Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Army Building: What do I do First?

A friend of mine is new to the hobby, having yet to put together his first army. He's very enthusiastic, has been devouring 40k books like crazy, and has picked the Imperial Fists to be his first major project and completed army. We've brainstormed various conversions for his Fists and he's even bought the vast majority of parts, pieces and bitz to make them happen.

The other day he came up to me after I got to work and asked me something I wasn't quite prepared to answer...

"So Tim, after buying everything I needed for the army... Where do I start? What do I need to do first?"

You just... I mean... You... Crap. No one has ever asked me that before!

You'd think there is a clear-cut answer to that question, but in reality there are so many jumping off points to a project, he's just not sure what to do first. It's a valid question for a newcomer to the hobby, and I'll share where I start my own process when I begin a new army project.

1. Pick an Army.
Yes, I know that this is a no-brainer, but hey, it's where I start! I dive in deep into either making up my own fluff for a DIY Marine chapter, or really reading and researching the other chapters or armies to see who fits my personality, look for inspiration and pick a faction and army I can really get behind and enjoy owning, much less drop hundreds of dollars on.

2. Research the Army's Theme
Once I've got an army picked out, I drag out not just the codex, but any novels and supplements I have to really dig through for inspiration. I also pull up a Google search on the army and go straight to the Image results to get a feel for what other people have done and look for inspiration there.

3. Write the Army List.
Unless you enjoy just making things up on the fly, have a plan going into this of the force you're creating. It'll save you time and money.

4. Concept Conversions and Paint Scheme
I probably spend the longest amount of time in this step, barring the actual assembly and painting of the army. Once I've discovered my inspiration in the previous step, I sketch out some looks I want based on those inspirations, and start digging though my bitz as well as bitz sites and kits to figure out how I'm going to accomplish the look I want. At the same time, I'm coming up with all kinds of different color combinations to see what I want to use, if it's not an already established color scheme.

5. Test Figure
I usually go through at least a half dozen test figures to get the colors and formula right. On paper or computer screen I can be thrilled with a color scheme, and then once I paint up a test fig, I hate it. Really important step here, and if you want more information, see my post of test figures here. And please remember to write your paint formulas down so that you don't have to rediscover them when you're ready to paint the army?

6. Prep for Assembly
This includes everything from clipping sprue, cleaning flash and mold lines, scrubbing resin and drilling for pins and magnets. I do all of this before assembly because it makes the assembly phase of things go so much smoother.

7. Prep Your Bases
Whether it's making your own, simple or complex, or investing in resin bases, prep these as well before assembly. It will save time and allow you to pose your figures custom to each base to get the best combination out of them.

8. Assembly
Everything should be flash and mold line free at this point, as well as your conversions planned out. While that saves you a great amount of time, I make up for that by spending more time on the posing of the figures so that I have a dynamic, unique force. Use your adhesive of choice, and move on to the next step!

9. Paint the Figures and Bases
Follow the color scheme and paint formulas that you came up with for your finalized test figure and go to town! I paint my bases separate from the figures, quite literally, and then pin and glue finished figure to finished base. If you don't have that luxury, and the figures are cemented to the base, I'd recommend painting the figure first, then the base, cleaning up any mistakes to the figure if needed.

10. Dull Cote/Matte Varnish
Protect your army! You're going to be playing with these, handling them, etc. Protect them with a coating of your choice, used judiciously.

11. Play With Your Toys!
Don't let them go to waste on your shelf after buying and putting so much work into a tabletop force. For competition miniatures, sure, but not for an army that you built to play with!

Like I said, everyone has their own order on what to do, and when to do it, but this is my take on things. Where's your process start?

- Tim


  1. I'm planning on following a similar process. I like to paint my models in pieces though, to reach the hard areas. I'm currently in the test figures stage.

  2. Make a List.... That most be why I am spending me so much money...

    I tend to start with the 2 Troops and a HQ and the list comes from there.

  3. Yeah I haven't been making a list haha. I figure that this will be my only marine army, so I'm going to need a lot of everything.

  4. This could just be a wallet saver for me, i've been a random mini buyer for way to long lol.
    Thanks for posting this. Blitz

  5. If I had only known that one little piece of advice on list building before list buying, I probably could have saved at least 500-750 dollars in the past 6 years...

    Just don't tell my wife that ;)

  6. Making a list was actually the VERY last thing I did. Which means yes I have a lot of minis that aren't in the list I am playing atm but I can also easily change my list, create a new one or play a massive game.

    The first thing I did was look around for an army that I thought looked awesome. I am not going to spend hours of my life juice to paint, play and read about something I don't like looking at. If you love an army for something other than it's winability it's more exciting.


  7. I wholly agree that ENJOYING the army you're dropping a metric-ton of cash on should be the first thing on your mind, even as a competitive player!!

    Unfortunately for me, unless I build and paint form a list first, then add as needed/wanted, I tend to WAY overspend and get bogged down mentally with what seems like a huge project. That, and my wife tends to get a bit cross with me. :)

  8. I came across some really good deals on Ebay- so that prompted me to pick up the extra units. I'm glad I did too. Worse case I can just sell them back at 20% off and make some money.