Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 Geek Madness - Round 1

It is that time of year again! Time for the 15th Geek Madness Tournament. Each year, folks get to vote on their favorite games in head-to-head matchups to determine the best! Past winners:

Past Champions of the Aldie Award:
2017: The Castles of Burgundy
2016: Power Grid
2015: 7 Wonders
2014: Android: Netrunner
2013: Android: Netrunner
2012: Agricola
2011: Agricola
2010: Power Grid
2009: Twilight Struggle
2008: Power Grid
2007: Power Grid
2006: Power Grid
2005: Puerto Rico
2004: Tigris & Euphrates

The full 2018 bracket
Normally, I vote for all the games I really enjoy, but this year I'm voting only when I've played both the games in a match up. I thought I'd share my basic thoughts on the 26 matchups I did vote on. I've found that unlike the real March Madness Basketball tourney, there isn't much chance for a Cinderella story. A game might upset someone in the first round or two, but the heavy hitters pretty much put them in their place sooner rather than later. So here are my first round votes.

Caverna vs A Game of Thrones
This was the first matchup I found where I've played both games and it was a tough pick. I enjoy both game a lot, but I went with AGoT because not only is it a great game, but I have some vivid recollections of past games, something Caverna hasn't done.

Puerto Rico vs Modern Art
PR was fine when it came out and there weren't better choices, but there are so many better games out there. Modern Art may be the best pure auction game ever made.

Trajan vs Splendor
Trajan is one of Feld's more interesting games, but Splendor is such a good gateway game that is still fun for gamers that I had to pick Splendor.

TS vs Santorini
Another hard choice for me. Santorini is a really good abstract - a spacial one at that. But Twilight Struggle is full of angst and oozing with theme. Maybe you have to have been a child of the Cold War to understand, but TS is such a good game.

Concordia vs Glory to Rome
While I think Glory to Rome might be better than Race for the Galaxy, it is not even in the same league as Concordia.

Galaxy Trucker vs Roll for the Galaxy - GT
This was a tough choice. I liked Roll for the Galaxy better than the original by a hair, and while I like Galaxy Trucker, the timed chaos of the game isn't really my thing. I went with Galaxy Trucker her almost entirely because I like the iOS app implementation so much.

Ra vs King of Tokyo/New York
I think that if King of [whatever] wins here, it will be because Ra is old enough that it has fallen out of people's minds. Ra is far and away the better of these two choices in games.

Five Tribes vs Castles of Mad King
This was something of a toss up for me. Both are fine games and I have no argument for why I picked Five Tribes over CoMK other than that's how I felt when I voted.

Mansions of Madness vs Go
This is a tough matchup in that the two choices are so very different. Go is the classic abstract - beautiful and deep. MoM is the modern horror tale game (so modern it uses an electronic app). I don't buy the argument against MoM because of the app - it was not the first game to use electronics as a supplement to the game (Stop Thief and Dark Tower come to mind as games that had a computer assistant to the game long before we all had smart phones and tablets). I picked MoM because I'd just rather play it than I would Go.

Eldritch Horror vs Memoir 44
Another horror story game vs a simplistic war-game. Don't get me wrong, I think Memoir 44 is a good game - I played a lot of it. I'm just at a place where I really like the Lovecraftian stuff and EH is really a top notch game.

Carc vs Star Realms
I suspect that Carc will win this fight, but I voted for Star Realms. Star Realms is such a good little on-the-fly deckbuilder game.

Crokinole vs Netrunner
I never really got into Netrunner and Crokinole is such a great dexterity game. Not much of a choice for me.

Race For the Galaxy vs Troyes
I think Race is HIGHLY overrated and Troyes is one of the best use of dice in a eurogame, so you can see why I'd pick Troyes here.

Mage Knight vs Ora et Labora
Mage Knight was fun, it just wasn't 6+ hours fun. I think Ora is one of the better Ewe games, so again, this was an easy pick for me.

Pandemic vs Russian Railroads
Alpha player co-ops just don't do it for me. Russian Railroads isn't the best of the worker placement games by a long shot, but I'd rather play it than Pandemic.

Through the Ages vs Shogun
I loved Civ on the computer and loved TtA when I first played it, but it didn't take much for me to feel that it was flawed. A long "bash the loser game" is not my idea of a good time. That doesn't mean Shogun was the default choice either, because Shogun is a great game and a lot of fun.

Patchwork vs Roborally
I'm a software developer by profession, so you'd think a programming game would be my thing, but there is too much chaos and not enough fun for me in Roborally. Patchwork is a fine two-player game and easily is my preferred choice between these two.

Orleans vs Shadows over Camelot
Orleans is easily one of my favorite game from the past couple years. It will have to be a much better game than a mediocre co-op to best this one.

Tigris and Euphrates vs Alhambra
Tigris is a decent game (arguably one of Knizia's best games), but it is dry as the Arizona desert. Alhambra is a good though not great game. I went with which I'd rather play.

Eclipse vs Innovation
Innovation was horrible. I'd have even picked Dominion over Innovation here. The fact that Eclipse is a good game didn't even matter.

Marco Polo vs Battle Line
Marco Polo is one of a handful of newer games that found a great way to use dice in a Euro. Battle Line is a fine two player bluffing game, but Marco is better.

Terra Mystica vs Imperial
I'm a fan of the Rondel, but Imperial was long and dry. Terra Mystica is a pretty good game and easily was the better choice for me here.

Lords of Waterdeep vs Bohnanza
Nothing wrong with the bean trading game, but it doesn't beat out one of the top worker placement games ever.

AH: TCG vs Alchemists
Maybe I choose Alchemists because I already picked MoM and EH. Maybe. Alchemists is a great deduction game that is a lot of fun.

Dominion vs Love Letter - LL
Sorry big D, Love Letter wins over whatever you were selling. There are so many better Deck Builders out there now. Like PR before you, I acknowledge your place in history, then I vote for some stupid little card game instead because I don't like you.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar vs Kingdom Builder
When Tzolk'in came out, there was a lot of hype around it. I found it to be ok, but it didn't latch onto me like it did others. Combine that by putting it up against one of my all time favorites? Not even close. Kingdom Builder by a mile.

See you next round and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Friday, March 09, 2018

Cult of the Not So New March 2008

BGG user JonMichael Rasmus (jmsr525) has been doing analysis of the games and their trends each month for what seems like forever. I thought it might be interesting to look back at what was so hot 10 years ago. So sit back and enjoy this blast from the past. Based on information in the geeklist - BGG Top 100 Analysis March 2008

Prime Movers 
In the Year of the Dragon +11 to #60
Ok Feld fans, remember this? After Rum and Pirates, Feld expanded on his start of his Alea Big Box run with ItYotD. For those that are not familiar with this game and are thinking that you missed out on some yummy point salad, well, not really. There are different ways to score points for sure, but this game is all about mitigating and avoiding all the bad things that are coming - a design that would also be seen in his next game, Notre Dame. This is a game that feels like I'm trying not to lose more than the other players, rather than trying to win. I played it a bit online (there is an async version available to play on MaBiWeb) and decided that while there is nothing wrong with the game, it just wasn't really a game I got excited about. I think a lot of the hype at the time was around how different it was from a lot of the Euros that were currently popular (remember, Puerto Rico was still a big thing 10 years ago).

Falling Stars for December
NONE! Fallingest star was Louis XIV dropping a few more spots out to #90. Louis XIV was/is the first in Alea's Medium Box line of games (released 2005). Something of an area control/influence game, players are trying to gather influence in the Sun King's court. The game's rules were pretty bad by Alea standards, but the game itself wasn't terribly hard to learn. It was a cool little game except for one thing - there was a set collection portion to scoring points and unfortunately it was totally random. At least for me, it spoiled this game. Out-planning the other players only to lose because someone got lucky isn't terribly appealing. Others must agree to some extent as Louis is sitting at #503 ten years later.

Top Ten Trends for March
Lots of games in the top ten moving around!
El Grande (+1 #5) - Today, El Grande sits just outside the top 50 at #51. Still one of the best area control games you can find. If you can't find a copy or 4 other folks to play with, you can play for free online at

Caylus (-1 #6) - I remember when Caylus came out. I have still never played Caylus. It was supposed to be the PR killer (and was for a while) until the next game in the list hit the market. Caylus still sits in the top 50 at #44
Agricola (+1 #7) - No surprise here. This hit gamer's tables and never looked back.

Princes of Florence (-1 #8) - Poor PoF. Auction games were starting to fall out of favor by this time as we start to see engine games, worker placement and other mechanics become more favored by designers and players. PoF now sits outside the top 100 at #116

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization (+8 #9) - TtA continued its climb. Like Agricola, it wasn't going to go anywhere for a while. It currently sits at #22, but the revision is doing well in its place.

Age of Steam (-1 #10) - Hey look! Age of Steam was still in the Top 10! Age of Steam was one of my favorite games until Martin Wallace revised it as Steam. A lot of folks still prefer the original, but I like the mechanical changes that were made (especially how new goods got onto the board instead of the silly dice thing from the original). Regardless of whether you like Steam, AoS, or Railways of the World, the basic premise of building track and moving goods is the same and these are all really good games. Age of Steam too has fallen out of the top 100, sitting at #114, but still enjoys many dedicated fans.

Top 5 Winning Movers for March
These are the the five games that made the biggest jump up the BGG charts since the previous month (not in the top 10).

Race for the Galaxy (currently #47) - Race had early reviews as far back as Oct. 2007 stirring up gamer's desire to get their hands on this game and when it was more widely available near the end of that year, this game was THE game to be played. Not strange then that this was still climbing a couple months into 2008. This felt like a slightly more wide open version of San Juan and it was obvious from some of the things on some cards that there was going to be more to this game than just this one set of cards (and there was a lot more planned). After a few plays, I started feeling like the game is a little random and that you can have a good idea if you are going to win or lose after the first 3-4 cards are down. Well, of course its random, it is a card game, but this has never really sunk its hooks into me because of that. Last year (2017), the app version of the game and its expansions hit the market and renewed my interest in seeing how the expansions changed the game. It was fun for a bit, but even with the new cards and the ability to fight against the best AI I've seen in a game, I don't know that my initial impression has changed all that much.

Combat Commander: Europe (currently #101)  - Combat Commander is simply one of my favorite games of all time. I know that war games are not everyone's cup of tea and I know a number of people that have tried CC and said it was too random or chaotic for them. I still love this game (and in fact, embrace the chaos of war that this game injects). The main reason this game is so fantastic is that this game has a better narrative than any game I've ever played - there are more memorable moments per game than any other. I can remember more details about a number of matches from this game than I can from all other games I've played over the years. There are more highs and lows produced each session than almost any other game I've tried and I can't stop gushing about how good Combat Command is and how much fun I have when I sit down to play it. There are a lot of expansions and scenarios that have been released for CC and yet almost universally, fans of the game will tell you that they'd play the very first scenario in the game over and over because you never really know what is going to happen and each session is just that much fun. It says something in a scenario based game when you don't get bored with the very first scenario, but even if you played through all the pre-defined scenarios, the random scenario generator in the game is so well done that you have to wonder if the designer didn't make that up first and then started cobbling together stories for a random set of stuff he generated.

Brass (currently #33) - thanks to a recent KS re-release of the game, Brass is still comfortably in the top 35. I have not ever played Brass itself, though I own and have played the revision that Martin Wallace did in Age of Industry. Brass was also released late last year in digital form, so I suspect I may finally investigate the game in that format before I ever actually get a chance to play it on the tabletop. I found over the years, Martin Wallace revised a number of his designs and I have always been a big fan of the more streamlined revisions over his original work. That being said, there have been so many people whose opinions I trust that have said that I have to play Brass, so maybe I'll use this as a reminder to do so.

Struggle of Empires (currently #323) - hey look! Another Wallace game! This is also another one of those games that I never played, but I played his revised version that was used as part of the Conquest of the Empire game. Friends of mine that have played Struggle of Empires really like that game, but it is longer and (as I've been told) is best with the full complement of seven players. This is a war game, with (literally) shifting alliances. Part of the beauty of the game is the bidding system at the beginning of each round which is used to pit players against each other and create a set of alliances. Definitely a niche game, but one I think people would enjoy if they have a chance to try - this is one where you need a group that gets together regularly and likes this kind of thing, or will hook up at a convention to play it. 

Ticket to Ride: Europe (currently #89) - I can't even begin to guess why this might have made a random move up the charts 10 years ago, but the game itself is great and its hard to argue with the fact that it still sits in the top 100. Europe is its own standalone game, but only has minor differences from the original game in terms of rules/mechanics. In fact, owning only this or the original is required to play the expansion maps. I eventually sold my original game and kept this (but I have the Anniversary set, which covers my America and 1910 needs). Europe (besides being a different map) added stations and ferries (which are used a lot on other maps). Stations help players from getting shut out as much and ferries just make claiming some routes require wild cards. All in all, this is a good set to own.

And that's all for this look back at BGG history and what was hot a decade ago.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

What Did I Play Last (week/month/2months)?

Good Lord it has been a crazy busy start to the year. February was a bit hectic (like I knew it would be) with family in town for a week and being all short (because 2-3 days less in a month makes such a big difference). Being busy meant less time for painting, playing games, and of course writing and posting. So instead of a monthly look back, I'm going to try and look back at what I played in January AND February!

Ticket to Ride: USA 1910
I started the year with an unofficial goal of playing each of the Ticket to Ride maps I have in my collection or on my iPad at least 5 times. My love, Alyson, prefers multiple plays to get a handle on the strategy for a map as opposed to jumping back and forth between maps all the time, so I thought maybe we'd play through what we have and we started with America and specifically 1910. I still enjoy the original map and like the options that are available to players through the 1910 routes. We played a couple of Big City and a bunch of "everything".  Because of the huge variance in route locations and point values, it feels a little more luck based when you play with all the tickets. About the only other thing to note about this variant - I'd rather play 1910 on the table with the Anniversary Edition set than on my iPad.

Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania
For those that are unfamiliar with this map, Pennsylvania adds the addition of stock to the game. When a player claims a route, they often have the choice of one or more stock certificates to claim along with the route. At the end of the game, points are awarded based on how much stock you own in each company compared to other players (ie there are payouts based on 1st place, 2nd place, etc). Grabbing stock before other players makes an interesting incentive to play early rather than trying to hide your route intentions and often times, you may grab a random route because you can, not because you are trying to get anywhere. The new mechanism doesn't completely overhaul the game, but it does add a nice little twist other than just a different set of routes on a map. With only two players, you "burn" stock by picking up a share for yourself and choosing one for a dummy player as well. It makes the two player game especially good I think. Alyson took a few close losses and they started handing me my butt me on this map. One of my favorite expansion maps boxes you can get.

Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
This is my favorite of the Mystery Rummy games and I brought it to my office to teach my game friends there. It took a game or two for the group to become fully familiar with the cards, but I think we have some fun sessions ahead of us. I really like that we can play this with any number and the game is still a blast. It still may be best for two players, but the ins and outs of trying to hold out from laying down and getting caught with playable cards adds some nice tension to this game that isn't in the other MR versions for whatever reason.

Splendor with Cities of Splendor
One of the guys I work with had brought this in and so I finally got a chance to play (and see) the various expansion modules for Splendor. He mentioned that he thought that the additional things mostly were geared towards a slightly faster game and I think I agree - for experienced players, a faster game was the most likely outcome. We only added The Orient cards in order to keep the complexity down for the other non-gamers and I liked the new cards. While this alone wouldn't justify the cost of the expansion, it could have been a mini expansion and I'd have been utterly satisfied with just it. If you like Splendor and feel like you've played it to death, this is probably a must have to rejuvenate the game.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game
I finally got around to trying this out. I've had the base game for a while and even printed out an insert for the cards. All I managed was to sleeve the cards and read through the rules. When I finally sat down and played, I played one rule incorrectly, but I enjoyed it and need to sit down with it some more. In some ways, this felt a bit like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in that I can see that the character deck tuning will take a little time to fully understand the cards and how to play what your character can do. This kind of game - a lot of enjoyment comes from playing and setting up a deck that makes your character awesome (instead of gimpy with random cards). Of course some of the enjoyment comes from the theme and I like the way FFG sets up the episodes and ongoing story. I'm totally soloing this game and I need to play through the base set to really know how much I want to put into it. Other people I know are very enthusiastic about the game, so I may be a bit more forgiving in my initial evaluation (though my initial thoughts were that this is going to be pretty good).

And that's it for the past couple of months. Sad, I know. Like I said, it has been busy busy. Hoping things settle down a little bit here this month, but I suspect not :(

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Painting Descent - Crusade of the Forgotten

So, as part of my February Painting Challenge, I said I'd get the last hero (Astarra) from the Crusade of the Forgotten Hero and Monster collection for Descent finished. The main reason I chose her? Once finished, I'd have completed the set (and for me, completing anything is a miracle). So I did (complete painting her). I wasn't planning to detail out my work on her like I did Augur, but as I was working on her I noticed a couple of things and so I took a couple quick shots that I thought I'd share. These are kind of the thing that I typically encounter when working on minis.

First off (at least for Descent), I take a look at the art for the figure(s) to get a sense of the colors and details that might be on the figures. A lot of the monster figure art is a bit similar/bland (at least on the monster cards you get in the game), so there is a fair bit of leeway in deciding on what to do. In those cases, I also look to see what others have done with their paint jobs. Astarra's art is pretty straight forward, but like a lot of figures, the card art doesn't show all the figure (she is mostly cut off from the knees down), so I went looking for other paint jobs, and there just aren't many. Not a huge deal, just thought it was odd that so few folks have painted this figure and posted pictures. At any rate, her card was good enough to get started. I painted her skin in first and then hit her with the tan so I could lay down some yellow. As I was doing that, I realized I had missed some skin. if you look closely at the picture (I circled the offending part), you can see that I painted the back of her leg yellow. I decided I'd finish the yellow and come back to redo the leg.

Again, this kind of thing is typical for me. Once I start filling things in, I realize that something is not quite what I thought it was going to be. Now, I could have left that part of her leg yellow and honestly, nobody would have likely noticed, but I knew, so I had to fix it. Having said that, there are plenty of times I would have it something alone, but this was going to be easy enough to fix that I went ahead and corrected it. The other thing to note - when I was painting the cloth at the top of her boots, I realized there was a little leg band / ornament there. It was a detail I hadn't even noticed until I got there. That happens a fair bit to me too - I get about halfway through painting and have to stop to figure out exactly what it is that I'm painting. It can be cool to suddenly find extra details, but it can be a pain in the butt to realize you have a bunch of extra detail work you have to deal with too.

At any rate I got Astarra done and here she is along with the rest of the Heroes and Monsters - enjoy!

Andira Runehand Tahlia Tetherys Astarra

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Painting Descent - Augur Grisom

When you have a large collection of Descent expansions and figures, it can seem like a never ending project. This year, I'm setting monthly realistic painting goals. January turned out decently and knowing that February is both short and going to be busy for me, I kept the goals modest. I started the month doing a quick paint of some Reaper Bones figures for my son and his friend for a D&D game they started playing. Once done, I moved onto the figures I wanted to get done for Descent and elected to start in on a guy I wasn't very enthusiastic about painting - Augur Grisom.

As you can see, Augur is primarily a yellow figure and has a ton of little belts and items all over the belt. Color-wise, I dislike painting yellow (though I may have gotten over that with this guy now). As far as feature wise, lots of belts and crap on the belts tends to be fairly tedious and uninteresting. I figured that since this was the figure that I least wanted to do, I'd start with him before I got to a point where I kept foregoing painting because of a lack of interest. If you are wondering why I'd bother painting him at all if I wasn't interested, the answer is fairly simple - I'm painting my sets in order (in their release order, not the order I bought them or anything). Trollfens was next in line, so I choose the two heroes from the set as part of my February goal. So anyway, I got started last week and took some pictures of my work as it progressed and thought I'd explain some of the process I used to finish him up.

Per my normal method, I primed the figure with brush-on black gesso. Gesso is simple to use, and it shrinks to the model which helps to retail the details. The main drawback is that it is dark, so for a light color (like yellow) you have to apply a lot of layers to get the color right. I actually started by doing a couple of quick layers for the exposed skin (realizing later that I missed his toes). Most "dwarf" skin tones (in paint) are a little more on the brown/orange end of skin colors and since I have been trying (at least for my Descent heroes) to somewhat match the default artwork, I simply went with a standard light skin tone. I then brushed on a thin coat of tan as a base coat for the areas that were going to end up yellow and once that dried I started the process of painting yellow.

For a long time, I was nearly exclusively a Citadel paint user. Generally speaking, yellows are pretty tough across nearly every brand of paint, but I've decided that the Citadel ones are really bad. Bad enough that I finally broke down and bought a different brand of yellow paint to try (P3) and I'm glad I did. This particular brand was the right consistency (thin) but still had decent coverage. I really only had to do about two layers to get the color I was hoping for on top of the tan basecoat.

As you can see, the color seems pretty good. I have since grabbed a couple of other pots of the P3 paints and so far have been very pleased with their browns and yellows.

As something of a side note, I have about a dozen different shades of brown paint and I think I primarily use about only three of them.  Why? I'm lazy. What I've discovered is that I can paint nearly all of a figure's brown things with one or two shades of tan. Then I follow up that by using 3-4 different shades of wash/shade/ink (whatever you want to call it). The wash stains the tan and fills in the recesses, giving the figure some depth. Once I was done with the yellow, I went back over the areas that were to be brown and quickly covered them with a tan. I hit them all with a sepia wash. After that dried, I hit some of the areas that were darker in the artwork with an orange wash and for areas where a strap or whatever crossed another brown area, I hit those parts with a darker wash to differentiate the browns. I find that using this method is easier (washes just flow which is easier to get right) and more forgiving (excess tends to pool in areas that would be "shadowy" anyway) than trying to highlight every single brown with a different color. I also use a bit of pink wash mixed with some sepia to do his skin, which I think was just about perfect. I went back and used the orange just a touch on his nose and around the top of his beard to give hime that ruddy look he has in the original art.

Once the browns were in, the rest of the work was fairly straight forward - a little purple around the sleeves and the bottom of the figure as the under layer of the outfit. He has a really long beard, but that was nothing more than a dark gray with a black wash and then using a lighter grey, I gently dry brushed it a bit until the ridges of the braid started to show.

I had to paint the book he has slung over his shoulder and the various bags on his belt. By the way, books and parchment are really easy - use some bone white color - I use Screaming Skull - and then use a touch of sepia wash on the edges to get that aged parchment look. The cover was just a random blue I picked and then a blue wash. Last thing was to paint his weapon and the little ring on his finger.

One last thing to note about my washing technique - I almost never go back and highlight the areas I've used a wash on. That is kind of next level detail that I don't feel like spending the effort on for tabletop game minis. If I was a competitive painter, I might, but I usually spend more time on painting a guy than I think I should, so I don't. For some monsters whose main detail is texture I will most definitely dry brush them to highlight and give extra depth to them, but I just don't (usually) have that in me for clothing.

And that's it. Augur Grisom is done. The first of four I plan to do for the month. See you next time!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

More January Painting

I mentioned in my previous post that my challenge for January was to finish painting all my Mice and Mystics pieces. Well, what I detailed out in my last post we all the work put into finishing the base set. Of course, I have the expansion Mice and Mystics: Heart of Glorm, so what I showed off was not everything I was doing. Heart of Glorm only has two figures - the hero Nere and the villain Glorm. Nere might be the most detailed of all the mice heroes I've done and Glorm might be the least detailed (it is pretty close between the roaches and Glorm for a lack of interesting details). That's ok, I still needed to finish the two as part of my goal. I had started painting Nere a while ago, so really just needed to finish some detail work on her. For Glorm, I had done him in base colors along with the rest of the bugs, so really just added a small amount of robe detail and a glowing tail effect and he was pretty much done then.

Nere and Glorm
Pro Tip (by which I mean total amateur tip) - super fine details like the runes on Nere's stick can be done with a micro pen. Normally I use the micro pen just to dot in eyes, but they work great for runes in books, scrolls and things like this!

Mice and Mystics wasn't the only other thing I worked on nor finished up. I finally got around to finishing up the stupid Sorcerers from the Crusade of the Forgotten hero and monster pack for Descent. I have been working on these bozos for a really long time. I really don't love doing 4+ of the same figure, especially when they are a human. Four dragons or wolves - no problem. At any rate, most of the work I had left on the Sorcs was simply details, cleanup or the gold edging I was putting on their robes (there must have been an art mandate at FFG when they started producing the 2nd ed figures, because I swear that 90% of the robes have some sort of edge/border on them).

Gold trim for everyone!
I have only a single hero left in this expansion pack to complete the set. Poor Astarra is the last holdout. Why is she last? Because I really really hate painting yellows. She also has a lot of skin, so she is basically flesh/pinks and yellows. She is on my list to get done in February, but that doesn't mean I'm excited to work on her. Speaking of the my painting goals for February - if you are interested in following along on BGG, my list can be found here. I'll update this blog with a report at the end of the month, but doubt I'll do much any reporting other than in that Geeklist along the way.

And of course, if you want to see everything that I've finished painting for Descent - I have a perpetually updated Geeklist showing of my efforts. I've mostly been painting the sets in expansion order (though the hero and monster sets don't have a proper place in the order).

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Painting Mice and Mystics

Through a confluence of events, I finally got around to finishing up painting on Mice and Mystics. Mice and Mystics is a family oriented dungeon crawler / co-op fairy tale that is centered around a prince and his companions that are turned into mice after trying to protect their king.

The game comes with a relatively small handful of figures - 5 heroes, 6 rat guards, 8 little cockroaches, a spider and a centipede. Despite this low number of guys, it took me a long while to complete the painting of the set. I got through the heroes and 2/3 of the rat guards and then lost interest (or more realistically, had more interest in painting Descent and then too, I hadn't painted in a while either).

At some point at the end of last year, I saw someone that was looking to trade off their Tesla vs Edison Kickstarter package of stuff and was interested in Mice and Mystics - I offered to trade my base game + Heart of Glory expansion (fully painted) for his stuff and he was interested, so I needed to finish the painting job. At the same time, there was a discussion going on in the BGG Painting Guild about starting a monthly challenge (which was more of an accountability list than a "challenge"). It was just what I needed to get off my butt and do some painting and I thought I'd share the process and the results here.

The minis stuck onto pill bottles
First thing was simply gathering everything up and "mounting" them onto pill bottles. I've used a number of different things to put the models on over the years, but finally settled on pill bottles. A) I had a ton of them from my dog's prescription. B) I had multiple sizes of them which made them a good choice for small (regular) sized minis and larger ones. C) I don't care if they get destroyed by air brush overspray etc. D) For me, they are just the right size to hold comfortably

I've mounted them with a number of materials at one time or another (Elmer's glue was my choice for a while, but was unreliable about holding the mini and required drying time). I eventually settled on blue tack. I love that blue putty - it takes only the smallest bit of it and it is reusable. You'd think it would dry out or something, but I've been using the same little bits forever.

Batch of minis after priming with gesso
The first real step in painting is priming. A lot of times this step isn't necessary, but I prefer it as it gives whatever mini I'm working with a consistent surface that acrylic paints adhere well to.

There are a lot of choices for priming - spray primer is the obvious and popular choice, but I avoid it for a number of reasons. The biggest being that the plastics used in minis varies widely and there are often problems with aerosols and plastics (the wrong combo can cause the minis to be tacky after painting and it not only ruins the feel of the minis, but it makes them look wet or shiny - neither is a look I desire. Because of this, I prefer to simply use gesso. Gesso is a brush on primer that is typically used by painters to prime canvases. I like gesso because it is cheap, comes in a variety of colors and is easy to use - you can somewhat slop it onto the mini because it will shrink as it dries, thus a loss of detail is usually very small if any.

Right where we started?
After the primer has dried, the next step is a base color. My plan for this particular batch was mostly brown based, so I mixed up a batch of tan and broke out my airbrush to make quick work of the group. I typically give each figure a light once over with the airbrush and then after getting through the whole set, go back for a second coat. This isn't heavy work, just trying to get a basic color undercoat set. The funny part of this particular color choice? It almost looks like I'm back where I started. You could say that it was a waste of time (and paint), but the next step I was planning wouldn't have worked on the raw figures - I needed a coat of color that would "stain" properly when I performed the next step - wash / shade / ink (whatever you prefer to call it). The point is to stain the color with another color while at the same time letting the shade pool in the cracks and recesses of the figure - this gives the figure some depth and shading and is one of the easiest ways to highlight your figure without actually adding manual highlights.

Nothing like a quick bunch of washes to make things pop
If you are a beginning painter, washes are the first trick you can learn that is both easy and will give you great results with little effort. Washes both highlight and help blend areas with natural looking shading. For this batch of stuff, I used three different colors of wash to impart color to the base tan scheme. I used a sepia wash to give the tan a (very) slightly darker look. It doesn't change the overall color much, but it will highlight the recesses like I mentioned. I also used an orange on the underbelly of the centipede, the roaches, and the legs of the spider. I then used a darker brown on the rats and part of the spider. Now normally, I like to block in parts of the figure in various colors and then use a series of washes that match each color in order to shade a figure, but these being mostly brown-ish figures, I went straight from the base coat to color. This technique works really well for me on batch creatures, especially when there is fur, as the next step in the process is dry brushing.

Almost done after a little dry brushing
After the wash had dried, it was time to work a little dry brushing in. Basically, dry brushing is where you put a little paint on your brush (preferably one that is old and maybe flat) and then wipe most of the paint off on a paper towel. You then very quickly swipe the brush across the surface you are trying to paint. Each swipe should barely tinge the raised surfaces. For very flat surfaces (like the carapace of the centipede here) you want the brush to leave almost no color on each pass of the brush. Eventually, the area the brush has been passed over will be highlighted (or in the case of smooth surfaces - you get a blended kind of shading).

I really like the results you get with this on animal fur - you will randomly get some areas that are more highlighted than others - which is perfect. The imperfections are what make things look more realistic.

For the rats, the dry brush is what makes the fur stand out on the model. The wash deepens the shadow (low) areas of the fur, but the details of the fur come out from the highlighting, which in this case is all dry brush technique.

After the dry brushing, all that is left is a bit of detailing - for the centipede, the eyes. For the rats, their arm bracelets and swords, their ears, mouth, and tail, and the little shoulder badge. And that's about it. Enjoy the rest of the pics! I'm including some pictures from my original efforts so you can see what the whole she-bang looks like.

Rather than doing the rats all the same, I went for three color schemes. Variety is good!
Gross! Roaches!
Every game needs heroes! The mice are the heroes!

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