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How to Start Wargaming: A Beginner's Guide

Wargaming is an incredible hobby that can take you away from screens, enhance your creativity, encourage a deep love and respect for history and is generally a good bit of fun. But, for those of you who might not know too much about it and are just getting started, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to go and what to do. Below is an in depth guide to teach you to start wargaming and point you in the right direction.

Choose an army

First things first, choose your army! The best part of starting out wargaming is doing the research to determine what army you're going to assemble. Take inspiration from other wargaming players, history books, forums, and loads of other options within the community. You could focus in on World War 2 Elite Troops, the Napoleonic wars, the Near Future, or one of your other interests, such as Lord of the Rings.

The internet is a great source of information on different periods of history, armies, battles and famous generals, as well as for researching uniform and equipment details. The logical choice here is Wikipedia for general historical information and they often cite many sub references and data sources to follow up on in even greater detail.

However, it’s not the only source, there are many specialist sites covering different areas of history, in fact you would be pretty unlucky not to find something on your chosen areas, no matter how obscure, try Mark Felton for WW II topics, and the Napoleonic Wars Channel. On the internet you'll also find specialist wargaming forums, and painting sites (more on those later), but for general wargaming forums which cover many all areas and topics, try The Miniatures Page (TMP) and Lead Adventurer.

Others sources exist such as Pinterest, which often has many great pictures of uniforms, equipment, weapons and vehicles. YouTube is another great reference point for films on the period. You can watch scene extracts from particular films, freeze, rewind, check out weapons, and copy uniform colours and tones. Check out Band of Brothers, or the Battle of Waterloo, Zulu, the list goes on. 

Auction sites – you will be amazed how many sites sell original uniform and replica uniform items, medals, guns, pieces of equipment, even sites showing these weapons in use – these are all great sources of data. Catawiki is a good example, as is Hermann Historica, where you can buy the auction catalogue which is stuffed full of pictures & can be found second hand for a cheaper price.

If you prefer “hard copy” there are monthly and bi monthly magazines just for Wargamers. In English the best ones are Wargames Illustrated, Wargames Soldiers and Strategy, Miniature wargames, and White Dwarf. Specialist magazines are also available in Italian and French, such as Dadi & Piombo and VaeVictis.

Wargame product sites, such as ours are also great sources of information for you to determine what scenario or army you'd like. Some manufacturers show painted versions of their models, painted by them, or often by their customers, which can be a source of detail and inspiration.  

If you want a good old book, then eBay is your first port of call, here you will find thousands of new, second hand and out of print books on all sorts of periods, at great prices. There are also specialist military book shops online, so you'll never be short of reference material for your chosen period and army. 

Finally, go to one of the many wargaming shows and conventions which are regularly held. Here you will find painted figures, books, and friendly advice.  

Tips for Building your Army

Start Small

No matter what army you begin assembling, our advice is to start small. While your research could have led you to prefer one set of miniatures in the beginning, as you begin playing and learning about the wargame you chose, and join other players, you'll find that your tactics and passions are going to change over time. So, don't get too excited and shop too much, start with just a few until you can understand what and how you truly love to play and then when you're finally ready, you can begin getting the miniatures that are going to help you field the force you're looking for!

Different periods and different rule sets enable you to start with a few and go large later. Typically, so called “skirmish” style games don’t need so many figures, even old-style rules like DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) especially for Ancient and Medieval warfare, can be played with a small number of figures. The grand scale games such as Napoleonic, Seven Years War, English Civil War and some of the great wars of Ancient History require many more figures to represent the sheer scale of the battles. Here different scales/sizes of figures enable you to field many different armies and still keep them on the table top. 

Think of the Scale

Wargame figures and vehicles are generally available in a range of different scales, the size of the vehicle or figure in relation to the real thing. It’s a bit confusing, but the typical and most common scales (which refer to the foot to eye actual height of the figure) are 6, 10, 15, 20 and 28mm. For vehicles typical scales are 1/300th and 1/56th, the latter being typically compatible with 28mm figures, we did say it was confusing.

Balancing Act

In wargaming, one thing to keep in mind is that a balanced army is key to winning a battle and often the rule sets dictate the mix of figures so it can be as close to historically accurate as possible. You'll need a mix of units, such as close combat, ranged combat, support roles, leaders, and engineers. Buying packs that contain a variety of units, such as our WW 2 US Paras Set or Napoleonic Wars French Line Infantry Battalion, can help to save money and make sure that you have all you need to play the game.


With historical wargaming, you will find yourself bound by the rules and uniform details that reflect historic accuracy and reality, but there are plenty of opportunities in more esoteric figures and ranges, such as future wars and sci fi games and figures to customise your figures.

You can personalise your army to reflect who you are and what you love. Whether that's creating custom units with special weapons or introducing unique paint system. Your army is your own and the miniatures in it should reflect that. Remember that wargaming is in fact, a game, so have fun with it! We started out specifically so that we could have a greater range of poses with our minis, whether they're an angry rioter kicking a wheelie bin during a period of urban warfare, or a Brit Para Specialist cutting some barbed ware in a minefield during World War 2.

The Scenario Matters

When you begin the assembly of your army, don't forget to think about the mission or scenario that you'll be playing. Be prepared for missions to require specific miniatures or equipment to play the game. It might be a good idea to grab a rule set before you begin, so you can make sure you get the right army for that scenario. Some rule sets and magazines give you scenarios to play, based on real events or made up, but still require you to play within the historical limitations and skills of your army. 

Tools for Starting

Wargaming miniatures will typically come unpainted and unassembled, so you get the joy of putting them together and painting them. The assembly of miniatures requires tools, glue, brushes and paints that help to make sure your minis are painted as beautifully and accurately as they should be.


Painting is incredibly rewarding, but does take time and energy, so be patient and go slow or as quickly as you want. Here are our tips for making it as smooth and painless as possible:

Types of Paint

There is a HUGE assortment of paints that you can use on miniatures to get them looking their best. In recent years water soluble acrylic paints have become the norm. Model paint ranges with considerable variety of colours, tones, washes and even highlighting and shading paints are:

  • Vallejo

  • AK Interactive

  • Army Painter 

  • Citadel

Painting Tutorials

There are a ton of painting tutorials out there that can help ensure you have the right techniques from the beginning. Head to your favourite blog, pick up a painting guide book, watch videos, take notes and build your forms and techniques up on minis that potentially cost less money, so you can practice and make sure that you're ready to do the work when it comes time for that.

Some painting techniques allow you to rapidly paint your armies using basic colours and washes, others go for full detail, including highlights and shading.

You can find lots of painting tips and tutorial on the internet, as well as buying books about “How to Paint” or free painting guide downloads. There are too many links to mention, just Google Wargame Painting Guides, and you'll be spoilt for choice. Some of the magazines mentioned above have painting guides and there is a specialist magazine on painting, surprisingly called, Painting War.

Pick Your Colours

You get the joy of determining what you want and how you want to be painting your minis. While most armies have a pre-determined aesthetic & colours based on their uniforms, you can experiment and have some fun with it if you want to. If you get stuck, you can reach out to other wargaming players and request advice or use many of the other sources mentioned above. Wargamers are fun bunch that love to help out newcomers to the hobby. Once you start gaming, you'll begin learning more about what you want and how you want your miniatures painted. But a few things to bear in mind while you're new to the hobby:

  • ALWAYS get a primer

  • Get a set of paints that have the key colours you need, often sets are themed for different periods or units.  

  • Get more than one brush to start - one small detail brush, below size 4 and one larger, above size 6, as the bare minimum.

Brushes and holders

Speaking of brushes, while you're starting out, you can get by with just a couple from your local craft store, so you can learn the techniques and come to grips on how to best paint your minis. But, as you get more experienced and want to upgrade, you'll want to get a higher quality set. Experiment and do some research for your miniatures, but don't count out things like makeup brushes for dry brushing or high quality acrylic paint brushes from craft stores. Don’t forget, even an old toothbrush can be used to help with the groundwork when basing your figures.

A few of the popular ranges of brushes, to suit different budgets include Artis Opus, Army Painter, and Windsor & Newton Series 7. Again, check the internet out for advice on brushes, tutorials and other brands. Remember, you don’t need lots of brushes, so it can be as economical to buy just a few good quality expensive brushes, rather than whole sets. At the end of the day it’s just as much effort to paint with a good brush, as a cheap one. So if you do invest, just remember to keep them nice and clean after every use.

There are now many specialist holders/clamps for holding figures while painting, but you can just use an old wine cork or bottle top to fix your figure to, to help you hold the figure for easier positioning and control.

Learn the Rules

With any wargaming endeavour, you'll need to learn the rules of the games you'll be playing. Read through rulebooks, read an article or ten on the rule sets, watch tutorials, watch other players run through the wargames, generally get a deep understanding of the game and gameplay mechanics of what you're going to play. The rule sets also tell you how to base your figures to get the maximum out of you game and manoeuvre hundreds of figures at each turn. Key rule sets for different periods are readily available, for WW II try Bolt Action or Chain of Command. For the Long Range Desert Group on return journeys from watching German and Italian convoys or a night raid, try the DAK Attack Rule Set.

Dice, Ruler and Terrain

 All you need know is a set of dice, a tape measure and some terrain, a green baize/cloth is good enough to start, your rule set will give you advice on how and what to do. 

Play and Practice

Finally, it's the part you've been waiting for, actually playing! Grab your miniatures and head to your table top, because it's time to play! When you're in the room, you naturally are going to forget a few things, so keep your reference guide handy so you can remember the rules and special abilities of your army. Don't forget, that wargaming is a community, so chat to your opponent, let them help you, and it will generally be a better experience for you both. You're going to make mistakes while playing, don't fear, that is totally okay. Learn from them and the next time, you'll be even better at playing the game.

Now that you know all of the information above, you can avoid some common pitfalls and get started with wargaming! Go forth, find your army, your community and enjoy this incredible hobby.

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