Saturday, June 30, 2018

Painting Myth: Dark Frontier

I was happy to back the Kickstarter campaign for Myth: Dark Frontier, a cooperative city-defense game set in the Myth universe. One of the reasons I backed the project was that it came with the alternate-gender versions of the characters from Myth, which I painted two years ago or so. Dark Frontiers comes with cardboard tokens for enemies, but if you have the Myth miniatures for these, you can use them as well. This was a clever way to keep production costs down while also giving extra mileage to those fans of the series who already invested time and money.
The game itself has a fun and interesting core mechanism. Each player chooses three actions from a handful of action cards: battle, quest, travel, fortify, and encounter. The players place each into one of three stacks for morning, day, and evening, and a random enemy action is shuffled into each as well. The actions are then played out in sequence. While each player has the same actions available, each one plays out slightly differently in terms of how they affect the board and shared resources. Much of the dynamics of the gameplay then involve planning with your fellows around who is best to handle which threat—and there's always a lot of threat to manage. It might be a bit long for what it is, and there's lots of story text on the cards that is easily skipped over. We have enjoyed our handful of plays with it, though, and I'll be happy to get it back out with the depicted characters now painted; we had been using the gender-swapped characters, which was fine, but there's something rewarding about having your miniature match the card art. (Well, I think so, anyway, which is one of the reasons I paint at all!)

One other preface before I get into the heroes themselves. I'm still getting used to my airbrush, and I'm feeling confident with zenithal priming for sure. In fact, I look forward to trying Ghool's speed-painting approach, maybe even on some Massive Darkness roaming monsters. Of course, his idea of "speed" is not the same as mine: he's spending 15 hours on a miniature, and I'm spending around three. I wanted to use a similar basing technique to my original Myth painted figures, but I figured I could save some time by priming the figure after basing. Turns out, this was a bad idea:

As the primer dried, it pulled up the white glue that was holding down the grit. The Brigand shown above was the worst offender. I was able to remedy the problem by hitting the edges with matte medium, and the worst spots were simply covered with flock later. My simple approach of laying down white glue followed by grit is quick and easy, although I have been thinking about trying a superglue and baking soda approach as described by Atom Smasher. It certainly looks nice, and I like the idea that the base tells a story; also, the superglue would certainly hold up against the draw of the drying primer. Still, for the kinds of painting I tend to do, maybe that much attention to detail on the bases is overkill. My Temple of Elemental Evil set is the one where I spent the most time on basing, but these have been sitting in a box for some time now.

Enough background. On to the heroes!

The first figure is the Swordsworn hero, who is the one that is not an alt-gender from Myth. Unfortunately, this figure had the same kind of casting problems as the two extra ships from the same publisher's Emergence Event: surfaces pocked with little bubbles. It looked like the same kind of plastic too, perhaps the same (presumably sub-standard but cheap) manufacturer. I filled the worst offenders, and after painting, it does not stand out to the naked eye. You can see it in the photos in his lower back, which is the worst.

In terms of style, I used a two-brush approach for almost everything, thinning paint with a bit of water and using a second brush to feather the edges. The Swordsworn here is pretty straightforward, and I think I did a fair job with the shadows and highlights on his skin and pants. He has some color in his face in the card art, so I did add a little red glaze to his cheeks, which added a little bit of color variation that was needed. I could have gone farther with colored glazes in the recesses, for example, but the truth is that it's hard to know how many times these guys will get to the table. I am happy with just a good tabletop quality here.

This is the acolyte, who has the most interesting pose of the lot. The artist really likes his characters to have heroic stances, feet as far as possible apart. I think here it really sells the idea that she is tough and swinging that staff around. Looking at it now, I could have added more shadows to her hair.

One of my pet peeves is when fantasy games draw upon Christian (or, generally, Earth culture) symbolism in inauthentic ways. You see this in video games all the time, where the inevitable undead-filled graveyards are filled with crosses, and yet there is no Christianity. The apprentice here has a cross dominating her outfit. However, Myth also includes "priests" who wear black shirt and pants and clerical collars. I've never seen that in a fantasy world before, but I don't remember ever seeing any explicit reference to Christianity in the fiction—not that I've read much. It leaves me curious whether this is an intentional inclusion of Christian symbolism or an accidental cultural appropriation.

Archers are one of my son's favorite types of characters, and this is a pretty good one. He has that classic miniature problem that the arrow is much to large at scale, but it's still a pretty good sculpt—legs wide apart in true Myth fashion, of course.

When I set him up next to his feminine counterpart, I was reminded that I put a little static grass on her base just because otherwise it looked pretty plain. Maybe I will do the same to this guy. The rest of the flock is a mix of turf and black and green tea.

The Apprentice's primary magic power is that she can stand on one leg without her center of mass over it. Amazing! Maybe I should have tried harder to straighten her up. Oh well. I do like the figure, with its dynamic pose. Her palette is interesting too, and I think I captured it well in the painting. She's another case of extreme backlighting, and one might argue with the interpretation. Still, I like the deep skin tones and brown-purple hair. Her counterpart is as red as a cooked lobster, after all.

The soldier seems to be some kind of lady badger. I've never really seen the appeal of anthropomorphic animals in fantasy settings. People are interesting enough. Still, their IP, their world, I'll just paint her up to match. She was fairly quick to paint due to her being mostly fur. Once again, I think this is a great pose, and it has that characteristic Myth wide stance.

The last one is the brigand. Wide stance: check. Here's something I really like about this figure: this is the female brigand. Such a sculpt would never pass muster at CMON.

There they are, all together: the heroes from Myth: Dark Frontier.

And there they are with their alternate-gender counterparts, those who have them. (Not pictured are the Tinkerers, of which I already had a male and female set, and the Swordsworn, who only comes in male, as far as I know.)

While Myth: Dark Frontier was successfully Kickstarted, I get the impression it didn't do as well as the publishers wanted. I know Megacon Games has been having some business challenges for some time now, and they said that this game will likely never see retail. That's a shame, since it is an interesting design. If you want to check it out, you'll have to track down one of the lucky few who have a copy.

Incidentally, the centerpiece of Dark Frontier is a modular city miniature. It comes in several pieces that are removed as the city is damaged. If the city is destroyed, you lose the game. This is kind of fun but a little fiddly. Fortunately, my son seems to have invested the time in remembering how it goes together; all that origami training paying off in spatial reasoning skills, perhaps. I do not have any plans to paint the city at this time.

And finally, my notes to myself about the photographs. I took two sets on white backgrounds, trying to reproduce the style I had in my last post, but the white balance was off in both sets. These ones were taken on a black felt background using OpenCamera, ISO 50, and just ever-so-slightly increasing the shutter speed.

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to leave a comment.

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