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Why do we do what we do?

... or a short essay on my motivations for starting a collection.

A little while ago Em restarted her long abandoned pending Wood Elf project. For the last few weeks the army book has been laying around the house, and an increasing number of plastic tree-like bits have been spreading across our hobby space. During a painting binge one evening (I'm currently attempting to paint 70 skeletons in a single batch and incidentally is the main reason why I don't have anything new to show you all) I innocently said...

"I really like the Wood Elf models, but I wouldn't collect any"

To which Em said...

"Well, what does make you want to collect something?"

I was instantly plunged into a massive existential conundrum focused around why I make the hobby choices that I do. I think I might have replied at the time with something along the lines of 'erm... the blue one's?!'.

I didn't draw this, Charle M Schulz did. This is his work that I've borrowed, because it's funny.

However, the question hasn't left me and I've going to try and share my thoughts with you. Hopefully you lot will have some answers as well.

Looking back over the projects that I've done in the past. Nearly all of them fit into the categories below:

Concept: A lot of my smaller projects have always been a conceptual thing. Where I have a really strong core idea that I cannot shake. With these projects all over considerations go out the window. Stuff like tactics and balanced forces or ease of painting are all forgotten. Examples of these include my completely robed Dark Angel successor chapter. My totally not baby blue Space Wolves, and my complete Empire army was spawned from one of our role play sessions (I really did think it would be a really great idea to build the town watch in 28mm). These nearly always are smaller projects, sometimes even just a few models, such as my Dark Eldar that never made it passed 10 models.

Maybe I should have continued with the evil pixies...
Consistency: I really like it when I can get a consistent look around the range of models. I'm not really taking about painting here, but what models are available to me. For example in my Bolt Action 8th army project I really limited my army selection purely based on what I could get from the same miniture company so that the sculpts and styling are the same/similar. I could have included for more effective units but this would have meant going to a different source, which would have looked odd. Whilst we're about the 8th Army, this one also falls into the Concept catagory as I was only picking units that where present at the Siege of Tobruk.

Not the most effective tank ever created but historically accurate, even down to the unit markings
 Composition: I really seem to like armies that has a small core of shiny elites/ruling class and a huge pile of faceless minions surrounding them. All of my big armies have had this pattern, the Undead (Small core of super elite vampires and their literally faceless hordes), the Thousand Sons (Small group of super powerful space wizards with their literally faceless hordes), the Imperial Guard (haughty commanders and their figurativelly faceless hordes of infantry). I think this is because of three reasons. 1) I find it hard to play effectively with a small elite army. I struggle to get the best out of elite armies, but when I have lines of troops and guns and vehicles I know I still have options when I get something wrong.  2) I enjoying getting my General Melchett on and sweeping whole units off the table with a dust pan and brush (Baaaaaa). 3) I'm really crap at remembering character names, so if there are only three characters worth remembering then all the better.

Get this man some more zombies!
Convenience: Sometimes it's purely because it's easier. Oh, what's that I've aquired 17 billion goblins, I guess I'm doing a goblin army then! Seriously through, sometimes I've made selection choices simply because I can get that model at the same time as ordering the rest of the army. I have actually gone back and changed lists because I would have had to order a certain model from a different website, with more waiting, more delivery charges, a second day of hanging around waiting for the post/going to the delivery office to pick them up etc.

A full Ravenwing bike squadron courtesy of the old Battleforce boxed set.
So there are my reasons, as you can see it's mostly about asthetics and what I want to paint rather than things that will be tactically useful. I honestly can't put units in just because they are killy if I don't like them. I'll also totally hamstring myself just to stay true to the concept. I am Authentic!

I'd be interested to hear everyone else's thoughts on why they collect what they collect. Go on, post a comment and tell us why!


  1. Well put, sir. We're very similar in this regard. For me it's almost like a series of conceptual hurdles an army has to leap over for me to do it. First, the look - that'll draw me in. Cool core/troops models are essential. Then, the faction's background has to make me emotionally connect with the wee plastic dudes. Then, thinking of a way I can paint them that will be fast without looking like trash. Everything else - effectiveness, play style etc - I can deal with later.

  2. Similar to Charlie, the look of the thing - and especially the core troops - is key. I get excited by the tone of an army, when they've got a strong story and that carries through into the army design and play style. Although, it is very true that how it plays is almost last in my decision making process. So long as they play how they are written, I'm happy to adapt my middling tactical acumen to fit. I also tend to think in armies, if an army feels like it works in small warbands, I'm happy to do that. If it is a horde of mens then I'll have 3-4000 points planned and an uphill struggle. I want the collection to "look right" for the type of army. Blood Angels company, Imperial Guard regiment, Dark Eldar warband etc.

    It should come as no surprise that a number of the Beard Bunker types are rather of a mind :)

  3. I really like some eldar models but do not collect them. I have no investment in the eldar as a race or as a battlefield force. The aspect warrior cults and the Avatar make the army look mismatched in the same way Word Eaters fighting beside a squad of Night lords lead by an emperors children daemon prince looks mismatched. You could fix that through light conversion and colour schemes but it would feel wrong to mess with established schemes too much.

    I have been tempted by the idea of an eldar corsairs/ranger kill team- I find the idea of small autonomous eldar forces far more appealing than craftworlder autarchs funneling xenos conscripts into portals to the front lines to die inglorious deaths.

    Conversely, a lot of ork models are uninspiring or poorly realised but I very much want to make an ork army and convert it to fit my vision.


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