Cry Havoc, And Let Slip the Dice of War! (part zwei)

Yesterday we looked at the monetary costs of starting an army of miniatures for our newly inspired Nate the Novice Gamer. Now that he’s purchased the materials for his mighty Orges, we’re going to take a look at the second part of the “thrice-fold” cost of miniatures gaming: Time.

First our budding general needs to read the rules both for the game and for his army. This is important, especially the latter part, because he needs to know what his options are before he starts putting things together. A 1,000 point army isn’t a lot to work with – especially if Ogres are involved, so he needs to plan ahead a bit. The Warhammer book is a little over five hundred pages long, but Nick only needs to read the first 150 to get a handle on the rules. We’ll say he does that in five hours of reading, with an additional hour or two going over the army book and jotting down notes about troop composition.

Next is assembling the miniatures. Cutting, cleaning and gluing take their time, not to mention their toll on fingers should Nate have any accidents. Since he is just starting out, he has yet to develop the habits and rhythms to get into that “assembly line” mode of work. In addition, Ogres are larger and a bit more complex to assemble than other figures – Gnoblars are made from attaching a head to a body. Assuming he spends about three minutes per Gnoblar (that’s clipping cleaning and gluing), building each of them one at a time, he’ll crank those out in an hour. The Ogres will take two hours and change, given that the Tyrant will need some more work.

It’s a good thing Nate bought a can of spray-on primer. Early on in my own mini painting days I used a primer you applied with a brush, which took forever just to cover one figure. It’ll take about half an hour to get things sprayed and dry. Now he can start painting. At this point it’s very difficult to estimate how quickly Nate can get things done. If he doesn’t have an assembly line process in mind, chances are he’s going to paint each figure individually, a method which consumes more time. Let’s say it takes about sixteen hours to do the Gnoblars (there’s 24 of them), an hour each on the Ogres, with the Tyrant taking an additional hour because Nate wants to get it “just right.” The total comes to about 31 hours of painting, with a grand total of about 34 hours.

Bear in mind this is a very rough estimate. Some gaming cons have an event set up called a “Paint & Take” where you get a free mini and you sit down at a big table and paint it up, occasionally getting advice from an experienced or professional painter. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for an average person to do a basic but viable paint job on one 25mm figure, with the quality depending on the individual. Also the scale of the model can make a difference as well, although it might be a push. With 15mm historical pieces (like in Command Decision), you don’t have as much detailing to do but you have a greater number of figures. Plus with historicals you may need to  be more meticulous because the details that are present need to be done right.

So for now, let’s stick with our given estimate. We’re assuming Nate has a day job – otherwise he couldn’t afford to drop $400 on this hobby – and that he has other things to do in his life. If he takes one hour every day to work on his army, it will take him almost five weeks to finish. This doesn’t take flocking bases into account (and I left that expense out in the previous entry).

In little over a month, and after paying a hefty chunk of change, Nate now has his army of Ogres. At some point along the way, he was probably wondering why he was doing this, and that it would be a lot easier to hop onto World of Warcraft.

That’s the biggest competition miniatures gaming (as well as table-top role playing) faces in this day and age. Computer gaming takes two of the three parts of our “Thrice-fold” investment and blows them away. If Nate had been inspired by Warhammer 40,000 instead of its fantasy counterpart, he could have bought the platinum version of Dawn of War for $30. That would give him access to seven armies, no painting required, and expanding his forces is done at the click of a mouse button with no further expense. He can also get into a game right away, playing online with other people.

Part of miniatures gaming is that it’s an exercise in delayed gratification – the process of assembling and painting an army can become it’s own reward, but that only comes with experience. Granted, Nate could hire someone to the do paint job for him, but that’s going to cost him money, and it may be a while before the painter can get it done. I know one professional painter who’s booked until November this year.

Nate wants to play. He wants to lay another army to waste with his Ogres. Fortunately, he persevered and made it past the first two hurdles – time and money. The third cost, Resolve, has to be put to the test, and I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

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