BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

WHERE DO I START? – A Beginners Guide to Wargaming – Part 3

5 Minute Read
Jul 5 2014

K9Monkey back with part 3 of the series on joining the tabletop gaming world.  Today we will look at picking an army.

Here is where we are in the article timeline (links to previous articles):

1.  How to get into the hobby.

2.  How to pick a game.
3.  How to pick an army.
4.  How to keep it fun and fresh.
5.  When to look at another game.
6.  Other gaming ideas.

So lets get started with topic #3. How to pick an army!

If you recall from the article “How to pick a game”, we talked about skirmish vs. large battle games.  No matter which you choose, the guidelines for making sure you pick the right army for you are the same.  I will break this down into four sections to consider when picking an army.


1. Looks
2. Hobby skills
3. Play styles
4. Cost


This might seem simple enough, however many people overlook this item because they heard someone tell them an army was good, or you have to play X because they beat everyone.  Never forget you have to look at your models all the time.  While you paint, while you play, while they are on your shelf, while you dream about them.  Oh sorry, maybe that is just me.

Since you will own these for a long time to come and be putting effort in to learning how they play, what they can and can’t do, strengths and weaknesses, best plan for winning, etc.  You need to make sure you like the way they look.  If you don’t like dragons, not only is there something seriously wrong with you, but you also should avoid playing Legion of Everblight for the game Hordes.  If you can’t stand bugs, then avoid Tyranids in 40K.  They might be great armies and win a lot of games; however if you hate looking at them you will not get the enjoyment out of your army you were hoping for.

Hobby skils
Here is where you just have to be honest with yourself.  If you are new to the hobby, jumping in with a complex army like Chaos Space Marines with tons of bits and doodads on their armor might not be the best idea.


Remember you are just getting started and picking up one box of models, or better yet borrow one from a friend and see how you like assembling and painting it.  Don’t be harsh on yourself either.  If you don’t get results like in White Dwarf, that is fine.  You are trying, learning, and building your skills.

For skirmish games you can get a model or two and check them out.  I tend to say don’t buy starter boxes.  They usually don’t have the units you are going to want to play longer term, and you are investing $50-$100 into the box.  Buy an inexpensive mini and see what you think.  Take your time and accept the learning curve of the hobby.

Play style
If you have played an online game or pen and paper game, Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, World of Warcraft, etc. you know different characters play different roles.  There are tanks, and support classes.  Damage dealers both melee and ranged.  All armies have choice, but some are more limited than others.  Some will excel at magic, some in melee, others in shooting.  Be aware of what you like and what you don’t.

– Do you enjoy slogging across the field of battle, shrugging off gun shots to finally smash in your opponent’s face?  Then maybe an army with machines like the Khador Beast-09 are more your style

– Do you like hiding in the shadows, using terrain to control the battle, while shooting your enemies to bits?  If you enjoy being the glass-cannon, dishing out tons of ranged damage, but needing to hide to stay alive, look at playing and army like the Tau.

Either way is fine, but picking armies that match your play style will make sure you enjoy the experience.  If you like to move quick and be nimble, don’t play Dwarves.  Their limited movement each turn will drive you crazy.  Even within an army you will have the ability to customize your troops to meet your style.  More melee, get big-smash-face Warjacks.  More shooting, get gunner squads and riflemen.  The choice is yours.


The only reason I am including this in the discussion is because it can vary greatly from army to army.  Play a horde army like Orcs and you could be buying up 10-20 boxes of Orc boys and Goblins for troops.  Play an Ogre type army and you could get away with as few as two boxes of troops.  Remember if you are on a budget, start small.  Ask people if they are willing to play a lower point game so you can build up your army over time.  Many gaming shops run “escalation” leagues.  These start with a low point value and ramp up over time.

Overall, if you find an army you like the looks of, feel comfortable painting, fits your play style, and you can afford it, WOOT!  You are a winner.  Whatever you do, go back to the first post in this series and remember to pace yourself.  Don’t get in over your head.  You can quickly end up drowning in minis you never play, rather than owning an army you love and play often.

What other things do you factor into your decision to pick up a new army or game? 

Next up – How to keep it fun and fresh. 

Follow my hobby life at

Author: K9 Monkey
  • 40k Editorial: Come the Apocaylpse - A Rude Awakening