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Ground Floor: Starting Warhammer 40,000 CHEAP

6 Minute Read
Jan 20
Fritz here– we often hear how wargaming is an expensive hobby, and certainly 40K and Fantasy can have a huge buy in compared to smaller systems of more old time stuff like DBA, but is the “buy in” really that expensive?

Over the years I’d say- you can’t put a price on a good time, and the money I’ve spend on my armies was really a door that opened up stuff that you can’t put a cost on – fun and epic moments on the table, hanging out and making new friends, time spend driving and flying all over the country with the guys attending tournaments, Games Days, and other events. My little plastic and metal models have opened up so much for me over the years that it is hard to qualify if they were “expensive” or not.
But what if I was starting out in the hobby right now, bitten by the gaming bug, or perhaps still sitting on the fence deciding if I would jump in? Certainly it is more overwhelming now then what I started back as a thirteen year old kid with Rogue Trader.
I had two “armies” back then- Eldar and Imperial Army. My Eldar raider force contained about twelve models, and my IA army (no IG back then) clocked in at around twenty models and an Imperial robot at its biggest. No tanks, transports, IC, monstrous creatures, flyers, or hundreds of models to make up your collection. It was easier to convince mom to give you a $20 bill to buy your army over the $500-$1000 price tag of most tournament armies today.
And that is part of the problem- is 40K really THAT expensive? Most of the blog-o-sphere out there is based on tournament play and that facet of the hobby, and certainly GW pushes big games and more toys for the money grab – but that is only a facet of the hobby. Maybe you will grow into it one day, and maybe not, but that certainly isn’t the place to start your journey., or represents all of Warhammer 40,000.
Starting Small
Manageable and sustainable enjoyment is key- getting your models on the table, rolling those dice, and building memories is the first step in the hobby. So, let’s look at a game plan for how to get into the hobby at a real entry point- $100 dollars.
Is this a lot of money since a “hobby” assumes you have a little extra cash on hand?
Can we take it down another peg to say the cost of a video game?
Kids ask for video games all the time, and get them, so let’s say this is our price barrier.
For the new person entering the hobby I’d recommend Space Marines as they are the easiest to play, have the widest appeal, and most heroic background. Everybody can get behind the “good guys”- that and it might be difficult to convince your mom to give you money to buy a box of half breasted demon women or drug using elves that like to torture people.
For arguments sake let’s go off GW website for prices…
First we need an army book @ $33. I won’t get into pirated stuff here, and that said, owning the book is a must for both the points AND the history and fluff which fuels the imagination and motivation of your games and hobby. As a new player embracing the game history is a must as it provides the jargon and language used by your fellow gamers and the 40K culture that you will be joining. You’ll understand why that big fat guy keeps on yelling “WAAAAGGGHHH!!!” as he pushes his Orks around , why the “Emperor Protects” when you roll the armor saves on your Space Marines, and why that dude keeps flashing you the Imperial Aquila hand sign.
Next we need a game legal and manageable army so we hit up two boxes of tactical marines at $37.25 each. This give you a small force to play with, some special and heavy weapons, and two sergeants.
Now we need an HQ choice and for the price I’d recommend going with either the command squad set or Marenius Calgar and honor guard set @ $35 or $41.25 each. Why? You get a number of models which you can use as an HQ choice, along with some extra models to mix in with your squads, use for other units, etc. Starting out like this is a better value than just buying a single HQ choice like a Captain or Chaplain- you can make both these guys out of the command squad boxed set.
Time to add up the price…
$142.50 which is way over our $60 buy in, or even $100!
At this price point we might as well look into the battle force and a codex which is only a dollar or so more. Certainly an option, but I think we can do better. Order online elsewhere with 20% off and we can get the two tactical squads, codex, and command group for around $113.
Time to combine the magic of ebay and Assault on Black Reach with a little patience. Assault on Black Reach is the 40K starter set which comes with both Space Marines and Orks which retails for around $100, and while you can buy it with a friend and split the forces, etc. we are looking at getting into the hobby for yourself and with Space Marines- but it is something to keep in mind.
….I just searched up ebay and found the following…
-Assault on Black Reach Tactical Space Marines, full squad of 10 @ $7.50
-Assault on Black Reach Captain @ $2.00
-Assault on Black Reach Space Marine Dreadnought @ $12.50
-Assault on Black Reach terminators, five @ $15
-Assault on Black Reach Getting Started Book @ $.99
-Two tactical squads and the captain (which can play a few HQ choices) price in @ $17!
Add the getting started book for the basic rules, stats, and some intro fluff to hold you over till you buy the codex and we are at $18 to play the game.
The seller I found also had free shipping!
Next up is hobby supplies- you are going to need some basic tools and paints to get your army started. While you could get started in the hobby with a friend, most of us find our way through a store, hobby center, or gaming club- this is the lifeblood of the hobby and your next step.
If you have never painted your own miniatures before it can be a daunting task! Finding a club or group who can help you will go such a long way. The 40K community really is a wondrous thing, and while I can’t speak for everywhere, I’m sure it is much the same as where I am- if you showed up at the local comic shop or the Battle For Salvation gaming club with your new Space Marine force, myself and guys like Brother Captain James, Black Matt, and Jawaballs would sit down and help you get your stuff painted- we, and the club even have the paints and will help out with some of the harder details. You could paint these guys out in the course of an evening of gaming no problem. You just have to be friendly, social, have that interest in the hobby….and ask.
…which could mean we still have $42 left to spend on models, buy a codex, maybe some terminators, a dreadnought, or just bank the money for a few games…
Have Models – Will Battle!
So your army is painted, you are part of the group fresh faced and ready to go! You have seen some of the guys who have larger armies and you are wondering where to start, just what you can do with such a small army, and who would like to play with you.
With the two tactical squads and a commander you can play any of the standard 40K games since you have a legal army of two troops and an HQ. You can also play some of the smaller skirmish 40K games like Kill Team and Combat Patrol which work with a dozen or so models. As you learn the game, and get hungry for bigger battles and more units you can move into some doubles games.
A doubles games is where there are two or more players per side- your army would join forces with another army to make a larger game. This is a lot of fun simply because the more people playing the game the better- more chance for glory and wacky stuff to happen, plus it will give you a taste of some of the other models in the game. You will see tanks in action, dreadnoughts, and other infantry units. Maybe your team mates can let you borrow one of their units to command for the game so you can try it out. Find out what units you would like to add to your Space Marine force.
…then it is time to spend that $42 on another unit, and building and painting it should be super quick since it is only one model or a small group- even buying the codex at this point which is recommended would leave you $10 or so for another tactical squad, Assault on Black Reach terminators or other models off Ebay.
Stopping right there you could go for a long time gaming and having fun in the hobby, all for the buy in of around $60. If you find you want to go deeper the next step would be buying some basic paints and modeling supplies, and then slowly building your army up unit by unit- over the course of time, and before you know it you will easily have a full 1750-2000 point army.
If I had to start all over again, that is how I would get into the hobby…  How would you start?

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