In preparation for this post, I was going to count all the unassembled plastic troops I still have on sprues for various armies/projects I have yet to start. I meant to count just 28mm foot soldiers, not vehicles and/or other models (like terrain). I came to my senses and decided not to, both because it was too much effort and because the number would be quite depressing..
Put simply, most of the unassembled plastic currently awaiting my attentions is never getting assembled, at least not by me.
Like many wargamers, I have put together more than my share of plastic soldiers over the years, most (but certainly not all) from the manufactorums (manufactora?) of Games Workshop. I have also put together Wargames Factory zombies and shock troopers, Mantic dwarfs and Dreadball teams, and most recently, Modiphius Star Trek miniatures, among others. Plastic figures (unless made by GW or Modiphius) often cost less than metal or resin; most hold detail quite well; and they’re light and easy to transport and repair, should that become necessary.
And yet…I now realize with absolute clarity that I fucking hate putting together plastic models. As I get older, I simply don’t have the patience for it any more. “Well, gee, Piper,” you may be saying, “you sure picked the wrong hobby.” To which I reply: “Hunh.”
As you may recall, Santa brought me the TANKS game for Christmas last year. This week (at work), I finally got around to assembling the three tanks (2 Sherman, 1 Jagdpanther) that came in the starter set. (Being self-employed has many disadvantages; sleepless nights, probable alcoholism and a crippling sense of responsibility for those I employ, to name but a few. But one of the good things about being my own boss is that no one can tell me that I can’t put together my toys at work.) It took me about an hour and a half, just long enough for me to realize a couple of things.
First, the tanks are small, about the scale of a Matchbox car. Which means you could easily buy any number of painted, ready-to play tank variants without the need to assemble and paint anything, simply by visiting the toy car aisle of your local dollar store. (From left-right, Sherman 76mm, Sherman 75mm and Jagdpanther, all from the TANKS game; a Corgi Panzer from the toy aisle, which cost $3.00, no painting or assembly necessary.)
Second, as evidenced by games such as Space Hulk, high-quality, single-piece sculpting is possible. If they can sculpt a Terminator that looks like this and mold it out of a single lump of plastic, I’m 100% positive they can sculpt a tank that requires ZERO assembly.
This is vastly preferable to me at this stage of life.
Let me be clear: I don’t hate plastic models. I just hate assembling them, which is not the same thing. I don’t know if it was ever fun, exactly; but it’s definitely not fun for me anymore. As I get older, I just don’t have the time or inclination to clip, file, sand, fill, fit and glue miniatures together, especially if (as in the case of the Modiphius Star Trek miniatures) they’re fiddly as hell and don’t seem to WANT to fit together. I just don’t enjoy the headache of countless hours of assembly, along with the glued-together fingers I will certainly have to endure.
The point is certainly valid that model-building is part and parcel of the miniatures wargaming hobby, as much as collecting, painting and playing games is. It’s just not the part I enjoy anymore. I think I might have enjoyed it once upon a time, but nowadays the inverse correlation between my age and my overall patience level has made that no longer true. (I also can’t see shit anymore, which has made the wearing of reading glasses a necessity for painting and, well, reading.)
Painting, as opposed to gaming, has now become my primary hobby. I play far fewer games today than I used to (like when I regularly assembled plastic armies). While there are exceptions, I am unlikely to ever use most of my miniatures for gaming anymore. Am I really going to ever build and paint an entire 40K Ork army, at this point in my life? Probably not. What would be the point? It might be fun to paint them, but it certainly won’t be fun putting them together first.
I guess at this point I prefer my miniatures to require as little assembly as possible, and I prefer my games require fewer miniatures to play. This is why I prefer skirmish games, and why sprues of plastic soldiers are becoming less and less attractive to me.
If only I could bring myself to part with them…