Keeping up with the (Jervis) Johnsons

A few weeks ago I had a bit of a scare.  I was surfing the GW site when I noticed that prices were up across the board.  $124 for a rulebook.  $96 for a Trygon, $110 for a storm raven?  What gives?  Normally I get news about price increases from sites like BOLS or Spikey Bits.

I kept checking the message boards to see if anything had been announced.  When I didn’t see anything my first thought was ‘Sneaky GW!  Who do they think they’re kidding!  I won’t pay it!’

My second thought was ‘I quit!  I can’t do it anymore, I’m broke enough without more new shiny toys!’

But then my third thought was ‘That’s odd.  The contact # for GW starts with country code 61.  Australia?’

Turns out I had somehow changed My Profile on the GW webpage and the prices were reflecting Australian currency.  Wheww.  What a relief.  But it got me thinking . . .

The economy is (still) in the tank.  I know this more than anybody.  I run White Metal Games, a small internet painting and  conversion business (still under development).  Our first official year in business we did about $55 grand in sales.  Not bad.  Our second year, about $45k.  What the hell?  A drop of almost 20%?  I couldn’t believe it.  My sales should be going up, not down.  What gives?  I increased viewership through my youtube channel, posted on my twitter account, the whole nine yards.  I certainly drew plenty of attention from GW, who’s resent cease and desist letter in regards to my conversion work (much of which is featured on Spikey Bits) shut me down on ebay almost completely, minus a few projects.  More on that in another post.

Anyway, my point is business was on the decline.  And then to add insult to injury, GW had raised their prices . . .again.  Or so I thought.

But even after I updated my profile and got back to my native currency, the thought stuck with me.  Prices at GW are continuing to rise, and the economy is still running on fumes.  No wonder my business is suffering!  Disposable income is the first thing to go in these sorts of instances, so hobbies like 40k, Warhammer, and Warmachine/Hordes are really only vices of those with time and money on their hands (usually both).

So how do we keep up with a hobby that continues to spiral upwards despite the leanness of our wallets?

To play the devils advocate,  games like 40k and WFB are better than ever!  GW has some of the best models in the world.  They are releasing new kits, books, and gaming sundries every week. Products are launched in waves and some armies even have 100% product support for the first time since 2nd edition.  The rules (at least in 40k) are brand spanking new and as a rule of thumb are considered the best rule sets ever for GW. 

But this also means pressure to expand your collection, buy new figures, and keep up with the Johnsons, if you will, is higher than ever.  Sure, I can bring my 4th edition models to a 6th edition game and probably compete.  But like the new kid at school, all you want to do is blend in.  After all, everyone else is buying shiny new models and loving them!  Why shouldn’t you?

To exacerbate matters, codex’s definitely start to show their shelf life after a few years.  Newer armies like Dark Angels, Grey Knights, Dark Eldar, Necrons, Blood Angels and of course Space Wolves are the front runners at most major tournaments.  When was the last time you read about a Black Templar or Tau player placing in the top 3 of a GT?

The ‘band aid’ solution here is to buy a few new models.  A few flyers, an aegis line, maybe a bastion, and you’re back in the game.  And to be fair, a few hundreds bucks a year doesn’t seem like a price too high  to stay in the game, literally.

So my question to you is . . how do you keep up with the Johnsons?  When your best friend is swapping out his army every  year for the newest WAAC army on the block, how do you stay current?

Well, there are a few strategies I’d like to share with you.  These are my thoughts on the matter:

1.  You don’t keep up at all. Put your credit card away.  Be reasonable about your budget and disposable income.  No more models for you, at least not for a while.  Put your emphasis on the hobby.  Don’t buy more than you can paint in a week of steady work.  Otherwise you’ll eventually suffer from the inevitable ‘closets full of models and grey plastic army’ syndrome, as well as more debt than you should have to enjoy a hobby.  And don’t buy ANYTHING until you paint what you have!  It’s a slippery slope, as we all know.  If you bought a unit every other week, and spent the time between purchases painting, you’d have a fully painted army in just a few months!  Just stick to your gumption! 

2.  Rent your armies, don’t buy them:  Redbox has the right idea.  You can rent a game from Redbox for about $3 bucks a night.  You can rent a game and have a weekend game fest, play for 20 hours in three days (like you aren’t going to do that anyway), beat the game, and then return it for a fraction of what it would cost you to own the game and then trade it back in to Gamestop a few years later for pennies on the dollar. 

Don’t think of your army as the only army you’ll ever play.  Think of it as an army you are enjoying for now, until you are bored of it, and then that you’ll let go. Too many of us get attached to our armies, especially the fluff that drew us to them in the first place.  Like ‘I play Khorne so I AM KHORNE.’  Let me clear this up for you:  You’re not.  Lots of other people play Khorne too.  You don’t have to own every figure in the CSM range to be an avid fan of the Blood God.  I like to watch movies, but I don’t own a copy of every movie I’ve ever enjoyed.  Not with Netflix, Hulu, and the like.  Play the game.  Don’t BE the game. 

When you finally do sell your army, don’t try to get top dollar for it.  Just try to unload it for enough to buy your NEXT army.  Think of the time you owned it as ‘leasing to buy’ and any money you didn’t get back was just due to rental fees.  After all, you’ve already paid for the army.  So any money you get back is just icing on the cake!  You’ve already enjoyed your army, but now you’re enjoying it AND making some $$$ back on the tail end.  Bonus! 

And if you stuck to #1, above (fully painting your army), you should have little trouble getting fair market value for it.  Unless you were playing the Pink Bunny army or some such.  

3.  Community Armies:  Got a few buddies that all want to get involved in the hobby, but no one can front the cash for the entire army?  No problem.  Get the band back together, and sit down to work out an army list.  Maybe 3000 points (this would work for other games like Warmachine and Hordes too!, try 500 or 100 points instead).  Not everyone has to agree on every unit, but if a majority of people do, then add it to the list.  Then have everyone buy a few kits, or even better, a few army boxes!  Then have a round robin assembly/painting weekend where everyone gets together, watches a few movies, and works on the army as one.  The army will be done in no time.  And when finished you guys can SHARE the army. Think of it like Time Share at the beach.  No one owns the condo.  But everyone enjoys it when it’s their turn. Each of you owns your own units but you agree to let your friends use them whenever they aren’t in play.  This works great for college roommates, siblings, or stores that let you store your army there for a small fee (usually a few bucks a month). 

As American capitalists, we get obsessed with the ‘what’s mine is MINE’ syndrome.  Think of it more like a garage band playing your first coffee shop gig.  You all have to bring your own microphones or NOBODY gets to play. 

4.  Display Armies aren’t just for looking pretty:  Some FLGS have ‘house armies’ that they use for display purposes.  But a lot of these armies belong to the store owners.  They use them at GT’s and local tournies and the like.  But most of the time they sit in a case, gathering dust.  Try this instead.  Tell the store owner at your FLGS how much you LOVE their store, love their armies, and would love to have a showcase game using their army some time.  Most store owners, if they know you at all, will be flattered and likely say yes.  Want to shoot a youtube batrep?  I’m sure if you post a few links to the store or promote them in some way they’d be overjoyed!   Rob Baer at Spikey Bits has some AMAZING store armies and I’m sure he’d be thrilled to let them out for a spin so long as you agreed to handle them with kid gloves.  And how much $$$ did you spend to enjoy this privilege?  Zero (maybe a few bucks to buy them a pizza or box of donuts or the like to thank them.  Who doesn’t like pizza or donuts!)

5.  Proxy:  This more applies to individual models than full armies.  If you want to test out a figure, then PROXY IT before you buy.  I don’t mean “This cereal box is my predator for the night.  Hope you don’t mind.”  But I think ‘This Rhino with a candy bar on top is my predator for the night.” is probably fine in most circles, especially if you’re willing to let your opponent do the same.  Don’t try this at tournaments, but certainly in friendly settings with permission from the guy across the table its okay! 

So in summary there are TONS of ways to enjoy your favorite hobbies without taking it up the . .  .wallet. 

My name is Caleb and I am the owner of White Metal Games, a miniature painting and assembly service.  Check us out here!


Caleb, WMG