Saturday, November 17, 2018

Painting Thunderstone Quest

My brother backed the original Kickstarter campaign for Thunderstone Quest, and he encouraged me to take a look at the follow-up campaign for the Barricades expansion. Hearing his praise for the game made me take the plunge, and I received my copy of the Thunderstone Quest base game several weeks ago. The game comes with six miniatures that are almost entirely superfluous to the gameplay. Each player needs to mark where they are going in the Village or where they are in the Dungeon, but this could just as well be done with tokens or meeples. Indeed, my boys and I just finished playing through the printed campaign book just using the pirate, ninja, and Scotsman meeples that my brother had previously sent as gifts.
While we played the campaign, I set to the painting table and painted the six miniatures for the game. These are the first miniatures I've painted since summer, since the intervening crafting time was taken up with Gaslands cars (part 1, part 2) and then the new X-Com 2 DLC. As you will see in the photographs below, the miniatures from Thunderstone Quest are weirdly varied. I saw a discussion online that jokingly referred to it as a set of three heroes and three children that you could throw into the dungeon. Unlike many of the miniatures I paint, these ones did not represent any specific characters from the game, so I had complete freedom to choose their color schemes. I was inspired by a Board Game Geek thread to theme them around the six colors of Guardian Keys from the game: yellow, green, blue, orange, red, and purple.

Speaking of basing, I decided to try something new on this set. I usually base with a mix of fine, medium, and coarse grit that was designed for model railroads. However, I recently watched Tabletop Minions' Atom Smasher talk about his baking soda technique, and how it produces a rough finish that is more in scale for common tabletop miniatures. Briefly, you coat the base with superglue and then sprinkle baking soda, which is a very fine powder and activates the glue. I also embedded some other grit of various sizes, cork pieces, and foam bricks into the glue for added scenery. Here's how they looked before priming:

I took them to the airbrush booth for zenithal priming, and then brought them to the painting table. I also decided to do some more fanciful basing than I've been doing in a while. I'll go through the minis with just a few brief notes in the order I painted them.

I saw on a forum someone refer to this figure as a satyr, which certainly would go with the pan pipes. However, I couldn't help but see the "horns" as being goggles, so that's the way I took him. Truly, it's kind of a terrible figure, with scant details and an uninteresting pose. He's my yellow champion, so I gave him a dandy yellow shirt and various warm browns for his pants, boost, and pack. I painted some birch seeds in autumnal colors and put them around the base, and I used the first little bit (I think) from my fall clump foliage, and I think these do a good job of bringing the colors together.

Here is my green champion, a curious little fairie perched or leaning on a log. The green "wings" called out to be a focal point here, so I gave her a similar toned green tunic and shorts. The yellow vest and orange-pink hair add nice accents. In this figure and the previous one, I also played with mixing other colors into my flesh tone base: brown in the kneeling guardian and red in this one. I added a small piece of lichen to the base in hopes it would imply a mystical forest setting.

The blue champion is in a more dynamic pose than the others, although the quality of the sculpt (or its manufacturing) don't quite meet the ambition of the artist. The dagger in her right hand is actually cutting right through her boot, for example. When I first planned out the colors for this rogue, I intended to keep the arms covered in a dark tunic, but I'm glad I made them bare instead, since this lends much-needed contrast between the flesh tone and the dark blue clothing. It may not be practical for sneaking around, but it adds better visuals. I am pleased with the little pile of rubble that it's front of her, which again I think implies that she's exploring a ruins or the slums but without being too overt.

The orange champion has a beard to be proud of, with lots of steel ringlets to add contrasting color and texture. This quality of this figure felt much higher than the previous three, except for some tricky bits where his arm passes over his beard. I thought about giving him more orange highlights in his clothing, but I'm glad I kept him in grey, muted colors, so that his hair and beard really become the focal point. I was going to keep his base just plain grey rubble with a slight bit of dull green flock. As I was putting my basing materials away, I noticed my bag of rooibos tea and decided to add some "sticks" to the ground, and I think this helps give it a bit more character.

The red champion towers above the rest in a wonderfully dynamic sculpt. Some of the details of the armor filligree are lost in the production, but I think the excitement of the figure makes up for it. This was the only one where I did no extra work to the base aside from painting it and adding a few spots of dull green flock. In my first pass through this miniature, I had all the filigree in red, which was bold and striking at first, but then I was worried it was not enough of a palette. I went back in with the yellow highlights to try to give him a warmer overall tone, and I'm pleased with the results. You cannot tell from the photo, or even perhaps from holding the miniature, but I also did some slight glazing of red over the metallics where it would reflect the cape, as well as on the sword. These are the kind of subtle touches that I sometimes see other painters I admire discuss online, but I always feel like I'm waiting for a real showpiece to paint before I want to spend that much time on it.

The final one in the set is this wizard, which like the knight above seems like she's from another aesthetic planet than the other four miniatures. As I looked over her and thought of how to make her the purple champion, I was reminded of Psylocke from Marvel's X-Men comics. I looked up some images of the classic Psylocke I remember from the 1990s and decided to try to capture that aesthetic, to make purple the focal color despite its not being the most used color. I think it worked. The silver is a nice neutral accent color here. In my first pass on this figure, I had her sleeves purple as well, but I realized the emphasis would probably work better if I kept it in the hair and the magic. I thought about doing all the magic orbs in silver, but I decided that little splashes of color were more in order. Each of the colors in the magic spiral shows up somewhere else on the figure, but some only barely: there are yellow, green, and cyan potions on her belt, and these are tied into the spell effect. This one certainly took me the longest, but it's also my favorite, both in terms of the figure and the painting. I kept the base fairly simple, just adding some tea leaves as leaf litter among the rocks.

Here they are all together, which helps you see the bizarre difference in scale. The miniatures came in a molded plastic tray, but I'm not sure if that will work for storage or if it will rub the paint off. I also don't know if it will be worth our using these rather than our meeples. Regardless, it was good to get paint to plastic again, and I'm glad I tackled them in order of increasing miniature quality.

As for the game, we've been loving it. Thunderstone Quest will certainly kick the original Thunderstone out of my collection, and likely Legendary as well. We've just started playing some random scenarios, and at some point I expect we'll try playing in one of the Epic modes.

Thanks for reading!

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