So you've bought an Entry Pack or two and an armload of Expansion Packs. You tore off the heavy-duty shrinkwrap, dumped everything onto the floor or the dining room table, and pawed through the glorious treasure to your heart's content. Now what?
Some of you experienced hands may be laughing at that question, but step back a moment to your introduction to the wide world of adventure gaming. The answer to that question wasn't as obvious then as it is now. Have some sympathy for the newcomers. The range of options facing them now is more bewildering than ever.
The answer to that question depends on what you intend to do with your miniatures. You don't need to make that decision immediately, fortunately, and it isn't an either/or choice. It helps to know which way you're leaning.
Option 1 is to use the figures mainly for roleplaying; option 2 is to build a complete set; and option 3 is to fine-tune your assortment for competitive play.
No matter what, your first step should be to download the checklist and take an inventory of what you have. The list will tell you how close you are to a complete set and what you're missing out on.
Miniatures for Roleplaying
This is easy. The simplest thing to do is to build encounters around the miniatures you have. If your sets included lots of drow and not many orcs, then it's time to send the PCs underground. If you got a wight and plenty of undead, then a necropolis is the natural choice.
There's considerable value in designing adventures to suit the miniatures. It forces you to think outside your usual patterns, which is good for you creatively and good for the players in terms of variety. For a real challenge, try buying two Expansion Packs and building an adventure around just those sixteen creatures and NPCs. You may be surprised by what you come up with.
Eventually, though, you're going to want to expand your collection if only to broaden your horizons. It's time then to start trading for those miniatures specific to the adventure you have in mind. Face-to-face trading is the best, and the best place for that is at your local hobby store. You could just show up with your figures and see who else is hanging out, but for better results, go on a day when the store is sponsoring a general trading session. If they don't have any trading days scheduled, suggest it. While you're at it, you might even offer to help organize it.
Completing the Collection
Everyone wants a complete collection.
Harbinger contains 20 common, 33 uncommon, and 27 rare figures. One way to get a complete set is to buy one Entry Pack and 26 Expansion Packs. You won't get a complete set by doing that but you'll have 27 rare figures, and you can trade rare figures even up (one rare for one rare) until you have them all. After that, the uncommons and commons will fall into place. As a side benefit, you'll have enough common and uncommon figures to play mass battles using the rules in the Miniatures Handbook.
A more challenging approach is to buy one Entry Pack and 14 Expansion Packs. That gives you 66 commons, 47 uncommons, and 15 rares. Duplicate rares can be traded one-for-one for other rares. The challenge comes in trying to parlay your excess commons and uncommons into the missing 12 rares. This is a great source of fun for born hagglers. If you accumulate a full set this way -- and it can be done, with patience and determination -- then you have a collection to be proud of.
The third alternative is to buy a small assortment of Entry and Expansion Packs -- say one Entry Pack and five Expansions -- and then haunt the hobby shops and online traders looking to buy the individual figures you're missing. Don't be put off by anyone who disparages you for "taking the easy road." Building a complete set is a challenge no matter how you go about it.
Slaying the Competition
If tabletop skirmish is your game, then you have a completely different set of challenges.
The first place to start, without question, is the checklist. You, however, aren't as interested in completing a set as you are in completing an alignment. If your goal is to build an unstoppable LE warband, then you have little use for all those Minotaurs, Earth Elementals, and Umber Hulks you undoubtedly got. That gives you an edge when it comes to trading. Anyone with large and/or rare figures to exchange can usually get whatever he's looking for.
Before you start trading like an Enron vice president, however, you need to learn the game inside-out. That means play, play, and play some more. Don't even worry about the warband construction rules at first. Play every combination you can think of, legal and otherwise, to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the figures, the powers, and the terrain. Mix alignments, mix point values, do whatever you feel like doing. Want to know what happens when you put ten Hellhounds in one warband but you have only two? Substitute Wolf figures. Use Commoners if you must. You want to maximize your play experience with both different types of figures and different types of tactics.
Read the online forums every day. These are packed with valuable information. No amount of play on your part can match the volume of play generated by a community of tens of thousands of enthusiasts. Learn from their stories and share your own.
Once you understand the game and its subtlety, you're ready to settle on an alignment. Download the warband generator and start playing with warband construction. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Armed with a solid idea of which alignment and even what sort of warband you want, it's time to start buying and trading in earnest.