No matter your fandom, every nerd out there has a neat little collection on a shelf (or an entire wall) of items they hold dear. Be it signed artwork, props, photos or life-sized cardboard cut-outs of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow; there isn’t a nerd out there that doesn’t proudly covets their modest collection and shows it off every once in a while.
When it comes to collecting, I either go big or go home. This is why I have a rather big collection of rather little things. I began collecting models of The Lord of the Rings characters developed by Games Workshop back in 2002 when they were first starting to gain some traction with the historical success of the trilogy. Being the impulsive 7 year old that I was, I came across a starter kit on holidays in a toy store and immediately asked for it because it was Lord of the Rings (and trying to find LotR toys back then was a nightmare!)
Looking back, it really wasn’t a hobby for 7 year-olds. The catalog was expansive and constantly updating by the time Return of the King took home its Oscar catch, not only that, every individual model required painting and detailed bases that were far beyond what my impressionist fingerpainting styles were capable of.
So I ended up taking a step back from it because Star Wars caught me for a few years, but even by that stage, there was a collection of about 200 uruks, elves, riders of rohan and as many heroes of Gondor and The Free Peoples you can remember, along with The Dark Lord with his Ringwraiths to match. All painted rubbishly.
But now, it’s not only a vast collection of nearly a thousand models, it’s also a fantastic, multi-faceted hobby thats as entertaining as it is relaxing, depending on what side of the hobby you take a fancy to.
Collecting is always hindered by how thick your wallet is, and that’s as true as ever here. In Ireland it’s a pretty niche hobby and the prices of all things Games Workshop really make you question if you really need it. The answer for me was usually yes. Which is why I’ve something close to 50 warriors of Minas Tirith garrisoned on my shelves. What really makes them a must have in terms of collecting is how they go beyond the films, taking from the books and even adding some original designs which make for some pretty stunning looking additions to your force, like Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and the sons of Elrond; Elladan and Elrohir.
After dropping stupid amounts of euros on sets of Riders of Rohan and Moria Goblins as well as some Hobbits, I was just at the beginning. The most time consuming, but without question my favorite, part of collecting these warriors of Middle-Earth is painting them up. Quiet Sunday afternoons spent painting the Fellowship to perfect movie detail (it takes as long as you’d imagine and lots of fine brushes) or quick dirty washes of Mordor orcs in their mismatched clothes and looted armor. There are some models in my collection that I spent an unholy amount of time layering to get right.
A certain troll took me upwards of 5 hours to get every blood stain and rusted armor panel to my liking, and some extra time to stick a few corpses to the base.
And once you’ve collected your armies, you can take to the tables with them. Each model comes with a unique stat line listing their fighting skill, defense and how many wounds they can take, as well as a few others and some special ones for the hero classes like Aragorn and Shelob. So even if you spent months pouring over them, meticulously painting every buckle and weathering each cape on a Ringwraith like I did, there’s the added task of building your army. Be it some ridiculous mismatch of Aragorn leading his rangers of the north alongside Isildur and a battalion of Numenoriens or a themed legion of Uruk-hai ready to ransack the world of men, there’s unlimited freedom and potential to build any army you can fathom.
Not only that but tabletop strategy battle games are intense and gripping, especially when the front lines clash and the bodies start piling up. there’s been too many times to count where I’ve flung hordes of orcs at lines of High Elf warriors and I’m left standing there dismayed as those fairies stand tall and every orc of mine gets cut down. Its hard not to get invested in every game you play when you’ve been up close and personal with every model getting the whites of their eyes just right. And there’s a collection of gorgeous companion books with detailed profiles of each warrior you can have in your army, as well as guides on how to paint, assemble terrain and create your own battle scenarios as well as re-create the classics like Helm’s Deep and the Battle of the Last Alliance.
there’s no better collection out there as far as I’m concerned, because even though there are thousands who have the same Aragorn figurine as I do, each is uniquely their own for the way its painted. Its a collection that’s a lot more than just sticking them on a shelf, it comes with so much to learn, from painting techniques to tabletop strategies and the amazing epiphany that you can throw Aragorn at anything on the field and he’ll come out on top.
It’s a collection that’s grown with me over the years, and even to this day it’s impossible not to hold myself back from the new additions that pop up on the Games Workshop website.