Painting Miniatures: Games Workshop Contrast paints

I am not a fan of Games Workshop paints. They are good quality paints but are overpriced. Additionally (and can say this after using a new set of paints recently at a convention) the design of the pots are poor. While the lids allow for applying paint to the brush, paint also pools up on the lip tab and it gets difficult to get a proper seal closing the pots. Seems after time you are either going to have to scrape out a bunch of paint from the lid seal or you’ll have problems with your paints drying out (who knows, maybe the pot design is intentional in that regard).

Nonetheless, GW has introduced a new paint line which has piqued my interest. For folks new to the hobby it might be worth checking out. It appears the paints have a glaze medium already mixed in. In effect you get a thinned coat of paint along with a wash all in one go.

I love this. New miniature painters should certainly be looking at these paints. There is a learning curve using them, one of which is using a specific type of primer. While I balked originally at this, I discovered not only are spray versions available but also primer that can be brushed on (providing a lot more functionality of the paint line).

There is some technique to working with them, applying darker colors, then prime and paint sections you want to have a lighter color. A good coat of varnish is needed. Lastly it looks like applying thicker, heavier coats for the contrast paints are the way to go.

You end up essentially applying both a base coat and a wash in one go. Throw in a light highlight or conventional drybrush, you’ve got a tabletop standard paint job. For a slew of rank and file models this looks like a great product. I’ve suddenly got a positive feeling about finally tackling all my Zombicide minis.

Honestly the results using these paints look promising. While it won’t give you a super fantastic paint job, with careful application you can get decent results and save a bit of time essentially cutting out steps to apply washes. I’m excited to see this out there and hope it opens up more people to taking a stab at painting minis.


Saturday Gaming Spark: Ward Elves

Known for their survival and tracking skills, the ward elves are highly sought as guides through the dense forests of the Western Reaches. They take their namesake from the arcane glyphs of protection which adorn their body. Tales say it is from the blood of their first kill, infused into their skin through some ritual of primal magic. Link.

Using Genesys story points for bennies in Savage Worlds

I’ve dug through FFG’s Genesys rules for a while now and like them. There is still that hump of learning the rules where I’m not sure if I will run it any time soon. It’s not quite a streamlined system like Dungeon World or other PbtA games. However as much as I waver on running a game, I still find cool stuff to use from the system.

One thing in particular I’ve ported over to my Savage Worlds game are story points, and tweaked it for how I disperse bennies. In Genesys, both the PCs and GM can use story points to boost dice rolls or alter the narration some (say a PC spends a point so their thief character has some equipment which could quickly open a door). The catch is that the number of points is static, they just pass between the GM and the PCs. So as PCs use them to their advantage, they transfer over to the GM which can use them to crank up the difficulty for the players.

I love it. One thing that consistently hampers me is the passing out of additional bennies. I tend to get wrapped up with running the game, I overlook some opportunities to distribute more bennies. I do award some around during a game, but I typically look back over a session afterwards and realize there were missed chances. So I started using a similar story point system in Genesys.

For Savage Worlds I use bennies of two different colors. One is for common bennies (white) and the others are wildcard bennies (blue). The common bennies will always have the same total in play, but the wildcard bennies are removed from the game when used.

A. Assemble the pools: Both the PCs and the GM each have their pools for common (white) bennies. For each player, a common bennie is placed in a shared pool for the PCs. The GM gets 2 common bennies in their pool. Every player gets an additional wildcard bennie of a different color (blue). If the player has edges which give them additional bennies, this will be the a wildcard bennie. For each wildcard NPC run by the GM, that NPC will have 1 wildcard bennie.

B: Common bennie use: Common bennies once used are passed to the other pool. So if players use a white bennie, that is passed over to the GM for them to add to their pool of common bennies. Likewise if the GM uses one, it is passed over to the players. The total number of the common bennies will never change but instead pass between the players and GM. Note that for players, their common bennies are in a single pool shared among all the players. Any PC can use them freely. Otherwise the bennies function as per Savage Worlds rules.

C: Wildcard bennie use: Wildcard bennies are used as per the Savage Worlds rules. Once used appropriately they are removed from the game. In addition, a player can freely give their wildcard bennie to another player. If there are situations where the GM feels that a bennie should be awarded to a player during the game, they will give them a wildcard bennie (blue).

D: GM and common bennie use: It is their final discretion, but the GM is encouraged to use common bennies over GM wildcard bennies. As the common bennies pass between the players and GM, it makes for a more dynamic game to only use GM wildcard bennies as a last resort for that NPC.

This has worked wonderfully for my game. My players at times agonize using those common bennies. However I’ve been using my common bennies more to throw wrenches into the PC plans. More so because in the end I am giving them resources to get those clutch rolls when needed.

The ability to grant wildcard (blue) bennies to other PCs is also a nice touch. Sometimes a PC pulls off a great feat during a game that I want to reward. Having them turn around and give that bennie to another player when needed just adds to the camaraderie at the table.

If you occasionally struggle getting the bennies flowing at your game, I highly suggest using these rules. I never fret now if I’ve awarded enough bennies. And as the pool of common bennies begins to grow on my side of the screen, it’s a reminder to use them for opposition rolls, new action cards, or pull the story into another direction, so that the players can get those back into their side of the table to use. Hope folks find this useful for their games.

NISEI, new players, and growing Netrunner

Sadly with FFG pulling the plug on Netrunner, the future of the game looked bleak. However the community pulled together resulting in Project NISEI, filled with folks eager to keep Netrunner chugging along. They’ve done a wonderful job trying to promote competitive play and tinker with deck construction formats like a new core set pool and MWLs. They even were able to get a new expansion pack out which has been pretty phenomenal as fan-made creation. So for existing players of Netrunner I think you’re covered as Nisei looks to keep the love of the game alive. Yet I wonder a year from now, when available core sets evaporate what will happen to the player base as a whole.

The community of Netrunner is going to contract. Period. FFG is no longer producing it and people are going to move on to other games. Nisei will be doing a lot to keep fans engaged, playing, and even expanding their collections. That’s great and I am sure it will stem the hemorrhaging of Netrunner players some, but I’m hoping more will be done to help grow the game too.

The elephant in the room is that cards aren’t being produced any more. Players will have to work on using proxies. Some folks have offered tools to help that which is great. But the effort to go in to making two 46-50 card decks (including IDs) is daunting and likely so much effort that new players won’t even bother. Not a lawyer, but gut check is third party print sites are treading light copyright ground with printing old FFG design cards. So could Nisei work on having an alternative set of cards to help new players get into the game?

Downfall is proof of concept that physical cards can be made and still be able to skirt copyright issues. Something similar could be done for a core set. Creating a full product to replicate the variety of cards similar to that in previous core sets would be daunting though. And options for printing up 240+ cards would be cost prohibitive. So what about altering the product format into smaller chunks, that would still give a new player a foundation of cards to expand from?

A rough concept would be similar to the Netrunner draft packs. New players would buy a base core pack which has bread and butter neutral cards for both the corp and runner, call it a neo-core. Then compliment it buying faction sets, picking and choosing the corp/runner options they want. So a player might opt to purchase an NBN set as their corp of choice and skip getting other corp factions.

One roadblock to this would be not tripping up on FFG’s art, text, and other copyrighted material. With Downfall they were able to alter the icons and layout enough to pass legal muster. However working with a new set of core cards, it might be more prudent to replicate card abilities but have different art and card names. That Sure Gamble could instead be ‘A sure bet’ using different art. Deck construction rules would also have to altered to limit these in order to prevent a player from stacking 6 cards with the same ability. Even though these are different cards, essentially they would work as copies of other existing FFG ones.

The other hurdle to overcome would be to boil down the variety of cards to an essential minimum. It would be folly to try and replicate the variety of cards in existing core sets. Instead pruned sets for each faction could be pursued. You’d need about 14 different cards to make up the neutral corp and runner core base, with 3 copies of each. Then you’d need around 10-11 different cards for each faction (again going with the idea of 3 copies of each card). That’s a lot of art and alternate text to work up. No two ways about it, designing core packs would be a huge task to undertake.

However an evergreen product which new players can purchase providing a base set of physical cards could be a boon to helping expand the Netrunner community. The possible prospect of making proxies for say, 12 cards compared to making an entire deck would be more enticing for new players. Time will tell if the demand for core set cards needs to be addressed. Next year Nisei will have a better idea of how the community is faring and can get feedback if this would be received well. Yet with card printing options and crowdfunding at Nisei’s disposal, certainly something like this could be pursued in the future.

Painting Miniatures: Varnish

This is the last post of my miniature painting series. Last time we touched some on varnish, especially if using flock on your bases. A critical final step for your miniature is sealing the model in a coat of varnish. Even with a good coat of primer, typical handing of your mini during gaming can cause the paint on your figures to rub off.

With a varnish coat, you can protect your models and have them keep their amazing paint job for years. There are two routes people go with varnish. Some use a gloss spray, and then give it a quick layer of dull coat. I go the lazy route and simply use a single coat of matte varnish spray.

I’ve used more expensive stuff for models like Tamiya and Testor’s, but found Krylon a good choice. Like spraying on primer, you want to mix the can well and do it in weather that is not too cold. Go for an even coat, spraying not to close to the figure, and making sure to cover all the angles of the figure.

A matte spray varnish will dull shiny paint jobs. Something that can happen if using ink washes. The varnish will also act as a sealant and adhesive for flock on the bases of your mini. There is one critical point with giving models a coat of varnish though, beware of humidity.

A decent amount of humidity can result in a horrible white misting or ‘frosting’ on your mini. There are some ways to restore your paint job if this happens. However it’s best to avoid it in the first place. If worried about humidity, you can paint a popsicle stick black and give it a test coat of varnish to ensure humidity won’t be a problem.

If you live in an area that has months on end of high humidity, you can try using a brush on or airbrush varnish. Vallejo matte varnish is formulated for airbrushing. However I’ve thinned it out and used is as a brush on varnish too. It will give your figures a slightly glossy look if applying by brush but provides a good protective coat.

That concludes my painting tutorial series. It’s an enjoyable hobby. While it might be daunting when starting out, if you stick with some key techniques you can produce some nicely painted figures. Just an even application of base coats, a wash, and highlights, you can get several miniatures done that can certainly rise up to tabletop standard. So don’t let painting anxiety keep you shackled to pushing around unpainted plastic. Get cracking and spend some time at the paint bench!

Painting Miniatures: Bases

So we’re pretty much getting into the home stretch of this series. Last week I talked some more on highlights. This week I want provide some tips on the final part of your miniature paint job, the base. Flat out you need to give your miniature bases some attention. It can be quite jarring to do a fantastic paint job on a mini only to have it sitting on a flat piece of plastic covered in green paint.

Your main tool with sprucing up your base will be PVA glue (aka white craft glue or Elmer’s glue). Adding a good amount of water you want to thin out the glue to a consistency of milk. You can add some sand to this to give it more texture. Then carefully paint the glue-sand mixture onto your base.

Once dried, give the model base a simple coat of paint and then drybrush with a lighter color. The small bits of sand will have enough of a rough surface to gather up the lighter highlights. This can work well if you want to mimic asphalt or concrete. If your base has a lip, I suggest only focusing on the top surface. You can add texture to the sides but wear and tear from handling miniature will commonly result in material getting rubbed off some.

If you want rougher texture, the base can get a coat of watered down glue and then dip the model into a small jar of sand. Gently tap the bottom of the figure to remove any excess and set it aside to dry. The sand texture can be painted over and then drybrushed. This works well if you want to mimic grass and rough ground.

Personally I bypass the dipping in sand and go the route of using flock. Flock is a railroad modeling material which mimics vegetation and comes in a variety of colors and textures. I paint the base with a solid color. Then I give the surface a coat of watered down PVA glue. Finally I carefully set the figure in a container of flock. Tap off the excess, let the glued on flock dry, and you are good to go.

Eventually you will be giving your model some varnish which seals the flock even more, but in general once the glue dries it’ll be pretty set. Note that the flock will rub off if you run your fingers over the surface. But the glue will give a good adhesive base to the flock. With normal gaming wear and tear, I’ve done this with figures and had flock stay on my mini bases for decades.

If you want an even more textured surface, you can use railroad modelling talus. This is a clay material with rough edges. It can work great representing rough ground and rocks. I usually add some to my flock to represent the odd stone or two. Like with flock you can set it using watered down PVA glue. Be mindful though that it’s a little more prone to rubbing off.

If you want a more solid bond, you can add drops of superglue to the talus. As the material is clay and porous, it will draw up much of the glue. You may get some pooling and a little bit of a sheen to the base. However the stuff once dried will be rock solid. You can even paint over the material and drybrush to represent grass or other rough ground.

Painting Miniatures: Drybrush and Highlights

The previous post I talked some on washes and shading. I’d like to move on discussing a tad more about drybrushing and highlights. Drybrushing is a subtle technique. To use it best, you want to be patient and work on multiple layers of lighter and lighter colors. It can be a time consuming process but eventually you’ll get wonderful results adding a tremendous depth to your miniature.

I suggest when adding highlights to work with a strong lamp or paint in copious amounts of natural daylight. You want to use the light and how it catches details on the figure to select areas to highlight. Those parts that capture the natural shadows and deep recesses you want to skip, and instead identify the edges of the mini that hold the light. When you touch those areas with a lighter shade of color over your basecoat, they will dramatically emphasize these raised parts, adding more contrast and give the miniature a more life-like look.

Even if using a drybrush as a base coat of sorts, you can use different shades to add more highlights. For chain armor, a fair technique would be to drybrush a metallic shade over base coat of black. But by using a brighter silver color on areas like the shoulders of a miniature, or edges of a sword, it’s possible to squeeze out more detail.

A slightly different take on drybrushing is something I call high contrast highlights. Here instead of dusting edges with paint, you add small lines of lighter color on edges of the figure. You are going for stark contrasts instead of a gradual layering. Unlike drybrushing, you want to do this before applying a wash. Shading after helps blend the colors some. It is a great tool for speed painting instead of traditional drybrushing and blending, but has some limits. In the pic below you can see the figure on the left has high contrast highlights, while the figure on the right doesn’t. Looking at parts like the legs you can see the armor standing out more compared to the figure on the right, where the color of the armor is more muted.

Another type of highlight which can add a fun look to your mini is Object Source Lighting (OSL). This is adding highlights of stark contrast colors to mimic light emitting from a source on the mini. Blending is pretty much a must here. Pick a part on the figure that you picture emitting light, then add the lightest color to that area. Raised edges and other areas on the figure that you think would catch that light source will have darker shades of that same color. Avoiding deep recesses, you want to pick out the edges that would collect the imagined light and use a darker tint compared to the one used for your ‘source’ of light. In the undertaker figure below, you can see how this high contrast highlight is used to create an OSL-like effect from the lantern.

OSL is something you want to use sparingly, but for some details like glow effects on weapons or ship engines. It’s a fantastic little effect that can add so much to a mini. Next post I’ll cover the final step to your paint job, miniature bases!