Player spent $60,000 customising his army for Warhammer 40K game
Players can spend big bucks on Warhammer 40,000 game. One shelled out $60k for miniature army
Imagine spending thousands of dollars on a game.
Now imagine that amount to be in excess of $60,000 - that is the sum one engineer paid to customise his legion of plastic figures to be pitted against other armies in a tabletop strategy game.
Welcome to the world of Warhammer 40,000, or simply, 40K.
Players can buy, assemble and paint individual miniature figurines of soldiers, creatures and military hardware.
These items are collected to form armies which are then pitted against those of other players.
Set in a dystopian sci-fi world, 40K players wage epic battles with a roll of the dice to determine their moves.
The strategy game has fans around the world, and in Singapore, its epicentre is in Funan DigitaLife Mall, where Mr Kenny Tan has set up a shop dedicated to 40K - Battle Bunker.
In the shop, there is a massive 3D landscape where battles can be waged. This game brings people of different ages and backgrounds together. Indeed, kids as young as seven can slug it out with corporate hotshots in their 40s.
Mr Tan, 29, estimates that there are several hundred 40K players in Singapore, including casual ones.
Many gather at his shop during weekends and school holidays, or after office hours, to wage war with their armies.
He explains that the cheapest set contains ten items and costs $45. Some larger individual units can cost more than $100 and the most expensive set is a box of seven vehicles costing $600. That does not include the cost of customisation yet.
"The more powerful or versatile a unit is, the more expensive it will be," Mr Tan explains.
And many veteran players own several armies comprising characters such as aliens, demons and Orks (ogres) of different "races".
Between the complex lore (there is a thick guide book for each race in the game for players) and the cost, it is not a hobby to be picked up casually.
But there are fanatic fans.
"It's like 3D chess," says Mr Tan.
Each unit has its own set of predetermined attributes and abilities.
Players take turns to move their troops across a large table set up to resemble a war-torn landscape, with buildings and terrain elements that are agreed upon beforehand. Skirmishes are then resolved by a roll of the dice.
While Mr Tan has seen beginners taking up to six hours to finish a game, more experienced players can finish a match in about an hour.
But the game itself is only part of the enjoyment of 40K. The game units are collectibles as well, and many players spend weeks painting and adding minute details to them.
Mr Tai Ming Hui, 27, spends his free time at Battle Bunker playing 40K games or painting his figures.
"In the world of 40K, Orks believe that red is the colour of speed," he says, showing us a set of his Ork bike models.
"So I've painted their bikes mainly in red, in keeping with the lore."
Battle Bunker is a place for players, such as Mr Tai, to meet like-minded fans and indulge in 40K, but the scene used to be far less organised.
Mr Tan recalls his early days in the game with some nostalgia.
Shortly after finishing national service, he bought his first 40K model set, but realised to his dismay that there were not many people playing the game in Singapore.
He slowly found fellow players through online forums and by staking out hobby stores in the hopes of intercepting those who bought 40K models.
"They thought I was nuts," says Mr Tan with a laugh. "But slowly, I was able to grow a community."
At one point, Mr Tan rented a four-storey house just for weekly "clubhouse" meetings. Eventually, he decided to expand his hobby into a business and started Battle Bunker.
Mr Tan does not charge his customers for hanging out at his shop and playing games with each other, as long as they buy something from him. Other than 40K items, the shop also sells assorted board and card games.
Holding regional distributor rights to the intellectual properties of several games also allows him to make money from other local and international retail shops.
Even though he sees great potential in future expansion, Mr Tan says he was never in it for the money. He maintains: "It was always about the passion for the game."