Morning Game Fans, we’re back with another article on getting started with miniature gaming. After some consultations with wizened sages, (thanks Ash) we came to a perspective for miniature wargaming that basically flows from the idea that “You either got here from the game first, or minis first.” Most players will have either visually been drawn to the aesthetic of the models and that’s what pulled them in, or they were pulled in by the game’s mechanics after borrowing pieces from a friend. The best part is that either way completely works from a gamer perspective.
We tend to be of the philosophy that you should embrace the hobby side of the game because it gives you a wealth of benefits. First, you will end up with a painted army, and anecdotal evidence suggests that dice favor armies that are fully painted. Second, you get to put your personal stamp on the army you play. Third, it also gives you something to chat about with other gamers, doubly so if you include the army background and history in your research (In most circles this is referred to as the fluff, while the rules are the crunch).
Do you have to do this? No, you can play the game with unpainted models and thrown together scenery made of coke cans and packing foam (we’re not knocking it, we still do it part of the time). You’ll still have all the fun of playing the game and no one (outside of a few sanctioned events) will prevent you from playing the game. However, if you think you are interested in building and painting your models, keep on reading.
The Zardoz industries list of things you’re definitely going to need to get started with the miniature war gaming hobby.
Object 1: A work space
Everybody needs a place to store models being worked on, supplies, and paint. This is also going to double as the place you put stuff together, so it needs to be big enough for you to comfortably occupy the space and work. I use an end table as my primary workspace, mostly because it’s small enough for me to move around while storing all of the equipment i use on a regular basis.
Object 2: Light
Light is extremely important for the hobbyist. It’s very hard to remove pieces from a sprue if you can’t see them, and this can lead to some ugly looking modeling issues. Light becomes more important when you get to the painting side, as good lighting makes great painting. I prefer natural light to paint in, but i have a giant window that i can open the blinds on with ease.
Object 3: A model kit
This seems like a silly addition to the list, but if you don’t have a model kit to build and paint, then you don’t need most of the other elements of this list. For a starter, we recommend something that will ease you into the hobby without drowning you in steps and details (I certainly would not recommend an Imperial Knight titan from GW for your first kit). Lots of miniatures producers offer starter kits for their games, and most of these give you several different choices for your first model.
As an alternative perspective, if you’re painting your first model, find a single model (like a hero or a commander) from the range that you like, and paint that model. It gives you a start for the hobby, a model for an army and a game you like, and practice at painting.
Object 4: Clippers
Most kits will have to be separated from their sprues (the frames that hold them in place during the manufacturing process). The best way i’ve found to do this is a flush cutting pair of clippers. They look like a pair of pliers with a cutting blade instead of a pair of grabbers. When using these, make sure you put the flat side of the blade against the model part you are removing from the frame. This ensures you have a flat cut rather than a weird ragged looking edge (which could happen if you use put the flat edge against the sprue connecting point).
Object 5: A hobby knife
Almost every model kit is going to have a mold line or flashing that needs to be removed from the model before you move on to other steps. A hobby knife can be used to scrape these mold lines from the surface of the model. A mold line scraper or a set of hobby files also fill this role admirably. You can also use these tools to clear any leftover plastic from the points connecting the piece to the sprue.
(Caution: These tools are extremely sharp and should be used extremely carefully. Make cuts away from the body and be extremely gentle when cleaning mold line and excess flash. Blood is not a paint nor is it an effective primer)
Object 5: Glue
Once you’ve gotten to the point where all of your parts are removed from their sprues, you’re going to have to find something to stick them together. There are several different types of glue and glue accessories that you can find on the market. Our advice on this is to make sure that the glue you are using is appropriate to the model you’re building.
If you are gluing plastic to plastic, plastic glue is your best bet for creating lasting bonds on models. Plastic glue is basically a plastic welding compound that melts the two pieces of plastic together. The resulting bond is very strong if you are using it on plastic. It doesn’t do any good for resin or metal pieces.
Resin and metal don’t interact with plastic glue on a meaningful level, so you’re going to need superglue to get them bonded. Superglue has extraordinary fumes and should be used in a ventilated area. Also make sure you give it plenty of time to bond, or it will come apart in your hands.
Your Models are now assembled and you can completely play the game with them as they sit, but you are only halfway (or so) done with the hobby part of this process.
Object 6: Primer
Now you’ve got your models assembled and they’re ready to go to the paint shop. There are a wide variety of primers out there, and it’s a matter of finding the one you enjoy using. Primers traditionally come as aerosol (like spray paint) but you can find brush on primer if you go looking for it. Primer is essential for getting the best out of your paint, because it helps to create a functional canvas for the paint to stick to. Even with the wide range of acrylic paints on the market, a good primer is the best starting point you can get for your painting needs.
Object 7: Paint
Paint is a tricky thing for most hobbyists and we’ll spend hours agonizing over color choices before we ever pick up a brush. There are a ton of paint companies that cater to hobbyists, and someday we’ll finish our big list of cool paint companies. There are two primary kinds of paint you’ll encounter, and they are related to the method of paint delivery. Airbrush paint is a little different from most of the acrylics we use, and it’s designed to go through an air brush applicator (sort of like a really tiny spray gun for painting a car). Most of the other paints we see on a daily basis are brush compatible and require nothing more than a brush to apply.
Note: We use acrylic, water soluble paints for most of our hobby work. I would avoid using enamel paints (like the Testor’s paints we used to use on model cars), they just aren’t the thing most of us are looking for.
Object 8: Paint Applicator
In most situations this refers to a paint brush, (actually, a bunch of different brushes), but it can mean an airbrush or a paint pen. There are almost as many brushes on the market as there are paint suppliers, so shop around and find your happy place with your gear. We encourage you to start with brushes and then, if you feel comfortable, try out an air brush.
Paint Applicators come with two mandatory accessories, the palate and the cup of water (wishing we had a trademark). The palate allows you to control how much paint you are getting onto your brush, while the cup of water serves two purposes. You can use the water to either thin down your paint to ensure the flow, and you can use it to clean your brushes.
Note: Be gentle with your brushes, they’re going to be going through a lot of stuff while you paint, and in most cases, gentle strokes work a lot better than hard ones that will end up destroying your brushes.
Object 9: Basing
Models for most games come with a plastic ( or resin) base that serves as their footprint on the gaming table. If you’ve spent the time to paint your model, spend the extra time and base them. Texture bases are made by a variety of companies, and you can use texture paint to create an interesting base. Static grass or flocking can also add a touch of interesting texture to your base.
Object 10: Varnish
Most of us want our paint to last, so sealing your minis with a thin coat of varnish will protect them from the hard wear and tear of a lifetime of gaming. We tend to prefer a dull finish to a shiny one, but your mileage may vary.
Now if you’ve completed all of these steps, you have a hobbyist approved, fully painted army that you can take to the table and enjoy the game.
For getting started with the hobby side of things, we do like Army Painter a lot. They offer a lot of tips and tools for the new painter/modeller to get into the hobby. Check back next week and we’ll go over some of their gear in a little more detail.
Game on, Game Fans