We all know that this hobby is pretty freaking cool. It caters to many different focuses; painting for the artist, various levels of games, from pick up to tournament level. Starting in the hobby is an exciting if not daunting experience, and the cost of start up is high. There is no getting around that wallet emptying fact. Paints, brushes, glue, tools and of course minis are all marked at premium prices, so finding deals is always helpful to the wallet. There are several outlets for finding miniatures from retail, online retail, auctions and forums dedicated to miniature sales. Finding the outlet that you feel comfortable with and that saves you money is  a great start to getting into the hobby.

Games Workshop

GW Store

Games Workshop is usually the very first stop a beginning wargamer makes. They have painted displays and a huge selection of minis and armies to choose from. In addition to the shiny new things, there is also a store manager that is usually savvy in terms of rules and sometimes painting. Several tables are set up for hobbying (painting and assembly) and gaming. Most stores also offer competitions and tournaments. This all sounds ideal until you look at the prices of the units. At all Games Workshop stores, you will be paying full retail plus any sales tax. Full retail is getting increasingly expensive every year. With all of its positive aspects, Your local GW store will not save the new player any money.

GW pros:
entire retail line is on display
Tables for free play and events
Rules and army knowledge base
Regulars (instant friends)

GW cons:
Price of minis
Not all managers are created equal
Only GW products

Hobby Store/FLGS

Danger Room, FLGS, Anderson Indiana
Danger Room, FLGS, Anderson Indiana

A Local hobby shop (or friendly local gaming shop/FLGS) is another option for new players. They are, unfortunately dying out because of online retailers. Like games workshop retail stores, local hobby shops usually have tables for games and tournaments, places to paint, and fairly knowledgable owners/managers. For the most part, the prices are full retail, however, many shops offer a loyalty program. So if you purchase $100 worth of stuff, you can get 10% off your next purchase. For those stores that offer a loyalty program, they usually give out punch cards with $20 increments, so you don’t have to buy $100 worth of stuff at one time. Local hobby shops are gems in the gaming community. They offer a wide range of products from many different lines for you to choose from, and a great opportunity to try new gaming systems with a large variety of gamers.

Local Hobby Shop pros:
Great community of players
Diverse gaming systems
Possible loyalty programs
Tables for games
Special events

Local Hobby Shop cons:
Getting harder to find
Retail costs upfront

Online Retailers

Online Shopping
Online Shopping

Online retailers give gamers the opportunity to buy new products for discounted prices, usually around 10-25% off. These places usually have massive warehouses filled with many different gaming systems. The online retailer has gained incredible popularity because of the savings offered. Because of this, competition has made it necessary for online retailers to offer other incentives such as free shipping or loyalty points programs to the consumer. Unlike the games workshop and local hobby stores, there is no community, no tables, no events, just better prices on minis.

Online Retailer pros:
Discounts on new product
Sales (Black Friday etc.)

Online Retailer cons:
No community
Detrimental to local hobby shops
No special events

Auction Sites

Online Auctions
Online Auctions

Auction sites such as ebay are also popular choices for the beginning wargamer. Because it’s like a big rummage sale, there is a little bit of everything in various conditions. New, used, painted, out of production, and rare minis can all be found on auction sites. Deals can certainly be found here, but the prices can become inflated quickly.

Auction pros:
Huge variety of minis
Some great deals
Excitement of auctions
Great place to find used miniatures

Auction cons:
No community
Prices can get out of control
Might lose auction

Online Forums

Forums dedicated to the sale of minis is a unique way to buy. A community of gamers come together to sell/trade the things they no longer want. Like the auction sites, sales forums like Bartertown have a wide variety of minis in various conditions. As a buyer, you deal directly with the seller, so prices can usually be negotiated. There is a community feel to these forums, but there are really no safeguards to buying. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people and there is a risk of getting taken. But for the most part, the war gaming community on these forums is honest.

Forums pros:
A sense of community
Little bit of everything available
Ability to negotiate prices

Forum cons:
The riskiest buying option

There are many different ways to buy minis. Each outlet has it’s pros and cons as well as different levels of risk. Clearly physical stores have the highest prices, but virtually no risk of getting taken advantage of. They offer other perks to possibly offset the cost. Online purchasing options  have more of a risk involved, but much lower prices. As a new hobbyist, you need to find the right mix of risk and savings for you.