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Mediocre Miniatures

It is the habit of many GMs, especially with the advent of Kickstarter, to accumulate piles upon piles of miniatures. Tiny orcs, dragons, heroes designed to be shuffled around on grids while dice clatter, people shout, and the Wu Tang Clan plays in the background. Cast on white or grey plastic, occasionally a soft metal, they arrive in the mail or are bought at a friendly local gaming store. And this is how they remain, because who has time for that?

There are precisely two schools of thought on unpainted minis. One is that they’re for a game, and it doesn’t really matter. Sure, you’ve been using the same hero mini for two years and it’s still the same dull, bendy plastic, but you’re having fun. The other is that the mere presence of unpainted minis brings shame on your house and family.

My family has known enough shame.

There are a lot of barriers to painting miniatures. Paints aren’t cheap, and they come in tiny little bottles usually sold at a store you have to take two buses to reach. Brushes feel tricky to acquire. Then there’s priming, what colour to prime them in, and where to deploy the necessary spray paint. In addition, everyone knows someone whose minis are always museum quality masterpieces, their breathtakingly delicate paint jobs having all the appearance of being painted by tiny elves. Your fumbling mortal mitts don’t seem up to the task. On top of all of this, I am super colourblind.

But I did see a tweet that made me persist.


It’s as good a name as any. With plate armor and a dashing cape, he’s a goblin who’s clearly in charge of something. Goblins are tiny and live in fear of strong breezes and player characters, but I think that leads them to make assertive fashion choices. Deep green skin and a pink cape seem great.

Remember, more colours will cover up for any lack of technique or talent, so there’s a brown tunic in there somewhere, two different metallics, and a different brown for the leather gloves and dagger scabbard. The whole thing got a dark wash because I’m told that washes are always good, and dark seemed like the way to go.


In whatever passes for D&D evolution, bugbears have a common ancestor with goblins. They’re both goblinoids, which seems a bit derogatory but here we are. So this fella is a different green, and already required so many browns that I couldn’t think of a dark colour for his loincloth, and when you can’t find a dark colour, you grab whatever bone looking thing you have. It’s skeleton linens. Don’t ask.

The fur trim is blue because it was also blue on Crizeel’s ruff, and they’re from the same locale. It’s less about visual storytelling and more about creating little details that let you quietly nerd about about Dungeons & Dragons.

The metallic on what I can only assume is rent-to-own shoulder armor turned out really well, and I’m hopeful that one day he can pay off those loans and get a full suit. The club has copper nails because of a Great Big Sea song.  Remember, more colours replaces talent!

These are the first minis I’ve painted in years, and it was pretty fun to throw on movies and spend an evening painting. They turned out solidly okay, and it only goes up from here. Being super colourblind makes it hard to feel comfortable, so instead, jokes. I have many hundreds to go.

One day my house will know honour.

Jim Tigwell

A survivor of two philosophy degrees, Jim Tigwell spends his days solving interesting problems in software. By night he can be found at poetry slams and whatever art opening has the strangest cheese selection. Host of the biweekly Concept Crucible podcast and occasional blogger, Jim is also a juggler, musician, magician, and maker of digital things. You can find his music and videos at Woot Suit Riot, a channel that doubles as a home for wayward and timid creators. Observe his antics there, or heckle directly on Twitter @ConceptCrucible. If the software and internet game doesn’t pan out, he’s determined to be a great Canadian vampire hunter.

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