Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A newbie's guide to starting Warmachine

Let me preface this post by saying that I am no expert on this subject. I have been gaming for 15 years in minitures games, but most of that was spent in GW products. Recently I've become fed up for a variety of reasons, and currently find myself getting very excited about and into Warmachine and Hordes. As any good gamer should, I have convinced some of my buddies around here to get into the game with me. These guys ARE NOT miniture war gamers, and previous to now, have not ever owned any minitures or miniture games. I tried to create a sort of checklist primer for them, for how to get into miniture wargames, and Warmachine/Hordes
specifically. I fully realize there are a lot of ways to do this, and a lot of techniques. I'm simply suggesting this as one way for someone totally new to the hobby to get involved. With some small modifications, this is also how I'd get into Warhammer, 40K, Malifaux, or even Dystopian Wars. Read it and let me know what you think.

The idea is the following info is a check list. You can plug yourself in, wherever you are on the list. There are various ways to do this, but this is how I would do it, assuming the following things are true.

You desire to collect a playable force in Warmachine
You want to paint and assemble your own force
You want to learn the ins and outs of the game
You are new to miniature war games

(1) The first step is to pick a faction that interests you. Warmachine is completely compatible with the game Hordes. Between the two, there are 11 different factions as well as a few sub-factions within those. That means that there is a force that's playable for everyone. There are lots of factors that go into selecting a force such as looks, theme, background story, power level, and play style, but I think the most important ones, especially when starting the hobby are the look of the models. You are going to spend a ton of time painting them, and if you don't like the models, that's not good. The second key aspect is play style. Is it a melee "beat face" army, is an army full of tricks and gimmicks, is it a long range shooter army, if you can figure these out, you can pick one that plays your style. A great resource for seeing the models and learning about play style is Battle College

(2) The next step, once you've decided on a force is to purchase some models. Most armies have a battlebox or Warpack, which are basically a Warcaster (mandatory for all games) and a couple warjacks/warbeasts. This is a great deal b/c it gives you a relatively balanced force to play with at a reduced price. It may not have all the high powered models, and it may not be the exact warcaster you want, but it's such a great starting point, it's hard to pass up. If there is not battle box, you've got to do some buying on your own. As a short aside, I am assuming you know someone with the rulebook. If not, you should buy it. Also, the rulebook is very affordable, and every Warmachine player should have a rule book (Warmachine or Hordes depending on your faction) at some point. You may substitute it at any point in the following list I provide. I've done some discussion of this subject elsewhere, but let me give a short synopsis of what I'd purchase and in what order. Battle box, alternate caster (if you don't love the battle box one, otherwise skip this), the Force book (which details background and all model rules for your force), a unit of your choice, a solo or two, if you have money to spend another unit or warjack/warbeast, and go on from there. Shoot for 20 points to start, if you have the funds. Remember, if you get the Faction book, you can learn more about the units, solos, and extra warjacks/warbeasts available before you spend money on them. That's really, really smart.

(3) Next is purchasing modeling supplies. All these models will be provided unassembled. There are some basic supplies you need to get started. I highly recommend buying these supplies at a Wal-mart or hobby shop like Hobby Lobby. That will save you tons of cash. The basics you need are super glue (Gorilla glue from Wal-Mart is great), an exact-o knife, plastic glue (testers model glue works great) and some files for filing off mold lines and extra metal flashing. Remember, this is an initial start up cost that stinks, but you'll be able to use this stuff for a long time.

(4) Buying paint supplies. If you want to paint the models, and believe me, you do, you need to have the painting supplies. There is tons of painting advice out there, and lots of people better than me, but here's how I'd start. First, you need a primer to prime the models. Black works awesome. It can have some issues if you plan to have lots of white on your model, but for beginning painters, nothing is better than a black primer. It will make your painting look 5x better. I recommend going to Wal-mart and getting Krylon black primer. Cheap and good to use. Next, you need colors. Do not skimp on this and do not try to use Testers model paints. It will be a disaster. Beginners need to use miniature paint produced by miniature companies. For Warmachine/Hordes, I think it's easiest to buy the privateer press starter sets they offer for each faction. It's a collection of 6 paints that should help you do a basic color scheme of your faction, which will be outlined in your force book. I have seen this used to great effect by a first time painter. From there, you add additional colors you need as you go along. For brushes, I would recommend getting 2 hobby brushes from the same place you get your miniatures and miniature paint. The are expensive, but well worth it. I would also get a pack of small, cheap brushes from a hobby lobby or Michael's as well

(5) Assembling models. It’s not time to put your models together. Plastic on plastic can use the tester’s plastic glue. Metal on metal, or metal on plastic needs to use super glue. Before you glue stuff together, use your knife and files to file off any flashing (excess metal) or mold lines you see on the model. This is the most frustrating and time consuming process for new people to the hobby, and its super tempting to skip right to gluing and painting. Don't, b/c those lines and flashing will really look bad once paint goes on. Once it's cleaned, you can glue together. Really complex or heavy parts may need to be pinned. If you can't get a piece to stay glued, Google "pinning". Most models don’t' have to have this done. Models can be glued to their base at this time, which helps in a lot of ways for beginners.

(6) Play some small games. Now, this step can occur at any point once you've assembled your figures. And ideally, it should continue during the next few steps. I've simply put it here b/c as soon as your models are assembled, you are good to go on playing. I absolutely think it is best to play with painted models, but I do not think it's best to wait to play until you've painted your models, so play away. To play, what you will need is a copy of the rulebook and/or an experienced player to show you the ropes. Both are the best. You also need your models, duh. You need some tokens to represent fury or focus. These can be anything from scraps of paper to glass beads you see on wedding reception tables to official (read expensive) game markers. You need a few 6 sided dice (standard dice). 6 seems to be more than enough, with two working in a pinch. You need the cards that come with the game models, which should be placed in clear card sleeves. You then need a dry erase marker to mark on the cards, which you have in sleeves so you can wipe the cards off, and play with them again. Finally, you will probably need a copy of the templates, but you can shell out the cash for this or simply photocopy them from the back of the rule book. I recommend this for people already outlaying a lot of money. Terrain is important of the game, but to start with, this could be some soup cans and boxes of dry food. Not nearly as impressive, but you're learning. When playing games, I strongly suggest starting off with some battle box games. This means, even if you bought some extra stuff (which if you had the money you did) just play with what comes in the battle box. That usually means you have your caster and 1-4 jacks/beasts. That’s a great size to learn the game, and not get too overwhelmed. Especially if you are brand new to miniature games. If you start too big, your brain will fry and your experience will be poo.

(7) Priming is the next step. This is very intimidating, and while your initial paint job may not be the best, the best way to become a better painter is to paint. Cliché' but true. The first step is to prime your models black. The whole model should be coated, but be careful to not spray so long and thick that you obscure detail. Again, countless videos on how to do this, but common sense should be fine. Don't be afraid to give it a quick spray, and come back for a second coat.

(8) Painting. I've already outlined what you need to paint. Don't forget to have a old cup with water so you can wash out your brush between colors or when it's going dry. I suggest having a water cup for both regular paints and metallic paints, as the metallic have shiny stuff in them that you don't want in your regular paint. Having a paper towel to wipe excess paint on is good too. The biggest thing with painting is just start. I've been painting for 15 years, and I'm not very good, however, my stuff looks fine on the table top, and I now really, really enjoy the process. It's very enjoyable and therapeutic for me to paint. It seems daunting, but just start. As an aside, I really like listening to podcasts while I paint. I listen to nerd podcasts about gaming and warmachine, as well as ones about soccer and NFL football. If podcasts aren't your thing, you might try digital books or even movies you know by heart. It makes the process even more enjoyable.

(9) Basing. The last step is to add a basing material to your model's base. It's amazing how much this little step can add to your model and make your paint job pop. Below average painted models can look 5x's better with a base. Basing is the process of adding a flock (like they use for train sets) to the base. I usually apply a while Elmer’s glue, glue some flock down and let dry. Then I water the Elmer’s down, apply a very wet, milk like coat, and let that dry. Once that's done, you'll be impressed. Basing can be a very involved and complex process, but you'll learn that as you go. For your first models, keep it simple.

(10) Varnish. The last step is to spray a varnish on the models. The varnish dries clear, and protects the paint job you've done. I prefer a matte varnish, as a glossy makes the model too... umm... glossy. This process is still one I'm struggling with, and sometimes the matte varnish can turn your models a bit cloudy, which sucks. This is an important step, and protects your paint job (from wear and tear while playing) as well as your basing. I suggest just using a krylon matte varnish, and if you want more details, Google it and learn from those much wiser than I.

(11) Buy more crap. As you go, you will want to increase the size of your force, as well as buy stuff that is more effective for your play style. That is normal. I suggest getting some games in, reading some fluff, and trolling the internet a bit to figure out what you want. If you are like me, and on a limited budget, early on you need to strike a balance between getting a decent size force and not buying a bunch of stuff you will end up not using or wanting. That's why, even if I had a bunch of money to spend, I'd buy the battle box, a unit, a solo, and my favorite faction caster model. That's it. Save the rest of the money once you know what you want. Plus, if you've never painted before, the more models you buy, the more daunting getting it all painted will seem. Trust me, less is more!!! Besides models, this is the time to start pimping your other stuff. Maybe pick up the real warmachine/hordes templates. Expand your paint collection from 6 pots to 10. Get another brush. Buy some extra basing material. Get some special dice. Make terrain or you own gaming board, etc. Just remember, this hobby will gobble up as much cash as you will give it. Be smart, and be patient. Don't expect to have everything a guy like me, who’s been in the miniature gaming hobby for 15 years, has.

Ok, that's it. If you follow these steps, you will be on your way to playing warmachine. A couple points. The internet is your best and worst friend. It has amazing tutorials, great pictures, and lots of strategy. It also has a lot of idiots who profess to know all there is to know on everything. Take stuff with a grain of salt, especially tactics stuff. If you want to collect a unit, and people say they are crap, get the unit. Play what you want. Learn the game with the stuff you want. Remember too, this is a community hobby. If you have questions, ask. There are tons of people, including myself, that would be happy and flattered to answer any questions you might have.

Plug yourself in on this chart and have at it. Remember what I said, I'm no expert. I'm not saying this is the best way to do this, but it's a way. Give it a shot, and modify it to taste by all means.


Maniple said...

I liked the last step. "buy more crap." That also needs to include "clean out the basement and buy some storage containers."

Lollipop said...

Hey are Testors/Model Master paint really that bad for this hobby even if you primed first? if so why? Thanks in advance.

Lollipop said...

By the way, what paints do you recommend especially those that can be purchased at Michaels of Hobby Lobby

Lester Crow said...

Great read. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I'm finally taking the plung and you really inspired me.


Can't wait to play like I have a pair
- LC~<-

Jay Lewis said...

Thank you for posting this, really enjoyable read and informative :)