Thursday, September 5, 2013

Army on a Budget: Chapter 1

Hi everyone, for a while now I have been thinking of writing a series of articles detailing how new and veteran players alike can go about building an army while sticking to a budget. Let's face it, this is an expensive hobby and once model addiction sets in (the first step is admitting I have problem! haha) the cost factor becomes a serious obstacle. For myself I know that I simply don't have the money or the time to build every army I want.

Lately I have been kicking around a few ideas for different armies, each with a different approach that would have to be taken toward completing it. In this article I want to set the parameters of the project and then lay out a few of my ideas, and hopefully I'll get some feedback before making my final decision. My goal for this long-term project is not just to build a new force, but to show my two readers out there that careful planning and financial discipline can still provide a rewarding experience.

Budget: Obviously, the term "budget" is going to mean different things to different people. You need to go over your own finances and decide what exactly you can afford to spend on toy soldiers. That may sound a little harsh, but its the reality. I took a two-year break from the hobby when I was going to grad school at night and making $10/hr during the day at an internship.

I've decided to set my budget goal at $40-45 per month. Any extra money from one month can carry over to the next. That works out to roughly one tank platoon per month, or gun battery, or infantry company, etc. This will also give me time to finish assembling and painting each unit before moving on to the next one.

Which Army? Now the fun part: which force should I choose? I want to make this as much of a top-to-bottom project as possible, so I don't want to use any models that I already own for this project. While I was thinking about which army to choose I realized that there are some guidelines out there that might be helpful to newer players:

1. Elite vs. Horde - Generally, armies that have a higher quantity of elite troops or top-notch equipment will require less models than a less-skilled horde army. The less models you have to buy, the cheaper the overall force will be. However, those who get into this hobby rarely stop collecting models, so if you really want to play a Soviet horde then don't be concerned with the overall cost of the project; instead focus on keeping the month-by-month costs under control.

2. Fun vs. Cost - Let's face it, you could probably build a King Tiger company or a Jagdtiger company for under $100 USD. But that army will be extremely one-dimensional and probably won't garner much success on the tabletop. Newer players have to take their licks starting out, but nobody likes losing all the time. In a similar vein, if everyone around you is playing Late-War then don't build an Early-War army right away. You won't have as much fun with your models if you can't get them on the table (unless you're a pure painter/modeler, in which case building an army on a budget doesn't really apply).

3. Look into Starter Sets - The Open Fire starter set is an incredible buy. If you're thinking about playing as the Germans or Western Allies it's almost a must-have.

Now that we have the basic parameters out of the way, let's explore a few of the armies and approaches I am thinking about with regard to this project:

Soviet Engineer Sappers - This list is one in which I see a lot of potential, and the background/fluff is extraordinary. I am currently listening to the audiobook of Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle (concerning the Battle of Berlin) and the Soviet Engineer Sappers accomplish impossible tasks again and again, through sheer determination. As for the tabletop, by taking the hero and a Spetsnaz platoon you could infiltrate two huge companies of engineers, backed by assault guns and rockets.

The downside? I loathe painting infantry, and this force would require a lot of infantry. Plus the company box set is no longer in production, so I won't be able to save on costs from that perspective.

ANZACs in Vietnam - Flames of War Vietnam has been picking up steam at my FLGS, and while I've been subbing in my WW2 US models I don't yet have a legitimate 'Nam army. WWPD's great review of the ANZACs got me interested. The Centurion tanks look awesome, and the sculpts on the infantry could get even me excited about painting them. Plus, as an elite army, I wouldn't have to buy as many units.

The negatives on this one are pretty obvious: the part of this hobby I enjoy most is the gaming, and while 'Nam is gaining popularity there is still nowhere near as many people playing it as are playing the WW2 era. I might sink money into these guys just to have them rarely see the light of day. Plus, the helicopters remain both expensive and hard to find in stock.

EW French Tanks - With Historicon being Early-War next year the guys at my FLGS have been playing a lot of this era lately. My Afrika Korps has performed alright, but the French Tank list most appeals to my playing style. This would require me to paint just a little infantry and artillery, and I love painting tanks. The list is competitive and wouldn't be too expensive.

On the flip side I am just starting to find my groove with the Afrika Korps, and the Early-War theater that appeals to me the most is, hands down, the desert. Plus, I don't own the Blitzkrieg book, so that would basically take up a month's budget.

Hermann Goering Germans - The HG German lists have appealed to me for a long time, but I've never bitten the bullet on them. There are some very unique and tactically appealing force organisations for these guys, and their rules are top notch. Basically, on the tabletop, these guys never run away. Also, once I had completed the army, I would be able to incorporate some of the units into my existing German force. I could also use infantry from the Open Fire Set to get me started on some of the footslogging units for this army.

The negatives here are more philosophical than anything else: I wouldn't really be starting a new army. I already play Germans regularly. Perhaps to counter this I would try to find units that I haven't bought in the past and work them into this new endeavor. The HG list has some cool options, like Elephants, Hornisse Tank Hunters, and Brummbars.

Canadian Ri- HA! not going to happen.

So there you have it. I am open to other suggestions but these are the forces that spring to mind. Thanks for reading and as always please follow me on Twitter @piflamesofwar 


  1. ANZAC all the way. But the helicopter shortages hurt (they've been hurting me).

  2. I personally would go for the Soviet Engineers, I have a US and a German army and will probably do a soviet next, it just seems like the right step.

  3. if you're thinking soviets and are into the Battle of Berlin, you might want to wait until this drops: