Musings of a Hobby Hipster: Back to the Future

Tell me, “Future Boy”, who’s President of the United States in 1985?

Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown, PhD

Doc Brown might not have believed that in 1985 Ronald Regan would be President of the United States of America any more than Duncan from 2018 would believe that Duncan from 2021 would sell a painted army and use it to fund purchasing the same army again – yet here we are, but how on earth did we get here?


I really believe that an army is never truly finished if you are a collector. You might get to the stage where you have enough units painted to play games, or even enough to swap some units in and out and try more things but you will keep adding and adding. 

What happens then when you leave gaps in time between adding things? In my case, my painting gets better and I refine the way I paint and this gets me into trouble. 

The beginnings of doubt creep in… 


What triggered all of this was painting my US Infantry Division for Normandy. I know, not the most logical place for a Mid War project to snowball out from, but I think in painting the armour for my support options, as well as adding Shermans and Stuarts into the mix, I really think I nailed how I wanted dusty olive drab tanks to look.

This is an issue only given the context that this is exactly how I imagined my Mid War Fighting First army to look… and it didn’t. It didn’t because of a number of factors:

My original Lee tanks

Painting to a Deadline

Originally, my Fighting First army was created and painted to attend Warfare in 2019. This meant I was on a clock to get everything sorted ahead of that to allow me to practice with the army. This is turn meant getting $&!% done. Painting to a deadline can be a tremendous motivator to get stuff done (looking at you Fez!) but the flipside of that is that you barrel through getting EXACTLY what you need to get done… well, done.

Generally, this also leaves you a little burnt out from the project and so you don’t expand on your force immediately after finishing it. This means to add new units you need to revisit this in the future and that in turn means matching new units into your army.

The ARP with bases that I would now only use for Europe. Again irksome.

With a Time Delay

The issue is I left this army alone for too long before coming back to it. My painting evolved and even things like the style of my basing changed, leading me on a critical path to a decision I wasn’t comfortable making.

Had I gone back within six months, say, and popped in another unit or two it might have been fine but I didn’t… In fact, to compound issues further, I had half units left to complete so, even within a formation, things would be decidedly different.

For example, I had painted one Armoured Rifle Platoon and had the HQ, second platoon, 37mm guns, and HMGs all ready to add. But I didn’t want to.
I was stuck between adding units that wouldn’t match what I already had or painting these new additions up in a way where I knew they would match but I wouldn’t be happy with the result. The upshot of this all was inertia.

The M10 formation with M20s doubling up ready for Normandy but would never see play. 

Leading to Not Playing

In fact, this stalemate became so crippling I didn’t want to play with the army at all. The mere thought of it annoyed me. The notion that I was stuck was irritating and the force I had wasn’t working for me in my head or on the planning table either.

This is a fairly extreme situation, but I don’t think I am alone here. So what to do? 

New shiny M10s for Normandy

By Sparking a Revisit to the Past

This Gordian Knot needed cutting.

And sometimes that really is the only resort. I say this because as I write this I’m considering how I revamp an EW New Zealand Divisional Cavalry formation to make it legal in V4 using Armoured Fist. So why sell a perfectly usable painted army in one instance and revamp another? 

I guess it boils down to feeling right (which is very naff) and also the intermingling of old and new units. Essentially the difference boils down to whatever I did with what I had for Fighting First, I was never going to be happy with it; it was never going to work in my head and ultimately this is something that was going to bother me ad infinitum.

And Ultimately Being Happy

The 1985 Ronald Regan special

This is the list that I am now pondering – it is not 100% a carbon copy I what I possessed but it has all the same basic building blocks. The shift to the Armoured Rifle Platoon formation stands me in good stead if I want to switch out the Lee tanks and pop in some Shermans for use in Sicily or Italy and I think it is a decent all-rounder list for use in Tunisia and against Axis forces on the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.

I will also have some options with some spare Shermans and an Armoured Recon Patrol knocking about in the pile of shame so I’m actually glad that, on this occasion, I’ve given myself a whole pile of extra work to do in the coming months. 

The planned style of basing for my new US forces for Mid War

I’ll be back soon with a cup of single-origin, cold brew flat white artisan coffee with more thoughts from the hipster’s beard.

– Dunc

One thought on “Musings of a Hobby Hipster: Back to the Future

  1. I’ve a pretty large collection at this point, stretching back nearly 10 years. But I don’t collect points based armies, I do companies. As such, my painting style has changed significantly.

    I remember being given sage advice a while back, that your better to sell old minis and buy new ones than repaint old ones. But also that if you spend too much time updating what you’ve done, you’ll never get round to doing anything new.

    When starting a new company now, I aim to paint everything in one go, to keep each unit the same style. I’ll try to match things in where there has been a delay, but generally I leave the old paint jobs alone. At gaming distance on a 17′ by 6′ table, you can’t tell…

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