Hey Hams, I’m Dan, better known as FromTheShire online, and today I’m going to be doing my first bite-sized installment on getting into miniatures gaming from square one. I’m not going to be breaking any new ground here, but there’s all kinds of things I wish had been compiled in one place when I first started a couple of years ago. I’m mainly going to be talking about 40k, but everything should be broadly applicable.
So you’re interested in a miniatures system. A friend showed you their cool army, your Friendly Local Gaming Store has stacks of boxes of cool looking units, you read a novel set in the universe and want to check out the game – however you caught the bug, you’ve got it bad. Visions of six different armies are dancing in your head, you’re searching eBay for deals, and you’re planning what your Apocalypse force is going to consist of. Before you open your wallet, I need you to pause for just a moment.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype about something new, but it’s important to start small. As sure as you are that this is the new only game you ever want to play again, all those boxes will still be there in a few weeks. You’re going to be way happier if you start small and expand – maybe that force you think looks awesome doesn’t fit your play style, maybe you’re somewhat competitive minded and the rules aren’t good for your army right now, or maybe the game just doesn’t click for you for whatever reason. Look for a small size way to get a feel for things, like Kill Team for 40k, which is an absolutely perfect intro route in my opinion. The game is super popular so you should have no problem finding people locally to play with, and you can literally start with the box of 3 guys pictured above. I believe the pieces can just be twisted off the sprue, but if you want a cleaner model, you can use….
The most common way of removing models from the sprue is with a pair of clippers. These can range from a pair of cheap wire cutters all the way up to 60+ dollar God Hand clippers. The biggest difference as you increase in price is a cleaner cut. Whereas the cheaper, general purpose options will do some amount of crushing the plastic as they cut it, a good pair of purpose built flush cutters will give you a better result with the same amount of effort. I use a pair of Xuron flush cutters made for plastic.
You can also use a sharp hobby knife like an Exacto if push comes to shove, but a dedicated pair of clippers is faster and safer. If you do go that route, make sure you are using a sharp blade and cut away from yourself, ideally on something like a hobby mat to protect your working surface and blade. After that, the easy to build kits simply push together.
Once you’ve played a few test games and have decided to increase the size of your army, it’s time to move on to your first full kit. These offer much more variety and poseability but are not push together like the easy to build kits. Unless you’re planning on dumping a doggy bag of bits on the table, you’re going to need….
Glue, the Togetherer!
There are multiple options available, each with their own benefits, but the main ones you’ll use will be liquid cement (usually referred to as plastic glue) and good old fashioned cyanoacrylate or CA adhesives (superglue).
Superglue comes in a number of consistencies and applicators, with the best for our purposes being something with a precision nozzle or a brush. The gel control applies very well and is easier to put exactly where you want but will dry somewhat slower due to the additives in it and the greater quantity vs a thin brushed on layer. Use less than you think you need or you will find you’re squishing excess glue out of the joint you’re trying to make. If this still happens, absolutely don’t give in to your first impulse and wipe it off with your finger. CA is ‘activated’ by water, usually the humidity in the air (or the water in your dumb, clumsy fingers) to set very quickly and strongly, and it bonds to flesh fantastically, so unless you really, really like that model, reach for something like a Q-tip or folded up paper towel. The fold is necessary because the glue will absolutely bleed through instantly, and then you’re right back to having adhered inanimate objects to yourself. If (when) you still screw up and get glue on yourself, don’t panic. It can be dissolved with acetone (nail polish remover) or you can apply something like olive oil or petroleum jelly and GENTLY rock your fingers back and forth to loosen the glue. Given all that, why use superglue over a plastic cement?
Firstly, the rapid setting time is often a benefit, and if the natural speed is still too slow for you, drying accelerators like Zap-A-Gap will let you create an instant bond. Do be aware that this process also makes the bond more brittle. Secondly, despite its strength, CA glue does not create a permanent bond, and being able to remove it with acetone or by placing it in the freezer and breaking it means that if you later regret giving that IG Sgt a plasma pistol you can change it. This also makes it very useful for lightly tacking a model to a base to work with it or paint it easier. Thirdly, if you’re dealing with anything that isn’t purely a plastic model, you’re going to be using CA. Resin or metal models? CA. Adhering plastic models to resin bases? CA. Using magnets? CA. Best poutine? CA. It’s worth mentioning that some brands like Gorilla Glue will expand as they dry depending on the type, so I stick with Loctite.
Plastic glue comes in a similar range of options. It works by actually dissolving the plastic and chemically bonding the two pieces together. If you are using something like the Model Master cement, run a thin bead along the surfaces to be joined, press them together, and then hold for ~20-30 seconds. Because of the glue temporarily liquefying the surface of the plastic, it may require further holding depending on the piece, and the join will remain soft for a good bit while it cures. Go gently with your first squeeze when using this kind of container, there is a small delay as the glue moves down the thin nozzle, so if you immediately think you’re not getting anything out and redouble your efforts you can flood the area and have your needle oozing glue for a good while. Nobody wants an oozy tip.
If you instead opt for something like the Tamiya Extra Thin, the application is done slightly differently. Since the glue is so thin, it evaporates very quickly, often to the point that if you brush it on, it will be dried again by the time you get your pieces together. Instead, press the pieces together first and then run the brush down the join. Capillary action will draw the cement into the gap and create the bond you’re looking for. Another interesting thing you can use this type of glue for is light mold line removal. Mold lines are the raised plastic ridges you will see on a model that are caused by general wear and tear on a mold along the edges where it separates creating a small gap that plastic fills as the model is made. They’re not the end of the world, but your models will look better if you remove them. This is frequently done with either the back of a hobby knife or GW’s mold remover tool (which is one of their tools that is absolutely worth the price), but can also be done by lightly brushing some of the Extra Thin along the line. Don’t drown the area as you can absolutely soften or mess up details, but a soft touch will yield good results.
So why use plastic cement over CA glue? Firstly, the slower drying time gives you more time to position things juuuuuust right. Let that arm get tacky enough to not move on its own, put the model down and look at it. Is that really what you wanted? If not, whip that sucker back off, no harm no foul. Secondly, once you let that join fully cure, that thing is on there. Dropped model? No big deal, those arms aren’t acting like improvised claymores like a superglued model sometimes can.
And with that, you’re well on your way! With both types of glue, remember to use in a well ventilated area, and start cranking out that assembly. Soon you’ll be getting in some games with your own models, and ready to move on to painting them up. We’ll save that morsel for the next Hors D’oeuvres!