There you are in a game store, stricken by the beauty and awesomeness that is miniature wargaming; you’ve seen some other people playing and know “I want to do that!”. Where do you start? It’s easy to walk up and ask a store employee what it takes to get started, and generally I thing that’s a great idea; your local game store is the life blood of the hobby. However I also see value in having an idea of what you want/need before you ever step foot in the store. This article is really for those people who have seen a miniature game, and are wondering what the realistic costs of the hobby are. What I want to do is present a very practical list of tools that an entry hobbyist will need and serve them well.
Two things before I begin the list: Price and Quality. It’s easy to look at this hobby and say “How can you spend that much money before you even start playing?!” Well in truth, it’s not that much money in comparison to the myriad of hobbies that others are interested in. Yes, models and supplies are not cheap; but neither is a set of quality golf clubs and a yearly club membership, or some very high quality fabrics and a quality sewing machine. The point is, relative to many other hobbies miniature wargaming isn’t actually badly priced; especially since the one army you build can last you forever as long as you have a group of players interested in that particular game. Secondly, I’m approaching this article with the following mindset “Cheaper is Better; Quality is better than cheaper” A cheap brush that falls apart after 20 uses is not as good as a high quality brush that will last you a lifetime (assuming you take great care of it). Some of the specific products I suggest are not the cheapest of their kind, but they are the ones that I suggest as quality investments into your hobby. With all of those qualifiers out of the way, let’s dig in!
Alright, so you’re in the game store and have your starter models picked out; now how are you going to put them together? Next step, ask the store owner if the model your holding comes on a sprue; if it doesn’t, skip this step entirely. When models are created, manufactures use large molds and inject the resin (plastic, white metal, whatever the model is made of) into that mold through a series of canals that deliver the model material. Those canals form what we call spues, the plastic grid that models come on; though some companies (such as Privateer Press) take the models off the sprue for you before packaging (Hence why you can skip this step if they don’t come on one). To safely and accurately get a model off it’s sprue you’ll want a set of clippers such as these. If your in a pinch you can certainly try to cut models from the sprue with a hobby knife, but often times this will cause excessive wear and possible damage to your knife and blades.
Your new favorite toy! A hobby knife has a myriad of uses and every one of them makes quality a priority when shopping for one. I suggest a light metal knife with a variety of blades to really get the most bang for your buck, like this one. While you’ll learn to do a great deal of things with your hobby know later on, right now the use is going to be getting rid of mold lines. Whether or not your model came on a sprue it will almost always have mold lines (where the ends of the mold meet) that you’ll want to remove. Removing mold lines gives your model a super clean look, helps paint from pooling up around the line itself and generally adds to the overall look of the model; a model can look more “toy” like if the mold lines are left on. Again, if you’re trying to save money you can use this tool as the clippers to get your model off the sprue, but I highly recommend you buy an extra set of “Throw-away” blades as the thickness of the sprue will ruin them.
What kind of glue you choose will largely depend on what the model you’re buying made of. Plastic glue wont work on resin or metal models, for example. That being said, I suggest a basic super glue to get you started, as they tend to work on just about all surfaces. In the picture above are a few examples of common glues that I use, note that most of them aren’t model specific and I picked them up in a hardware store (or a general store like Wal-Mart or Target). Be sure to read the cure times carefully and follow instructions as it will save you a lot of frustration later!
…And while you’re at that hardware store, gab some primer! There are dozens of primer types for models, but my personal favorite (for price and availability) is the basic spray on primer you can find at any paint or hardware store. Why? It’s cheap and does the trick! Always wash your models first (to get rid of the mold release), and follow the instructions on the spray can to the last detail. Spray in multiple light coats rather than one thick one and never stop moving; if you just point the spray at the model and hold it you’ll start to make streaks and bubbles of paint, not to mention you’ll clog all the detail!
So here is the good stuff, your first model paints! The variety can be very overwhelming and frankly, you might not have any idea what the differences are and why they matter. Feel free to look at the paint reviews here if your really interested in learning more. As for now, and for the sake of efficient spending, Im going to be really basic in my approach. What do you want your model to look like? Is it the paint scheme that the company advertises? Do you have a personal scheme that you like? I suggest bringing in a picture of what you want your models to look like to the store so you can really get a feel for the paints you’ll need.
My personal suggestion is to buy Vallejo paints (which are an extremely easy to find model paint line). Why? Because they come in a dropper bottle and have a very fair price tag, Click Here for my full review of Vallejo Paints. Buy the basic colors of your model then buy white and black paints. Lets say your model is mostly blue; buy the shade of blue you like, then
can add black to add a darker shadow effect and white to add the highlights. With those three paints you’ve been able to add depth and height to your mini at a very reasonable price. Remember, a paint collection takes time to grow. Don’t feel like you have to buy the whole model line just to get started; just buy the basics and black and white. The rest is up to painting practice!
Fun Fact: Paint brushes are way more complicated then you might know if you’re not an artist. There is a variety of brush tips, sizes, hair types, hair count etc. So where do you start? This is an area that I feel strongly about: buy the cheapest brush set with the finest (smallest and sharpest) tips. Why would I suggest you go so cheap? There’s a few reasons, the first is that you shouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg just to get into a hobby. Secondly, these brushes will do just fine in the beginning and will allow you to get some models on the table while you research different painting techniques. Lastly, if your totally new to painting you just wont appreciate a the effects of a great brush until you’ve tried the alternative. As with paints, your collection will grow over time and so will your skill set to match it. Look for money savings packs of four or five brushes to give you a mix of brush types, then explore what each can do. Watch painting tutorials and pay attention to what brushes the host is using.
The last thing you need is something you most likely already have: Lighting! Lighting is important as it allows you to see the details of the model and what your finished product will look like. Just a few tips here: There is no replacement for natural light, so use it when you can. Don’t paint with fluorescent lights as the colors can be skewed to look different and be careful that your light source doesn’t give off too much heat as it will effect drying times and in extreme cases, melt your model!