller scale games by independent publishers. Many don’t require a specific line of miniatures. I wish I was aware of other wargaming options like these back then.

I didn’t really give a shit about basing my miniatures until it was way past time to give a shit about basing my miniatures. The Ral Partha and Grenadier miniatures I painted during my early years in the hobby all came on their own bases. I never really bothered to paint bases anything other than a glossy (!) grey or green until I discovered flocked slotta bases when I started playing Warhammer 40K. When I moved on to Warhammer Fantasy, I never bothered to fill the slots on the bases, even if the tabs on the bottom of the miniatures on them didn’t fill the slots completely. Now I have many old GW miniatures with open slots on their bases that look like shit. I suppose I could go back and rebase them, but I just don’t have  the time or the inclination. Instead, I just get annoyed whenever I look at them.

Nowadays I consider basing to be an important part of painting any miniature, and a lot of thought generally goes into which base I use. Just as a good base can turn a mediocre-looking miniature into a good-looking miniature, poor basing can really bring the overall aesthetic of a miniature down. I’m a fan of sculpted scenic bases, but these can get expensive. The availability of ready-to-use tufts and basing effects is a good thing.

I was ignorant of using the right tools for the job for far too long. I didn’t discover acrylic paint until I started painting space marines and they came with a set of five Citadel paints. Up until then, I painted everything with Testor’s gloss enamels, which are horrible to work with and are very limited in color palette. Green stuff? WTF was green stuff? Instead I used Squadron modelling putty to fill gaps because I thought it was better than Testor’s modelling putty (and trust me, it is).

I didn’t own a pair of nippy cutters until about 2006, when I was in the middle of a period when I had stopped painting and playing games regularly. Until then, I cut everything off a sprue or made any modifications to metal miniatures using only an X-acto knife. (It’s a wonder I didn’t cut my fingertips off.)

When gluing models together I never pinned anything because I didn’t have a drill other than a pin vise, and cutting pinning wire with an X-acto knife was too much of a pain to make me want to try. I opted to use copious amounts of putty instead, which rarely worked well, considering the quality of the putty I was using.

As you can see, I often “improvised”, even when I didn’t know I was improvising. That sucked. Nowadays, I am a big proponent of using the right tool for the job, whatever that job might be, and regardless of whether or not I’ll ever need a particular tool again. (Example: About five years ago, I bought an angle grinder to sharpen an axe blade because I didn’t want to hone it by hand. I used it once and haven’t needed to use it again, because my axe is still sharp, seeing how I’ve only used the axe about 3 times since I bought it.) This is especially true of my hobby tools; if something will make my life easier, I’m likely to buy it even if it’s only to use it once. I’m lazy like that.

Now I own clippers and a Dremel and green stuff, and I have more acrylic paints than I ever thought possible, which really isn’t anything to brag about considering these things (with the possible exception of the Dremel) and others like them are pretty much basic supplies anyone in the hobby should own. Took me long enough to figure that out.

Uncle Atom says he waited too long to buy an airbrush and suggests that if I buy one I’ll use it all the time. He may be right, but I haven’t felt the need to buy one of those yet. I don’t paint many large, flat surfaces, and those I do have occasion to paint are easily done with the right paintbrush. We’ll see if that changes. I’m mainly put off by the knowledge that airbrush maintenance is more time-consuming than cleaning a paintbrush. Who needs that?

I don’t know how to sculpt. This one is pretty self-explanatory. I wish I knew how to sculpt, as working with green stuff is the bane of my hobby existence. I can handle filling gaps and sculpting things that take minimal skill (like entrails), but that’s about the extent of my abilities. I don’t want to be Sandra Garrity or Mark Copplestone, but it would be nice to be able to sculpt a hat or a cape; or perhaps some hair.

I have asked good sculptors for their advice and even attempted to follow it, but with poor results. I even changed my sculpting medium from green stuff to magic sculpt with equally poor results. I know sculpting, like painting, is a skill that gets better over time and with practice. I just lack the patience and wish I had learned the basics sooner.

I have a hard time saying goodbye to things I know I will never use. I am a collector of many things,  miniatures first among them. I’ve collected a lot of miniatures over the years. Some date back to my earliest days as a Dungeons and Dragons player. Many are from my early wargaming days. Still more, however, have been purchased in the last 15 years or so for any number of games or projects that I know (now) that I will never get to.

It’s tough to get rid of any of my things, especially miniatures. I never understood people who can labor for a year on an army and then sell it when they get tired of playing it. I could never easily sell any of my painted miniatures. To me, they are an investment of time where the results can be clearly seen. Are they all masterpieces? Certainly not. But they’re something I did for no other reason than I wanted to, and looking at them makes me happy and brings back fond memories (most of the time).

I have given much morbid thought to the fact that I won’t be here forever, and barring unforeseen catastrophe, my miniatures are likely to survive me. When that happens, they will become someone else’s problem. I feel like I should take steps to minimize that problem while I’m still here, especially if I care about the someone else in question. Yet somewhere in my mind I still think it’s possible that I’ll paint those two complete Clan War armies I’ve had languishing in a box since 1998, learn the rules for this unsupported and OOP game, get some friends interested in playing, and play regularly.

It could happen. Best not to get rid of them just yet.

I don’t play games often enough. My biggest regret, to be sure. I have no good excuse for not being able to play games. I have a perfect space for it and I have more leisure time than most people I know.

That being said, I have blogged (whined, really) elsewhere that any miniatures and terrain used in my games would have to be supplied by me and me alone. I am also quite particular about who I invite into my home. Even so, I do not live particularly close to my gaming buddies, who are always welcome, of course. But they’re mainly roleplayers, not wargamers.

As I said above, I used to play at the FLGS, but that store is long gone. All the ones that took its place cater to the GW and Privateer Press crowd, so small-scale, small press games have no real home there. And that’s what I’m interested in playing nowadays.

The problem with retailer-based gaming  (to me, at least) is that the retailer has little, if any, incentive to offer or promote games other than what sells best. That’s why here in the US you rarely see anything other than GW or Privateer Press games being played in game stores. There may be exceptions, but if so, they’re not around me. I guess the answer is to start a club of my own. I think I’m going to try to do something akin to the “European” model, i.e. not being affiliated with or based in a retail establishment. I have no real idea how to go about getting something like this started, but I am going to try to figure it out.

Next time, I hope to have the TNG bridge crew completed, with Kirk and Co. soon to follow.

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4 Responses to “My Biggest Gaming Regrets”

  1. Kieron says:

    An interesting article that has made me consider my own regrets. A similar post may follow…

    • Look forward to reading it. Incidentally, I’m having problems leaving comments on your blog. Not sure what the issue is, but it’s starting to hurt my feelings. 🙂

  2. Jeremy Winstanley says:

    Hi Keith

    Please accept my apologies for the tardy response to this post, as it made for an interesting and thought-provoking read. This post, combined with Steve’s over on his “Not Tonight Josephine!” blog (specifically this post http://stevie-hil-gilbert.blogspot.com/2019/01/hobby-trends-and-realisations.html), echoed similar themes – along the lines of what has gone before not being what should be going forward. Food for thought and once I’ve put my house in order, as it were, and returned to a regular posting schedule, I may do a post of a similar ilk.

    Jez

    • Certainly no apologies necessary, Jeremy. You’re always a welcome sight around here. I’ve heard similar sentiments from others, but I can’t take credit; after all, it was Uncle Atom who inspired me to write this. Perhaps he unknowingly kicked off a whole round of internet grognard crying in beer about misspent hobby youth…

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