Zombicide Black Plague – Component Storage Project: Part One

Although it may not be apparent to those who have visited my home, I have a bit of a fascination with creating storage solutions which are attractive, compact, and above all functional. My philosophy mirrors that of George Costanza’s; “Important things go in a case. You got a skull for your brain, a plastic sleeve for your comb, and a wallet for your money.” I feel certain that fantasy miniature board gaming would have made his list if it had been as popular in 1998 as it is now.

That being said, I have finally taken the first step in improving the storage of one of my group’s favorite games. This will be a three-stage undertaking with the ultimate goal of greatly reducing the number of boxes required for storage, while at the same time keeping all necessary components grouped and within easy reach. And I do mean all components.

With the imminent release of Zombicide Green Horde (the second season of the Black Plague medieval setting, which was recently Kickstart[ed] by Cool Mini or Not Games), the number of miniatures and cards will more than double. Luckily, many of the other components (such as tokens and figure bases) will merely be duplicated rather than increased. So the current plan is this: Stage One – Cards, dice, tokens, and figure bases; Stage Two – Tiles; Stage Three – Plastic terrain and miniatures.

Now, without further ado, my solution for Stage One…

We start with a simple, partitioned drawer. Like the rest of the box, the drawer is made out of solid black walnut, solid white maple, and some maple plywood. The maple ended up having some amazing striped figuring, which was not obvious until planed and sanded. This gives a beautiful reflective quality, much like that see on old-fashioned hologram trading cards. The mitered corners are reinforced with walnut splines, which also add a bit of additional flair.

Drawer Overview
Component drawer with walnut wedges for the figure bases.
Drawer Side
The sides of the drawer, displaying the maple’s figuring and the walnut splines.

The left section will hold two layers of twenty-four dice, for a total of forty-eight dice. While this is surely overkill, there are a surprising amount of special dice available for this game, so they add up quickly. The center section can potentially hold ninety-two standard sized figure bases, although I have reserved the fourth possible row for large sized figure bases and spawn tokens. The smaller figure bases are held in place by the three walnut wedges, which act somewhat like wheel-chocks to keep the round bases from rolling around. The right side holds all of the currently necessary tokens. From top to bottom: door tokens, dragon bile/flame tokens, vault door tokens, first player/rotten/crown tokens, objective tokens, rubble tokens, and noise tokens.

Drawer Organized
The drawer neatly holds all of the currently necessary dice, tokens, and figure bases, with a good bit of room to spare for future expansions.

The drawer fits very nicely into the lower part of the storage box proper, as seen in this photo.

Drawer in Place
The drawer sliding into place on the front of the box.

The second layer of the box also has three sections. The left and right sides are sized to accommodate the two decks of sleeved, smaller cards: the enemy spawn deck on the left, and the various equipment decks on the right. I intend to add some tabbed organizers to aid in storage, so that special enemies, starting equipment cards, and vault weapon cards can be easily grouped for storage. I also intend to develop some cardboard spacers to help keep the decks upright, which I can trim down as more cards are acquired. Currently, the box should hold about 4 times the number of cards released with Black Plague, so I’m hoping this will be plenty of room for future expansions. The middle section holds the survivor ID cards as well as the colored plastic pegs for the survivor dash boards. (For those not familiar with Black Plague, each survivor has a plastic dashboard which organizes their equipment, ID card, and experience/health/skill counters. The colored figure bases snap onto the survivor miniatures, and match the plastic pegs which are used for tracking health and skills on the dash board. A very nifty design by Cool Mini or Not Games.)

Cards In Box
The enemy spawn cards, survivor ID cards, plastic pegs, and equipment cards stored in the upper section of the box.

The inside of the box lid contains the same three compartments, allowing it to double as a convenient spot to place discards while playing the game.

Discards In Top
The discard sections built into the underside of the lid.

The lid slides snugly over the extended maple sides of the box, keeping it secure during storage. But the most satisfying part of the lid is not functional, but purely decorative. In order to add some visual interest to the box, as well as to easily identify it once it is surrounded by as yet unbuilt storage boxes for my other games, the top is crowned by the distinctive “torch” design that separates the medieval Zombicide games from their modern cousins. The torch was cut by hand with a scroll saw using some leftover scraps of walnut.

Lid Detail
The Zombicide Black Plague “torch” design, clearly identifying the contents of this box!

While there are certainly some flaws in the craftsmanship, I am still very proud of the final piece. I think I have succeeded in producing a beautiful item that will also make setup and storage of this game much easier in the future.

Box Overview
The finished Zombicide Black Plague (and expansions) component storage box.

The next step in this project will see the creation of a storage box for the 30 cm square tiles. Stay tuned for more!

Zombicide Logo

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Shadow Dragons from Descent 2E

Finally, another large monster from the core game is complete!

I had very mixed feelings on approaching the Shadow Dragons. On one hand, they are large miniatures which get an awful lot of use in the game, and have a really nice pose that fits their threatening nature. On the other hand, there are some really large gaps around the shoulders and right leg, a really bad mold line along the ribs on each side, and overall there just isn’t much detail – I have heard some other painters refer to the Shadow Dragons as “a blank canvas. Whether that is meant as a compliment or a criticism depends on your point of view, I suppose.

I began work on the minis by using some Elmer’s PVA glue to fill in the aforementioned gaps. I simply put some glue on the palette, brushed some into the gap, let it dry, and repeated until I felt the gaps were suitably corrected. A rather simple method, and much less messy than trying to use putty (although it is wise to use an old brush).

Like most Descent monsters, there was limited reference art for the dragons, but at least there was a full body shot to work from. The color palette of the dragon appears to be a greyish-purple, as shown below.

ShadowDragon

I decided to attempt this tone, and I feel I was rather successful. I struggled a bit with the base design, as I wanted to incorporate the “Dark” monster trait as well as the greenish cloud depicted in the art. I’m not really sure what the green is supposed to be: possibly the “Shadow” ability, or given the green color of the mouth, possibly the “Fire Breath” ability of the master. Regardless, I ended up with the base design as shown. Kind of makes it look like a space dragon, I guess, but oh well. It’s dark and has some green, what more do you want from me???

While I was very happy with the purple coloration, I felt that it would be a little boring to simply repeat the process on the Minion. I also like to try to change things up a little between the Master and Minion monsters, but being “a blank canvas” the only real option here was to change the main color. To that end, I substituted a very dark blue for the purple. The goal for both miniatures was to evoke a sleek, dark appearance similar to that of a panther, in which the muscles glisten a bit while the color itself is most apparent in the shadows.

And the two of them together:

Dragon Pair
A really bad day for the heroes!!!

Unfortunately, I must say that I actually prefer the look of the Minion to that of the Master, but I am happy with both of them for what they are. Let me know what you think.

 

Skin

Base color was a mix of ~40% Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Black Grey (70.862), 40% Vallejo Game Color (VGC) Bonewhite (72.034), and 20% VMC Blue Violet (70.811). Shade was created adding slightly more Black Grey and Blue Violet, while highlights were made adding more Bonewhite incrementally.

The bluish dragon used a similar technique, starting with 30% VMC Black Grey, 30% VMC Dark Sea Blue (70.898), 30% VGC Bonewhite, and 10% VGC Imperial Blue (72.020). Highlights with progressive additions of Bonewhite.

Spikes and Claws:

Based in VMC Black Grey, highlighted with VMC Basalt Grey (70.869).

Tongue and Eyes:

Initially painted white with VMC White (70.951). Based in VMC Flat Green (70.968) mixed 50:50 with VMC Flat Yellow (70.953). Shaded with straight Flat Green, highlighted with incremental additions of Flat Yellow.

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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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