Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Hobbit - a Painting Project

Some months ago I blogged about various miniatures projects I have wanted to start.  Painting miniatures is a cathartic experience, the only downside being the conundrum of where to store them after they are done.  I have a collection of Splintered Light miniatures waiting to be painted ready for employment in some games of Song of Blades and Heroes.  Before getting stuck into those I have been wanting to test out my paints, which are cheap craft paints and frankly, getting on in age now (it’s been many years since I really put brush to miniature).

Rather than begin my main project I wanted to start with a smaller one, I looked over my collection of board games and found The Hobbit - an easy playing family style game, designed by Reiner Knizia and published by Fantasy Flight Games.  The game itself isn’t the best I have on my game shelves, but it’s one that’s fairly simple, and one I hope will make for a fun little family game as my son and daughter approach ages more appropriate to such activities.  I also love The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books.

After experimenting with various undercoat sprays it took me a little while (I was mainly distracted by the launch of the Games in Schools and Libraries podcast) to get around to putting paint to figure.

Undercoated and ready for paint...

I started with the base coats, then liberally washed the miniatures with a black wash mixed from acrylic paint (not ideal, but there you have it), after the wash I used various coats of paint, from the base colour to lighter shades, to highlight and drybrush and pick out the details.  To finish I used a gloss spray varnish, and then flocked the base of the Bilbo figure.

Base coats...

Bilbo nearly complete, Smaug has just had a wash...

All in all I am reasonably happy with the results, though I certainly think I’ll change a few things around before starting my main project (the Splintered Light figures for Song of Blades and Heroes).

And all done:

The things I learned:

My current paints aren’t good enough - it may be that the undercoat is too smooth for the paint to purchase, but the pigments in the paints I have are paradoxically both too watery and too thick to give proper cover.  I have ordered a new set of miniatures paints - The Army Painter paint set.  This will give me some new brushes (which I need), as well as a good range of colours, metals and some proper washes.  Hopefully these will fare much better.

I will be changing from a gloss to a matt varnish - I am happy with the finish for The Hobbit figures, but the gloss varnish is perhaps a little too much for what I want on my Splintered Light minis - I think a matt finish will produce a better effect.

I need to work on my basing techniques - I have some flock, static grass, sand and tufts of grass to use, and while Bilbo wasn’t going to be a complex base, it’s still not something I’ve ever done - even when I was painting miniatures all those years ago.

I am still not 100% convinced of the undercoat I have hit upon - it certainly covers well and doesn’t obscure the detail, but it may also be too shiny to serve as a really good undercoat.  This may have been entirely the fault of my current paints - which are very poor at covering, well, anything, but the undercoat may also have exacerbated the issue.  We shall see.

I am reasonably happy overall with the end results - hopefully when my new paints arrive I’ll be able to get stuck into my Splintered Light figures with pleasing results.

What next?

Well - I have already mentioned several times that I have a bunch of Splintered Light figures ready.  I got these to use as warbands for the ‘Song of Blades and Heroes’ rules set - a great little simple table top game.  I also have a figure from Gripping Beast I will be using to replace the figure I ruined from my Beowulf game while testing undercoats (and it’s a far better mini as well - and will stand in for that great Geatish hero).  Lastly I have some lance wielding unicyclers for the bizarre little game ‘Pig Tickler’ - a rather odd little game from Eureka in Melbourne about Victorian era officers on unicycles trying to lance a mechanical pig. Yes, you did just read that.

I am also looking forward to the arrival at some point of the Dux Britanniarum rules - a set of early Dark Age miniatures rules that look fantastic.  Undoubtedly after my Song of Blades and Heroes figures are ready to use I’ll be looking for some Romano-British and Saxon figures for that game (which I think I’ll collect in 15mm - for both quickness of painting of ease of storage).

I think that’s enough to be going on with!



  1. I think you'll like Dux Britanniarum - the tabletop element is a lot of fun and the card mechanisms provide some interesting decisions - but it's the smple campaign system that made it for me as it creates a great narrative.

    1. Yes - the campaign system is what sold me the game. From what I've read and heard of it it sounds like a lot of fun!

  2. On a slightly different note, is the Hobbit game any good?

    1. It's better than the other Hobbit game FFG used to publish...

      However, it is mostly a family weight game - not bad, but if it wasn't for the theme I wouldn't own it I don't think.

      It's possible that there is more to the game that I haven't realised in my couple of plays - but it hasn't bowled me over. It has some similarities to Beowulf... and there is a strange combination of wanting to work together and competing at the same time that I'd rather wasn't there - but aside from that it's an easy game that rolls along pleasantly.

      All in all it's a fine if nothing special family game with a fantastic theme.

  3. I agree with the switch to a matte varnish. I was never a fan of the shiny finish coat.

    I used to paint quite often, but with the popularity of pre-painted figs, and the simple fact that I don't have as much time for projects as I used to, I haven't painted anything since I painted something at a Con a couple of years ago. I used to find it very relaxing.

    1. Yeah - I don't mind gloss for some things, but for my Songs of Blades and Heroes and other projects I think I'll mainly run with a matte look.

      I used to paint quite a lot some 8-12 years ago, and have only sporadically since. Am really enjoying it at the moment though!