Brent: Era of the Collector

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The title of today’s Terrible Tuesday article is “Era of the Collector,” an idea on my scratchpad for a year or more.  While I never got around to writing it until today, there’s perhaps never been a more fitting time to tackle the subject.

So what do I mean, exactly?  Just this, boys and girls, Unicorns and children of all ages:  when it comes to wargaming, you just can’t have everything, anymore.  And you probably shouldn’t want to.

* * * 

In the past, it was feasible to own armies from almost every book, and it was fairly common for people to do so.  Nowadays, it just doesn’t seem to be happening as much.  Things are changing.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating.  Over the last few decades at the local FLGS, there were a number of people with simply massive collections.  That doesn’t happen overnight, but if you’re spending one evening a week at your Favorite Local Game Store and you had some spare pocket cash, chances are there was a purchase in your future.  Add enough of those together and you’ve got an army.  Sure, some of these were guys who just couldn’t commit long enough to finish anything, but they had the bins of metal and plastic collecting dust in the garage somewhere.

It happened so much, the lone exception I know struck me as odd for a long time.  A local player has slowly added to his painted Blood Angels army for as long as I’ve known him.  My outlook is different now, but yeah, I thought it was freakin’ strange.

How can you be satisfied with just the one army?

Maybe the question I should have been asking was, “Why couldn’t I be?”

* * *

Most of you have pegged to the primary reason, which is cost.  It’s something the community is talking a lot about these days, what with Games Workshop’s current pricing, but it wasn’t so long ago that you could buy a blister for 8 bucks and a box for 25!  I don’t consider myself terribly old, but I also remember two Land Raiders in a box.

If only vehicles weren’t deathtraps back then.  Who knew the meta would eventually mean everything in multiples of three?

So cost is on the list, but it’s just the start.  Before going further, I’m aware this article is focused on Warhammer and/or 40K, but we’ll get there under, ‘Restricted Market.’

  • Purchase Cost
  • Army Size
  • Time Commitment
  • Restricted Market

Speaking of things we’re all aware of, it also wasn’t so long ago that an army’s model count wasn’t measured by the dozen.

My ‘Homage Army’ is made up of RTB1-era models, including a Land Raider, Rhinos, Dreadnoughts, and of course the original plastic Space Marines.  A decade ago I decided last minute to attend an event in Dallas, Texas, so painted up a 1500-point army the weekend before.  It wasn’t really a stretch; I commonly used events to focus on finishing an army.

  • Purchase Cost
  • Army Size
  • Time Commitment
  • Restricted Market

And segue right into ‘Time Commitment.’  Armies cost less, were smaller,  and frankly took a lot less

time to finish.

Okay, you get that there were less to paint – but in many cases they were also easier to paint!  Seriously, just give it some thought.  Compare the old Pink Horrors metal models with the new plastics.  There’s no doubt the quality is better, but the metals were smaller, required less prep time, and were easier to paint to a good tabletop quality.

Many armies were that way.  Look, we all want Sisters of Battle in plastic, but there is an advantage to single-part metals in terms of speed painting.  Thankfully, air brushes are around to soak up the extra tedium of base coating the ever-increasing size of basic models.

Lastly, and most importantly…

  • Purchase Cost
  • Army Size
  • Time Commitment
  • Restricted Market

…the market has changed.

I’m not unaware of how focused this article has been on 40K, but in the States that was the game everyone played.  In Europe, it’s my understanding Warhammer was dominant during the past decades.  Nowadays, not only are there innovative companies creating incredible miniature ranges, but the options for fun alternative games with staying power are many.

Flames of War.  DUST.  Warmachine.  Hordes.  Infinity.  Malifaux.  To name just a few; but let’s not forget the models!  I’m lusting over the Kingdom Death range.  I couldn’t be more excited about Creature Caster!  The future couldn’t be brighter; just search ‘miniatures’ in Kickstarter and find out.

Our options are increasing by the year.  Frankly, that’s my primary argument for why GW’s numbers are down.  Reality is catching up, and Games Workshop isn’t the only game in town.

* * *

As I wrote in the beginning, I believe this is the Era of the Collector, and here’s what I mean.

I’ve still got a sizable investment in Warhammer Fantasy and 40K models, but I’ve traded ranges I no longer want to play for those I do.  I’m not going to collect armies, I’m going to collect a range of models.

Over the last few years, I’ve traded collection for collection with friends; Tau for Tyranids, Eldar for Sisters, and so on, increasing my existing stuff so I have options to weather an uncertain future.  I no longer believe it’s feasible to own a bit of everything and be satisfied.  When seen over the long term, the only constant with Warhammer and Warhammer 40K is change – I’m sure I’m not the only one whose 1500-point army became so much 900-point crap.  For me, I’ll slowly grow existing collections of Necrons and Nids, Dark Eldar and Daemons, Imperial Guard and Space Marines.

I can only afford so many from two decades in the hobby.  My list would be a lot smaller if I had to start fresh in the hobby… and frankly, I’ll probably chop that list in half over the next two years.

And then there are other systems.  Maybe I learned the hard way, but I learned.  I’m enjoying Infinity, but I’ll exclusively purchase the Haqislam range, thank you.  I’m enjoying Warmachine and Hordes, so it’s Menoth and Circle, thank you.  There is enough diversity in these ranges to keep me happily painting and playing for many years to come.

* * * 

The images are from an article about one man’s collection of toys and comics… pretty outrageous!  The LINK is here.

I was coming around to this idea even before GW made impulse purchases a thing of the past.  In the past, I mentioned pocket change spent over weeks would earn you an army.  The past is gone; there is only the current reality.

Models are an investment in both cash and time.  These days, the cost of each is high, so it behooves us to make wiser decisions about how we spend both.

That’s it, folks, another Terrible Tuesday come and gone.  Did any of these themes hit home?  Did you know – or where you the guy? – that had everything?  And how has your collecting habits changed over the years?

As always, thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

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