Purchasing Your Supplies
The first hurdle to cross in starting any new hobby are your start-up costs. There will likely be initial expenditures that cause the hobby to appear more pricey than it really is. However, most of your initial supplies will last a long time and provide you with a constant source of enjoyment. Here are the starters:
- The rulebook for the game and the army book for your faction. Most game systems have a core rulebook that explains how the game itself is played. It will likely include "fluff" or background to the setting, lots of pictures of the models, and guides to getting started. Beyond this, there will likely be an army book that details your individual force with in-depth rules and tactica for playing them. Some companies, like Privateer Press, include basic army rules in the core book. I love collecting army books and rulebooks since they look great on my shelf and provide many hours of reading enjoyment.
- The paints come next. I recommend buying high guality paints and brushes. You don't want to spend a lot of money on your models only to ruin them with a bottle of nasty, grainy paint. Spend a few extra bucks and buy Games Workshop, Privateer Press Paint, Vallejo, or Reaper. They are worth it. Also invest in a good quality can of spray primer. Make sure it is formulated for miniatures and use it properly. Again, undercoating your models on a windy, rainy day will ruin the work you put into assembling them. For brushes, buy them long and pointy.
- Hobby tools are also important. For working with plastic models you will need to purchase what are called "sprue cutters." They are metal clippers that help you remove the models from their frame in order to put them together. I also use a razor blade to remove any molding lines. The one I prefer is a simple box cutter with snap-off blades. An Exacto knife is useful for getting into hard to reach places. A set of small files is also handy, particularly for metal models. You will also need a nice halogen desk lamp to illuminate your painting area. I like the goose neck variety.
- Finally, you are ready for the models themselves. This is where most people take a step back and go no further. The price tag can seem a bit daunting as these will be a lot more expensive than the toys you remember as a kid. The problem is that wargames miniatures are made of two of the most expensive and volatile commodities in the world: oil and metal. Further, each model was designed and sculpted by hand or over a three year process on a computer. These are not easy products to fashion. However, once you have them, they are yours forever. I keep my models in a display case in my living room and they give me great joy whenever I walk past them. The difference between these models and a movie ticket or other transitory entertainment experience is that you are left with something substantial- something real that you can hold on to or even sell for more than what you initially paid for. Go on ebay sometime and see what a pro-painted army can bring in.
You have several options for purchasing your supplies:
- The Friendly Local Game Store: This should be your first stop. A local store provides a place to play and meet other hobbyists. The owner can suggest which products you might need, and it is the best place to browse for that model you didn't know you wanted. You will likely pay full price here, but supporting the FLGS is worth it.
- The Company Web Store: I only use this option when no other supplier has what I am looking for. Some websites have exclusives that can't be found anywhere else. The problem with this is that you are paying a premium and do little to support your local community
- The Independent web store: There are many great companies that provide discounts on a wide variety of products. If you are on a tight budget, this is the place to go. You can usually find a 20% discount pretty easily in order to maximise your savings. Some websites also provide a "bits" service which means that they will sell you only the parts you need from a bigger kit. For instance, the $20 Commander kit from GW has a ton of options you don't really need. You can get a stripped down version without the options for a good deal less.
- Ebay: For some super deals, this is the place to go. Buyer beware, however. I have purchased some items here that were not quite as advertised. For hard to find items or out of print stuff, this may be your only option.
Watch your budget! Chances are that you won't be able to paint more than about one unit a month anyway, so don't go crazy buying tons of models you don't need right away. I am currently working through my backlog and it will likely take me three months to do so. In the meantime I am on a purchasing embargo. Paint what you have first! Once you have your initial purchases out of the way you can budget about $50 a month for new stuff and still have plenty to work on.