How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars

Do you play board games with miniatures? Tabletop games with miniatures are especially fun because they add an extra level of tactile immersion. Even better, of course, are board games with painted miniatures. Of all the games that you can enhance with painted miniatures, Cthulhu Wars (Peterson Games) is a particular stand-out!

  • In this article, I show you how to paint “Nyarlathotep”, the crawling chaos character in the Cthulhu Wars Board Game.

  • Cthulhu Wars first appeared as a Kickstarter crowd-funded project

  • Cthulhu Wars has received great reviews throughout the board game community for its gameplay, high-production quality of miniatures, and embrace of the beloved Lovecraftian Universe

Continue reading to see how I painted a model from this great board game!


Who is a “Nyarlathotep”?

Sounds like something you cough up in morning….err nope.

Nyarlathotep is a character in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as a recurring creature in other works in the Cthulhu universe.

Cthulhu is an ageless inter-dimensional being that is beyond our ability as humans to understand. To attempt to describe Cthulhu with our language would be impossible, and for those that try will be a sure path to insanity.

To learn more about Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep, check out this lore.


How to Paint Nyarlathotep from the Cthulhu Wars Board Game

1. Prepare the model

Clean the model so any model-release or other substances do not contaminate the surface of the model. For speed and convenience, you can use an ultrasonic cleaner as I have, or simply wash with soap and water.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - Unpainted models from Cthulhu Wars
Unpainted models from Cthulhu Wars

For colors, I use the basic studio scheme with my own style. That is, I’m going to paint Nyarlathotep with my “feel” for what I envision this model should look like on the tabletop.

I know that a blue hue will help distinguish this model from the other in-game factions, so I keep this in mind as I decide how to paint Nyarlathotep.

2. Prime the model

For speed and simplicity, I start with a black Vallejo Surface Primer. I use an airbrush to spray the primer over the entire model. I make sure the coat is even and smooth.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 2. Prime the model - Base coating with my favorite color from the Scalecolor paint line: Innsmouth Blue (how appropriate!)
Base coating with my favorite color from the Scalecolor paint line: Innsmouth Blue (how appropriate!)

RELATED: TOP 10 AIRBRUSHES FOR PAINTING MINIATURES

An airbrush helps keep the primer application quick as well as consistent. I highly-recommend you use an airbrush or spray can type primer for all your miniature and modeling needs.

(Of course, I don’t abide by this recommendation all the time…shame on me).

3. Basecoat with your primary color

Painting Cthulhu Board Game models will follow the same steps.

After priming, decide on your first major color. This is the color that will coat most of the surface area of the miniature.

I tend to start with a mid-tone color first.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 3. Basecoat with your primary color - Base coat finished - lovely weirdness!
Base coat finished – lovely weirdness!

Then, I will add shadows and highlights later. A mid-tone color is the paint that has the “middle” brightness value over the surface you’re painting.

I painted my basecoat using Scalecolor Innsmouth Blue.

I use my favorite workhorse brush, a Citadel medium base coat brush, for most of the work here (95% of this entire model actually).

4. Block-in shadows and highlights

I love this part of painting models.

For me, blocking in the colors is not only easy, it is relaxing. I don’t need to worry about being too clean, or crossing the lines per say.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - Shading on this model consists of a mixture of two paints: a dark green and gray color
Shading on this model consists of a mixture of two paints: a dark green and gray color

Instead, the goal here is to paint the large areas of shadows and highlights. You’re trying to create an overall sense of where color and values should go.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - Shadows added to the deeper recesses on the model. You can see where the shadows fall underneath the model as well.
Shadows added to the deeper recesses on the model. You can see where the shadows fall underneath the model as well.

You can explore how things work together as a whole at this step.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - Highlights added with the same base coat paint over the shadow areas.
Highlights added with the same base coat paint over the shadow areas.

I used two paints mixed in various ratios for adding shadows: Scalecolor Rlyeh Green and Negro Grey

(You can get the entire Scalecolor paint set that I used here).

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - You can see how the shadow colors and highlights work together in this close-up.
You can see how the shadow colors and highlights work together in this close-up.

After adding shadows, I bring the base coat paint (Innsmouth Blue) back into the picture to restore the areas that I will highlight later.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - I use a fairly thin paint to add sequential layers on the model
I use a fairly thin paint to add sequential layers on the model

You can see this progress in the photos.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - Zoomed out, you can see that I use a dry palette for this work. No wet palettes here!
Zoomed out, you can see that I use a dry palette for this work. No wet palettes here!

Again, using the larger base brush I apply these colors in select areas. Shadows in general go into the recesses, and the highlights sit on the raised areas of the Nyarlathotep model.

What a beautifully detailed model!

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 4. Block-in shadows and highlights - High resolution image of the model at this step. The base coat is finished with blocks of color to accentuate some of the details.
High resolution image of the model at this step. The base coat is finished with blocks of color to accentuate some of the details.

The video shows you how I get to this to step from priming and base-coating.

5. Add other colors in “blocks” (speed painting tip)

A trick I love to use when I want to paint something fast is to lay down large areas of color in opaque layers.

I don’t glaze at this point. That would be a waste of time.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 5. Add other colors in "blocks" (speed painting tip) - I wanted a brighter and different color for the tip of the tentacles.
I wanted a brighter and different color for the tip of the tentacles.

Just slap on the large blocks of color where you think they should go. You can blend paint later.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 5. Add other colors in "blocks" (speed painting tip) - I applied the light purple color in thin layers in chunky "blocks" where I wanted the highlights to go.
I applied the light purple color in thin layers in chunky “blocks” where I wanted the highlights to go.

This step continues to help me see where paint color should go on Nyarlathotep.

I see the tail as a brighter tone, a light grey/purple color, which I paint with Scalecolor Lendanis Grey.

The exception with this approach is that you must assume you’re not going to paint details until much later, if you do decide to do that at all.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 5. Add other colors in "blocks" (speed painting tip) - You can see the "blocks" of color. The hard edges between colors will blend together in later steps when I use wet-blending and glazing techniques.
You can see the “blocks” of color. The hard edges between colors will blend together in later steps when I use wet-blending and glazing techniques.

Blending these blocks of color will use wet-blending (see more details about wet-blending see this article about how to wet-blend).

RELATED: 8 MUST-KNOW PAINT BLENDING TECHNIQUES FOR PAINTING MINIATURES AND MODELS

An important tip for painting in blocks is to use good quality paint that has good coverage. You want to apply paint layers in quick successive layers, without streaks.

6. Blend the blocks of color

You can use wet-blending or other methods of blending paint.

For speed, wet-blending for the practiced veteran miniature painter is probably one of the fastest ways to blend blocks of color together.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 5. Add other colors in "blocks" (speed painting tip) - Color blocks help you see where things are going. This is a fast way of envisioning the "big picture" of your miniature painting. I love using good quality model paints that can coat layers underneath without a lot of work. Here, I'm using Scalecolor model paints.
Color blocks help you see where things are going. This is a fast way of envisioning the “big picture” of your miniature painting. I love using good quality model paints that can coat layers underneath without a lot of work. Here, I’m using Scalecolor model paints.

Check out this video for how to wet blend two blocks of color using wet-blending.

For painting Nyarlathotep, I used wet-blending in the various areas to create the paint transitions across the entire model. Because the model is fairly large, I was able to work fairly easily with this technique.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 6. Blend the blocks of color - I slowly blend zones of color "block" together using wet-blending (see video above). You can see the transitions are still a bit rough.
I slowly blend zones of color “block” together using wet-blending (see video above). You can see the transitions are still a bit rough.
How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 6. Blend the blocks of color - With glazing, I will try to smooth these blending transitions together. This process can be slow, but the more time you spend glazing, the smoother your final result will be.
With glazing, I will try to smooth these blending transitions together. This process can be slow, but the more time you spend glazing, the smoother your final result will be.
How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 6. Blend the blocks of color - Here's a fully blended tentacle tip. This is essentially a mixture of the base coat color, Innsmouth Blue, with the light purple color shown earlier.
Here’s a fully blended tentacle tip. This is essentially a mixture of the base coat color, Innsmouth Blue, with the light purple color shown earlier.

On a smaller model, you may want to use layering and glazing to blend colors together. See another example of this painting approach here.

To protect the model after all the work I did blending the paint, I apply a dull coat varnish. I use this as a “bookmark”.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 6. Blend the blocks of color - Best varnish for painting miniatures! Testors Dullcote
Best varnish for painting miniatures! Testors Dullcote

7. Add details and accent colors

At this point, you’ve blended your blocks of color. You’re still probably looking for a smoother finish on Nyarlathotep.

Keep reading to see how glazing looks to further smooth out the transitions between colors.

At this point, I have painted most of the major surfaces with the main color (in this case blue).

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 7. Add details and accent colors - Using an off-white paint color, I add the whites of the eyes. These are in the middle of the body and hand of Nyarlathotep. Weird!
Using an off-white paint color, I add the whites of the eyes. These are in the middle of the body and hand of Nyarlathotep. Weird!

I paint Nyarlathotep’s eyes with white and black paint. I paint the mouth opening in the chest and the slit down the middle of his head-tail with a flesh-tone.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 7. Add details and accent colors - Here's what the model looks like with the eyes painted. A small black dot in the middle of each eye really makes the eye come alive (and the entire model for that matter).
Here’s what the model looks like with the eyes painted. A small black dot in the middle of each eye really makes the eye come alive (and the entire model for that matter).

In general, I’m looking to paint with warmer colors to add temperature contrast to the model. This helps the miniature “pop”.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 7. Add details and accent colors - I base the mouth and slit on Nyarlathotep with a flesh colored paint.
I base the mouth and slit on Nyarlathotep with a flesh colored paint.

Because I’ve already blended most of the colors I want on the main skin surfaces of the miniature, I’m careful not to stray onto these areas with the other detail colors, e.g., flesh paint, or white from the eyes.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 7. Add details and accent colors - I'm careful at this step not to go over the edges of each element. I don't want to mess up the steps that had come before.
I’m careful at this step not to go over the edges of each element. I don’t want to mess up the steps that had come before.

At this point, most people would be happy to stop and consider this finished. All that would be needed would be to paint the base and this would be ready for the tabletop.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 7. Add details and accent colors - A high resolution image of the work up until this step.
A high resolution image of the work up until this step.

But, as I’m looking for an extra level of quality, I continue with a few more steps.

8. Use washes and glazes for special effects

For the most part, I follow-through with special effects using glazes and washes.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - 8. Use washes and glazes for special effects - Citadel Glaze "Bloodletter" - a dying breed of paint
Citadel Glaze “Bloodletter” – a dying breed of paint

In the past, I used Citadel’s shades and washes. For flesh colors, I loved Citadel’s Bloodletter shade. But, these paints have been slowly phased out.

What do I recommend as an alternative to Citadel washes and shades?

My recommendation for alternative replacements for Citadel glazes and shades, like bloodletter, are Badger’s ghost tint paint lines.

Ghost tints are great replacements for Citadel glazes/washes, because they are highly vibrant acrylics with a similar level of transparency. They are not inks.

With some thinning with matte medium and water, Badger Ghost Tints can replicate most of the properties of Citadel glazes and washes.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - What do I recommend as an alternative to Citadel washes and shades? My recommendation for alternative replacements for Citadel glazes and shades, like bloodletter, are Badger's ghost tint paint lines.
Fresh blood ghost tint (Badger’s mintaire paint line). Ghost Tints are a viable replacement alternative for Citadel glazes and shades.

To use ghost tints, I tend to mix them with a bit of glazing medium or matte medium and a few droplets of water. This reduces the pigment strength a bit and provides me with a bit more control over the ghost tint.

The ratio I tend to use for most of my work with ghost tints for use as a glaze or wash is about (1:1:1) for ghost tint, glaze or matte medium, and water.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - I washed the flesh colored areas with my bloody glaze mix. This adds deeper contrast and vibrancy to these areas of the model.
I washed the flesh colored areas with my bloody glaze mix. This adds deeper contrast and vibrancy to these areas of the model.

This recreates a lot of the properties of the Citadel glazes and shades many of us are familiar with. Of course, your mile may vary (YMMV) with your preferred style of painting and experience.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - When I make my own glazes I use Golden Acrylic Glazing liquid (sometimes).
When I make my own glazes I use Golden Acrylic Glazing liquid (sometimes).

I apply this “Fresh Blood” ghost tint, glazing medium, and water mixture in fairly liberal quantities with my base coat brush. I deposit the fresh blood mixture into all the areas base coated with the flesh tone.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - The glazing and washing with the ghost tint mixture is still wet here. You can see how the mixture fills the recesses in the areas I base-coated with the flesh colored paint in the mouth and slit over the head.
The glazing and washing with the ghost tint mixture is still wet here. You can see how the mixture fills the recesses in the areas I base-coated with the flesh colored paint in the mouth and slit over the head.

Once this glaze is dry, I then pick out the highlights with the original base coat flesh tone paint.

This creates the effect you see below.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - Another angle showing the flesh/bloody areas of the model.
Another angle showing the flesh/bloody areas of the model.
How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - Glaze with fresh blood ghost tint in the fleshy areas, followed by highlights (after the glazed dries) on the raised edges using the original base coat flesh-colored paint.
Glaze with fresh blood ghost tint in the fleshy areas, followed by highlights (after the glazed dries) on the raised edges using the original base coat flesh-colored paint.
How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - A fun photo showing my painting desk with Nyarlathotep staring oddly into space...creepy.
A fun photo showing my painting desk with Nyarlathotep staring oddly into space…creepy.

9. Use glazes to smooth transitions between colors

In this piece, I wanted smooth transitions between colors.

To further blend these blocks of colors, e.g., highlights into mid-tones, and mid-tones into shadows, I created glazes using my base coat color, Innsmouth blue.

RELATED: USING HOMEMADE GLAZES ON A 3D PRINTED MINIATURE

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - My Jack Richeson ceramic palette. I love this thing!
My Jack Richeson ceramic palette. I love this thing!

I mixed my paint in a ratio of 1:3 paint to water. Using a soft brush, I applied thin layers of this more transparent paint solution over the sharp edges.

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - High resolution photo of the Nyarlathotep on my painting desk.
High resolution photo of the Nyarlathotep on my painting desk.

Depending on how smooth you want your blends, you can glaze for hours on end.

For Nyarlathotep, I worked on these transitions with close 3-5 layers between the sharp edges of color/values. You can see in the photographs below how this looks.

To complete the model, I painted the base gray, washed it with Nuln oil (one of the best washes for miniatures), and drybrushed it with the same base gray.

To protect the model, I varnished the entire piece using Testors Dullcote (see tips for best use).

And, there you have it!

How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars  - High resolution photo of the Nyarlathotep - painting miniatures
Boo!

Where to buy Cthulhu Wars?

In case you were wondering where you can buy Cthulhu Wars, you can check out the Peterson Games website.

You can also find Cthulhu Wars on Amazon.

More games in the HP Lovecraft Cthulhu Universe?

Cthulhu Wars is exciting and fun because of the giant miniatures. The rules are easy to learn, and the game is well-balanced with asymmetric gameplay (unlike Chess).

For many players, Cthulhu Wars resonates because it pushes all the right buttons for strategy gamers, and Lovecraft fans. If you’re looking for similar games to Cthulhu Wars with miniatures, take a look at these games.

Of these games, my top 3 favorite games in the Cthulhu Lovecraftian Universe are as follows:

  1. Cthulhu: Death May Die
  2. Mansions of Madness (version 2)
  3. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Final Word

I love board games with miniatures. Even more, I enjoy a board game with painted miniatures.

Here are the 9 basic steps for painting Nyarlathotep, a Cthulhu Wars miniature:

  1. Prepare the model
  2. Prime the model
  3. Base coat with your primary color
  4. Block-in shadows and highlights
  5. Add other colors in “blocks” (speed painting tip)
  6. Blend the blocks of color
  7. Add details and accent colors
  8. Use washes and glazes for special effects
  9. Use glazes to smooth transitions between colors

I hope you enjoyed this article on how to paint Nyarlathotep from the Cthulhu Wars. For more details, or if you have any questions, you can leave a comment below.

Happy painting!

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1 thought on “How to Paint Board Game Miniatures: Cthulhu Wars”

  1. Great stuff – love it!
    Thanks for talking us through the individual stages, for me, as a relative beginner, it’s very helpful.
    It’s interesting to see the different techniques people use and how they vary from one painter to another, and how they each develop their own style – I’m still working on mine, lol!

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