Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. Thus, though we have heard of stupid hast in war, cleverness has never been seen in long delays. 

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter II: Laying Plans, 4-6.

Up until I went to college, I was a hardcore tabletop roleplayer. Wargaming didn’t really interest me at all.

Oh sure, the miniatures looked nice, but they were expensive. Back then, growing up in small town Iowa, wargaming pretty much meant Warhammer. 

Then I discovered historical wargaming and fell into a group that played World War II microarmor games, Seven Years War, Napoleonics. Through these games I developed an even greater appreciate for history.

I still ran and played Dungeons & Dragons. But I was hooked on wargaming.

And did you know that historical figures are often less expensive than Warhammer figures?  And did you know that even Warhammer figures might go on sale at deep discount if, say, a local gaming or hobby store goes out of business?

At some point I picked up one of those Army Deal boxed sets for cheap, which had about 70 figures. 28mm.

It’d be the cornerstone of the project I had in mind: a capstone to an epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign, where I’d combine wargaming with roleplaying.

It’d be an EPIC SIEGE. Like Minas Tirith from The Lord for Rings. Like the Fall of Constantinople from the pages of history.

If I could only finish about a unit a week for the next 6 months, or even a year, I could have that EPIC SIEGE ready to go before I finished college.

I told my idea to the wargaming group. The younger players said it sounded like a cool plan. The veteran wargamers, a collective of college professors and alumni, just sort of smiled and nodded their heads.

One of these wargamers was The Bearded Bastard. But I didn’t know him to be such a bastard at the time. I was just a newbie wargamer with high aspirations and a growing losing streak.

Did I mention I had that college thing? Did I mention that I still ran D&D?

Three months later the Bearded Bastard caught me using some of my unpainted and half-painted miniatures in a little skirmish game I was running. He shook his head.

“Why do you have unpainted miniatures on the tabletop?”

The other players, who were from my current RPG group, didn’t know what to think. Heck, I didn’t know what to think. “Well, I’m just running a little skirmish game.”

He picked up a painted miniature, a paladin with golden armor. “Did you paint this?”

“Um… no.” My players owned the few painted figures on the tabletop. It was embarrassing. Then I got mad. “Hey, it’s my game. The miniatures will get done.”

“Do you even have a single miniature finished?”

This guy was becoming a real bastard.

“Then how do you expect to have a massive siege done before you graduate?”

It got worse. He picked up one of my half-painted monstrosities and took a closer look at it.

“Do you even like painting miniatures?”

What a bastard. I told him to get the hell out so I could finish running the game.

Afterwards, while I spent another night struggling through Business Calculus, I thought about his question: Do you even like painting miniatures?

How could I know? I hadn’t finished a single figure, let alone a unit.

I had never even finished a few of the old D&D figures I had lying around, and none of the minis from old games like HeroQuest had even seen a touch of paint.

The real folly here is I tried to take on too much.

Like many new wargamers, I bought more miniatures than I could feasibly paint. As the project drew out, I became more disillusioned about my prospects on finishing such a grand project.

Painting miniatures is similar to an actual campaign in war. The longer it lasts, the greater the chance for disillusionment. All those miniatures to paint, and so little time.

It’s best to start small, with short “campaigns” of painting miniatures. A series of smaller projects as a opposed to a long and drawn out campaign.

Now, after many false starts and distractions, I do have enough figures for that EPIC SIEGE. But it took a long time. Years. Now I just need to build the terrain…

Next on The Art of Wargaming:

How to Forage on Your Enemies (and Friends).