Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Painting Runebound Third Edition

The second edition of Runebound was one of the earlier games I bought after starting my job at Ball State. It's a fantasy romp, with heroes trekking over a map, collecting gold, fighting monsters, and facing assorted trials. We had some good afternoons and evenings with this game before kids, and my oldest son has been able to play it with me for at least a year. There were some parts of it that were quite frustrating, however, including the facts that losing combat was devastating, allies were required but hard to come by, and healing was terribly expensive. After getting back into painting miniatures, I looked at the second edition hero figures with an eye toward painting them, but the game had become a bit stale for me. The miniatures were also on the small side and not very detailed.

Second Edition Box Art: None of those characters is actually in the game.
When I heard the announcement that there would be a new third edition, I was honestly a bit embarrassed over my giddiness. Could the designers at Fantasy Flight Games pull off a revision that keeps the good parts of the second edition but clean up the rough edges? I ordered my copy shortly after it was released, having just completed my Fury of Dracula miniatures, and I was pleased that the miniatures were much improved over the second edition's.

Third Edition Box Art: This character is also not in the game
I decided to paint the figures before playing the game, as has been my recent norm, still remembering the disappointment of painting the Legend of Drizzt miniatures (Part 1, Part 2) after already being kind of burned out on the game. I will present them here in the order they were completed. For this set, I tried to focus on increasing the contrast in my painting, particularly by increasing the level of highlights. The color schemes were all taken from the card art.

This is Corbin. There are a couple of details here that I am really happy with: the slightly brassy tint on his buckler and lower armor; the ruddy complexion; and the worn leather. This was the first figure on which I used my new Vallejo Air Metallic paints, after hearing Dr. Faust rave about how well they work off the brush. I had been using Vallejo Metallic Gold, Silver, and Gunmetal paints, so I picked up Gold, Steel, and Gun, from the Air Metallics line. Sure enough, the Steel and Gun are super smooth with fantastic flow. The gold is weird, though: it has a similar consistency, but the carrier (binder? medium? the liquid part) has a funny tint to it. Once the paint is dry, it has a good gold color, but it's kind of unpleasant to paint on because it's so far from what one would expect. This also meant it couldn't really mix well either since you cannot really tell what it would look like dry from what you have on the palette.

I put some of these pictures on Facebook, where I felt like I had to remind my non-painting friends that this little fantasy dwarf is smaller than a quarter. The pictures are much bigger than reality: looking at the real miniature, he looks better than the zoomed-in photos.

Each Runebound character has a thematic color, and Corbin's is pale green, which really only shows up on his shoulders and helmet. The grassy base helps bring it out a little bit.

Here's Laurel of Bloodwood, a vision in red and brown. I had a hard time figuring out how much to highlight the brown and red of the cloak, and I think the result is just OK. The quiver at her hip turned out nicely, all done by hand without washes. For her, and the rest of the set, I returned to my usual Gold paint. I was very nervous painting the forehead tattoo, in part because this was what I did last, several days after having done the rest of the skin. It looks OK, and it built in me some confidence for later freehand work in this set.

See the big leaves at her feet? These are from the seed pods of a white birch. I had read about how some folks use them for basing miniatures, so about a year ago, I collected many from a tree in my neighborhood, and my son and I separated out the seeds. This was the first time I actually used the on the base, together with the cork rock in order to give a sort of New England forest look.

Elder Mok is one of my favorite paint jobs. I think his drum turned out quite well, looking like warn canvas. For the ends, I freehanded the game's spirit icon. I was very nervous, but I think it turned out well, although if I could do it again, I would not have given it the same orientation on each side. The purples on the skull were fun to paint, and he has a soft OSL effect on the skull and his own eyes. I am happy with the skin tone and shading here too, all done by building up layers from a shade to highlights.

This was my first piece using my new magenta paint. I have known for a while about the difference between light primaries and pigment primaries, and I like to use complementary colors to darken and mix browns, but I've only been doing it with light primaries. Magenta paint was easy to find, but Vallejo doesn't have a color called "cyan." Some hunting in the usual places told me that their Deep Sky Blue was practically cyan, so that's what I've been using—we'll see more of it in a few figures. In some of the later figures, I did do some mixing with CMY, but I found myself sticking mostly with familiar recipes.

Lyssa's background narrative describes her as "half-katjie," which I assume is some kind of cat creature. It's a great miniature except I thought the pose was a little awkward, so I added the fallen log to the base to give more context to it.

I struggled with matching her flesh tone, and she's showing so much of it that earlier mistakes could not be overlooked. I ended up doing her skin differently than most of the others: instead of building up layers, I gave her a good base coat, then I used washes to add shades, then put the highlights on top of that.

Her tattoos represent the most intricate freehand work of the set, and certainly the most intricate freehand work that I have done. I did a bit of reading ahead of time, finding the consensus to be: always mix at least some of the flesh color into the tattoo color; and start with a very faint mix to give yourself an outline, and build up from there. As with Laurel, the tattoos were the last step and I couldn't exactly remix the flesh color, but it was close enough. I was so pleased that I hadn't ruined the miniature with the tattoos that I took it downstairs to show my wife. Showing her, I realized it was still not dark enough: they were only clear under my painting lamp. Fortunately, I hadn't cleaned up yet and the paint was still wet, so one more layer did the trick.

I think her abdominal area turned out quite nice. There's hardly any texture on the model, but the paint gives her the look of powerful abs. I could not think of anything very clever to do with her claw-like right hand, so I just left it all flesh colored. It's not shown in the card art, and I didn't want to add comical fingernails that were not sculpted into the model.

After all the varnish was dry, I decided to add some static grass. My usual application method left way too much on the base--it suddenly turned from an early brown into too much green. I tried to pull the grass out with my wet paintbrush, and as a happy accident, some was left sparsely on the base. I think it looks good, like the thin but long grass in the woods.

Lord Hawthorne is the brightest of the bunch, and here is where my new "cyan" paint really shines. It provides the base color for his robes and a great contrast to the orange of his gloves, boots, and hair. His skin was done like Lyssa's, trying to match the card art's base tone, then using washes for shades followed by manual highlights. There's a light brown underneath his armor that is clearly on the card art but almost imperceptible in the photographs. Still, I am happy I spent the time to add it. It was the first layer on the upper armor, with the steel added around it, followed by P3 Armor Wash for shade.

My only regret here is that I based all the figures on the same dark brown rubble, but this guy would probably look great if he had been done on something grey, like cobblestone or shale. The rock on the base picks up some of the grey, and the brown is reflected in his belt and satchel, so it's not all bad.

The last of the set is Master Thorn, who made me wonder, "Did the designers notice that there's a Master THORN and a Lord HawTHORNe?" Perhaps I am sensitive to it because I've been reading Bone with my two older boys, and they feature a character named "Thorn" as well.

In any case, for his skin, I went back to layering, and I'm really happy with how it looks. He's a muscular old coot, and I like the shadows that accent his figure. The card art gives him a snow white beard, but I decided to make it more grey, in part to get nicer shadows and contrast. As simple a detail as it is, I am really happy with the wooden part of the staff, and it turns out this was a sort of accident: I have a size 0 brush that I rarely use because the bristles don't all line up, but it turns out it's really useful for making lines of irregular width! It sure worked well here.

The thing at the top of his staff was not very well molded, and I probably could have spent more time adding manual shadows to make it more visually interesting, but by this point I was ready to be done. In fact, twice I thought I had finished the figure, only to realize something was missing: the first time it was the strap under his left elbow (which you cannot really see in the picture) and the second it was his head tattoo. That tattoo turned out very nicely, and on this one I was able to use another trick from my research, which was to use flesh colors to subtract from the tattoo. The initial "V" shape was much thicker, but I cut away from it with very small bits of flesh tone, and the result is much more visually interesting while also matching the card art.

And there they are, all together!

But, you ask, how's the game?

My son and I played this morning, me as Laurel of Bloodwood, him as Elder Mok. As with any first-run, there were a lot of pauses to look up rules, and there were a few things I messed up. Putting that aside, we had a great time. I really like the revised adventure system, where you can choose between combat, exploration, and social adventures. The market, healing, and defeat revisions are also greatly appreciated, as they make the game smoother, more interesting, and more fun. Laurel ended up defeating Dragon Lord Margath with one health remaining, but it really was just a learning game: I look forward to playing again now that we have a better understanding of the game system.

All of the event cards present you with an option, and several of them that we faced really made us think about the decision. The most interesting one was one I faced, where Laurel saw that bandits were going to attack a village, and so I could either (a) set a trap for them and have a small chance of succeeding, ending up with a trophy, or (b) letting the bandits raid the town, then swooping in to loot what remains, which would let me take a free item from any market. The latter was obviously much better reward, given that the Twin Daggers were in a market and looked like they were designed for my character, but I found myself really torn: do I do the evil thing and get rewards, or the "right" thing and maybe get nothing? Well, we decided that it wasn't me doing these things, it was Laurel, and she was an angry and bitter elf. I got the Daggers, and later on I killed the Dragon High Lord using them. It's a good story, and it's not the kind of thing we ever had happen in second edition.

Combat Tokens: Image from FFG
I like the token-tossing combat more than I thought I would. It was previously unfamiliar to me, but I wonder if we'll some other designers picking it up and running with it. At first, I thought it would just be a weaker version of dice, but the chips can do one thing much better than dice: unambiguously flip over. The fact that the chips show what's on their reverse side is clever and leads to some fun tactical considerations. Second edition combat was mostly an exercise in repeated dice rolling; the only real significant decision was which character would take the blow. This did lead to some very funny cases of throwing allies under the bus, but it was mostly tedious.

There's also an aesthetic to tossing the tokens that I cannot quite place, how they fall and roll in a way quite different from dice. I'm still unsure how this makes up for the fact that "rolling" them in your had is a little tricky. I am also a little worried about the chips getting dinged up, but I see FFG is selling spare sets for just $5. We have only played once, but I certainly like them better than the second edition's dice so far.

Winter break has been a great opportunity for me to catch up one some blogging and some painting, but it has also been very productive for my current research project. In fact, this afternoon I closed the last issue in the "finish before the new year" milestone on GitHub. Come to think of it, I haven't blogged about that project at all, nor Spring's upcoming immersive learning class. The next week and half will involve a lot of planning for the next semester, so perhaps I will find some time to share those stories in the coming days.


  1. Great rundown! I'll be tackling this group myself later this weekend. Can you briefly explain the layering technique you used for the flesh? Or maybe it's in another post? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for posting! I didn't take notes on each one, but I think I can reconstruct some of it for you. I use primarily Vallejo Model Color paints, so if I don't mention a brand, that's it.

      I'm working off of a black primer. The two "flesh" colors I have are Flat Flesh and Medium Fleshtone. My basic approach is to start with one of those (former for lighter tone, latter for darker) and mix it with Flat Brown to make a shade layer. That goes over the whole thing, then I add one or sometimes two more layers of that, mixing more of the base tone, working up to a base tone that still covers most of the model. Then, I start adding White, Buff, or a mix of those to lighten the tone, up to the smallest highlights of almost or pure white. I thin my paints with water primarily, but as I move up to the highest highlights, I might use matte medium instead for better control. More succinctly, I do basically what Dr. Faust's Painting Clinic recommends, but with my own paints:

      The problem with this approach (which you can see the talented Dr. Faust also fall into) is that sometimes you start with the wrong shade colors, and then you don't get the mid colors you want. That's what happened to me (more than once!) on Lyssa and Lord Hawthorne. For these, I used the common four-step approach: base color first, then shade with a brown ink wash (P3 Brown Ink or DR Sepia), reapply base color, add highlights. It worked well because I was having trouble matching the card art flesh tone to my preferences.

      I mixed a different skin tone for each character in the set, and I'm glad I did. Some of my older paintings reuse the same tones too often. Here's my recollected approximation of how I mixed each one:

      Corbin: Flat flesh base, red ink glaze to get the ruddy look (not shown so well in the photos, unfortunately)

      Lyssa: Flat flesh and Buff or White to give a fair complexion (very little skin detail on this model, compared to others)

      Elder Mok: Flat flesh with a touch of Purple and I think some Neutral Grey.

      Lyssa: Flat Flesh + Medium Flesh + a little of either Flat Orange or Flat Yellow.

      Lord Hawthorne: Flat Flesh + a little Neutral Grey + a very little Dark Blue

      Master Thorn: Flat Flesh

      Hm, I thought someone else used Medium Flesh basetone but I couldn't come up with it as I looked over the pictures, so one of those listed is likely wrong.

      Anyway, I hope that's helpful! Good luck painting---please post a link in the comments here if you post pictures of your own set!