How lockdown rekindled my childhood obsession with Games Workshop’s inch-high wizards

Back then the majority of the models were made from lead, which now seems an absurdly toxic substance to sell to an 11-year-old. They switched to a “white-metal” tin alloy in the mid-1990s, and now almost all of its models are plastic. I remember endless summers painting my army, which I proudly arranged on a display case in my bedroom.

The love affair lasted seven or eight years, until I went to university and decided to reinvent myself as someone who didn’t collect Warhammer figures. So I boxed them up, sold them off for a fraction of their value and got on with my life.

Then came the pandemic. Along with almost 10m others, I was placed on furlough, and for the first time since my childhood I found myself with day after day of free time. Only now the endless days were tainted by existential dread; over the safety of loved ones, over the looming economic catastrophe.

During one hand-wringing conversation, a friend – an accountant desperate for a distraction from the bureaucratic nightmare of processing furlough applications – admitted he had retrieved his Warhammer models from his parents’ attic and resumed painting them.

This mildest of pushes was all it took: that night I made my first order of “plastic crack”, a tongue-in-cheek reference in the Warhammer community to the addictive nature of the hobby, in over 20 years.

Since then two more friends have made similar, hushed confessions. Even Superman has fallen into the habit: Hollywood actor Henry Cavill announced on Instagram that he has been busy painting his own 40,000 army during lockdown.

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