Value In The Hobby, How Do You Find It, Does It Matter?

Before you begin reading this, some people may not care for the exercise I have gone through below. The intent is not to tell you what to do or how to hobby, it is merely a process I use to see if I get value (In my opinion) out of the hobby by doing what I do, and to see how much I should spend per month on it. So if you stifle a yawn whilst reading this, I do apologise…… 

I often put a lot of thought to how much I should spend per week/month/year on my hobby & I often hear people say ‘Hey, those models are really expensive, this is an expensive hobby’, but I don't think that it is. But saying that I have met a lot of people who spend far too much on models & games they never use. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing, but here is just what I do to work out how much I should/could/do spend and ensure that I get a good balance & feeling that the hobby is worthwhile for me in terms of investment, time, and enjoyment. 

Lets take Star Wars Legion as an example, a game I have literally just bought. 

$90 USD retail 

Contents: 2 characters, 2 speeder bikes, 14 storm troopers, 1 AT RT (Walker), 14 rebel troops, barricade terrain.

All the gubbins’ you need to play (dice etc) 

So for 90 dabs you get 33 figures, some terrain and all the stuff you need to play. 

My universal yard stick is the cost of a movie ticket ($9.50) for a prime time slot, & the average film length, say 2 hours.  

So lets say you buy into Star Wars Legion you need to play approximately 9 times or 18 hours for the game to be the same value as a movie ticket x9. If you don't paint the contents that is & I haven't included the time to put the models together before the first game. Lets call this the Cost Effective Point (CEP), the CEP of Star Wars Legion is 18 hours (unpainted).

Lets add into the mix your busy lifestyle. How often do you play? Once a week, twice a month, less? Lets suggest you play twice a month. Therefore the $90 will last you 18 weeks or 4 and a half months, $5 a week, or $20 a month.

I think that is pretty decent & we haven’t included peripheral elements such as: Painting, thinking about it, nerding around on the internet talking to other geeks about it or generally interacting with its contents online (youtube, articles, etc), reading the rule book or nosing around in the box. 

I am only going to add one more thing here, painting. Playing painted in my humble opinion makes the game more interesting, lets not get into that debate but lets just say for arguments sake it does improve it.

So you have two options, paint it yourself, get someone else to paint it for you. 

You paint it: 

Each model needs 4 paints on average at $3 a pop (As a ballpark guess)

14 storm troops ($12)

14 rebels ($12)

2 characters (we’ll use the same as above, $0)

2 bikes ($12)

1 walker ($12) 


This is ball park figure, you could cut this down/spend more as you see fit & it doesnt include other peripherals like a brush. 

The only other ‘cost’ would be your time to paint them & you can see that in one of two ways which leads to a divergence in our hobby of ‘I’d rather just play as I cant paint/dont like painting/have a busy life’. Again I dont want to debate your definition of busy, or painting level, or anything of that sort so lets just say you decide to paint them, or not. If you do decide to paint them it will cost $48 plus you have 16 colours of paint you dont need to buy next time if you buy something or expand your Legion models. Painting models can help in many ways but lets pick out 3.

If you paint them:

It helps you to hit your CEP earlier than just by playing. Each model may take on average 2 hours to complete. 33 models in total in this box would be 66 hours 

I would argue you get a sense of fulfilment, achievement, & pride as you see the models move from grey plastic to painted. 

You have all the paints on hand next time so your costs will be lower when you expand the game/buy a new one.

If you chose to paint the models yourself:

$90 for game

$48 for paint  


4* month period (16 weeks) 

8 games:                                 16 hours

33 models painted:                66 hours

Total:                                      82 hours

*rounded down for ease

60 hours over CEP & using the cost $138 divided by the hours 82 it costs you about $1.68 per hobby hour, which linked to our movie price ($9.50 for 2 hours) hobbying would be $3.36 vs a movie for $9.50.

Summing up, if you choose to paint the models it costs $138 and over the 4 month period it takes to get your 9 games in and paint all the models making a monthly cost of $34 approx.

But……lets say you don't want to paint them for whatever reason & choose to get them commissioned. 

Game cost: $90

Commission painter working at US min wage ($7.25) & lets say they are faster than you so take 1 hour per model (33 hours) = $239.25. 

Again I don't want to debate costs but I am pretty sure commission painters would charge less than that, but we need a figure so min wage & half the time it would take you seems to fit for me. 

TOTAL COST:  $329.25

You’d still need your 4.5 months to get to CEP but you get to play painted and not have to do it yourself (you decide the ‘cost/reward’ of that) making the monthly hobby cost $73 approx & you don't have the future cost decrease because of already purchased paints, the commission price would remain. The hourly cost to hobby would be $329.25 divided by your hobby hours (time spent interacting with the game) 18 giving us an hourly cost of $18 approx. Linking it back to the movie cost of ($9.50) for 2 hours, buying the game and having it commission painted costs $36 making it $26 approx more expensive than watching a movie. 

I think that is enough for this particular article, I am staring to bore myself!!!! hahaha. 

This article raises more questions for me, the one major one is ‘Is it possible to play the contents of Star War Legion 9 times without getting too bored?’ and the answer is….I don't know. I will probably write anther article on that moving forward about how long should we be expected to play a self contained game in terms of hours without having to branch out.

But let me sum up, firstly, do what you want. Secondly it is obviously clear that people that play and paint get more financial ‘bang for buck’ than people who don't. People who get people to commission paint their stuff get the worst monetary value but they get painted models to play with they they haven't had to spend their own time doing. Another question is what is the ‘value’ of playing painted as playing unpainted is the best value, but I will leave that beehive alone for now, I don't want to kick it. 

What’s your hobby budget? How do you see value in the hobby? What system do you use? Is it even important to think about things in this way?

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Keep paintin’