If you’ve been following the saga of my experiences painting miniature figures, you may remember that a big incentive was to paint the elaborate miniatures that I knew would come with the game Tainted Grail.
It finally arrived last month. As a game, it’s a great experience; in fact, as I type this, I hope to share it with other gamers tonight. As for the minis, there were 29 of them!
Here’s how my painting turned out:
For the most part, I stuck to the style I discussed a few posts back: zenithal prime, following by a coat of contrast paint. For a couple of them, I used washes instead. In foreground of the above photo, on the right, I experimented with a “fire” style: a zenithal with yellow overall, orange sprayed at 60°, and red sprayed from the top. It turned out well enough.
I should add that I did zero research before choosing the colors for the minis. I looked at the mini, thought about what colors might suit it, and mostly made each mini’s color unique. If I knew then what I know now about the game, I might have made different choices.
The Last of the Dwarf Brewers
I had a mild problem with my color choices: Most of the minis depicted variations on natural creatures, and I didn’t have quite enough distinct colors of contrast paints that suited their design. I partly made up for this by using washes, as I noted above. But it left me with the desire for just a couple more shades of contrast paints. My next big mini-painting project after this will probably be Etherfields, with even more minis than Tainted Frail.
So I ordered a couple more colors. That, of course, meant I needed more Dwarf Brewers minis to be test subjects.
It was then I noticed that these Dwarves were among the last available on Amazon. After this order, there might be no more. I’d ordered them all!
No, not really. I’m sure that Reaper made hundreds of them. They just weren’t available via Amazon at this time. But it also suggested to me that it might be time to switch to a different test mini.
Before we get to that, let’s look at the last of the Dwarves:
Who should replace the Dwarf Brewers as a test model? I needed something inexpensive, and sculpted with lots of crinkly bits so contrast paints, washes, and the like would show their effects. I settled on the Bugbear Warrior, also from Reaper:
They are larger than the Dwarf Brewer mini, and I’m not sure how I’m going to store them long-term. (I keep the Dwarf Brewers samples in a Plano box.) But I felt I could deal with that later.
The reason why I wanted to get more test minis is to test Vallejo Colorshift paints. These are a kind of metallic paint whose reflected color shifts depending on the angle you view it:
In retrospect, the Bugbear Warrior mini might not have been the best choice to test such paint. We’ll get to that later.
According to Vallejo’s instructions, a surface to be painted with colorshift paint should be primed with gloss black:
After that, the instructions recommended using an airbrush rather than brushing the paint on. This suited me, since if my brush control were any good I’d be doing more than slopping contrast paint on minis.
The Vallejo colorshift paints are the thinnest I’ve ever worked with. I’ve worked with Vellejo metallic paints before, and those were thick and required a lot of thinning to get them through the airbrush. The colorshift paints were so thin that they didn’t need any flow improver or thinner.
They were also the first paint with which I’ve worked that required multiple coats. In general, you’re supposed to apply paint (especially with an airbrush) in multiple thin coats. I’ve never bothered; I could also do what I wanted to do with a single coat of whatever paint I used. Not this time. The first time I used to the airbrush to apply the paint I saw so little difference on the surface of the mini that I thought my airbrush was broken.
In the end, I had to apply six or seven coats to each mini to finally eliminate all signs of the black gloss primer. It was both labor- and time-intensive.
For all that work, I hoped for better results. The names of the paints are supposed to reflect (pardon the pun) the two colors between which the light is supposed to shift.
1) Pearl / Violet:
2) Gold / Pale Blue:
3) Gold Yellow / Burnt Orange
4) Silver / Pink
5) Old Silver / Pale Violet
6) Violet / Old Copper
As I noted above, in retrospect perhaps I should have chosen minis with large curved surfaces (a big helmet? a smooth curved shield?) to test these paints. However, I’ll note that this particular set of paints is labeled “Magic Dust” by Vallejo, so it’s clearly being marketed for fantasy miniatures (as opposed to Galaxy Dust and Space Dust which appear to be for space marines and the like).
The colorshift effect is hard to see in static images. I tried to make a short movie to hopefully show what it looks like. This is from paint test #3 in the above list:
If you’re having trouble seeing the effect, so do I. In fact, the color-shifting is really only visible in #2, #3, and #4 in the above list, with #3 being the best.
On a side note, these are also the first paints I’ve worked with for which the color of the bottle has little to do with the color of the paint after it’s applied:
A frustrating aspect of working with these paints is that, as a test, I used a brush and smeared a bit of the paint on a piece of plasticard. The colorshift effect was clearly visible. It just wasn’t showing up on airbrushed crinkly minis.
The reason why I wanted to test the colorshift paints is that Etherfields is set in a dream world. I thought the eerie effect of shifting colors would be appropriate for sculptures that represented dream creatures. The resulting colors are different that what I would have gotten if I purchased the Vallejo Metallic Colors set, but were they worth the additional effort? Maybe #3, perhaps #2 and #4. The rest look like different shades of metallic purple.
I should acknowledge: I might have gotten better results if I’d been willing to apply a few more coats. I may have gotten better results if I brushed the paints on instead of spraying them. I may very well be using the paints for a purpose for which they’re not intended.
For now, I have to say that I don’t plan to use them in the future.
It’s been two weeks since the party. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: It was the best party I ever hosted. I don’t think I’ll host a better one for the rest of my life.
This is one of my longer blog posts. I want to get all the details down so that if I ever do this again, I can learn from my successes and failures.
I’m mindful that people doing web searches on “Ravenwood Mystery Party” might find this post. I’ve done my best to avoid major spoilers.
Privacy note: I’m going to refer to individual guests by their characters’ names. This is to preserve their privacy in a public blog post. The exception will be the characters who were the victim and the murderer; I’ll refer to them as V and M.
Let’s back up a bit.
For my prior two birthday parties, I hosted a LARP. They were at best moderately successful; some people just didn’t get the hang of improvisational role-playing.
A few years ago a friend of mine hosted a professionally-written murder mystery party. She offered me the role of the murder victim, since it required someone who could role-play well. In the game as written, the murder victim could come back as a ghost. I decided to take it to excess (a typical pattern in my life) and use the murder as an excuse for a role switch.
Before the murder, I was a tough take-no-nonsense gangster:
After my character was murdered, I went into the bathroom, shaved my beard, changed my outfit, and became the victim’s older brother. He was a total milquetoast:
As my 60th birthday approached, I became more enamored of the idea of hosting a similar mystery party. There was no reason to suspect a LARP I wrote would be any more successful than what I’d done before. Let a professional do the writing!
When I searched for murder mystery parties one could purchase on-line, I found a different company from what my friend chose. On their front page was a masquerade party. I felt that was a concept everyone would understand.
I wanted to get some idea of how many people wanted to come. The mysteries from MyMysteryParty have three levels: the basic mystery with 18 or so characters, an expansion with 6 additional characters (who can also be team leaders to accommodate more guests), and a second expansion to accommodate up to 16 more characters.
I wrote an initial blog post to get an idea of how many people were interested. I got enough of a response that I knew I’d have to get the base mystery and expansion #1 immediately. I followed that post with another more formal invitation. I got enough RSVPs that I purchased the second expansion as well.
MyMysteryParty offers a web site that hosts can share with the guests to so the they can see what other characters might come to the party. I didn’t like it. Mystery parties of this sort have “key” or “required” characters who must be there for the story to work; every other character is optional. On that web site, it doesn’t take much insight to realize that the key characters were listed first. I didn’t want any of my guests to feel they were second-class citizens.
So I copied over the character information from the mystery’s list of characters, but put the characters in alphabetical order by last name, from Omari Black through Riley White. It was a bit of an effort, but it also acted as a bookkeeping device so I could see which roles were available as more people RSVPed.
After I knew who was playing which character, I sent out materials via postal mail. It included:
the party kit’s guest instructions so they’d know what to expect
for most of the guests, a copy of a ticket to the party
A couple of “uninvited” characters did not get tickets: John and Jane Doe. I knew they’d be there anyway.
I quickly discovered that I needed some way to keep track of all the guests, their characters, their email addresses, and their postal addresses. I used Microsoft Excel for that. For repetitive documents like the invitations, mailing labels, guest badges, and game envelopes, I used Swift Publisher 5. These tools showed their worth as I handled late-comers who asked to come after the RSVP deadline, and when I had to deal with a last-minute substitution.
To communicate with everyone, I set up both a Facebook event page and a mailing list. Every time I sent an email to the list, I also posted it on the FB page. This was to handle both those folks who were not on Facebook, and those who never check their email.
At its peak, the guest list had 37 people, more than any of my other parties! As we got closer to the date, 3 of them could not make it, leaving 34. That was a better attendance rate than my previous parties; typically a third didn’t show up. Thanks, folks!
One of the reason I chose a mystery set at a masquerade party is that it made costuming fun and simple. The characters all had last names based on colors (Mel Mauve, Izzy Maroon, and so on) so all you needed was a mask of the appropriate color. I knew better than to insist that everyone wear a mask, but as it happened everyone wore one anyway. (Again, thanks for that, folks!)
Most folks got or made their own masks. Ashton Jade went on a business trip to New Orleans, and offered to get masks for folks from the Land of Masks. She got some nice ones. Here are a couple:
There were people for whom finding a mask of the right color was a challenge; it’s not easy finding one for Furen Copper or Carney Cobalt. So I purchased a set of white masks and offered to airbrush them in an appropriate color. Several folks took me up on this offer.
The pictures above show the masks before they were decorated. The Guest Formerly Known as Robyn Teal (see below) came over and added details with glitter glue and metallic paint markers.
Like most mystery party games of this sort, the Ravenwood Masquerade had a series of cards for each character. Each card is revealed in three successive rounds.
I purchased the game as a set of PDFs. MyMysteryParty offers pre-packaged kits with all the cards printed out and rolled up with a ribbon. I chose not to use that, and went with something fancier: I printed out the cards and created sets of envelopes, one set for each round. Each round’s cards were in envelopes of a different color, so both the players and I could tell which envelope applied to which round. All the envelopes were labeled with the character’s name, player’s name, and round number; Swift Publisher was handy for this.
I created another set of “pre-game” envelopes that I gave to the guests as they arrived. Each envelope contained the character’s name badge and a starting amount of play money (more on that below).
The PDFs came with images to be used as name badges. They weren’t bad, but I chose to use my own. I created these with Swift Publisher:
In the PDFs from MyMysteryParty, they have suggestions for additional games to play along with the mystery. I took one of their suggestions, and offered an award for the player who had accumulated the most play money by the end of the evening. I told the players, “We shall be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) if this encourages bribery, blackmail, extortion, or illegal gambling.”
I had decks of cards and social tabletop games at the party just in case someone wanted to play poker or something to get money. In the end, no one touched the cards.
I also created a trivia contest. All the questions had to do with real-life lives of the people at the party; e.g., “How many have taken a martial arts class?”, “How many have been to Australia?”, “How many have fed a tiger?”, “How many have been in a shipwreck?”
I created a sheet with the trivia contest, instructions about the play money, and space for people to vote for various awards: Most Suspected, Most Amazing Costume, Best Role-Playing, and so on.
I’ll tell you how well the money and trivia games worked below.
Since I knew these questions and votes (and later on, notes on the mystery) would require writing, I purchased a couple of packs of pens, both black and colored. Getting clipboards for each guest would be expensive, so I went with getting a pack of chipboard. I even got some of the colored pens back at the end of the party. I’ll use those for my own art projects.
I also arranged for a photography station, since I knew a lot of folks would want to preserve the memories of their costumes. I got a photography backdrop. Wolfe Indigo was kind enough to set it up at the party. He warned me that a backdrop of that size would accommodate only two people at most. As you’ll see from the photos, he was right.
If you remember the start of this blog post, I did a complete costume change when I was a victim at my last murder-mystery party. I considered being the victim to do the same thing again, but after 15 seconds of thought I realized that as the host I couldn’t be away from the party long enough for a costume change.
I glanced through the cards in the PDFs just enough to determine which character was the victim. There was one potential guest who I knew was as into costuming as I was. When “V” RSVP’ed, I contacted them and asked if they’d consider playing the role of the victim. They enthusiastically consented.
V decided to play the victim role in the manner MyMysteryParty suggested: To come back as a non-speaking ghost. After V’s “body” was discovered, V changed into an all-white version of the same costume they’d been wearing. They then proceeded to creep out other guests through silent stares and body language.
I knew that I was going to end the evening with a drum circle, and told the guests in advance. To transition into it, I worked out a bit of theatrics with Peyton Pewter: At the end of the awards, I said, “And now, the final award, for the most persistent drummer goes to–“. Peyton didn’t let me finish the sentence; he just started drumming. He got the drumming started and won an award at the same moment!
There was one more fun surprise. This one involved Ashton Jade, and I’ll describe it below.
There was one unwelcome surprise: As I mentioned above, some roles in the mystery are “key” roles; the story can’t proceed without them. When casting the roles, I tried to be sure that the most reliable people I knew were given those roles. (I myself took a key role, to be sure.)
On the day of the party, one of people with a key role tole me they couldn’t make it. It was a health issue, and I wished them well, but it left me a slot to fill. The role was Reese Cerulean, so I started by looking at those guests who might have already purchased a blue costume. I contacted the first one I saw on my list, and she accepted.
That was how the Guest Formerly Known As Robyn Teal became Reese Cerulean. She only had a couple of hours to prepare, and she did an excellent job, really getting into the role!
There was an unexpected surprise: a stranger showed up. I was confused; I thought she might have come to dispute the hall rental. It turned out that she’d seen in the event in the hall’s rental list and decided to check it out.
I left it to others to describe what was going on. At one point I overheard her say with anticipation, “Is it possible that I could be the murderer?”
As it turned out, she could have been. Finn Burgundy had to leave just before we started read to the cards for Round Three. I asked the stranger to read Finn’s card in Finn’s stead.
During the drumming, the stranger danced with us.
In no way was this advertised as an open event. I’m not sure what she expected or if there might be consequences down the line. But she did leave her email address and asked to be notified of any future events like this.
She might have to wait ten years.
Before the mystery
Most of the guests arrived a bit early; I’d said they could if they wanted to help me set up. At my previous parties, many guests had a problem absorbing the idea of role-playing. At this party, to my delight, the guests got into their roles the moment they walked through the door.
The trivia contest went better than I hoped. I did not anticipate that the players would form teams and share whether the answers applied to them. It gave people something to do for first hour of the party, before the mystery started: “Yes, I’m taking Tae Kwon Do. How about the rest of you?”
Avery Lemon and Wolfe Indigo.
Wolfe won the award for gaining the most play money at the end of the night. It was a beautiful bluff: He walked up to everyone and said, “I don’t understand how we’re supposed to get more money.” So people handed him money to show him!
As the evening progressed, something fascinating happened: Whole new stories developed that had were not on players’ cards. Examples:
Charlie Perwinkle made a deal with Maria Lime to dump well-wrapped six-foot-long parcels out at sea and not ask any questions.
Riley White paid Furen Copper to tell Freddie Fuchsia that there was nothing wrong with her horse Dark Sail.
As Riley White, I made a deal with Danny Magenta to handle my social media presence for the next election.
I pointed out to Mel Mauve that if Omari Black got the lead anchor role at CBC news that she (Black) would have influence on what new shows got on the network.
With all the role-playing, I think few folks made a serious effort to solve the mystery. I shared the clues on my card to whomever asked. I remember Tele Taupe, Drew Golden, and Madison Scarlet trying to put the facts together.
As we sat down for Round Three, I asked for a vote for who people thought was the murderer. Most people picked me, but I declined the award since I was the host. I gave the award to the second-most suspected character, Logan Plum.
We then read the Round Three cards. Whodunnit? “M”, of course!
The big finish
There were some other awards, then we went over the trivia contest. The answers surprised me: It turned out there was more than one person who had fed a tiger. There was some friendly debate over what constituted a shipwreck; my final decision is that if someone made jokes about a three-hour tour, it was a shipwreck.
When we got to “how many at this party had LARPed” one of the guests (I believe it was Maria Lime) pointed out that everyone here had LARPed… at this party. I realized she was right. Brad Olive objected, saying that the question clearly was about the time before the contest. I had to reply, “You were role-playing at the moment you walked in through the door. You were LARPing! You are a LARPer! I call thee LARP!” He conceded the point.
But the trivia discussion was, in part, a smoke-screen. Its purpose was to give Ashton Jade a chance to sneak off and change into a belly-dancing costume. When the drumming started (remember the theatrics with Peyton Pewter?) Ashton Jade jumped into the circle and started dancing.
I pulled out my drums and other percussion instruments and started handing them to people. Some joined in the music, others in the dance, and others watched or talked or whatever. In other words, a typical finalé to a party, though a standard beginning to a pagan celebration.
I created award certificates using Microsoft Powerpoint. They came out fairly well, I thought.
After printing them all out, on the day before the party I realized I spelled the word as “EXCELLANCE” on the seal in the lower right. I quickly revised the certificates and used Staples to print them out on card stock. A couple of folks commented that misspelling “EXCELLENCE” was a cute joke, but I wanted it done right.
To the best of my recollection, here’s who won the various awards:
Celebration Dedication 
Portraying the Victim
Being the Murderer
Most Gentlemanly Costume
Most Ladylike Costume
Most Amazing Costume
Gaining the Most Money
Most Trivia Questions Answered Correctly
Cleaning Up After the Party
Too many to remember, but they all got awards
 “Dedication” in this case meant she was at my 40th, 50th, and 60th birthday parties. Such a long time putting up with me surely deserves an award.
It was in the rental hall contract to leave the place at least as clean as we found it. About 10 people stayed late and made sure everything was spic-and-span. (If any of those folks did not get a certificate, let me know.)
It was only when I got home that I discovered that the clean-up crew had put almost three trays of leftovers into my car. SO MUCH FOOD! I spooned it into plastic Chinese take-out containers I’d saved and put it in my freezer.
It’s almost two weeks later and I’m still having the leftovers for dinner. I’ve got at least another week’s worth to go.
One last thanks
I’ve thanked a lot of people for helping me out. It was an amazing experience, and it was my guests who made it so.
My final thanks goes to Dr. Bon Blossman, the author of the Ravenwood Masquerade Murder. We didn’t play the game the way you intended and we didn’t follow the solution to the mystery. We still had fun!
I invite my friends (new and old, near and far) to my 60th birthday party.
Date: Saturday, December 7, 2019
Time: 6PM – 11PM
Location: This is a public blog post, so I’ll send the address separately. It’s the same place as my 40th and 50th birthday parties, and a few Yule celebrations.
The event: A professionally-published murder mystery, set during a masquerade ball.
If you’d like to come, please respond by Tuesday November 5 (Election Day!) with the information below. You can reach me via email, send me a message via Facebook, or text/call; my contact information hasn’t changed in 20 years. (I advise against replying directly to this WordPress blog post, as it’s visible to the public.)
Guests are welcome, especially those friends who did not see this invitation either via Facebook or email.
For each person who’s coming, I’d like to know the following information.
Your postal address, so I can send you game materials in advance.
An email address so your fellow players can contact you in-character before the party. If you only want to be contacted some other way, tell me; bear in mind that some of the other guests don’t use Facebook.
Your level of commitment to the mystery:
Category 1: “The show must go on! Neither daemons pouring from the gates of hell nor hosts of angels with flaming swords shall bar my way to Ravenwood Castle!”
People in Category 1 will receive key roles. One of them may be a tragic victim. One of them may be a foul murderer.
Category A: “Stuff happens. I plan to be there, but I can’t make a firm commitment.”
If you choose Category A, you’ll be in a role that offers clues to solving the mystery. You’ll be missed if you’re not there, but the other guests can forge on.
Category Alpha: “It’s hard for me to commit in advance. I might not even know if I can make it until a few hours before the party, or I could be late.”
Those in Category Alpha will have auxiliary characters. If you can make it, you’ll be able to participate and provide more clues. Who knows? Your character might even be innocent of any wrong-doing.
The characters have color-based names (e.g., Finn Burgundy, Reese Cerulean). The game suggests people wear costumes and masks of that color to identify themselves. Let me know if you’d like me to help out with your mask.
(You don’t have to come in costume, or even wear a mask. I’ll have name tags for everyone.)
We’ll coordinate food (it will be semi-potluck) and rides (e.g., more than one person may be coming from Philly) as we get closer to the date of the party.
Remember: NO PRESENTS! My response to any presents will be Shakespearean.
For my 20th, 30th, 40th, and 50th birthday parties, I organized events centered on gaming. As you’ll see if you click on the links in the first sentence, for my 40th and 50th I set up a LARP party. For my 60th birthday party, I’m going to take a simpler approach and host a murder mystery.
This is not an invitation to that party, at least not yet. This is to get a general idea of how many of my friends would like to come.
All I know right now is the date of the party: Saturday, December 7, 2019; the place is somewhere in the Rockland County/Bergen Country area. The exact location, the setting of the mystery, and other details depend on how many are coming. I’m leaning towards a masquerade party, but we’ll see.
If you’d like to come to my 60th birthday party, please let me know.
Please let me know before mid-October.
You can reach me via Facebook, or send me e-mail, or text me, or call. None of my contact information has changed in the past 20 years.
If you reply to this WordPress blog post, please leave your name. Otherwise the only thing I’ll see is the IP address, which won’t be enough for me to know who you are.
Guests are fine, but please let me know how many would be coming with you. The total number of people affects the location of the party and possibly the mystery’s setting as well.
I’m not asking for a commitment to attend, just general interest. I will ask for a commitment when I start assigning roles for the mystery.
Unlike the adventures of my last three birthday parties, which I wrote, the mystery will come from a professional publisher. Even I won’t know whodunnit.
I was a dick about this at my 40th. I was a total dick about this at my 50th. I’m prepared to go completely Richard III at my 60th.
I don’t want stuff. I have enough stuff. Friends and laughter and back rubs are what are important to me at this point in my life.
One more time:
With a title like that, you may think this post will be fanfic. Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s another one of my miniature-figure painting posts. It’s long, as usual, but this time its length is due to lots of pictures. Yay, pictures!
In my first post on painting minis, I described how I looked forward to painting the large dragon sculpture that would come with the game Volfyirion. I received the game and started to think about how I’d paint the mini.
I’m going to describe the process, not in the order I did things, but in the order that I feel is the least to the most interesting.
Edge of Darkness
This game has 42 minis. 40 of them are “armies” (sets of identical units), 10 per player. I decided it would be simplest to paint those in the game’s player colors: white, red, green, purple.
Vindication looks like a good game, though I haven’t played it yet. From a miniatures perspective, the game is disappointing in that the minis don’t really do anything. Only if you use an optional expansion module do they show up on the board.
From the design perspective, the minis look great:
As I discussed in my previous miniatures post, over the next year or so I anticipate using the Sundrop/pre-shading/sketch-style technique on the otherworldly minis of Etherfields and Tainted Grail. I chose to make the Vindication minis a test run of this approach. I painted them using the Sundrop technique with contrast paints, each mini with one bit (sometimes tiny) that was different from their main color.
I think the results came out fairly well:
I’m going to skip my usual practice of listing all the paints I used for these pictures. Instead, in a subsequent post I’m going to show Dwarf Brewers painted and labeled with all the Citadel Contrast Paints in my collection. I’ll only note there that I wish that Leviadon Blue (the mini with the yellow globe in the center) and Shyish Purple (circle with jagged spikes and silvery woman in the back) were not so dark that it’s hard to tell one color from the other.
I’m generally content with how these minis turned out. For comparison, Awaken Realms released a photo of the production line for Niamh, one of their Sundropped minis from Tainted Grail:
Awaken Realms has my respect for doing this good a job of mass-painting minis. However, I think I can do as well if not a little bit better on my own. For example, I can select the color of the contrast paint to better suit the miniature’s function or history in the game.
This mini proved to be a challenge. As you can see from the photo, it had lots of “fiddly bits” and sections of the sculpture that were hard to reach with a paint brush:
Most of the other pictures I’ve seen of the Volfyirion miniature painted by other artists used a dark color palette to match the game’s artwork. I decided I wanted a fire dragon. That meant I’d be using mostly warm colors. So the first step was relatively easy: use an airbrush to apply a tan zenithal.
It was tricky getting around the nooks and crannies of the mini. Fortunately the brushes I had were good enough for the task, especially the smallest ones.
It looked pretty decent. However, I thought the contrast between the red top and the brown underbelly was too stark. I took a risk and lightened the underbelly with a drybrush of gold. The result was better than I hoped. Here’s how it looked after varnishing.
Speaking of varnishing…
The web reviews I saw on Citadel Contrast Paints said they did not adhere very well. My own experience confirm that statement. Even the mildest mini-on-plastic rubbing could cause the contrast paint to chip.
The sites recommended 3-4 coats of varnish. That sounded good, but I also found contradictory information on the web about how long I should each coat dry; a web search on the question tends to give links to varnishing boats. My spray can for Liquitex Satin Varnish either did not include drying time or the text was too small for me to find.
I compromised: One quick spray, rotate 90°, spray again; repeat two more times for 360° coverage. A half hour later, do the same thing but starting with a 45° offset so I was spraying on the diagonals. Repeat the whole process the next day.
So far, no chipping. We’ll see what happens.
I’ve got a couple more miniature-painting posts in my mental queue, discussing some more tests I did.
Physically, I’m wrapping up painting for now and putting the airbrush and paints away. I anticipate I might paint more minis in October 2019, when Tainted Grail is tentatively scheduled to arrive.
This post continues a saga I began in an earlier post on the hobby of painting miniature figures. In that post, I described how I managed to paint the minis in the game Mysthea to a satisfactory level.
At the end of that post, I looked forward to painting the dragon Volfyirion and the miniatures in Icaion, both from Tabula Games. I’ll go over my efforts to paint Volfyirion in another mini-painting post.
Since I wrote that post, a new element entered the picture: I pre-ordered two more games with miniature figures: Tainted Grail and Etherfields, both published by Awaken Realms. I knew from Icaion’sKickstarter campaign that painting those minis would test the limits of my skill. Well, with all due respect to the designers at Tabula Games, the mini designers at Awaken Realms are more ambitious. If you click on the Tainted Grail and Etherfields links, you’ll see how elaborate their minis are.
The Awaken Realms minis are beyond my skill to paint, even with the watercolor-like approximations I applied to the Mysthea minis. With only one working eye and trembling fingers, I did not think I could improve my ability above what it currently is.
However, an idea presented itself. The Awaken Realms Kickstater pages offered to paint the minis for you, using a technique they called Sundrop; Aella13 calls this pre-shading and Vince Venturella calls it sketch style. It’s a simple method: zenithal prime a mini, apply a wash for contrast, and you’re done. In fact, it’s what I did for the armies in Mysthea:
However, I learned that when you plan to paint in warm or autumnal colors (e.g., brown, red, orange, yellow) it’s best if you’re painting over another warm color. Since I planned to paint Volfyirion as a fire dragon, I explored a different zenithal scheme.
Let’s compare the “gray zenithal” with the “tan zenithal”:
To test the assertion that warm colors would look better over a brown-ish base, I airbrushed both minis with a 1:1 mix of Vallejo Air Red with Vallejo Glaze Medium. I chose this mix because I wanted the red to be translucent enough that it wouldn’t completely override the zenithal effect. I used glaze medium instead of water because I didn’t want to thin the Vallejo Air paint any further, since it was already thinned for airbrushing.
To my eye, the mini on the right has the more vibrant color. The color theorists are right!
Given this result, I knew I was going to run more tests using autumnal colors. I applied a tan zenithal to all my remaining Dwarf Brewer minis. I then applied a red glaze to a couple more to see effect of washes on top of the glaze.
Sundrop / pre-shading / sketch style
The tests I did with the red glaze were in anticipation of techniques I’d use to paint Volfyirion (in a later post I describe why I dropped this approach). But although wash-over-glaze is a perfectly valid technique, I wanted to see what I could do with just the Sundrop approach: wash-over-zenithal. I tested with more tan-zenithaled Dwarf Brewers.
I also have some pictures of the same approach with non-Dwarf non-Brewers.
If you paint miniature figures, it’s hard to escape the hype surrounding Citadel Contrast Paints. If you don’t paint minis, the quick summary is that, for newcomers to the hobby, they can accomplish a single coat what would otherwise involve a basecoat+wash+drybrush.
They’re supposed to be easy to use: just slop the paint over white primer and you’re done. For the inexperienced, they’re supposed to give the visceral thrill of quickly painting a mini. The experienced have access to more powerful techniques (blending, layering, etc.) and don’t have much use for them.
I saw the videos and I was intrigued. A product made for n00bs? Well, I are one.
Finally, a friend of mine made a recommendation that I give contrast paints a try. I succumbed to peer pressure and tried a few to see how well they worked. Was it all hype?
To my pleasant surprise, the answer was no. All of the following examples are contrast paints over tan zenithal.
It may not be clear from the pictures, but the contrast paints’ colors are richer than those of the washes. The recesses into which the paint flowed are darker than with the wash, so the raised areas are highlighted more. This definitely doesn’t come across in the photos: The darker contrast paint colors have a sheen to them that makes the surfaces seem almost metallic; the Wyldwood mini looks like it was made of bronze.
That last point raises the issue of how to varnish a contrast-painted mini while retaining that sheen. Do I use a varnish with a satin finish or one with a gloss finish? I’m sure you’ve guessed the answer: I’ll have to test on more Dwarf Brewers.
I’ve ordered some more contrast paints, and Dwarf Brewers to test them on (of course!). There’ll be a follow-up post with more contrast paint examples. If you’d like to get an idea right now, check out this page.
This doesn’t mean I reject using washes over zenithal for my future Sundrop efforts. Depending on the figure, I might want a less intense color; e.g., a mist creature or an undead. I’ll decide on a figure-by-figure basis as the games arrive.
Going back to Etherfields, I found a video of someone painting Etherfields miniatures. Synopsis: The painter (who is far more experienced than I am) spent a long time painting one of the figures in detail (the mini on the right in the video’s preview image). After that, he settles for using contrast paints to Sundrop the minis, with some minor highlights on the larger ones (the mini on the left in the preview); that’s pretty much what I plan to do.
Warning: This post contains self-indulgent meanderings on the passage of time. If you young’uns can’t handle that, skip this post and get off of my lawn.
A few weeks ago I was in the lunch room of Nevis Labs. I was the oldest one there. The rest were summer students about 20 years old. The topic had shifted to assigning everyone there an alignment according to the D&D system. I was assigned “Chaotic/Good”, which I accepted.
I’ve had problems with the D&D system that were older than the students there, and its alignment system is one of those problems. In an attempt to be satirical, I said, “Okay, now we can figure out which of us is Samantha, or Carrie, or Miranda, or…”
Dead silence. They looked at me blankly. They had no idea what I was talking about.
I muttered something about Sex and the City and retreated into my private thoughts. Three feelings washed over me:
I felt the usual disappointment of a geek who made a reference that no one else got.
I felt old. I’m almost three times the age of the summer students this year. In a couple more years, I will be more than three times the age of summer students at Nevis. Will I even be able to understand what those kids are saying as time goes on?
After all, it’s normal for most culture to be ephemeral. A couple of personal examples come to mind:
Back at Cornell in 1978, I had a friend named Adams Douglas; his mother wanted to remind him that he was a great-to-the-nth descendant of John Quincy Adams. You can try to do a web search on Adams Douglas, but he’s hard to find because you’ll get thousands of results about some other guy.
Adams was the son of the actors Jan Sterling and Paul Douglas. They were household names in the early 50s. But by the time I knew Adams, they were already forgotten, footnotes in cinematic history.
Adams himself has become a footnote. He passed away in 2003, a year before his mother did.
Also in 1978, I happened to read a play called Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. It was written in 1901, and assumed that the audience would be familiar with a song of the same title that was written in 1868.
The song had been popular for 33 years at that point. It probably felt reasonable to assume that it would stand the test of time. It didn’t. When I read the play 77 years later, I had no idea that the song existed. It’s now 41 years after that, and despite an opera written in 1975, I’m probably one of the few people left who still remembers that the song/play/opera ever existed.
Triumph! The geeks had won after all!
Let’s look at some dates. Sex and the City was broadcast from 1998 to 2004. It’s only 15 years later, and it’s beginning to fall off the “cliff of relevance”. If you consider the Nevis summer students as a representative sample (and there are many arguments that would suggest they are not), then if you’re 20 years old or less you will never have heard of it.
Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974. It’s 45 years later, so it’s three times older than Sex in the City. (Note the similar age ratio of me to the summer students.) Some of the students took the superior-intellectual stance and claimed they had never played D&D, but they all knew what it was and knew about the alignment system.
I got my copy of D&D in 1975. (I still have it; it’s probably worth some money.) I remember parental disapproval, the claims that D&D caused teenagers to commit suicide, the claims that it was Satanic (BADD). All of that has pretty much fallen off the cliff of relevance (though my father still doesn’t “get it”).
What’s survived? The D&D alignment system, obviously. So have half-Orc Barbarians, Lawful/Good Paladins, dual-class Sorceror/Rogues, Dwarven warriors, Elvish wizards, Mages’ towers, Lich pits, Demogorgons, Beholders, platinum pieces, Bags of Holding, armor classes, experience points… and of course, dungeons filled with treasure and dragons filled with menace.
They’ve not only survived, but thrived. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha are fading. The geek dream lives on!
Obviously, I’m glossing over a lot of cultural complexity in order to make a mildly amusing point. Sex in the City appealed to thirty-something women looking for relationships; that’s not likely to have much appeal to 20-year-old science students. For my part, I may have seen no more than three episodes out of the 94 made, though I do know about SitC‘s four-fold path.
Also, the “cultural competition” associated with SitC is different than that of D&D. There are lots of relationship comedies out there, and the genre is continually reinventing itself as new issues come to light. For example, did SitC ever explore the difficulties of the transgendered to find relationships? (I have no idea.) I know such series exist… but they’re not SitC.
On the other hand, D&D is a tabletop role-playing game fixed in a general fantasy setting. The existence of other media in the same setting (the Lord of the Rings movies, the Game of Thrones TV series) tends to increase interest in D&D, not push it off the cliff of relevance. Even the existence of competing fantasy role-playing games such as Pathfinder and Rolemaster tends to reinforce the ideas and memes associated with D&D even if their players have never read the D&D rules.
Does this mean D&D will pass the “test of time”? By my own arbitrary definition, we won’t know until everyone who was alive in 1974 has passed away. If they’re still talking about hit points and character stats by then, then the geeks can score permanent victory. By that definition, I will never live long enough to be certain.
In the meantime, I can stave off some of the pang of aging into cultural irrelevance by shouting out with glee: “Stuff it, Carrie! And suck it, Captain Jinks!”