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Beginners Guide

What To Do First?

Well, the first step is easy to explain, harder to do. Find people to play with. Assuming gaming is your objective, of course. If not, just skip to phase two, painting.

Once you’ve met some gamers, check out the Lexicon. This will help you understand what they’re talking about.

To refight a battle with miniatures you need an opponent, miniatures, dice (usually lots of these), a model battlefield, and a set of rules. And how you go about getting all of these will depend on your opponents. What you don’t want to do is start out with a set of rules, paint up all the armies, and then discover you can’t find anyone else with a burning interest in The War of Jenkin’s Ear. Of course, if you’ve got some friends who are willing to try - go for it. Just don’t imagine “If I build it, they will come.”

So how do you find opponents? Here are a bunch of tactics you can use:

  • One good source is the Historical Miniature Gaming Society (HMGS). Check the web site, track down your local chapter, and check in.
  • Gaming stores are another way. They usually have game nights open to all comers. Most have a bulletin board where you can post free ads for “Opponents Wanted.”
  • Then there’s the Internet. Ah yes, the great knowing eye, supplier of all that is good, and right, and holy. A few Google searches should get you started. Of course, you can check out my general gaming links right here.
  • Check for a club listing with your local college or university.

Okay, let’s say you’ve got some opponents. You’ll quickly discover they have favorite areas of interest, and favorite games for each. They may like tactical games, pitting a couple dozen soldiers on each side against each other. They may want to fight the big one - Gettysburg, The Battle of the Bulge, Thermopylae, Waterloo. Dabble. Try things on for size. Be prepared to play some one else’s game so they’ll play yours. Once you’ve tried things, and found one you like, then you’re ready to part with some cash.

The first thing to buy is a set of rules for the game you’ll be playing. Most run about $15 - $50, but you can get some free (like Élan Deluxe or Redcoats & Rebels), and some can run you more than that. That’s because some publishers publish their games in multiple bits so you have to keep buying new books to play. For most historical games the rules are one book, and more scenarios are extra.

You will want to buy the rules, and have your opponents, before you start in on the real guts of the hobby: those adorable little lead soldiers. Well, first of all, most contain little, if any, lead these days. But that’s another story. And you’ll need paints, brushes, and such. Expect to pay about $150 to start a really nice set. You can get a bare bones set put together for much less - say $35. You may be able to use a buddy’s stuff for while, but you’re better off getting your own. Between the rules and your opponents you’ll be ready to buy some lead. Civil War in 15 mm? Samurai in 25 mm? Panzers in 6 mm?

Before you dive in and buy an army’s worth of lead, it’s a good idea to plan out what you want to build. For example, in the Napoelonic Wars, everyone wants to paint up the French Guard. Okay, but there are TONS of battles they weren’t at. So those beautiful soldiers will not see much playing time. Instead, build up a good size force of grunts - line infantry, cavalry and artillery. A basic rule is “have a lot of whatever gets killed a lot.” Grunts. Look at your rules and the scenarios. They’ll let you know how many of each troop type you need and will help you figure out which packages of miniatures to buy. Which is not to say don’t buy cool miniatures/units. Just make sure if you’re building an army to fight (game) with, it can be used in a lot of scenarios. Some periods are easy - American Civil War, for example. While there were a lot of different uniforms, especially in 1861, almost anything you build (infantry-wise) you can use in most scenarios. But you can’t just pass off French Guard as Italian line infantry. Talk to your gaming group - they’ll point you in the right direction. In fact, they’ll probably suggest “we’ve always wanted an army of....” Always a great way to get in good.

Right, you’ve settled on a gaming group, a set of rules, and now you have a pile of unpainted figures. What’s next? Painting of course. Here’s my take on the stuff you need. Here are some resources on how to use the stuff.

What is this whole hobby about anyway?

If you’re interested in how this whole hobby got started head over here:

TWOJE: Yes, this is a real war. Don’t feel bad if you never heard of it. I had seen it mentioned regularly but thought it was a joke.

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