Reflections on a Failed Hobby Progress Challenge

The beginning of this year was filled with great ambition for the hobby – I was probably more excited about Warhammer 40K, and miniatures gaming in general, than I have been in a long time. This blog was part of that, but there was another major expression of this newfound energy:

The Independent Characters 2014 Hobby Progress Challenge

Briefly, the goal was to paint a 2000 pt. army between February and November.

I failed.

This is a reflection on what one might take away from that failure, and why it was still really, really worth doing.

First, some more detail on the challenge, straight from the horse’s mouth:

The 2014 HPC is broken into two sections:.

Part 1 – The first half of the HPC has you building a 1000 point Zone Mortalis force. Familiarize yourself with the units available in a Zone Mortalis game. You can make a standard, attacker or defender list as you desire. This part of the challenge will last from Feb 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014.

Part 2 – The second half of the HPC has you expanding on your Zone Mortalis list to paint another 1000 points. These can be any type of unit you want to build your list up to a fieldable 2000 point Warhammer 40k Army. This part of the challenge will last from July 1, 2014 to Nov 30, 2014

The salient rules: First you had to post a list, then each month, you had to complete at least one unit, vehicle or independent character to the usual 3 color minimum tournament standard, with a dated “before” picture showing your commitment for that month as bare plastic or something close to it – primed, base coated, etc. At the end of phase one, you needed a 1000 pt. Zone Mortalis force done. At the end of the competition as a whole? 2000 pts. up to a tournament standard. Completing those entered you for some prizes. Even if you didn’t make it fully, each month you made your commitment goal entered you for some prizes.

My success in the HPC is almost exactly the same as my posting here – decently active in the spring and summer, and then as fall began? Never heard from again. I succeeded in February, April, May, June, July, August and then…that was it.

You can learn from success, but you can also learn from failure. So what would I suggest for someone considering this, or a painting challenge like it?

Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to tweak the format to suit your needs. For example, I accepted that there was no way I was going to do the Zone Mortalis portion of the contest. My local store doesn’t play ZM, and the army I was building (A jetbike and gravtank heavy Eldar army) is basically the opposite of what you want to take in ZM. Chasing a prize isn’t worth it, especially given what miniatures cost these days.

Lesson 2: b Get a feel for your painting style, and plan accordingly. For example, I discovered that my painting style (lots of ink washes and edge highlights) is basically perfect for painting Eldar gravtanks and vehicles. Seriously, this Crimson Hunter?

Two days. Two days. No idea what got into me. But anyway, rather than going “That was easy…” and taking it as an easy month, load those kind of things up. I should have been doing multiple tanks per month, knowing that I paint infantry models much slower.

Lesson Three: Use your “sick days” wisely. When I was a kid, and I felt somewhat under the weather and asked not to go to school, my mother would always ask me if I really wanted to use a sick day. Whether this was bad enough to use a limited pool of time off. This usually got me onto the bus.

The same is true for the HPC. Make sure before you declare you’re taking an easy month that it’s something you genuinely need. There was a couple months that I took it easy that, in retrospect, I could have done more with.

Lesson Four: Be consistent. Progress every day > Occasional surges of progress. It’s easy to get burnt out that way, and promising yourself you’ll do surges allows you to put painting off until “Oh hell, it’s the 28th…” and then you’re off kilter for the next month, even if you *do* manage to make it.

Carl, one of the hosts of the Independent Characters, suggests doing an hour of painting a night. Now, whether or not you subscribe to the Carl Tuttle Hour of Power ™ or not, try to do a little bit frequently, rather than biting off big chunks.

Lesson The Last: It was totally worth it. I failed. I place my likelihood of winning a prize as indistinguishable from 0.

That being said, I’m as close to a fully painted army as I’ve ever been. I pushed myself as a painter. Feedback on your painting is immensely gratifying – people liking some random jetbike conversion I did, or complementing a Wave Serpent is a really great feeling. The hobby part of…the hobby…can sometimes be a little lonely, so doing things together as a group was a good motivator. And even without prizes, I think it’s worth doing, because it gives you structure. Just having a thread on a forum (or a blog) makes it easy to push a bit of painting “until next week” and then the next week, and the next…and you end up with piles of grey plastic. The HPC, or something like it, forces to you stake a claim and say “This. I’m going to paint this tank by this date” and then try to execute.

Lesson Really the Last: Try not to have one of the major defining crises of your field take place during the tail end of the HPC. Things were already rough, but that kicked things straight into “Nope”.

Even having failed, I’m looking forward to next year’s challenge – wrestling whether to try to get my Space Wolves going, or continue with my Eldar and their new Dark Eldar allies.


  1. Good to see you took a positive lesson from not completing the challenge.

    I was able to complete the HPC in 2013 with my demons and it was amazing. It is the only time I have had a fully painted army.
    I looked forward to this years HPC and my Chaos Marines with hope of repeating my 2013 success. I completed the first month
    and then had an accident/injury which prevented me from doing any painting for four months.

    There was no way I could complete the first part of the challenge and I considered trying to complete the second part of the challenge.
    Then I realized that I could still work the 1 hour per day that I did in the 2013 challenge but that by relieving myself of the ‘stress’ of trying
    to meet the HPC monthly goal, I found that I was enjoying the painting I was doing AND still getting my models painted.

    The HPC is a great way to get yourself motivated to paint. The prizes, while nice, are nothing compared to the enjoyment of having a fully
    painted army.

    I am looking forward to seeing what the details of the 2015 HPC are but I am considering applying the HPC habits I’m using to get a Warhammer
    Fantasy army finished.

    Regardless of which army you choose, I wish you luck in getting the army painted. 🙂


  2. I personally painted about 3,000 points between February and November 2014 including lots of AM, painted to display quality, but thats only because I was living in BFE and caring for a parent. So I had about 3-4 hours of free time per day. The years of training on painting efficiently have also helped greatly.

    I realize there are a lot of reasons that people pick up pace on models or slow down. It really helps to be part of a supportive community.

    imho, your flaw was the goal. The light at the end of the tunnel was crap and your brain probably realized that on some level. It should be something more substantial. The cliche “DO IT FOR YOURSELF” comes to mind.

    Good luck in your future painting endeavors sir!


    1. While it’s possible that the flaw was having a goal, I found the goal particularly motivating. In my case, I believe the flaw was having work slam down on me right at the tail end of the challenge. There simply wasn’t time for hobby stuff.


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