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Wargaming on a Budget (ePub)

Gaming Constrained by Money or Space

Colour eBooks Military > Modelling Military > Wargaming P&S History > Reference

By Iain Dickie
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 2.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 15 B&W Line Drawings, 16pp colour photos
ISBN: 9781844689453
Published: 5th July 2010


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Wargaming can be a very expensive hobby, but it needn't be. Iain Dickie, one of the best-known names in the hobby shares dozens of hints and tips on how to cut the cost of your gaming and get 'more bang for your buck'. He offers sound practical advice on buying and building your armies (should you opt for metal, plastic, or even card, and in which scale?), gaming tables, terrain, buildings and even storage solutions. As well as purely financial constraints, Iain Dickie also recognizes the fact that available space is another major restriction for many gamers and tackles this issue too. Now you've no excuse not to get wargaming!

After 25 years as editor of Miniature Wargames magazine, Iain Dickie is one of the best known names in the hobby. He's even been on the telly, appearing alongside Angela Rippon in Games of War. He has recently retired as editor and intends to spend his time between writing and sailing and, of course, wargaming.

A simple but very interesting book, focused as its title indicates to those who want to start in the world of wargames and priorities or major caveats to consider whether the money or space.

Read the full review here.

José Manuél Rico Cortés (Mister JM) - Miniaturas JM

Gamers of all experience levels will pick up a few tips and good ideas to save some pennies in this book.

Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy

Iain Dickie is a genius. He has written a book that is clearly aimed at people who are new to wargaming yet and while staying true to this, has penned a manual that has something for all wargamers.
This book reads like a fireside chat from your father or grandfather and, in similar manner, you will find yourself agreeing with some sentiments and not with others, but nonetheless respecting the author of them all (hopefully!).
The book is enjoyable and easy to read. From the outset Dickie’s use of humour ensures that it is taken in the right frame of mind. His witty asides include warnings about going into garden (p 55), his quip about using foam hills for a pillow (p 68), his advice to cut insulation foam in someone else’s house (p 68) and warning to keep plaster glue away from the carpet because you’ll be “decidedly unpopular” as it is “not on the insurance” (p 69).
Throughout the book Dickie remains true to the idea of wargaming on a budget, giving the reader numerous ideas of how to beg, borrow, re-use, improvise and recycle materials for numerous uses associated with our hobby.
The book is packed full of useful tips. For example making a wall plug from a piece of wood rather than using a plastic wall plug—either I was not told this one by my grandfather or have forgotten; or perhaps just did not listen properly! “Measure twice so do not have to cut twice”. Making a wargames table from scratch using an old bed or a table as a base. Painting the table as sea so that it will be available for any naval wargames (since in usual circumstances it will be covered with terrain and a cloth, terrain squares or the like). Ideas for making trees, bushes and hills from materials that are easily obtained and the ‘stability test’ of terrain which is such an elegantly simple, practical idea.
Iain Dickie extends his budget theme to choosing an army, suggesting that the choice be made such that the army may be used across multiple eras or campaigns. Such an army, he says, presents “excellent value”. He presents a number of suggestions for games that require few figures, or perhaps none at all. This will appeal not only to the budget conscious but also to those keen to try some new eras, aspects or approaches.
The many examples throughout the book are described clearly, step by step, with accompanying black and white drawings and/or photos. The pictures are similar to the real and realistic ones that adorned the magazine Miniature Wargames which he formerly edited (and which I always preferred to the glossier, over-produced photos in other mags). Following his advice you’ll soon be producing functional terrain pieces that look good without being works of art.
After reading this book I am now regularly using lego supports in place of jars, books or cans for figures that I have altered to rest on or against while the glue dries. I also have a growing store of ‘flocking’ material of various hues obtained by drying tea from tea bags, leaf tea and coffee grounds. Thanks heaps Mr Dickie.

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship

Longtime wargamers will appreciate how the expert has produced a comprehensive book offering some fresh concepts while teaching some fresh concepts while teaching old dogs some new money-saving tricks. Newcomers interested in pursuing historical or fantasy gaming can bank on Dickie's years of hobby experience to save themselves thousands of pounds or dollars in needless in expenditures.

Toy Soldiers

This new book from Casemate Publishing is on how to Wargame on a budget because of how expensive it can be or when you don’t have a lot of space. Ian Dickie shows you how you can enjoy this hobby without the large expense and a smaller amount of space if need be.

This book is a great guide for someone who is thinking to start out with wargaming and isn’t sure whether they would be able to do it because of money or space. The author starts out right from the beginning and seems to answer every question I could think of about what to do. He really knows the subject and also adds a little humor in the telling so that the subject matter doesn’t get boring.

This book is also a great reference to use later, when you want to mold figures, run campaigns, or make buildings. One example I have was when one of my friends was having a hard time molding a nose for one of his airplane kits. I told him about this book and he was able to review the section on molding figures and the information helped him put the vent holes in the proper places on his mold (pages 37-38). The result was a bubble free nose. Another section I was really interested in was chapters 6 and 7, not only is it good for wargaming but it will also help on your diorama skills.

I highly recommend this book for wargaming and also for different aspects of model building as well. Not only was it informative but it was enjoyable to read. I’m very pleased to add it to my model reference shelf.

IPMS/USA website

It has long been said that experience is the best teacher, and this holds particularly true for this book by Iain Dickie. Iain was the editor of Miniature Wargames Magazine for some 25 years, and in his new book he draws on many years of experience in the hobby to provide one of the best step by step approaches to miniature wargaming that I have ever seen.

Many of us, especially those new to the hobby, have been daunted by the seemingly high cost of getting into this enjoying and rewarding past time. Iain simply tears down the walls on much of this cost, showing the newcomer and experienced gamer alike how to make the most of your hobby literally for pennies on the dollar for what you might spend if you do not own this book.

I wish I would have had this book some 40 years ago when I myself delved into minature gaming. A lot of time and needless expense could have been avoided. Iain explains how best to determine exactly what army one should buy and what constitutes a good value. If you are not sure how to make a game table it is explained in detail, step by step. There is even an explanation on how to mold your own figures!

Of particular interest to me was the chapter on terrain making. All one has to do is go to a few terrain manufacturer sites on the net and you will see how expensive terrain pieces can be. Iain explains how to make grass, bushes, hedges & scrub, trees, palm trees, marshes and bogs, rivers and hills. He does not stop there however, as next he details how to make buildings, roads and tracks, and even field fortifications!

If you have ever desired to play a siege assault but decided against it because of the high cost of pre-manufactured city walls and buildings, you will love how Iain shows you how to make representations that look great, and for a fraction of what you would pay for pre-cast models.

Did I mention ships? They are here as well with diagrams on how to make the ships, cannons, masts & rigging, along with a brief explanation on how to apply the methodology to making planes. If you are like me, terminology of model scaling like 1 to 600; 1 to 1,200 or 1 to 2,000 has always been a bit confusing. Here it has been explained and even the math on how to do it is included.

Anyone that has ever assembled a miniatures army has tried different ways to secure them for storage. If you are not blessed with good manual dexterity Iain gives some suggestions for pre-made carrying cases that will most likely suit your needs. If you can do a bit of wood working, designs are included for making that very special carry case.

Finally, the book closes with a chapter on "The Game" where Iain shares his years of experience in gaming many periods, situations, battles & campaigns.

Both the newcomer and old timer alike will enjoy this book. For the newcomer it represents years of experience and learning, which can literally save you thousands of dollars in needless expenditures over time. For the old timer, you will appreciate as I did that someone has finally put together a comprehensive book that is certain to give you some new ideas that you never thought about, and ways to improve what you have been doing for years.

My only criticism of the book at all is that it is not indexed. It is paperback, 163 pages, with 31 full colour and some 19 different diagrams. While the book deals with historical miniature gaming, the methodology applies for any type of miniature wargaming. This book should be on the bookcase of every miniature wargamer, be you a historical or fantasy wargamer.


For those who don't know Iain Dickie was the editor of Miniature Wargaming magazine for over 25 years, before selling up and moving on to pastures new.

As the title states this paperback book has been written for the wargamer who wants to save money. There are several topics covered in this book. Starting off with basic details on how to cut and drill wood and what tools you need. Iain gives hints on how to acquire a base board transport it home and there lies one of my favourite tips in the book: acquire a skateboard and balancing the board on the skateboard wheel it home!

There are some really good tips for beginners on how to construct a gaming table and other available options. The use of a sand table, to using carpet tiles (always an old favourite) to creating your own terrain tiles.

The book gives advice on the types of figures available for the hobby: metal, plastic and card figures and gives an overview of scales.

A large portion of the book is given over to how to make your own terrain for all areas of the battlefield. Foliage, tress, hills, hedges, marshes, rivers and buildings for different periods. There are 16 pages of colour pictures in the centre of the book that show some of the finished items that Iain describes. This is where this book shines in the making of terrain.

For the adventurous there is a chapter on how to make your own planes or ships. Another chapter covers different ideas for storage of scenery and figures.

The last quarter of the book describes how to conduct a wargame. It gives ideas for different games, ideas for scenarios, campaigns, etc. Plenty of ideas there.

In my opinion this book is ideal for newcomers to the hobby. There are lots of hints and ideas for those who are either on a budget or those who want the satisfaction of making their own terrain.

It is not as useful for the gamer who has a good disposable income and who has no interest in DIY. There are some good tips for gamers of all ages and all skills.


I must admit, that this is - to my knowledge - a unique wargames publication. It does not contain any rules (although it does include some rule mechanisms that can be used for certain specific types of game or scenarios) and is not lavishly illustrated. It is however, full of interesting ideas and suggestions...

I must admit, that at first I thought that this book was a case of 'teaching your grandmother to suck eggs', but soon I began to realise that it was written for a generation of people who may not yet have started wargaming, or who started when it was possible to buy a lot of what you needed quite literally 'off the shelf'. Once viewed in this light, this book becomes a very useful aid to wargamers of all ages and experience. Even someone like me - who has been wargaming since the 1960s - can learn something new from this book... and if, like me, your budget is not unlimited, it would be worth giving serious consideration to spending some of you limited supply of wargaming funds on buying a copy. You might find that it saves you more than its cost!

Wargaming Miscellany Blog

Any seasoned wargamer worth his stripes will likely recognize the name Iain Dickie. Mr. Dickie has been editor of Miniature Wargames magazine for near 25 years, so there is little wargaming that has not crossed his desk. In Wargaming on a Budget, Mr. Dickie shares his vast knowledge of figures, terrain, storage and even rules to offer us a number of alternatives to building our collections that are both economical and space efficient. Thanks to wonderful organisational skills and the author's ability to turn a phrase, we are treated to all that and so much more. In fact, the real title to this book could have been something like, The Englishman Who Set Out to Write Another Boring Wargaming on the Cheap Book and Came Back with the Perfect Starters Guide.

This is the book I wish I had thirty years ago before I wasted tons of money on "stuff" that sat in my basement, until it ended up on a flea market table. The best part about this guide is it forces you to think about what you need to bring to life your favourite periods and events; and how much time, money and effort you are willing to expend to get there. Many of the builds are standards and we all have had in our collections, such as the Celtic village, ancient city, Saxon fort, castle walls, etc. What helps make this book special is the way the author presents the details around the builds. Before starting a project you get a background of who lived there and why they chose that site, what materials they used to build, things you might see around the scene, and a nice selection of ways of representing the scene already sorted out by size and expense. The only real quibble, would be that some more photos or or diagrams would be useful for explaining the builds.

Other areas touched on are figures, rulesets (choosing and creating) and campaigns. Each are laid out in the same thoughtful and logical manner. If you already have a copy of this book for your collection it is probably sitting next to Donald Featherstone's War Games on your self. Whether just starting out or an experienced pro this book has answers and ideas that we all can use. It's a great read for those just getting into the hobby, but will not lose its value as a reference book later on in your gaming experience.

Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

This is a fascinating book. I started to read it and found I couldn’t put it down. I read all 163 pages straight through in one evening. I was hooked by the cover, never mind the contents.
The book’s objective is to help new wargamers get successfully in to the hobby at very low cost. There are useful tips on virtually everything from basic woodwork through to undercoat for figures and game designwith smaller forces. So the reader travels (inexpensively) to the gaming stage from a standing start.
This books starts where it should. This is how to work out what you have as a budget. It moves into information on basic DIY techniques and then on to making a good gaming table to play on. Also provided is how to make a table that fits over the bed. I bet 99% of the people reading this review remember games on the bed. This is different though. The design is really good resulting in a table that would be fine to play on - even in the long term. Very useful for those of us who don’t live in a palace. The book provides some health and safety tips as it goes along or course.
Some ideas are provided on how to make a generally usefulplaying surface prior to a very good discussion of terrain. How to make usable hills, buildings, forts, towns (even cities), trees, hedges, field worksand scrub at very low cost are all included. Excellent points like considerations of how the figures will stand on the terrain or fit into the places etc. and how to make movement trays that actually work are all there for the reader. There are clever ideas like when you make a hill,see if it can double up as an island for naval battles. It even tells youhow to scrounge the materials when needed! Great fun! The book shows how to make ships, pontoons and even a few thoughts on airplanes. Of course, there is a section on making your own lead figures for the truly adventurous.
There is a major section on that great problem of storage and transportation of the figures. I’m very tempted to make one of the cupboards proposed for myself.
On most things there are helpful diagrams and even colour photographs to show the designs and how the work progresses.
Seventeen game types are discussed for beginners. These games range from ancient to satellite wars. Even fighting inside a fortified manor house is described.
None of the terrain or models proposed will win prizes in competitions as they are. But, they are definitely fineto play with. The plans and methods are just suggestions that provide a sound basis that will get you thinking how you could do this stuff yourself, perhaps building on the ideas to meet your own specific needs. What are the top things I shall personally be doing having read the book I hear you ask? Following years of relative failure, I shall move back into making my own papier-maché hills (now that I know the trick of how to make it mix properly – read the book), I’ll re-think the biblical catastrophe that is my storage/transportation arrangement (read the book) and I’ll make up some movement trays for specific armies (read the book). The really big thing for people like me, who like to re-fight big battles, is that the book offers ideas that allow the right terrain for the battle to be made sufficiently cheaply that it can be discarded afterwards. I have no room to store it anymore.
I think this is a valuable addition to the book collection of all wargamers. Anybody can do this stuff, perhaps even me. This is especially useful for anybody having a youngster who is just starting out in the hobby and may have a lot of spare time. Buy it! The book will save you its purchase price the first time you make anything.

Farnborough Wargaming Society Newsletter

Wargaming on a Budget is a new book from Ian Dickie that should find a place on the shelves of every gamer limited by money and/or space (and that’s 95% of us). Trying to hit a happy medium between quality and cost, Dickie has produced 176 pages of concrete advice on making wargames tables, figures, outdoor terrain, buildings, ships and airplanes. There’s also a section on the types of games that you can play to get the most bang for your buck (skirmish, et. al.)


About Iain Dickie

After 25 years as editor of Miniature Wargames magazine, Iain Dickie is one of the best known names in the hobby. He's even been on the telly, appearing alongside Angela Rippon in Games of War. He has recently retired as editor and intends to spend his time between writing and sailing and, of course, wargaming.

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