Old Forest Vignette (plus Ice and Snow version)

This is another new terrain piece finished in the “Old Forest” theme that I’ve been working with recently. Also pictured are the minis for two of the other PCs that I painted for the short-lived D&D campaign I mentioned in a previous post. I’ve been getting a good amount of mileage out of my tree models lately now that I’ve finally started using them.

And here’s the same piece, finished in the “Ice and Snow” theme. I added an additional tree because I thought some more features would be a good idea. I still feel like it could use something else, but I’m not really sure what.

 

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Small Stepped Hill – Badlands Theme

I’ve been experimenting with a new style of terrain piece, not to mention getting some more use out of the tree models that I sculpted over two years ago but which I hadn’t started using until recently. This is my version of a “stepped hill,” although I might call them something else if I can think of something flashier.

When making terrain, there’s normally a trade-off between aesthetic quality and playability. Stepped hills, with their relatively large expanses of flat surfaces are typically more abstract and less realistic than hills with a more “dynamic” design, but this also makes it easier to position miniatures on them. I think this design manages to retain the advantages of stepped hills without sacrificing too much in terms of aesthetics.

I painted this piece in the “Badlands” theme, which I’ve really fallen in love with of late since tweaking it by adding the Shadow’s Edge Miniatures grass tufts. It was a minor change, but because it’s such a simple color scheme, I think the little bit of additional color from the green tufts helps it pop.

Small Forest Vignette + Galdanoth

I finished up this scene using the test colors that I previewed a few days ago.

In addition to the new color scheme, there were actually several other things I was testing out with this piece: combining different terrain elements to create a new model; using 3D modeling software to plan out and create the scene; and using Realistic Water to simulate a low area of ground that’s normally dry but which had flooded with a few inches of water due to recent heavy rains.

This is a fairly small piece, but now that I have a “proof of concept” I can easily scale it up or design a new piece using similar elements and do a step-by-step. Below is a comparison of the 3D model to the finished version. It’s hard to see in the screen cap, but I added a small lip to the edge of the base to contain the Realistic Water. I designed the tree armature to provide enough structure to attach clump foliage to represent leaves, but to work without foliage as a dead tree or as part of a winter scene.

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The new colors also proved to be just what I was looking for for a basing theme for one of my miniatures (“Galdanoth, Elf Sniper” from Reaper). I had painted this mini a few years ago, and had a mental image of what I wanted to do for a base, but I hadn’t been able create anything that matched what I had been envisioning until now. The decorative base is from CMON’s base Kickstarter from a few years ago. They packed a tremendous amount of detail into these, but I went the quick route and just did a simple paintjob with various flocks and scatter on top to match the rest of the vignette.

 

 

Lastly, there’s one more reason I’m glad to have finally completed Galdanoth: He’s the miniature that my gaming group at the time used to represent our friend Michael’s character in a short-lived D&D campaign back in 2013. Michael tragically passed away that summer before I finished painting this mini, and we abandoned the campaign after his death, but still I think of him every time I see this mini. Michael, I still miss you, man.

#100: Sir Conlan

For my 100th post I thought I’d wax nostalgic for a bit about one of my all-time favorite miniatures: Sir Conlan, from Reaper’s tabletop miniatures game, Warlord. The game itself has been dead for some time now, but they still sell the miniatures. Most of the sculpts are fairly high quality, and there are some standouts, but to be honest, most of it is the standard stuff that you’d expect to find in a range of fantasy minis. All of that aside, Sir Conlan holds a special place in my gaming history.

In the fall of 2004, I found myself at a Hobbytown USA in Pittsburgh, PA. At that point, I had been away from any serious tabletop gaming for several years. I was staring at a display wall of metal minis, many of which were part of something called “Warlord.” The blister packs contained not only the minis, but colorful cards with an image of a painted version of each miniature as well, and on the back was a a list of the figure’s stats and abilities. While I had painted plenty, I had only dabbled in miniatures games before, but I was genuinely intrigued by the Warlord minis, and I chose Sir Conlan as my first purchase.

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Sir Conlan 2004 (metal version)

I painted Sir Conlan over the course of the next week or two, at the same time trying to find out more about Warlord. I was already familiar with Reaper, but I didn’t know that they were making a fantasy miniatures game. I soon acquired the core rulebook for Warlord and, over the next several months, got a few games in with my wife and some of our friends. Sir Conlan was from the Crusaders faction, so that’s what I started collecting and painting. I didn’t have many official Warlord minis yet, so we proxied about 90% of our armies.

I also got back into playing D&D with a short-lived campaign that one of my friends ran during this time, and I liked the Sir Conlan miniature so much that I used him to represent my character, a half-elf fighter/mage. It wasn’t a perfect match, but it was close enough to work.

Today, while I still have a good portion of my collection of Warlord minis, it’s considerably smaller than it once was, and I haven’t actually played Warlord in several years. It’s a fine game, and I’m sure I’d enjoy it if I played it again; but the reality is that gaming is a social hobby, and it’s much easier to play games that already have an existing player base and not one that you have to build yourself.

Although it’s in my past now, I owe a debt of gratitude to WarlordLooking back, I can pinpoint the exact moment of my serious return to gaming; it took me several years to get as deep into tabletop gaming as I am now, but getting into Warlord, beginning with Sir Conlan, is where it started.

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The plastic Bones version, painted in 2016

3D Printed Earth Elemental + WIP Video

This earth elemental is one of several sculpted by Duncan “Shadow” Louca. You can find the 3D model for this mini as well as lots of others over at his Patreon page. Also, check out the WIP video if you want to see how I painted it.

One advantage of 3D printing is that you can scale the models to virtually any size, the main limits being the size of your print bed and how long you’re willing to wait for the print to finish. I scaled the earth elemental down to 60% of its original size. Even at this size, it’s still a fairly large miniature. It’s not very tall, but it’s quite bulky, and I mounted it on a 60mm base which is fairly large, but anything smaller didn’t look right.

I’ve painted several earth elementals over the years and have always gone with a brown color scheme (including the most recent one that I did). I decided try something a little different and opted for a gray tone with this one.

There’s a a lot of motion and energy captured in this sculpt. I like how the elemental has shaped its upper limbs to make them reminiscent of a sword and shield. While it does have a vaguely-defined head, there are no real facial details, unlike most earth elementals that I’ve seen, making it feel less humanoid and more like the alien being from another plane that it is.

Print lines are visible, but try to look past them, as this is a limitation of the current state of 3D printing (or at least of my particular printer), not of the sculpt itself. This is a great mini and I imagine that at some point I’m going to print out the other sculpts — not just the other creatures and characters that Duncan Louca has created, but the other earth elemental sculpts in particular. With the ability to scale them down and the ease at which these paint up, I already have ideas for an encounter featuring a group of smaller earth elementals, each with its own unique sculpt.

 

Don’t forget to check out the Gamermulticlass YouTube channel and watch the WIP video!

Narthrax WIP

I’ve been painting miniatures almost from the start of my life as a gamer, so about 25 years at this point. I’ve painted hundreds of miniatures of all different types over the years, but until recently, I could literally count on one hand how many dragons I had completed. Sure, I have a bunch still sitting unassembled, some more that are assembled and even primed, and a few more that I’ve started but never finished; but actual painted dragons that have gotten their coat of sealer are rare in my collection. Note that I’m not even counting finished bases. If we add in that parameter, the number shrinks down… to one or two.¹ So, it is with much excitement that I share this WIP of my newest  completed dragon miniature, Narthrax.

Narthrax debuted during the Bones 2 Kickstarter and is one of my favorite minis from that bunch. Besides being a rare specimen of a completely finished dragon, this mini also represents a couple of firsts for me, which I will point out in the WIP.

 

Assembly & Prepping
Narthrax comes in six pieces and is simple to assemble. The pieces fit together so extremely well that I didn’t need to do any gap-filling!

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After gluing him together, I added a base from Secret Weapon Miniatures, which I’m using it for its size and shape; the surface details are all going to be covered up shortly. To make Narthax more impressive, I added a customized 3D printed rocky base, making Narthrax the first miniature I’ve completed that incorporates printed elements. It’s not a tall piece, but even the slight increase in height and overall bulk makes a fairly dramatic difference.

 

 

Placing the printed section directly on top of the sculpted details of the Secret Weapon base left a large gap around the perimeter since it doesn’t fit flush. I filled in most of it using caulk, but I left a significant part of it open on the rear side, which will come into play when I finish the base work.

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Caulk is a faster, cheaper, easier solution than greenstuff in situations like this.

 

After adding the caulk, I applied sand over much of the base to give it more texture. This not only makes it more visually interesting and appealing, but it also helps disguise the fact that the lower part of the rocky base is a separate addition.

 

 

Priming & Basecoating
The normal rules for priming don’t apply to Bones miniatures. Unlike other minis (even other plastic ones), spray primer doesn’t typically work because the plastic that’s used for Bones minis usually reacts with spray primers and takes an extremely long time to dry (up to several weeks, as I learned early on). The best way to prime them is using the Liners from Reaper’s Master Series.² For whatever reason, their chemical properties cause them to adhere amazingly well to the plastic used for Bones.

Planning ahead, I used Blue Liner as this would work best with the color I’ll be using for the base coat. The airbrush worked like a dream for this in terms of cutting down time and eliminating visible brush strokes. Priming also results in all of the various basing elements having a more cohesive look.

 

This version of Narthrax is going to be a black dragon. Without getting into a scientific explanation, in nature, colors that we perceive as “black” are rarely, if ever, truly black; in reality, they’re actually very dark shades of brown or blue. Using a pure black on Narthrax would appear too harsh and unnatural, so I went with Nightmare Black (Reaper Master Series). At full strength, it has a virtually imperceptible bluish cast, although the blue becomes readily apparent when it’s thinned down. Using the airbrush, I applied this as the basecoat over the entire model. Another first: using the airbrush for significant portions of work on a model, and not just for priming.

 

 

Painting
Ok, so I’ve technically started painting in the last step, but I’m calling this section “painting” since I’m getting into it proper now, not just priming and basecoating. I decided to finish painting the base before turning my attention to Narthrax himself.

At this point, the Pareto Principle is in full effect. The bulk of the work still remains, but the effects, despite having a noticeable impact on the finished mini, will be fairly subtle for the most part (with the exception of what I’m going to do to finish the base, once painting is entirely finished). It’s difficult to see in the photos, but I added a wash of purple (RMS Royal Purple, I think) to the top and underside of the wings at this point to give them more depth. The purple is also in a similar part of the color spectrum as Nightmare Black, so it adds more color while still having Narthrax read as a black dragon.

 

 

Next, I built up highlights over the entire mini using the Dark Elf Skin (RMS) paint triad, a series of grays with a slight hint of purple — perfect for highlighting the other colors I’ve used so far. I drybrushed all three colors at full strength over the scales, claws, spikes, and horns, with increasing amounts of pure white paint added to Dark Elf Highlight for the brightest highlights. I pushed the highlights even farther on the claws, spikes, and horns, drybrushing more layers until I was eventually using white with just a tiny amount of Dark Elf Highlight. The drybrushing was by far the most time-consuming part of painting this mini.

 

 

The last phase of painting was finishing the eyes and mouth, and touching up mistakes. I still hate painting eyes.

I used a few layers of various RMS ivory colors on the teeth, touched off with a final highlight of RMS Linen White, to give them a more yellow tone in order to differentiate them from the other light-colored spiky bits on the other parts of the mini.

Painting now complete, I gave the entire model a couple of light coats of matte spray sealer, followed by a light dusting of a semi-gloss sealer on Narthrax himself to make his scales a little shiny.

 

Basework
I really tried to go to town finishing the base. I used a variety of basing materials, starting with a layer of flock, followed by clumps of Super Turf, and finishing with various colors of grass tufts. Finally, in yet another first for me, I applied several layers of Woodlands Scenics Realistic Water to the gap on the rear side of the base to simulate a small stream flowing from under the rock (told you I had something planned for this part!). I’ve only just started using it in the past few months, but so far Realistic Water has proven to be some really cool stuff! I’ve been pleased with the results I’ve gotten on terrain pieces I’ve tried it on, and I really like how it looks here.

 

Closing Thoughts
This was a really fun mini to paint. I rarely paint multiple display-quality versions of the same mini, but I could see myself painting another Narthrax in a different color at some point. There’s an enormous number of dragon miniatures available. Many of them are really good, but Narthrax is one that stands out to me for a number of reasons. He’s big enough to be impressive, but not so big that he’s unwieldy — in terms of both for painting and for gaming. There are many dragon miniatures that are impressive if for no other reason than their size, but they’re too large to be used as realistic foes for anyone but the most powerful adventuring parties. Narthrax could represent a fair challenge to adventurers of various levels. And I love his dynamic pose and the sense of motion that’s captured in his sculpt. It makes it tricky to find a good angle for a picture that captures everything, but it makes it a really interesting sculpt in real life.

I haven’t painted many miniatures in the past few years, and it’s been even longer since I painted one that I’ve been this pleased with.

 

 

 

 

1. In case you’re wondering:

  1. The plastic dragon from the old Dragon Strike board game, painted as a black dragon. I used silver paint for his teeth and claws which I thought looked really cool at the time!
  2. Red Dragon II from the old “Dragon Lords” line from Grenadier — made of lead!
  3. The White Dragon from Ral Partha’s AD&D minis line — the only one with a completely finished base as well!
  4. The Black Dragon (anyone else seeing a pattern here?), also from Ral Partha’s AD&D line, sub-categorized under the “Council of Wyrms” line of miniatures.
  5. The limited edition Ral Partha Dracolich. (Yeah, I was a pretty big Ral Partha fan back in the day). I painted the integrated base, but I never added a decorative base, which I think it really deserves, so while it could technically be considered fully finished, it could still use some more work.

2. As originally discovered and reported by one Buglips *the* Goblin, if memory serves correct.