Recently I answered a friend of mine's question about how I go about starting an army. The article resulted in some comments, of which I am always grateful for, that brought up a bit of an addendum in my mind.
In said article, I placed making an army list before purchasing the models. The simple reason being that it saves me money…and makes my wife breathe a little easier when the dent hits my wallet. However, this was not always the case. I didn't always plan far enough ahead so that I knew what to buy. I used to buy what scratched the hobby-itch and build my army from there.
So which is the better way of thinking?
I think a better way to ask that questions is, "Which way of thinking fits your situation better?" Let's break down each.
Buying the Models First
This used to be my preferred method of going about this wonderful hobby of ours. Footloose and fancy-free, I'd do the research into the armies I liked, and once I found one, I'd just start purchasing the models I liked the best. When I had what I thought was enough to play with, I'd start writing a list, making sure to try and fit in every model or kit I enjoyed the most.
Unfortunately I began to come up against some issues and concerns with this method of collecting. First and foremost was the dollar amount spent, without much of a guideline on just how much to buy! I covered a bit of this in my "Ooooh, Shiney! Syndrome" article. I would get excited about an army, begin to buy into it, and then decide I either wanted to do something different, or just plain get caught up in the next new model released that wasn't a part of my initial interest. Other times while I might not switch armies, I could very well end up with a bevy of very interesting models, but when I went to make a list, I wouldn't include them because I didn't care for how they played rules-wise.
So while this method of army building certainly helped populate my Bitz collection, it also tended to result in over spending. When it was just my wife and I, it wasn't a horrible thing most times, but 5 years ago when we found out we were having a baby boy I had to become much more money-conscious. Boy, did I have pretty much anything I wanted to choose from though, within reason.
Writing the List First
This frame of mind began only recently, to be honest, with my in-progress Grey Knights. Even my Centurions were a buy-first-write-list-later army. This time around, I just didn't have the funds to do that. Come to think of it, I probably won't have the funds to do something like that for quite some time.
Either way, when I decided to do Grey Knights, I had limited funds available. I theory-hammered and crunched numbers until I had a tentative list decided on, and bought kits from that list only. Was it a perfect shopping list? Of course not. In fact, I actually have 2 things purchased that will not get used in this list (A Dreadknight and Forge World doors for a Rhino). However, two extraneous purchases is a much better result for my pocketbook than what my average was before. What was that average? Who knows…well, my bank might if I got the records pulled, but I'd rather not give the wife a reason to hang me just yet. Even then, the Forge World doors will not go to waste as I'll be building a Deathwatch Squad and Rhino for a Golden Demon entry for next year.
In the end, I saved oodles of cash by planning out exactly how many of what I'd need, and buying only that. Does this prohibit me from expanding the army? Only in the sense that I'll have to purchase, construct and paint something new if I want that option. Otherwise, no.
And the Winner is…It's a Tie!
Seriously folks, there is no right or wrong answer here. It's all a matter of opinion and what situation you're in at that time. As Lycanthropica mentioned in my earlier post on army building though, pick an army that you will ENJOY spending gobs of money on and playing. You'll be happier in the long run…and you won't have to pay shipping after selling your old army on eBay.