Getting Started in Wargaming Without Breaking the Bank


So you are interested in tabletop wargaming. Maybe you played a few games with one of your friends. Or you have seen pictures of beautifully painted models and you would like to give that a try. You walked into your friendly neighborhood game store. You asked the nice person behind the counter and they pointed you to the models that interested you. You look at them thinking that these really look nice. You turned the box over in your hands and had a heart attack wondering how anyone could afford to use that model, let alone an entire army. Welcome to the world of tabletop wargaming. The sticker shock will get you some of the time. But like any good addiction, you will find ways to fund your habit.

There are a few good ways to get into this hobby without ending up entirely broke. 

  1. People who play the games are often changing which faction they want to use. You can probably find someone at your local store that wants to switch from one to another 
  2. Online retailers
  3. Used Models from eBay
  4. just ease into it a few models at a time as you can afford it

Find people at your local game store that are switching games or factions

Simple Base Tutorial
Simple Base Tutorial

The power structure of each game will ebb and flow through time. One faction will rise to prominence because of a new model that makes the rest of the army better. Or that great, overpowered, model will get an errata written about it and it will be ordinary instead of the hottest thing in the game. These are the times that you will see finicky players jump ship. They will either chase the new hotness or rage over why they need to quit this “stupid faction” that was just fine days before. These players will flip factions a few times each year while they are playing the game. Never accepting that it is their impatience that is holding them back not their faction.

This is a great opportunity to get into the game cheaply. If they are leaving a faction that interests you offer to buy their old one from them. Because of their impulsive nature and the fact that they are trying to get rid of an entire collection at once, they often are willing to sell it for much less than retail. Just be sure that it is the game and faction that you are interested in playing not just a good deal. Half of the fun of playing these games is using a faction where you either like the playstyle or the background story behind it. Ideally, you will pick a faction that allows you to have both of these options.

Don’t break the rules of your friendly local gaming store. Most game stores will allow you to have transactions like this one. However, there are some that see this as direct competition with them from within their walls. If your store has rules against buying and selling please respect them. You can always talk to the other players away from the store.

Look for good deals online

You may have to wait a while for the right faction to become available second-hand from someone at your local shop. The faction that you are interested in might be the new hotness in your local meta. Or if you are in a small market there might not be very many other players to have the diversity needed for great deals from other switchers in the store. This is a good time to explore the options that you have online. There are a lot of websites that sell tabletop miniatures games.

Some websites have clearance areas for games that they don’t sell very well on their site. These games might be the ones that people are playing in your area. Perusing these clearance areas can get some great deals. There are also opportunities to find sales or coupon codes on these sites. But most of the time these sites will be around the same price because manufacturers often set minimum prices levels that sellers can list the games for to prevent prices from plummeting in a price war between sellers.

Buy used and strip the bad paint

One good method that I use to get inexpensive models is to look for used models on ebay (Search for Miniatures here). The things that I look for are partially painted and assembled models. The worse the models look the better deal you can usually get on them. You will need to ask the seller a few questions about the models before making any deals.

  • What kind of paint did they use to paint the model? If they used acrylic paints then anything that has been done can be undone. Acrylic paints are any of the brands that can be found at your local game store. (Citadel, P3, Reaper, Army Painter, Vallejo, etc.) Acrylic paint can be stripped from the models simply using simple green. If the paint was enamel based (typically Estes or other paints that are used in traditional model cars or planes) you would have to use hash chemicals to get it off and I always pass on these models, I feel like they are unusable at that point.
  • Ask if it has all of its bits. The bits to a model are the pieces that make it what it is. They give the model character and make it look unique. Some games are more particular about the bits on a model than others. Warmachine and Hordes for example. The rules state that weapons the model can use in the game must be represented and recognizable on the model during the game. If the model is missing bits, and you go to a tournament with a stickler for the letter of the rules you may be excluded from play. (I have never seen that actually happen but it technically could).
  • It never hurts to ask if they are open to negotiation. Some listings have best offers running already so you can just make an offer and then see what they have to say about it. Even if they are listed as fixed price you can send a message to the seller and ask if they are willing to take less. That approach has worked well for me a few times.

A word of caution about eBay. Always follow the rules. If you follow the rules you are protected from unscrupulous sellers. If you don’t get what is advertised you will get your money back from eBay and they will go after the seller. However, if you don’t follow the rules and send any messages that make it seem that you are trying to contact the seller outside of eBay’s system you will be on your own for recourse if something goes wrong.

Ease into it

All of the models that I paint for this site have been purchased from my local game store. I prefer to buy local first and support my local game shop. Remember that if you don’t support them they won’t be around for you to have a place to hang out and play these fun games.

Many stores have a loyalty program of some type. My local store keeps track of my purchases and once I buy enough products I get $25.00 of free products as a reward. They also offer a discount for pre-ordering items if I pay for them before they arrive. When I combine these to programs I can get more bang for my buck. A store that I have shopped at in a city near mine has a bulk purchasing option, when you purchase a certain amount at a time they give you a percentage off the entire purchase. Ask your local shop if they have any discount or loyalty programs that you can participate in.

Buying a starter set and then adding a few models at a time can provide you with a good growing experience. You will get to know the models that you have in your army better by using them over and over and then adding just what you need to improve that squad or army.

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