Gaming on the Cheap

It’s the new year, so I thought I’d post a few quick thoughts about this geeky blog and... well, what I feel like I’m doing here.

Yeah, I know.  I don’t do much here.  Very funny.

Anyway, on one level, this page is pretty straightforward.  Miniature wargaming can be an expensive hobby.  Bare-bones entry level can be over a hundred dollars, and that’s not even talking glue, paint, or time. A few years back I hit a long stretch of poverty—not imagined-poverty or slight-belt-tightening, but actual how-do-we-pay-rent-this-month poverty?  It was a really bleak time, made more so because my absolute favorite hobby went from a big part of my life to completely unaffordable in about a month.

Then I found Paperhammer.  It’s like finding the light of the Emperor, just... cheaper.  I’d worked in the film industry for a bunch of years as a prop guy, so I had some passable art/craft skills.  I dug around online (using the internet at the library) and found templates for Rhinos, Land Raiders, Baneblades, Monoliths... even Titans.  And there are some great templates out there.  Almost identical to the company models once they’re painted.  Suddenly 40K was affordable again!  The big expense was white glue and paper for the printer.

Alas, while I’ve managed to claw my way back into the middle class, I know there are still some folks who haven’t.  Worse yet, Games Workshop’s prices have skyrocketed over the past few years.  Thirty dollars per figure?  Fifty dollars for bare-basic tanks?  I remember when $150 would pretty much get you a solid army—and that wasn’t so long ago.  Now it’s a lucky thing if that same $150 can round out your Heavy Support choices. 

So being able to build a lot of these models on the cheap means keeping the game open and available to a lot more folks.  That’s a good thing.  And I’m glad to share my tips and experience with you.  Read another way, I’ve screwed up so you don’t have to.

On another level, though... The hobby part of this game doesn’t just mean buying the boxed set, putting it together with company glue, and painting it with company paints. In fact, there was a time when said company encouraged creativity and offered tips to players who couldn’t afford to drop a lot of money.  Making terrain out of cardboard and styrofoam used to be a regular feature in White Dwarf  articles.  Black Gobbo ran a great piece (remember Black Gobbo?) showing how to mix parts from a Basilisk and a Leman Russ to create  a very passable Salamander and Destroyer.  Heck, I remember when the Ogre line was first introduced for Fantasy, White Dwarf ran a whole article about how to convert Hero characters from basic ogres (just in case you couldn’t afford the big metal models.

(I’ll touch on this again in a few weeks)

Thing is, I like making my own models and scenery pieces.  I enjoy it.  I’m proud of the fact that I turned three Tony’s Pizza boxes into a very solid Imperial Knight and some bargain-store Halloween decorations into multi-use scenery.  I like being able to turn some random pieces I dug out of my local gaming store’s bitz bins into a unique and impressive Captain for my Relictors or a character for an Age of Sigmar game.

So, that’s that this is all about.  For me, anyway.  Making the game accessible to a lot more people and giving those people a chance to do something a lot more personal and unique with the units in their army.

If any of that interests you... thanks for being here. 

I’ll try to be semi-interesting.


  1. I've also found a lot of pleasure in making my own tanks & terrain. I think scratch-building is a skill a lot of people have let atrophy, partly because White Dwarf no longer talk about it and partly because it's easier (if a lot dearer) to just hand over your cash and get a pretty Wizard's Tower or Hill or whatever.

    There is something oddly satisfying about turning Amazon boxes, cereal packets, Milliput and some odds and ends in your bits box into a tabletop worth piece though. Your own bits and pieces have some special character about them and a big part of my interest in the hobby part of wargaming is being able to make things which are unique.

    I know lots of people who are far better painters than me but when I bust out my scratch-built Land Raider or crack out another few polystyrene rock spires & cardboard ruined buildings act as though I'm some sort of modelling master, just because I'm willing to get PVA glue on myself. Guys, seriously: If someone as crap as me can do it, any of you can. :-)

    1. Oddly enough, a cardstock version of the pretty wizard's tower was one of the things I want to build this year... That and an IG Destroyer. Possibly a larger Shrine of the Aquila.

      And maybe a Warhound...

      But, yeah, you hit one of my main points. Some of it takes a little practice, but overall this is a very easy and cheap way to enjoy both parts of the hobby.