I recently started working on some Warhammer miniatures, and it’s all my brother’s fault. He gave me a starter kit of night goblins (no relation to nose goblins) that he no longer wanted. I was waiting for some paints for my Gundam models to arrive from overseas, so in the meantime, I set to work on the goblins. As with other models, I found them fun to paint, my low skill level and shaky hands nonwithstanding. (The final product came out like blobs of poorly-painted shit.) I wouldn’t mind working on some more.
My miniatures will never
look this good.
Having said that, don’t worry: I most certainly will not be plunging headfirst into the Warhammer game, as there’s no way in hell I could ever afford it. Although they are of exceptional detail and quality, Warhammer products are obscenely expensive. You’re looking at spending a few hundred dollars just to build a decent army. And that’s before you buy paints and finishing supplies, scenery, and terrain. Even the “basic set” is a hundred goddamned dollars! (I also take issue with some of Games Workshop’s other business practices, but that’s a different matter.)
It gets worse. See, in order to stay competitive in most miniature-based wargames, you need to keep spending large amounts of money over an extended period of time. You constantly need to purchase new units, rules, accessories and such, lest you be steamrolled by opponents who stay current. Tournament play is absolutely out of the question unless you’re shelling out big bucks. Even lower-priced games like Axis & Allies Miniatures have this problem, which I’ve talked about more than once. The collectible nature of those games makes costs skyrocket in no time.
I think this heavy investment problem grew out of trading card games. Sure, Warhammer and its ilk have been around longer, but the barrier to entry with trading card games is a fraction of the cost of wargame miniatures, thus making the cards extremely popular amongst younger players in particular. Booster packs are seemingly inexpensive, but they add up quickly. When trading card games really took off, you had absolutely no chance against a “rich” player unless you had a fat wallet of your own. That’s the exact reason I quite playing Magic: The Gathering in the early 1990s and the mid-2000s. Things were better the second time around, but I still couldn’t afford to keep up, even for casual play at local game shops. The rules are constantly refined over the years, so things aren’t as bad as they once were, but it’s still a money sink.
But let’s get back to wargaming. Sorry for the digression. You’d think that only a pile of yuppies or software company heirs would be playing this stuff, but I see plenty of average nerds crowded around the tables. How can these regular folk afford it? Well, it’s rather simple: for them, Warhammer and such is their only hobby. I’ve never met anyone seriously into wargaming who had other big hobbies. I admire their singleminded dedication, but I could never do that. I’m interested in far too much shit at once.
Miniature wargaming’s just not for me. The costs are preposterous, and there’s a disturbing number of players who literally stink. I still like painting the miniatures, though; working on those night goblins was certainly rewarding. (Y’know, when I wasn’t grumbling and swearing at my constant mistakes.) I’ve got countless other fantasy miniatures to paint if I wish, like those included with the Talisman and Runebound board games, not to mention a few metal ones designed for tabletop RPGs. I have some I was going to use in my Dungeons & Dragonsgame; there’s one character that I still haven’t gotten around to painting, well over a year after I primed it. Eesh.