Y'see, because they were deep in the Armageddon world-wide campaign when I first tried learning about the game, I was suffering from a grave misconception. As I understood it, you painted up your little guys, battled, and when someone died you put them up on the shelf and never used that model again. You even emailed your results to England, so everyone would know you could never use that model again.
What kind of a stupid, money-sucking game was this? I mean, it explained why Marcus needed so many of the little soldiers, and always seemed to be painting new ones. But still... all that work on a model and then you never use it again?
Anyway, about the time I started to figure out my mistake, Games Workshop decided to sell off a bunch of their older, snap-together plastic models in cheap little packs (very similar to the ones they're marketing again these days). One was the "alien attack" box which came with four old-style genestealers and four of the smaller, old termagants. I thought a few of the 'stealers would look cool around my computer. Than I bought another box. And a third. Soon I had about thirty-odd genestealers and a pile of termagants, too. So I started learning the rules, and... hooked.
The Tyranids fell aside. To be honest, I have still never fielded my Tyranid army, which continues to get more than a few laughs from my friends. Looking at the early Chaos Marine codex, the Alpha Legion soon became my true love (years before the rest of you hopped on the bandwagon because of Dawn of War or Dan Abnett's Legion), and remains my largest army to this day. Like most people's first Chaos army, it split off and I ended up with a usable army for all four of the major cults as well, including a Thousand Sons force I still use and a Death Guard army I'm quite proud of. Then there was an all-bike White Scars army. A good-sized Ork Waaagh with a faint Star Trek theme called Da TekBoyz. A White Dwarf article convinced me to start a Kroot Mercenary army. When Codex:Daemonhunters came out it not only gave me a nice little radical force, but also spawned my new loyalist army, the Relictors, who now stand as my second favorite-army behind the Alpha Legion.
What can I say? I like the gray areas.
Alas, it wasn't all that long after this point in my career as a 40K general (and warboss and hive mind and shaper...) that I decided to give up my day job and become a full-time writer. And unless your name is Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Richard Castle, being a full time writer doesn't pay as well as most people think. It wasn't a completely ridiculous decision--I had been making a fair degree of money at it--but it still meant about a 70% pay cut, so a lot of my disposable income was... well, disposed of. Warhammer 40,000 went from being the thing I could drop a sixty or seventy bucks a month on to the thing I might get to drop sixty bucks a year on. In all of last year, I bought the new Imperial Guard codex. That's it.
So I started getting good at customizing. I couldn't afford new Terminators for the Relictors, but a bit of plasticard, a sharp knife, and a spare assault cannon from a plastic dreadnaught still gave me a bigger, bulkier Terminator. Daemonhosts? Scratch-built those, too. It made sense that the cult legions would till have older Rhinos, so those got shifted around and converted as well.
Also in 2009, however, I stumbled across an article at The Golden Bolter about Paperhammer. It included links to about a hundred templates for vehicles and scenery, ranging from simple cardstock Rhinos to elaborate Titans of all classes.
And y'know what? I'm still having fun with Warhammer 40,000, even on a tight budget. So here's a random record of all the stuff I've been building on the cheap, along with a few helpful tips on stuff I wish I'd known from the start. Like instructions for some of these templates...
If I can save someone else a few bucks along the way, and get them a kick-ass new Warhound Titan... my work here is done.