Rule 1. Do not choose an army; let the army choose you.
The key concept of my approach to building an army is to begin with something you already have. All wargamers have models and bits and pieces hanging around from half-finished projects and impulse buys. Take another look through your drawers (ooer!) and think about what those discarded and unloved models could be the start of.
In the case of my Bretonnians, they began with me stumbling upon a bag of Hundred Years War English archers that had belonged to my Dad and had not seen the light of day for around twenty years. I thought, "they'll do as Peasant Archers," and the Bretonnian army was born
Rule 2. Do not be afraid to beg.
Wargamers are a generous bunch. What's more they've all got massive piles of unused models sitting round, cluttering up cupboards and generally annoying their wives. (Sadly, most wargamers aren't initiates of the Cheaphammer cult.) Simply ask the question, "Has anyone got any spare bits for _____?"
So in the case of the Bretonnians I got two responses to my question. Andy gave me a box of bits which included a load of plastic archers, men-at-arms and a pegasus knight. Ginger Dave sold me a bigger box of bits which was essentially a battalion box (more archers, more men-at-arms, some knights and three more pegasus knights) for £20! Bargain!
Rule 3. Be creative. Use what you have.
So, looking at what I've managed to get my hands on for the princely sum of 20 quid, I can see the mandatory hero, standard bearer and unit of knights (rrp £18.50), a unit of pegasus knights (£24), a big block of men-at-arms (£37) and a unit of metal archers (18.50). I've also got a shed load of plastic archers which not only look silly next to the metal ones, but also will not make for an interesting or effective army. Therefore, I applied rule three, a craft knife and liberal helpings of super glue and built myself a grail reliquae and the mandatory six battle pilgrims (£25.50). I've also got more than enough peasant archers to make more battle pilgrims later on.
Rule 4. Unit fillers are your friend.
Now some people are funny about unit fillers, but I tend to find that as long as they are appropriate for the army they help to break up the visuals, draw attention to often overlooked units and most importantly take up space and save money.
Here we've got two mini-dioramas (look, it's that useless Boromir model!) that begin to add some character and action to the men-at-arms and use four guys to take up the space of eight. The other fella is a bit of running with the theme, and I'll be adding some more arrows (embedded into shields, stuck in the front of the movement tray, etc.) when I've done the shield transfers.
Rule 5. Small is beautiful.
When building your army, especially early on, make your units as expensive (in points terms) as possible. It may not make for the most competitive or tournament ready force, but it will get your painted army on the table as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Take the pegasus knight. I've no idea if he'll be any good, but he's going to serve as the army general (a Lord no less) in my first games with the Bretonnians and he'll save my buying/painting another unit.
He'll get drafted into the pegasus knights later on, but for know, he's in charge.
A side effect of rule five is that you'll learn to play with your army with a sub-par list. This means you'll learn to think creatively in terms of tactics, and when you've added more units later, you'll be a better player. It beats buying your way to success.
Rule 6. Think versatility.
What else could this army be used for? If you can find an answer to that question, then you're not only saving money one one army, you're getting a second one (or third, or fourth) for free!
The club is running a Wars of the Roses campaign over the summer and I intend for my Bretonnians to see service for the House of Lancaster in games of Impetus. They won't be perfect, but they won't be completely wrong.
Knights, archers, halbersiers, hero on a pegasus? Add a cannon and use the battle pilgrims as free company, I've got an Empire army that nobody would argue with...although they will probably stomp it into the ground.
Three for less than a fifth of the price of one...result!
There are more principles of Cheaphammer that I shall prattle on about when I get to the units I haven't touched yet. But in terms of the challenge this is meant to be about, you can see that there a few blobs of grey still around, shields and transfers are missing and the Knights of the Realm are too few. Although it's meant to be a unit per month, these three issues are what I will address by the end of June.