I was always familiar with gaming as a hobby, but recently I have discovered hobby gaming. I would include in this category anything that has a hobby component other than the game itself and whose tools would be found at a hobby or craft store. Ages ago I wrote a first impression of the tabletop game of fantasy football, Blood Bowl. When I first started writing that article, I had just barely dipped my toe into the waters of miniature collecting, thinking it was an inaccessible hobby for people with oodles of time and money. Now I find myself constructing some 50+ models in attempt to get a squad together for my first Warhammer 40k game. I am still a little baffled how this happened.
After purchasing my first box of 40k miniatures (an impressive box by it’s own right, the Dark Imperium set just released by Games Workshop), I realized that it is not as inaccessible as I once thought. Granted, it still costs a chunk of change for models, tools, paints, and accessories, I think at some point I became fixed on the idea that you could not play Warhammer without hundreds of dollars. Therefore, I thought I could never play it. What I forgot is Warhammer, just like any other game, can be saved for bit by bit, piece by piece, only spending when you feel like you have the resources to do so. The imaginary, insurmountable wall I had constructed was only a few feet high when I actually opened my eyes and looked at it. This was an enlightening discovery. I think this perspective comes with age, as I realized I had plenty of time and there was no rush to buy everything at once, and I could drop $5 here and $10 there each week. (The success of the trivia I have been running has also been a great help in expediting this process.) Eventually, over a long time, I had saved enough to purchase a (reasonably priced) giant box of miniatures and have not regretted one bit.
There is something incredibly appealing about working with game materials. Being able to physically hold and handle pieces is very satisfying to me. The best recent example I can think of is the experience I had when I handled the chips for the gem trading board game Splendor. The quality and weight of those gem chips is one of the reasons that I still think of that as one of my favorite games to play. That feeling has been exponentially elevated through the process of miniature assembly. Not only do I get to handle intricately crafted game pieces (some of the new 40k models are incredible), I get to shape them and paint them! I know there are several people who have been doing this for ages who are not shocked or surprised by this revelation, but for a first time hobby gamer like myself, I find myself excited every time I work on my models. I mean, I get to make my own toys now! And I get to make them how I want, I can make them as serious or goofy looking as I choose. I find it very similar to character skinning options in video games, except now the customization possibilities are almost endless. I have not experienced this level of freedom in a game since I discovered mods for Skyrim, which is saying something.
If tabletop miniature games seemed inaccessible or impossible, I encourage you to talk to your Friendly Local Game Store. I am sure there is someone there who can find the game type, style, and models that suit your time, budget, and abilities. I didn’t believe it myself, but it really is an entirely different and unique play experience that you need to at least try before you knock it. And truthfully, I haven’t even play a single game of Warhammer 40k yet, but I am STILL having fun creating and painting models even if they never end up in a proper game.