Saturday, September 26, 2015

Painting: Heroes for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

I bought the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords Base Set shortly after it came out in 2013. I was happy to sleeve all the cards for ease of shuffling, and I organized a weekly game night with some friends while simultaneously starting a game with my wife and son. Running two campaigns at a time meant an awful lot of bookkeeping, as I deconstructed and reconstructed character decks. When my friend's Seoni died in a tragic card-counting error, that was straw that broke the camel's back: I was completely burned out on this game.

The game sat on my shelf for about two years, but a few weeks ago I developed a hankering to bring it out again. My eldest son is even stronger now with reading, math, and reasoning, and I thought he might really enjoy it. We borrowed a complete set from a friend since I have only the first and second adventure decks, and we have been enjoying playing a scenario most nights of the week.

I purchased the Reaper Bones miniatures corresponding to our three characters, and I started painting Ezren, the wizard I play. I had heard that Bones miniatures did not need to be primed, so I started in on the skin and part of the tunic, but I found it to be a very frustrating experience. I use Vallejo paints, which even for the base coat need to be thinned, and I thin them with water. The Bones material seemed to repel the thinned paint. Thinking about using non-thinned paints for the base coat forced me to reconsider my whole approach: wouldn't it be fun for each of us to paint our own character? I got back into the painting hobby in December 2013, but my wife painted her first miniature at this year's GenCon. My son started painting shortly after I did, although not as frequently as I do: we used to paint together at the kitchen table, but I have accumulated a table-full of supplies, and I do most my painting in my office after the kids are asleep. Most of my son's miniatures are from the Bones line, since he and his little brother like to spend their allowance money on these. I decided this would be a good opportunity to practice a more expedient painting style: the three-step painting process of base-wash-highlight that I have encouraged by son to use. I love my Vallejo paints, but it would be both expensive and wasteful to outfit my boys with these, so for this project I used his craft paints—the kind you can get for less than a dollar on sale.

I have used craft paints for some basing work, the specific colors we have being particularly well-suited to my Shadows of Brimstone figures (see this relevant blog post). I knew that they were much gloopier than my usual paints, but what I didn't expect was how long they stayed wet. I am used to painting in thin layers that dry quickly, so that by the time I work my way around a model I can go back and put another thin layer where I started. By contrast, simple layers here were taking ten minutes or more to dry. This helps me understand why so many of my five-year-old's models have colors running together: he cannot wait for one to area to dry before working right next to it!

I normally use a mix of Pledge floor polish and ink for my washes, but I have recently been experimenting with matte medium, and I decided to try Les' wash recipe. I had mixed up the base of his wash recipe some time ago, but I was disappointed with its performance—quite possibly user error, of course. I added a very little bit of sepia and black inks to make a wash, and we three painters used this on the whole model. My wife was concerned that she was overzealous in the application, but I really think it helped bring out some details. She also used some straight inks to spot wash some areas.

Again in keeping with the theme of showing fundamental techniques, I did all my highlighting with drybrushing, mixing together slightly lighter tones than I used before the wash. My son did not actually do this step with us, however: this was a late-night couple's painting experience. I brushed on gloss varnish and then hit the models with two layers of dullcote. Here are the results!

Valeros, Ezren, and Kyra
Valeros, Ezren, and Kyra
We probably spent between 90 and 120 minutes on these figures. It's hard to estimate how much time we spent since we were also managing our two- and five-year-olds as they painted some figures: the five-year-old finished seven models in the time it took us to get our base coats done! Valeros is only my wife's second painted figure, and I think she did an amazing job with it. It's a rather complex figure, and her exasperated "This is not a beginner's figure!" is accurate. My eight-year-old's Kyra also looks pretty good. He still has some trouble seeing the need to get into all the seams between pieces; if he did, I think the wash would help even more at bringing out the shadows. I helped him out ever so slightly by putting in a slightly darker ink wash just around Kyra's face, to help separate the skin tone from the headgear.

It was a fun family-painting experience, and the figures are much more interesting on the table than the flat cards normally used. Instead of placing these cards at the locations each character is exploring...
we have a tableau more like this:
Notice that the miniatures are placed where would have otherwise put the cards. Shortly after I took this picture, my brilliant wife pointed out that we could put them right on the location cards instead. One cannot do this with the cards, since they would obscure important details, but the minis actually look pretty nifty standing upon their locations.

We just finished Adventure Deck 4, its final scenario being one of the few that we have had to run more than once. Kyra had really bad luck, accidentally running into the villain and getting beat down three times. The game does have some "same-ness" to it, in that the strategy around each scenario is fundamentally the same. However, it doesn't take long to play, especially without the added bookkeeping of managing two campaigns at once, and this makes it a good end-of-a-busy-day kind of game.

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