Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

Breaking up the pile

It can be daunting to face your own pile of unpainted models. ‘Pile of shame’ is the most common term, though over the years I have tried to consider mine a pile of possibilities. I could try a new painting technique here, or a new basing material there, by taking a model or two from my pile that I don’t have any immediate gaming use for.

Putting aside any notions of shame the pile can still be daunting due to its sheer size.

My pile was just over 1,000 miniatures high at the start of 2019; and today it’s lower than 80. The purpose of this article is to share some of the tips and tactics I used to get there.

Divide and Conquer

Large jobs are best tackled by dividing them into many smaller jobs. ‘Paint all my unpainted models’ is a resolution doomed to failure if you haven’t at least made some plans of how to go about it.

The first step is to start dividing up the models in your pile.  A sea of goblins can be divided into goblin archers, goblin spears, goblin assassins and so on – and each of these can be its own definable goal. Paint those 30 goblin archers is something achievable, right? Then you can move on to those… 80 goblin spears. Where did they come from?

Dividing the pile lets you give yourself lots of smaller victories as you build up towards that goal of painting through everything.

Tracking progress

Visually tracking your progress can be fraught with difficulty, especially at the beginning as things aren’t going to change overnight. While you might not enjoy the process at the start, I strongly recommend taking an accurate inventory of the models you are going to paint. Defining a task is a good step towards getting that task complete.

You can use online resources or you can do what I did and just create your own spreadsheet to track your progress. Mine tells me how many models I own, how many I have painted, and what remains.

To paint or not to paint?

Once you have an inventory, you’ll probably see a few models on there you don’t really want to own or paint. That’s fine – you now have a list of models to sell or give away! Getting that inventory down gives you an idea of the size and shape of your pile, and removing any unwanted models is a fine way to start, and it’s something you can revisit as you progress with the painting.

Rewarding yourself

People respond differently to rewards, so there’s no one true way to set up a system that will work for you. What worked for me was having a reward system that ‘allowed’ me to buy new miniatures. For every 8 miniatures I painted, I could buy one new miniature. This worked for me because it also headed off a lot of impulse purchases. I could be making great progress through my models, but that new set of 10 miniatures I wanted would ‘cost’ me 80 painted models.

Impulse printing can be just as bad for the grey pile, and so if you have moved completely over to your printer (or your friend’s printer!) then a similar allowance system will hopefully keep you from printing your way to an unhappy large pile.

Enjoy your hobby!

Painting tips for large collections is a whole other topic (for another day!). However once you’ve set the goal it’s important to keep going and try not to set yourself back with too many new prints and purchases. But also, be kind to yourself, since that is what you would like others to do. Ultimately, painting through your miniatures is a hobby not a job. The purpose is not to be ‘good’ at it, but to enjoy the process. The purpose of all the tips above is you give you some tools to help build that enjoyment. I hope they work!

A version of this article was first published on MyMiniFactory in January 2022.

8 comments on “Breaking up the pile

  1. templeofthutmos
    February 6, 2022

    Great article and advice! I’ve started trying to paint a squad at a time, and it’s a rewarding feeling to wrap up a unit. That said, I’m going to use “pile of possibilities” in my vernacular from here on out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Guru PIG
    February 6, 2022

    Great advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 6mmwargames
    February 18, 2022

    This is a great system which I have adopted for managing my wargaming projects. The first painting trays (6mm and 28mm) went well, but the second ones I loaded up with too much stuff, so they are turning into a grind. I’m planning my 3rd trays and I’ll scale back how much I put on each!
    Unfortunately it hasn’t helped that much with the impulse buying but I try to finish the year with less models than the previous year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      February 18, 2022

      I have been enjoying watching your trays. For myself I have found that around 100 models per tray is about right, but then that’s mainly 28mm models! While I have reduced my spending on models, a lot of my impulse buying has moved to basing materials, paints, and accessories.


      • 6mmwargames
        February 19, 2022

        I loaded my second 28mm tray up with too much stuff and I think its got about 140 figures on it! The next one will have 90ish.

        Liked by 1 person

      • davekay
        February 19, 2022

        90 sounds like a good amount


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This entry was posted on February 5, 2022 by in the way of the tray and tagged .
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