Sunday, 27 February 2011

Vampifan's Views 08 Dadi e Piombo

In my last editorial, posted just before Christmas of 2010, I mentioned a secret project that I was working on and I rather cryptically called it "the Italian Job." Now, I can reveal just what that project is. I have had an article published in the prestigious Italian wargaming magazine, Dadi e Piombo. Dadi e Piombo stands for Dice and Lead. The article, you won't be at all surprised to learn, is a primer into the world of 28mm scale zombie miniature collecting, gaming and a brief look at zombie literature and films. I've printed the front cover of the mag and the first page of my article to the left of here to give you a flavour of what to expect. The magazine is printed quarterly and is in full colour throughout, printed on very high quality paper.
I will admit, that until I was contacted by Lorenzo Sartori, the editor, I had never heard of the magazine. But, then again, that is hardly surprising as it is outside of my sphere of interests. Lorenzo contacted me late last year, having seen my size comparison photos of zombie miniatures on my blog, and asked me if I'd like to contribute an article to his magazine. I immediately said yes and so our collaboration begun. Lorenzo chose a number of photos from my blogsite that he wanted to use - stuff from some of my batreps and all of the size comparison photos. I typed in a new article for him, which was approved after a few minor changes.
I then eagerly awaited the publication of the magazine. A week or so ago I was contacted by Lorenzo to say that the mag was ready and that I could have up to seven free copies. This was very gratefully accepted by me. Yesterday, the parcel of magazines arrived. My immediate reaction upon seeing my article in print was one of immense pride. It is very rare to see your work in print and I feel very lucky that this is the second time it has happened to me (the first time being with me illustrating the vampire anthology Darkling, I Listen.)
In addition to my intro on collecting zombie figures, Lorenzo has included a very simple set of rules that he has devised for a zombie skirmish game, which is illustrated with more photos of mine from some of my zombie batreps. So that gives you another reason to be interested in this magazine.
I am the wrong person to give an unbiased opinion of the content of this issue because of my involvement but even so, the over-riding impression I have of the magazine is one of respect for its high quality. This is no cheap fly-by-night fanzine but a very serious and noteworthy wargaming magazine. The fact that it is printed in English and Italian can only help boost its sales, seeing as English is such a popular language spoken all across Europe. Also, the fact that this is issue 44, meaning it has been going for eleven years, surely indicates how popular it must be.
When Lorenzo offered me the opportunity of receiving seven copies of the magazine it really thrilled me as I knew what I wanted to do with the extra copies. I'd like to offer five of them up for grabs to anyone who'd like a copy. Obviously, to be fair, this has to be done on a first come, first served basis. If you genuinely want a free copy (yes, it will be free, and I'll pay the postage) just e-mail me at with your name and address and I'll send you a copy. This offer is open to overseas followers, not just those residing in the UK.
For those of you who aren't among the lucky first five, here are the web addresses where the magazine can be bought -
In the UK contact
In the USA contact
In Germany and Austria contact or
In Spain contact
In Italy contact
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Lorenzo for the chance to spread the word about why zombies are cool and for the copies of the magazine he sent me. Lorenzo, if you're reading this, you have my heartfelt thanks!
Normal service will be resumed with my next post, in which I will, hopefully, be reviewing a bunch of 28mm scale zombies by Recreational Conflict, a company whom I've never mentioned before.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Four A Miniatures Survivors

Last September I reviewed a few zombies from a new company that had sprung up - Four A Miniatures. At the same time as I bought the zombies I bought three survivor type figures and seeing as I have been reviewing a lot of survivor figures recently I thought I'd review these three 35mm scale figures now. Yes, you did read that correctly - they are 35mm scale, meaning they do tower over the likes of Hasslefree Miniatures. Don't let that put you off until you've read my review.
First up is Alexis, and what more can I say than hubba, hubba, hubba! She has the most spectacular rack I've seen on many a figure. Her nipples stand proud and firm. I don't mind nips that I can hang my hat on but when I can hang my umbrella on them, well...! Okay, okay, smutty comments over but feel free to add your own. Alexis has the look of a savage about her and would not be out of place in a barbarian fantasy setting, although I think she works perfectly well in a post-apocalyptic world. I think she'd be quite at home amongst the Glaswegian headbangers from the film Doomsday. I know the critics slagged this film off but I loved it. Her hair is wild and unkempt. That white bit is a streak in her hair, not a feather, whilst the blue bit is a headband. Have you noticed that her trousers are not buttoned/zipped up all the way? That's just asking for trouble! Her choice of footwear are heavy biker's boots. Her only weapon is a two-handed axe, but just look at the muscles on her arms, particularly in the second photo. I reckon she could crush a man's skull easily. Heck, I bet she could crush a man's skull in her cleavage! Alexis stands 35mm tall from sole of feet to top of head.
In the centre of the group is a dude known only as Rasta Bodyguard. It is with figures like this guy that I really don't mind them being oversized. If he was true 28mm scale he wouldn't look quite so menacing or intimidating. This brute, however, looks as hard as nails and as intimidating as you can get. Check out that scowl. The size of his holsters suggests he is carrying two of the most powerful handguns in the world - real Big Ass Pistols. As if they weren't bad enough he has a couple of human skulls dangling from his belt. You can just see the intimidation factor going up and up. God knows what is in the pouches on the back of his belt. You'd think it would be ammo clips for his pistols but to be honest it could be almost anything. If you're looking for a figure that screams, "don't fuck with me!" then look no further! He stands 39mm tall from sole of feet to top of head.
The third and last figure of this group is Top Hat, a rather apt name given his choice of headwear. He wouldn't look too out of place in a Wild West setting. His rifle is fitted with a ginormous telescopic sight. The only time I've seen sights as long as this was in the film The Outlaw Josey Wales when Josey teaches Jamie what a "Missouri boat ride" is! As an aside, I rate The Outlaw Josey Wales as my all time favourite Clint Eastwood movie. So, back to Top Hat. I have no idea what make the rifle is but it has a very wide barrel! This is a figure that is full of character. Note how the wind is blowing his hair and has caught the flap of his long coat. I think he's a great figure. He measures 39mm from the sole of his feet to the top of his hat. Bear in mind, the top hat adds quite a bit to his overall height.
Once the world has collapsed and civilisation has disintegrated in a zombie apocalypse, these are the kind of folks I'd expect to see. Every one of them looks more than capable of surviving in a post-apoc world and they are extremely well sculpted by Jim Bowen, even if they are on the tall side. Their height does not bother me as I like to see a mixture of heights amongst my figures. Each figure costs a very reasonable £2.50. I've included the website address for Four A Minis in the sidebar listing of my favourite websites. In my next post I'll be getting back to reviewing zombies - yay!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth

I like reading novels that have been recommended to me by friends or followers. This particular novel, Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth was recommended to me by my good friend, Roger (aka Rogzombie), whose knowledge of zombie literature far exceeds my own and whose opinion I respect. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed by his recommendation. He said that this book would be right up my street and he was absolutely right!
So what's it about? To quote the blurb on the back cover, "Jonah Caine, a lone survivor in a zombie-infested world, struggles to understand the apocalypse in which he lives. Unable to find a moral or sane reason for the horror that surrounds him, he is overwhelmed by violence and insignificance."
"After wandering for months, Jonah's lonely existence dramatically changes when he discovers a group of survivors. Living in a museum-turned-compound, they are led by Jack, an ever-practical and efficient military man, and Milton, a mysterious, quizzical prophet who holds a strange power over the dead. Both leaders share Jonah's anguish over the brutality of their world as well as hope for its beauty. Together, with others, they build a community that re-establishes an island of order and humanity surrounded by relentless ghouls."
"But this newfound peace is short-lived, as Jonah and his band of refugees clash with another group of survivors who remind them that the undead are not the only - nor the most grotesque - horrors they must face."
The story is set in an unnamed American city, which the author mentions in his acknowledgements is based on Grand Rapids, Michigan. Seeing as he spent some time there, it makes sense to base your story in a place you know well. There are numerous biblical references throughout the novel. Just look at the name of the hero, Jonah Caine, which is based on two characters from the Old Testament. Some critics have been put off by the author's religious overtones (believe in God and He will look after you) but for me, they washed right over my head. I read a novel for its entertainment value and never go into a deep analysis of the author's motives or message. As for entertaining me, this novel sure did that.
First up, the zombies are the old-style Romeroesque slow moving shamblers. This is always a big plus for me. I'm not a big fan of these new style zombies who can outrun an olympic sprinter. Secondly, the scenes of violence, when they do occur, are brutal and violent. Again, this is a big plus for a gorehound like me. Thirdly, I now look at zombie books and films for ideas to use in my ATZ campaign. Dying to Live has a number of intriguing ideas. The setting of the survivor camp - a museum has been well thought out. It is, however, far too large a structure to recreate in 28mm scale, so I won't be making one for my own campaign! The other group of survivors mentioned above, the bad guys, are a group of prisoners who have taken over their prison, having killed the guards and many weaker prisoners. The prison has shades of Mad Max 3; Beyond Thunderdome about it, with its nightly games of death between zombies and inmates. I know that the idea of using a prison as a holdout for survivors was covered in The Walking Dead series of comics/graphic novels, but this prison is nothing like the one Rick and co. come across. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is a novel that makes you think. I read one critic describe it as "a thinking man's zombie novel" which is fair comment. It certainly does not insult the reader's intelligence and how refreshing is that?
The small cast of characters are well written and fleshed out, and as a reader, I cared about their wellbeing. Surely, the most enigmatic character in the book was Milton, of whom the blurb on the back says "holds a strange power over the dead." To say much more would be a huge spoiler so I'll say no more, but I found him a fascinating person and he certainly gave me much food for thought.
This is a large format paperback measuring 6" by 9" and running to 190 pages. It costs £9.99 and is published by Permuted Press. I bought my copy from for considerably less and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Foundry Figures The B Team

I've been looking at a lot of figures to use as Survivors in a zombie apocalypse setting recently. Staying with that theme, here are a group of figures who certainly qualify as Survivors - The B Team from Foundry Figures' range of 28mm scale Street Violence figures.
Okay, so Foundry may call them the B Team for copyright reasons, but we all know these are the A Team from the old TV series or more recent movie. At the far left of my two photos is the leader of the group, Hasdrubel Jones, aka John "Hannibal" Smith. As ever, he is depicted chewing a cigar and is dressed in a safari jacket. The rifle he is holding looks to be a 5.56mm Ruger AC-556F, and indeed, is the weapon of choice for all of the team.
Next up is the iconic Mr. Z (presumably pronounced mister Zee and not mister Zed) or as fans of the A Team would call him, Bosco Albert "B.A." Baracus. He is festooned with loads of gold jewellery, his trademark bling, and wears dungarees and a cut-off T-shirt. The mohican haircut is another trademark of the character. Also, note just how muscular he is. You don't want to mess with this dude!
Third in line is "Mad Dog" Malone aka "Howling Mad" Murdoch. Is he really mad or is it just an act he puts on to fool others? He is the most casually dressed member of the team with his rumbled pants, T-shirt, leather jacket and baseball cap.
The final member of the team is Starbuck as named by the folks at Foundry or Templeton "Faceman" Peck as he is known in the A Team. He is the most smartly dressed member of the team in his three-piece suit, shirt and tie.
Last in line is a woman called Sissy. She is not a member of the team but presumably, she is the person who called the A/B Team for help. "Mah house is surrounded by zombies! Ah need heyulp as soon as possible!" She is the archetypal damsel in distress. Actually, she is perfect for an ordinary, generic female civilian. You can never have too many of them!
These are well sculpted figures and are ideal if you want to run a cheesy, tongue in cheek game of ATZ. How well would they cope with a horde of flesh-eating zombies? That's up to you to decide. In the TV series they never seemed to shoot anyone. Either they were lousy shots or terrific marksmen if they were aiming to miss.
I must admit I was never a fan of the show, even though I watched quite a few episodes when it was first aired. I have not seen the recent movie, so I can't comment on that but the trailer moved me to apathy. I'll probably watch it when it is shown on terrestrial telly as I have no intention of paying money to view it.
I recently bought a Corgi 1/48th scale version of the A Team van at a local toystore. I understand that WWG make a kitbash of the same van but it is not a model that I've bought yet. If you're desperate for an A team van, it might be worth checking out if you can't get a die-cast version of it. This is set SV037 from the Street Violence range and the pack of five figures cost £10.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Hasslefree UK Police 01

As a follow up to my review of Hasslefree's American police figures from their 28mm scale Adventurers range here's a look at their English cops from the same range.
At the far left is HFA032 Officer Nick, or to give him his full name, Nicholas Angel, star of the wonderful Hot Fuzz film, as played by Simon Pegg. It really is a cracking good likeness. In the promo shots of him on the HF website he is pictured holding his shotgun pointed at the ground. I wanted to show him in a more aggressive pose so I repositioned the right arm so that he could be firing the shotgun from the hip. Note that both arms are separate castings so it's an easy job to reposition them. I also decided to spruce up his base by adding a traffic cone, after all, what could be more British? The cone was made by Foundry Figures, although other firms also sell them.
Next up is Nick's partner from Hot Fuzz, HFA033 PC Sam Ford, although in the film, Nick Frost's character was called Danny Butterworth. Once again, the likeness is remarkable. I especially like the fact that he has been sculpted with his helmet on. It wouldn't have looked right on Officer Nick but here it looks perfect. This is a two-piece casting, with the arms and shotgun separate from the body.
The final two figures are HFA034 Riot Cop Neil. Neil comes with a choice of two arm options - a riot gun (which could fire rubber bullets or tear gas) or a truncheon and shield. When presented with multiple arm options, I usually end up buying two figures so that I can make one of each. As I said before, it's a clever marketing ploy of Hasslefree. Looking at them side by side in my two photos you can hardly tell that they are the same figure.
My one and only criticism of this range is that I wish there were more figures in it. US cops are a lot easier to get hold off than UK cops. I'd especially like to see a figure of WPC Doris from Hot Fuzz, as female UK cops are especially rare, plus she was a great character in the film. Even though my own ATZ campaign is set in America, I'd still like to see more UK cops.
Officer Nick and Riot Cop Neil cost £4.00 apiece, whilst PC Sam Ford is just £3.50.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Hasslefree US Police 01

I'm still sticking with my reviews of Hasslefree's 28mm scale Adventurers range. This is part one of a two-part look at their police figures, specifically, their American cops.
As you can see, there is not a lot of choice here, but whilst they are lacking in quantity, they are overflowing with quality. At the far left of the group is HFA042 Frank Cisco, who has the distinction of being one of only three HF Adventurers to be given a first and last name. I guess that some people will use him as a Frank Cisco but not me. It is so obvious he is based on Clint Eastwood's iconic detective, "Dirty Harry" Callaghan. Now HF weren't the first company to make a not-Dirty Harry figure. I can think of at least three others, including a zombie Dirty Harry. Indeed, I have one of the others, by Killer B Games, but I painted him up as a Flying Squad detective. The problem with the others is that they all pale into insignificance when compared to this version by Kevin White. In my opinion, this is the definitive version of Dirty Harry. The only criticism I have of this figure (and it's a very minor one) is that the barrel of his .44 Magnum is longer than the version Clint uses in the films. He uses a 6" barrel but the figure appears to have a 10" barrel. It is a very minor point and at least the pistol is recognisable as a .44 Magnum. During the 1970's and 1980's, Clint was my hero - the ultimate action figure. To this day, I still retain a great fondness for many of his films of those decades. I sure wish that this figure was available way back then, although on the other hand, I would not have been able to paint him so well.
The next two figures are HFA023 Ken. He comes with a choice of two weapons options - the pump-action shotgun (shown in the centre) or a pistol and flashlight combo ( shown at the far right). I'm certain that he is based on the Ving Rhames character of Ken in the Zack Snyder remake of Dawn of the Dead. For the shotgun armed cop, I painted him as an African/American, although I think that the figure is a bit too slim to make a convincing Ving. I knew that I'd paint the second version as a Caucasian cop, but to further differentiate the two, I added a cap made out of modelling putty to his head. This was a very easy conversion to do. I do like how he is using the left arm to support his right hand with the pistol in. A clever piece of modelling. Note that the shoes, belts, pouches and cap peak of the two Ken figures have been given a coat of gloss varnish to give them that highly polished look.
All three figures are clear winners and it probably is worthwhile buying two copies of Ken so that you can use both weapon options. It's a clever marketing ploy by HF. I fall for it every time! The Frank Cisco figure cost £3.50, whilst Ken retails at £4.00. In part two of this article, I look at HF's English cops.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Hasslefree Survivor Children 01

Continuing my theme of reviewing Hasslefree's range of 28mm scale Adventurers to use as survivors in a zombie apocalypse I'm going to look at their figures of children. Opening the show are some of the girls.
Starting at the far left of the two photos above is HFA024 Amoy (b). This a conversion of the original Amoy (shown next to her) and comes with a choice of two weapon options. You can arm her with a disposable rocket launcher or with a pistol, as I've done. I can readily accept a kid with a pistol but a kid with a rocket launcher is a much less credible option. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, just that it would be a very rare event. She's a nice figure but I've no idea where her name comes from.
Next to her is HFA012 Amoy. I do like how Sally has described her on the HF website, "A helmeted Eurasian female youth carrying a nice sharp katana and a cool getaway vehicle (skateboard!)." Unlike Amoy (b), this is a one-piece casting. I painted both figures with the same coloured helmets to show that they are related. They're probably twins, although if you just buy one of them, then she's an only child.
In the centre of this group is HFA035 Morgan. I did debate whether to include her with the adults but given how small she is, I decided she must be a teenager, so she's getting reviewed with the kids. She is holding what looks to be a small calibre pistol, like a Walther PPK, something that is easily concealable. I like this figure a lot. I really do admire just how well, Kevin White sculpts curvy females.
The next two figures are both HFA030 Alyx. The figure comes with a body and a sprue containing options for three right arms and three left arms. When I bought her a few years ago, she only came with two sets of arms but in late 2009, when the figure needed remoulding, Kev added an extra set of arms to the sprue. The new arms allow you to pose her as a magic-user, with spellbook in one hand and a wand in the other. Apparently, this is HF's best selling figure, and I'm not surprised. She is full of character and attitude, whatever arm options you choose. The figure at the left in my photos is pointing a pistol "Gangsta-style" in her right hand and holding a teddy bear in her left hand, giving a perfect combination of cute and deadly. The figure of Alyx at the far right is armed with a baseball bat, whilst giving a two-fingered salute... and, no, it's not a V-sign. Her outer two fingers are raised, whilst her middle two fingers are bent back. I've no doubt that I will be ordering this set again. I want to make the magic-user and I may buy another two sets to convert into the twins from the recent St. Trinian's film. If you want to include a young teen with a bad attitude in your games then look no further than Alyx.
At the far left of the two photos is HFA005 Maria, another petite female who almost got reviewed with the adult females. But, again, I decided she's a teenager, so here she is with the other kids. There is a real sense of motion to her as she looks over her right shoulder to check who or what is behind her, which is reminiscent of the way HFA043 Kitty was posed. I know from comments on previous scantily clad females that there will be those of you who are delighted to know that she is wearing a pink thong. Well, on my version her thong is pink; you can paint her thong whatever colour you fancy.
Next up is the smallest of all the children in this range - HFA010 Katie. She wields a small club and a dustbin lid, giving her a form of protection and a means to attack. My friend, Colin, did an excellent conversion of her recently, which you can see here Giving her a pistol changes the dynamic of the figure but surely increases her survival chances considerably. When you see the figure in real life, she is so tiny. I think she's delightful!
So far, all of the kids I've reviewed have been female. Well, here come the boys, starting with HFA009 Peter, who is probably Katie's brother. He is just a tad taller than Katie, although his pose will make him seem smaller because he has his legs splayed. He is hefting a crowbar in his tiny hands, determined to protect his sister. Another delightful sculpt!
Fourth in line is HFA047 Parker. He's appropriately named, seeing as he's wearing a parka. It has been pointed out that he bears an uncanny resenblance to Kenny from the South Park animated TV series. So if you want to paint him in an orange parka and call him Kenny, go right ahead. His weapon of choice is a nice hefty machete, which is great for killing zombies.
Finally, is HFA040 Palin, who rather scarily, is armed with a chainsaw. Kids with chainsaws? Now that's just asking for trouble! His choice of name came about because he is dressed in lumberjack clothing and Michael Palin famously sang The Lumberjack's Song in TV comedy classic Monty Python's Flying Circus. That piece of trivia was gleaned from the HF website. I think he's a very dynamically sculpted figure. I guess in a zombie apocalypse, folks have to survive as best they can, so if that means a young boy is wielding a chainsaw then so be it.
By now, you all should know how I feel about this range of Hasslefree Adventurers, so I'll spare you the guff about how great they and move on to the nitty gritty - how much do they cost? Katie, Peter and Palin are the cheapest at just £2.50 each. Amoy, Maria, Morgan and Parker cost £3.50 each, Alyx and Amoy (b) are £4.00 each. Hasslefree offers a Peter and Katie bonus pack, which costs £4.50 for the pair, saving you 50p.
It seems to me that there is a niche in the market for adventurer kids, especially in a contemporary setting so congrats to HF for supplying us with these. I am aware that HF have more kids in their range than I've reviewed here. The ones not shown were deliberately omitted. HFA017 Billie will be reviewed with civilian types. HFA018 Billie the Hunter is too sci-fi to appear here. HFA039 Rose is another civilian type whom I'll review later.