The Reckoning! – Organizing My Warhammer Collection

It’s been a while since my last post and I have done very little regarding Warhammer since then.  Due to a variety of personal and professional reasons I pretty much just dropped out of the hobby.  I didn’t expect to be out for long but as more and more time passed it became more and more difficult to even think about getting back into things.  In other words, a momentary overload devolved into a long term hobby funk.  I never fully lost interest, I have continued to spend a lot of time at work daydreaming about various projects, but it just became a bit overwhelming.  I can’t just jump back in where I left off because I’ve lost my momentum and I’m just not inspired enough by what I was working on last to rekindle that spark of motivation.  In this article I discuss how I am organizing my Warhammer collection and creating a plan to get myself back on track.

Warhammer is an overwhelming hobby!

Let’s face it, this hobby is a lot of work.  Just figuring out what you want in your army can take hours upon hours of research, evaluation, and consideration.  The models aren’t cheap so you don’t want to dump a bunch of cash into something you won’t be happy with later.  Not to mention the time it takes to assemble and paint everything.  If you’re anything like me you agonize over what color scheme to use for your army, then for each squad you agonize over how to make it fit that overall scheme.  Even if you decide to go with one of the standard GW color schemes you still have to figure out how to actually pull that off in an effective way.  GW has a funny habit of telling you that a single coat each of Base, Layer, and Shade will make your model look just like the ones in their glossy photos but we all know that’s a crock.  That may get you a reasonable table-ready paint job but if you want to go beyond that you’ll need to figure it out on your own or find a tutorial online that works for you.  It is an overwhelming hobby to get into, and stepping back into it can be just as overwhelming.  You may be past the initial confusion of someone trying to figure out how to get started but knowing what you’re about to get back into can sometimes be worse than not knowing what you are getting into.

Personally, I have accumulated a fairly large collection of models over the years.  Many of these, probably most of these, are still unpainted or even un-assembled.  A lot of them are used pieces I picked up cheap, meaning they need to be fixed.  Or I’ve had them sitting around for so long that they are horribly outdated or broken from years of reckless storage.  So on top of everything else I have this mountain of neglected plastic and pewter looming over me.  Painted or not, my collection spans several different armies and stretches back through the 90’s.  When you barely know what you have to work with it’s pretty hard to know where to start!

Why I'm organizing my Warhammer collection
That’s not even the whole pile!

Every project needs a plan.

The key to any overwhelming problem is to break it down into executable pieces.  Identify your goals, identify the steps required and obstacles to address, plan your action items, and be prepared to adjust your plan as situations change.  So here is my plan of attack:

  1. Determine my initial goals for each army.
  2. Figure out what I’m working with: I will create an inventory list of my models including Faction and level of completion.
  3. I will then calculate the points cost of the models/units that are complete so that I can determine what I actually have as field-able armies.
  4. At this I can re-evaluate my goals for each army and build a more specific plan.
  5. Once I determine which models fall into my core plan I can decide what of the remaining models I want to keep and whether there’s anything I’d rather sell off.
  6. Finally, I can work on some models! My hope is that by digging through everything and creating an achievable plan will help rekindle some of my passion for the hobby and focus it into action.  I will update the list as I complete or liquidate models, and as I acquire more in the future.

Step 1 is to lay out my goals for each faction.  I want to have a 1500 point minimum foundation for each of my primary factions: Orks, Reavers (counts as Space Wolves,) and Rebel Grots (counts as Imperial Guard.)  I also acquired a collection of Chaos Space Marines from a friend which I plan to field as allies to my Rebel Grots (using IA13 Renegade rules for the Grots instead of IG.)  Because the CSM will start as an allied force I just need a base HQ and single Troop choice to start and I won’t need to fill in points.  That is good because I want my CSM force to be pretty conversion heavy so the very low “buy-in” to get them on the table will allow me to focus on the fun projects and not be overwhelmed by trying to get enough points pulled together.  The Eldar I will tally but otherwise shelf for now.  They’re just not what I’m interested in working on lately.  I also have a bunch of Necromunda and other assorted models that I am going to label as Renegades for now since they will most likely be used as Cultists or Renegades.  So essentially I plan to complete three 1500 point armies and an allied force before I move on to modelling at whim.  Easy, right?  Well, it would probably be madness to shoot for that if I were starting from scratch but I’ve been painting models since 1990 so I must have made some kind of progress by now.

Tanks: On the sprue, finished, and everything in between!
Tanks: On the sprue, finished, and everything in between!

Enough stalling, time to start organizing!

Step 2 sounds like the tedious one and to many people it would be.  In my case it will be a chance to reacquaint myself with my collection.  Just handling the models makes me want to start working on them again and getting it all sorted out will make things feel a lot more manageable.  I can stop thinking “maybe I need this…” or “I have so many of these…” and actually break it all down to concrete data.  I have actually been working on this for almost two weeks now and I’ve made it through most of my collection.  So far I’ve tallied over 900 models in every state from “still on the sprue” to “fully painted.”   Counting the assembled models was pretty straightforward.  Each model is a model.  Unassembled or partially complete vehicles are similarly uncomplicated.  For unassembled infantry models I counted up how many legs and torsos I had for each type and used the smaller of those two as the number of models.  I didn’t bother counting arms or heads because these are usually plenty of extras there.  I did count up my loose special and heavy weapons for easy reference but I didn’t include them in the model count.  I also tallied the points cost of the painted models in each of the three targeted factions.  I included their primary armaments and modelled wargear in the points cost but I didn’t include additional grenades or similar upgrades.  In cases where a model could have different points costs I used the lowest cost version that I would field the model as.  Here are the totals so far:

FactionModelsPoints Completed
Generic Marines480
Grots (Astra Militarum)1581370
Reavers (Space Wolves)1242190


I still have more models to sort through but I don’t think there’s anything left that really impacts this exercise.  I have a small collection of Adepta Sororitas, some more Necromunda models, and a few odds and ends.  I’ll tally them soon but right now I have enough to start getting a handle on my situation.  So it looks like I’m pretty close to the initial goal of three 1500 point armies as my foundation.  The point costs only include models that I considered complete.  Some are better than others and maybe I’ll decide to touch some of them up at some point, but they’re painted to a good enough standard that I feel I could take them to an event with painting scores and not lose points for them.  I’m all set on the Orks and Reavers.  I’m actually a bit surprised how many points I have ready to go for the Reavers.  I need another 130 points for the Rebel Grots which I can achieve relatively quickly by finishing one of the partially painted units in the army.  Of these I am most interested in working on the squadron of Armored Sentinels I started working on  two years ago.  So that’s the project I’ll use to get back into the hobby!

Armored Sentinels with airbrushed base coat.
Armored Sentinels with airbrushed base coat.

I’ve made significant progress toward organizing my Warhammer collection and I’ve determined a project to get me back into painting that is both interesting to me and helps me achieve one of my primary goals.  This helps me feel less overwhelmed by the looming mountain of plastic and I’m starting to feel excited about painting again!  I can also use my new model database to start allocating models toward potential projects and to figure out how many of these models I really want to hang on to and which ones I can get rid of.  Every time I switch armies I tally up what I have for the force I am moving toward because I find it helps me set direction and get motivated.  This is the first time I’ve done so across my whole collection, and the first time I’ve put everything into an electronic database that I can maintain going forward.  I can also expand on this database in the future by adding different qualifiers such as Force Org slot or whatever other factors I might want to use to quickly search and organize the collection.  Right now I feel this exercise has been a huge help for me, and I hope that by sharing my process I might be some small help to someone else out there.

  • Great job getting that organized. That’s no small task considering your collection. Looking forward to seeing some hobby updates.

    • Yeah, it’s about time I got things a little more organized. It’s amazing how many models you can accumulate over the years! I have started working on the sentinels a little bit so maybe I’ll have something to post pictures of in the near future.

      I also need to make up some more foam trays. It doesn’t make much sense to paint up a bunch of models just to throw them loosely into a shoebox!

      • Crap. I have to make some trays too. I might need to order more foam. I assume you’re good on foam?

        • Actually, I have plenty of foam for infantry trays but I just used up my vehicle foam last night making a tray for Basilisks. So when you’re ready to put in an order I’ll jump with you.

          • Sounds good. I have to sit down and figure out what I need, and I’ll let you know.

  • Hey dude, that is a lot of projects you have. I find having too many armies from the same system can be quite demoralising. Have you thought about selling some (especially ones you have done little to no work in yet) and concentrating on just one or two? I think that would help the hobby mojo a lot.

    • I’ve definitely considered selling parts of the collection and have actually sold a fair number of models off on ebay over the years. But that also takes effort and time! For me the first step is to get back into the hobby. Once I’m over the initial angst of getting started I find modelling and painting to be energizing and I really need that boost right now to overcome the general ennui that’s settled into my life. But having everything cataloged should make it a lot easier for me to identify what models are really just dead weight when I’m ready to pull the trigger and lighten the load.

  • Turkadactyl

    I go through my collection every so often to get a bearing on stock and what projects to work on next. When the Canadian dollar was really strong a few years ago I did a lot of purchasing. I’m set up for models but what about time? I’ve sold some of my collection over the last couple of years. It was a nice release. I was feeling overwhelmed so it wad good to send the models off to a home where they will get used.

    I keep meaning to send GW a memo to stop releasing new gorgeous models. I’m looking at you Genestealet Cult and Betrayal At Calth.

    • I usually find it reinvigorating to take stock of what I have when I switch armies but this is the first time I’ve cataloged the entire collection instead of just looking at what I have for the army I want to reboot. Just putting numbers to everything is a big relief for me.

      GW’s rampant release of enticing models is a bit of a mixed blessing. I really don’t need to add to the already prodigious pile! On the other hand the thought of rewarding myself with some shiny new boxes is a good incentive to sell off some of the old stuff that’s gathering dust. Part of my personal strategy is to temporarily limit my hobby spending to only using funds generated through liquidation of current stock.

      By the way, doesn’t BaC look like a fantastic way to start a new Marine or CSM army?

      • Turkadactyl

        My strategy is the exact same. I try to limit my spending of new models by generating a cash flow from selling stock I will most likely never use again or have no chance of painting probably ever. I just assembled the Cataphractii. The lightning claws look menacing. Really looking forward to painting those.

        • The Cataphractii do look nice! Are the parts somewhat interchangeable with other terminator models? They could be a source of interesting conversion materials…

          • Turkadactyl

            Heads are not. I believe the rest can be.

            • Nice! It could be fun to work them into my Space Wolf army. So hard to resist…

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