One of the public secrets of the "wargaming industry" (at least in my opinion) is that gamers buy stuff they'll never use. Wargaming manufacturers sell their products, which 2 years later end up in the Bring-and-Buy section (unused), are being bought by another gamer , who still doesn't use them, until they get bought by a 2nd hand store that sells it on eBay as a highly priced collectible, is then bought by a collector who still is not using the items, until after several iterations the items end up on an attic to be forgotten. Now, this is all understandable, because wargaming is also partly about "dreams that never come through". Just as you are dreaming about that Ferrrari you'll never have, or in my case, a big private library stocked with 16th century books, including one of the only three surviving copies of the Necronomicon... hmmm, the tapping of long-forgotten dark knowledge ... Anyway, back to reality ...
A typical scenario goes like this:
- Gamer goes to convention or website or browses through magazine
- Gamer sees a very cool figure or item and wants to buy it
- Vision about grand game or campaign starts to form based on this single cool figure
- Gamer (now completely in an unrational mode) decides that the entire range of figures is needed, just in case the range is not available anymore within 6 months. Anof course, this is EXACTLY the range, scale, and type of figures I've been waiting for.
- The big game never materialises (surprise), the several hundred unpainted figures end up in storage.
- Next year: repeat!
Well, no more! It has been a few years since I bought huge amounts of wargaming figures, I've resisted the urge of falling in the trap of buying things for games that never materialise. Instead, my new approach is to design games around the stuff I already have. It sounds logical and non-revolutionary, but in my mind, it is truly a revolutionary idea.
Let me give an example: I'm currently designing a multiplayer game around a siege of city set in medieval/fantasy setting. I need different factions of troops, representing various armed forces that are present in the city. I went through my quite large figure collection (I count my figures not in the hundreds, but in the thousands), and decided that I needed more figures! I didn't have the figures needed for this game! So I started looking around for extra figures. At that point I suddenly realized I was crazy. I have plenty of painted figures! I have plenty of unpainted figures, some of them became collectibles in their own right by just sitting in my attic, unused! Why am I shopping for more stuff?
So I took a step back and rethought the game I originally had in mind. Instead of using all human/medieval types, and since this is fantasy, can't I make the forces a bit more exotic? I have quite a number of Boxer Rebellion Chinese warriors armed with swords. Why not use them as a Foreign Bodyguard present in the city? Maybe some Redoubt Musketeers as well? Wouldn't that fit in with a renaissance-fantasy-style seen in some French comics, rather than the GW-monotone-fantasy-view we've all come to accept? I had them painted by a world-class painter, so why not put them on the table and use them? So I started to rethink the scenario, I also went creative with my quite huge collection of scenery, and after some experiments (visual appeal on the gaming table is big thing for me), I arrived at a quite satisfactory result. I won't tell you anything more about the game, because it still has to be played, and some players are listening in ...
Anyway, to make a long story short: design your games around your large collection of figures and scenery, not the other way around. The extent of my colelction is such that I can probably organize a dozen games without having to re-use a single item once (and that goes for the dice and lichen too!). So why buy more stuff? Resist the urge! It saves money! Money I can spend on extending my book collection. Wait, there's a problem with that too ....