Sunday, 23 August 2015

Zombicide Murder of Crowz

Well, it hasn't taken me long to get back to my number one gaming passion - Zombicide. This time, however, I'm reviewing something decidedly far from the norm - zombie crows or crowz as Guillotine Games insist on calling them. In case you didn't know, the collective term for a group of crows is a murder of crows. I first became aware of zombie crows when I saw Resident Evil: Extinction. These figures make a great addition to Zombicide and could be used in many other games, either as zombie crowz or normal crows.
Stat-wise in Zombicide, Crowz are rather nasty. They can move up to three Zones per Activation, making them incredibly fast. However, they still only get one Activation per Turn, either moving or attacking. Murder of Crowz have the same Targeting Priority as Toxic Walkers (i.e. they come second on the chart after Survivors) and they only require one Wound to kill (note that is one Wound per stand not per crow!). Being flying pests, Murder of Crowz ignore ALL obstacles hindering or preventing movement when they move (including barricades, closed doors, Hole Zones, observation towers and walls). They also ignore game effects preventing them from staying in a Zone like Rubble or Security Zones.
The stand of six crowz is a thing of beauty. The sculptor has done a truly amazing job to fit six crowz on one base so cleverly. My reaction when I first saw them was, "WOW!" These are amongst the best sculpted figures I have ever seen. As for painting them, what could be easier? I primed them in black, painted the bases various shades of grey, painted the crowz matt black and added a dot of white for their eyes. It was time consuming simply because I painted all 20 stands in one go.
In the photo above Team Vampifan (remember them?) face a huge Murder of Crowz. Here I show the 15 stands of Crowz that come with the boxed set plus an extra 5 stands that I received as a Kickstarter free bonus for backing Zombicide Season 3. That makes for a total of 120 Crowz. Team Vampifan better hope they don't run out of ammo!
The Murder of Crowz expansion set is currently available from Amazon UK for £18.19.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Into the Unknown

Continuing this month's theme of diversity I bring you a rather unusual post. The seven 28mm scale figures I'm reviewing today have a few things in common. First of all, they are all gifts sent to me by followers of my blog. The first five are from Stefan Witthaus and the last two from Simon Moore aka BlaxKleric. Secondly, they are, for the most part, unknown to me. Thirdly, they are all usable in sci-fi games. Let's take a closer look at them.
These five figures from Stefan are all made of resin and I have no idea who made them or for what system or range. The tall (she's about 35mm tall) woman in red at the far left arrived without hands. She has the look of a fantasy heroine about her but she came with a sprue fitted with a  pair of hands holding MAC10 Machine Pistols, so that's what she is holding. She'll make for a fine survivor in any zombie apocalypse game.
Moving to the far right is an over-scaled female who could be a bounty hunter, mercenary, pirate or survivor. She'd also make a great perp for a Judge Dredd game. She is a one-piece casting armed with a huge assault rifle and a pistol. A number of grenades hang from her belt and she is smoking a cigar. I love this figure because she is so full of character and she must have one hell of a backstory. She reminds me of Reaper's Anime heroines from their Chronoscope range. Memo to self - must buy them soon!
The three triplets in the centre utilise the same body but come with separate arms. From left to right I armed the woman in yellow with a pair of Big Ass Pistols (they look like .50 calibre Desert Eagles); the woman in blue with a huge hammer (note the cybernetic hand holding it) and a Big Ass Machine Pistol; the woman in pink holds a hat with large feather (very swashbuckler) and a combi-sword/pistol. I added a huge antique-looking pistol in a holster on her right leg, which came with the figures. To add more diversity to them, I gave the woman in yellow a ponytail made out of Milliput and for the woman in blue I gave her long curly hair, also made out of Milliput. These three women have the look of Warhammer Empire nobles armed with a bewildering assortment of fantasy and sci-fi weapons. Curious! They are beautifully sculpted and very detailed. Once again, they could fill a wide variety of roles from good to bad.
Moving on to Simon's figures, I know that the one at the left is a Cyber Controller made by Black Tree Design as part of their extensive Doctor Who range. He is an early version of a Cyberman leader. He was very easy to paint. He does look a bit chunky and rather crude compared to the Cybermen shown on Doctor Who nowadays but I still like him. He has an old school charm about him. He retails for £2.75 on the BTD webstore, where you'll find him amongst the Second Doctor Who figures.
The figure on the right is more of a mystery to me. When Simon sent him to me he wrote, "The metal sci-fi trooper is a limited edition Survivor of the Plague by "Mantic Games". I believe there is a plastic version which is a different sculpt but this one only comes with the "Deadzone" boxed set apparently. I hoped you'd like him as (i) he's a survivor and (ii) you need something to keep your splendid-looking Plague monster company :-)" Looking on the Mantic Games "Deadzone" website, I can find no mention of him at all, so I guess he is no longer in production. I certainly do like him. My first thought when I initially saw him was that he was a specialist Souther Trooper from 2000AD's Rogue Trooper series. His helmet has the look of a Souther Trooper. I had no idea what colour to paint him in. Eventually, I decided on a rather neutral Foundry Granite with Foundry Bay Brown for the straps and backpack. He is a great figure and I can see a lot of uses for him, including as an assassin in a Judge Dredd game.
If anyone has any information on any of the figures other than the Cyber Controller, please do let me know. Finally, I would, once again, like to thank Stefan and Simon for their very generous gifts. Such kindness is always much appreciated.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Assorted Spectrum Ground Vehicles

The one thing I love above all else, of Gerry Anderson's TV series are the vehicles. All of his shows featured fantastic looking vehicles. Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was no different and featured a wide variety of vehicles that appeared on land, sea and air. I own models of three of the Spectrum ground vehicles and I'll review them all here.
The Maximum Security Vehicle (MSV) is the most secure vehicle in existence in the year 2068. It is designed to hold four people, usually V.I.P. personnel. It has a top speed of 250 mph and is armed with an electron ray cannon and a laser cannon, both front-mounted behind hidden hatches. Security forbids exposure of its construction.
In the event of an attack, the MSV is hermetically sealed by time-lock, only to open on the ultimate completion of its mission. In such conditions the MSV is air-pressurised, having its own air-filter console beneath the undercarriage. Stand-by motors fitted to the undercarriage are computer-controlled to be brought into operation in an emergency. It has hydraulic suspension independent of all wheels and special anti-heat flare windows.
My MSV is a die-cast model made by Dinky Toys and whilst it is not 28mm scale (its closer to 20mm scale), it still looks good when used alongside 28mm scale figures, like my CDG Captain Scarlet, as shown in all of my photos.
The MSV model measures 5.25" (13cm) in length, by 2.75" (7cm) in width and 2" (5cm) in height. The two side doors with the Spectrum logo open in a gull-wing fashion and a small step folds out. The model comes with a wooden crate containing bars of gold, which is stored inside (see last photo below).
The Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (SPV) is the main ground combat vehicle used by Spectrum. This three-seater vehicle has a top speed of 200 mph and is armed with an electron ray cannon, laser cannon and ground-to-air rocket launcher, all front-mounted behind hidden hatches. It is fitted with five pairs of wheels on either side (the three over the front, middle and rear axles constituting the main drive), with additional traction for mountainous environments provided by rear-mounted, hydraulically lowered caterpillar tracks.
Within the hermetically-sealed control compartment, the driver, co-driver and a passenger are seated backwards, facing the rear, to reduce the possibility of injury in the event of a crash; the driver is aided by a video monitor displaying (vertically-flipped) forward and rear views. It is equipped with ejector seats and radar. The hydrogenic power unit can be removed and re-assembled as a personal jet pack or other devices of comparable size (additional components for which are stored towards the back of the vehicle).
The SPV that I own is a die-cast model made by Product Enterprises, which I think is a better model than the one made by Dinky Toys. I do own a Dinky Toys SPV but it is buried away deep in a storage cupboard. The Dinky Toys version featured a working rocket launcher, which fired a plastic rocket from where the letters SPV are written on the front of the vehicle. The Product Enterprises version lacks this feature but is much better painted. As with the MSV, this model is closer to 20mm scale than 28mm scale, but that does not bother me unduly.
The SPV model measures 7" (17.5cm) in length by 3" (7.5cm) in width by 2.5" (6cm) in height. The door on the right side of the SPV springs open to reveal a seated Captain Scarlet figure (see previous photo above and the last photo below). The caterpillar tracks at the rear can be lowered.
The Spectrum Saloon Car (SSC) is sometimes known as the Spectrum Pursuit Car. It was designed for high-speed mobility for Spectrum personnel, capable of reaching speeds of 200 mph. It was specially made for Spectrum of the new lightweight metal, fleetonium. It can seat up to four people, has four wheel drive and is powered by a gas turbine located under the rear roof. The SSC is armed with a pair of machine guns, as well as an electron ray cannon and a laser cannon, all fitted behind hidden front-facing hatches.
The car is specially equipped with quartz headlights that permit the driver to see long distances in the dark. The vehicle also features transverse gearing, independent suspension and magnetic drums that provide powerful control braking by means of electromagnetically generated opposing magnetic fields. The road-tyre friction heat at high speeds is countered by wing intakes, while a central housing and rear-mounted fin maintain the vehicle's stability at speed. Safety airbags are fitted as standard.
My SSC vehicle is another die-cast model made by Dinky Toys. Once again, it is slightly under-scaled but not by much. There is a motor in the rear compartment, which, if you pull the car backwards on a flat surface will propel the SSC forward. Sadly, that stopped working years ago but I don't mind.
The SSC model measures 4.75" (12cm) in length by 1.75" (4.5cm) in width by 1.5" (4cm) in height. None of its doors open and its only special feature is the now defunct motor in the rear.
Here are a couple of group shots showing all three vehicles together, alongside Captain Scarlet for scale purposes. The photo below shows one of the open doors of the MSV along with its valuable cargo. The SPV has lowered its caterpillar tracks and its open door shows Captain Scarlet in the driver's seat, facing backwards.
Suffice to say, these models are long out of production but they frequently appear on eBay. Prices and condition does vary considerably. A quick search today showed a badly battered MSV going for 99p, whilst a Dinky Toys SPV with its original packaging is going for £99.99. I'd say £20-£30 is about the norm for any one of them. I have, however, just discovered a cheaper alternative for them. You can now get card models of them from Dave's Designs Star Carz If you want to see a review of them check out Colgar6's excellent review of them here -
I must admit that my passion for Captain Scarlet has been rekindled with these three posts of mine. I am very, very tempted to buy a trio of Angel Interceptor models. I used to own an Airfix 1/72 (or 20mm scale) plastic model of one but I have no idea what happened to it. Incredibly, after all these years, Airfix are still selling this model today. Will I succumb and buy three? Most likely! Watch this space.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Crooked Dice Games Spectrum Angels

There is a woman behind most great men, and behind every organisation there are great women who fight for success - to prove their equality in a world of men. Here, I review five exceptional women who belong to the global security organisation known as Spectrum. Following on from my previous post that reviewed twelve Crooked Dice Games not-Captain Scarlet figures I now turn the spotlight on the five ace pilots of Spectrum, known as the Angels. They fly the deadly Angel Interceptor jet fighter with extreme skill and courage. Note that the figures of the Angels are supplied headless. You get to choose which head to attach to which body.
At the far left of my first two photos is Destiny, leader of the Angels. Juliette Pontoin was born in Paris, France in 2038. Upon graduating from Rome University with degrees in telecommunications and weather control she joined the World Army Air Force. She worked in the Intelligence Corps, where she really excelled. The W.A.A.F. promoted her to Commanding Officer of the Women's Fighter Squadron and she soon became their ace pilot. When Spectrum heard of her faultless military career, they offered her the job of flying one of the Angel Interceptors. She accepted happily and quickly proved to be a totally efficient member of the Spectrum organisation. For my figure of Destiny I used the head with the twin ponytails to represent the blonde-haired Angel.
28-year old Symphony Angel was born in Iowa, USA as Karen Wainwright. She graduated to Yale University when she was 16 and attained the title "Student of the Year", before leaving with seven degrees. She was contacted by the Universal Secret Service and passed their comprehensive training course to become one of their top agents. For one particular U.S.S. mission she trained to become a pilot and discovered her true vocation. With five years active service under her belt she quit the U.S.S. and joined an airline company where she proved to be an outstanding pilot. Spectrum recognised she was just the type of person who would be a valuable asset to them. Signing onto Spectrum, Symphony became a happy and well-loved member. She normally keeps her long, light brown hair free but in the absence of a suitable head, I used the head with a pigtail for her figure. It is still a good match for her.
Born on a cotton farm in Atlanta, Georgia, Magnolia Jones, later to be known as Melody Angel, was the tomboy of her family. She was a rebellious youth and got expelled from school. After discovering a passion for flying she enrolled with the W.A.A.F. Achievement followed achievement and due to her iron nerve, she became the organisation's best test pilot. When she eventually left the W.A.A.F., she set up a luxury flying taxi service. Her amazing stamina and flying ability was soon noted by Spectrum. They asked her to become an Angel, a decision neither have had cause to regret. Melody's close cropped black hair was a perfect match for the short-haired head I used on her figure. However, I was not too keen on her holding a wrench, so I clipped the offending hand and tool off and replaced it with a hand holding a pistol.
Moving on to the helmeted pilots, I start with Harmony Angel. Chan Kwan, the only daughter of a wealthy flying-taxi owner was born in Tokyo, Japan in 2042. Educated in London then Tokyo University, she realised her only ambition was to fly. She spent all her spare time at the Tokyo Flying Club. She bought a second hand single-seater jet, which she redesigned and converted to her own requirements. Her goal was to fly solo around the world. Her first attempt ended in failure but six months later, she succeeded. When her father died later that year he left his flying-taxi business to her. She developed it into the fastest flying-taxi service in the world. Spectrum recognised that with her skill, courage and determination she'd make a first class Angel pilot. I chose the Daredevil Pilot Head wearing glasses for Harmony's head. Note that I have re-positioned her left arm.
Born in Chelsea, London, Dianne Simms is the daughter of Lord Robert Simms, one of the World Government's officials. When she left London University, she was thrust into the world of the debutante. This soon bored her, so when she met Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, she gladly accepted her offer to join the Federal Agents Bureau. Dianne and Lady Penelope became close friends. When Lady Penelope joined International Rescue, Dianne took over supreme command of F.A.B., a post she handled highly efficiently. When F.A.B. was forced to close, Dianne joined the Euro Charter Airline Company as Chief Security Officer. Spectrum realised her potential and invited her to join the Angels as Rhapsody Angel. I used another of the Daredevil Pilot Heads for Rhapsody but added Milliput to lengthen her long red hair.
Crooked Dice Games sell the Angels (they are actually called Daredevil Pilots) for £3.50 each or a set of three different bodies for just £9.00. They all come with separate heads, all bare-headed. A set of three Daredevil Pilot Heads wearing helmets are available for £1.60. So, I bought two sets of three figures along with the helmeted heads. This, of course, leaves one figure spare. What to do with her? Essentially, you have two options - invent her as the sixth, previously unseen Angel, or use her as a non-Angel. I chose the second option. I named her Katarina Dare (from the CDG website) and will most likely use her as a Mysteron agent. I used the third of the three helmeted heads on her figure.
I love the Angels and the Angel Interceptor is such a cool design (see the painting below). It is common amongst fans of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons to have a favourite Angel. Mine was (and still is) Rhapsody Angel - a true English rose.
Two Angel Interceptors take off from Cloudbase at dusk.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Croooked Dice Games Spectrum Agents

If this month's posts have a theme then that theme must be diversity. I bring you the first of three posts showcasing the men, women and some of the vehicles from the futuristic organisation known as Spectrum. Those of you of a certain age will recognise the name Spectrum as being the organisation featured in the 1968 TV series, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Captain Scarlet was the eighth of ten puppet series produced during the 1950's and 1960's by Gerry Anderson. It came after Thunderbirds and before Joe 90. Set in 2068, Captain Scarlet presents the hostilities between Earth and a race of Martians known as the Mysterons. After human astronauts attack their city on Mars, the vengeful Mysterons declare war on Earth, initiating a series of reprisals that are countered by Spectrum, a worldwide security organisation. Spectrum boasts the extraordinary abilities of its primary agent, Captain Scarlet. During the events of the pilot episode, Scarlet acquires the Mysteron healing power of "retro-metabolism" and is thereafter considered to be virtually "indestructible", being able to recover fully from injuries that would normally be fatal.
Crooked Dice Games make a range of 28mm scale figures they have named Time Lift Security (TLS), presumably to avoid copyright problems, that are dead ringers for the characters who appeared in Captain Scarlet. In this post I'm going to review some of the Spectrum agents, starting with the Command Section.
At the far left is Colonel White, the commander-in-chief of Spectrum. His real name is Charles Grey and he was born in England. Spectrum is a global organisation and thus has agents from all over the world. Prior to joining Spectrum, Colonel White had a glittering military career in the World Army. He runs Spectrum from its HQ known as Cloudbase, a flying aircraft carrier. His figure is straight from the packet.
Next in line is Doctor Fawn, an Australian whose real name is Edward Wilkie. He is head of Spectrum's Analysis and Research Centre on Cloudbase whose primary role is to study everything about the Mysterons with a view to destroying them. He also oversees the Cloudbase medical facilities. This figure is based on the walking agent holding a pistol (see Captain Black below) but has had his pistol replaced with a high-tech Mysteron Scanner, which can detect if a person has been  retro-metabilised or not.
Third in line is Major Viridian, head of Spectrum's Research and Development department. Major Viridian never appeared in the TV series, but his name is mentioned in the Captain Scarlet Annual of 1968, which I still own, so I consider him canon. Born in Switzerland, Viridian is a top class engineer. He is a conversion of the figure of Captain Grey (see below) with his head replaced by a helmeted head. His rifle was replaced by an experimental Mysteron Gun, which fires beams of electricity. Mysterons are highly vulnerable to electricity (incidentally, bullets and explosives will also kill them). Finally, I gave him a jet pack with the straps made of Milliput.
At the far right is Lieutenant Green, aka Seymour Griffiths from Trinidad. Lieutenant Green is Colonel White's assistant, Cloudbase Computer Operator and public announcer. His figure is a conversion of Captain Blue (see below) I repositioned his right arm and converted the pistol into a communications device. These four agents rarely see action in the field but they all play a vital part in the war against the Mysterons.
Next up are four Spectrum agents armed with pistols. First up is the eponymous Captain Scarlet. His real name is Paul Metcalfe and he hails from England. Captain Scarlet becomes Spectrum's foremost weapon in its fight against the Mysterons after the events of the pilot episode, in which the Mysterons threaten to assassinate the World President as their first act of retaliation. The original Scarlet is killed in a car accident engineered by the Mysterons and replaced with a Mysteron reconstruction.  However, when the Scarlet duplicate is shot by Captain Blue and falls to his death from a tall structure, it returns to life with the consciousness of its human template restored, and is thereafter free from Mysteron control. Scarlet's ex-Mysteron body possesses two remarkable abilities: he is able to sense the presence of other Mysteron duplicates in his vicinity, and if he is injured or killed, retro-metabolism restores him to a state of top health. Now able to deploy suicidally reckless tactics to thwart Mysteron threats, Scarlet repeatedly braves the pain of death in the knowledge that he will recover to face the Mysterons once more. The figure of Captain Scarlet is the same as that of Captain Ochre (see below) but has had the pointing right hand replaced with a hand holding a pistol.
Captain Blue accompanies Captain Scarlet on most missions and the pair are close friends. Blue is an American called Adam Svenson. As mentioned above, Captain Blue played a pivotal part in Captain Scarlet becoming indestructible. The figure is not a conversion.
Captain Ochre, along with Captains Grey and Magenta, were the three agents, after Captain Blue, most often seen accompanying Captain Scarlet in the field. Captain Ochre's real name is Richard Fraser and he is also an American. His figure is straight from the pack.
Captain Black (real name, Conrad Turner from England) is the primary agent of the Mysterons. He was leader of a team of astronauts sent to Mars in 2068 on a mission to investigate unidentified radio signals emanating from the red planet. The source was discovered to be an extraterrestrial base, which was attacked and destroyed when the explorers mistook a harmless sensor device for a weapon. The inhabitants of the settlement, the Mysterons are sentient computers that form a collective consciousness. They are the remnants of the original Mysteron race, extraterrestrial life forms that originated in a galaxy other than the Milky Way and maintained their colony on Mars for 3,500 years before abandoning the planet at the turn of the 20th century. Possessing partial control over matter, the Mysteron computers draw on their power of "reversing matter" to rebuild the complex before vowing revenge for the unwarranted aggression.
Reversing matter, also described as "retro-metabolism", allows the Mysterons to re-create the likeness of a person or object in the form of a facsimile that is under their control. This ability is used to conduct a "war of nerves" against Earth, in which the Mysterons issue threats against specific targets (from world leaders and military installations to whole cities and continents) and then destroy and reconstruct whatever instruments are required (whether human or machine) to execute their plans. The presence of the Mysterons is indicated by two circles of green light (the "Mysteron rings") that trail across scenes of destruction and reconstruction. Although the Mysterons are able to manipulate events from Mars, their actions on Earth are usually performed by their replicated intermediaries.
Captain Black was the first human killed and reconstructed during the ill-fated encounter on Mars. The figure of Black is similar to that of Doctor Fawn, but I gave him a peaked cap instead of leaving him bare-headed.
The last four figures are all Spectrum agents armed with pistols and assault rifles. At the far left is Captain Grey, an American whose real name is Bradley Holden. The figure comes in two parts - the full body minus hands and a pair of hands holding an assault rifle. Alternatively, you can have him holding the Mysteron Gun wielded by Major Viridian, which is an optional extra.
Standing next to him is Captain Magenta. His real name is Patrick Donaghue and he was born in Ireland. He is aiming his assault rifle and he is another non-converted figure.
The final two agents are something of an anomaly. The only female Spectrum agents shown in the TV series were the five Angel pilots, whom I shall review next time. Still, I see no reason why Spectrum wouldn't employ females in other roles. So, I have named these two field agents as Lieutenant Tangerine and Lieutenant Pink. Reflecting the ethnic diversity of Spectrum agents, I see Lieutenant Tangerine as coming from Tangiers in Morocco and Lieutenant Pink as being born in Stockholm, Sweden.
I am a huge fan of Gerry Anderson's work. As a boy, I grew up loving Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and later when he moved away from making puppet shows, to the sci-fi series of UFO and Space 1999. So, when I saw Crooked Dice Games producing a range of not-Spectrum agents I knew I had to have them. Although I have had these figures for quite a while it is only very recently that I got round to painting them. You may well ask what are they doing on a blog that is apparently devoted to the undead? My reply is that the Mysterons can bring the dead back to life to do their bidding. Surely that's some kind of zombie-ism? Right?
Currently, you can get all of these figures from the Crooked Dice Games webstore. The TLS Commander (Colonel White) costs £3.50. All of the other TLS agents cost £3.00 each. In addition you can buy a number of accessory packs. The helmeted head and rifle used by me on Major Viridian cost £1.60 for the pair. The jet pack and scanner also cost £1.60 for the pair. Three alternate capped heads are on sale for 60p, as are four hands holding pistols.