When you think of wargaming, the phrase ‘cheap miniatures game’ probably isn’t something that pops into your head. You might have a 3D printer and a library of STL files, but for most of us, there’s a good chance that tabletop miniatures evoke nightmarish images of holding up a lighter to a crisp stack of twenties.
Wargaming is notoriously pricey - and that’s a shame, especially since there’s plenty of small-scale budget miniatures games available, if you know where to look. Luckily, we do!
Cheap miniatures games
- Judge Dredd Miniatures Game
- Burrows & Badgers
- X-Wing Miniatures Game
- The Walking Dead: All Out War
- One Page Rules
Below sit nine of the cheapest miniatures games for under £50. Among our list of wallet-friendly wargames you’ll find fantasy, gothic, sci-fi, zombies, mechs, death races and badgers, so there should be something there for all tastes. A lot of the games included don’t care which miniatures you use, so space badgers are also a distinct possibility. Oh, yeah. Space badgers.
Kitbash Mad Max vehicles from Hot Wheels and compete in a push-your-luck death race
Cost: From £20 for the rulebook
The high-level concept for Gaslands blends Death Race and Mad Max. Or, if you remember video games from the early ‘90s, the criminally overlooked Rock n’ Roll Racing.
Using a series of templates to race around the track, you’ll count down via a ‘gear’ system, where faster vehicles get more activations but a more limited moveset, with a greater risk of crashes. A personal favourite rule states that once you pick up a movement template, you have to use it, keeping the action speedy and decisive. Add plenty of weapons and gadgets for kitting out your vehicles, and Gaslands offers a perfect blend of strategy with messy chaos.
Now, Gaslands isn’t ideal if your group is set on a game you can play straight out of the box. If you’re prepared for - or even excited about - a bit of kitbashing, though, you’ll find Gaslands one of the most affordable miniatures games out there. The 192-page hardback rulebook retails for an RRP of £20, and while it includes scannable templates, you can pick up a plastic set on eBay for as little as £6.
On our budget of £50, that leaves 24 quid for toy cars (the game is designed at Hot Wheels scale) and a bit of scenery - easily done - or even a few specially designed sprues of accessories if you don’t have a stocked bits box to raid. You could just as easily do ‘counts as’ of course, but who doesn’t want an excuse to customise, drybrush and weather the bejeezus out of some toy cars?
Narrative acrobatics along the rooftops and canals of Venice, with ostriches and Lovecraftian Deep Ones
Cost: From £35 for the small starter
We’ve already written extensively about this Lovecraft-meets-Assassin’s Creed in Venice skirmish game. In short, it’s well worth your time. The smaller of the two available starter sets retails for £35 and includes scenery, templates, a playmat, minis and a cardboard gondola. The gondola hides important secrets. Do not neglect it.
Playing Carnevale means building a gang from one of five factions - everything from the opulent and sadistic nobles of the Patricians to the bloodthirsty Strigoi vampires - and fighting it out along the canals and rooftops of Venice. What really sets Carnevale apart is the way it incorporates terrain and Assassin’s Creed-style acrobatics. Throw your foes from buildings, drown them or drop from above for devastating aerial attacks.
While you might be able to find the bigger starter online for just over £50 (£65 RRP), the smaller starter set leaves you with £15 to buy the Blood on the Water expansion book, a bit more terrain or a few models to flesh out your gangs.
However, it’s worth noting that only the older rules are included in both starters. The game still functions broadly the same, and you can find all the rules, stats, errata and cheat sheets available for free online. But you will need Blood on the Water if you want your own copy of the most up-to-date version. Luckily, it’s a gorgeous book, stuffed with lore and new scenarios to play.
Buy Carnevale from publisher TTCombat.
Tactical destruction on a massive scale, but tiny
Cost: From £20 for the beginner box
With decades of lore, spin-offs, supplements and expansions, mech-on-mech combat game Battletech can get as deep and complex as you want. Its Battletech Beginner Box - which retails for around £20 - makes a perfectly temperate pool of plasma-seared metal to dip your toes in.
Much of the appeal of skirmish games, as opposed to full-scale miniature wargames like Warhammer, lies in condensing the kind of depth and utility you might find in say, an entire squad of decked-out Space Marines, into a single character. This gives each and every model on the board personality. For Battletech, you might spend the same amount of time customising a mech’s left arm as you would an entire army detachment. A handful of models and a small map goes a long way in Battletech.
The Beginner Box itself - while not containing the expanded rules - does a great job of gradually introducing the core systems you need to understand and play the game. It also comes with some extra pop-out mech standees alongside the two miniatures, which might give some players flashbacks to when Games Workshop gave you a cardboard Ork Dreadnought in a Warhammer 40,000 starter set. Imagine wanting people to enjoy your game first, in the hope they might give you some more money later! Truly, a simpler time.
4. Judge Dredd Miniatures Game
Become the law - or the lawless - in this affordable miniatures game based off the iconic comic book dystopia
Cost: From £40 for the starter
This one breaks the rules for being a cheap miniatures game under £50 very slightly, as the starter set from this Andy Chambers and Gav Thorpe-penned 2000 AD skirmish game retails at £56. You’re only a quick Google away from finding a copy for considerably cheaper, however. If you do, you’ll find a set packed with cards, tokens, rules, terrain, a playmat, two judges and a gaggle of cyberpunk gangers.
The aesthetic of the classic comics absolutely drips from every pore of this game - being a Dredd fan is certainly a plus. Even if you just dig the setting casually, you’ve got the pedigree of publisher Warlord Games and two legendary Games Workshop designers.
Turn chits, drawn at random from a bag, dictates activations, introducing some chaos to turn order. As models become wounded, their stats decrease, creating a dynamic urgency to later turns. Judges, naturally, are far scarier than basic gangers, so are always outnumbered - but have the chance to chain activations with some lucky rolls. ‘Big Meg’ cards throw in dynamic events, and the game features a full campaign system for stringing combat scenarios together.
Miniatures-agnostic skirmish campaigns - with your choice of magic or lasers
Cost: From £20 for the rulebook
Much like the other Osprey Games title on this list - Gaslands - getting into either fantasy Frostgrave or sci-fi Stargrave is as simple and affordable as picking up the core rulebook. The rest of the game, from miniatures to scenery, is completely agnostic - you’re free to use whatever miniatures, dice, and scenery you like. You can buy reasonably priced, semi-official models if you want - although it's totally viable to ransack your board game shelf for wizard-looking dudes and go to town.
Either way, both games involve creating opposing gangs - either wizards or space farers - and duking it out in your chosen setting. Frostgrave represents the closest thing to classic Games Workshop skirmish game Mordheim you can get without spending one billion pounds on eBay. Stargrave, while similar in many respects, offers slightly more of a narrative campaign setting. Both games involve grabbing loot and beating back your opponent.
Of the two games, Frostgrave has been around a lot longer, so is more content-rich as far as expansions go. But generally, it's all about which flavour of excuse for people shooting lasers from their hands you prefer.
6. Burrows & Badgers
Burrows AND Badgers?! In this economy?
Cost: From £20 for the rulebook
Anthropomorphic woodland creatures in a medieval fantasy setting Otters with warhammers? Cool. Dormouse archers? Also cool. Hedgehog Witch Hunters? Grimdark is for losers. Give us furry friends with murderous intentions. Burrows & Badgers features a solid and simple ruleset, but the game really is all about the wondrous woodland setting.
At the time of writing, you can pick up a hardback copy for £20, letting you try the game in a miniature-agnostic format. The solo rules are absolutely free, though.
The miniatures themselves, naturally, are bloody lovely - and sculpted by the designer himself, Michael Lovejoy - lending a wonderfully cohesive vision to the whole thing. Warbands run as small as three models each, and the single-piece metal models make a great, easy, charming and relatively cheap entry point for any younger gamers you might want to indoctrinate into the wargaming hobby.
7. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
Hidden information dogfighting in the Star Wars universe
Cost: Around £35 for the Second Edition Core Set
You probably don’t need an introduction to X-Wing if you’ve been into tabletop for any length of time, but this Star Wars dogfighting game still remains a great marriage of theme and mechanics. A hidden information system has each player secretly selecting their flight path, then activating in initiative order - making outguessing your opponent just as important as outrolling them.
The other games on this list are better recommendations than X-Wing for those looking to quickly expand their skirmish game collection on a tight budget. X-Wing maker Asmodee is second only to Games Workshop in its use of walled garden ecosystems and the encouragement of joy-devouring meta-chasing, and a cheap starter set can quickly snowball into an expensive collection.
That said, the fundamentals of X-Wing are still very enjoyable, and for a quick hour or two of space dogfighting, the starter set makes an excellent, cheap board game-style experience in its own right. X-Wing’s second edition starter set retails for around £35, but if you’re just planning on casual games at home, eBay has some great deals for the now defunct first edition sets. Game companies, despite what they want you to think, can’t come to your house and punch your models to bits for no longer being tournament legal.
8. The Walking Dead: All Out War
Scavenge supplies with stealth and combat while hordes of walkers try to ruin your day
Cost: £35 for the starter set
Whether you’re a Walking Dead fan or not, All Out War's £35 starter set is a great zombie-themed addition to your skirmish game collection, coming complete with miniatures, a playmat and terrain, as well as rules and peripherals.
Each player builds a team from a mix of characters and equipment, up to a points value. Then, you both populate the board with an equal number of zombie walkers, preferably in locations that disrupt your opponent’s objectives. Players take it in turn to capture supply tokens, using a risk/reward movement system. Faster and longer moves create noise, which attracts the undead hordes. While players move and fight, walkers are spawned and controlled by event cards, adding a sense of random narrative chaos to the strategic head-to-head.
9. One Page Rules
Distilled skirmish rules for your existing Warhammer collection
A slight case of false advertising here, since the rulebooks for miniatures-agnostic skirmish games Age of Fantasy: Skirmish and Grimdark Future: Firefight actually run notably more than a single page. That aside, they’re still both very distilled, very fast - and very, very free.
The One Page Rules project - which also offers bigger army games - is an attempt to create fast, fun and simple rulesets for use with Games Workshop’s miniatures for Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. The games use the same scale and general concepts, but strip back a lot of the minutiae.
They aren’t necessarily meant to be replacements to Warhammer, just alternatives to allow a similar experience in a shorter time frame, with less pressure to drag along a library of errata and codices with you to the table.
Download Grimdark Future and Age of Fantasy from One Page Rules.