Saturday, August 27, 2011

Plastic to Player's Choice:11 Week Wood Elves - An 'Ass' of 'Me'... and 'Bly'

Alright, so the message last time was pretty simple and pretty feckin obvious. If you want to build an army for speed, pick an army that doesn't have many models to paint.

Lesson Two is a little bit of a paradigm shifter, though, and where I saved a good chunk of my time.

Its assembly, man. Clipping models off the sprue, gluing them to the bases, gluing arms, legs, heads, shields, tails, you name it. Assembly isn't just a bit tedious, it's downright TIME CONSUMING.

You might say it doesn't take too long but that's only because you're comparing assembling miniatures to painting miniatures (which is one of the most time consuming things known to man)!

Depending on the model, assembly is anywhere from a few minutes for a single piece plastic to an hour or two for a big monster (not counting conversions). This is easily about 10 to 30% of your time spent on each model. Get a stopwatch and time yourself. This shit takes a lot longer than you think. To put this in perspective, I blew an entire night early on assembling ten wardancers. So four or five hours spent clipping, trimming mould lines, basing them perfectly level, etc. If painting each is two hours per pop, that is about 20% of my modeling time.

So what the hell are we supposed to do, dude? How do we get around this?! I'm gonna blow my brains if I have to glue together one more gob-nar!

Take a breath. Relax.

Here's a few things I did to cut my overall army building time by an estimated 20%. You may have even done a couple of these without even realizing it already. 

Option 1) Buy assembled models off of bartertown or ebay

Pretty easy and you save a few bucks to boot! Considering the few hours that go into assembling figs you'd think they should cost more than retail, but nope. There are a couple things to watch out for. Try to get them unpainted if at all possible. Stripping models takes time even when they don't use some weirdass enamel shit. Just getting them primed seems like it wouldn't be too bad. (Saving another step!) However, with every primed lot I've purchased I notice at least 2/3rd of them are totally messed up with the prime job - fuzzy sandpaper or just shit coverage. Again, more work to clean these guys up. One additional problem with buying assembled figs outright is that some people just can't put together a fig to save their life. If you're doing top notch shit, you really need to have all the models looking forward, you know? Not off diagonally or to the side, or one arm drooped down all weird or two arms glued over the face. Even if you buy 'em assembled you're going to have to do a little tweaking, so plan for it.

Option 2) Hire out a painting service to assemble your models.

So this option I had not considered until I won a $200 gift certificate from Blue Table Painting at Adepticon. I was in a bit of a conundrum since I build armies with the intent of taking them to a tournament. $200 would only be the start of new "for fun" army and anything they did paint would not match anything I'd do anyways. So I perused the site and found they did sell models and do assembly, generally with the intent to paint as well. I'm sure many other paint sites would do assembly only if you asked. Bluetable was able to offer a discount on the base models like a typical online retailer and then charge an assembly fee per model. This was about $3 per infantry model to $5 per cavalry cavalry model. I was pretty excited to see the result but the overall quality was really about the same as ebay or bartertown. There were some mould lines I had to remove. I had to break a few glade guard to rank them up and ended up pinning the wild rider torsos myself. Overall, I'd say this option is quite expensive unless you have an established relationship with one of these paint sites and they can do things to your specifications.

Option 3) Get an Apprentice to assemble your models.

There is a local fella by the name of the Andrew who's known for painting stuff to a decent standard. So in exchange for working with me, I gave him some cash, some models and paint I had laying around, and also showed him a few techniques. Overall win/win for both of us. There was a lot more control over the actual assembly this way as well. (No diagonally facing dingbats please) Andrew did a great job, even if there was an occasional mould line I had to handle myself. The only downside to this option is that it takes the longest, since we had to work around Andrew's schedule and he could not always get to the figs right away. I'd also have to get up off my ass and drive over to his house, or convince him to come over, which could be difficult depending on our schedules.

Overall, I used all three of these options in addition to assembling things myself. For the Blood in the Sun Wood Elves here is the point of purchase and the assembly method:
  • Dark Elf Sorceress - Local Hobby Shop, assembled myself
  • Treewench - Bartertown, assembled myself
  • Morathi on Pegasus - Ebay pre-assembled, pinned the wings myself
  • BSB - Local Hobby Shop, assembled myself (extensive conversion)
  • 24 Dryads - Bartertown pre-assembled, Andrew re-assembled poses I did not like
  • 28 Glade Guard - Blue Table Painting pre-assembled, assembled the standard bearer and champions myself
  • 7 Wardancers - Bartertown, assembled myself
  • 6 Wild Riders - Blue Table Painting pre-assembled, pinned the torsos myself
  • Treeman 1 - Bartertown, assembled myself
  • Treeman 2 - Games Workshop Direct, assembled myself
So you can see that in the end I assembled most of the one-off models myself and relied on the above methods for units. With the single models, I felt I had to do them to make sure they were right. In the future, however, I think I will have my apprentice assemble some of these one-offs if I'm okay with the stock pose.

Ultimately, you won't be able to get totally away from assembly unless your standards are lax enough (or you're willing to spend enough).

I should note that I did not really pioneer anything new in actual assembly. I did assembly-line style building when I could, used the right glue for the job, and a sharp hobby knife. Other than that, I just focused on the task at hand, consciously trying to work faster. (maybe a bad idea in conjunction with the sharp knife)

Any other ideas purely for time saving in assembly?


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