Wanton publicity whore and one third o f the Scrolls podcast Dion has provided splendid pcitures of his latest figures painting and a description.
I’m not brand new to painting miniatures, having spent some time (and money) mucking about with the Games Workshop release of Lord Of The Rings in my university days. It has been a good long while though, so when I nabbed a copy of the excellent Lovecraftian board-game ‘Mansions of Madness‘ (pub Fantasy Flight Games) and discovered just how many game pieces there were to be painted, it was with a mixture of delight and proper trepidation.
The pieces themselves are gorgeously crafted and to my mind easily match Games Workshop for character and detail. I haven’t measured them, but the humanoid characters seem to be the same scale as your typical GW figures. To reintroduce myself to the hobby though, I thought I’d better start with the larger models. There are four creature types that fall into this category and they have the added bonus of wandering around terrifying people without fiddly things like clothes on.
I’ve read a lot of Lovecraft but I’m not a hardcore fan. I’ll explain the choices I’ve made for each figure as I go along. If they don’t exactly match what was in your head then chalk it up to Lovecraft’s artistically vague descriptions and my artistic licence to do what I damn well please.
I used a matt black spray to undercoat the figures first off. Whilst the sprays can sometimes be uneven, losing a certain amount of detail on the more complex models, I find the speed at which ‘the boring bit’ is dispensed with more than makes up for it. Black seemed to be the right choice given the horror aspect of the game. Shadows and darkness are my watch words. I’ve never been a fan of brightly coloured models anyway, preferring more naturalistic tones. Yeah… I guess we’ll see how well that comes out.
I’ve used a small selection of Citadel paints, most often mixing them to produce variant colours and tones. It’s a pain, but I haven’t got the money to throw around buying pot after pot when its (probably) only going to be used for this one board game with these 30 odd figures. I have three Humbrol paintbrushes (size 1,2 & 4), some water and a bottle of nail varnish (with its own brush.)
The first figures I painted were the Shoggoths. For those of you not au fait with Lovecraft’s monsters, the shoggoths are a species created as a servant class to an ancient race of alien life that once existed on this planet. They are amorphous, able to alter their shape to suit their needs. I’ve always pictured them as slightly transparent, but the trick of getting that across in paint is beyond my skill. I settled for a fleshy look all over, with subtle differences of colour on the protuberances. I mirrored that colour on the buboes across it’s back and across the eye cluster to give the impression that any part of it could push out to become a tentacle, or claw, or leg, or… anything. I used a basic brown wash to help preserve some of the detail (folds of flesh etc) which could otherwise get lost on a model that is largely one colour. to finish it off I borrowed (stole) some of my wifes transparent nail varnish and gave it a good coating all over. It lends the piece a sliminess – something I’ve returned to in one way or another on each of these monster figures. I’m not wholly satisfied with the outcome, but not too bad after a decade off.
Next up are the tremors-like Cthonians. I’ve not come across these in any of the stories I’ve read, so I let my imagination off the hook. I was quite clear that I wanted the tentacles to be purplish (using pink for the sticky pads and to help bring out some of the detail.) As the tentacles are (naturally) slimy I used another liberal layer of nail varnish to icky effect. It struck me that a creature burrowing through the earth couldn’t have slimy bits hanging out all the time because it’d be perpetually stopping to spit out gobbets of dirt. Not scary. I envisaged an earthworm head that would open (sphincter-like) only when about to attack, unleashing the sticky tentacles from within. To get this across I painted a pinkish ring around the opening, as though the flesh had folded back on itself a little as the hole opened up. A touch more glistening nail
varnish adds to the notion. With all this purple and pink inside I decided that the body itself should have a touch of purple showing through in the same way that my pinkish skin hints at the red blood within. The colour is mainly brown, but in a good light the purple is more obvious. I did have thoughts of dirtying the body up a little, being as it’s just burst out from the ground, but again, this was something that my current skill level just wasn’t up to.
The third figure that I came to was a Mi-go. My memory of the story featuring them is quite hazy, but I’m pretty sure they are alien things that can actually fly through space. Anyway, I pictured them as nocturnal hunters, swooping down out of the darkened sky. To keep the creatures distinct and varied I selected a blue colour scheme, edging on the dark side of the spectrum. My 6 year old twigged straight away. ‘Camel-flage!’ The dry brush was my friend here, in trying to give the chitin just hints of colour. Unfortunately it started off too subtle (read dull) so I beefed it up with some lighter blue highlights… which I undertook with a little too much enthusiasm. I’m quite pleased with how the wings came out.
The scratchiness of the drybrushed highlights give it a sort of leathery texture like proper bat-wings. The eyes were tough. I had to go to my thinnest brush (a Humbrol size 1) to get the paint in the tiny crack. I chose yellow mainly to contrast with the blue, but also thinking of cats eyes. Initially I was going to put pupils in but I decided that it was a little more alien without them. I toyed with the notion of putting a lot of detail on the severed human head in its hands but the model-makers didn’t give me much scope. I settled instead for getting gruesome with the brain, using pink with a red wash and – yes – a layer of nail varnish for that glistening goopy finish.
My final non-human model is called a Hound of Tindalos. Quite who or where Tindalos is, I haven’t gor the foggiest, nor why a blatently lizard-like creature would be given that name. I do recall a story called The Hound, but God knows if this is supposed to be the same thing. I settled for generic lizard-man paint scheme. We have three layers of green ranging from the darkest undercoat to a middling tone on the spinier parts of the torso and a highlight on the spine-tips and facial features. The tongue is a vivid pink – I have a clear memory of being shocked the first time I saw an amphibians tongue and discovering that they were pink, not green. I’ve put a runnel of red wash across the tongue to give it a touch of depth in the groove and perhaps hint that it has taken a bite out of somebody recently. The eyes were the tightest bit of detail I’ve had to do so far. It may not show up well on the photo here but I’ve put a whitish-yellow eyeball in with a black slit pupil, focussing its attention right on the first poor character that has to face it. I thought the teeth would be tricky to pick out, but the model-makers have done their job well. Aside from an awkward bit hidden behind the slobbery tongue (oh yeah, nail varnish a go-go) the teeth were nicely accessible with my fine-detail brush, coming up a treat.
On reflection I wish there were some way I could provide these figures with more interesting bases, but as the game takes them through gardens, thickly carpetted rooms, wooden staircases and be-rugged hallways there is nothing I could put on there that wouldn’t look ridiculous for most of the game.
Anyway, that’s that for the monsters. As I move on to the humanoid enemies I’ll post some more pictures and you can see how I get along with things like trousers, hair and nipples. My final batch will be the trickiest – the player characters – finest detail, action posed and unique.
Any feedback, tips and tricks appreciated.
You can hear my buddies and I chatting about books on ‘Scrolls’ the podcast for literary geekdom here at http://geeksyndicate.wordpress.com/category/gs-podcast-network/scrolls/