I guess based on the things you wargame, you are faced with different options when it comes to purchasing. If you are playing Sci-Fi or Fantasy Games as well as the mainstream historical stuff like Flames of War (this is not meant to be derogatory) things can be pretty easy. You walk into your local brick and mortar store, buy what you need and you are done. If you are playing non-mainstream historical games this becomes a different matter. You will either buy direct from the manufacturer or at shows. If there are no stores within your easy driving distance (as is the case for me) this also applies to your paints and brushes.I am not complaining about this per se, after all I have gotten used to this over the past decade. Plus there are people like Nick from Eureka or James from Victory Force, to name just the two with whom I have dealt the longest, with whom it actually is a joy to deal with.But none the less, there are a number of factors that can make it a hassle.
- Shipping costs: Obviously this raises the price of what you buy and creates two factors you have to take into account. The further away you order (different country or continent) the higher the costs. The smaller your order, the more expensive every item becomes (after all the costs are spread of over fewer items). In other words this makes it more reasonable to order closer to home and not to place only small orders (in either case unless someone is willing to ship for free over a certain amount).
- Taxes and duty: Obviously it is best to order within your own country or your own free trade zone (like the EU). Otherwise you will have to pay import tax and duty which again raises costs. Obviously in our hobby this is not always possible. While you can choose to buy a European car instead of an American or Asian one, it might be hard to find a dozen manufacturers worldwide that do 28mm Napoleonic British Rocket Artillery to choose from. So you will either have to bite that rotten apple or place an order that is below the tax and duty benchmarks, although this might collide with # 1.
- Exchange rates: Might sound strange because people are asking the price they ask, but it can make a difference. With all the economic upheaval of recent years exchange rates can change quiet quickly these days (for example the Euro changed about 8% vs. the USD and about 10% vs. the British Pound over the past three month). Local retailers do not change their prices daily based on a change in the exchange rate. So if the exchange rates goes into an unfavourable direction, a retailer in your country might actually offer you a better price than the manufacturer, since they bought their stocks when the exchange rate was still better. So you also have to look around where you get the best rate.
So there is a lot to take into account and as I said… I have gotten used to it.
But obviously with small items like paints and brushes I do not want to go through all this. And with the proliferation of plastic minis and even some historical minis becoming main stream (just to mention Warlord Games minis) over the past five years there seemed to be better options.
For me the prime source was Maelstrom Games in the UK. Low threshold for free shipping, vast inventory, same free trade zone (yes… the UK is part of the EU even though they do not have the Euro) and a favourable exchange rate of GB£ to the Euro. And on top of that a discount of at least 10% over regular retail prices. I know some people seemed to have mixed experiences, but I never did. I received my items reasonably fast (I think the worst was a month for items there were not in stock when I paced the order so I knew this could happen) and they were always helpful if there was a problem with an order. But as some might know… they went bust last year and I had to look for alternatives.
My choice went to Wayland Games (incidentally the people who bought up Maelstroms obligations). I had some limited experience with them in the past and that had been good. And all the other items applied as well (well you have to wait for a free shipping offer, but that is about it). So I placed two orders in December. I have to say… this was where the similarities ended. Turnaround has been longer. But the most annoying thing is… they reduced my orders. They removed the minis ordered from the second order and did so with half the minis of the first order. Now I did get a refund for the money all right, but I can not understand this. Because the minis they removed from my second order showed as in stock only a couple of days later and the others are not what I would call rare items either, so I expect them to be back in stock soon as well. So why not split the order and only send those items available and send the rest later or just wait until the complete order is in stock (after waiting almost two month for the first order this would hardly have mattered)? I have to say this really bleeped me off.
So what are your experiences with them… is this the norm?
And are there other options out there where one can get the mainstream stuff with free shipping and a discount, but without the disappointments?
Oh P.S.: As some of you might have realised… I placed orders containing minis last year, but they were canceled this year. And there is my resolution not to buy any new minis this years. So did I “un-buy” some minis this year? And does this mean that I am allowed to buy said amount of minis in spite of my resolution not to buy new minis this year? Though one! But I guess not. 😦 Oh in case anyone wonders… number of minis bought this year is still zero. One month down, eleven to go! 😛