Wargaming on a Budget

Gaming Constrained By Money Or Space


Written by Iain Dickie

Published by Pen & Sword Military Books


Wargaming on a Budget is a book taking a different kind of slant of how to get involved in the wargame hobby with a minimum of financial expenditure or gaming space. This book was written by Iain Dickie who may be known to many as the editor of Miniature Wargames magazine for over 25 years. Let me say up front, that this book is not for the hard core or experienced wargamer with decades of experience under their belt. That is not to say that they wouldn’t pick up an idea or two from Mr. Dickie’s book but I feel this book is aimed more at the wargamer who is first starting out or who is a relatively newbie in the hobby.

As we all know, wargaming can be a very expensive hobby and often time intimidating. Iain takes us on a trip through 10 Chapters and 163 pages and shows us how we can save money and space with wargaming Do It Yourself (DIY) projects. The 10 Chapters of this book are;

  • Resources
  • Basic DIY
  • Making a Table
  • The Playing Surface
  • Figures
  • Terrain
  • Man-Made Features
  • Ships and Planes
  • Storage and Transportation

The Game

The book starts out by looking at “Resources”. These are things like space for wargaming in your home, finances, and a suggestion on different ways one can get materials at no cost. While written with the grammar and humor for the UK, any other readers around the world will understand and appreciate what he is saying.

Next he talks about basic DIY. For many of us, this is a chapter we might cruise by because you are already experienced in handling tools. However, as Iain explains, he has to write the book and assume that the individual reading it is inexperienced in handling tools. In this chapter he covers the following topics;

  • Measuring
  • Cutting
  • Joints
  • Drilling
  • Screwing
  • Nailing
  • Planning
  • Knots
  • Sanding
  • Painting

Chapters 3 and 4, is devoted to “Making a Tabletop” and the tabletop “Playing Surface”. In Chapter 3 he shows us how to make our own tabletop. He provides detailed drawings that should allow the gamer to construct his own gaming table.

Chapter 4 is devoted to the game playing surface. Here he goes through a number of different types of material that a gamer can use for this playing surface. The items he covers in this chapter are;

  • Sand
  • Cloth
  • Gaming Mat
  • Hexagonal
  • Squares
  • Hexagonal Plastic Tiles
  • Carpet Tiles
  • Homemade Tiles


In these chapters, you can see that the author really provides the gamer the benefit of his many years’ experience wargaming.

Following this, there is a Chapter on Figures. One of the first things the author does here is to define figure ratios. He informs his readers of exactly what this means and how it is used in wargaming. Next, the author discusses scale, figure material, figure conversion, movement trays, and bases. In the figure material section Mr. Dickie talks about lead figures, homemade figures, plastic and card, both homemade and commercial. The discussion on bases is just as informative as he mentions some of the materials a gamer can use to mount his figures. The materials covered in this area are;

  • Thin Plywood
  • MDF
  • Polystyrene Card
  • Plastic Floor Tiles
  • Cardboard
  • Sheet Lead

For each of the materials he provides tips on how you can use the material with your figures. He also spends some time discussing painting in this chapter and provides his readers with some hints and tips in this area.

Chapter 6 is devoted to Terrain. In this chapter we are advised of his methods for creating terrain. He knows from his own experience that nice terrain can often make or break a game. He begins his discussion with Grass, and some background information that we may have known but never thought about. From here he moves on to bushes, hedges and scrubland. Ian provides us with alternatives we can use in the place of purchasing commercial products and gives us hints on making our own. Following this, the readers are advised on how to make rivers and hills. He also mentions the different materials that the gamer can use, especially when making their own hill features.

Chapter 7 looks at Man-Made Features. There is a lot of valuable information in this chapter for the DIY wargamers. In this chapter the reader gets all types of useful information from the examples. Some of the subjects that are presented are;

  • Ancient Northern European Farmstead
  • Ancient Mediterranean Buildings
  • Larger Settlements
  • Walled Town
  • Medieval Village
  • A 5mm City
  • Castles and Forts
  • A Semi-fortified Manor
  • Later Towns
  • Roads and Tracks
  • Field Fortifications
  • Trenches
  • Temporary Barricade
  • Chevaux-de-frises
  • Twentieth Century Fortifications

At this point we are at approximately at the center of the book which contains a number of color photographs of the authors’ projects. Here we see samples of the quality work that has been produced by Ian. Without a doubt it is to be admired and enjoyed.

Chapter 8 is titled Ships and Planes and, as expected, is devoted to these subjects. Here we learn how to create our own canoes, oared ships, sailing ships, transitional ships and iron battleships. It is also in this chapter that the author tells the reader how to use plan drawings of ships or planes and to scale them so that they can be used to create homemade versions. He provides detailed information on performing this and provides the formula you will need to scale the plans.

The 9th Chapter is dedicated to Storage and Transportation. After all, unless you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated room or more (with no dogs or cats) where you can leave all your gaming paraphernalia out in the open, it will have to be lovingly stored until gaming day. After all, you don’t want all your hard work to be destroyed by any accidents. In my opinion this is the reason that the chapter on Storage and Transportation is included in this book as he knows from his own experience that this is a subject that is not often discussed in wargaming books or magazines. As a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge, this is the only book that has ever tried to cover the subject. Here Ian provides his readers with the benefit of his years’ of experience and provides a number of solutions to this tricky gamer problem.

The final chapter, Chapter 10, is about The Game. The chapter begins with advising the reader on how to choose an army. He gives us advice on ancient armies and how we can use units from one ancient period to another. Readers also learn that from the 18th century on, this type of units mixing is difficult to do up until the mid-war years of the 1930’s. There is a good amount of information here that was written in just a few pages the subject.

Following this, Ian talks about different types of Skirmish Games that player’s can enjoy. I am sure that this information is a result of his years as a gamer and 25 year experience as the editor of Miniature Wargames magazine out of the UK. (This is an excellent magazine by the way.) Before he gets into the detail of these games, he goes into an explanation of what are Skirmish Games. He informs the reader, that some of the Skirmish games that are very popular are Gladiatorial Fighting, Medieval Jousting, Duels, and Western Gunfights. Some of the other games that he provides information on that gamers can enjoy are;

  • Naval Actions
  • Aerial Combat
  • Satellite Chasing
  • Chariot Racking
  • Night Attacks
  • Garrison Duty
  • Indoor and Tunnel Actions
  • Robberies
  • Trench Raids
  • Street Fighting
  • Small-Unit Actions
  • Hunting
  • Quests


The 10 Chapters of Wargaming On A Budget (Gaming Constrained by Money or Space) is a well written and contains a lot of useful information for both the new or experienced gamers. From cover to cover you are given hints on how to save money and do your own Do It Yourself Wargaming projects. One of my favorite sayings has been attributed to Otto Von Bismarck. This saying is that “Fools say they learn from experience. I prefer to profit from others’ experiences.” That is so true with this book by Ian Dickie. Profit from his experiences and you can save some money and space, while gaming for less and enjoy the hobby more.

Available from Casemate Publishing

MSRP $29.95