My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Personal News, Wargaming Thoughts, and Some Painting

 Personal News

Let's get this one out of the way. First off, I am retiring in about six weeks. I am 60 years old (and I turn 61 in October) and although I planned on retiring October 2023, circumstances force me to retire early.

I am a computer programmer by trade (in the U.S. home mortgage software market – talk about niche) and I have always said that I could probably continue on even if my hands went, because there is such good voice recognition technology out there, but if my mind ever went, I was done for. I used to be known for my attention to detail, but lately I have not been able to focus. I am easily distracted. Worse, I don't just forget where I left off at, I forget that I was not finished with a task and my mind tells me I was.

This apparently happened pretty quickly. My company awarded me a huge bonus and raise last January for being a top performer in the company (Zillow); now I can't remember to complete a task.

I knew it last Tuesday when I was in a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) meeting – otherwise known as a "who screwed up" meeting – and someone was showing a result from my application and I knew it could not "have happened". The previous day I had changed the code at their request and there were three dates in the change. My documentation (rare for a programmer) noted all three changes. The comments in the code noted all three changes and the change number that ordered it. And the code was changed … in two places. I must have gotten an email, chat message, or phone call and by the time I was done, did not remember that I had not finished. But it was not just forgetting; it was my mind being sure that I was done. Not a single thought of "oh, I have to check to ensure I finished that".

Lest you think I give up easily you have to understand that this was simply the last event in a long line of them that I was not admitting to. In fact, I was started to even hide them. I would blame this or that for why things went wrong, but the reality is that it was me.

I called my brother (four years older) because I remember him saying about six months ago that he had been diagnosed with something, and I wanted to be sure what it was. He has Parkinson's. We talked about it and I am pretty sure I do not have that. I have none of the motor skill symptoms. Also, mine is not a feeling of forgetfulness. I am not one of those people always saying "now what was that I was trying to remember?" It does happen on occasion, but my problem is more an arrogant assurance that I have remembered something – like finishing a task – or not even thinking to do something.

So, I decided that I did not want to go from 2021's top performer to 2022's guy that we want to get rid of. I want to be able to leave with a little dignity rather than milk the job for every last dollar until they feel like they have to fire me.

Fortunately, I have been a lifelong saver and I married a woman more frugal than I am, so I can afford to drift the remainder of this year and all of next year. I can pull sufficient money out next year from my retirement fund (we call it a 401(k) in the U.S.) and draw on Social Security at 62, if I want.

So What is Next?

I decided to give my company four weeks, so that I could transition my work and archive of code to a new person on the team. If they get someone in to replace me, all the better, but I have pretty specialized skills. It took them nearly a year to find me.

My manager reminded me that Zillow pays out its bonuses partially every quarter and that if I wait an additional two weeks that means I accrue about 500 more shares of Zillow stock (which declines in value every day), so I decided to wait for that. I am already leaving a lot of money on the table, but no need to rush out that quickly.

After that I need to head to a neurologist and figure out what is going on. My brother, who is a research scientist (his specialty is mosquitoes and pesticides) thinks we were poisoned as kids (Florida was famous for spraying residential neighborhoods with "safe" pesticides in the 1960s and 1970s), so hopefully it is something treatable for me.

If not, well that I why I want to leave the workforce now. I want to spend the rest of my time doing all of those things that I always told myself I would do "when I finally retire". I am going to paint and game, of course, continue doing more blogging, but also travel more. The wife and I are looking at using AirBnB to visit various places in Panama, for example.

Another project is to get rid of old games and junk that have accumulated that I just know I will never get to again. We all go sometime and the last thing I want to do is burden my wife or the kids with having to get rid of "the crazy old man's toys". Not that I think I will get any money back for it. More that I would like to see it go into someone's hands that would us it. (One of my gaming buddies did the same to me about three years ago, giving me all his Spanish Civil War 15mm troops that he knew he would never get to. I never got to it either.)

Multiple Scales and Multiple Genres

Which leads me to this topic. I have long been pondering getting rid of some miniature collections. But which ones? I rarely considered, when looking at shiny new figures to buy, whether I had all of the necessary accessories to go with those figures. Largely I mean terrain. Sure, there are some things that work across periods, like hills and trees, but building, other structures, even roads can very much be period specific. (It is funny how many times I use roads with 15mm scale tank treads showing for roads in my 15mm Ancients and AWI games, and as foot paths in my 42mm Dark Ages games.)

What scales should I keep? (I have collections in 6-8mm, 15-18mm, 25-28mm, 32mm, and 42mm, with a few, rare pieces in 2mm, 3mm, 10mm, 20mm, 1/72nd, and 54mm.) What genres should I keep? (I have collections in … uh, never mind.)

I always thought about having one (smaller) scale for mass battles and one (larger) scale for skirmish games. But that is still potentially two sets of terrain. Here are the conclusions I came to so far.

6-8mm: I like this scale for one reason, and that is because I now have a tendency to play games on smaller areas, like 20" x 30", 2' x 2' and 3' x 3'. Figures that are 6-8mm work great for this size table. There are just two problems: 1) my eyes are failing so painting them is hard; and 2) I find it very hard to identify what the troops are, especially if I try and use 'realistic' basing with flocking, sand, etc. Some of the best terrain I have for this scale are old Monopoly houses and hotels, which you can buy very cheaply on eBay.

15-18mm: I have a lot of troops and terrain in this scale. The largest collection is probably Ancients/Dark Ages/Medieval, but they are in DBA-army size groups, i.e. about 12 stands per 'army'. Second is AWI and third is WWII. Terrain is largely for WWII. (My terrain for DBA was always flat felt or foam rubber because no one used realistic terrain, as it got in the way of game play.) The ability to paint this is better than 6mm and I can recognize troops better. I keep telling myself that this is what I will focus on.

25-28mm: For me this is the nostalgia scale. I started miniature gaming with 25mm Napoleonics. I still have miniatures that I painted back in the 1970s and 1980s, plus too many old (valuable) Citadel miniatures from the 1980s and 1990s. What I do not have anymore, is terrain. Further, the little terrain I do have is Space Gothic. (You know what I am talking about.) This scale is very paintable, vision-wise, but due to their larger surface area it takes more time. Also, manufacturers are cramming the details on these things. Finally, if you decide to go with this scale, storage of miniatures, and especially terrain, starts to become an issue. On the positive side, other people are more likely to be using this scale. (But I generally provide both sides anyway.) Also, there is the question of whether I can play anything other than skirmish games at this scale if I do not have a 6' x 4' board.

On a side note, Marvel United is basically somewhere around this scale (or 32mm), but I consider it an exception to the 'keep or dump' decision. Unlike traditional miniatures, the figures in Marvel United are very much tokens for a board game and thus the idea that you need terrain for them isn't true. So, I will keep these as they neither fall in the skirmish or mass category for tabletop wargaming. One might include all miniatures from board games, in which the terrain issue doesn't exist, in this same sort of category. That would mean my Star Wars figures from Imperial Assault could be kept.

32mm: Although the new figures from Games Workshop might fall into this category, for me it was Star Wars: Legions. As a rule set it is definitely something I no longer play, nor will pick back up, so these are a definite candidate of figures to clear out.

42mm: The only miniatures that fall into this category are my wooden soldiers that I make. I have a Napoleonic and Dark Ages collection, along with appropriately scaled trees, but not much else in the way of terrain. Felt always works for roads, rivers, plowed fields, etc. As long as I stay away from structures, I am good. Ironically, I have found it easy to play skirmish games with these figures, but mass battles require a 6' x 4' table. I tend to use smaller unit sizes (6 figures or so) anyway I tend not to put a lot of figures on the table. The largest hassle with this scale is the larger surface area requires more paint and time, with a tendency to want to add detail as it is so visible.

I know one of the first tasks once I retire will be to get rid of all my 32mm Star Wars Legion troops, followed by the 28mm Bolt Action, Warhammer, and Warhammer 40,000 figures, both painted and unpainted. If I get rid of all of those, I may not have to make the decision between 15mm and 6mm. The 6mm collection is actually pretty small, physically. Also, there are some incomplete line in my 15mm collection to get rid of like the Marlburians, Polish 17th Century, Renaissance WoFun figures (experiment that failed), and even Napoleonics (my 6mm Napoleonics collection is far larger and more consistent).

My goal is truly not to buy any more.

Recent Painting Videos

As part of my resolve to move away from 25mm to 32mm figures strengthens I realize that I need to either paint or sell all of the 15mm figures that I already have. I have a number of random AWI figures that need treatment, plus have a number of WWII troops from the Flames of War days to be painted, but by far the largest collection is unpainted Ancients. I remember Brookhurst Hobbies had a 50+% sale on Xyston Miniatures – and I love those sculpts – and I purchased a couple hundred dollars worth at sale prices. Maybe 100+ packs? Some insane amount. I have a whole 33 liter/35 quart storage tub filled with these packs. (I admit temporary insanity.)

Nonetheless, I saw a painting video using Army Painter's Speedpaint – which I bought as soon as it became available, in order to give it a try – for historical miniatures and I decided to give them another try.

My initial complaint with Speedpaints is that it was too blotchy, like Citadel's contrast paints. Added to that the paint reactivation issue that Youtubers talked about and it seemed like it was off to a bad start. I gave them another shot anyway and I must say that I think they work better for 15mm because there are no large, flat surface areas (unless you are paining vehicles), so you just don't see the problems. As for reactivation, well I just make sure I seal them with a spray varnish rather than a brush-on one. The one thing I do know is that they do not like traditional acrylic mediums and flow improvers. I would also use a separate set of paint brushes with them (as I do with Citadel contrast paint, India inks, acrylic inks, varnishes, and gesso).

Recently I have been watching more painting videos about all kinds of subjects. One came in my feed from an artist named Warhipster, whom I had never watched before, and he talked about why Citadel contrast paints produce blotches, pools, and stains, and how to use them properly. I swear, if all you do is watch the opening sequence you will see someone paint the smoothest finish with contrast paint I have ever seen, all without dilution or mediums.

It was this video that had me break out the contrast paints once again. Of course, just when I do that Citadel decides to increase the size of their line of contrast paints and have changed their Shades line to use contrast paint formulation, so they are weaker (wash) versions of contrast paint. It makes sense because washes and contrast basically do the same thing, which is appear stronger in the cracks and crevices and weaker everywhere else. With washes (Shade) we just want that tint to be as weak as possible while still maintaining sufficient color strength in the cracks. The bad part about the new line: I hear it will cost $195 to buy all of the new contrast paints. (I am not even sure that includes the new shades.)

I have lots of Arcadia Quest chibi-style figures to paint (in addition to my Marvel United figures). I painted this monk up with contrast paints and shades in very short order.

I started by priming him bright white rather than the typical black then white zenithal. I spent some time inking him with a black micron pen before sealing it with varnish (so the ink would not reactivate from the solvents in the contrast paints). At that point I was ready to color the figure, much like the process in old school comic books (draw, ink, then color). You can see the blotchiness of the colors – I clearly need to watch the video above again, and practice more – but I think the overall effect is acceptable, especially given the time it took to get the figures on the table.

In addition to all of this I reconnected with Matt, my co-author on the Wooden Warriors blog, to see how things are faring with him. (Things are fine, but he finally caught Covid after dodging it for more than a year of teaching classes.) Neither of us have made a post there (I hope to rectify that soon), so I wondered whether he dropped out of the hobby or whether he was simply not making figures anymore. It turns out he has revived his interest in old board games, like Heroquest, and had obtained a set and was merrily painting away. He told me about a Spanish YouTuber living in Malaysia and his channel Rush the Wash. His technique to is zenithal prime and then use contrast paints to get his figures out on the table quickly. (Previously he white primed and used Citadel shades, glazes, and inks – the latter two some very old products – to paint his figures.) Ironically, this was a style I had been trying to accomplish for a long time. A long time ago – we are talking late 1980s here – I used to paint a number of things with Higgins, Windsor & Newton, and Bombay India inks. These days it seems like few places, other than online art supply stores, carry a decent range of colors, so I drifted away from it. However, I purchased a DBA army or three from Timurilank in the Netherlands and I saw that he had a transparent color glaze look to his figures – you can see an example in the first picture of this post on his blog – that I have been trying to replicate for awhile. Rush the Wash was all about that style. Also, you can find videos from a few others on the "slap chop" painting style, but I think that is less distinct. I think my 15mm ancients, above, reflect that style, only without the gloss varnish.

More Marvel United

We have been playing a lot more of this board game, both as a group, face-to-face, and virtually using Tabletop Simulator. The former games give me more incentive to paint my miniatures while the latter allows me to play a campaign with other people around the country.

Here is what I completed on my painting table. First up is Silver Surfer. We played him once and he was powerful, almost too powerful to play against anything but the strongest villains (like Thanos).

Because he comes pre-paint in this chrome silver, all I did was add black ink lines to define him further, and paint the space-y base.

I decided that the first set from the Marvel United X-Men series that I wanted to paint was the Fantastic Four expansion. So I started with the Human Torch. He comes cast in an ugly transparent orange plastic, so I primed him white and used Pro-Acryl transparent red acrylic paint and Bombay crimson India ink for the body, and Pro-Acryl transparent yellow and orange acrylic paints and Bombay yellow and orange India inks for the flames. The base is contrast paint and Pro-Acryl acrylic paints for the highlights and base rim. The only thing I might add is thickening the black to outline the eyes.

In order to try and keep my "one new figure painted a week" schedule I decided to tackle The Thing next. He is contrast paint for the body with acrylic paint highlights. The shorts are Pro-Acryl blue transparent acrylic paints with acrylic paint highlights and the belt is all acrylic paints.

Last up is the villain Killmonger. On one hand I wanted to try a new technique, but on the other I was reluctant to use a different technique than I used for all of my other heroes and villains. This was a black prime with white zenithal and heavy use of contrast paints, shades, and transparent acrylic paints. There is very little opaque acrylic paint used, and it was only used for the highlights.

One of my gaming buddies is the person behind Smooth Blend Studio and is the one who painted many of my Warhammer Underworlds figures, plus the Guardians of the Galaxy expansion for Marvel United. He has opened up his schedule to paint 30 more figures for Marvel United, so expect to see more in the coming three months.


  1. Hope you get medical stuff sorted with a positive result. Seems like you've prepared for the future and so will be ready for what comes. Reducing the collection is always a tough as often a lot as been invested in it that can never be recovered. As someone who doesn't always process information correctly I understood "followed by the 28mm Bolt Action, Warhammer, and Warhammer 40,000 figures, both painted and unpainted." to mean you had forty thousand figures to get rid of. Only the 3rd reading did it register as Warhammer 40K. :-) Thanks for blogging.

    1. Actually, having 40,000 figures and not having enough terrain for that scale is a bit too much, even for me … barely.

  2. Scary stuff, the cognitive thing. Hope that works out well. Last year, I took early retirement (was doing well at work, but totally burned out--and tired of the toxic turn that things had taken as far as the culture). So the opportunity to punch out was perfect, and like you, I was fortunate enough to be able to take it (they offered it to people who had been there more than ten years and who were over 60--I was 61, and I turned 62 this year and just pulled my first SS check last month). Good plan on hobby focus: first thing I did was take about 6 months to sort out my hobby room and books. Next step is going to be sorting and dumping the dead lead and painting mess. It's been a two year effort, to date (that plus gaming of course!). Good luck on your future endeavors. Health concerns aside, if my experience is any indicator, you won't regret the choice.

  3. Anonymous2:22 AM

    Enjoyed your blog for a while now and glad to see you continue. Hard to choose what to sell/keep and I don’t envy your decision. Some of the more collectible items can go for a song and though you don’t want to buy more what about using the funds to plot back in and just get your lead painted. 6mm and 15mm keepers sounds great and money spent on paint jobs could allow you to finish that one on the back burner. Either way it will take your mind off the health issues. Keep going sir!

    1. I am taking a hard look at 6mm again. I still feel like it gets lost in the flock when the figures are on the table.

  4. May i suggest you DON"T wait until "after that" (your retirement) to see a neurologist ? When you know something is wrong, delaying medical attention is almost always a bad idea.

    I hope things work out for the best, but you need to prioritize your health.

    1. I haven't. I scheduled an appointment, but it is next month. Thanks.

  5. Hello Dale,

    Mate you have some bad and good stuff going on in your life right now. The cognitive issue would be very frustrating (understatement of the year), especially knowing how much you are about doing a good job and doing it well. Knowing that it is something out of your control...I hope you find out what it is soon - maybe even the first specialist visit if you are fortunate. At least knowing what it is will be very helpful. And luckily you had a viable plan B in your back pocket in case something happened before your planned retirement date.

    But the good news is when retired, you have more time to do more travel, you can spend more time gaming, and even now you are gaming FTF more (Marvel United).

    Please keep me posted on how the neurologist visit goes (by email or post it here). Your post was a little bit of a shock (not as much as the issue would have been for you of course) and I do care, even if I am halfway around the world :-)

    Oh, and scaling down. Good luck. I am not sure I could pare down the figure collection much. I did sell about half my boardgames (60-ish) over the last five years). But figures? Half of my gaming storage is taken up by 20mm terrain for WW2. I think that is still a keeper for me and so the rest does not seem so bad! All my 6mm takes up a small amount of space (and I seem to be playing more 6mm these days) and my thousands of 15mm ancients are in a really nice ex-museum specimen set of drawers in the living room. All my 20mm WW2 figures and vehicles are in a similarish antique set of drawers next to them. Hidden in plain sight my wife says.

    1. Thanks Shaun, I really appreciate it. You think you were shocked; my wife was floored! LOL But she is just scared because this is all unknown and hit fast. We really needed to sort out the health insurance before we retired and now we just have to do it a few years early. But we are okay.

      I don't like flying anymore, so the first trip is to visit my dad, who is 93, and I will be driving across the country to see him. The wife and I tried it once and the RV had issues, so we ended up turning around. Then we flew and had to rush back. No more rushing back from trips, at least for me. (The wife wants to continue working for the insurance; she still can't get past finding insurance outside of employment. I will get her there though.)

      I did have a visit with my general doctor – I had a checkup due anyway – and he gave me a few tests. I very likely don't have Parkinson's like my older brother. The doctor says people with that have a distinctive gait. My brother shows other physical symptoms that I also don't have. Interestingly both my brother and doctor asked if I had Covid, as they both suspected I have long Covid. Fatigue and mental decline are both symptoms. If I had Covid it was the mildest case a fat, old geezer like me is unlikely to have. I have been a hermit crab because I have so much risk to Covid (despite vaccination). I am not sure there is a test for long Covid yet though.

      Yes, I once swore I would never sell another painted figure ever again. Ah to be young again. But I know what I have not touched and I know there is someone out there that would actually use them. Even if I stick with 15mm and 6mm – oh, and my wooden 42mm – I will likely get rid of some of the 15mm, like the incomplete collections (Marlburians, Polish Renaissance, Napoleonics, who knows what else).


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About Me

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").