My 1st Year of Miniature Painting

It’s not very easy to take a good group photo of 69 miniatures

I’ve never considered myself to be a very artistic or crafty person. Most of my creative outlet took the form of writing: speeches, game reviews, etc. I did take a few photography classes in high school and college which I loved, but it was black and white film, and I never transitioned into buying a nice digital camera and editing software. Since then, some hobbies have stuck, and others only lasted a little while.

A few years ago I dipped my toes into Perler beads because it was a lot of fun creating pixel art from video games. I enjoyed it so much I even made a specialized magnet for every family member as a Christmas present. But eventually the Perler beads started to collect dust and I returned to playing video games and watching tv.

Perler magnets gifted to my family in 2016

After Perler beads, I caught myself watching my wife cross stitch. It certainly looked relaxing and was basically just a tiny version of the Perler beads with a lot more room for cool patterns. My wife graciously taught me how to cross stitch and I’ve been doing that off and on since the end of 2017 as a hobby. I’ll put on a tv show that I enjoy rewatching (Parks and Recreation, The Office, Friday Night Lights) and find myself cross stitching for hours as I split attention between the two tasks.

At the end of March 2019 I made a pretty big, and mostly spur-of-the-moment purchase, I picked up A Song of Ice and Fire Miniatures, specifically the Stark vs Lannister Starter Set. I had never played a miniature game before but I was really getting excited about the final season of Game of Thrones (oh you sweet summer child) and had loved reading the book series, so it was something that kept calling to me at my local game store. On top of that, it came with a fairly rare Hand of the King Kickstarter promo set. So even though I spent $150 on a 2-player game in a genre I had never tried before, I felt like I got a pretty good deal and I was excited to give it a shot. When purchasing the set, it never crossed my mind that I would learn how to paint miniatures to spruce the figures up.

I take a lot of photos on messy tables, but I get excited to show game purchases to my twin.

After a few conversations with friends, the notion of painting these Starks and Lannisters was starting to grow bit by bit in the back of my mind. But I was worried that I wouldn’t have the patience or the skill to do a good job slapping some paint on the figures. I mean, the miniatures themselves are really small and the finer details were definitely intimidating. Despite these mental obstacles, I decided to pick up a Reaper starter kit on Amazon that came with 11 paints, 3 miniatures, 2 paint brushes and an instruction booklet. “This is awesome!” I thought, a way to test out my ability with only a minimal monetary commitment. If I sucked at painting, it wouldn’t ruin my Song of Ice and Fire miniatures, it would only be on the test figures.

Thankfully, the test figures turned out much better than I had anticipated! The skeleton was smaller than the Song of Ice and Fire minis would ultimately be, and the Orc offered a larger canvas for testing out highlights. This was absolutely something I could get into and it actually jump-started me into prepping the Song of Ice and Fire miniatures. Instead of painting my third test figure, I primed and began painting Greywind, Robb Stark’s direwolf.

Greywind in action

I didn’t just jump in without assistance, of course. I watched some very helpful tutorial videos by TheMiniJunkie and looked through Mike Meeple’s Painting Poorly series since they were showing off the exact figures I was working on. Greywind is far from perfect, but I was really satisfied with the finished product. Putting the final touches on the figure: placing the fake snow and gluing bushes onto the base was fulfilling. It felt like everything on the figure and the base tied together so well and it pushed me to start more figures.

These finished miniatures would never win any awards. Instead, painting has become a meditative process for me. If i’m focused, I’ll turn on an audiobook and lose track of time. I once disappeared downstairs to start Gregor Clegane and my wife had to come check on me two hours later as I wrapped up his first coat. If I only want to focus on one task, I’ll swap to music instead. I’ve converted our bar area in our basement into a standing painting area (I mean, we aren’t going to have anyone over anytime soon).

A Lannister Guardsman before and after. I want to build a lightbox to take better photos.

I’ve learned a lot about miniature painting in the past year, and have spent probably too much money on different types of paints and brushes. I’ve gone through phases of intense motivation where I paint a ton of figures in a short amount of time, and dry spells lasting months with little progress to show. To push back against this I made a New Years resolution for 2020 to do some kind of hobby (cross stitching or painting) at least a little bit everyday that I’m home. In terms of miniature painting, it could be an entire coat on a figure or even something small like one color here or there. Ultimately, the resolution ensures some kind of forward progress. In total, I painted 69 figures from A Song of Ice and Fire in the last year, almost enough to field a full Stark army on the table (and a small section of Lannisters).

From those 69 miniatures I’ve also learned quite a bit about myself: I do have the patience and skill to apply a tiny amount of paint on a very small plastic figure. But at the same time, I can’t just turn on that patience like a switch. Some days I’m just not in the mood and I’ll rush a section because I’m feeling anxious. Especially given our current global situation, recognizing when you aren’t “feeling it” is important as well. A fun hobby won’t wipe out all of the stress of the world, but it sure is a nice escape from time to time.

Miniatures painted from April 2019-April 2020

Painted Miniature: Jaime Lannister, The Kingslayer

“And me, that boy I was … when did he die, I wonder? When I donned the white cloak? When I opened Aerys’s throat? That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead.” -Ser Jaime Lannister, a.k.a. “The Kingslayer”

Shortly after painting The Mountain, I started working on Ser Jaime Lannister to finish off the combat heroes included in the Stark vs. Lannister Starter set for A Song of Ice and Fire Miniatures Game. At first, the figure seemed pretty easy since I wanted to capture what so many painters in this game have done: the iconic gold armor that Jaime dons while fighting in the War of the Five Kings. A vast majority of this figure is covered in that garish color, but it initially looks so tacky. On top of that, the gold paint I’m using is incredibly difficult to spread around without looked a little uneven.

Luckily a quick wash with Agrax Earthshade darkened up the gold and added the much-needed detail on his armor. I went back and found the black clothing that he’s wearing underneath the set of armor and added that to give the figure a bit more contrast. Additionally, I do like how his blonde hair came out with a coat of Averland Sunset and Agrax Earthshade to darken the look. I’m also pretty happy with his shield. It could be cleaner, but some of those lines are TINY, so it’s better than what I figured it would look like given my abilities.

I would like to improve at layering colors so can better cover up the shading on his oh-so-very rippled cloak. But overall, I’m pretty happy with how The Kingslayer looks painted. I do have another figure of his, a maimed Jaime Lannister, but it will be quite awhile before I end up painting that one. Let me know what you think of my latest painted miniature, as well as if you’d like to see more of this quick reaction posts and galleries of painted minis!

Creature in the Well – Playstation 4 Review

A few years back my friend Sam was really into pinball. My twin and I would meet up with Sam at a bar, grab a pitcher of beer and take turns playing the one pinball machine around. I’m very fond of those memories and it even led me to tracking down pinball machines in my own city. I’m terrible at them, but I love the timing, the skill shots, and the fun kind of stress that pinball machines bring. 

So when I saw a trailer for Flight School Studio’s pinball inspired game Creature in the Well, I was definitely intrigued! Pinball video games can be fun under the right circumstances, but getting the feel of an actual machine is hard to digitally translate (unless we are talking about Full Tilt 2). But if the machine itself is hard to translate, perhaps the feel behind playing a pinball game could still make a great video game.  

There’s a lot of action, but it’s easy to track on screen. (Credit: Flight School)

Think about the frenzy caused by a multi ball in pinball. Creature in the Well nails that feeling by having you juggle multiple balls at the same time and striking them toward bumpers to either gain power or turn off hazards. Dropping a ball in pinball is awful, but this game continuously generates new balls for you to hit, either from a spot on the ground or stealing them from corrupted turrets. To me, this game is a great mashup of pinball and Breakout

You play as a BOT-C robot, reawakening inside of a massive sandstorm that has enveloped the world around you. Your goal is to dive into a massive mountain and restore power to the various machines embedded inside, which should clear the storm. Unfortunately for you, the mysterious creature inside the mountain will try and prevent you from accomplishing that task. 

The game’s namesake and villain: Creature in the Well (Credit: Flight School)

Every area of the mountain provides a branching path, letting you explore the different sections searching for secrets. You’ll definitely want to dig around in this mountain because the side paths and secret rooms reveal some great weapon upgrades. While you can find Old Cores to level up your character, the game never actually explains the benefit of doing so. I had to Google the point of leveling up (it allows you to add more charge to balls before striking them), which could have been solved with a quick description in-game. 

Creature in the Well features serene music to accompany its sci-fi theme. This is a nice way to balance the constant swiping as you swing your weapon to charge and all of the pinging of bumpers and balls bouncing everywhere. The graphics are smooth and I love the different colors for every section of the mountain. Unfortunately, I ran into a consistent visual glitch while playing on Playstation 4 which caused a strobing effect on some textures. At first I thought it might have been an artistic choice, it almost looked like a spinning fan overhead, but once I looked at some streams of the game I knew I encountered a bug. I also downloaded the game on Xbox One since it is included with Game Pass and the graphics were great there, no visual bug to be found. 

Dying in this game is a little unfortunate. While you don’t lose any progress, the creature throws you out of the well in town and you have to first run back into the mountain to heal. Then, you have to trek all the way back to where you died through the twisting turns and branching paths just pick up where you left off. I’m not sure why the antagonist of the game is reviving you in the first place, and the backtracking becomes pretty tedious. I also didn’t find the game overly difficult except for one fight in particular. Through the majority of the game I had only died 14 times, but this one battle killed me an additional eight times. 

Each pillar represents a section of the mountain to explore. (Credit: Flight School)

For anyone interested in playing Creature in the Well, I want to give you two tips to make the game much easier on your thumb. First, you can hold the charge button (square) to continuously charge up balls before striking them. I spent the first two hours or so of the game mashing square like I was getting tortured in Metal Gear Solid and my entire hand hurt about 45 minutes in. Second, remap the strike button (triangle). Since you are going to be holding down square to juggle balls, it’s much easier to change up the way you strike the ball by adding a different button. I used L2 and it gave my right thumb a much needed break. 

I finished the game in a little under five hours at 96%, and it took another 30 minutes to hit 100% with the Platinum trophy. I certainly enjoyed Creature in the Well, and for $15, I think the game nails the feel of a pinball table, while providing something fresh. Especially at a time where you can’t go out to a bar and get your pinball fix, Creature in the Well can scratch that itch. 

Note: While Creature in the Well was released in September 2019, it landed on Playstation 4 on March 27th. I was provided a review code of Creature in the Well for Playstation 4.

Painted Sir Gregor Clegane (The Mountain)

I was flipping through my memories on Google Photos this morning and I saw that it’s been a year since I picked up the Song of Ice and Fire Miniature starter set from our local game store. It was quite the investment at $150, but part of the justification for buying it was the free Hand of the King (Kickstarter bonuses) that came with the purchase of the starter set.

At that time I had never played a miniature game before, and there was no way I was going to be able to paint these figures! But I really loved A Song of Ice and Fire series and at that point I was pretty excited for the final season of Game of Thrones (oh you poor sweet summer child…)

Anyways, I picked up painting miniatures shortly after buying this starter, and I’m getting around to painting some of the heroes and villains from that core set. I’ll write a longer post here in a few weeks regarding everything I’ve painted in the last year, but here’s a photo set of my project over the weekend: Sir Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain.

I am far from a great miniature painter, but I’m pretty happy with how he turned out! The three dogs on his shield were a bit of a pain and I just left them be. Every time I tried to touch it up with black, I would get black paint where yellow should be and vice versa.