Educational / Big Box Hobby Store Kits

  • So there I am in Hobby Lobby.  (For International members, Hobby Lobby is giant craft store chain that sells just about anything arts, crafts, and hobby you can imagine.)  

    I'm in a aisle where my little one is losing her mind over the fully painted miniature animals.  Making little families of Momma Lion, Papa Lion, and Baby Lion, etc.

    A Mom and her school age kids is a little further up the aisle.  I notice she is browsing the diorama materials.   (Hobby Lobby sells diorama kits, chunks of "grass mats," miniature trees, and figurines and what not.)

    We strike up a conversation.  Her son is in (if I remember correctly) 5th grade and they have to put together a diorama with Pioneers and Indians.  I find that interesting and she tells me how all her kids each year have projects like that.

    I am intrigued and my mind is immediately abuzz with thoughts of where/which 28mm pioneers to get, and imagining painting them up with my kid.  My kid's diorama is going to be next level!

    I look over what Hobby Lobby has on the shelves.

    Stuff like this:


  • Later, little thoughts percolated in my head.

    What if for instance WGA made historical Sprues packaged with a small paint set and a semi decent brush?   Maybe partner with Army Painter or some such. Maybe those half or 1/3 size paint bottles to keep prices down.  

    Maybe the packaging would be a clear bag so it's easy to immediately see/understand the contents.  Just with the bright cardboard foldover at the top to hang it from display hooks in the store.

    (Like this.)


    So for instance a package could be called "The Blue and Gray! - Civil War Soldiers."  It could include two sprues.

     Also, a set of paints (blue, gray, black, skin, brown, gunmetal, some kind of wash,) a brush, one x US Flag sticker to apply to the flag bearers staff, one x Conferedate flag sticker, one x brush.

    The sprue as seen above could be built as a 5 man Union unit and 5 man Confederate unit both with flags, or by using the rifle arm a 10 man Union or Confederate unit.

    (If these guys were push fit [no glue required] that would be ideal).

    Then, and this is where it gets clever if I do say so my self (and I just did) one could include some sort of one or two page wargame rules in there.  Maybe a fold out paper map with boxes or squares or similar on it to control movement.  That's right we are hooking them young.  It's a wargaming gateway drug.

    (Short, simple rules.)

    (Paper map)

    Alternatively a URL on the packaging could lead the purchaser to rules on the WGA website .... where they would see all the other cool sets they could buy).



  • So who might get this?

    Not the harried Mom who wants preprinted figures and thinks perfection is the enemy of done school project.

    But the Dad who used to play Warhammer 15 years ago, or who thought about painting his Axis and Allies set in college and never did, or maybe a parent just looking for something that could mean quality time with their child, might think this is just the ticket.

  • I would think WGA getting a big box contract and getting their name out there would be a good thing.

    Other sets they could do with a similar set up:


    A covered wagon.

    Native Americans.


    (The fact that these would have wide cross over appeal with regular 28mm gamers is a happy coincidence.)

    Any game/rules in these sets would probably have to be more cooperative or against nature.  

    Pioneers can brave the frontier?  "Damn, I died of dysentery again!"

    Native Americans could hunt Buffalos?


    Alternate packaging.  Similar concept but expanded with Native Americans and tepees in a box.  Pioneers and wagon in a box.  Civil War Infantry and Cavalry or a cannon in a box.


    Dumb idea?  Idea with some potential?  What dioramas have your kids had to make?  What educational sets would you suggest?


  • 1/72 Is far better for dioramas. And the "starter wargame for kids" concept is sort of difficult to pull off if you are 

    A. Not a company that sells rules

    B. Not a company with products in brick and mortar stores

    If you want a starter wargame for your kids, you might want to print out some OPR 2D minis or use proxies with the OPR rulesets. Also, 28mm plastics are way out of the general diorama price range for anyone below the middle class (in the USA at least.).

  • @Estoc  

    Ah, but WGA is a rules company.  Or is about to be:

    (Four posts down).

    The idea would be to get into chain hobby stores with these.

    And yes.  Wargames and miniatures is a middle class hobby.  

    Unless your talking about Games Workshop.


  • Depends on the age you are aiming at I think.

    GW already works hard to capture the tween market.

    I recall using fairly robust 1/72 Airfix for my early childhood school dioramas. Soft, bendy plastic.

    Perry Miniatures I seem to recall used to put some simplified game rules in their Napoleonic boxes. 

    I like your enthusiasm brother but this one is a bit of a tough sell. 

  • @Grumpy Gnome @JTam

    Actually I think it might be doable if you target the market right, and it does not actually need to be pioneers even since I know a Russian company named Tehnolog sold many of its mecha wargaming product as education products (for art projects basically) which is similar to this idea.

    The logical group to target in the US would probably be homeschoolers (craft class, history, a little math, and strategy, sounds like it would be yearlong homeschool project to me for older kids and the parent in charge is generally not as harried, at least in the time department), that said I am not sure WA could do it.


  • @Grumpy Gnome 

    The age you are aiming at is the Dad's ;)

    But also, whatever age kids are assigned to make certain dioramas.  There's probably more variability than when I was a kid, but I remember US History in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade?  

    I don't think GW does that great of job with the youth market.  They have some entry games at Barnes and Noble.... but do kids voluntarily go there?  (Maybe, I always see the kids in black looking at the manga shelf).  The cost of their stuff is a road block for parents.  You want what Honey?  Fifty five bucks for 5 dudes in a box....  And you say you need 46 dudes and three vehicle?  Let me buy you a pony..... it's cheaper.  

    This is an attempt to capitalize on the required by the school to make something market.  That seems like a good one.

    The attempt to hook them on wargames/WGA products is a bonus.

  • I think it's an interesting thought.  The army builder boxes already have good looking figs coming in at around 60 cents each.  You can get okay starter brushes for about 50 cents each.  I'm certain you could get a 5 mL dropper of paint down to 1 dollar each.  Sticker flags can be had for around 3 cents each when you buy in bulk.  A studio artist could crank out a paint guide in a couple of days.  A good chunk of us could crank out a decent simple skirmish rule system in an afternoon.  So a couple of pieces of paper for those plus commision costs.  You can print double sided, gloss, 22x33" posters for less than a dollar each.  Then packaging (which I have no idea on that).

    Let's take a look:

    Troops 10 x $0.60 each = $6

    6 Paints and a wash x $1.00 each = $7

    1 cheap synthetic brush = $0.50

    2 Sticker flags x $0.05 each = $0.10

    Paint guide and Rules x $0.10 each = $0.20

    Playmat = $1.00

    Packaging ($1.00 each?) = $1.00

    Heck, lets throw in 2 black and 2 white 12mm d6s at $0.20 each = $0.80

    Knapkin math says I could put together one of these kits for around $17.00 paying retail for some of it.  It would get better with economy of scale.  You could charge $20 for the kit and that seems very doable.  It actually seems like it would be a respectable purchase: 10 figs, paint, a brush, and a game for 20 bucks.  Design the packaging right and you could get cut out terrain too.

    Like I said, I think its an interesting thought.

  • What kind of game can you do with two small Civil War opposing units?  Well honestly most of the fun is going to be facing off, rolling dice to hit, and removing individual casualties.  This is pretty simplistic, but certainly fun at 10 years old (or 40 years old, 2/3rds of 40K is just that).  There's still some decisions to be made.  Begin firing at longer distances but less effectively?  Hold fire till short range for a crushing volley?  If you could squeeze 6 men onto the sprue you could make a formation of two ranks of three.  Then you have to decide to deploy in line for more firepower or to rank up for better melee.

    Extra rules could cover cavalry and cannons also sold at the big-box store or available via the WGA site.  Or Forrest Wentworth had a great idea with the packaging making cut out terrain.  Maybe a cardboard cannon?  (Also, fencing, etc.)

    Anybody remember the carboard dreadnought and terrain in 2nd Edition 40K?  Good times!

  • Alternate packaging:

  • @Forrest Wentworth 

    Great write up/analysis.  Thanks!

  • @JTam It seems to me that he only accepted the part about american minis? 

    Also, if this does somehow go through, the civil war is an ill-suited conflict, as it:

    a) is only a US conflict

    b) is generally ill-suited to smaller battles

    c) has very indistinct uniforms, meaning that you need paints for when wargaming, (although this can also be a pro from some perspectives)

    d) is not something you need to make dioramas for in the current US education system

    I would probably go with WW1 or WW2. Generally, diorama assignments are dying out, but those are more viable conflicts.

  • @Estoc  

    Reference a)

    It's a product proposed for US school children to be sold in US stores.  I don't think it being a US only conflict is problematic.

    (Also, I suspect the American Civil War has some International appeal.  Surely Warlord picked the ACW to debut their Epic System for some reason?)

    b)  Perhaps.  Although the American Civil War had as many skirmishes and small actions as any other war.

    c)  Yes, the whole idea is to sell miniatures and paints together.  The similar uniforms is a pro as you can get away with one sprue for both sides.  Perhaps WGA could mold one sprue in blue and the other in default gray?

    d)  Between public schools in 50 states with different curriculums, private schools, and charter schools it's pretty hard to say who is requiring what dioramas at what age.  (Hopefully someone with school age children will weigh in.) 

    But Hobby Lobby is a very successful business; they wouldn't be sacrificing shelf space to carry this and its ilk if they weren't selling them to someone:

  • Just went down the Google rabbit hole.

    They are called "Shoe Box Dioramas."  Looks like 28mm would work very well.

    In this case five Union Soldiers face off against five Confederate Soldiers with a little fence between them and a scraggly tree in a corner.  Jobs a good one.


    A little more advanced:

    A little more, more advanced ;):


    Looking at school kids dioramas online, it's all Pilgrims, French Indian War, Revolution War, Civil War, Pioneers, and Indians.   Maybe not much has changed since I was a kid.... we did US History in three different grades but never got past the Civil War each time.  



  • Does the UK have stores similar Hobby Lobby (huge hobby warehouse chains)?  Do children in the UK make dioramas in school?  What do they get as homework to model?  Your history is so much longer.  Romans?  Viking raiders?  Crecy? The English Civil War?  I'm genuinely curious?

    What about in Germany?   I think we have some members from or living in Germany.

  • I do not recall anything quite like, quite as big, as Hobby Lobby in the UK or Germany. Mrs. GG has suggested Obi, a DIY shop that normally sells home improvement materials but does have a small hobby craft materials section but it is very limited. 

    I do not recall big box stores doing as well in the UK and Germany as they have done in the US (other than Ikea that is) but other folks may have different experiences of the UK and Germany. 

  • I don't think I've ever had to make a diorama in my school career. Except once an air raid shelter in primary school I think. (Current UK student)

  • The French and Indian War (Seven Years War for our friends in Europe) would probably have more appeal universally.  So would a dark ages kit.  There's plenty of territory thoughout history to mine. 

    Me personally, though, I'm less interested in the diorama aspect.  I mainly like the idea of a $20 grab-it-and-go, self-contained, all-in-one hobby project and skirmish game.  It'd be perfect for me and my daughters or when I get to see my brother and nephew.  I also would love to see another mass market way in the US to introduce people to the hobby instead of Sigmarines or the Grimdark.

  • There is a lot to be said for having another more mainstream path into the hobby. I am not a huge fan of Games Workshop although I do like some of their products. It is the GW Corporate side that I dislike as well as grimdark. I am pretty tired of grimdark.

  • @Ben S 

    Was it an Anderson Shelter?  Just read about those a couple months back.

  • @Grumpy Gnome @Forrest Wentworth 

    Hmmmh.  I was thinking diorama/hobby kits with cheap and cheerful rules thrown in as a bonus. 

    However, maybe WGA could/should develop entry games for Barnes and Noble and Target, etc.

    Similar to these:

    But, historical.


  • Anything that truly can challenge GW’s entirely too strong domination of the hobby is good in my book. 

  • I get that the rules were kind of just a bonus for the diorama idea, but to me that would be kind of core to it.  It's possible to make good and succint rules that would easily fit on a sheet of paper or small booklet.  There are plenty of examples out there such as One Page Rules or Planet 28.  A 20 dollar all-in-one starter with rules that are good enough to reuse (and fun - that's key) would be a fantastic gateway into the hobby.

    If you were really trying to make it new player friendly, you could design one side of the battle mat as a kind of introductory scenario (similar to the latest release of Deadzone by Mantic).  But a guide for putting together the figures and painting them would be essential.  WGA's stuff in general is pretty straight forward, but every once in a while there is a design decision that stumps us.  (Ex: What is the purpose of the hole in the goblin shield?)

  • Out here there is a whole little industry revolving around the yearly California Missions dioramas.  Pegasus Hobbieshas the gaming-dad market pretty well covered, while other companies offer cheap balsa wood or styrofoam building options with plastic accessories, Padres and Indians sold separately.


    for a very basic introductory game, I would suggest something with a board and maybe even some cards for that comfortable mainstream boardgame feel. Perhaps make it a World War 2 themed game.





  • @JTam Speaking of dinosaurs, I would love a set of dinosaurs designed to be mounts.

  • @BS Kitbasher  

    Do you know if your schools get to WW2? 

    Again this sounds ridiculous, but when I was a kid we never got past the Civil War x 3 times.  People malign video games, but if it wasn't for them I don't think American children would even know WW2 happened.

  • Yes it was an anderson shelter @JTam

  • @JTam  My high school spent quite a bit of time on the Great Depression, WW2 and the Holocaust.  Our teacher would even have 'fun' little exercises, like splitting up the class into the concentration camp guards and the inmates for a little taste of The Wave/Stanford Prison Experiment so we understood how people got drawn into it.  

    But we had a lot of retired Nisei soldiers and Holocaust survivors in my county.

  • I've just had a quick read through this and, as a parent of UK schoolchildren (primary) I csn dort of see the merit in having educational sets for things.


    For example, my eldest is 7 and last year studied the romans (had a roman reenactor come in in full costume and in character to bring the history to life) and now she's doing the celts and picts, which is really unusual and probably not as easy to see in re-enactments and museums as say Romans or the world wars.


    If there were kits that schools could pick up of a scenic board and then suitable scale models, I can imagine it adding to the learning experience for kids who could maybe have a go at painting them, using books as references. Rules are not much of an issue here, it would just be models


    (Also, it could potentially create wargamers of the future, although education is the key thing!)

  • I like the idea of a self-contained introductory box and I love the hard plastic of WA... but I don't think the two are perfectly compatible.

    Wizkids sells miniatures already assembled (no sprue) and already primed and I imagine that such miniatures are much more appropriate for an educational kit.

    Otherwise also the "Siocast" material (which I never tried) seems to need neither assembly nor primer.

    In general, from an introductory starter set I would imagine:

    • 10 miniatures without sprue and already with primer.
    • a starter brush
    • 5-6 "Speedpaint" colours from army painter

  • Reference making dioramas:

    I think with a little thought a lot could be done with the packaging if the kit came in a box.

    For example maybe the bottom of the box has worm fence printed on the sides.  Inside the box is background print and a bottom grass print.  Something like this:

    There's a bunch of clever ways to go about it.

    Another shoe box diorama example (Early settler with drum feed LMG confronts a Grizzly):

    (Sidenote:  The river and background are really effective.)

    It seems like the two current favorite scales for dioramas are 1/72 (20mm) and 1/32 (54mm) so one could extrapolate that 28mm would work great as well.


  • I hate to be “that guy” and yuck your yum but....

    Isn’t part of the magic of these things is that the kids use their imagination to cobble together bits from different sources? 

    I just have this image of a dozen kids in the class all with the same kit. 

  • @Grumpy Gnome

    They likely wouldn't all use the same kit for the same project or even just the kit (you normally have to provide your own school supplies in the US). Plus if WA does one and it sells well, its likely that in a year or 2 there will be others from other folks.  Also a number of adults buy school diorama kits to make stuff themselves.

  • @Grumpy Gnome that's the theory, but the reality is that most kids' parents end up doing all the work (mostly by buying craft store kits and accessories).  I remember back in the day, the class was neatly divided into kids with crappy styrofoam missions, and kids with slick, photogenic mi$$ions.  Grade was directly proportional to parents' (mostly financial) effort.

  • @BS Kitbasher  Fair point... although for my part I only really remember my Airfix 1/72 toy soldiers and trees made out of pipe cleaners. Granted that was 4 decades ago.

  • More educational kits at Hobby Lobby:

  • So the "Michael's" diorama section is weak sauce.  (Far inferior to Hobby Lobby).

    The modeling section is really small too.

    I did find this nostalgia gem though:


  • How things have changed!

  • GWs got some new intro/mini games at Barnes and Noble:

    (This last one is a more of a cooperative board game.)


    And here's a new miniatures introduction game:


    It would be cool if WGA could get in this market place with compact historical miniatures games.




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