I am currently enjoying a lull in my painting, waiting for the next order to arrive. That's a welcome opportunity to look at the few left over figures I have and think up ways to use them, rather than accumulating a mini metal mountain. So a spare Willies Frederick has been demoted to an officer of dragoons. I can imagine other castings shrinking from me as I advance on them, threatening demotion by craft knife. Its proving to be a lot of fun, and my recent dabbling with modelling rather than just painting has had me thinking about the direction in which I am heading.
A few years ago I moved from a place where house prices were sane to a spot within commuting distance of London. Personally I'd pay a premium to be further away from London, but the reverse happens to be true. So the house I now have is half the size of my last. Conscious of the lack of space I'd have soon, I sold off all my wargames armies before moving, something I haven't regretted. Starting again from scratch gives me total freedom of direction.
My current circumstances are: limited playing area, limited storage space, and no local wargames opponent. These might all be looked on as being problematic, but I'm inclined to see the advantages. The 'sensible' response to having restricted storage and playing areas might be to go for smaller scale armies. I once collected a 15mm French Napoleonic army, and despite the figures used being astonishingly good (Battle Honours), I know, from having collected them, that figures of that size cannot satisfy the values that are permanently imprinted in my brain from a childhood spent dreaming of 30mm figures.
The combination of limited room and the need to use 30mm figures leads to an inescapable conclusion: my wargames army will be small. The funny thing is that accepting the idea doesn't really close any doors, it just identifies what opportunities I possess. A small army, and (with no opponent waiting impatiently at the table) means that I can spend more time on each figure than I have been accustomed to doing. In the past I have never done much more than paint figures. I have always felt the need to complete a unit and move on to paint the next. I think now that, by doing so, I failed to really get as much pleasure from the activity as I could have.
Well, the sense of urgency is now gone. The Cuirassier standard bearer that I recently painted has to be the most valued figure in my collection. The reason for that is that it contains a lot more individuality that comes from me rather than from the original sculptor. I think if I possessed the ability I'd be inclined to try sculpting my own figures. Unfortunately, I am sure that anything I created wouldn't meet the standards of Stadden and Suren, so the result wouldn't bring me the satisfaction I am looking for. However, I can take the time to add extra detailing to each figure - wire reins for cavalry for instance - to create my ideal wargames figure. Figures for life I'd say.
The irony is that after all has been said, I am not excluded from fighting in large battles either. Our gentlemen friends in the Colonies have popularised the practice of gathering together in large teams at a chosen venue. Each person needs to bring only a few units: the mass effect is created by the number of contributors to the armies. So really there is no limit to the thing at all.