Getting Started

In an effort to introduce more people to the hobbies that I enjoy, particularly wargames, I will be offering a series of articles on how to get started. I have wasted an awful lot of time and energy over the years collecting things I didn't need or were of no particular use. Hopefully these articles will help the budding hobbyist in avoiding some of the pitfalls I encountered lo those many moons ago.

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.

How to Purchase

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.

Final Thoughts

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.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Warhammer 40K: Imperial Guard

This is the army to play if you are a "tread head" While the Imperial Guard does rely on the lowly guardsman to capture objectives and lay down covering fire, it does have access to the widest variety of tanks in the game. They can also field a great number of them since most of their armor can be fielded in squadrons of 1-3 tanks each. This means that a standard Imperial Guard army can field nine tanks without counting transports, flyers, and other fast attack forces. Tanks are a great way to fill out the army since they are relatively easy to paint and start bringing up your point value quickly. There are a wide variety of troop options as well, allowing you to customize your list to include veterans, conscripts, and everything in between.

Here is what you get in the battalion box:
1 Command Squad (5 models)
20 Troopers
3 Heavy Weapons Teams
1 Sentinel Walker

This box will run you $15 and you can pick from two different styles- Cadian and Catachan. If you buy these separately, the price is $151.75. This is one of the best deals we have seen so far, but there is some bad news (see below).

Recommended Paints:
Catachan Green
Graveyard Earth
Bestial Brown
Dwarf Flesh
Elf Flesh
Ogryn Flesh Wash
Chaos Black
The Guard can be painted in any camo pattern you like, so don't feel limited by these colors.

Next Steps
  • Here is the bad news. Even with this box you are still a long ways from an effective starting force. You don't have enough weapon options to effectively field your troops as veterans and the Sentinel is not the heavy armor you need. Buying another battalion box is the answer if you want to field lots of troops. However, there is another way.
  • Buy two command squad boxes or at least order the special weapon bits from an online supplier. Use what you have to equip your basic troopers with three special weapons per squad. Now you have two or three decent troop choices and the command squad for an HQ. Attach heavy weapons as needed.
  • Buy as many tanks as you can afford. Don't worry about adding lots of options and upgrades for your first few. Focus on fielding the basic Leman Russ with one gun and only add the other stuff if you absolutely need to.
  • After adding some armor, go back and add in a few basic platoons. Squeeze in as much shooting as possible since that is the only thing they will be good at.
Final Thoughts:
I like the Imperial Guard because they seem to function the most like a real world army. They can be fielded in a number of different ways and have some of the nicest kits in the game. The are frustratingly weak, however, especially against close combat armies like the Tyranids and Orks. Get used to seeing your men dying in droves, but also relish the moments when you can drop five or six template attacks on the onrushing horde!

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