In practice there is nothing more difficult in completing a wargame project than there is in giving up smoking or losing weight. You just have to want to do it. There are simple rules you can put in place to help you, but ultimately it comes down to a matter of willpower*. These simple rules are the equivalent of not having sweets or crisps in the house if you want to lose weight, or not going to smoky places if you want to stop smoking. They're not the answer but they are simple steps on the way.
The simple answer is decide what you want to do, buy the figures and paint them. Don't buy anything else until you've finished what you've bought. At the extreme end of this spectrum don't even buy anything else for this army unless it is absolutely essential and you forgot it first time round (eg I forgot to order all the HMGs for my SCW armies). If going to a show tempts you too much that you just have to buy something Don't go to shows. If you get the same problems with reviews and adverts in magazines Don't buy them. If you have to, get your partner to cut out the review pages, or hide them away until your current project is finished. Then indulge in an orgy of magazine back issue catch up when the army is done. If this makes you feel uncomfortable or you think it is stupid you are showing all the symptoms of addiction and you need to beat it and there is no wargaming equivalent of methadone or nicotine patches. I'm not kidding. Buying figures you'll never paint is like buying cigarettes when you know they are bad for you. They give you a buzz, then you have to do it again, all the while it's making you feel worse. Warbored WarehouseTM, nice blokes tho' they are, are not your best mates because they seem to like you and talk to you when you bump into them at a show. They want to sell you stuff, and what's more they don't care if you don't paint the toys. That's why they're prepared to stand there and let you talk drivel at them. They know you'll be back to buy more of their latest game and figures because that's what addicts do. They are the equivalent of your local pusher. Put it another way, - do you think that all those celebrity chefs lose any sleep at night because their name branded pasta or ice cream maker is shoved to the back of a kitchen cupboard, never to see the light of day? Next year they'll sell you a boxed set of Boers, mounted & dismounted. I mean yoghurt maker. Or whatever. Well, you know what I'm getting at.
If you find this view tough, focus on the prize at the end of completing this army, which is two fold:
- You have an army to play with
- You can now buy more toys
Firstly, now, I buy all the figures I think I'm going to need up front. I'll have worked it out from the rule book or from what I think my rules will look like when I write them. That means, when I finish them, that I'll actually be able to use them. I do buy odds and ends to add to other armies when I see something that fits, but these are only odds and ends (eg I'm looking to add some Peter Pig Quad AA guns to the back of a Zvezda truck to go with my SCW stuff. I'll buy that and paint it when I see the bits despite me working on Indians. It is a minor diversion. I WON'T buy two or three regiments of Falange at the same time as that represents too much of a distraction). These are what, in project land, are called "quick wins". This is not the same as an impulse buy.
Secondly, when I worked out what I wanted I did it on a spreadsheet, so I know exactly what units I'm aiming to paint and can track them if I need to. For my current project Plastic Soldier Review was really helpful as it showed the contents of each box, including the poses, so I knew what I needed and what I was getting. When I finish the last three Sumerian units there will not be a single figure from the boxes I bought unused.
Thirdly, particularly with figures sold in packets, I open the packets and sort them into units and put each unit into a ziplock bag. These then go into a box, lined up so I can see what I've got to do. It'll often have the unit name on a slip of paper tucked inside, with any organisational bits that aren't obvious (eg "Add trumpeter to rifle base not command stand"). I usually also put them in the order they need to be done. Consequently I'm not just painting random stuff, I'm painting to a plan. I do, on occasion, make up small cards with what paint colurs I'm using for what so I can swap around between types of unit and still get a consistent outcome.
Fourthly I have a streamlined painting system using tinted varnish to finish the figures off. I wrote about the method in November 2009: Painting Toy Soldiers (1) is the first posting, I thing there's about 5 in total. One of the key points is to devise a methodology that has breaks at appropriate times to allow drying overnight when needed. I long ago gave up trying to paint all that detail on 28mm figures, or even to paint like people who paint them. The currently accepted modern technique produces something that doesn't look real, same as a child always painting water blue. We all agree it, but it doesn't make it true. Having said that you could still finish such armies if you apply enough will power and organisation to the project.
Fifthly make sure you have a regular painting slot and your partner agrees that it is your painting slot and not just a block of free time to be filled up with other stuff. The advent of record and catch up TV means that you can still spend time with your loved one watching your favourite soap or crime drama. It just doesn't have to be done when it's going out live. I used to paint for an hour every evening Monday - Thursday from about 7:30pm to 8:30pm. By that point we'd have had dinner, done the washing up and tidied away. When I'd done that Mrs T and I could sit down, play a board game or watch a couple of Star Trek episodes on DVD (I know how to live). Fridays evenings are reserved for family time. At other times of my life it's been two hours on Sunday morning. One of our group who is retired gets up an hour earlier than his wife and just "potters about". He then complains he doesn't have time to paint. Why not do it then, before breakfast? The important thing is that everyone who has calls on your time understands that this is your time to do this one thing. The Quid Pro Quo is to have time for them when it isn't that time. Otherwise you have a painted army and a note telling you you're being divorced.
Finally, look for the affordable short cuts. use pre-cut bases so nothing stops you on your quest. No need to go off and cut the board. Just stick and go. It'll save you half an hour you can spend on painting. Use hot melt glue when you can. It's nearly as strong as PVA, and fixes immediately so you can paint it. Use acrylic paints. Use quick drying varnish. Every 15 minutes you shave off here of there is more brush on figure time.
Oh. And don't write a blog. Takes up way too much time.
* Or cash. If you can pay someone to paint your figures for you, you can finish pretty much anything.