Sunday, 23 June 2013

Tearing Down the Lead Mountain

About a year ago, I realized that my main hobby of miniature gaming was actually causing me a good deal of stress. I still loved painting miniatures, imagining armies, and playing occasional games, but I was also worrying about the increasing number of unpainted miniatures I possessed.

It was an irrational problem. All of those unpainted miniatures weren’t really hurting me in any way. 
I wasn’t actually spending an excessive amount, and I could always store any excess up in the attic if space became a problem. Yet, I just kept asking myself, ‘when was I ever going to paint them all?’ I began to paint faster and faster, and my enjoyment became less and less. Although I didn’t immediately realize it, I reached a point where I was painting just to finish miniatures instead of painting because I really enjoyed it.

Knowing that something was wrong, I looked back over my near lifetime of the hobby, and tried to pinpoint when I had most enjoyed it. It turned out to be remarkably easy to find. It was about 15 years ago, when I was living in Silver Springs, Maryland. I was in my first real job after university and making decent money. At the time, I had no real gamer friends and virtually no connection to the larger gaming world.

At the time, I knew of two gaming stories in the area, neither of which were particularly close to where I lived. Both involved a good 30-45 minutes on public transportation, followed by a 15-20 minute walk. Still, I made that trek every couple of months. Actually, I loved those little pilgrimages. It was an excuse to get out and go somewhere, to a part of the greater D.C. Metro area where I would not have otherwise gone. For making the trip, I would generally reward myself with the purchase of a dozen miniatures or so. Usually, these would have some theme. Maybe they were all part of the same warband or pirate crew, or maybe they were a new unit to an army I was working on. Or, sometimes, it was just a collection of the coolest minis I could find at the time.

Once I got these minis home, I would paint them, whenever I felt like painting, and I wouldn’t think much about buying more until I had nearly finished them all. In fact, rarely would I ever buy miniatures, if I hadn’t finished the last batch.

Then things changed. I ended up getting a part time job at one of those gaming stores. Although I loved the job, the extra cash combined with the employee discount and the lessening of my free time meant that I began to buy more miniatures than I could paint. Slowly, my lead mountain began to grow. Then, I began painting miniatures for hire. I kept buying miniatures, but most of my painting time was spent painting for money. I passed the limited where I could ever paint all of the miniatures I had.

In a way, things got even worse when I got to Britain. A combination of my job and the much larger miniature gaming community in Britain, meant that things got even worse (although for awhile it seemed better!). Even though I had left a lot of the lead mountain back in the USA, it continued to grow over here at an even faster rate.

The truth is that years of getting too involved had actually sucked a lot of fun out of the hobby. I really began to realize this last year and decided to take action. I began to sell it all off.

I don’t know how many unpainted miniatures I had at the time, it partly depends on how you count them, but I don’t think that 1,000 would be a bad guess. (For all of you gasping, non-miniatures gamers, I assure you that this is still a small number compared to many gamers).

For months, I photographed, put pictures up on websites, worked the paypal, and made numerous trips to the post office. It was a lot of work, but the extra income had the double effect of helping me with one of my other goals to get out of debt. When some miniatures didn't sell, I just threw them away.

It has taken a year, and I’m not quite finished. Yesterday I counted all of my unpainted miniatures: c. 150. With each pass over the mountain, it has gotten a little harder to sell them off, but I’m slowly beating it down to my absolute favourites. The miniatures I'm actually still looking forward to painting.

If I could get it down to 100, I could probably have almost all of them painted by the end of the year, but you see, I would still be painting just to get them done. I would still be missing the point. No, I’ve got to get it down much lower than that. I just have to keep telling myself, if I ever really want these miniatures, I can just buy them again (but I know I probably won’t).

The burden, because yes, it has become a burden, is starting to lift. I know that I will never get back to how I felt while living outside of D.C., but if I keep working at it, I will find a new balance. I love the miniatures hobby, but I love it best in moderation.


  1. Very cool figures - and very well painted! I love that eagle figure. Best, Dean

  2. I'm in the same boat, too many projects where I just bought it because I had a faint idea of what to do with them. I'm now down to only 5 periods and 2 scales. I've told gaming friends I won't be buying into a project or I'm only getting one faction.

  3. Nice miniatures. Yep it can be quite easy to fall into that trap. I can't paint armies period it just puts me off them. I've sold all my big stuff now and concentrate on 3 skirmish type games which I can flit between to keep the interest and yet each has a lot of choice so nothing becomes samey.

    I'm wandering how I will feel when the EotD Ks lands as that will suddenly add 90+ figures to the pile!

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. It's good to know that others have gone through a similar process.

    This is also associated with some of the thoughts I've had about kickstarter, a topic I hope to address sometime soon.