Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Comes First, the List or the Models?

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.

- Tim


  1. Great article! In the past I have usually gone with the 'buy the models that tickle my fancy, then come up with a list' technique - unfortunately what usually happens is I end up with 4-5k in models all half built/half painted at which point some new project grabs my attention, and the half done army languishes for months/years until I get back around to finishing it/selling it off piecemeal to fund the next project. On the other hand I've managed to go with the 'make the list, then buy the models' for the small Dark Eldar army I made when the new codex came out, and it ended up being nicely focused and painted up rather quickly. I'll agree that doing it that way is definitely the way to go as far as budgeting and ensuring one doesn't end up with a mess of models that will never see the tabletop nor paintbrush. The Necrons will probably get some of my cash, but I'm not going to buy a single model until I can pick up the new codex and pencil together some lists. Gotta keep focus these days what with the economy being what it is, and GW's most recent round of price rises...

  2. I'm building an army models first. Its my first large army and I'd like to build up a bits box. I also tried to only buy on sprue items from ebay- that way I could sell them back if needed.

  3. I am so build an army first. I can't get excited about a codex or even certain units unless I like the models. A good example is SW scouts, they are ugly I hate them. I am never going to use them hahahaha!

  4. I think if you're just getting into the hobby or maybe even when starting an army you have absolutly no idea how to handle, the pick first, "think later" method is most appropriate.
    By now I own four armies and the first three where all: "Shiny! Must have!"-armies. I'm often using the nowadays "not-so-good" models in friendly games, so I'm cool with having more than needed.
    Heck, the Daemon Prince, Obliterators and the Defiler got me into starting a Chaos list. Same for Tau, I just liked the battle suits (Anime 4tw!!1 hehe).
    My latest army though (Imperial Guard) is still in the making. I first got the codex and then started planning an army. I requested further suggestions in various blogs and after about half a year I finally got down to ordering models. So now I've got 1500pts, but the next 500pts already take almost half a year again. But now I can playtest with my core army and see what units would truely benefit my army the most. Maybe for christmas I will get me the last points... ;-)
    But seeing the nice looking Necron models that leaked... Temptation is rising... :-P

  5. Yo, Tim. Sent you an e-mail, not sure it was the right one, though. timsminis@gmail.com, right?

  6. It's funny I post this, because just later this week, I got the results from an auction I put some of my older painted stuff in and scored enough to make a considerable dent in some Ogre wants I have... and bought them without making a list first. Now I'll use them all, I hope, but still :P

    Skarvald, I got the email, thanks man, I'll be responding post-haste :)

  7. Congrats Tim as it looks like you have once again downed your "Sunday Best" with this post. I hope you don't mind but I threw you a shout on on my weekly top x over at my blog. Cheers and thanks for sharing.

    PS - Are you going to throw a post up about your Ogre Army, specifically the list that you will end up using based off the models you have bought?

  8. Woot! Much appreciated, HOTpanda :)

    And yes, I'll be posting about the Ogre Army, as well as the choices and theme of the conversions :)