Queen Ariad from Descent 2E

Queen Ariad has to be the most unattractive miniature I have painted thus far! The figure represents one of the Lieutenants from Fantasy Flight Games’s Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition. She appears as a “leveled-up” version of the Ariad Lieutenant, both of which appear as villains in the Labyrinth of Ruin expansion to the core game.

The main problem with this character is the rather gaudy and ambiguous color palette displayed in the limited reference art that is available. Like most Descent characters, there is only one image of Queen Ariad in the expansion materials. Fortunately, a recent expansion for the Runebound board game also featured Queen Ariad, giving one more reference picture. The lighting for the two pictures seem to be in almost polar opposite ranges, making it unclear how much of her coloration is natural or due to the dramatic lighting. The apparent blue-green body, red legs, and near-white claws creates a rather unpleasant color range, making the bulbous character resemble a rather patriotic tomato rather than an intimidating end-boss.

LoR Cover
Queen Ariad as she appeared on the cover of the Labyrinth of Ruin expansion for Descent 2nd Edition.
Queenariad
A picture of Queen Ariad from a recent Runebound Expansion

I also felt that the sculpt was rather chunky in many respects, especially around the undersides of some of Queen Ariad’s claws. While the upper surfaces have a nicely sculpted “scaled” appearance, reminiscent of a pine cone, the lower surfaces often fade into rather blurry lumps with edges that are jagged and misshapen. In addition, the ridged areas of the lower legs were often disrupted due to poorly placed and rather prominent mold separations. While these were somewhat correctable, the character is already something of an amorphous blob, lacking in interesting details, so the corruption of the few areas that HAD details was a let-down.

Regardless, I did my best to do justice to the sculpt and reference art. I’m especially happy with the red “crab leg” areas, as I have always heard that red was a difficult color to highlight. I also feel that the nonmetallic gold “crown belt” and “starburst” came out well (Both of these items were incorporated in regular Ariad’s costume, so I guess the implication was that Queen Ariad “sprouted” right out of Ariad’s original body?) Although I feel my final body color came out slightly more saturated than I would have wanted, I feel that the overall appearance is a respectable effort for a rather difficult subject. But you be the judge!

 

 

 

Body:

Base coated with an approximate 1:1:1 mix of Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Foul Green (72.025), VGC Dead Flesh (72.035), and Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Ivory (70.918). Began creating highlights by rebasing the upper surfaces of the body with the base color mixed with slightly more ivory.  The two sections were then blended together by highlighting the lower portion with the upper mix, and highlighting the upper portion with even more ivory, reaching an approximate 1:1:2 mix of the original colors. This was similar to how many painters wet blend, only done gradually.

Claws:

The claws were base coated with the final highlight color from the body stage, an approximate 1:1:2 mix of Foul Green, Dead Flesh, and Ivory. Additional layers were added with more ivory, eventually reaching pure ivory for the final highlights.

Legs, Eyes, and “Stinger”:

All of the red parts were base coated with a 1:3 mix of VMC Hull Red (70.985) and VMC Vermillion (70.909), serving as the darkest shade. This was layered up to pure Vermillion for the midsections. Highlights were placed with progressive additions of VMC Flat Yellow (70.953). (The edges of the chest region were wet blended with the “red” base and the “body” base)

Gold:

Base coated with VGC Heavy Brown (72.153), layered with VGC Heavy Goldbrown (72.151), highlighted with mixes of Heavy Goldbrown and VGC Dead White (72.001).

Ground:

The ground through which the figure is “erupting” was painted with a base coat of VMC Desert Yellow (70.977). This was then shaded with Citadel Agrax Earthshade. Highlights of the original Desert Yellow were added around the cracks and raised portions, with final highlights of Desert Yellow mixed with VMC Dark Sand (70.847).

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Fimirs from Classic HeroQuest

After painting the large groups of Gobins and Skeletons for HeroQuest (twelve minis for each group), I decided I needed a little more immediate gratification. So for my third group, I decided to paint the Fimirs, which only require six minis to cover all expansions. The Fimir race was created by Games Workshop specifically for the Warhammer universe, and appears in HeroQuest due to some crossover between the two games. It was not a particularly popular monster, however, and never extended into other fantasy properties, such as Dungeons and Dragons.

Apparently, Warhammer lore established that Fimir are cyclopean lizard-men who live in swamps and routinely kidnap and rape human women. While I am not in support of swamp racists in general, I find it oddly endearing that Games Workshop went to the trouble of creating a backstory for the whole species which is at the same time rather specific and glaringly uninspired.

Fimir Card
The monster card for the fimir.

For those unfamiliar with the game, the Fimir is the brute of the green-skins, having the highest attack, defend, and health values. Accordingly, they are relatively large miniatures with nicely exaggerated muscles perfect for highlighting. They have minimal clothing and armor, and what they do have appears to be gold in the pictures.

 

As with previous HeroQuest miniatures, I tried to continue working on my nonmetallic metal skills. Overall, I think they turned out rather nicely, despite some rather difficult areas of the molds. The belly “plates” and shoulder “discs” were not very round and tended to have misshapen details which distorted where the highlights should go. Even so, I still prefer the resulting appearance to true metallics. I have seen several versions of this character painted very well, but these poorly sculpted areas tend to catch light oddly and really make true metallics look out of scale.

The area that I feel needs the biggest improvement in my minis is the wood. I need to get better! If anyone has a good tutorial or step-by-step they can recommend it would be greatly appreciated.

 

In order to introduce a little variety to the models, I decided to follow the example of several other painters, and attempt to make the central areas of the armor look like gemstones rather than flat pieces of metal. I think the effect came off decently, especially from a little bit of distance.

The red stones really worked well, picking up the red of the eyes. The purple stone was not quite as effective, in my opinion, but it is actually my wife’s favorite so I chose not to repaint it in a different color.

 

After slogging away at those larger sets of miniatures, it feels very good to have gotten through another monster group as quickly as I did. After finishing up some more Descent monsters, I will get back to HeroQuest with the mummies, which I hope will go even more quickly than the Fimirs. I may throw in some furniture as I go along if I feel the need to break up the monotony. Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.

 

But here is the whole group of Fimirs. Let me know what you think.

Fimir Group
The Fimir Mob

Skin:

Base coated with Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Golden Olive (70.857), shaded with mixes of Golden Olive and Vallejo Panzer Aces (VPA) Splinter Strips (70.348), then highilighted in stages with the addition of Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Dead Flesh (72.035).

Leather:

Base coated with VMC Woodgrain (70.828) mixed 2:1 with VMC Orange Brown (70.981), progressively layered with more Orange Brown, and then highlighted with the addition of some VMC Dark Sand (70.847).

Gold:

Base coated with VGC Heavy Brown (72.153), layered with VGC Heavy Goldbrown (72.151), highlighted with mixes of Heavy Goldbrown and VGC Dead White (72.001).

Wood:

Base coated with VMC Flat Earth (70.983). Stripes were added with VMC Woodgrain, and VMC Japanese Uniform (70.923). Glazed with VMC Smoke (70.939).

 

HeroQuest Box Art

Elementals from Descent 2E

Boy, are these guys intimidating miniatures to paint!  One of the primary problems is the complete, and utter lack of reference images.  The monster card (shown below) is the ONLY image available, and obviously it shows next to nothing useful.

So, as the card states, there are four elements associated with the creatures: fire, earth, water, and air.  Having looked high and low for reference art, I noticed that there is much variation in how these elements are divided and portrayed by other painters.  That is a result of the second major issue with the figures, which is some confusing sculpting.  It can be very unclear what the different parts of the figure are meant to represent, especially the back of the torso.  I chose to interpret this as earth, mainly because I felt the lower arms, chest, and abdomen were clearly rocky texture.  The back appears much more ambiguous, possibly being flowing water or fire.  Looking at the way the elements are listed on the card, however, I felt it made more sense to transition more clearly from element to the next following the specified order.

As I discussed in regards to the Cave Spiders, each monster group in Descent has minion and master stats.  Normally, I would try to incorporate red into the color scheme for the master, but unfortunately fire is… well red.  So I chose to go a slightly different direction, making the master appear “hotter” by concentrating on more yellow and LESS red than the minion.  Hopefully that, along with the red rim for the base will make it clear who is boss here!

As for the base, I waffled several times on what to do.  Out of all the monsters in the core game, expansions, and Hero and Monster packs, the Elemental is one of only three monsters with the cold attribute.  I felt that I needed to reference that in the base, but was conflicted because I thought some fire on the base would work much better in balancing the color distribution on the mini.  I considered doing fire on ice, but that just didn’t sound pleasing.  So I settled for attempting an ice floe.  Not 100% satisfied with the result, but I think it evokes ice well enough and also appears distinct enough from the water element to work out well.  Overall, I’m very satisfied with this paint job, but look forward to moving on to something less eclectic.

 

Water:

Based in Anita’s Acrylic (AA) Nautical Blue (11122), shaded with 50:50 mix of Nautical Blue and AA Azure (11179).  Highlights with AA Slate Blue (12006), then 50:50 mix of Slate Blue and Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Dead White (72.001), final point highlights with Dead White.

Air:

Based in Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Neutral Grey (70.992).  Highlighted with VMC Sky Grey (70.989), then 50:50 mix of Sky Grey and Dead White, final point highlights with Dead White.

Earth:

Based in VMC German Camo Black Brown (70.822), first highlight with 50:50 German Camo Black Brown and VMC Neutral Grey (70.992).  Second highlight with previous mix lightened with some VMC Sky Grey (70.989).

Fire:

Based in VGC Dead White (72.001), layered first with VMC Flat Yellow (70.953) then mixes of Flat Yellow and VGC Hot Orange (72.009) working up to straight Hot Orange.  Larger flames got a point highlight of VGC Bloody Red (72.010) topped off with small accents of VMC Smoke (70.939).  (The “Hotter” master monster was done in the same way, but using more of the lighter colors and omitting the Bloody Red completely.)

Ice Base:

Base coated the entire base in VGC Steel Grey (72.102).  Used a total of five layers mixing in VGC Glacier Blue (72.095) and VMC White (70.951).  Each layer was done with overlaid crosshatching, often alternating directions of the hatches in different layers.

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Skeletons from Classic HeroQuest

Boy oh boy, am I glad to be done with these guys.  I really enjoyed painting the first skeleton, but after painting bone after bone after bone…  There’s just not that much variety in skeletons, and I had to really push to get through all of these.

Skeleton

With most groups of minis, you can add variety by mixing up weapons, shirt colors, skin color, or hair color.  But for skeletons, there wasn’t much I could think of changing.  I had considered adding some gold teeth or glowing eyes, but those effects just didn’t look right in the end.  So I settled for slightly different wood colors for the handles of the scythes and adding some rust to some blades as well.

There were also some real bad seam lines along the one side of the ribs which I was able to mask decently with some well applied paint.  Overall, I’m pleased with how they turned out.  It just took a lot longer than I would have liked.

First, the darker handle…

Next, the lighter handle…

Now for the rusty blade…

And finally, the group shot of all twelve members of the Undead Skeleton Army.

skeleton-army
Skeleton Army

Bones:

Based in Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Khaki, (70.988), layered with Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Bonewhite (72.034), and highlighted with 50:50 Bonewhite and VMC Ivory (70.918)

Scythe Handles:

Dark – Based with VMC Flat Earth (70.983), washed with Daler-Rowney FW Sepia Ink to darken and deepen the brown tone, highlighted very small areas with VMC Leather Brown (70.871) mixed with a touch of VMC Khaki.

Light – Based with VMC Flat Earth, shaded small areas with 50:50 mix of VMC Flat Earth and VMC Leather Brown, highlighted very small areas with VMC Flat Earth mixed with a touch of VMC Khaki.

Blades:  

Nonmetallic metal technique with a base of VGC Cold Grey (72.050), darkened with VMC Luftwaffe Uniform (70.816), lightened with VGC Dead White (72.001).

Rust added with a wash and layers of VMC Mahogany Brown (70.846), lightened with VGC Plague Brown (72.039), and highlighted with Plague Brown mixed with a touch of VMC Khaki.

 

HeroQuest Box Art

Valyndra from Descent 2E

In addition to groups of monsters, such as the Cave Spiders, each Descent Second Edition boxed expansion features one or more boss monsters that are often encountered in the campaign’s finale.  Unfortunately, the expansions only feature these villains as cardboard tokens. Completionists, like myself, are easy targets to Fantasy Flight Games’s marketing strategy in releasing separate Lieutenant packs featuring plastic miniatures for the bosses.  Since we will finish the Shadow Rune campaign in the very near future, I decided to paint the dragon Valyndra, the Lieutenant from the next expansion, Lair of the Wyrm.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with both the character design and miniature for Valyndra.  She appears to be a red dragon, but due to the stylish object source lighting on the only available character art, it is impossible to tell what, if any, color scheme was intended.

pic1406139

Many fellow painters have attempted to reproduce this intense orange and yellow appearance, but in my opinion, the result always appears flat and washed-out.  I chose to paint Valyndra as a simple red dragon.  The sculpt was very difficult in areas, however.  The scale pattern doesn’t make much sense, as scales appear to overlap in random patterns rather than any orderly fashion.  There are also several areas, such as the tail, where there is no scale pattern sculpted at all.  Some of the skulls on the base have some serious mold offset problems as well.  Be that as it may, I think I still managed to pull off a pretty nice interpretation of this monstrous beast.

For the base, I tried my hand at some lava.  Not completely satisfied with the result, but it gives the right impression.

valyndra-leftvalyndra-rightvalyndra-tailvalyndra-top

valyndra-front
Only a mother could love this face…

Scales:  Based the whole body in Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Hull Red (70.985), painted each scale with VMC Cavalry Brown (70.982), then highlighted certain scales in Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Bloody Red (72.010).  Further highlights to the tips of certain scales with VGC Hot Orange (72.009), and final point highlights with 50/50 VGC Pale Flesh (72.003) and Bloody Red.

Wings, Spines, Horns, and Claws:  Based in 50/50 mix of VMC Green Brown (70.879) and VGC Bonewhite (72.034).  For the wings, I washed with diluted Daler-Rowney FW Sepia Ink.  Shading for all parts with VMC Chocolate Brown (70.872), highlights with pure VGC Bonewhite and 50/50 mix of VGC Bonewhite and VMC Ivory (70.918).

Lava:  Based in VMC Black Grey (70.862).  A layer of VGC Gory Red (72.011) was applied with a large brush in a sweeping pattern, followed by a second layer applied selectively to accentuate the wavy areas of the first layer.  Each wave was then strengthened with layers of VGC Bloody Red.  The middle of the waves were highlighted with VGC (Hot Orange) followed by VGC Sun Yellow (72.006).  Intersections of waves were further highlighted with VGC Moon Yellow (72.005) and then point highlighted with 50/50 VGC Moon Yellow and VMC White (70.951).

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Homemade TMNT Dice Bags

Recently I backed the IDWGames Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past board game on Kickstarter.  Supposedly, I will be receiving this investment within the next month or so, and I’m greatly looking forward to painting these miniatures.  The game itself looks well designed and appears to incorporate the Turtles’ focus on cooperative brotherhood very well with a unique dice-sharing mechanic.  Can’t wait!

In the meantime, since the Kickstarter did not include a dice bag, and since it included 40 dice, I decided to make some custom embroidered dice bags in which to store all that rolling madness.  With the help of a kindly mother, here is the final product:

heroes-dice-bag

villain-dice-bag

The material is a nice soft suede.  The colors don’t look quite right in the photos, but they look great in real life.  Total price was less than $10!  Now I just need the game…

Cave Spiders from Descent 2E

The first group I chose to paint-up from Descent was the Cave Spiders.  These little buggers are from the core set for the game and are relatively easy to deal with.

cave_spider_1_recto
Cave Spider Deployment Card

In Descent, the number of monsters deployed in each group changes in scale with the number of hero players.  In addition, there are two classes of monster within each group: minions and masters.  Minions are weaker and moulded in white plastic, while masters are stronger (often possessing abilities unique from the minions) and moulded in red plastic.  In order to differentiate the master monsters from the minion monsters, most painters work red into the paint scheme for the master in addition to adding other identifying markings.  Using several references found on Google (including this one:  https://boardgamegeek.com/image/1496722/descent-journeys-dark-second-edition), I settled on a paint scheme for the minions as seen below.

I spent a good bit of time trying to decide on a fancy design for the bases.  There are lots of monsters available for Descent, so whatever I chose to do with the Cave Spider bases would back me into a corner with the other monsters down the road.  Each monster in Descent has two traits which limit the Overlord’s options in deployment.  I had toyed with the idea of having each base reflect those two traits; in the case of the Cave Spiders these would be “Cave” and “Wilderness.”  I did a quick paint-up aimed at mimicking art from the game tiles, but decided against it.  The spiders covered up too much of the art and the images looked grossly out of scale as well.

Failed Spider Base

So I settled on a simple cobblestoned base for the spiders.  I still may do some grassy, watery, fiery, or brick bases down the road, hopefully without looking too out of place.

Again, using inspiration from other painters, I chose to distinguish the master Cave Spider with a red marking on its back similar to the one on the card art.  The card art doesn’t clearly show the whole design, and many of the lines are so thin that they would be difficult to paint well over the “hairy” sculpted detail, so I created my own design.  I also painted some slight differences to the base, including a red rim and spider webs (fitting, as the master has the unique ability “Web”, which requires adjacent heroes to suffer one fatigue when exiting their space).

And finally, the finished group of Descent 2nd Edition Cave Spiders!

Cave Spider Group
Cave Spiders Everywhere

Bodies:

Base coated with Vallejo Model Color(VMC) Black Grey (70.862) lightened sequentially with VMC Basalt Grey (70.869), VMC Neutral Grey (70.992), and VMC Sky Grey (70.989).

Eyes:

Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Electric Blue (72.023)

Mouths:

VGC Cadmium Skin (72.099)

Red Markings:

Based in VMC Flat Red (70.957), highlighted with mixes of Flat Red and VGC Cadmium Skin (72.099)

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