The Cheap Gamer – Buying your minis!

This is probably the real heart of the Cheap Gamer series, so is likely to be updated periodically with new ideas or notes.   Generally the expensive part of this hobby is really buying the miniatures themselves, so how do we really reduce the costs there as much as possible?

Plan what you need, and plan for costs

This point is a bit of a spiral that can drive you to madness 🙂

The real key to saving money is, more than any other tip, just to plan what you actually want, and just do that.  Its easy to see lots of shiny things and just start buying models, or see big box sets and think “oooh, I get so many models for so little”.  In either case, you can often end up with tons of models you never really need, and still need to buy all the models you want for your army separately anyway.

Having said that, you can take advantage of some of savings too – read through the following options and bear them in mind when actually planning your army, and if you take them into account you can really double down on maximising efficiencies.

It does build down to you as an individual – if the prospect of fielding marines in ancient armour is fascinating, you can just go out and grab a couple of Horus Heresy box set games.  If you like Space Marine tanks though, that isn’t a good thing to do.  Balance savings with your enthusiasm for the army, and lean more towards enthusiasm, as it will save you more in the long wrong.  You don’t want to either give up or go out and buy your first choice models after spending loads of money on “deals”

Know what you have

It sounds really, really obvious, but especially if you’ve been in the hobby a while, you’ll have extra boxes of things here and there, maybe a half finished hobby project or two, and definitely some bits boxes of all those extra little bits of models on sprues that you didn’t need for the squads you’ve built.  Seriously, before starting a major project, take some time to go through all of these, sort them out, and note down 

a)  Anything that might be useful for the project directly.

b)  Anything that might be worth trading or eBaying to offset the costs of the project.

Once you know what you already own that you might be able to reuse, you can really narrow down what you need to buy to get to your project goals.  Have a spare tactical squad of marines and building some Deathwatch?  Buy almost any Deathwatch character or vehicle and you’ll get enough pads to equip them.

You might not have anything relevant at all.  If you’ve been collecting Tau and are now starting an Eldar army, for example, your spare bits and any unused squads won’t really help!  But if a friend is starting Tau and been collecting Eldar, you’ll probably be able to trade for some more useful bits and pieces!

You might even find you actually have a few boxes of models you’d forgotten about that would fit perfectly!  Fantastic!

Buy or Trade for Secondhand Models

If you are part of social media communities like Facebook and Twitter,  you can often find great bargains or trades with people in the same boat as yourself.  There are fantastic bargains available on models, some built, some painted and some still on sprues.

In addition, eBay is fantastic for some great bargains (though often some very badly painted and assembled miniatures too).  You can really get superlative deals if you are willing to spend more in one go and pick up a complete army, though you will lose out on your own custom choices if you do that.

Some FLGS actually make a point buying and selling second hand minis too, and these can also be fantastic value, especially as you’ll be able to see exactly what you’ll be buying.

The disadvantages of this approach is that often the models will already be painted, and you’ll probably need to reclaim the models, like our recent goblin guest post.  We’ll cover the techniques in detail in a different article, but you will have to invest in the tools to refurbish them, and the time to do that work.  In addition, you can’t guarantee what models will come up.  If you are determined to field a particular force, and want to do it with second hand models, it might be some time before you can get a particular unit or hero.

One note, though – don’t forget that you can use these channels to sell minis too.  They might be from previous projects that you don’t need, or models from a big box set (like death guard from Dark Imperium if you want Primaris).  You can offset a fair chunk of the cost by getting rid of the bits you don’t need.  It can really reduce the costs of your hobby projects if you are ruthless.

Buy Specific Parts to Augment Kits

You can often get away with augmenting basic cheaper kits with some tactical purchases, rather than spending a lot of money on the more elite options.  Its particularly true if you already have some of the bits you’d need for conversions in your bits box.

What do we mean?  Well, here are some specific examples:

  • Orks!  If you buy a lootaz/burnaz kit, you end up with a complete spare set of weapons.  If you buy 2 of those kits and some Ork Boyz for much less, you can  kit out 8 Lootaz, 8 Burnaz, and 2 Meks.  For £49, you get the equivalent of £62 of models.  And that’s GW prices – if you buy from online GW sellers you can probably get another 20% off that too.  And if you went the Start Collecting box for £75 total, you get a Painboy, a unit of Nobs and a Deff Dread too for under £30 extra (again, before any 20% discount).
  • Space Marines!  if you want a unit of 10 sternguard marines, you can buy 2 boxes of 5 man sternguard for £60.  Or you could buy a unit of Tactical Marines at £25 and a legion Combi-weapon set from Forgeworld at £15, and you have a full unit for £40 instead.  Or go the Start Collecting box and the combo-weapons at £65, but get a dreadnaught and terminator captain as well!
  • Necrons!  If you have a box of Immortals or Death Marks, you have a load of spares for the other.  If you buy 2 of those kits and one box of warriors, you spend £63, and get 2 stands of scarabs, 10 Death Marks and 10 Immortals that all look pretty good, instead of £82 without the scarabs.  You can save even more if you go for the Start Collecting Box instead of the warriors – you spend £91 and get a Triarch Stalker and a Necron Overlord as well as 10 Death Marks and 10 immortals, and the Scarabs.  And thats before looking at online sellers with another 20% or so discount.

You can also look at third party sellers for some of these augmentation options.  If you do, though, you have to be aware you won’t be able to take you models to official GW tournaments or enter some of the more official painting competitions.  This is a particularly good option though if you need some specific parts for conversions for specific odd weapons, especially if you want to improve older armies.  Buying a set of 3 miniguns to add to a box of rubric marines to add a soulreaper cannon to old 9 man thousand sons units is a fantastic way of bringing them up to modern standards, at comparatively low cost, for example.  They are also often fantastic options to convert kits you already own – if you have a leman russ tank already but want a different turret, buying a third party turret is cheaper than buying another tank kit just for a gun!

Buy kits from online sellers where possible

If you buy from places like Games Workshop directly, you’ll be paying a premium.  You can get pretty much their entire range of kits from 10-25% off from online sellers.  Brand new, exactly the same.  If you’re a cheap gamer, it just doesn’t make sense to pass that up.  

There are some models you can only get from the GW store or from Forge World, but they are pretty rare – most of the core lines are available from these suppliers.  You can instantly knock 15-20% off your costs just by planning and buying carefully.

This really maxes out savings when you combine this with the value sets like the boxed games or the start collecting sets.  Fantastic!

Consider alternative models

There are pretty much 2 types of alternative model out there in the marketplace – ranges of models that would fit in 40k but GW simply don’t produce them, and are usually GW prices or actually higher.  As a Cheap Gamer, we’re not too interested in those!  And there are also ranges of models that pretty much overlap with GWs model range, and happen to be far cheaper.

These options are really no good at all for GW tournaments, of course, but for casual or club play, can be a fantastic way of having a different custom army and spending less on it.

Take the Enforcers Mega Force from Mantic.  For £90 (£100RRP) from Firestorm games you get effectively a marine stormtalon (£33), 2 units of tactical marines (£50), 3 dreadnaughts (£84), 8 bikes (£60 for 9), 10 Scouts (£31), a Devastator Squad (28), A sternguard squad (£30), and a unit of terminators (£35).  Thats about £351 at current GW prices.  You may not like the models as much, but that is one heck of a saving.

Dreamforge Stormtroopers make cracking Tempestus Scions, and can be picked up for around £32 for 20.  Tempestus Scions are £21 for 5, or £82 for 20.

You can save a lot, but the models may not be as good, you won’t be able to use them against all opponents and it may be awkward making it clear what weapons the models have in your games.  On the flip side, you can field an army that looks a bit different, and spend a heck of a lot less!  Its not a bad choice, but only recommended for more casual or relaxed club gamers.

Summary

The real key to being a Cheap Gamer buying minis is planning, and the research to support that planning.

Sit down and ask yourself: 

  1. What army is exciting?
  2. What particular units in that army are exciting?
  3. What’s my desired list based on the first two?
  4. Where will I game?  Will I want to go to tournaments, or can I use unofficial minis or bits?
  5. What bits do I have at the moment that are useful or can offset the costs?
  6. Are there any cheeky ways of buying units I like that maximise bits?
  7. Can I see any of the bits I need on eBay, second hand options or through friends?
  8. Can I make any savings on buying box sets for the rest of the models I need? And can I recoup some money by eBaying or trading unwanted bits of the sets?
  9. Can I get the remaining models and box sets from online sellers or for a decent discount from a FLGS?  
  10. If I have to get a model from GW or FW direct, do I really need it?  Is it a key part of the army in my mind?  Or can I kit bash alternatives from bits?

If you go through that process, you can probably reduce the overall costs of your project by a massive margin, and buy parts for a focussed list from the start.

Leave a Reply