Friday, December 19, 2014

Painting The aMAZing Labyrinth

I try to play a lot of board games with my boys, although because of their ages this often restricts us from playing the more complex games in my collection. One of our games that sees the most play is The aMAZEing Labyrinth, a classic and relatively simple tile-shifting game.

This one was recommended to me by a student when my oldest son was quite young. This alumnus had fond memories of playing the game when he was a kid, and he still played it on occasion with his parents. It's easy to teach, although as the spatial reasoning can be tricky for adult players, kids often need a bit of help. Each player normally has a deck of six goal cards, and you seek one at a time. With very young players, we let them see all six at once and try to figure out which one is closer. This means they almost always win, but this does not bother me as long as we are consistent with the rules. Letting each player have the same number of turns increases the fairness as well as the pressure for adults to make clever moves.
The game comes with four wizard characters:
Given how I've enjoyed painting miniatures for about the last year, and that this game sees much more table time than almost anything else, I decided this would make a fun painting project. As I've written about before, I have been experimenting with different primers, and lately—inspired by The Painting Clinic—I have been seeing what I can do with black primer and layering. I decided that these bold-colored, cartoony miniatures would be a good case study.
Without further ado, here are the final results, front and back.
The sculpts are mostly robe, and there was not a lot of detail there to bring out. On the blue and green models, I played with using short strokes and dots to imply a cloth-like texture, and I think it's effective in comparison to the smooth shading of yellow and red. I picked up some new inks specifically for glazing these figures, and I think it helped bring together the colors on blue, yellow, and red. This was done with simple ink wash, just thinning with a little water. I also did some blacklining with black or dark brown ink, which was mixed with Future polish to help it get into the cracks. In the picture, you can see some examples of this under the belt of the yellow and red figures and separating the robe and cloak on the blue and green figures.
I decided to do some object-source lighting (OSL) with the blue wizard's staff and the green wizard's orb. This was done with very thin layers of paint, occasionally using my glazing medium to give the ultra-thin mixture a bit more body. Blue's was fairly straightforward, the only real trick being working around the conical shape and the brim of the hat. I'm still not so sure about green's. Originally, I had the light going down to her elbows, but once that was done, it wasn't clear there was a direct line from the orb to there, so I re-painted the sleeves. Before OSL, her face was highlighted as if the light came from above, and so once I put on pale green from underneath, it made her look weird... but then again, that's what happens when you put a colored light source under your face. There's a reason we put flashlights under our chins when telling ghost stories: our brains are hardwired to recognize faces using lighting from above, and going the other way is just strange. In green's case, it's not a very bright light from below, just enough to give her a green pallor, making her look a bit unhealthy.
I'll point out one other bit that I'm rather proud of: the left sleeve of the blue wizard. The model actually has no detail there at all, but I think that my use of color gives the illusion that the sleeve is open. In particular, putting a little highlight at the bottom of the faux cuff makes it look like light is hitting the inside of the sleeve.
I think the overall effect of the figures is nice, and I'm happy with the layering and detail. However, once put on the board, they do look a little drab.
Note that the lighting here is suboptimally centered above the board, so we're on the shadow side of yellow and red. Still, you can tell that they're a bit darker than the tiles. I think this again speaks to my unintentional avoidance of using white as a highlight color. If I were to do it again or consider touching them up, I would definitely try brightening the highlights to see if this gives the whole figure a more bright look. Regardless, I think they look good on the board, but they don't match the tone of the tiles as well as I would have liked.
The next figure I'm painting is Argalad from Middle Earth Quest, who is a mostly-green elf. He's also primed in black and being painted in layers, but I'm trying to be more intentional about bringing up the highlights. I know I read somewhere that one of the challenges of black primer is that you get extremely high contrast while you can still see any of the primer, and I think that's part of what's happening here. Argalad's blonde hair was one of the last features I painted, and so since his hair was jet black until then, everything else looked weirdly bright. Once I painted the hair, it came together. I wasn't planning to post a picture, but since I'm talking about it, I'll take a shot now and put it here. It's nearly complete, but still a work-in-progress: I need to do the sword, touch up some shadows and maybe some highlights, and finish up the base.
Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you for posting this, Paul, I just accidentally stumbled upon your blog - I have to say that I bought the Labyrinth game for my daughter and then got curious about painting the miniatures, so a friend of mine who plays Warhammer introduced me to this hobby and here am I - like this thing so much!

    Of course, your miniatures look much better than mine - love the lighting effects and overall colors. Interestingly enough, the base colors of tokens do not match - in my case, the wizard apprentice is blue. Go figure. :)

    1. Always nice to meet another painter---I'm glad you liked the images! Unfortunately some of the paint has rubbed off; maybe I did not varnish them well enough, maybe my kids just like this game too much.