500-Soulgrinder

The Ethics of Purchasing Armies

Editor’s Note (Which is funny because I wrote this piece, and I’m also the editor).  I found this in my drafts folder and it’s over 18 months old at this point, but it was almost complete, so I figured I’d write up an ending and throw it up on the blog.  I think I originally stopped writing because I was droning on without much point–which hasn’t changed in this edit–and because I felt I was coming off as an elitist prick.  After re-reading, I don’t think the latter to be true.  So, here it is, an unposted entry from the summer of 2012:

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve purchased/traded for four armies off other players, including two IG armies (here and here), a demon army, and a Tyranid force.  Well, this past week, I managed to double that amount by picking up another four forces: Skaven, Space Wolves, Blood Angels, & Demons.

500-CassiusSome might say I have an addiction, but I prefer to think of it as investing in opportunities.  People are always getting into/out of the game, and trying to unload their forces.  The local scene here doesn’t support a whole lot of gamers (I’d estimate there are about 50 total warhammer players in the area, although the actual game group I’m a part of is more like a dozen folks).  We have a small community website that’s frequented by a handful of people, and that is–for better or worse–the best place you can interact with the community at large.  As a result, this tends to be the best place to put up notices when you want to sell models (well, aside from eBay, of course).  Since the community is fairly sparse, and those that frequent the website are even more so, it means there’s not alot of available buyers.

Which is where I come in.

I tend to let lots sit up for days/weeks before I make an offer.  I’m not preying on them, mind you, I just want to make sure that they’ve expended their resources.  Honestly, I already own far too many figures, and I have no use for any more, other than to sell them.  Selling them, however, takes effort, and I know it’s very unlikely that I’m going to actually take pictures of them and post them all online, so the end result is usually another box of crap sitting in my garage.  I certainly take that into consideration when making an offer.

500-DropPodsPlainI think the second-hand market for models is generally around 40% off for models.  Well, that’s about what I tend to want to pay for something that I actually want and is in demand.  Likewise, when I sell (or at least used to sell) items on eBay and the like, 40% off retail was the goal that I would shoot for.  I’m not sure that’s any sort of standard, but generally speaking it seems like people are trying to get around 40-60% off for their models (depending upon condition, size of lot, etc.).   Practically speaking, those are perfectly reasonable expections (in most cases).

As I explained though, I don’t need the models, and they’ll at best be sitting around as fodder for resale.  As a result, offers that I make tend to be in the 75-90% off retail value.

You might think this is me taking advantage of people, or being insulting, or manipulative, but I feel that I handle this perfectly ethically.  I tell them up front that I know their models are worth more, and they can certainly get what they’re asking for if they’re content to wait it out.  I find out why they’re selling so that I don’t feel I’m exploiting them (most tend to be selling because they’re just tired of their army), and make sure that they’re content with the deal when we finally make it (sealing it with a handshake).  In short, I don’t lose any sleep over it, feeling that I’ve been more than fair and reasonable with them (even if my prices don’t show it).

This incident though, I had that tested.  With the previous purchases, it wasn’t a big deal.  A guy had an army for sale (approximate retail value was $400, he wanted $200).  I offered $150 (which was amazingly high for me), but we weren’t able to make the purchase work.  Eventually, we shifted into a trade, and I managed to pick them up (more on this in a future post–EDIT: Apparently this post never came).   The other three armies I’d picked up though were another story…

500-DropPodsRedThe guy had posted his armies online, and I waited a week or two before sending him a message.  He had a fairly detailed list of models (without pictures), but left some vague statements like “that’s all I can think of off the top of my head,” which lead me to believe there could be more that weren’t listed.  Honestly, at the price he was quoting, it looked to be around 60% off, and I wasn’t interested, but though I’d message him to see if I could get some pictures.  He didn’t have any available, but asked if I could swing by and take a look at them, which I did, but that’s where I started getting a little uneasy.

Hopefully I don’t come across as uppity in this, as it’s certainly not my intention.  I’ve been blessed with a loving and supportive set of parents, who helped put me through college.  As a result, I was able to find a good, stable job, and buy a house with a family of my own.  I owe an unending debt of grattitude to my family for everything they are and everything I have.  For sure, I’m truly blessed.  I understand that not everyone has had the same opportunities as me though.

Anywho, the guy lived in a hotel on the side of the highway.  When I was fresh out of high school, I’d had friends that lived in nearby appartment buildings, and had guns pulled on them and such.  When I walked into the building, it was dark, and dingy, with at least two dozen patched holes in the drywall between the entrance to the building, and his room.  Being a sheltered suburbanite most of my life, I felt more than a little uneasy.  When I’d knocked, he answered the door, full of zeal.

I’d actually purchased an army from him years earlier, and we remembered each other instantly.  At that time, he’d had a girlfriend, and a kid or two of his own, but he was living with a few other guys in a bachelor pad.  Now, he’d moved in with that girlfriend, and they’d had some more kids (four total).  We reminisced a bit, and then got into what he had available.  By and large, almost all of the models were assembled, and still bare plastic (with few exceptions), as we talked, he took out each squad lovingly, and explained in great detail what each one did, all of the while, his kids peeked around and looked at daddy’s toys.   I really got the impression that he was proud of his little plastic men.

500-SoulgrinderIt was an unusually hot day in Anchorage (around 72 degrees–and yes, that’s hot for Alaska), and the little apartment was stuffy.  Per my typical transaction, I asked why he was selling, and he said they were trying to move out of the two bedroom place, into a 3/4 bedroom place for more room for the kids.

We talked a bit about how much he wanted, and he requested $500.  Now, I normally would’ve haggled him down, as it was higher than I generally pay for stuff that I have no interest in keeping (though–in hindsight, I did wind up keeping three drop pods), but based upon his financial situation, I decided to agree to his price.  I didn’t bring any money to the original meeting–for safety purposes–so we decided to meet up the following day.

That’s where my ethical dilemma came in.  I went home that evening and told my wife the story, and asked if it would be acceptable if I wound up paying even more for the army.  Frankly speaking, I’m an old fart now, and have a comfortable life, so I could’ve thrown another $100 in the deal to sweeten the pot, but that raised questions about whether such charity would be considered insulting.  My wife thought that the potential harm outweighed the potential good and advised against it.  I took the same story to several others (including my mom and a co-worker), both of whom seemed to share my wife’s opinion.

I really thought of ignoring the advice, but ultimately I came up with a compromise.  The next day I showed up with a case of ice cream from Costco.  I figured that way I could wind up throwing something extra into the deal.  Once the kids saw the ice cream, he would be obligated to accept it, right?  Turns out, that was exactly what happened.  It was another scorcher, so the ice cream was really well received.  The thing is though, that he didn’t think it was for him.  He seemed to originally think that I just happened to be carrying a box of ice cream bars & cones around with me.  When I asked if I could give it to the kids, he seemed overwhelmed with my generosity–but even then, he thought I was only offering them a single bar each.  It took a while to figure out I was referring to the entire box–of course, the kids gladly accepted and dad was ok with it.

We eventually shook hands and I picked up the models at the agreed upon price, and I’ve yet to see/hear from him again.

For those that are interested, the armies that I did buy were listed in detail in this post.  The bulk of those models sold in ebay auctions later, but I haven’t bothered to break it down to determine how much I made off this particular sale (As I lumped it in with other auctions and also wound up selling parts to other people locally).  The pictures in this post are the models that I kept from the original purchase–and yes, they’re still in that same condition. Man, I really have to get off my duff and paint something…

FrugalResults2013

Frugal Gaming 2013 – A Very Belated Year in Review

The crux of the Frugal Gaming initiative is an attempt to “shame” myself into spending less on the hobby. That’s why I post all of my purchases, but I do so in a back-corner of the blog that nobody checks. Arabianknight, the originator of this movement used to post monthly updates on his blog which helped draw attention and (presumably) helped him stick to his goals.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get to that point, but I really should be doing at least annual reviews (for my own sake), and I’ve certainly fallen out of habit with that. In fact, I only ever posted one review, and that was for 2012. To set things straight, I thought I’d go back and recap the two years I skipped.

So that we’re all on the same page, the information I’m dissecting is coming directly from the 2013 Frugal Gaming page, so feel free to follow along at home.

Some of the highlights for the year include:

  • The purchase of at least six different armies from local gamers.
  • Three separate massive ebay auctions
  • Entirely too many MTG singles (boy, do I have an addictive personality)
  • A Whopping $0 spent on WHFB (not surprising because I didn’t start really buying any of it until 2014)
  • $0 made off the sales of WHFB, Computer Games & Other (again not surprising, given that the prior to categories aren’t prone to sales and anything I purchased GW related was lumped into 40k previously).

So, let’s get to the numbers…

2013 Frugal Results:

FrugalSales2013

Here are the numbers that I found interesting for 2013:

  • I spent a total of $6205 (up 72% from last year) and sold $6,655.82 (up 57% from last year). And I thought my original numbers were insane—can one person really spend this much on little plastic men and cardboard?
  • With $450.82 in profit, that’s effectively a 7.3% return on investment. Really, that isn’t bad at all, especially considering the amount of merchandise I kept.
  • Of the total spending, 40k Accounted for $2800.95 (45%), MTG accounted for $3294.38 (53%), while Board Games and “Other” each accounted for a paltry $58.35 and $51.35 respectively ( each < 1%), so my spending on Magic had gone up significantly since the previous year.
  • For sales, the numbers were: 40k – $3540.03 (53%), MTG – $2530.79 (38%), and Board Games – $585 (8.8%). Clearly the sales of 40k and board games buoyed the investment in Magic Cards.
  • Part of the MTG numbers are really skewed by the fact that I purchased a case of Modern Masters for over $1000, and that was never shipped to me, so it was refunded. As a result, it looks like a purchase and a sale, when it was really never a purchase to begin with.

FrugalPurchases2013

As per the rules set in 2012, my goal was to stay in the black, but I also put a couple of other qualifications on it. First, I wanted to make it so I wasn’t allowed to dip into the red at any time during the year (as a response to my natural inclination for hoarding stuff and selling it all at the end of the year to suddenly make my goal come true), and the other was to allow me to start with the outstanding balance from 2012 ($506.23) to help further the cause.

I didn’t wind up meeting these goals. In fact, I wound up going significantly negative (more than $1,000) in May of that year and didn’t scratch my way up into positive territory until the middle of October. I did manage to remain positive until the end of the year, so I would’ve met my 2012 goals, but fell short of the 2013 version. I wound up re-evaluating these statements in 2014 and decided against using both of them. So, I restarted at $0 and allowed myself to go negative again—so long as I came out positive by the end of the year (more on that “next year.”)

Looking back at the year, I’m happy with the overall result: I spent less than the money that came in, and did manage to unload some crap that I’d been sitting on for years. Sadly, I didn’t do the write-up in any sort of reasonable time, and I know that many of the models I purchased back in 2013 are still in the exact condition they were in when they arrived—so that’s something I definitely need to improve upon in the future (but don’t look for those improvements in FY2014, because that’s already come and gone…)

FrugalResults2013

wh39kMagnetizingMalceptors (6)

Magnetizing Maleceptors

wh39kMagnetizingMalceptors (2)Sure, I name this after Maleceptors, but I only include pictures of the Toxicrene throughout.  Oh well, the fact that I did magnetize both options (or why bother doing it) when added to the alliteration more than justifies it.

So yeah, I wound up purchasing two maleceptors / toxicrenes for completionist purposes.  I know I’m going to dip my models soon, and I might as well try to dip everything at once.  To stay with the theme, I magnetized both options so that I can field either of the two beasts in the kit.

wh39kMagnetizingMalceptors (3)Magnets for these guys are pretty straight-forward, except for the sheer volume needed.  I didn’t magnetize any of the legs (doing so would’ve been a nightmare), but I did magnetize the front arms, the head, and after consideration, the toxic sacs that go on their backs.  Between those, that was enough to make the model fairly heavy and turn it into a giant electromagnetic sphere, but the real problem was in magnetizing the arms.

This might have worked out fine had I planned my magnet strategy better years ago.  You see, for my monstrous creatures, I decided to magnetize the arms on the left and right sides the same (I believe to keep them congruent with my dreadnoughts).  wh39kMagnetizingMalceptors (4)That way, if there was ever a weapon that could switch sides, I could just flip them around.  It seemed unlikely that it’d happen, but that was the thought.

That wound up biting me here because I had to use fairly large magnets to keep those spindly toxicrene whips in place.  Because of that, I had to place two large magnets inside of the torso at close proximity–which meant that they kept flipping around and snapping together.

In order to make that work, I had to construct a matrix of sprue pieces to get them to stick in place.  wh39kMagnetizingMalceptors (4)As luck would have it, I had exactly enough room to stick four layers of sprue between them to make it work.  I covered all of that in super glue and then, after it dried, I coated it with some air-dry clay and green stuff to ensure they wouldn’t be a problem in the future.

For the arms, I didn’t need to magnetize them,  but they were going to take up so much space in storage, that I felt it prudent to do so.  For the little “brain cover” toxin sacs, I wound up drilling straight through them and then green-stuffing little pustules on top to cover up the magnets.

wh39kMagnetizingMalceptors (6)So, there you have it.  Two more magnetized bugs for the swarm.

By the way, does anyone else think those lash-arms are beyond ridiculous?

Engrish-dying-prohibited

My Adventures with Ali Express

So I’ve made some posts on Chinese Forgeworld before, but I am by no means an expert (nor am I particularly condoning you or anyone you know should even try to buy the stuff); however, if you’re going out there, I figure I can at least arm you with what little experience I have.

First of all, I should say that I’ve bought more than my fair share of Forgeworld direct stuff over the years.  I’d say I’ve probably dolled out in excess of $1000 in my lifetime for FW stuff (and honestly it’s probably alot more than that–if only I’d kept track of such spending before 2012…)

Forge world’s sculpts have always been fantastic, and their quality and customer service is impeccable (well, I assume the customer service is great based upon what other people have claimed–I don’t think I’ve ever had an issue with models coming from them).  Seriously, it’s better than GW.  The downside is that they’re expensive.  Enough so that they used to cost more than a comparable GW model, although GW is quickly pricing themselves even higher than their English counterparts.

And that leads to people counterfeiting.  My first experience with such was a friend of mine developed a pretty robust collection of original forge world pieces and starting a casting operation out of his garage.  Granted, he didn’t cast them for resale, but he did go more than a little nutty for personal use (which I’m pretty sure is still a product of Intellectual Property theft).  His stuff was passable, but he had no ways to get rid of the bubbles, so it was by no means pretty.  For anything other than Nurgle/Chaos/Tyranids, I wouldn’t really bother with it.  It was just far too much work to put it together.

Since then, various unscrupulous online retailers have started selling recasts of GW products.  Of course, the biggest perpetrator of them is China, but I’ve also seen Russian companies get involved.  Naturally, being the curious sort (and a penny pincher) I wound up buying from a couple of vendors to see what the products were like.  The first one I used was a website called miniatureshobby.com, one called miniature-sales.com and another called coolcastornot.com (actually, those all might be somehow related).  I can’t recall how I found the name of the site–probably from BoLS or the like.  I think I bought something from the first one, and I’m not sure if I ever repurchased from any of the others.

Engrish-if-you-are-stolenThe thing is, when you’re selling bootleg copies, GW tends to get the word out and shut you down, so these sites would close and then spring up as another version someplace else.  Once I had bought models from the first guy, he sent me an email each time he opened up another site (though I haven’t received such an email since late 2012, so maybe he’s finally been shut down for good.

More likely, he joined the group over at http://www.aliexpress.com and sold his warez there.  From what I can tell, Ali is a site that is like the internet flea market for China.  Tons of vendors meet up and sell all sorts of goods, many of which are clearly bootlegs of various internationally owned products (Disney, Marvel, and even GW).  As a result, tons of vendors were selling all sorts of products.

Again, I dipped my toe in, and I had honestly mixed results.  I think I placed an order from 3-4 vendors at once (they all offered free shipping, so I didn’t see a reason to put all of my eggs in one basket).  In hindsight, it was good because I definitely got a wide variety of responses.  One of those vendors provided high-quality reproductions at a reasonable cost and shipped quickly.  That was the positive response.

Another vendor shipped some of the models I wanted, while others were substituted for random parts (I still have a n unassembled Tau Riptide sitting in a bag that I’ll never use).  He was goodly enough to return my money when asked and let me keep the improper models.

The last two were complete failures.  One threw up his arms eventually and refunded my money saying he couldn’t ship me the models for some reason.  The other, stopped responding to me at all and never shipped a product.  I wound up trying to work with him, and then eventually had to work through the arbitration section of Ali’s website and wound up getting a refund months later.  So, I had some success with the site, and some problems; however, I have heard a considerable amount of horror stories of people buying from that site and losing their money, etc.

Since then, GW seemed to crack down on the site and shut down all of the vendors.  I know they did it once, and the response was that they all just opened different online storefronts.  Something then changed, and the response seemed to be that they just buried their merchandise in a massive front of falsely labeled search results (if you search for “Tyranid” on Aliexpress.com you’ll see what I mean: almost all of the results have zero to do with anything remotely GW)–still though, you could find some GW related materials.

Engrish-dying-prohibitedNow, the place seems like a wasteland.  Up until last month, there seemed to be stores operating as complete fronts.  They would have products for sale under a category of “Tyranids” but those products would have no picure/description and the titles would be like “M313″ or “L882.”  It turns out that they had secret underground catalogs that they would email you to tell you that M313 really meant “Tyranid Biovore” or whatever.  Pretty sneaky, I guess, but it also means that we’re wholy trusting a Chinese manufacturer on a website full of bootlegs to ship us the product we think we want, with no supporting facts/documentation.

I think I’ll pass.

Still, GW seems to have closed even that loophole.  The vendor that I last ordered from still exists (though the name has changed again), but they only have t-shirts for sale now.  Maybe that’s just another twisted front?

I’m sure there are other vendors out there, but as for ones that are currently active and reputable, I have no insight–except to point people directly to Forgeworld.  While it might sound ridiculous to some, keep in mind that their quality and customer service is unmatched, and their pricing is often even cheaper than GW anymore…

Image Credit: Both images are from www.engrish.com.  A very humorous site about international translations.

wh39kHierovSam (1)

Lords of War in Casual Games — A Conversation with Sam

Hierophant1 (7) (Medium)So, in a recent 40k game against Sam, I sprung a Hierophant bio-titan on him without warning (see the detailed battle report here).  It’s something that I’ve been threatening to do to various opponents since 7th edition came out, but also something that didn’t seem quite right to do.  Well, that evening, I got a wild hair and decided to throw it in the list.

Anywho, after the game, I thought I’d pick Sam’s brain about it, since it’s the only time I’d ever seen a Lord of War used in a casual game outside of Apocalypse.  I thought getting his point of view might be helpful.  So, what follows is a brief interview I did with him on the topic in a Q&A Style:

So, before our game, had you ever played against a Lord of War outside of Apocalypse?  Have you ever played one yourself?  Was it in a friendly game or a tournament?

I played one friendly game where there were two Lords of War on both sides. It was epic and fun. One went super nova and killed another in the blast, as well as a lot of other stuff around it. It was a 2 v 2 game with each person bringing 2000 points or so.  I also played a list with a Knight Titan included. This was in a tournament setting and I learned a lot about the effectiveness of this model. It was a lot of fun to play but didn’t feel too over powered.

Do you think that they’re balanced in the game of 40k?

I think they are balanced in Maelstrom missions more so then the old style missions. If you don’t have an answer for them, you can complete objectives for points. They add a certain amount of urgency to the game because you lose units to them quickly. Lords of War also come at many different points costs so there is a limiting factor just because of the points.

How did you feel about playing one unannounced in a casual game of 40k?

wh39kHierovSam (15)It depends on the setting really. I like to know ahead of time but I also don’t like tailoring an army just to beat a specific list. It put me on edge initially, mostly because I’m not used to seeing them. 40K is a game of strategy and GW has added new playing pieces to the game, namely flyers and Lords of War. Nobody likes change but the more games I play the more I realize they just require different strategies to beat. It’s hard to adapt your old tactics to these new threats sometimes.

Do you feel like your opponent should ask your permission before playing one in a casual game?

I’m a big proponent of house rules in this area, and the letter of the law. I said I didn’t care what was fielded against me and it turned out to be a really fun game. In fact going forward I’ll keep in mind when saying this that it might happen again, and I welcome it. I think a clear house rule in this area would alleviate any bad blood that may come up because of how people feel regarding Lords of War.

What was your initial reaction to seeing it in my list?

At first I was a little bummed because I knew I didn’t have an army setup to deal with it that well. An all deep striking army that focuses on being close to your enemy is tough to play when a Heirophant is standing in your enemies ranks. After the bummer moment, came the intimidation factor, how do I deal with THAT! Then the gears start spinning to think of a strategy to win.

What was it like to actually face it in the game?

During the game it wasn’t that bad, other than being so wide it can hold two objectives. It was so big it acted like another piece of terrain. I always forget that they can move 12 as well. The Heirophant did exactly what I thought it would do, kill at least one unit each turn.

I noticed you didn’t shoot at it a single time.  Was that a conscious strategy, or merely coincidence?

wh39kHierovSam (9)I figured I had two options, go all in and try to kill it with everything I have or just ignore it and kill everything else. I lost a unit to deep strike mishap and the rest of my units were coming in on a 4 plus instead of a 3 plus. Because of these disadvantages I didn’t feel confident enough to take it head on. So I chose to avoid it completely. There is no point in wounding something you will never kill. I had a lot of power fists but it would have been difficult to get them all into hand to hand at the same time with it. I had 3 other monstrous creatures to deal with that were much softer targets. Plus committing units to hand to hand are units that aren’t near an objective.

After facing it, did it change your opinion of them in standard games of 40k?

Yeah, the more I play against them the more okay I get with them being in regular games. I would probably demand that the mission be a Maelstrom mission though. Lords of War are restrictive because of their points cost and I think that was evident in our game.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add to the conversation?

The Lord of War did not win the game we played. It was a factor, a big one at that, but not the deciding one. Your Tyranid armies low model count could very well have been it’s downfall. I felt like I lost the game because I lost a unit before turn 1 to deep strike mishap. I drew missions that were very difficult or impossible for me to complete at the beginning of the game. My strategy is to deep strike in and kill entire enemy units, my Sternguard should have been able to kill the Carnifex but I rolled poorly. I should have focused the Carnifex’s more then the flying Hive Tyrant. I had some really long scatter dice roles with templates and Drop Pods.

I enjoyed the game and that’s what matters, I’ve won enough 40K games that winning isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be, I look for those memorable games now and I’ll probably remember this one for awhile. I was also happy with the amount of points I got all things considered.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to me that Sam took such a mature response to the entire event because that’s just the sort of guy he is.  That is why he has an open invite to come play games at my house any time.  In the future, though Lords of War are legal in the game, I still think I’ll try to get my opponent’s permission before playing them: not everyone would take it in stride like Sam did.