Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Vampifan's Views 40 - Monthly Musings 23

A get well soon e-card designed by Irqan. I love it!
It's that time of month for another of my Monthly Musings posts. I thought I'd do something different this month and tell you about my stay in hospital. I was rushed by ambulance to my local hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on the day I fell ill (Wednesday 5th June 2013). I spent eight weeks in a critical care unit, followed by four weeks on a special needs ward. I was then transferred to Southernwood Care Home for further physiotherapy treatment and I spent just over two weeks there. I never imagined that I'd be in hospital for so long. But I also never realised how serious my illness was. I certainly had plenty of warnings that things were not going well, but being a typical man, I ignored all the signs, falsely believing that things would get better. I was losing my energy and my appetite. When I met up with Joe and Mathyoo earlier this year, I could tell that I wasn't 100% fit then. After that, things gradually got worse until that fateful morning when I realised that I simply had to get medical aid.
Me in the critical care unit on day 1 of my hospital stay. So many tubes!

Here I am doing my best zombie impersonation. No make up needed!
I dialed 999 and the paramedics were with me within minutes. I was so weak that I didn't even have the energy to get dressed. I was rushed into the Accident and Emergency department and was diagnosed with a hole in my bowel, which was leaking poisons and toxins into my stomach. The medical terms were peritonitis and septacemia, both of which can be fatal. My mum later told me that the surgeon who operated on me only gave me a 50/50 chance of surviving. I knew nothing of this as I was in an induced coma to aid my recovery.
My first trip outdoors. That's my mum holding my hand.
My first attempt at walking, with Kerry my Physio
I have very little recollection of the first couple of weeks in critical care. If you look at the second photo of me you can see that I have a tube that went down my throat. This was called a tracheotomy and whilst I had that tube, I couldn't talk. This meant that I could only communicate by sign language and that was extremely frustrating for me. I was given a notepad and pen but my handwriting was so shaky that they were of little use to me. It was such a relief when the tube was removed and I could talk again.
One of the best things about being in critical care at the QE was that the staff kept a diary of my progress. Each day, whichever nurse was assigned to look after me would write a report of my progress in the diary. Quite often, the staff would take photos of me, and the photos I have included here came from my diary. I was not allowed to see my diary until the day that I was discharged from the critical care unit. I thought that the idea of the staff keeping a diary for me was a brilliant one. It is something that should be rolled out across all hospitals in the UK. Some have taken up this scheme but most haven't. 
Mastering the use of a zimmer frame with nurses Jacqui, Andrew and my mum
I must praise all the staff in critical care for looking after me so well and for looking after my mother as well. She visited me every day that I was in hospital and the care home, which I appreciated very much. It was nice to have my brother visit me and I was delighted that he was able to keep my blog followers notified of my progress. I had a couple of visits from Joe aka Zabadak and they cheered me up no end.
Whilst I was in critical care I lost three stone in weight, which certainly delighted me, as I wanted to lose weight. I went down from sixteen stone to thirteen stone. However, I would not recommend this weight loss scheme to anyone. There are far easier ways to lose weight!
I had to learn to walk again. In this I was greatly aided by my physiotherapists. Two in particular stand out for me, First was Kerry, a wonderfully enthusiastic person who was a bit of a bully but a bully in a nice way. She left to go to Sunderland Hospital and I must admit she was a big miss when she left. I really liked Kerry. Fortunately she had a great replacement in Andrew. Andrew was the complete opposite to Kerry. He was very quietly spoken but a thoroughly nice person. My mum and I loved Andrew. He wrote a very moving and heartfelt message on the last page of my diary. Kerry and Andrew appear in two of the photos I've included.
When I was transferred to the special needs ward things got a lot different. I no longer had the one to one care I received in the critical care unit. Fortunately, I was looked after by a number of people who I already knew from my time in critical care. Special mention must go to the rehab nurses Andrea, Sonia, Susie and their boss Eileen. All four were an absolute delight to know and once again, they looked after me and my mum really well. They went above and beyond the call of duty and I will never forget them. It was always a joy to see them. I am sorry that I have no photos of my time in Ward 9 or of my stay in Southernwood, It was there that I went for extra physiotherapy treatment. With the help of two more wonderful physiotherapists, Mel and Sue, I learnt how to walk with walking sticks instead of a zimmer frame.
Now that I am back home I can get about the house without any aid. When I go outside I usually take one stick. I do have two sticks but I find that one is enough for me, I imagine it won't take long for me to walk unaided outside as well as indoors.
Happily my strength is back, as is my energy and my appetite, I am almost fully recovered. I'd like to thank everyone once again for their well wishes and support. It meant a lot to me.
On the hobby front I am painting 4 Zombie Plague Survivors, 5 Copplestone Castings Urban Cowgirls and 7 Eureka Schoolgirls with guns. They are all just about finished. Having gone four months without buying anything hobby related I have really splashed out. I have made pledges for three Kickstarter projects - the ATZ 28mm scale figure collection (an obvious choice for me), the Reaper Bones 2 collection (again, an obvious choice seeing as I bought so many figures from their first collection) and finally, the Mars Attacks project (the Martians don't interest me that much but the human survivors and soldiers do interest me a lot). I'm still waiting for my Zombicide 2 parcel to arrive and for the zombie figures from the Zombie Plague project. Both items are due soon, so hopefully I'll get them in time for my birthday next month.
Thanks for taking the time out to read my musings. I know it was different from my usual musings but I wanted to share my experience of being a hospital patient. Until this happened to me, I'd never been in hospital as a patient in my adult life.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

THW Trixie and Carolee

Earlier this year I bought two 28mm scale survivors from the Two Hour Wargaming webstore - Trixie and Carolee. Previously, Carolee was available as a 40mm scale figure and a 15mm scale figure, neither of which were any good to me, as I only collect 28mm scale figures.
Trixie is the young woman with the green jacket and the massive pistol. Now that's what you call a Big Ass Pistol! She is also armed with a hand grenade. Trixie has purple hair styled in a Mickey Mouse shape. She is more of a sci-fi figure than a contemporary figure, making her useful in the likes of THW's 5150: New Beginnings or the new Judge Dredd Miniatures game. However, she could still be used as a survivor in a game like ATZ-FFO. She is very slim and is nicely sculpted with the look of an Anime heroine about her.
Carolee is THW's iconic pin-up girl for ATZ and a fan favourite. She is armed with a Big Ass Pistol (although it looks more like a Mini Uzi Machine Pistol to me) and a katana.
To the left of here is the Carolee stat card from the Risks and Rewards deck. She can be recruited by the player's group and she would make an excellent addition. I can see from her card that I am going to have to add a scopesight to her BAP. She's a real beauty, isn't she?
I checked on the THW website to see if these two figures were still available but sadly, I see no sign of them. They have been withdrawn from sale, which is a real shame. However I did ask Ed if he could add Carolee to his current Kickstarter range of 28mm scale contemporary horror figures. He seemed very favourable to the idea and you can read his response here -
Hopefully Carolee and Trixie will become available for sale once again. They are too good to be consigned to the scrapheap.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bobby Jackson's Zombie Mum

Today I am going to review the 28mm scale Bobby Jackson Zombie Mum. It is a controversial figure as some have said it goes beyond the realms of good taste. Do you think that bothers me? Nah, of course not!
The figure depicts a pregnant female with her baby clawing its way out of her womb. I must admit that this is a pretty sick concept. Her long dress has been torn in places. Note her left breast is exposed, another thing to make puritans complain. The baby is alive or rather is undead. I do wonder how much of a threat a zombie baby could be? After all, its teeth won't have formed yet, nor will its fingernails. However, the mere thought of a zombie baby would give anyone a case of the heebee-jeebees. Sanity check required if using it in Call of the Cthulhu or a fright check if playing GURPS.
The zombie mum's face and hands are smeared with blood from a victim. Also, her dress is coated in blood from where the baby has burst through her stomach. She was an absolute joy to paint. I did wonder on how much blood to coat the baby in as it is still partially inside the woman's stomach. There is an argument for coating it in blood but I have taken a more restrained view, which is odd for me, as I am an unapologetic gore hound.
There is one more thing that may put many of you off from purchasing this mini and that is the price. She costs a hefty $12.99 (just over £8.00) which borders on Games Workshop prices for a single figure. I bit the bullet because I really wanted this mini. She is a unique figure I know for a fact that she won't be to everyone's taste but I do like her. She can be bought from the Cool Mini Or Not webstore, although checking this morning, I noticed that she was currently out of stock.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Stoelzel's Billboards

Earlier this year, prior to my stay in hospital, I made three 28mm scale billboards from the Stoelzel's Structures' M.U.C.K.2 set. M.U.C.K. stands for Modular Urban Construction Kit and set 2 offers far more options than the original set. One of those options was to make billboards.
You can stick these on the roofs of buildings, or as I have done, just leave them on the ground. Carl offers a number of pre-designed billboard posters in addition to a blank poster if you wanted to design your own.
The two photos above show the billboards in situ on one of my Undeveloped Real Estate gaming boards.
The photo above shows the first billboard that I made. Carl very kindly designed this poster for me after I told him that the setting for my ATZ campaign was going to be in Springvale, a suburb of Mayhem City. Obviously he couldn't do a "Welcome to Mayhem City" poster as Mayhem City is the name of World Works Games set of contemporary scenery. However, Springvale is a name that I came up with and does not breach any copyright laws. Incidentally, just to remind you, Vampifan lives in Springvale. I'll explain about the Center Of Regenerative Properties Subsequent Expiration below.
 Now the CORPSE poster was something that Carl came up with on his own and I am delighted with it. Carl knows about my zombie campaign and so designed this poster for me to use in my campaign. I will indeed be using CORPSE as a shady corporation who may have possibly started the zombie outbreak. When I get to play the High Rise to Hell scenario I'll probably replace the Prosperity Corporation with CORPSE.
 I made this third poster simply because it is also zombie related. It is an amusing poster for a fictitious brand of coffee, Energize Z.
 This photo above shows the reverse side of the three billboards. All three have identical backs. The billboards were very easy to make. The posters themselves were glued onto pieces of mounting card, whilst the leg supports were glued onto pieces of foam board. There are other poster designs you can chose from but these three were the ones that interested me the most.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Zombie Survival Manual by Sean T. Page

The Zombie Survival Manual by zombie survival expert Sean T. page is a 128 page hard backed book done in the style of a Haynes' car manual. It is fully illustrated throughout in colour by artist Ian Moores. The blurb on the back of the book asks, "what would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse? Would you know how to protect your family, forage for food and hold your own if confronted by a horde of the walking dead? Packed with vital information about how to prepare yourself and your home for the inevitable, the Zombie Survival Manual includes everything from the latest updates from world leaders in zombiology such as Dr. Khalid Ahmed to unarmed combat techniques and guidlines for zombie-proofing your home."
"With a comprehensive range of illustrations, maps, diagrams and step-by-step instructions, this manual is essential reading for those interested in protecting themselves, their families and society from the zombie menace. It also includes the chance to earn an invaluable zombie survival qualification by completing the examination at the end of the book."
Topics covered by the manual include -
  • Zombies explained - what they are and how to deal with them.
  • The science of zombiology - the facts that survivalists must know.
  • The zombie apocalypse - what is it, when will it happen and why now?
  • Zombies in history - the world's first timeline of events.
  • Becoming a zombie survivalist - training the body and mind.
  • Home preparation and defence - securing the home and a 90-day survival plan.
  • Out and about in zombie town - movement, foraging and transportation in a world of the dead.
  • A qualification in zombie survival - the chance to become certified.
The manual is written with Sean's trademark humour and wit and is a joy to read. Indeed, no zombie fan should be without this book. I simply can't praise it enough. As a more mature and less able-bodied fan of all things zombie-related, I was pleased to see a section of the book devoted to how the elderly and disabled may cope in a zombie apocalypse. It need not be "game over, man!" after all. We oldies still have a place in an apocalyptic society beyond being zombie fodder.
Adam, aka Zombie Ad, who owns the Zombie Shop recently reviewed the book on his blog here - and be sure to check out his competition on Facebook to win a copy of the book. He very kindly supplied me with my copy so that I may review it. Once again, many thanks, Adam. if you wish to purchase the book it costs £16.99, although you can get it considerably cheaper at Amazon.UK, where it retails for £11.99.
I have no hesitation in awarding the book a 10 out of 10 rating. It really is that good!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

WWG Mayhem Junkyard Walls

A while ago I made a set of 12 walls from the World Works Games' Mayhem Junkyard set. Each wall measures 6" long by 2" tall and they come in four different flavours. All walls are glued to bases that are 0.5" wide on either side.
The wall at the left of the photo above is a plain blank wall with no markings or graffiti on. I made six of these and two each of the other walls.
The wall at the right of the photo above bears a "Private Property" sign. It also has a very amusing poster that reads "NB Trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again."
 The wall at the left of the photo above has been spray painted with graffiti.
 The wall at the right of the photo above has has numerous advertising posters stuck on it.
The photos directly above and below show the reverse side of the walls with their support columns.
All reverse sides of the walls are identical. These were incredibly easy to make. The walls and bases are reinforced with mounting card.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Foundry Juno's Crew

Continuing my theme of Wargames Foundry's Street Violence range of 28mm scale gangers here is set SV01/6 Juno's Crew. This set could be used as a smartly dressed criminal gang or they could work for some covert government agency, which is the option I chose when I used this gang in my Feng Shui campaign. Juno was quite a thorn in the sides of my player characters. There is an extra figure that I've added to this group, made by Copplestone Castings and I'll explain why later.
First in line is Juno. Juno may be her real name or more likely, it is an alias. She is one tough cookie. She was born in Hong Kong as a member of the Ascended faction in the Secret War. This made her one of the ruling class of the contemporary era. She is armed with a 9mm Heckler and Koch MP5KA5 Machine Pistol and a 9mm Glock 17 Pistol. She is equally skilled in gunplay and martial arts.
To her left is Tracy Smith, a skilled assassin. Tracy also wields a 9mm Heckler and Koch MP5KA5 Machine Pistol. If you removed her pistol she'd make a good civilian.
Malcolm Taylor, known to his friends as Mac is third in line. Mac is armed with a .50 cal. IMI Desert Eagle Big Ass Pistol. Mac is quite a brute and can soak up a lot of punishment.
Fourth in line is Carter Hagget. He, too, is armed with a 9mm Heckler and Koch MP5KA5 Machine Pistol. Curiously, he has been posed firing his Machine Pistol gangsta-style, which is never a sensible thing to do.
The last figure from this group was called Ace by the Foundry folk, but seeing as he is a dead ringer for John Travolta's hitman character from the film Pulp Fiction, I have called him Vincent Vega. I'm not sure what make of Pistol he's using but no doubt it'll be some form of nine mil.
As fans of Pulp Fiction will know, Vincent was partnered by Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson. As it happens Copplestone Casting make a perfect Jules Winnfield in their Future Wars set FW26 Bad Guys in Suits. So that is the reason I have included this iconic figure with this set. You can't have Vincent without Jules. He, too, is armed with a 9mm Pistol.
Juno's Crew is available for sale for £12.00 from the Wargames Foundry website. As mentioned, the Jules Winnfield figure is part of the FW26 Bad Guys in Suits set and they cost £8.50 for five figures. I'll review the rest of them at a later date.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

ATZ FFO supplement - High Rise to Hell

High Rise to Hell (hereafter referred to as HRTH) is the newest supplement for All Things Zombie - Final Fade Out by Two Hours Wargames. It is written by Ed Teixeira, the head honcho of THW.
HRTH is a scenario pack that takes place in the Prosperity Corporation headquarters situated in an urban centre wherever your campaign is set. The goal of the player characters is to search the building in the hope of finding the Cure to the zombie virus that has affected so many. Whether there is a Cure to be found there or not remains to be discovered. If it does exist there, it won't be easy to find.
Each floor of the building is a separate encounter with six storeys above ground and three underground. Access to the upper floors is via stairs or elevator, whilst access to the underground section is restricted to elevator only, and then only with a key card or a computer override.
The scenario features a wide variety of opponents to be dealt with. Most are hostile but some are friendly or neutral. Opposition includes the obvious - Pro Corp security personnel and scientists and of course, the ever present zombies. Smart zombies and Ragers, both of which were first detailed in the I, Zombie supplement, are also present, although their rules have been slightly tweaked to make them fit in with the high rise environment. The oddities that can be found include vampires, werewolves and aliens. The vampires are not of the traditional supernatural kind of legend but are genetically modified humans known as Stage One Vampires and the more powerful but rarer Stage Two Vampires. The aliens include a smattering of races from THW's 5150 universe. I'll say no more, so as to not spoil your surprise. Strictly speaking, the werewolves are also another alien race from the 5150 rulebook - the Lycaons. An important point to remember about Lycaons is that their wolf form is their natural form and they can transform into humans. They are not humans who can transform into wolf-like creatures. Human survivors, gangers and magic users (known as Casters) are also present. Full rules for all opposition are provided along with the option of using any of them beyond this scenario. Indeed, some of them could join your party to aid them in future encounters.
The scenario includes five pre-generated Grunts to be led by your Star, if you want to use them. There are one each of civilian, ganger, military, police and survivor. I'd imagine most folk would want to use their own crew and that's fine. However, by using the pre-generated Grunts, it allows some of their backstories and motivations to come to the fore when they meet certain characters in the high rise.
HRTH opens the world of ATZ to a host of exotic races and creatures, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. Those looking for more variety in their campaign or tougher opposition when their crew are all Rep:5+ will most likely welcome the challenges brought by the fresh blood. However, some of you may decide that there is no place for anything but zombies in a zombie apocalypse. If that is the case, then this supplement is not for you. On the other hand, if you can accept the premise of a zombie apocalypse it isn't too big a leap of faith to accept vampires and Lycaons. The way the new races are introduced and presented has a logic to it that makes sense.  My personal opinion on the matter is that I can accept the concept of HRTH as canon in the world of my own ATZ campaign. However, it is not a scenario that I'd want to play until at least one year of campaign time had elapsed. HRTH is not a scenario for starting characters. One of the things that I particularly like about this supplement is that if you do successfully complete the encounters, there is scope for further encounters involving Pro Corp and the aliens.
Another big plus about this supplement is that it addresses what I felt was a major omission from the After The Horsemen rulebook, namely the lack of rules for the likes of vampires and werewolves. I also think it is a good idea introducing some of the races from the 5150 series. They add even more variety to the mix.
A PDF version of HRTH costs $17.00 from the THW webstore, whilst a hard copy costs $20.00. I ordered the hard copy and got the PDF version for free. I'd like to leave by mentioning a new ATZ project that Ed has just launched on Kickstarter. This is for a range of 28mm scale figures, including casters, vampires and werewolves found in HRTH as well as zombies, smart zombies and assorted human types. You can find them here -
I've already made my pledge for it. The sculpts look very good indeed. Ed's Kickstarter project for the 15mm ATZ figures was a success, so hopefully, this will be too.