Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Painting Myth

Over the summer, I met a colleague for coffee to talk about research, and the conversation turned to board games. He told me that one of his favorite games is Myth, by Megacon Games. I had heard of this one for two reasons: it was an early Kickstarter success in miniature-driven board games, and it is developed by an Indianapolis-area company. I decided to check out the Megacon booth at GenCon a few days later, and I was impressed by their display and friendly staff. Normally I attend GenCon to enjoy the sights but don't actually buy anything, but this year I ended up taking home a copy of Myth along with a con bonus Trickster hero. I gave the game a spin with my wife and son, and it was pretty rocky on the first go, but we still had fun, and so I decided to make it my next painting project.

The first decision I had to make was what to do with the bases. Most board game miniatures come with plain bases, but Myth figures are on strangely-sculpted bases. Here's one of the textured ones, although others combine this motif with chunks of flagstone.

Some folks have just painted these as-is, but I wasn't sure I liked the look of them. Others went all-out custom sculpt, which looks amazing, but I didn't want to spend that much time on them. I still have a small box of custom ballast mix that I used on my last painting project, so I tried just gluing that down and drybrushing it, and that worked fine. You'll see this in the finished photos below.

This was around the time that Ghool starting posting painting videos regularly to YouTube, and many of these feature characters from Myth. His paint jobs are amazing, although somewhere he mentioned that the minions would be well-served by a simple base coat and shade. Good enough for Ghool is good enough for me! I started in with the crawlers.


Looking at the unpainted ones originally, it was hard to tell that there even were different sculpts; painting the ranged crawlers with green poison glands makes them much easier to pick out on the table and in the box. Also, I should mention that with all the figures in this set, I am mostly following the color schemes on the card art. These crawlers were done with light highlighting after the base coat and wash, which gave them a much livelier appearance than before. For the bases, I didn't even flock them, because I wanted them to look like they could be on barren earth or in a cave, and I think it turned out fine.

Similar approach used for the grubbers: base coat in muted green with a dark green wash, various browns for the cloth shaded with darn brown wash. After this they looked a bit too dark, so I went in and added two highlights quickly to the skin. Even though it was a little sloppy, it added a lot of "pop" to the figures.

Now, away from the minions and on to the captains!

These stalkers gave me a great opportunity to practice smooth blends on curved surfaces using two-brush blending. The color scheme is really wild, much bolder than what I usually paint, and this made it something of visual treat for me. (This is also where I found the new white balancing feature in Snapseed. The previous pictures were re-balanced from the originals.)

Next up are the muckers, who—as we all know—are the bosses of the grubbers. Also, it appears they are the masters of the do-si-do. I was able to match the skin tone well with their smaller kin, but these were painted with much more care, using two-brush blending across most of the figures. I thought about varying the paint scheme on them since there are two, maybe changing the color of their towel/stole/scarf, but I decided to just keep them the same for expediency. It's hard to imagine a game situation where I will regret that, but we'll see.

Terror with 1,000 Legs

Back to the insects, I moved on to the Terror with 1,000 Legs—the "big bad" of the Myth base set. Again, lots of two-brush blending over big, curved areas, and I think it looks pretty good. The pale maggots were fun to paint as high-contrast against the red-brown Terror.

One thing you cannot tell from the pictures is that my Terror was quite badly affixed to its base. All the miniatures in Myth come pre-assembled and attached to their bases, and although the assembly is generally good, some of them were poorly attached to the base. The Terror in particular was about 2mm higher on one side than the other. Originally I tried sculpting a base from Milliput to compensate, but it was its left side that was higher—the side with the maggot at ground level. The result, then, was an odd little shelf that held the maggot off the side, and it looked too goofy. I chipped the Milliput away and used my new razor saw to cut the creature right off its base and, together with my files, level off the bottom of the Terror. I pinned the terror to the base in three places and filled the gaps and base with brown-tinted fine pumice gel.

Terror and its brood
Here's a bonus picture of the Terror and some crawlers. I like that the tones are similar yet different, with the larger one being darker.

After the big bad, it was time for the core set's lone mini-boss and only undead, Yardu. For this model, I ended up going back to layering rather than two-brush blending. I have some sense now for both techniques, and I should look for more places to reflect on which one I should use in which circumstances. One thing I've noticed is that I find it easier to place shades effectively when starting with a base coat as in two-brush blending, whereas with layering, I will sometimes "miss" my target base color by either having too much shade/highlight or by a paint mixing error. (Keep in mind that I mix all my colors from a relatively small selection of paints.) Anyway, I am happy with how Yardu looks. How can you not like a skeletal guy who carries human skulls and also paints skulls on his knees and hey that's not enough let's also paint a skull on my helmet?

That's all the villains, so I moved on to the heroes, starting with the two that my son and I were most interested in playing: the Brigand and the Apprentice. Coincidentally, these are the two featured in some of the gameplay videos (starting here) produced by Megacon Games.

First was the Brigand, a kind of a throwback to my Mice & Mystics set. What I've learned since then! Anyway, I had some trouble matching the main fur color with this miniature, and it took several tries to get something that I liked. Here, he may lean a bit more toward grey than some of the artwork, but I think the end result still looks good. No real tricks here. The miniature did not have strongly detailed fur, unlike, say, the wookie from Imperial Assault, so washes were not bringing out much of the texture. I found that highlighting little tufts with short strokes was effective enough for this guy.

The apprentice was a lot of fun to paint, having a simple bold color scheme. Reds don't intimidate me like they used to since I have learned a lot of tricks for dealing with them. The highlights on the Apprentice lean slightly toward yellow, and deep shadows on the muscles produce good contrast. The white pattern was painted in layers, starting with a light grey and then brightening up only the parts where an overhead light source would reach, and this helps communicate the texture on his torso.

I don't know if my original figure was bent or not, but the miniature was leaning way back. Looking around at others' figures, it's not clear to me if that was how it was supposed to be or not. In any case, I didn't care for it and I wanted to reinforce the join anyway, so I chopped him off and pinned him back on more upright.

At the table
Usually with these projects, I wait until the whole set is completed before letting them hit the table, but my son and I were to eager. Here's a shot of our first game with painted figures and a good understanding of the rules. We were playing the adventure mode and made it to the second tile before being wiped out. I still had a few of the rules a bit wrong, though now I cannot remember which. However, the rulebook does have an interesting disclaimer, stating essentially that you should not interrupt the game to look anything up: you should just play and have fun. I suppose one could always do this with any game, but it's an especially nice caveat to have on hand for a cooperative game. On the other hand, I really wanted to understand the system that was designed here, so I find myself occasionally stopping play to verify items.

Oh, and I found something in the box when we set up the game:
A jerk
So much for batch painting.

One of these things is not like the other
I didn't get a perfect color match on the new guy—he's the one in the middle—but it sure is close enough for a minion. It only exists to be destroyed, after all.

Here is the Soldier, who is the character my wife played in our first trial game, so he was the next to get painted. Turns out she's been too busy to try the game again, so he remains looking sharp but not having hit the table. What's cool about the soldier? His eyebrows. One thing that's kind of funny to me is that the sculpt has such a distinctive face, for example, the eyebrows, but that doesn't really show up in the card art: he looks more generic-young-fighter-face in the card art. My advice: sleeve your cards and draw in bigger eyebrows.

Back to the painting, I think it turned out nicely. Again, I really like the bold blue combined with the muted browns. The detail is not overdone, which leaves him looking clean.

Notice the really broad stance. Both the Soldier and the Acolyte have wide stances and had their feet molded onto plastic surfboards, which were then pre-assembled to the bases. I thought these looked pretty goofy, and I wasn't sure how to base around them effectively. Turns out, as you can see above, he just barely fits on the regular base, so I chopped off the surfboard and used angled pins to affix him to the base.

The Acolyte has a lot more stuff going on than the Soldier: crisscrossing straps, bedroll, holy book, multi-part textured weapon, bootstraps, billowing pants, arm guards. This makes him much busier but also more impressive. I love the orange and cyan combination here, but I also understand this is a trendy combination. (Presumably, under the blindfold, he has amazing eyebrows too, but his faith makes him cover them.)

The archer is another hero with a great dynamic pose. The card art is all earth tones except for this electric blue effect on the tip of her arrow. I decided for the miniature to keep a steel arrowhead but add the bright blue to the fletching.

In the card art, she is holding her arrow in the conventional manner, on the left side of the bow for a right-handed archer. However, the sculpt has the arrow on the other side. I wonder if the sculptor did this on purpose or just doesn't know the conventions of archery? Maybe he watched Lars Anderson's goofy shooting videos too many times? (Nothing against Anderson, though: I bet my students would listen to me if I had that voiceover guy narrating my programming videos, or if I jumped over obstacles during class.)


Finally, these are the Tricksters—the bonus Kickstarter figures I got for purchasing the game at GenCon. Yellow is a fiddly color, and about seven layers into it, I remembered my old lesson: when painting yellow, always undercoat white. My Vallejo yellow has terrible coverage. I went back to Ghool's video on painting yellow, which happens to use the female Trickster figure, and he mentions that P3's moldy ochre has great coverage for undercoating yellow; maybe I'll have to pick some up next time I'm at Wizard's Keep. Aside from the tedium of yellow and the gratuitous straps, these two were kind of fun to paint. I've never done a male/female pair before that have the same colors, but it was easy to set one aside to dry while I used the same colors on the other.

All the Heroes
OK, you say, but how is the game? If we don't count the first choppy trial run, my son and I have now played the game four times. In the first game, we were very close to finishing a quest when we were defeated. The next two were extremely short, as we tried a quest that must have been balanced for more players. (Short version: we had to light some torches, but each lit torch brought in more enemies, and we couldn't get more than two lit before being overwhelmed.) The next game, we tried two different heroes in an enhanced story quest from the v1 rulebook. Although we died on the second tile, we were able to actually complete one quest. Here's the takeaway, though: even though each adventure ended in death, we really felt like we did better each time. In fact, the reason we died in the most recent play was because we were both holding back on enhancements that we should have just played to make an important attack on a captain. I think what makes the game so appealing is the tension between card actions, threat, and the Darkness; the Darkness Cycle interruptions are a particularly interesting idea that I hope to see other designers explore.

Another thing to like about Myth is the community. There are a ton of resources on Board Game Geek and the official Myth forums. Also, when I posted a rules question to the official forum, I had an answer from one of the designers within 24 hours.

While I am glad for Megacon Games' success via Kickstarter, this is one of those cases where Kickstarter leaves me feeling a little cold. I remember hearing about their first Kickstarter but wasn't even back into painting then, so I wasn't watching for interesting miniature games. Being outside the loop, I didn't hear about the expansion Kickstarter either. Now I don't need more stuff, and I certainly don't need an expansion if we cannot yet complete a single story quest, but I cannot help but look at the incredible deal that the backers got and be a bit jealous. I guess that's the twist on Kickstarter, never quite knowing if it's going to be something you hope it will be or not. I'll just have to hope that their upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Myth: Dark Frontier includes some deals for latecomers like me.

A final note: I met Brian Shotton, lead designer and co-owner of Megacon Games, and he is a fantastic and authentic guy. I'll have more to say that when I write about my current immersive learning project, but suffice it to say, I'm happy to support his endeavors as a game designer and local entrepreneur.

A crowded tile from that one quest we completed. We'll try again soon.

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