Wargaming Tradecraft: What to look for when sourcing supplies


What to look for when sourcing supplies

So you're looking to start hobbying, having difficulty finding something specific or just don't want to pay the ridiculous prices some hobby shops charge for things? Well, maybe you need to shop around some more, because supplies can be found all over - if you know where to look. As my other articles go into details about specific tools, I'll give some suggestions on where to find them - in here, are hints and tips on hunting around for the right thing.

What DO you need?

You're going to need a list. At a minimum, you'll want paint, primer, brushes, wire cutters, hobby knife, super glue, plastic glue a water cup of some kind and paper towels. If you already have the basics or want to check out a larger list, take a look under Supplies. (I'll go into detail on each and why as I have time)
Next, you need an idea - an image - a style... Figure out what you'll need for your army, and get an idea of how you want your army to look. That way, as you're hunting around, you can try to picture how what you're seeing could fit with your army.

So you swing by your local gaming store, which will probably have all of the above. What you're looking for isn't availability though - some of what you're looking for are the following things:
  • Am I hunting the right product?
    • ex: side cutters vs wire cutters - there's a difference?
  • Am I at this level yet / Is this safe in MY hands?
    • ex: You don't need a Dremel or a soldering iron when you're just beginning.
    • ex: Kids shouldn't use power tools.
  • Is this the best brand for what I need to do?
    • ex: Citadel Primer vs Krylon Primer
  • Can I afford this?
    • Often (but not always) the greater the price, the greater the quality - BUT not necessarily the product you need.
  • Have I looked around enough?
    • Specialty items might take some hunting to find, and after 3 or 4 places, you might jump and buy it at the first place you find it.
A final note on the term "availability" - If you have limited transportation / don't want to go around hunting supplies or don't want to wait on ordering / restocking, by all means buy all your supplies from your local gaming store. What they carry usually isn't "bad" - but I guarantee you there is better and cheaper out there.

Am I Hunting the Right Product?

This is what you ask yourself when you reach that aisle full of stuff that looks the same, but is slightly different in some way. To go back to the example of side vs wire cutters, the difference is the thickness of the edge that cuts. Side cutters tend to be large plier sized, and even the small ones aren't too great at getting into the small areas when chopping parts out of sprues. Wire cutters on the other hand, are generally much thinner, come to a finer tip and great at getting into all sorts of small areas.

That's the sort of thing to think of. Rather than get into specific product differences, this is a thinking exercise - be aware of what you're buying and don't assume that everything will work the same. Try to picture yourself using it.

READ the packaging. Even I'm taken in by "Ooo, I could use that!" sometimes. Not too long ago I bought some picks with all sorts of thoughts about creating scratch marks, cleaning, and such - skipping right over the word "aluminum." Naturally, the first time I tried them out, the pick bent 90 degrees backward and not a scratch on the mini.

Oh, and don't worry if you buy the wrong thing - most stores have a return period, and if you decide to hang onto it, you probably will find a use for it eventually. I don't know what I'm going to do with those crappy picks though.

Should I buy this?

The two points I want to make here, is that there's a lot of shiny things out there that'd help your hobby and not all of them are safe. These things not only cost money, but will need to be stored somewhere or else they'll create clutter. As you get into some of the more specialty items, the danger / awareness level goes up.

Even in the hands of professionals, dangerous things are still dangerous and you should be aware of what you're doing. But, in the hands of one of the many younger people of this hobby, power tools, electrical equipment, chemicals and even simple fire can be a problem. If you're among the younger audience and reading this, please get your parents assistance if you want to try some crazier techniques. Parents get into this stuff to, and it might be a good activity.

The other point about shiny things is that you're going to see a lot of fancy toys tools. You don't have to buy them all at once or for some project you see online you might do in 6 months or a year. If you don't need it, don't buy it. Collecting a bunch of stuff you'll never use will only eat up your storage area. If you're just starting out, stick with the basics and explore other techniques that seem interesting as you get more comfortable in your element.

Is it the right brand?

This gets tricky. To start, you're going to have to rely on online reviews, asking other people/forums. Name brand isn't always better - and sometimes it is for certain things, but not for others. Confused yet? This really is going to boil down to what works for you.

In the example I gave above, White Primer comes in many forms. I find Citadel leaves a rougher finish, while Krylon a smoother one. Is one better than the other? Personally, I prefer Krylon's smooth, but not too smooth finish. Note the keyword - "Personally". That's why I say this comes down to what you prefer, because I know there's a lot of people who swear by Citadel.

I might cost a little more as you make mistakes, but be open to trying other brands and seeing what you like more. However, don't use models you want to be super-awesome as guinea pigs for new products.

Can I afford this?

Incase you haven't noticed yet, this is an expensive hobby. I'm not going to create a buying guide here, but the cost of this hobby adds up fast. The more enthusiastic you are about it, the fasting you're going to spend money. Just try to be aware of what you're spending, and maybe even save the bills... I couldn't fathom at this point what I've invested over the years.

Just be aware of what you're spending. Maybe at some point in the future I should do a cost comparison... like [roughly] 1 dremel = 1.5 tanks = 2.5 five man units = 25 citadel paints = 40 paint brushes.

Have I looked around enough?

When you're looking around, consider any store an opportunity to find hobby supplies. I don't just mean a small step sideways to model train stores and their massive supplies of flock, I mean ANYTHING. Your best friends are junk and surplus stores, but also electronics, hardware, garden, aquarium, pet, art, craft, knives and so on. Really, any store you walk into has the potential to have something useful.

If you've finally located a hard to find item, don't stop your hunt. When availability is limited, you don't want to hinder yourself by buying something that's not quite right - a tool should do what you need it to do. By hunting around more, you'll find other options. (type of product, brands, cost, etc)

The other benefit of hunting around more is that the more places you look, the more your mind exercises in imagining all sorts of products and how you could use them. On your first time into a store, or if you haven't been there in a while, walk every aisle and learn what they carry.

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