The Hidden Costs of Gaming


With all the brouhaha going on at the moment in our beloved hobby I thought this was probably a timely post to write. Other than that, the picture heading the post looks like it would be an awesome “underground volcano lair” despite the fact there is no ground, nor volcano. Hollow out that bad boy for a Bond villain lair the likes of which has never been seen. Just make sure not to fill it with hot chicks of dubious loyalty!

Anyways, on to the meat and potatoes of today’s topic. As gamers we are aware that our hobby isn’t necessarily cheap, especially when you factor in the typical addict type behaviour of gamers. I still loathe people’s arguments that hobby Y is more expensive than gaming so I should be more than happy to pay current prices. We call that kind of thinking a fallacy!

However, while we often lament the price we pay for whatever brand of army men we are purchasing what often gets swept under the carpet is the cost of the various tools and paints that are needed to realise the potential each model has. While I’ve been in the hobby long enough to know that most armies never get beyond the grey plastic stage, despite our best efforts, I know that every single gamer more than likely has a basic set of tools and some paints. Just as different gaming companies gouge our wallets to a varying degree and for varying quality of goods (I’m glaring at you Failcast!) so too does this carry over into the tools we use for painting.

Over my roughly 20 years in the hobby I’ve used a number of different manufacturers. I started off with Games Workshop’s own brand, luckily for me I’ve changed that and use Winsor and Newton Series 7 brushes and a combination of Privateer Press’ P3 paints and Vallejo Model Colour. GW paints cost £2.25 a pot while I can get the Vallejo ones in their handy dropper bottle for £1.40. My brushes cost around £7 each but then I only have 3 of them a 1, 0 and 00, they are much higher quality than the GW offerings and will last far longer if looked after properly.

For gaming with either plastic or metal you are also going to need things like clippers, a knife and a set of files. It also helps to have some greenstuff and sculpting tools to fill gaps in metal models. Then there are basing materials to consider too. All of this is quite a lot of stuff and while you do not NEED all of this when first starting you’re going to at least want clippers, some glue and a hobby knife to be able to assemble the stuff you buy to use on the table.

Once you get on the tabletop you’re also going to want terrain. Do you play over boards, whether modular or not? Do you just use a gaming mat, are you happy with just an old tablecloth and a few piles of books? Generally I have found that terrain is pretty fairly priced and there is a lot of choice out there to furnish your battlefield with depending on your game of choice. For current 6 Inch Move flavour of the month, 40k, you can get some half decent bargains like this which I consider to be pretty good value.

My point is that when you think about the startup costs of gaming, you have your starter set or rule book and then the models you are going to use but there is so much that can sneak up on you too. Extra dice, tape measures etc… etc… It’s not long before you’re a true hobbyist that has a huge haul of stuff cluttering up a bedroom or a front room.

While I think we are quite good at making rational comments about how much it costs for newcomers to join our hobby with the increasing prices of miniatures, what we should not forget is just how much the true cost is even higher! We might take for granted that we have every pot of paint we are likely to ever need but newcomers will not be so lucky. Depending on what brand people choose to go for (and in GWs case they are hoping you go for theirs which are, unsurprisingly, overpriced) you can make some decent savings but you need to know what you are getting into. Personally I would not recommend Model Colour as a range to the beginning painter but in the long run it is a much cheaper and better quality paint to use (and it smells awesome too!).

While nice terrain is not a necessity the fact it is plastered across all the pictures you see of painted models it does seem to indicate some level of obligation that you have to emulate those kinds of battlefields. I know a lot of people like to make their own and there are some really talented people out there but all this extra work means less time for actually painting the army men you started out with.

If I could offer one recommendation to people starting out, what would it be? Well, considering the situation I am in I’d say get your stuff painted and worry about the rest later. I procrastinate as I have so much to do (and I just love assembling stuff too) but I am really starting to feel the shame of not having a painted army. I’m working on my problems to try to correct that, so I’d encourage those on their first foray into gaming to really push forward with getting their purchases painted. You’ll thank me in the long run.

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4 thoughts on “The Hidden Costs of Gaming”

  1. Do we truly get newcomers to gaming? I suspect most of us are just born this way!

    But yeah, painting and accessories are an important part of the hobby. Two thumbs up for Vallejo Game Color. Also, GW drybrushes are surprisingly awesome for the money!

  2. Agree 100% with getting your models painted ASAP, which is why the beginner should resist buying $100 of models in their first shopping spree, but just get an 8-10 man sqaud. I listed the different GW games I own armies/teams in another post. I’ve had Necromunda & Blood Bowl for about 15 years. Plenty of time to get them all painted, so they must be, right? Yeah, keep believing that 😉

  3. For me the costs go a bit more upstream. I spend more time tinkering with game design than anything else. I have WH and WarMachine books I’ve been studying… but no models at all. I’m too busy thinking through the design and trying to design my own miniature wargame to actually, y’know, play. And then there’s that desire I have for sculpting my own models… not modifying existing ones, I’m talking about full sculpting.

    I tell myself that if I do it right, I could actually make money with my own designs… but in more lucid moments, I think it’s all a pipe dream.

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