So you wanna play with toy soldiers…now what?

By Marcus Tanner

You see them on the shelves at your friendly local gaming store (FLGS).  You notice that your friends are collecting packing foam and using strange acronyms.   There’s dice, so is it an RPG?  There’s enormous tables covered in detailed terrain, is it model railroading?  Naw, it’s miniature wargames!

Whether it’s Warhammer 40,000, Infinity, Hordes, or Malifaux there are certain things you need to look into before opening your wallet.  I have been playing miniature games like these and others for almost 18 years and I have learned a thing or two that I wish someone had told me when I was getting into the hobby.  This is my gift to you.

Financial Considerations

Firstly, what is your budget?  This will be the easiest consideration when deciding on what game is right for you.  Games Workshop products (Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, and the Lord of the Rings Miniature game) typically have a high dollar investment attached to them.  These games are amazing to see in action, with battles stretching over an 8 foot table and easily 100 infantry and assorted tanks or monsters supporting them.  They aren’t alone either, as the best games are played on a richly detailed terrain featuring everything from tangled urban ruins to forested river basins to the cratered surface of an airless moon.  All of this will cost you of course.  With the accepted retail value of miniatures, you should be prepared to spend $200 or more on your army, $50 for your codex (the book containing the specific rules and point costs for your army of choice), paints (3 color minimum is the rule for any official event or tournament), brushes, glue (lots), dice (even more), and something to carry your army in.  This one often gets overlooked, but it matters. I’ve seen people show up to tournaments with everything from a cardboard box, to a rolling luggage tote and everything in between.

If you don’t have that kind of cash to toss around on a game, don’t despair!  No one said you had to buy it all at once. I advise any new gamer to start small and purchase an army in small sections.  You also don’t have to do it alone.  Get a few friends into the game with you and you can all purchase the paint, brushes, and glue to share.  The main rulebook can also be purchased this way.   There is of course secondary retailers like Ebay, but to be honest it’s far safer as a beginner to stick to your FLGS.  They are better equipped to get you started, and can remain a constant resource as you continue in the hobby.

You can also chose from the myriad other games available.  Games Workshop definitely likes to act like they are the only dealer of plastic warriors, but they aren’t.    If  the idea of an entire paycheck going into an army doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps you should check out a skirmish game.   Large force games like Warhammer are meant to represent armies clashing on fields of war.  Skirmish games are small, elite forces that can battle using a much smaller setting.  Not only does this provide a more cinematic gaming experience, but it allows you to really stretch your imagination.  The financial investment in this type of game is much less than a large force.  For example, in Warhammer 40k you can purchase a starter box for your army that will cost you around $100. This is an excellent starting point, but you will not have enough in this box to play much more than introductory games.   Whereas in Infinity or Malifaux, $30-$50 will get you a starter box and possibly a few more individual models.  With these in hand you are fully ready and capable of playing the game at home and in sanctioned tournaments.  It’s entirely possible to keep buying more of course, allowing you to turn your skirmish force into a large scale battle army, but with these style games it’s not necessary. Not only that, but your game experience and enjoyment won’t suffer because you didn’t drop $500 on toy soldiers.

So, the next step once you know your budget is to go online or down to your FLGS and find out what setting and style you want to play.  Sci-fi, high fantasy, historical, steampunk, modern warfare, the list goes on.

But that is a story for another time….

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