In hindsight, I got into the hobby in an ass backwards kind of way. Looking back at where I started, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come as a painter and model builder. I’d always been a gamer, but knew nothing about tabletop wargames. It wasn’t until my last years of High School that one of my friends spread the tabletop bug to our group. Having played Final Liberation before I had an idea about the setting and with my push everyone agreed on 40k.
By this point in my life I wanted to get into the Games Industry- so a chance to learn what made these games fun sounded like a good excuse to start. That said, spending long hours hunched over plastic space men didn’t appeal to me. As a poor college kid I couldn’t justify spending much money on paint, supplies, and toys. Without those things, and with most of my time spent chasing skirts and hanging out with my friends, I didn’t have much time to model and paint. My army was almost entirely proxies from the shop keeper at our local game shop. Despite that, I played tons of 40k. The game, list building, and setting really grew on me and I finally made the plunge and got the core books.
I debated between starting a Tau, Chaos, or Imperial Guard army. I chose Chaos, swayed by good buddy Panascope and his firm belief that the modeling opportunities and the chance to run traitor guard down the road was right for me. This picture, which was also in the Final Liberation PC game, was the Chaos aesthetic that really clicked with me. I wanted an old archaic legion lost in the warp, but going through the 3.5 codex all I saw were skulls, spikes, and mutations everywhere. I wanted a renegade army of professionals, with 10 thousand years of experience damnit, not some guy with a bear pelt covered in spikes. That’s how I settled on the Iron Warriors- they were the cleanest, most organized, and most ‘legion like’ CSM warband around. Ontop of that, they had lots of heavy support, and I love me some artillery. This focus on the traitor legions sowed the seeds for my eventual return to the hobby years later.
Here’s the first squad I ever painted. I bought all the parts from ebay sellers along with a few Iron Warrior bits directly from Games Workshop (back then you could place bits orders directly through them!). I remember sitting down that thinking ‘how hard could this be’- 4 hours later I’d painted a single marine. I chose white and mustard yellow because I wanted a really clean looking army that popped on the table. All my brushes and paints were cheap things I bought at the craft store and since I’d never modeled anything before I accidentally kept mold lines everywhere (I just assumed they were parts of the armor). I really enjoyed the modeling (big boy legos), but didn’t care for the painting. About the time the 3.5 Chaos codex was retired I commissioned a painter to do 40 marines in the style above. He ended up ruining my models and taking my money. Then the 5th edition chaos codex appeared out of the blue, invalidating my armies while adding nothing new. Shortly after that, our local shopkeeper died. Ed and his shop “Meyers Keep Hobbies” was where my group of cool, socially capable, and well mannered friends all played. All of these things combined meant that my hobby died with Ed. I purchased a few of his models after the funeral and still have them in my closet today. I thought I’d repaint them for use in my own army, but somehow I don’t have the guts.
For the next 4 years I would occasionally buy $50 worth of bits on ebay to see my Iron Warrior vision through, spend many hours converting them, and then abandon the project because it turned out looking bad for how much time I invested into it. Looking back I can see the seeds for my love for conversions- back then it was cheaper than getting anything directly from GW and I could make the army I really wanted. To this day I still convert practically everything and have never ordered anything from GW except for these first few bits. The white and mustard yellow also made it’s way into my first actual army.
I can’t say I really got into the hobby when I was younger. It was too expensive, took too much time, and compared to many games the rules were pretty dated. In some ways, its amazing that I came back to it, but I did. My persistence with modeling projects also ended up paying off in the long run- but that’s a story for another post.