Fast and Efficient: Planning and Painting Your New Army/Detachment

Hey guys, Cavalier checking in, commission painter for Frontline Gaming and co-host of Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast back with my thoughts on expanding or starting a new army in a time efficient way.

One of the things I hear so frequently in and around the hobby in regards to getting a new detachment or new army painted quickly is: I dont know have the time. Trust me I feel you. Commission painting 7 days a week,  preparing and recording a podcast twice a month, painting my own models and playing games doesnt leave me with a lot of time either- and thats just my hobby stuff, nevermind going to the gym, eating and sleeping! lol

I always feel the pinch on time and sometimes get overwhelmed when thinking about how I’m going to find the time to add a new detachment to my army when I’ve got to change things up to adapt to new challenges on the tabletop, especially since I dont include any units or models that arent fully painted in my army lists (a standard I do NOT hold my opponent to BTW). Yet the thing that always sees me through is by tenaciously sticking to my plan.

Planning Out a new Army or Detachment

The first step for me, whether its for a narrative driven army, or meta driven detachment being added to an already completed army, the first and most important thing for me is writing an army list. As I detailed in my article last week I’m a very narrative driven dude, regardless of what arena I’m playing in. However I’ve found one of the quickest ways to get discouraged is by purchasing a hodgepodge of models just because they look awesome, consequently finding myself 500 dollars deep in a collection of models that I cannot incorporate into low points games because I dont have a legal list, or who I fall out of love with when I realize half the stuff I just bought wont make the cut once I start adding boring stuff like troops.

My go-to example of this is an Iyanden style army. So I get all pumped up to make an Iyanden army. I’m gonna go all out and I buy a Wraithknight, 2 Wraithlords and a Wraithseer from Forgeworld. I go out spend a ton of cash get all those awesome looking models and realize… damn. I’ve bought my favorite units, but these dont even make a legit detachment! A lot of times this will lead to those models being half-started and shuffled off to the “pile of shame” having never seen the tabletop. When instead by simply writing up an army list before making your purchases you can get a great, playable foundation with a manageable handful of exciting units that have the realistic goal of seeing the tabletop in short order. My recommendation is to start with an HQ and 2 troops so you can get a basic Patrol ready to go also enabling you to get used to the paint scheme before moving on to the more exotic showcase type units.

Spirit Seer

Wraithguard x5- D-Scythes

Wave Serpent- Shuriken Cannons

Guardians x10- Shuriken Platform

Guardians x10- Shuriken Platform

Wraithknight- Wraithcannons

Here for example is a nice 1000 point army that gives you not only the feel for Eldar in general, but also Iyanden. At only 6 units you have a nice manageable collection so-as not to feel overwhelmed that can realistically see the tabletop within a month to 6 weeks if you paint one unit a week. Which leads me to my second point- time management!

Time Management

This to me is the most critical element of the plan. By sticking to a set time table you end up saving yourself so much hassle in the long run and ultimately allow you to have fun actually playing games with a fully painted force quicker than if you screw around dipping in and out of various projects. A common analogy I make is going to the gym. I dont want to go the gym, but I want to be in decent shape and lead a healthy injury free life so I make sure I go 4x a week. By doing that I’ve got no guilt about lack of dedication, I’m healthy, strong and a thousand times happier because I’m not worrying about stuff (I’ve got chronic pain from old injuries that is kept in check by going to the gym too). But back to 40k. By sticking to my timetables and my method in general I’ve enabled myself to go through 6-9 months without painting anything for my own armies and just play the game with a nice mix of detachments and lists that are all fully painted and very competitive on the tabletop.

My general rule is to build and paint a unit a week. The cool thing about that approach is that you dont need to have a set amount of time each day. You can binge paint on the weekend and just do the odd or hour or 2 throughout the week. You can also make your life infinitely easier  by setting a realistic painting standard for yourself. If you are not a painter at heart, why bother holding yourself to a 3 stage highlight standard? IMO you can get a great looking army painted with no highlights at all! Basecoats, a wash and then reapply the basecoat looks fantastic and it paints really quick. In fact I wrote an article about that as well!

Now you may say… a unit a week? Thats seems like an intense period of dedication. You know what? Relatively speaking it is. However, the point is that by setting aside this specific period of time to get the project done, you can ease off the painting taking an extended break or just painting periodically as you have a playable detachment ready to go and you dont have a mountain of models hanging over your head waiting to be painted. This is how I do things and only paint my own stuff when I want to add the odd unit, spending the rest of my time doing commissions, playing games and doing my podcast.

No Highlights Paint Job!


By planning out a managable list and getting myself to paint a unit a week I finally achieved one of those ultimate bucket-list items for every long time Eldar player… a playable Harlequin force! I started with a Troupe Master, Troupe and a Starweaver which took me 3 weeks to paint. Before adding 2 boxes of bikes, with each bike taking me a week to paint. So in the first month I got myself a playable Patrol Detachment, in the second month I expanded it to a very respectable degree and now all those units have found themselves in my TAC list that is currently kicking in the teeth of the lesser races in my local escalation league. I never felt overwhelmed at any point and in the end landed myself a collection of models that not only function on there own, but can be added to my larger Aeldari army and can be expanded in its own right to a fully fledged army. The great thing is everything is painted and I’m not stuck with anything I’m not going to use.

Since I’ve got nothing in my pile of shame, it enables me to throw myself into playing games as much as possible, or working on fun stuff like terrain, campaigns or local events. Anyway hope you found the article encouraging in some way. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

If you are interested in exclusive Dark Eldar and all things Aeldari coverage check out our podcast Splintermind the Dark Eldar Podcast!




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About Cavalier

Commission Painter for Frontline Gaming + Co-Host of the Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast

2 Responses to “Fast and Efficient: Planning and Painting Your New Army/Detachment”

  1. Ibushi
    PrinceIbushi October 27, 2018 8:10 am #

    Great article Cav, I find this approach really inspiring!

    Haha ‘the pile of shame’ is so true – focus on what you need and make a deadline for yourself

    Always doing ‘troops first’ has been helpful too, to iron out the kinks like you say

    Also for the quick schemes, if you arent painting super regularly then make sure to write down the paint combinations so you dont get it slightly wrong later…

    • Avatar
      Cavalier October 28, 2018 9:29 am #

      Thanks bud. Remembering the recipe is always clutch

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