Cheap Eats

As part of Nunawading Wargames Association, I regularly attend community events in our local area to promote both the club and the hobby of miniature wargaming. Over the years, the attitude of the public to our club and hobby has shifted from a largely negative one to one of genuine interest. Probably the largest growth area of interest that I've seen recently is from parents of tween-aged children, most typically under the auspice of "will this get them off the ipad?". As there is a broader understanding of Autism in the community (at this point I'll mention that I am professionally a therapist) as well, parents of children on the spectrum are looking for activities that can engage the whole family, and games are a pretty good option. 

There is much to like about the hobby of miniature wargames, there are social, creative and cognitive aspects and the hobby overall promotes learning. Even fantasy or science-fiction games require skills based around mathematics, strategic thinking and risk evaluation. Many historical games not only encourage, but require reading and research into the technology, strategy, clothing and politics of their respective periods. As miniature wargames are, typically, played with at least one other person, the hobby promotes social skills and teamwork. The building and painting parts of miniature wargames are great creative outlets and can often be social occasions as groups of players get together to chat while they paint. 

Perhaps the biggest concern that I hear around getting into miniature wargaming is cost. Many of the miniatures are not cheap and children and adolescents have a habit of losing interest quickly, it's understandable that parents wouldn't want to make a big investment on a hobby that may not last very long. The good news is that with the boom in tabletop gaming and "geek culture" in the past decade, there are many cheaper alternatives available now that enable people to 'test out' the hobby without a great deal of expenditure. Collected here are several examples with rough cost estimates (in $AUD) and some basic suggestions to get you started. 

Note: For some of these games, you will need to find your own dice and measuring implements (in inches) which can be easily acquired from most $2 Stores. Other accessories like paper, pencils and calculators, you probably already have. 

BrikWars (Free)
If you have children, it's likely that you already have a collection of Lego or other construction bricks cluttering up rooms and getting painfully underfoot. BrikWars is a free set of rules for playing out battles with Lego figures and homemade vehicles that has a large online community and plenty of free resources to get you started. Much like the bricks themselves, Brikwars enables players to construct any unit, vehicle or monster that they can imagine and then balances them for a fun game. BrikWars is a great way to test run the idea of strategy gaming without having to start a new collection. 

Super Mission Force ($30+) 
Super Mission Force [SMF] is a fast-paced game of superhero action by veteran wargames writer, Scott Pyle. Games are made to be quick, fun encounters without too much worrying about rule complexities. SMF is just the set of rules, but if the cost of miniatures is a concern, there are plenty of options to consider, like Heroclix which are pre-painted, action figures, Skylanders/Amiibos/Disney Infinity or Lego, some of which you probably already have. Character creation is straightforward, but if it still seems daunting, there are plenty of people who have already had a go for you online:

Star Wars X-Wing ($50+)
X-Wing is a hugely popular and extremely well-produced miniatures game using the iconic setting and ships of Star Wars. There are plenty of online resources to get you started, new ships coming out all the time and players can be found at most game stores. The miniatures come painted, which is great for beginners or the lazy, and although higher levels of play can get pretty complex, the basics of the game are easy to grasp. Everything you need to play is in the starter box, but be warned, an X-Wing collection has a habit of expanding rapidly. 
Wings of Glory ($50+) 
The precursor to X-Wing, Wings of Glory (sometimes still called Wings of War online) is very similar but focuses the action on the air battles of the Great War. The rules are a little more complex, factoring in altitude and the limited reliability of the technology of the time. All of the planes come painted and with historical information, perfect for a budding history buff. NWA plays a couple of big Wings of Glory games each year if you're keen to give it a try, keep an eye on our Facebook page for details, find us through the "Links" section of this site.

Tanks ($40+) 
If spaceships and warplanes aren't your thing, how about tanks? Using tanks and other armored vehicles from the Second World War, Tanks is a fast-playing game a little similar to X-Wing and Wings of Glory, but is a little more of a challenge as the miniatures come unpainted and need to be assembled. Tanks is a good compromise for people wanting to try out the creative side of the hobby as well as the strategy games, there are plenty of expansions, featuring tanks from throughout the war. If you're stuck on painting them, come by a NWA meeting and there will be plenty of folks looking to give you a hand. 
Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire ($95+) 
Part of Games Workshop's ever-expanding "Boxed Games" range, Shadespire is probably one of the best when it comes to learning the hobby. Shadespire is a board game featuring Warhammer miniatures and basic elements from the Age of Sigmar game. Like many of the above games, Shadespire has an easy-to-learn core mechanic, but leaves plenty of strategic options and has an increasing number of expansions. The miniatures come in a solid colour for use with the board game, but also paint up nicely, your local Warhammer/Games Workshop store will run demos and help with the painting as well. 
Hopefully there's enough there to give you some idea of what's available to get you started in the hobby. Miniature Wargames can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn't need to be, there are plenty of cheap "ins" if you know where to look. Wargames can be cheaper than a martial art, most sports and video game consoles and can teach valuable skills and build strong friendships. For a look at how NWA plays a diverse range of games, check out the links section to see our Facebook page and some Blogs run by club members.