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Subject: Should you paint the RoboRally robots? rss

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Geoff
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This is the first of a (sure to be slow-coming) series of painting reviews. I've just taken up miniature painting, and my wife joined in on the fun as well. As a first project, we chose RoboRally.

You won't find any rules talk or mention of gameplay in this review unless specifically relevant to the painted miniatures. The purpose of this review is to discuss painting the miniatures and playing with the finished product. My target audience is gamers with little experience painting minis, although I hope that experienced painters can take something away as well.

Our methods and materials:

There are much better places to learn to paint minis than any tutorial I could write up (e.g., I spent a lot of time reading this website before I began), so I'll focus on choices I made when the internet didn't seem to be able to agree on one best method.

We used brush-on gray primer. It seemed to grip the mini and the paint well, and it didn't take too many coats to get the primer completely covered.

I had a really hard time deciding which paints to buy. I knew I wanted acrylic, but everybody with an opinion swears by a different brand of paint. I started with Testors Model Master paints and have since added a few bottles of Vallejo to my collection. I like both paints a lot, but they don't really like to combine together when mixing colors. I'll probably stick mostly to Vallejo in the future, in no small part because the squeeze bottles are so much easier to deal with than Testors' screw caps.

I played with a lot of washes (different ratios of water to color, adding soap vs. future floor finish vs. nothing to the water, ink vs. paint). In the end, my favorite method is to keep a mixture of 4 water and 1 part future floor finish on hand. I just mix a few drops of paint with perhaps 10 or 15 drops of the mixture. It seems to flow into the cracks pretty well without darkening the raised areas too much.

Per the suggestion given in this thread, after the pieces were painted and dried, I dipped them in non-diluted future floor finish and shook them off. Once dry, I dipped and shook them one more time. I haven't had enough time to say whether the pieces will stand up to chipping as a result, but it doesn't seem to have hurt anything at any rate.

We finished with a couple coats of Krylon Crystal Clear satin spray sealant. It took a little bit of the gloss away from the future floor finish, leaving just enough shine for our taste. Testors Dullcote was a bit too matte for the robots, and it left the surface a little rough to the touch.


Left to right: Hulk X90, Trundle bot, Spin bot, Twonky. I painted Twonky, my wife painted the other 3.

Suitability as a first project:

We found RoboRally's miniatures to be a great introduction to miniature painting. Neither my wife or myself have any appreciable experience with a paintbrush, nor had either of us ever painted a mini (ok, that's a little bit of a fib-- I painted a Reaper mini immediately before starting on the RoboRally pieces for a teensy bit of practice). The low number of minis to paint and relatively little detail on each mini (compared to our current project, Descent: Journeys in the Dark) kept the task from being too daunting. The great thing about only having 8 pieces to paint is that you don't have to work for months before you get to enjoy and show off your entry into the hobby.

Quality of practice:

We learned a lot while painting these pieces. If you want your robots to look a little weathered, you can get some good dry-brushing practice in. If you'd like each robot to have a distinct color, you could learn to mix paints instead of buying 8 different paint colors. The details are just enough to get a hand for painting the finer parts of a mini but not so many that you keep accidentally messing up one detail when you paint the one right next to it. The lack of things like hair, fur, clothes, etc held the rating back a little bit, as many of the other games that scream out to be painted have all these things in quantity.


Left to right: Squash bot, Hammer bot, Twitch, Zoom bot. I painted all 4 of these.

Time to finish painting: (fewer stars = less time)

Of course, I have little frame of reference for this category. I can tell you, though, that my practice Reaper mini took me a couple hours of work each night for 3-4 nights before I was happy with it (were I to repaint it now after what little experience I've got, I'd estimate about half to 3/4 as much time spent). Because the RoboRally minis are fairly small and don't have as much detail, each one took significantly less time. I'd estimate that my first piece, Squash bot, took me 3+ hours. By the end of the robots, we were taking less than 2 hours per robot.

Difficulty:

Again, my frame of reference is limited here, but with a little perseverance we had no problems getting things to look right. You should expect to paint over a few pieces if you have a hard time getting them to look just right, but I'd imagine that's a fairly common experience regardless of the pieces you start painting with. It was not too difficult to imagine what a piece would look like with different color schemes, which made it easier to choose my colors without too much trial and tribulation.


Unpainted robots at play.
Photo credit:
Chris Norwood
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Improvement on ease or flow of gameplay:

I found that the painted pieces make the game easier to play. Color coding is much easier to pick up on than general-shape-of-metallic-blob, so when somebody asked me to move his or her piece, I had an easier time finding and moving the piece quickly. I also had an easier time planning out my turn in my head, as I could better pick out my piece when it was sitting amongst a few other robots. I could re-orient myself almost immediately upon looking from the board to my hand and back to the board again.

Determining which direction your robot is facing is a little easier as well. The body of the piece is usually easier to see clearly than the base, so having a clearly distinct front, side, and back to each piece helps you figure out where you're headed a bit more quickly.

Improvement on enjoyability:

Injecting some bright colors into the game makes a big difference in how the game looks when laid out. Handling drab, silvery pieces is not as exciting as picking up your bright red Twonky and backing him up one space onto the last flag for the win. Perhaps the biggest improvement, though, is that it actually immerses the players in the game more (in my group, anyway). Most of the people I play with, when shot by a robot from all the way across the board, might yell, "Curses! Who shot me?" However, with some color to make robot identification and player pairing easier, we typically heard something more like "Argh, Geoff! Forget the flags-- I'm coming for you," with a menacing fist shake. That really ups the spirit of competition and makes for some good laughs, which is precisely why I play board games in the first place. Anything that simply makes a game more fun is definitely worth it, in my opinion.


Our painted robots at play.

Artistic choices we made that I liked:

We mixed some silver into the main colors for each robot to make them look metallic. The boards look somewhat industrial to me, which ties in nicely with the more realistic look provided by the metallic bodies. Meanwhile, the goofy cartoony lasers and gears scattered around the board complement the bright, fun colors we used for each robot. I experimented with darker colors on the first mini or two, but in the end we decided it took away from the silly fun that RoboRally provides. I'm glad that I painted over them with brighter colors, because it let us represent both the realistic and goofy aspects of the game's art with our pieces.

We thought pretty hard about which colors to use for each robot, and we wound up with pairings that my wife and I are both really happy with. This is entirely subjective, and the many images of painted robots on the Geek with different color schemes also all look great. All the same, we're pleased with our decisions.

We used an off-color here and there in some of the robots. For example, Hammer bot is our yellow robot, but he's accented heavily with Squash bot's orange. I liked how that tied a few of the robots together and added a little cohesion to our color choices.

Artistic choices we made that I might change:

There's really only one change I can think of -- As noted above, the paint makes it easier to tell which direction you are facing at a glance. Having an arrow or a patch of color at the front of the bases would have made that quicker still. I wanted to have nice simple bases for the pieces, but I wish I had made that one small change.

If I had to replace the game, would I paint the pieces again?

Definitely. It was a fun game to paint that wouldn't take too long to paint again, and it really puts some finish on the overall play experience. It's still the same game, so if you didn't like it with unadorned pieces it won't change anything, but if I played RoboRally with unpainted pieces again, I'd miss the pizzazz.

Overall rating for painting the RoboRally robots:

I'd recommend that anybody who enjoys painting minis should paint their RoboRally set, and interested parties who haven't painted minis before might try their hands at it with RoboRally. The robots really lend themselves to creative paint jobs in fun colors that could contrast with the tone of a lot of other games with minis.
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dustin boggs
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looks good, try taking a file to the flash edges though, it will really crisp up the look
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Geoff
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Yeah, I used some fine grit sandpaper on the Descent minis I've painted. In some places it was ok, but in some it was a bit harsh. I need to pick up a small file before I do any more.
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Randall Bart
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Actually Hasborg should paint your robots, but if they are still selling them unpainted then you need to paint them yourself.
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James Burns
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I have the old pewter minis from the 2nd ed. I did paint them with an oil based paint and no primer they came out really shiny. I then just played with them as they were and the paint started to chip off. I just left them as is for it looks like they are beat the heck up for running around the factory floor.
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Randall Bart
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j-train1 wrote:
I just left them as is for it looks like they are beat the heck up for running around the factory floor.

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Robots should look banged up. They should not have shiny, perfect paint jobs.
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Chris
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This is a nice how-to-choose-paint guide and they look so much better than the black wash Hasbro gave them but it doesn't seem much like a review. Try using the general forum for this sort of thing.
 
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Geoff
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Chris C wrote:
This is a nice how-to-choose-paint guide and they look so much better than the black wash Hasbro gave them but it doesn't seem much like a review. Try using the general forum for this sort of thing.


I appreciate the comment, but I (respectfully) disagree. A review of a board game is a critical look at some aspect or aspects of a game. Some reviews include as much detail as they can about every aspect of the game. Another review may focus on playing a 3-5 player game with only two players. Such a review would be appropriate in the variants forum as well, but I don't think that makes it inappropriate for the reviews forum. In the case of my article, I'm reviewing the pieces as they come out of the box. They came out of my box as silver plastic pieces, and I felt that needed some sprucing up. After the fact, I wanted to share with like-minded individuals whether they might want to do the same. To do so, I explained how much time and effort the game's pieces took to paint and how I felt the time spent affected gameplay.

I didn't say it this way in the article, but the intent is an in-depth review of (some of) the components in the game and if/how you might improve them to enhance your gaming experience. To me, that's a subset of the normal intent of a review, which is usually an in-depth discussion of the rules, components, strategy, etc of a game, so that you can decide if/how you might add it to your collection to enhance your gaming experience.

I will concede that not all of the sections in my article are unique to RoboRally's game pieces or gameplay, but I felt like a little frame of reference regarding my choices and methods could still be of value to some readers.

I don't doubt that others will disagree with my viewpoint, but there's my reasoning.
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Steven Shaw
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I'm a terrible painter, but I painted the bases of the robots so I could tell them apart. So far, it works.
 
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dustin boggs
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v0lrath wrote:
I'm a terrible painter, but I painted the bases of the robots so I could tell them apart. So far, it works.


great avatar and nice microbadge laugh
 
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Geoff
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v0lrath wrote:
I'm a terrible painter, but I painted the bases of the robots so I could tell them apart. So far, it works.


That would be a much easier way to get some of the same results that I mention in the review. I'm enjoying my painted robots, but even a quicker approach like that is undoubtedly functional.

And as the poster above me, I love the Mr. Saturn microbadge.
 
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Thank you both! I made a custom Mr. Saturn graphic to use at the favicon on my blog (which happens to be named something Mr. Saturn-related): www.ihavenosomething.net

My latest post is also RoboRally related... what do you know?
 
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j b Goodwin

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I just played my first games (and my first tournament) of RR last weekend at PrezCon, and immediatedly ordered a copy when I got home. The set I played with at the con was painted, with the paint worn off the edges from lots of play handling. This gave the 'bots the look of worn machinery that's had a lot of crashes and injuries. This is the effect I want. I'm going to paint mine, wear some of the paint off, then clearcoat them.
 
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Melanie Chauvin
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We totally painted our robots too! I can't believe this game has been out since 1994, I thought it was new!

Here's my full review of the game:
http://www.stuffedashes.com/2010/03/11/review-of-robo-rally/

Enjoy!
 
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Rick Steeves
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Heh, that was probably me you played with. Glad to add more - see you at Prezcon next year.

Rick

swandive78 wrote:
I just played my first games (and my first tournament) of RR last weekend at PrezCon, and immediatedly ordered a copy when I got home. The set I played with at the con was painted, with the paint worn off the edges from lots of play handling. This gave the 'bots the look of worn machinery that's had a lot of crashes and injuries. This is the effect I want. I'm going to paint mine, wear some of the paint off, then clearcoat them.
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Rick W
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After reading this review, we went ahead and painted our bots. This was my first time painting miniatures, however I'm pretty happy with the results.

Some things that we did differently from Geoff were:
- we carefully planned the looks beforehand. First we took photos of the robots, then painted on the colors in photoshop using their personality profiles as a guide. Thus Twitch has a bad paint job due to his paranoid twitching, Trundlebot is a tough old veteran who looks a bit like a piece of rusted naval weaponry, etc.
- we divided the bases into left (black) and right (white) to aid gameplay.
- we gave the robots a splotchier, dirtier, more washed look. This was partly by accident as I added too much water to the paint at first, but we liked the look and stuck with it.
- I painted all the robots at once, but over the course of about 3 days. Generally I had 2-4 colors in the palette at a time and would apply dabs to several robots where appropriate. Everything was derived from red, yellow, blue, black, and white.

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Geoff
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rwestera wrote:
After reading this review, we went ahead and painted our bots. This was my first time painting miniatures, however I'm pretty happy with the results.


As well you should be-- I love your work. Thanks for sharing it!

Quote:
- we carefully planned the looks beforehand. First we took photos of the robots, then painted on the colors in photoshop using their personality profiles as a guide.


Great idea. Funny, I did something like this for our living room when we were choosing a rug and paint colors, but I never even thought to do this for my miniatures. I'm going to have to borrow that idea when I'm having a tough time deciding how to paint a mini.

Quote:
Thus Twitch has a bad paint job due to his paranoid twitching, Trundlebot is a tough old veteran who looks a bit like a piece of rusted naval weaponry, etc.


Genius. I love it.

Quote:
- we divided the bases into left (black) and right (white) to aid gameplay.


I wish I had thought to do this. I may go back and add a little paint to my bases eventually.

Thanks again for posting! I'm adding you as a geekbuddy, and hopefully I'll see some more pictures of painted minis from you
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Lori
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Brilliant! I've seen people paint the tips of the bases to make it easy to find which way the robot is facing, but have never seen this kind of left/right base painting before. That's very clever. I would be tempted to do it in red and green and match it to the way red and green gears turn, though that would probably limit the color schemes that would then go well for the robot body more than black/white did.
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