Saturday 30 September 2023

The Lead Speed Bump

The long-term reader of this blog (are there any?) will recall my struggles with my mountain of unpainted lead. Now, of course, we all have them, those stashes of formerly good ideas which went sour, or those extra figures we added to the order ‘just in case’. As I know from painful knowledge, these items accumulate, against our will and better judgment, and need to be hidden both from our nearest and dearest and from ourselves, unless the cry of the oppressed lead masses reach our ears or, even worse, the ears of the wargaming gods who will smite us and make us roll ones until we repent and get the brushes out.

A few years ago I decided to try to make some serious inroads into my own personal pile of unpainted soldiers. The situation was so bad it required two tables. First, the ancients:

A total of nearly 1400 figures. I already reckoned that I could paint around 1000 per year. This was going to be a long project. The early moderns were, well, not quite as bad.

A grand total, as I am sure you have worked out already, of 2534 figures, or two and a half years or so, provided, firstly, that I kept on painting and secondly, that I did not buy any extras. The second rule vanished almost immediately, however – the Muscovites above was an in-year purchase for one thing.

I have documented my struggles with reducing mount impossible over the last few years. Not too often, of course, as that would be boring and either smug or whining. Still, I have received encouragement along the way, both from the Estimable Mrs P. and also from comments on the relevant posts, for which much thanks.

In the first year, I seem to have painted 1024 figures, a good start and on target. The second year of effort showed a few more figures finished, 1105 to be exact. So I started this painting year (which runs from September to September, for reasons I do not recall) with a mere 885 figures to go. That is not quite true, of course, as the two years do not add up to the above-mentioned total. There were a few acquisitions: Anglo-Dutch War fleets, War of Spanish Succession French cavalry, and the 25+ mm figures which were not in the original counts, plus, in all probability, a few other items that escaped attention in the first count.

This year, therefore, the Table of Doom looked rather less doom-like:

Still, there are quite a few things on there, some of which I have doubts about even bothering with, such as the 6 scythed chariots and 120 Moorish infantry. I have also to confess that quite a few of these are not even manufactured anymore – the Moors have been in stock for over 20 years, as I recall.

The final(-ish) totals, however, are rather pleasing, at least to me.

The eagle-eyed reader will have already spotted that the scythed chariots did not make it to the painting table, nor did all the 25+ mm infantry, but 97.5% of the outstanding troops have been painted, based, and are ready for action. There is still a little time before the end of the painting year and I might manage the chariots yet.

I confess to being rather pleased with myself. It did seem to be an impossible task when I started, but 2992 figures later I have (very nearly) made it. What have I learned?

I suppose the first lesson is 'do not let stuff pile up like this'. It is just not a good idea. A problem I encountered was that whenever I had a chance to play a wargame I was feeling guilty for not painting. Whenever I was painting I felt I wanted to play a wargame. Thus neither playing nor painting was guilt-free. Hopefully, now, I can have some wargames without feeling I should be painting.

There is still a bit of a hump to get over – the 554 assorted plastic medieval figures, acquired years ago and in a box, still in their original cardboard boxes. I have reassured the Estimable Mrs P that I have not run out of things to paint (she likes to keep her husband occupied) and that these are there to be done. And that is true. I am sure I had a scheme for them, years ago, but it escapes me now.

Still, when all is said and done, I should ask ‘quo vadis?’. Where, exactly, is my wargaming going now the lead pile has diminished to near-negligible proportions. I could, of course, branch out into something new. The Punic Wars is one possibility, the Wars of Louis XIV before the War of Spanish Succession is another. But I am not really sure that I want to start something at this point which could be quite a large project. Another possibility is the Jacobite risings, and a further option might be the American War of Independence. While I have re-crafted the ACW for the ancient Greeks I am not sure, particularly, that I want to stray beyond the Eighteenth Century.

As far as wargaming goes I have the ACW Greeks to finish off, and another campaign brewing using Sixteenth Century South-East Asians. As readers might know, I do like to get elephants onto the wargame table from time to time. I have a pile of campaign ideas beyond these to try out as a result of reading a bit about strategy, as documented here recently. Another aspect that occurs is to use the 25+ mm figures for something approaching a skirmish and role-playing campaign game, a bit like the bits I have done for the Year of Corbie but in, maybe, a little more detail (done more carefully, you mean – Ed).

So, lots of possibilities. Of course, as a typical wargamer, my ideas run far beyond my capabilities. I could purchase another thousand figures just to make my painting record for next year stand. But I suspect that I have grown, if not wiser, then certainly older, and that will not happen. Perhaps I should just put some figures on the table and get on with some games.


  1. Lots of projects, and lots of potential. I have been trying to make sense of all of my projects lately - almost thought I was the only one!

    1. You are not alone. I suspect most of us have stashes of projects in the corners of our minds, and stashes of figures in the corners of our rooms, just waiting for the moment when we have the time and inspiration.....

  2. That's good going. Very disciplined. My lead pile is relatively modest. Uncounted of course.

    1. Why thank you. It has been a struggle and I have not applied paintbrush to scythed chariot, yet at least. I shall try to switch the discipline to not buying endless toy soldiers and not painting them now.

  3. That's very good going - congratulations! I have got worse recently as a combination of having a bit more money to buy stuff and a lot less time to paint it & play with it; plus one of the bairns is getting into model soldiers and that has increased the demands on my painting and modelling!

    1. Thank you. I think we should congratulate you on raising a future opponent.
      There are times and seasons, I think, to gaming and painting. Sometimes a consuming project brings hundreds of freshly painted troops to the table, sometimes they all slumber on in their boxes...