Things of No Interest: Painting Mice and Mystics

Things of No Interest: Painting Mice and Mystics

Through a confluence of events, I finally got around to finishing up painting on Mice and Mystics. Mice and Mystics is a family oriented dungeon crawler / co-op fairy tale that is centered around a prince and his companions that are turned into mice after trying to protect their king.

The game comes with a relatively small handful of figures - 5 heroes, 6 rat guards, 8 little cockroaches, a spider and a centipede. Despite this low number of guys, it took me a long while to complete the painting of the set. I got through the heroes and 2/3 of the rat guards and then lost interest (or more realistically, had more interest in painting Descent and then too, I hadn't painted in a while either).

At some point at the end of last year, I saw someone that was looking to trade off their Tesla vs Edison Kickstarter package of stuff and was interested in Mice and Mystics - I offered to trade my base game + Heart of Glory expansion (fully painted) for his stuff and he was interested, so I needed to finish the painting job. At the same time, there was a discussion going on in the BGG Painting Guild about starting a monthly challenge (which was more of an accountability list than a "challenge"). It was just what I needed to get off my butt and do some painting and I thought I'd share the process and the results here.

The minis stuck onto pill bottles
First thing was simply gathering everything up and "mounting" them onto pill bottles. I've used a number of different things to put the models on over the years, but finally settled on pill bottles. A) I had a ton of them from my dog's prescription. B) I had multiple sizes of them which made them a good choice for small (regular) sized minis and larger ones. C) I don't care if they get destroyed by air brush overspray etc. D) For me, they are just the right size to hold comfortably

I've mounted them with a number of materials at one time or another (Elmer's glue was my choice for a while, but was unreliable about holding the mini and required drying time). I eventually settled on blue tack. I love that blue putty - it takes only the smallest bit of it and it is reusable. You'd think it would dry out or something, but I've been using the same little bits forever.

Batch of minis after priming with gesso
The first real step in painting is priming. A lot of times this step isn't necessary, but I prefer it as it gives whatever mini I'm working with a consistent surface that acrylic paints adhere well to.

There are a lot of choices for priming - spray primer is the obvious and popular choice, but I avoid it for a number of reasons. The biggest being that the plastics used in minis varies widely and there are often problems with aerosols and plastics (the wrong combo can cause the minis to be tacky after painting and it not only ruins the feel of the minis, but it makes them look wet or shiny - neither is a look I desire. Because of this, I prefer to simply use gesso. Gesso is a brush on primer that is typically used by painters to prime canvases. I like gesso because it is cheap, comes in a variety of colors and is easy to use - you can somewhat slop it onto the mini because it will shrink as it dries, thus a loss of detail is usually very small if any.

Right where we started?
After the primer has dried, the next step is a base color. My plan for this particular batch was mostly brown based, so I mixed up a batch of tan and broke out my airbrush to make quick work of the group. I typically give each figure a light once over with the airbrush and then after getting through the whole set, go back for a second coat. This isn't heavy work, just trying to get a basic color undercoat set. The funny part of this particular color choice? It almost looks like I'm back where I started. You could say that it was a waste of time (and paint), but the next step I was planning wouldn't have worked on the raw figures - I needed a coat of color that would "stain" properly when I performed the next step - wash / shade / ink (whatever you prefer to call it). The point is to stain the color with another color while at the same time letting the shade pool in the cracks and recesses of the figure - this gives the figure some depth and shading and is one of the easiest ways to highlight your figure without actually adding manual highlights.

Nothing like a quick bunch of washes to make things pop
If you are a beginning painter, washes are the first trick you can learn that is both easy and will give you great results with little effort. Washes both highlight and help blend areas with natural looking shading. For this batch of stuff, I used three different colors of wash to impart color to the base tan scheme. I used a sepia wash to give the tan a (very) slightly darker look. It doesn't change the overall color much, but it will highlight the recesses like I mentioned. I also used an orange on the underbelly of the centipede, the roaches, and the legs of the spider. I then used a darker brown on the rats and part of the spider. Now normally, I like to block in parts of the figure in various colors and then use a series of washes that match each color in order to shade a figure, but these being mostly brown-ish figures, I went straight from the base coat to color. This technique works really well for me on batch creatures, especially when there is fur, as the next step in the process is dry brushing.

Almost done after a little dry brushing
After the wash had dried, it was time to work a little dry brushing in. Basically, dry brushing is where you put a little paint on your brush (preferably one that is old and maybe flat) and then wipe most of the paint off on a paper towel. You then very quickly swipe the brush across the surface you are trying to paint. Each swipe should barely tinge the raised surfaces. For very flat surfaces (like the carapace of the centipede here) you want the brush to leave almost no color on each pass of the brush. Eventually, the area the brush has been passed over will be highlighted (or in the case of smooth surfaces - you get a blended kind of shading).

I really like the results you get with this on animal fur - you will randomly get some areas that are more highlighted than others - which is perfect. The imperfections are what make things look more realistic.

For the rats, the dry brush is what makes the fur stand out on the model. The wash deepens the shadow (low) areas of the fur, but the details of the fur come out from the highlighting, which in this case is all dry brush technique.

After the dry brushing, all that is left is a bit of detailing - for the centipede, the eyes. For the rats, their arm bracelets and swords, their ears, mouth, and tail, and the little shoulder badge. And that's about it. Enjoy the rest of the pics! I'm including some pictures from my original efforts so you can see what the whole she-bang looks like.


Rather than doing the rats all the same, I went for three color schemes. Variety is good!

Gross! Roaches!

Every game needs heroes! The mice are the heroes!

Board Game Gumbo: Spice it up! with Wakening Lair

Board Game Gumbo: Spice it up! with Wakening Lair

Gaming Rules! #57: Alley Cat Games

Gaming Rules! #57: Alley Cat Games