Is there a better feeling in this hobby as finishing an army project? No. I think not. Whether it’s for a tournament, campaign or event game; seeing your fully painted force on the table is pure joy. The journey probably took months (maybe even years) and once completed, there is one that question remains – now what?
I can only speak for myself but what happens to me is once the tournament is over, that’s it. The army is placed into the display case and will never hit the hobby desk again. The troops will still march out for pick-up games and other events but the collection itself will not change. It’s almost like the army has been locked in crystal. The journey is over. I’ve got four Bolt Action examples in my display case right now:
- British Chindits
- North Africa Italians
- North Africa US
Each one of these collections is at least 1,250pts of fully painted, tournament-ready troops that have taken to the battlefield on many occasions. However each one of these armies was created for a specific event/tournament and once the goal was achieved, the journey ended. Although I’ve played dozens of games over the years with them, I have not expanded these forces at all. That’s right. Since their “completion” I have not added any models to these armies. Not a single one. Examples include:
|2019 – North Africa US||–|
|2018 – Kriegsmarine||2018 – Winter Germans|
|2017 – Partisans||2017 – North Africa Italians|
|–||2016 – British Chindits|
Four of those six forces have not been updated since their initial debut – for the Chindits that was six years ago! However, two of these armies, the Kriegsmarine and the Winter Germans have indeed been updated. And this, at long last, brings us to the topic at hand, the joys of revisiting an army.
I don’t know any hobbyists who play the same army forever. Variety is the spice of life and it’s certainly the special magic that keeps players coming back to tabletop games. But starting a new army is hard. It’s work. It’s intimidating. It’s a mountain to climb. So, how can we add variety without dedicating a massive amount of time and resources? By pivoting.
I’m always on the lookout for unique and thematic forces to use in Bolt Action and with the release of Campaign: Italy: Soft Underbelly I had another chance to create another non-standard force using my existing collection as a starting point. Using the rules for the Herman Goring Division (HGD) Panzergrenadier Squads and the Kampfgruppe East HDG Theater Selector I had the perfect template to bring the Kriegsmarine back to the table with new and exciting rules. The Unprepared unit rule works thematically to represent the unknowable infantry combat abilities of men who trained for naval service and the additional Artillery slot in the Theater Selector is exactly was I was looking for as a representation of the U-boat deck guns (FlaK 88 and FlaK 38). Thematically this force could also represent the Kriegsmarine ferry crews that shipped the retreating German forces across the Strait of Messina from Sicily to mainland Italy. The crew of a Siebel ferry is another possible theme for this force.
I only purchased three new kits from Rubicon (Heavy Autocannon, Quad-Light Autocannon, Sd.Kfz 7/1 half-track) to kick-start this project. The rest of the force, I already had! The other additions, like a Medium Mortar Team and AT Rifle. were cobbled together using models from my bits box and unused Kriegsmarine from the original project. The most difficult part was matching the paint scheme. Thank goodness I used Google Keep to write down my original paint scheme or it would have been much, much more difficult. I still had all the paints I used from 2018 and with just a bit of trial and error, I was able to get a damn close match to the original paint scheme.
Even though I’m only adding a handful of additional units, I’ve been inspired to create a massive new display board for the army. Something like a beach or harbor with a transport ship or ferry docked at a pier with the army embarking onto the transport, manning the ship’s guns, and defending the approach.
It’s been an exciting addition to my hobby journey. It’s allowed me to re-evaluate a part of my collection that I thought I was done with. I have been having a fantastic time using this “new” Kriegsmarine force in games over the past few months and plan on bringing it to a tournament in August. I still have a few models left to paint and sadly I will not be able to create a full display board in time. That’s a project for the future.
Another approach to revisiting an army is to simply add a new unit. With the Winter Germans, I hadn’t made any updates since Operation Sting 2018. An update was well overdue. While planning for the Bugeater GT 2021, I wanted to bring this lovely winter force out again. Bugeater is known for its “bring the dirt” style of play with participants rolling up with some of the hardest army lists imaginable. Everything goes at Bugeater – Theater Selectors, Campaign book units, Tank Platoons, the works. With that in mind, I knew I had to make some changes to my original Operation Sting list. Simply put, the original list was too soft. After some testing, I went with a StuH 42 and a StuG Escort Squad. The StuH is a underrated SPG (Fully enclosed, Med. Howitzer, Armor 9) and a squad of seven SMG Regs catching a ride on the back is not something most players expect to see!
The StuG Riders and the StuH 42 were both a massive success. Just adding one unit (the StuH I already had) allowed me to re-think my Winter German collection and put a new twist on my old list.
I highly recommend you go back to old Campaign and Theater books. I’m sure there is a section you previously glanced over that will provide new inspiration. Maybe you will be able to give an old collection a new lease on life with a small pivot.