Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Tabletop Wargming: Where To Buy, Who To Avoid
It goes without saying that playing any Games Workshop hobby tends to be an expensive addiction. Prices seem to rise every year, sometimes leaping up 50% or even outright doubling at any time, and it remains one of the few games to still charge players for buying rules. Quite often i've heard long time players argue that new people shouldn't join due to the continual betrayals by certain authors, and because it costs so much to even start up a basic army.
Rather than add to this naysaying just for once, this is going to be a quick look at the better outlets which could serve you well in getting into the hobby. Those who price Warhammer miniatures at a more reasonable cost; or even still support those games the company has shoved into the gutter then shot twice in the head. This is also going to list one or two to avoid in your browsing, who have proven to be unreliable or suffer from horrible customer service. That done, let's begin.
Often seen as a go-to option by many players, Element Games is one of the retailers who have built up a good reputation with customers over the years. Along with frequently promoting their discount prices for various miniatures, often 15-25% off, they are known to have a reliable customer service. This also extends to various Black Library products, with multiple novels, audio dramas and even prior editions of White Dwarf available for a discount price.
Furthermore, they feature a wide selection of tabletop franchises beyond Games Workshop such as X-Wing, Warmachine and Infinity. Even if you're not too interested in starting these games properly, many do offer great custom additions to forces. Deep Wars alone offers plenty of fantastic miniatures which could be customised for Dark Eldar, Chaos or Mechanicum themed armies.
The downsides come from two things. The foremost among these is due to one of those embargos which Games Workshop just loves to use against "freeloaders" selling their stuff. While nearly all their products are sold worldwide, anything relating to Warhammer can only be shipped to countries in Europe. If you're in Australia or the USA, you're unfortunately out of luck.
The other problem is that many products often seem to be in very limited supply. While things like the Lord of Skulls have a full fifteen quid knocked off their price, there are only two in stock. This is common for many things within their range, and quite a few are listed as out of stock.
While the retailer definitely has its shortcomings, it's still one of the best on this list. One well worth a look if you're at all interested in getting into tabletop wargaming.
In many respects Firestorm Games is quite similar to the above retailer. They have the same handicap of Games Workshop's embargo problems and also give discounts on many of their products. The difference here is that, along with providing for a number of titles Elemental Games overlooks, they have a better international service. While Elemental Games does offer free shipping within the UK for anything over sixty pounds, Firestorm offers the same anywhere in the world for anything over thirty. It's definitely the better deal for buying models in bulk and caters far better to wargamers overseas. Comments from customers and other gamers within the hobby have also suggested that shipping from Firestrorm is a great deal faster.
The problem is that despite this advantage, it's offset by slightly higher prices. Discounts are definitely less across the board, with many sets only removing one or two pounds from the usual costs. However, they are also more open to sales with considerable discounts. At the time of writing, the website is currently undergoing a clearance sale of certain items. Some prices have been reduced to as half as much they previously were before.
While it might seem like a weaker option in comparison to others on here, Firestorm Games is still a very viable source for models. One which many wargamers should make a point of not overlooking.
This was one I was definitely on the fence about adding for a few reasons. While Yoymart definitely undercut the obscene prices of Games Workshop's products, they also don't sell the official versions. Yoymart is effectively the Chinese substitute to Games Workshop's official products, casting figures in a different form of resin and often finding ways to cut corners with them. Flash and mold lines are just as bad with them as they were with early Finecast, though sans warping and bubbles thankfully. A good analysis of the products here have been made on another blog along with a few images of what to expect.
The thing is though, it's hard to overlook the idea that this is theft. Price gouging as Games Workshop might be, it's one thing for a company to produce very similar substitutes while retaining certain aesthetics and another entirely for this sort of knockoff casting. This very nearly prevented me listing it, until it was revealed what else they were offering.
While I am entirely against someone making money by selling their own castings of official models still supplied by Games Workshops, there are others. It doesn't take much searching to find a large selection of miniatures which Games Workshop stopped supplying or culled entirely being sold on the website. Several Battlefleet Gothic miniatures can easily be found, as can Battle-Brother Artemis from the discontinued Inquisitor line. Better yet, the company individually sells the various custom Terminators from the last edition of Space Hulk and features a number of Gamesday exclusive miniatures which have not been remade since.
If you are after miniatures Games Workshop no longer makes or games it has gone out of its way to kill off, Yoymart may have what you want.
Yes, now we get to the obvious one. This tends to be the first port of call to any who are after Warhammer related stuff at a price which will not cost you an arm and a leg. While most people will look for figures or squads sold by people departing the hobby, there are plenty of independent retailers who sell through the website. Grim Goblin for example offers a tasty assortment of Cataphractii Terminators, Contemptor Dreadnoughts, Ork models and unique customisable add-ons. While it takes a bit of searching, there are more than enough retailers on eBay not to immediately put down the website to second hand models.
That said, you shouldn't completely avoid individuals selling such models either. Just because a Warbuggy looks like a misshapen blob thanks to over-layering doesn't mean you should immediately discount it. With some stripping and repainting, the chances are it can be made to look like a great centerpiece at a small fraction of the cost of buying one new. Plus, unlike Games Workshop, there are more opportunities to purchase individual bits for units and customisation. World Eater chainaxes, legionary bionic legs and the like can be found quite easily, meaning you won't be stuck buying a whole unit just for one pistol.
Again, it's an obvious choice for cheaper purchases, but it's still well worth a look.
Now, while all these are good options there is one which needs to be warned against. I am going by word of mouth with this but I have heard nothing but bad things when it comes to this company and its services.
With a near universally negative reputation, Total Wargamer is the sort of independent retailer which makes Games Workshop look good. Despite their problems, at least with them you generally receive your models on a timely basis. With these guys, delivery and timing is extremely slow at best and communication with the customer is next to non-existent. Stories range from buyers receiving their models after a little over five weeks after ordering to not at all. This is despite the website displaying an expected ten to fifteen day delivery for each item.
While they do offer a bigger discount than others on here, it doesn't matter if you're not even sure if you'll receive the item.
So those are a few recommendations and one retailer to avoid. There are certainly many more which could be added to this list, but these are the primary choices for the moment. Chances are that, should this get enough attention, there will be another article like this again sometime in the future.
Until then, I hope this list helps anyone attempting to build an army on a budget.