Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Opinion on the Costs of Wargaming

My Space Marine Army.  I have to much here. And one is painted.

I see everyone online is up in arms about price raises and whatnot from their favorite miniature company.  There are also posts comparing wargaming to video gaming or whatever.  Here in my smallest of corners of the internet I thought I would just compare my wargaming costs to my other hobbies.  I usually refrain from adding up and knowing the cost of my various hobbies, but since this is for a cause, I will break the rule.

First, I will say that as it is a hobby, costs shouldn't be considered.  A hobby is something you choose to do in your spare time.  I do not have the funds to purchase all the models I would like.  This is okay, I just buy the ones you want/need to play the game.  You don't have to have every model GW makes to have fun.  I also do a lot of trading/selling of my older models before purchasing new ones.  I probably only spend $100-$200 dollars of my income per year on wargaming even though I may spend over $1000.  The remaining funds come from ebaying old models.

For the sake of this article though we will consider the costs for a new player starting the game vs my other personal hobbies.  I am using my hobbies as I know the costs of them for sure.  There are plenty of hobbies out there that costs more than wargaming, in fact most hobbies costs more.  They are hobbies because they are afforded with disposable income.  The more disposable income, the more expensive the hobby, think sports car racing, yachting, flying airplanes(not RC ones), etc.  Our hobby is a lower end hobby, whether you believe that or not.

A new player coming into the game will need to purchase the following most likely:
Main Rulebook
Codex of their choice
Army of their choice, minimum 1000 pts
Super Glue
Plastic Glue
Hobby Knife
Few paints

The above would probably be around $600 to start.  This could be broken down into a few months purchases.  IMO it should take a new player around a year to get their first 2,000 pts built and painted.  We'll say the total for everything you need to get going that first year would be around $1,200.  This would include a competitive 2,000 pt army and enough tools and paints to get it built, painted and based.  No this doesn't include fancy carrying cases, resin bases or Forgeworld bits.  Breaking this cost down, thats around $100 a month for first year.

The good thing about wargaming is that after that first year the cost can go way down.  It can go as low as none, if you are content with the army you built and just want to play.  Now, we know no one is content, so lets say you add a new army every year.  Again you'll need a few paints, but you'll already have the tools.  

Wargaming is a hobby where you get what you put in.  If you want you can buy terrain and play at home, or you can build your own cheap.  With the internet you can find how-tos on almost anything terrain related.  If you want to paint better look online, learn new techniques, practice.  And if you want to save more money, buy from online retailers like The Warstore.  They offer 20% off retail on new things and is most of the time easier than hassling with ebay.  If you get lucky on ebay though, there are some better deals to be had.  I do say if you have a FLGS that you play at frequently you should buy at least some product there so you'll have a place to play.  If you get too cheap, you'll being playing in some shady dude's basement.

This is getting long so I will add a part 2 putting the costs of my other personal hobbies in a separate post.  So far, though I am seeing that for around $20-$25 dollars a week you can have a great hobby, continuously adding new units, models, armies, terrain pieces, paints/tools to your collection.  You can't even smoke cigarettes for this little money and they kill you.  I say stop the whining and play the game and have some fun.

Part 2 will show some real costs of my other hobbies.


  1. I think it is more about value for dollar compared to total. Back 5-6 years ago for that 600 dollars you would have a 2000 point army. Also you cannot stop spending because every new codex makes you have to change your army. My 1000 point nid starter force ended up without a HQ after the last update when I had 2 before. That codex update probably cost 200 dollars to get your army back to a good level with new hive guards, tervigons, and trygons being practically required if you wanted to play in a competitive environment.

    The new finecast are a great example. These models have been getting price rises for the last few years due to the rise in tin costs and now get a price rise for the switch to resin. Sternguard are up 28% in under 3 years. Some of the Eldar are up like 80% since they were released in 05 or 06.

    Remember that most of these items that we buy from them a just plastic toy soldiers that come not assembled and unpainted. Production costs are pennies on the dollar of the retail price for these.

  2. Good points on the codex changes requiring new models to stay competitive, or in some cases just to have legal army. This will happen every few years inevitably.

    It would be easier if all the models weren't so great. It makes it really difficult to just be happy with what we have. I have enough that I should never spend another dollar on GW products and still wouldn't be able to paint or play with every model I already own.

    If it were possible to just be content though, I do believe this is a very affordable hobby even with all the price raising(gouging) going on. I still have blisters that costs 6 bucks several years ago that would be near 20 bucks now for same model/mold, so yeah it's ridiculous.

  3. Luckily for me I had a bunch of models from a few years ago I never painted and the others I've mainly purchased off ebay so I got a really cheap 2000 points really but its all the other bits i.e the rulebook and such that hurt the pocket. It's not something you can pick up and play really.

  4. Another point is that we need a broad player base. What is a prefectly reasonable cost to professional adults, can be very high to teenagers (their parents) and college students. Many of us started playing these games back then. A parent who finds out it takes 600-1000 dollars to get up to the games seen on those store tables might be less likely to drop that 100 dollars that the starter box now cost (which you cannot even play since they do not have sufficient army rules or even sides.)

  5. Well said. I'm not fussed about the money. Sure I'd like to buy more but I'm content with my present spending.

    The only reason people complain about the cost is because they want to buy the miniatures. If people didn't want to buy the miniatures noone would complain about the prices.

    I love the quality of the kits, I enjoy the games, I love painting the models. Price is secondary to all of that.

  6. @Warflake: I do agree it sucks to have to buy the rulebooks you need to play the game, instead of new models to add to your army. I hate making the decision to buy a new codex instead of a new boxset, especially now that they are the same cost. I miss the days of 20 dollar codexes.

    @eriochrome: You're right, while I may think it is affordable for most, I am also really only thinking about adults with average incomes. I remember my college days when I had to choose between eating, going to the bar, or a new boxset of awesome plastic minis. I wish I could say eating was the choice I always made.

  7. @GDMNW: You're right everyone that complains wants the models, as do I. I am almost always willing to sacrifice old models for some of the newest models coming out. The quality of GW kits just gets better and better. Selling off old stuff affords at least 75% of my purchasing power during a given year. In fact, I just spent a few hours this weekend getting out my Orc & Goblin army and a few other misc models to sell off. I have a few models I want to add to various armies and some books, so to the sacrificial altar that is ebay go some models that haven't seen daylight in a while.

  8. While I will admit I've been ranting a bit on the internetz about GW lately and the endless cost increases (the whole switch to resin WITH a cost increase has left a bad taste in my mouth ... resin just doesn't taste as good as pewter IMO). I have also long defended generic "wargaming" as one of the cheapest hobbies once you buy in. There is the up front cost but then your done for even with GW ... years. I don't disagree though that every new rollout of a codex ... they get you for a couple hundred bucks.

    This said though I am flat out moving away from GW games for the foreseeable future (until 6th is out for 40K) due to many reasons. Cost isn't an issue for me but in my area I see cost as prohibiting new players (again IN MY AREA) from entering the hobby. I'm in a small market and the community isn't what it was in my old home town cost is killing GW games on arrival. So I'm moving to games I can just play with my home gaming group (about 8 people) as I'm the only guy in the group with much in the way of 40K/GW models. So for me its getting shelved and we'll see if 6th attracts anyone down to the local store that I'd care to play the game with. Right now its just jerkish store troll types. See that is my big beef with price increases ... I don't care what people say ... we'll use your figure $600 bucks. That is such a huge barrier of entry for new players. Even us grown ups with decent jobs see that and have sticker shock "what ... $600 bucks for some plastic minis that I have to assemble and paint" ... I've heard it time and again. It scares off what would be alot of fun people to play the games with who would continue building the community. That is my complaint ... I don't care so much about the increases because I'm heavily bought in. But getting new people to even look at GW when they go online and see the prices ... its a non-starter. So for me the GW side of wargaming isn't as appealing as it once was on that front. I still love the GW universe, still avidly read Black Library stuff. I'm running WHFB RP (2nd ed) right now. Buy some of the FFG GW board game releases, etc. I'm just not excited about playing 40K/WHFB anymore due to lack of new fun people coming into the hobby (again in my area and I've spent 2 years looking for them ... trying to form a GW centric game club, etc. its just not happening where I live). I'm looking to Spartan Games, to Privateer Press for my own home gaming group. Though hey I'll be the first to say its JUST as expensive as GW ... its just cheaper to get people into thanks to their 50 buck starter boxes and if you stay at lower points its an easier sell .. but I don't see privateer games bringing new fun people into the hobby to the rate I'd like either. So there is no real substitute for GW out there either. Who knows ... I just hope that something brings people back to tabletop gaming! I'm trying and where I live its hard as hell.

  9. Again to clarify my rambling ... lol. I agree with your post, well said really. I just am saying that for many of the noobs. They aren't thinking as logically about the cost of ANY hobby being a non-issue. I think there are cost comparisons between hobbies and when people start thinking about "well how much am I going to play this game? Who am I going to play this game with?" if there isn't a good community in their area with normal non-shady dudes being the bulk of the players. They then look at cost and go ... ok $600 bucks buy in, and then I'm going to be forced to only play with these stinky shady dudes who cheat and aren't interested in helping out a new guy? Ok ... Ok ... screw this. That is the reaction I've seen over and over again. That is my beef with GW these days. Again this is my experience in a small market in rural Utah. I had a very different experience with GW when I was living in Las Vegas several years ago. There we had a great wargaming club and I couldn't have been happier with GW games. Now ... from where I'm at ... the equation just isn't the same.

  10. @The Lord of Excess: GW should make it easier/cheaper to just get people involved in their backstory. For me the fluff and great models is the only thing bringing me back. I also spend lots of time reading BL books and I collect the codexes, so read these often. Honestly, the Specialist Games like Necromunda and Mordheim are part of the reason older gamers still exist. They were able to buy into the hobby relatively affordably. At this point they got involved in the story and jumped into 40k and/or Fantasy. I think pushing the skirmish games that have smaller startup costs would lead to more people adding to their forces, thus creating 40k and Fantasy players.

    In my area(the foothills of Western NC) there is a small Comic Book Store that is 10 minutes from my house. They have a small following of Warmahordes players, but now even this has been devolving into more CCGs and FFG boardgaming. The store can't even start stocking GW as there isn't enough interest in the area to spend the cash to get started. This is why I have been painting only Trollbloods lately, as I can only get a game of Hordes if I go to the local store. My cousin is heavily invested in 40k and Fantasy as am I, so we play when we get the chance, or we wouldn't even make purchases. For me to get a game of 40k or Fantasy in against new opponents I would need a drive of at least 1 hour and 15 mins to closest store. And then potentially have to deal with beardy ass old stinky gamers or young kids that have no rules knowledge or knowing of the fluff.

    Luckily, I played and collected most of my models in college and had a nice gaming group to work with. While we all still play, everyone spread out after college to many places around the state/globe and it is rare to get a game against my old friends. We still talk about our local experiences and share work via blogs and whatnot, so even though I rarely play the hobby is not dead to me. I hardly even play the game, but enjoy reading the rules and staying up on the newest dirty tricks and whatnot, but it's the story and models that keep me coming back.

    But yes, I do think the initial cost is forbidding to some, but once you're "in" the hobby it is pretty affordable to keep the game exciting and fun adding units here and there and new armies over time. I think the story and great models is very attractive to lots of people, but the startup costs need to be in line with Warmachine Battlegroup games. Don't get me wrong, Warmahordes is NOT a cheaper miniature wargame to play. It can be just as addictive and expensive as any GW game given time and commitment.