Friday, June 21, 2013

The "Hobby-Hammer" Syndrome

Math-Hammer, List-Hammer, Theory-Hammer…every which way I turn, there is yet another term for the trying to get the absolute most out of every point paid for in an army of 40K or Fantasy. There are Excel charts, algebraic equations, trigonometric formulae, and entire subcultures devoted to figuring out just what it takes to remove 3.2 MEQ models from the table per round of shooting with every piece of wargear ever written.

There are times it seems that we gamers spend more time with a calculator in-hand than we do with dice and a tape measure! Thank God I try and avoid that…

Or do I?

Welcome to what I've coined "Hobby-Hammer".

Hobby-Hammer (hob-ee ham-er) verb

1. to assemble or build tabletop war-game miniatures

2. to paint or convert tabletop war-game miniatures

3. to plan and over-plan a tabletop war-game miniature project, scrutinizing every last detail until you finally realize that months have gone by without anything actually being built or painted.


While I may not math-hammer overly much, and only list-hammer on the weekends and in the privacy of my own home, both serve the sole purpose to help me decide what hobby project to do next. So ultimately for me, they are the start of the hobby-hammer process.

Unfortunately, I tend to get caught up in the third informal definition of the verb "hobby-hammer". Once I've decided the general theme of what I want, I can get bogged down into the details of exactly how to accomplish the actual theme itself in model form. Take my newTau army for example. I decided that for my Crisis Suits, I wanted to match more closely the look and feel of the Tau artwork. This means making the suits look more lean and agile looking...without making them look too much like the Commander suits. So how far have I gotten?

...not very far. I've sketched and planned, and spent a long time just studying the sprue to see exactly what I can cut and trim, resculpt and convert in order to get it to lo like how I want it to look like in my head. Where this gets me in terms of getting an army I'm proud of modeled and on the table, is exactly in the middle of nowhere. I'm horribly guilty in bogging myself down in that third definition of hobby-hammering.

So what's the cure? How do we fix this self-defeating cycle of business, yet non-productiveness? Surprise, surprise, I've got a few thoughts...

1. Come up with a solid theme, from the overall concept and inspiration, to the look of your models and their paint scheme, and then execute that theme. Spend the time in the beginning, so that the execution can be done form start to finish.

2. If you begin to get burned out, or experience hobby-block, don't second guess the theme you've grown to know and love, take a break from it. Tab a single fig or squad from a different project and work on that for a bit to give yourself a fresh perspective on your much-loved theme.

3. Time management and planning!! If you have a deadline or goal you are working towards, it tends to help motivate productivity far more than some ambiguous want to do something.

Hobby-Hammering can be quite the enjoyable in moderation, but if you let it get the best of you, you can blink and months have gone by without anything being finished.

What's the worst case of Hobby-Hammer you've ever had?

- Tim



  1. Oh please dude! I am STILL working my way through the DV boxed set. STILL. I may have it all painted for 10th edition. I got bogged down in the chosen details. There were just so many that I didn't want to paint them all. I finally muscled past it, but it was brutal and that was just a squad of 6 plus the Helbrute. Now I just have to get past 20 cultists and a crap ton of power armour with a split scheme. "Angels of Redemption that's cool split scheme" What an idiot I am. Great tip on side projects! Yes, you need side projects to help keep your hobby mojo up even if you aren't going to use it on your main army. I took about a month to work on other stuff and came back to the chosen refreshed!

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  3. The worst case of Hobby-Hammer I've had? Have you SEEN pics of the Closet of Doom? :)

    Great article, Tim - good call on the cure, I'm pretty good at #1 and #2, I tend to do into each project with a definite theme and paint scheme in mind, and there's plenty of side projects when I get burnt on the current one. It's #3 that gets me. I rarely set myself any sort of deadline or goal, so projects tend to stretch on out forever and end up in a box in the CoD for years (the recent Eldar being a prime example). I always like getting involved in 'painting challenges' that crop up from time to time out in the blogosphere. Getting a unit a week done really helps me stay engaged.

    *Edut'd fer spellung. Argh.

  4. I tend to get lost on Step 2, in that the side project then becomes a main project. What I'd planned as a single unit to paint as a distraction blossoms into an entire other army I want to paint. Then the rising tide of grey plastic makes me repeat step 2 elsewhere. Since about September my bouncing has gone Tyranids, Orks, Dark Eldar (briefly), Tryanids, Eldar, Orks, Eldar.

    The biggest part that bogs me down is big units of the same type (and yet I like horde armies). My longest successful stretch with the Tyranids is when I did a series of Monstrous Creatures, leaving all the little bugs I needed by the wayside.

    As a caveat to Step 3, I think I need to set myself rewards/restrictions; I'm not allowed to work on the Mawloc conversion I'm excited about until I paint 15 termagants, or I have to paint the 20 boyz that will go in the battlewagon before the battlewagon.

  5. You've pretty much written out how I've been working with my own projects, though they are Flames of War and not Warhammer, it pretty much adds up to the same process.

    Very good read Tim, thanks.

  6. I've been a touch out of the loop lately online, prepping for my vacation, so my apologies for not responding like i normally do!

    Thank God I'm not the only one out there with this issue ;)