How to Have Fun Splitting a Reaper Bones Kickstarter

Note: I originally wrote this post after receiving my Bones 1 miniatures in 2013. An update for later Bones projects is at the end.


I’m picky about what Kickstarters I decide to back. At first, the Reaper Bones Kickstarter didn’t interest me. There weren’t enough mini’s I wanted for the price, and risk, of backing early. However, by the second week it had shot past being a good deal, to WTF could I do with all of those miniatures?

My good friend and college roommate, Matt, felt the same way. I suggested buying into the Kickstarter together and splitting the minis. We would spread them out on a table and take turns selecting one. I joked, “it will be good to see which mini gets picked last.” My friend agreed, and we pledged for the large Vampire Box and extras like Mind You Manors and the Spider Centaurs for our draft. We each got a few things, such as Keladrax and the giants, for ourselves as well.

While we waited for our miniatures to arrive, we talked trash and strategized. I didn’t want to start by picking the minis I wanted most. Matt wasn’t likely to be interested in the Sci Fi minis. So, I wanted to snag some of the great fantasy ones we were both interested in. Otherwise, all I would get stuck with the dregs. Matt adopted a more aggressive strategy. He went for a few that he didn’t want, but I did, to use as hostages for trading fodder.

The Draft

When draft day arrived, there was so much anticipation that another friend of ours flew in from Canada to hang out for the weekend and watch the draft. Matt won the die roll for first pick — selecting the male storm giant. Without hesitating, I drafted the female spider demon (Lolth) and we were off.

Things drifted. There were moments of excitement and disappointment, and many of the choices were agonizing. But the fun kind of agony. Like a tense board game when you are planning a comeback. Each choice matters during the game, and at the end everybody walks away laughing.

The larger monsters went early, then the better character figures. After the first hour, we couldn’t see much progress. The pace quickened from there, and we conscripted the bulk of the miniatures during the second hour. I got most of the Sci Fi miniatures for an upcoming Traveller game, while my friend gathered more monsters and fantasy characters. By the end of the third hour, we were down to the least desirable minis. Some townsfolk, dungeon dressing, Astrid, the anachronistic bard, and some goblins were all that remained. Twenty minutes later, only a single miniature remained — the swarm of bats.

Looking back on it, the draft enhanced Reaper Bones Kickstarter for me. Sure, I enjoyed getting a good deal and I’m having fun painting them. But spending a long afternoon with friends; playing a game of selecting miniatures was the highlight.

We are looking forward to Reaper Bones Kickstarter II and hoping for another draft day in 2014. Comment below with your favorite part of the Kickstarter experience, or if you think you might try a draft next time.

The Bones 3 Spread
The Bones 3 Spread


Since this article was written, there have been four more Reaper Bones kickstarters, and a fifth one is currently in progress. We have continued holding drafts through all of these — though COVID has prevented us from drafting Bones 5. Hopefully it will finally come together memorial day weekend.

The format for the draft has remained largely the same. A third friend from Canada has joined us, and we’ve found that three makes it even more fun. You appreciate what you have if you have to “work” a little to do it.

If you’ve got a minute, watch the time lapse video of the Bones 3 draft. If you think this is something you might try, let us know in the comments. Finally, watch this space in late May for a break down and another time lapse video from our Bones 5 draft.

The Reaper Bones Kickstarter 4 Spread
The Reaper Bones Kickstarter 4 Spread

Giant Crystal Forest Sci Fi Terrain

Many of you had comments and questions about the giant crystal forest that appeared as sci fi terrain in some of my recent Beyond the Gates of Antares pictures. I’ve been wanting to blog again, and seemed an ideal subject.

Building the crystals is straightforward, and a good use for any scrap foam you have.


First, let’s take a quick look at how to use these crystals in a game of Beyond the Gates of Antares. If you have suggestions for other rule sets, post them in the comments below.

Crystal Forest

Giant crystals, or clusters of them, grow out of the ground like trees. The ground between them has filled in, allowing easy passage for troops.

LOS: Dense Terrain COVER: Res+2 DIFFICULT: NO/Impassible to large models

I treat the area under my crystal bridge as open, and passable to anything that fits under it.


  • Box Cutter — You want the kind with the blade you can snap pieces off of to keep it sharp. This type of box cutter can extend the blade a few inches so you can cut through thick foam.
  • Coping saw, scroll saw, or band saw — You only need this if you want to cut out base shapes
  • Paint brushes — I have collected a set of crappy brushes I use for painting terrain


  • Scraps of pink and blue foam in different thicknesses. I used 3/4”, 1” and 2”.
  • Pre-cut bases or thin board to cut your own — I use 1/8” (3mm) hardboard, though I plan to try foamed PVC next time I buy base materials.
  • Aleene’s Tacky Glue and/or medium viscosity super glue
  • Stiff wire or long pins with tiny heads
  • Craft Acrylic Paint — White and appropriate “gem” colors
  • Whatever you use for finishing the bases of your terrain

Cutting Crystals

Don’t measure. Like many of the scenery projects, you don’t want things to be perfectly straight and even. Otherwise, it won’t look natural. Take your time eyeballing measurements, though. Things shouldn’t be too far off.

Here are the basic steps to cutting the crystal shapes.

  1. Cut strips of foam so they are roughly as wide as the foam is thick. That is, if you are cutting 1” foam, you want to end up with strips that are approximately 1” x 1”. At this point the length of the strips doesn’t matter.
  2. Now you want to cut your strips to lengths slightly longer than you want them — later steps will make them shorter. Make sure you cut a variety of lengths in all different thicknesses. You don’t want your 2” crystals to all be longer than your 3/4” crystals.
  3. Stand your foam strips on end and cut the corners off to make them octagonal. Don’t worry about precision geometry, you just want them to be octagonal-ish. Use a fresh, sharp blade here to help prevent tearing little pieces out of your foam.
  4. Finally, you need to cut the tops. Don’t sharpen them with lots of little cuts like you are whittling a marshmallow stick. Also, don’t try to make the facets from the body of your crystal come together at a perfect point. Look at pictures of real crystals and you notice that there are often 2 or 3 larger facets, and a number of smaller ones connecting them. The tips are never flat, but they are often edges and they are rarely centered over the body of the crystal.


you are aiming to make crystal forest scatter terrain, keep in mind that the crystal clusters will be wider than tree trunks. You will need to make bigger bases than you think. Be sure uo can move troops between the crystals. I have a pile of laser cut plywood bases that somebody gave me I try to use. If I can’t find the shape I want, I’ll cut it out on my scroll saw.

You could also base individual crystals, or crystal clusters, to use as obstacles. Again, just make sure your bases are large enough for the crystals you are intending to mount on them.

Mounting the Crystals

Mounting the crystals on the base is straight forward. I used Aleene’s tacky glue for most of the crystals. A few of the them didn’t want to stay where I put them with the tacky glue, so I used super glue for those. I also used wire to pin troublesome crystals to their more stable neighbors.

  1. Looking at your base, decide where you want your clusters of crystals to be. Select one of your larger crystals to be an anchor for this cluster. You can cut the bottom so that the crystal stands at a slight angle. Don’t put too much of an angle on it. These anchor crystals should stand straight for greatest stability.
  2. While you wait for the glue to set, cut bottoms of the remaining crystals. You want some to be nearly straight up and down. Others should be at more interesting angles.
  3. Glue your more vertical foam crystals around the anchor crystals. Line up the flat faces next to each other, but make positioning around the anchor crystal somewhat random. You don’t want them spread evenly around the anchor. The anchor doesn’t even have to be completely surrounded.
  4. Finally, attach your remaining crystals around the outside of the cluster. As always, avoid patterns. The crystals won’t all be pointing straight out. Some could cross over each other. You might have difficulty getting a few of these crystals to stay in place while they dry. Use pins and superglue it will work out.

Painting the Crystals

There are lots of tutorials out there for painting miniature gems. I took a simpler approach when painting my crystals, but if you want to take the time, you can get amazing results with these techniques.

You can use cheap, craft acrylic paint for most terrain projects. I bought a ton of it cheap a few years ago when a local craft store when out of business. You only need a couple colors for this project, white, and a rich gem color. I think the color I used was actually called sapphire blue.

  1. Put a healthy dollop of your gem color and another, smaller, dollop of white on a piece of palette paper, or parchment paper. Make sure they are separated by a couple of inches.
  2. Using your brush, pull some of the paint from each color towards the other and mix a little where they meet in the middle. You should have a range of colors between your dark gem color and white. You want quite a bit of your dark color to remain and just a little of the pure white.
  3. I found it easier to paint one crystal at a time. Starts by painting the bottom your dark color and carry that up 2/3 to 3/4 of the way to the top of the crystal.
  4. Take a lighter shade and paint down from the top. The higher the top is, the lighter you want it.
  5. As you get near the dark color, you can use the intermediary shades, and a little water to wet blend the transition between the colors. Longer crystals want a more gradual transition. Don’t sweat this too much. Just avoid having a sharp line between your light and dark shades.
  6. When the body color of the crystal is dry you want to highlight the edges with a side brushing technique. Load your brush with paint and gently slide the side of the brush up the edges of the crystals. Use the lighter color near the bottom of the crystal, and your white on the top.

Finishing the Bases

The final step is to finish the bases around and between the crystal clusters. Use whatever techniques you want to make the crystals fit into the rest of your scenery. I’ll cover the Mars basing techniques I use in a later article. You could also use more regular rocks, desert, or jungle vegetation. Another idea is to model the crystals coming out of buildings or street terrain as if they exploded out of the ground during a Sci Fi cataclysm.

If you think these giant crystals as neat, you might want to take a look at the Cave of Crystal Giants in Mexico. This natural cavern full of giant selenium crystals was found in a mine. The heat and humidity of the cave make it very difficult to explore. Sounds like a good job for Boromites!

I’d love to see what you all do with these ideas. Please, post pictures to your work in the comments blow along with any ideas you have for improving on my techniques

Mars Ground Effects for 28mm Miniature Wargaming

NASA photo showing blueish Martian rocks against the red dusty background.

A while ago, I posted an article about the giant crystal forests I made for Beyond the Gates of Antares. People asked a few questions about the grit I used on my Mars bases and the rock colors.

What are We Trying to Replicate

I want to replicate two different features common in Mars pictures. First is fine, red soil (called regolith) that seems to be everywhere. The red color comes from abundant iron oxide — yes, Mars is red because it is rusty. The second feature is the dark, polished rocks that seem to be abundant. I believe these are mostly basalt (cooled lava). The wind-blown soil wears down the one side and polishes it to an almost glossy sheen.

Making Martian Regolith


Fortunately, Woodland Scenics makes the perfect material for Martian regolith — iron ore ballast. That is the same material as the Martian soil. You will need all three grain sizes and a couple other colors for reasons I will explain later. Here is the materials list.

  • Woodland Scenics Iron Ore Fine Ballast
  • Woodland Scenics Iron Ore Medium Ballast
  • Woodland Scenics Iron Ore Coarse Ballast
  • Woodland Scenics Buff Medium Ballast
  • Woodland Scenics Lump Coal
  • Empty shaker

Early Experiments

My first thought for using the grit was to use mostly the coarse grit and use the fine grit to mark trails or other special things. That ended up looking terrible. There were too big issues. The first was that there wasn’t enough visual contrast between the grit sizes on the board, it all seemed to blend together. Additionally, the grit was too plain. One of those cases where even though the material was realistic, it didn’t look realistic.

I experiment for a while and discovered that mixing the grain sizes of iron oxide together was better. Then I tried mixing in some other colors of ballast and learned that small amounts of a lighter color (buff) an a darker color (coal) made it pop like I wanted.

Sample terrain pieces with the regolith applied.

The Formula

In your shaker mix the following colors, it seems to be better to mix the light and dark colors last.

  1. 1 part coarse iron oxide
  2. 2 parts medium iron oxide
  3. 1 part fine iron oxide
  4. Shake well to see if you have a decent mix of grains. Adjust if necessary.
  5. 1/4 part buff ballast
  6. 1/4 part lump coal
  7. Shake well and sprinkle onto some paper to see how it looks.
  8. Add very small amounts of buff and coal if necessary (it is much harder to add more iron oxide if you add too much buff/coal)

That is really all there is too it. Apply it however you would any other grit. I apply it over a brownish-gray substrate (Reaper Ashen Brown, see below). I do not paint this grit — it looks super as it is.

In progress game showing off the Martian terrain.

The Rocks

If you examine pictures of the wind swept rocks scattered around, you will notice a few features. They are all sloped more on the side of the prevailing winds. The are also glossy and tinged blue again on the side facing into the prevailing wind. This does not seem to apply to cliff faces or other forms of bedrock, just smaller rocks and boulders scattered around.


I use Reaper Paints, which I think is unusual in wargaming. If people want to post matching colors from other lines in the comments below that would be helpful.

  1. Rocks, these can be natural, cast from plaster or whatever. Try to find ones that have a more pronounced slope on one side.
  2. Dark primer, preferably black
  3. Reaper Dark Elf Shadow (09163)
  4. Reaper HD Ashen Brown (29831)
  5. Reaper Ashen Blue (09057)
  6. Matt coating
  7. Some sort of brushable, clear gloss coating. (I use Future Floor Wax, which is really gloss acrylic paint).

Making the Rocks

Note, that if you want rocks and regolith on the same piece, and you probably do, then you want to do the rocks first.

  1. Glue your rocks down paying attention to get the sloped sides facing the same direction. This is your windward side.
  2. Prime with your dark color and allow to dry
  3. Paint the entire rock with the dark elf shadow. Be sure to get in all the little nooks and crannies
  4. If you want, you could apply a thick black ink wash to darken the deep areas further.
  5. When that is dry, apply a heavy dry brush of the Ashen brown over the entire rock.
  6. You can paint the rest of the ground that you are going to cover with regolith that same ashen brown.
  7. Apply a moderate dry brush of the ashen blue only on the windward side. It totally looks like the wrong shade of blue — just trust me it will be fine.
  8. Apply your regolith between the rocks with PVA or whatever you normally use.
  9. When that is dry, apply your matt coat and any other sealer you want to use.
  10. Finally lightly dry brush the windward side with the gloss coating. The gloss coating is thin so do this carefully. Make a single light, pass on the windward side and let it dry. If it isn’t glossy enough, do another single, light pass and let it dry. If you brush back and forth like you usually do when dry brushing, the gloss will fill all the crevasses and ruin the effect.
  11. As a remind, do not apply any coating after dry brushing the gloss.

If you have any comments, suggestions or improvements, put them in the comments below.