Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers. 

Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 5: “Energy,” [1-2].

Some wargamers chose their armies based on aesthetics, others based on general tactics. In nearly every wargame–be it historical or fantasy–each army has its own distinctive trait.

Picking one depends on your tastes.

If you chose an army based on late medieval England’s forces, it’s going to be stationary on the battlefield with lots of longbows.

If you’re playing the Covenant of Antarctica in Dystopian Wars, you’re going to have a lot of weird technology and super-science, but not a lot of “rank and file troops.”

Orc and goblins in nearly every wargame attack in hordes, but have problems with discipline.

Some gamers have no problem losing control of the forces and losing more often than winning. Many gamers, however, do.

So the first thing when picking an army is…

Find the Army with the highest discipline rating.
This can be a “morale” or “leadership” score. Ask yourself, “When it’s my turn, can I get my army to do what I what I want it to do?”

This especially holds true in games requiring an “activation roll”–like in Martian Empires, or Lion Rampant.

Do your due diligence, and then ask yourself:

How many miniatures do I really want to paint? 
Some armies require a lot of miniatures to paint. These are the orc and goblin hordes. The vast hosts of an Empire. The Russians on the Eastern Front in World War II.

Usually the smaller army is less disciplined. And elite army is more disciplined, with additional abilities, and with less figures.

The downside with owning a small force is that can be overwhelmed–but it can be highly maneuverable.

Break Down Your Project into Smaller Parts.
Can you paint your army in three months? That’s probably too much of a daunting task.

What about a unit every 2-3 three weeks? Maybe that’s intimidating, too.

Well, what about 5-8 miniatures every week or so, if you batch-paint them? Now that sounds doable.

Don’t buy miniatures with the thought of painting them “someday.” Have a plan.

Just be sure to do your due diligence beforehand. Observe how other gamers run the army you’re considering. Ask veteran wargamers for advice.

Next on The Art of Wargaming: “Do You Know The Weak Point of a Tank?”