It’s been a fairly dry few weeks here on Fistful of Meeples, as I’ve talked a lot about numbers, lists, statistics, and even storage inserts. Whilst this is the sort of thing that often fills my mind, I’m aware that it may not be the most exciting fare that people have ever read, and I want to keep a balance. For today, let’s take a more colourful look at Mansions of Madness 2nd edition.
Mansions of Madness is a game that’s been floating around for a while, in which a “Gatekeeper” marshals various dark and sinister forces against a band of investigators who are exploring a Mansion or other location. This summer’s surprise release saw the game re-booted for a second edition, giving the role of the Gatekeeper to an app, leaving the players with a fully co-operative and/or solo-able way to play through the Mansion.
I love this game- I picked up a review copy that I wrote about for Games Quest, and it’s spent many hours on our dining table since August. It’s thematic, and the layout tiles are beautiful.
It wasn’t without its detractors though. Replayability and the number of scenarios included is a can of worms that I’ll leave for another time, but people were also quick to find fault with the miniatures.
A monster in Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition is made up of 3 components, a grey plastic miniature, a massive black base, and a cardboard tile that gets (mostly) swallowed by said base. The pegs for fixing the miniatures into the bases were often the wrong size and, unless you spent some time filing or gluing, they could be relied upon to fall apart with depressing regularity.
Whilst 5 minutes with glue and scissors would have been sufficient to make the game playable, I felt inspired by my ongoing efforts to pimp out Zombicide, and taking an idea from Board Game Geek, decided to give these figures the full treatment.
The Cultist is your basic Lovecraftian monster. Seemingly entirely human, he has turned to dark and sinister ways, and needs to be stopped. The base game of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition comes with a lot of cultists, offering a fair amount of scope for varying the colour scheme without making them look implausibly jovial in hue.
Leading the cultists, is the Priest of Dagon – like most of the monsters in this set, FFG produce a pre-painted version of this character, which provided a useful starting point, but it felt a bit too gaudy to me.
Instead, I opted for a slightly darker tone to meet the overall mood of the game. There’s not really a great deal going on overall with this figure, but I’m generally fairly happy with how it turned out.
The Riot is simply a mob of angry men, and the ordinariness of it all is what I was trying to capture in the painting of these figures. Sometimes the narrative will hint at something more sinister in the blood of these types (or even straight-up tell you that it’s being used to represent an army of zombies). However, for the miniatures, I just wanted something that could pass for a crowd of 1920s men, suddenly roused to anger and violence, terrifying because of their apparent ordinaryness.
Still human-looking to the casual eye, the Deep One Hybrid is born of the sea, and not quite human. I’ve done a few of these, trying to tread the line between the natural and the ridiculous: I think that overall the slightly unnatural flesh tones and the red eyes are more effective, but the more “human” one is still perfectly serviceable.
Whilst the world of Lovecraft is full of ordinary folk who have meddled in things that should not have concerned them, it also contains plenty that it clearly monstrous, and the game reflects that too.
The Ghost was probably the hardest figure to paint, as the ideal effect would be translucence, which obviously cannot be painted on to a piece of solid grey plastic. For both attempts at this, I went for pale, muted colours – everything in shades of grey for the first, and then a whiter palette for the second, which I tinged with light blue, before adding the chains in a heavy, unmistakably corporeal dark metallic shade.
The Child of Dagon is a strange monster. Typically in scenarios, you seem to encounter a normal looking human who is suddenly and dramatically transformed. This is another where FFG’s pre-painted miniature is a very bright colour, almost garish. I wanted something a bit less over-the-top, whilst still retaining the definitely-not-human aspect. I think what I’ve ended up with works well.
The Deep One is a creature of the sea, and the first of the Monsters which doesn’t appear to have been human at any point in time. For this one, I followed the colour-scheme of the pre-painted miniature for sale on the website fairly closely, including the pink tinges around the hands/feet and spine – although, I’ve generally gone for a slightly more muted tone than the official ones. As there were 4 of these, I was able to bring in a bit of variety, I went for a greenish rather than blue base for this one, and a greenish tint for another. Overall, it still seems to work fairly well.
The Hunting Horror was one of the trickiest models to paint, the pattern – lots and lots of little squares – on the skin had a very pronounced cast line on it in the first one, and by the time I’d trimmed with the scalpel, filed, and re-filled gaps, some of the detail was lost. For the first one, I kept with the dark, blueish base colour and some pale panels shown on the FFG website.
For the second though, I decided to push the boat out a bit: I’d used a green primer for this round of monsters, and the pale green I’d used on one of the Deep Ones made for a nice additional layer over this, giving it a hint of brightness without looking too garish.
The blood red for the main body is a bit more of a departure from any of the sources I’d seen, but once it was muted down with the ink wash, I thought it still looked ok.
The final Monster from the Core Box was the Star Spawn. These are monstrous enough in size and shape that they really didn’t feel like they needed too much done to them in terms of outlandish colour. I kept with the fairly plain green spray primer, and touched up missing patches in a similar shade. I then tried to introduce a little bit of fairly weak purple into the tattoo-like patterns, and the protruding veins. I also added white for the eyes.
I’m still not 100% sure how to finish this one off. It feels like it needs a little bit more work- perhaps some tinting on the face tentacles, but as it doesn’t need a base, it’s easier to revisit later on.
Overall I’m fairly happy with these monsters. I think that the clear base instead of the large black plastic one is probably the biggest element in improving the aesthetics, but with clear bases, you definitely can’t paint after basing, so getting that done now was key.
It also didn’t really seem fair to have the monsters in full technicolour whilst the investigators shuffled around in plain grey plastic, so I painted them too. There are colour pictures of the investigators on their character cards, along with various examples on the internet, so I didn’t need to put too much creative thought into these.
The hardest bit about the investigators was the bases. Whereas the monsters come with a peg that works well for attaching them to a base, the investigators are cast as a single piece with their base. I suspect that I could probably remove them from the bases without damaging the legs/feet in most cases, but re-attaching them to a clear base might well prove tricky.
Having decided to leave them on their bases, I then had to decide on colour. I attempted to recreate the cobbled-stones pattern of the outdoor tiles, but wasn’t happy with the result. Given how many different floors there are, I ultimately just went for grey, as the simplest option.
Just as I was reaching the end with painting these, the expansions arrived, complete with more monsters and investigators. I’m not sure how long exactly it will take me to get those painted, but I’ll be sure to post an update once I have.