Warhammer 40k: Hobby and the First Year of Parenthood

Warhammer 40K is my main hobby, I find it very relaxing and rewarding to paint, and playing the game is a great mental break from day-to-day stresses. I’ve also used it as a distraction to get through some stressful times in the past. So when my little one arrived, I feared that I may have to give up the hobby.

This article is about how my hobby faired in the first year of parenthood. Whether you’re expecting a child or suddenly find yourself time poor, hopefully you will find some of these strategies useful.

The first six months

I’m breaking the year down into two very distinct halves; with our baby there was a point where she got into a regular sleep pattern and I could rely on getting some time in the evening. All babies will be different, but for us this started from about 6 months. I’m not going to lie, not a lot of hobbying was done before then; all I did was a basic contrast paint on the Lost Patrol box set.

My advice for this time would be to have a simple project on stand by for those occasions you can get some hobby time in. Rare are times you find yourself with the time and energy to do something, so have it ready to go when you can.

As a little bonus, my little one found the Tabletop Titans battle reports very soothing. So I was kept entertained and my little one would get some sleep. So worth knowing you don’t need lullabies all the time!

With very little time to hobby, and finding myself up at all times during the night, I found window shopping armies a great distraction. I would pick an army to plan out, and then put the notes aside once finished. I planned the armies using the free tool BattleScribe. At one point we’d been on a car journey and the baby had fallen asleep just as we got to the destination. Not wanting to wake her up, I spent an hour sitting in the car with her putting together an all tank Imperial Guard list.

During this time my work from home coronavirus setup had pushed me out of my painting desk but I actually found painting on the sofa helpful. You don’t get a lot of free time so it helps a lot if you and your partner can spend time together while doing your respective hobbies.

The next six months

Having a bit more time in the evenings I could really get things moving on the hobby front. While I have tried smaller formats like Kill Team, I get most joy from 2000pt Warhammer 40k games, so for me the volume of models painted is most important. As such I used the following tactics:

Get off the hype train

The fastest way to a large pile of shame, is having minimal time to paint and making hype train based purchases. I’ve pretty much unplugged from Warhammer TV, and only drop into the Warhammer Community page every month or two.

I confess to getting FOMO when the Indomitus box set was sitting on the shelf of my local gaming store and I walked away, but looking back I’m happy that I passed on it. There’s no point in having good value models, when your current good value models are still unfinished. If you do buy box sets, keep the models in the shrink wrap so you can eBay it later if you get buyers remorse. Remember, assembled and primed is not half done.

Additionally, there are plenty of people on eBay breaking down these sets into individual squads. You just have to wait a bit longer, and you can be a bit more targeted on what you actually want. Save time and be the person buying the squads, not breaking down the boxes.

Skipping Assembly and Priming

Being off the hype train and taking advantage of eBay, you can go one step further and buy already assembled and even already primed models. With painting being the main thing for me, bypassing the other steps was great. It may take a couple of months for the models you want to turn up, but keeping an eye on saved eBay searches can be another hobby based thing you can do if you only have a few minutes spare.

Reduce Your Pile of Shame

Once I’d start getting back into the hobby there was a pre-existing large pile of shame. I had a lot of assembled or assembled and primed models, most of which as ‘allies’ or new armies. Being motivated to paint Custodes at the time, I stuck with those models and practically everything else was sold on eBay. It allowed me to get to a point to where I could paint things I was motivated to paint, rather than feel the pressure to paint stuff that had been sitting around for ages.

Keep Your Backlog Small

I’ve found that having a small queue of assembled models that I’m motivated to paint is the best way to approach painting. Motivation to paint them should be the key driver, rather than if the model is good value now.

Keep in mind how long it’s going to take you to paint something. I know a squad of models is going to take me at minimum of two weeks to paint. Therefore I tend not to order anything until I’m about 3 weeks away from running out of models to paint. I would say, however, in these COVID times I have had an emergency box set stashed away in case an order doesn’t come through, but it remains unopened.

Keep Lists

I have two lists that help keep my backlog short. The first list is everything I want to paint in this backlog of models (whether I own the model or not). The aim is to finish this batch before moving onto the next one. I keep this list in an app called Figure Case, as it’s satisfying to see the progress as things turn from yellow (assembled) to green (painted).

The second list is what I want to paint for my next batch which will contain about three months of painting. This second list is the real money saver, because I’ll change my mind a dozen times before I’ve completed the current batch. In my mind what’s on the list is what I’m going to buy, so I do still get a buzz from putting stuff on the list (rather than placing an order), as I’ve already alluded to though, when it comes to buying stuff for the next batch I may have already gone off the idea. This is a great hype train defence.

Reduce Your Batch Size

I used to batch paint, e.g. paint the gun on all 20 marines, then go back and paint the trim on all 20 etc. However, while technically less efficient, with having a lot less time to paint, I find it motivates me more to see complete models. The sweet spot for me now is 3 models.

Adjust Your Standards

In order to get a similar model output to before, but with reduced time, I simply had to reduce my standards:

  • Simple bases, using texture paints
  • Simple gemstones using the gemstone technical paints
  • Heavy use of contrast paints

I know contrast paints are a bit controversial. From a purely painting perspective, close up shots in a light box, side by side, I find contrast inferior. But, on the table, from three feet or more away where I usually see models, there’s very little difference. With limited time the ‘paint by numbers’ approach with contrast rather than applying multiple layers, allowed my model count to be much higher.


To summarise; in the early months have a simple project on stand by when you do get the chance to paint, but you are probably best to stick to army research and army building during this time. Once you do get time to paint, keep your backlog of models small, and only build and prime enough for a month or two of painting. And finally stay off the hype train.

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