Warhammer on a Budget
(Not So) Cheap Plastic
The last few years have shown a marked increase in the price of Games Workshop's products. There are plenty of articles that look into the company's financial handling, inflation, material cost and other influences on the price increase, but ultimately if you're a gamer then you're stuck paying the increased prices regardless of the reason behind them. This article will help you get into the game without breaking the bank.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
The easiest way to save money is by not wasting it on useless items. The most important, and most difficult, thing you can do is plan out what you would like to accomplish. Start off by asking yourself a few important questions:
· Who will I be playing with?
· Will I be playing Warhammer Fantasy or Warhammer 40,000?
· What army would I like to play?
· What point value?
The Rules of Engagement
Your first purchase should be the appropriate army book (Fantasy) or codex (40k). At the time this article was written these books range in price from $33 to $45.50 if you purchase them through Games Workshop. I recommend purchasing a second-hand copy through your local used bookstore or from an online source such as Amazon or Ebay. Just make sure that you purchase the appropriate edition. Some armies have had more editions than others, so you'll have to see which is the most recent for your army.
You will also need the rulebook. You really only need one of these for a group, so if your friends are comfortable with the idea you could all chip in for one or share a book someone owns. Retailing at $74.25 my recommendations – and warnings – for the codex/army book also apply here.
Everything is determined using normal six-sided dice (D6 for your AD&D fans), which can be scavenged from old board games or purchased in bulk from gaming stores or online. The exception is the scatter die, which has arrows on it, but I'll get into that as well as templates toward the end of the article.
A Call to Arms
Once you have your codex/army book you can begin planning your army. If you design a list first and then build towards that list, this will save you a lot of wasted time and money. Without a clear goal you'll end up with an unstructured army and units that you'll never use.
Having a list also allows you to price out your army. Maybe you see that a Tau Sniper Drone Team costs $41.25 and decide to change that unit to something less expensive (and probably better, sorry sniper drones…).
The Cost of War
I'm going to start off by saying that the most expensive way to purchase Games Workshop products is through Games Workshop. If you play at a local GW store, I'm sure you want to help support that business by shopping there, but if you're on a budget this just isn't your best option.
Oddly enough, independent retailers are allowed to set their own prices for GW merchandise. You can find a lot of online retailers offering discounts of 15% to 20% off retail prices. The thing to pay attention to here is shipping cost. If you save $5 and shipping is $6, then you're actually spending more money. If you have the ability, order as many items as you can to save on shipping. Also consider sales tax. I live in an area with a 9.25% sales tax, so ordering from another area can save me money there.
Ebay can be tricky. There are a lot of Ebay stores that purchase full boxes and sell the individual pieces, which can be good if you only need a certain part and don't want to invest in an entire box. A lot of stores sell the sprues without the boxes, but these generally don't come with decals or instructions. You can also purchase used miniatures, and I'll elaborate a little on that.
You'll often see "pro painted" in Ebay listings for Warhammer miniatures. This means absolutely nothing. Almost everyone adds this to the listing and I've seen paint jobs ranging from decent to terrible with that description. Pay attention to the pictures. You can usually find complete, pre-painted armies on Ebay but they're going to cost you. If you're on a budget, you're probably painting these yourself. This means you can purchase painted miniatures and repaint them. Various techniques exist online to strip the paint using simple chemicals if you're willing to invest the time and effort.
Games Workshop sells premade armies called battalions (Fantasy) and battleforces (40k). Purchasing a set is cheaper than purchasing the individual items separately, but many of them include units you won't want to use. If all of the units in your list are included in one of these sets, look into picking one up.
Games Workshop also makes dual-army sets called The Island of Blood (Fantasy) and Dark Vengeance (40k). Each box set includes two armies, a mini rulebook, dice, templates and some other goodies – everything you need for two people to sit down and have a game. These cost slightly less than the battalions/battleforces as well. If you have a friend, you can split the cost of the box and each take an army. Alternately, you can each buy a box and then trade opposite armies – each of you gets your army doubled.
Unfortunately, this set limits you to playing Skaven or High Elves (Fantasy) and Dark Angels or Chaos Space Marines (40k). The figures are mostly preconfigured so you get whatever equipment is on them and in whatever pose they were cast in. Like the battalions and battleforces, you may end up with units you don't want to use.
Many stores on Ebay sell these two sets by the piece. You can purchase the dice, templates and mini rulebook together or individually much cheaper than normal. Some figures such as the Skaven Warlock Engineer and Chaos Hellbrute are unique to the sets and can be had at a good price.
Games Workshop's Citadel paints cost $3.70 for a 12mL pot. If you think gas is expensive, that comes out to $1,167 per gallon. Army Painter offers 18mL dropper bottles for $2.99, have a comparable color range and the dropper bottles mean less wasted paint. Vallejo Game Color offers 17mL dropper bottles for $2.79 with a more limited range. Both Army Painter and Vallejo offer conversion charts between their products and Citadel.
I've always found that Krylon primer (in black, grey and white) is excellent and inexpensive ($3 a can at Walmart). It offers good coverage without filling in all the fine details.
Brushes, unfortunately, are the one thing you can't really go cheap on. My best advice in this regard is to take care of the brushes that you get. Don't allow paint to dry on the brush or soak up into the base of the bristles. Don't fray the bristles against the bottom of your water container when you clean it and don't leave it in the water. With proper care your brushes will last longer and thus save you money.
Games Workshop sells super glue ($6.60 for a 5g bottle), plastic snips ($15), emery boards ($6.60) razor saws ($23), palettes ($6.60) and hobby knives ($15). Walmart sells super glue ($1), snips in the craft section ($5) and emery boards ($1). I got a razor saw from Home Depot for $8. Michael's (a craft store) sells palettes ($2) and hobby knives ($5-10). Alternative tools are everywhere if you just look.
The Price of Victory
I recently put together a 500 point Tau army (including the codex) that would have cost about $180 retail, but only cost me about $120. That's a 33% savings. It only took a trip to the used book store (on my way home from work, no extra gas) and some savvy online shopping. Warhammer is by no means a cheap game to play, but it also doesn't have to be as expensive as Games Workshop would have you believe.