Once upon a time, I really liked painting miniatures, with the hope that I’d use them for my RPGs. I bought one of those Learn to Paint kits from Reaper, and a bunch of cheap miniatures, and a huge selection of Reaper Pro Paints. And while I wouldn’t say I was great at it, I did consider my stuff pretty good for tabletop use. I’m good, as in good enough. Probably 6 out of 10 on average and topping out around 7.5. Plus, it was fun.
Flash forward through high school and college. I have… more free time than I know what to do with, so I figured to pick the hobby back up, re-teach myself the craft, and try to learn enough to get back to my A-game. And since I have three metric tons of Mage Knight figures, I should have enough of a base to screw up on before moving to all those Reaper figures, BattleMechs, and undersized fighting men I bought years ago, right?
My recent discovery is that acrylic paints sold by games companies—Reaper Pro Paints and Citadel’s stuff—have a habit of drying out and becoming hard lumps of unusable plastic after sitting around for the better half of a decade. (Heh.) Should have saw that coming, since I only painted about four minis in college. Also, the Reaper paints that dried out were ones that came with the Learn to Paint kit—it was the old-model one that came in a box, not a blister, with the Anhurian swordsman and dire rat, from like 2003—and to make me feel better, they were all mostly used up. (There was a small hunk of Firehawk, a bit of Truesilver, half a bottle of Walnut and Dragon Black, a little less Dragon White, etc.) For some reason, Emerald was spared this fate, though the Granite I’d picked up later had also turned into slag. And the Citadel paints I got around 2007 are getting pretty mucky: a central core of heavy pigment and vinyl surrounded by a skein of oil and usable paint.
Sad to find, Reaper Pro Paints have been discontinued, early last year—d’oh. Since I’m no artist, and put tabletop usefulness over my lackluster hand at aesthetics, the Pro Paint line was my favorite: a what-you-see-is-what-you-get line of little plastic pots, perfect for painting right out of the jar and doing basecoats. Reaper’s Master Series is a lot thinner, requiring more layers, which is great for blending and layering and drybrushing, but a pain in the ass when I needed a half-dozen lizardfolk warriors by last Thursday.
Their big downside is that they came in pots, not dropper-bottles, so while I wasted less by painting out of the bottle, mixing my own colors was a nightmare—I needed some rust for a friend’s Deadlands harrowed minis, probably some of the best figs I did, and mixing Bright Gold and Fireball Orange ended up wasting a ton of metallic.
Anyways, what’s most irritating and odd is that I inherited a huge stack of cheapo acrylic bottles from craft stores—stuff like Folk Art, Liquitex, and craft store brands. If you look around on places like The Miniatures Page or any Warhammer community, or even the Reaper forums, quite a few people use and will recommend buying these since you get more paint than you’ll use in a few years (two ounces or more per), they’re cheap ($1-4 per bottle), and they work just as well as Reaper or Citadel or Vallejo if you can find the right colors. (Note that some need to be thinned, and it’s still a lot better to get unique colors and metallics from gaming companies, but blue paint is blue paint is blue paint.)
Now, the irritating part is that these hobbymart acrylics are all from the late ’80s-early ’90s, ancient stuff from when mom took some painting class. And unlike my eight-year-old Pro Paints, they’re still in perfect, usable condition. All of them. In other words: these shitty $1.19 per 2oz JoAnn Fabrics-brand paints have lasted about three times as long as those gaming-centric $2.50 per 3/4oz Pro Paints. Sigh. I’d love to trade Ivory and Grape to get back Firehawk and Dragon Blue, especially since those Reaper colors aren’t made any more, but them’s the breaks.
So my moral/learning lesson for today is “head to Micheal’s Crafts and Hobby Lobby to buy supplies, on the off chance I don’t paint anything for another decade, because their cheapo paint lasts for frakking ever.”
One further note.
Paint almost always comes with an agitator—this would be the ball bearing you hear rolling around in the can of paint/primer when you’re shaking it up, to smooth flow and get paint moving—and for years I’ve heard that Reaper uses tiny metal skulls as agitators in their paint pots. So here I am with a bunch of pots full of vinylized slag, and being curious, I decided it was time to experiment. Science!
Now, I know people on the internet have claimed to have found them, that they come in a variety of designs, and that they’ve been replaced with beads in recent years (gah). But I still want tangible proof: did Reaper really put in skull agitators, and were they also in the Pro Paint line, and did they—
Well that answers that question.
Some times, I think it’s best I cut my gaming-based impulse buy addictions back down to one set of plasticrack. (Which would be whatever kind of fantasy miniatures I can use for D&D/Pathfinder that I come across.) Of course, it helps that I don’t have any fellow addicts around; if I was still living on the west side of the state, I have to imagine Matt would be itching to break out the new Star Trek Clix every chance he gets. (Provided he saves his pennies and buys some.)
I’ve looked long and hard—at least five minutes, totally—but these Star Trek Clix haven’t made very much of an impact (as-yet) in previews and reviews. Maybe because they released today, who knows. This site has a solid preview, including a ton of images, which was very helpful.
Pros: They look really damn good, which surprised me at first; lots of nice color and little details pop on those ship hulls, and unlike human figures, we don’t have to worry about the never-ending problem of googly-eyes. They use the HeroClix system, so if you’ve been a WizKids fan over the years, most like you can get into the action ten minutes after opening some packs. And since they’re prepainted plastic, they cost a helluva lot less than those old Starfleet Battles figs rusting in the back of the store.
Cons: They’re randomized, single-figure boosters, with the traditional rarity scheme, which are the same size as standard HeroClix—not to scale—that cover the full series’ spread for Federation and Klingon warships only. And they cost $5 per, at that; from what I’ve heard, it’s because getting the license from Paramount cost an arm and a leg. Reusing the HeroClix rules makes a certain kind of sense—the people most likely to buy these are familiar with the rules, and a unified system makes for a gateway drug into the other HeroClix games—but it’s an awkward-sounding fit. And despite its large and vocal fanbase, Trek has been off the air for years, and the next movie isn’t due until 2013—hence Paramount’s paranoia over licensed Trek products.
I’m kind of curious whether they’ll take off—they look well-done enough to please Trekkie gamers, and HeroClix is a venerable system, so that match sounds cool as hell. But I see a number of turn-offs from the acquisition angle that won’t send every gamer jumping up to pull out their wallet. Probably related to the expensive license, which is understandable. Then again, most serious WizKids gamers always buy it by the brick/case/pallet anyways.
I hope they sell well enough for WizKids to release more sets (e.g., more factions), and possibly even branch out into some pre-packaged battle fleets. (Maybe go properly stupid and have a full figure set for the original cast, so you can have Kirk take on Superman or Frodo.) While I don’t see them going the way of Star Wars Starship Battles—entry-set oblivion—I’m not sure they’re going to match HeroClix numbers. Trekkies, prove me wrong.
The word is just out—Paizo and WizKids aren’t just doing non-randomized sets of the iconics; they’re moving on towards a full line of prepainted miniatures: monsters, characters, iconics, the whole works. The new line will be called Pathfinder Battles.
While Pathfinder Battles doesn’t look to be dual-purpose for both roleplaying and a Clix game (curses!), it’ll be marketed as Clix games have been in the past: by randomized boosters. Those of us who remember the plasticrack days of Dungeons & Dragons Minis will be familiar with this method, only the pack contents will be a lot closer to the old Clix offerings.
Actually, less: each “pack” will contain a single medium fig, or two small figs, unless you’re buying a pack which will have a large figure. The print runs will be on the smaller and balanced size; each “brick” of 16 small/medium boosters and 3 large boosters will contain only a minimum of repeats. Buy four bricks (a case) and you’ve got pretty much the entire run. If this sounds familiar to you… you’ve probably bought HeroClix or ActionClix. I’m hoping they keep the same rarity fix as HeroClix, too, where you got a 199-point Emperor Joker in the same common slot as a 50-point Bouncing Boy.
The first set, the 40-piece Heroes & Monsters, is coming December 2011; from the previews its looking like a lot of the iconic monsters and basic hero combinations. The second set will be Rise of the Runelords in June 2012. From that, I’m assuming each set will be tied to a specific adventure path or part of the setting. (I’m finished with Legacy of Fire, but sign me up right now. Same for Carrion Crown if it includes the Lovecraftian Bestiary monsters.) Runelords will also have 60 figures, which will sell in “encounter packs” of six figures—finally bringing Pathfinder Battles to the say format as HeroClix boosters.
While some people might complain about the six-month delay in sets, I’m going to refute that; my biggest problem with DDM was that some sets were released on top of each other, making them a pain in the ass to collect. (Archfiends/Giants of Legend was the worst combo, since they both had a bunch of rad figures.) Three sets a year was the big part of DDM that I didn’t like… that and the price increases, from $10 to $12 to $15. Stupid cost of oil-based plastics.
I do have to question the price, which isn’t listed on the press release. The HeroClix and ActionClix “boosters” usually had four or five minis, and the “packs” with less sold for $5 or less. Even if the paint quality is as high as the Beginner Box Heroes pack, I can’t see many players eager to drop full price on a pack netting them one or two figures. If they are kept cheap—in the $3-5 range—it means that buying by the brick, or even by the case, won’t be prohibitively expensive. I expect the “encounter pack” 6-figure boosters will be closer to the traditional Clix cost of $15 a pack, which is comparable to DDM and the Clix, but is still a fair chunk of money.
And like with all sets, I’m wondering about variety. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the Runelords set had a half-dozen different goblins, provided they were in different poses with different weapons: goblin with horsechopper, goblin with dogslicer, goblin shaman, goblin firebug, goblin bomb-chucker, goblin on goblin dog, etc. And most people who want prepainted minis want non-random sets of similar figs, so getting a pair of goblins every few Runelords pack won’t bother them. Other players might not be as welcoming of this variety, especially for foes that aren’t used as often (either low-level like goblins, or high-level like outsiders). No matter what happens, everyone will never be pleased by the layout of a prepainted, randomized miniatures set. (Unless it’s Wolf Strike. Or Hammer of Thor, which apparently I should have bought before it vanished.)
Three things I don’t want to see. One: horses and mounts. DDM did these, and they were flipping useless, both in the miniatures game and for roleplaying. Two: random size discrepancies between figures. (Why is the dwarven badonkadonk six times larger than other figures in the same set?) Three: a whole lot of figures I’ll never end up using. DDM had a poor variety of non-fighter PCs, and tended to do really weird stuff instead of sticking to heroes, summonable creatures, and basic adversaries. Yeah, some variety would be nice, and I’d like a good assortment of monsters I can use for higher-level adventures, but try to weed out are the really fringe stuff. Putting similiar things in the same set would help; I’d rather buy some The Great Beyond knowing I’d get a lot of outsiders than pick up a bajillion boxes of Second Darkness hoping to get the one succubi or barbed devil. Of course, that goes against the “good marketing” part of randomized minis: having the customers buy a ton of them to get the figures they think they need.
Depending on the quality of figures, price, and availability, I could see heading out to my FLGS or local Borders to pick up some of these as an impulse buy. At the very least, I can die happy knowing the growing void in my life (err, pocketbook)—prepainted d20 miniatures—is returning. “If only I could afford it” is becoming my worst complaint about Paizo products.