Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Vampifan's Views 77 - Monthly Musings 52

A new month and once again I start with a wonderful painting of the gorgeous Vampirella by Joe Jusko. This busy montage shows Vampirella surrounded by some of her allies and enemies from the regular comic series.

On 18th March 2009 I wrote the introduction to this very blog. Seven years later and it is still going as strong as ever. Happy birthday! Back then I only posted once a week. Now I regularly post twice a week. I have enough material to keep on going indefinitely. This seems like a perfect opportunity to tell you of big changes that are afoot. I am seriously thinking of upping the frequency of my posts but will be launching a new blog to run alongside this one. It's all early days yet and is still in the planning stages but I hope it will happen and I'm keen for it to happen. The new blog will be dedicated to all things Chibi and more importantly, will be run as a joint venture with a good friend of mine, Steve Gilbert. I know that some of you don't appreciate the whole Chibi genre whilst others love it. It's kind of a Marmite thing. Anyway, I happen to feel that the Chibi side of my hobby should be kept separate from my normal gaming. Vampifan's World of the Undead will continue in its current format with its emphasis on all things undead, including reviews of books, figures, games and scenery, and of course, batreps. The Chibi blog will initially concentrate on Super Dungeon Explore by Steve and me, Chibi World by Steve and Ninja All Stars by me. My tentative plan is to post the Chibi blog every Monday and my Undead blog on Wednesdays or Thursdays and on Saturdays. Watch this space for further news and launch announcement.

Hobby-wise, March has been another good month for me. In my humble opinion, the best figure I painted and converted this month was a Chibi Vampirella. She is soooooooo cute! She won't be appearing on this blog but will most likely be one of the first things I review on the new Chibi blog. I also managed to paint another 18 Zombicide: Black Plague zombies and I'm well on the way to painting 15 Crossover Miniatures Ninjas as Foot Clan Ninjas to use against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Also on my painting table are a small bunch of 6 Black Scorpion Tombstone figures for use in my Weird West and Wild West games. My Weird/Wild West project will be ongoing throughout the year but will progress at a more leisurely pace so as to avoid burn out and indeed to avoid spending too much in one go. I'll spend a little bit on it each month as I slowly add to my figures and scenery collections. Getting the Deep Cut Studios mouse-pad steppe terrain mat earlier this month was a big step forward.

I am backing the new Hollywood Havoc Kickstarter project by Studio Miniatures, which runs to Sunday 3rd of April 2016. Thankfully, it's not as costly as some Kickstarters I've backed. I'm in for less than £50 so far. Late add-ons may push that up slightly. We'll see. The Walking Dead Kickstarter by Mantic Games was successfully funded and came to a close at the start of this month. $685,853 of a $50,000 starter goal was raised, making it Mantic's most successful Kickstarter to date. I backed it heavily but the free stretch goals on offer made it extremely attractive financially. I backed it for $205 but for that I'm getting well over $400 worth of product!

Next month will be cops and robbers month. I'll be reviewing lots of 1970's and 1980's style cops and villains miniatures from Crooked Dice Games and Killer B Games. These posts will be the prelude to my d├ębut 7TV2e batrep. To get myself in the right frame of mind I have been watching my DVD boxed sets of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, as well as The Sweeney films. Such fun and all the better for being totally politically incorrect! As the great DCI Gene Hunt once said as he prepared to lead his team on a raid, "A word about police brutality. I want lots of it!"

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Swords of Sorrow: The Complete Saga TPB

I have reviewed books before on my blog (mainly novels) but I have never before reviewed a Graphic Novel (GN) or Trade Paperback (TPB). Until now. Some of you may know that I'm comic collecting geek, although my tastes are far from mainstream. Naturally, my favourite comic heroine is Vampirella. I tend to prefer comics featuring the so called "bad girls" of the comics industry - Bomb Queen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Chastity, Harley Quinn, Lady Death, Purgatori, She-Hulk and Zombie Tramp, being the main ones. I'm also a huge fan of the 2000AD comic and almost all of their stories. And for sheer quirkiness I love the Girl Genius books. The hugely popular comic heroes such as Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Wolverine, X-Men and the big franchises like Star Wars and Transformers have little to no appeal to me, although I am aware of them. I have often thought of doing a blog about comics and graphic novels that I like in much the same way as Blaxkleric does so superbly with The Brown Bag but I fear it would attract even fewer readers than Simon's. All of this is just a preamble to let you know where I stand when it comes to comics, GNs and TPBs. I like them a lot!
Swords of Sorrow: The Complete Saga is an epic book, and I do mean EPIC! It runs to 530 pages, of which 503 is story, and features all 21 issues of Dynamite Entertainment's biggest crossover event to date. The actual Swords of Sorrow story itself only took up six issues but it also featured many spin-off mini-series and one-shots. I only collected the six issue main series and the four issue mini-series featuring Vampirella. So, much of this TPB was new to me. It was written by Gail Simone with help on the mini-series and one-shots from Emma Bebby, Nancy A. Collins, Mikki Kendall, Leah Moore, Erica Schultz, Mairghread Scott and G. Willow Wilson, and featuring artwork by Sergio Davila (main series), Dave Acosta, Mirka Andolfo, Ronilson Freire, Francesco Manna, Rod Rodolfo, Noah Salonga and Crizam Zamora!
The good trio - Dejah Thoris, Red Sonja and Vampirella
THE STORY. A mysterious woman known only as The Traveller journeys across time, space and dimensions, bestowing magical ebony blades (the eponymous Swords of Sorrow) to a trio of female adventurers - Dejah Thoris, Red Sonja and Vampirella. Her mission is to prepare a last line of defence against the Prince of All Universes, a lovelorn despot with the power to shatter realities. To further aid the heroic trio, the Traveller also enlists the aid of other mighty women such as Athena, Black Sparrow, Eva (Daughter of Dracula), Irene Adler, Jane Porter (aka Lady Greystoke), Jennifer Blood, Jana the Jungle Girl, Kato, Lady Rawhide, Lady Zorro, Masquerade, Miss Fury, Pantha, Red Riding Hood and Voodoo Childe. These women were also given magical blades. United by the Swords of Sorrow, these spirited women must face not only the Prince's powerful Shard Men, but such agents of Chaos as Bad Kitty, Chastity, Mistress Hel and Purgatori.
The heroines are recruited in diverse pairs, which we as readers get to know more about through the one-shot issues and mini-series. These teams-ups feature in alphabetical order, Black Sparrow and Lady Zorro (one-shot), the Chaos Quartet prequel (one shot), Dejah Thoris and Irene Adler (3 part mini-series), Masquerade and Kato (one-shot), Miss Fury and Lady Rawhide (one-shot), Pantha and Jane Porter (one-shot), Red Sonja and Jungle Girl (3 part mini-series) and Vampirella and Jennifer Blood (4 part mini-series).
The bad quartet - Bad Kitty, Purgatori, Mistress Hel and Chastity
From the introduction to the book, Gail Simone writes, "You will notice these stories run concurrently and some issues take place in small moments during others. So you may ask: How do I go about reading this? We have presented the saga in the order that the issues were published to preserve continuity. This way, you will read the story as it originally unfolded, and won't come to the end of one series and have to backtrack by starting another. This is how we recommend reading this story... at least the first time." This works perfectly fine for me although I have read some folk criticising the book for being too confusing. Nah! It isn't!
THE VERDICT. I bloody well loved it! Yes, every single page! In fact, I'd go so far to say that this is one of the best TPBs I have ever read! Obviously, my main focus was upon Vampirella and she was well served in terms of screen time, scripting and artwork. The team up between Vampi and Jennifer Blood worked extremely well. Jennifer, by the way, is very much a female version of the Punisher from Marvel Comics. Some of the team-ups seemed a little odd, like Dejah Thoris and Irene Adler, but worked surprisingly well. What made this series work so brilliantly was the quality of the writing. Gail collected the best female writers in the business and got them to pull out all the stops, making full use of their talent and energy. Obviously with so many artists working on the series the artwork varies but thankfully, none of it is sub-standard. Overall, the quality is good to very good. Going back to Gail's introduction, she wrote, "for THIS crossover, I didn't want the usual boring stuff. I wanted a rough and tumble, fun and sexy, scary and action-packed classic epic. Subtlety be damned. I wanted something that felt like the creators of all these characters got together in a room after a three-day bender and just JAMMED. So that's what we did. We assembled a team of the best writers and artists we could find and just threw every firecracker we could right into the gunpowder factory. I hope you like it." Oh, I did! I liked it very much! In fact I like it enough to award it a 9 out of 10 rating. Why not a 10 out of 10? The artwork, whilst uniformly good, could have been improved by a higher calibre of artists. That said, I have no hesitation in recommending this TPB to any one with even a passing interest in comics. Ultimately though, how much you will want to buy this will depend very much on how you feel about the characters portrayed within its pages and also your feelings on "girl power." This book is ALL about girl power and I certainly don't have a problem with that!
Swords of Sorrow: The Complete Saga costs £22.50 from Amazon UK but I suggest you do what I did and check out the list of sellers offering new or old copies on behalf of Amazon. I got a new copy for just £12, saving me over a tenner from the official Amazon price. That was an absolute bargain for such a hefty tome!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Deep Cut Studio - Steppe Terrain Mat

The Deep Cut Studio Steppe Terrain Mat measuring 4' by 4'.
As you will know from my previous posts I am now actively pursuing my passion for Wild West gaming. I mentioned last time that I had the rules I wanted to use, a small collection of 28mm scale figures and a pitiful amount of scenery and buildings. But there was one thing I neglected to mention - some kind of gaming board on which I could play my games. Admittedly, I have the card tiles that come with the two starter sets for Shadows of Brimstone, but they are only of use for mines and/or other world exploration. I had nothing for encounters in town or out on the wide open plains.
So I started looking for solutions. One option would have been to use the card terrain from the World Works Games set - Streets of Blood. I use card terrain gaming boards from Stoelzel's Structures and World Works Games for my contemporary urban games. But I knew this would be a very time consuming process and I wanted a simpler solution. A while ago I stumbled across a website selling terrain mats. That site was run by Deep Cut Studios - see here - http://www.deepcutstudios.com/  My search was over. Now I just had to decide which mat was most appropriate for my needs. Because they are expensive I wanted something that would give me the most "bang for my buck" i.e. something that I could use for multiple settings, not just the Wild West. So, I chose the Steppe mat from their large range of designs. This is such a generic design that it can be used in so many settings and genres and it suits my needs perfectly. When you come to order your mat you have two decisions to make after you've chosen your desired terrain - material and size.
Close up detail of the Steppe mat.
More close up detail of the Steppe mat
The mats come in a choice of three materials - PVC, Cloth and Mouse-pad. The features of the PVC mat are -
– Made from high durability PVC
– Non textured gaming surface with a high quality printed picture
– Resistant to scratch and tear as well as dirt stains
– Compatible with water based pens
– Shipping tubes can be used as easy storage
– The choice for a sturdy and cost friendly battlefield
Further close up detail of the Steppe mat.
PVC is the cheapest option available.




If you opt for a Cloth mat its features are -
– Made from lightweight synthetic cloth
– The paints are soaked into the material and will never scratch or fade off
– Can be machine washed or ironed with steam
– The choice for an ultra-portable battlefield
Cloth is more expensive than PVC but cheaper than Mouse-pad.







Finally, the features of a Mouse-pad mat are -
 – Made from synthetic cloth with a 2mm thick rubber foam backing
– The paints are soaked into the material and will never scratch or fade off
– Non slippery backing to keep the mat on the table
– Instant matt flatness and smooth gaming surface
– Soft rubber foam allows you to pick up cards easy and roll the dice without a sound
– The choice for a premium gaming table
This is the most expensive option but also the best. It is the option that I chose. Note, that if you want, the mat can be manufactured with any size grid or hexes as well as tailored to a custom size table. This will, however, cost you extra. I just wanted my mat to be left gridless.

The mats come in a choice of three sizes - 3' by 3', 4' by 4' and 4' by 6'. I chose the 4' by 4' option for my mat. Mouse-pad mats are becoming more and more popular. The gaming mats used by Battle Systems for their Urban Apocalypse, Fantasy and Sci-fi sets are 2' by 2' Mouse-pads. I'll be getting a load of them when they start delivering their Urban Apocalypse terrain for their recent Kickstarter this summer. Mantic Games are offering 52cm square Mouse-pad mats for their The Walking Dead game as an alternative to their paper mats. I have one already for the Mantic Games Mars Attack game.
As I said earlier, I wanted a gaming mat that was versatile. Obviously, my Steppe Terrain Mat will see most use in Wild West games. It is good enough for encounters in town or out on the plains. I can also use it for rural settings for post-apocalypse games like All Things Zombie, contemporary games like 7TV2e, sci-fi games like the Cursed Earth setting for Judge Dredd or something entirely different like perhaps, an Antediluvian Adventures setting featuring cavemen and dinosaurs. There are endless possibilities.
The 4' by 4' Mouse-pad Steppe Terrain Mat that I bought cost £43.90 plus £9.90 for post and packing. Yes, it is expensive but is, I believe, a worthwhile investment that will last me a lifetime.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

THW - Six Gun Sound Rulebook

The front cover of the new version.
Six Gun Sound (SGS) by Two Hour Wargames has only just recently been updated and re-released. These are my "go to" rules for Wild West skirmish gaming and I rate them very highly. SGS version 2.0 has a lot to live up to as I always thought version 1.0 (aka Blaze of Glory) was one of the best, if not the best, supplements ever produced by THW.
The first thing I noticed about the new version was that it was a lot slimmer - a page count of 60 compared to 108 for Blaze of Glory. That's almost half as many pages. Hmm, not a promising start. However, it is the content that really matters and that's what I'll concentrate on. The new rules share a lot in common with both the old rules and the recently released supplement, High Moon (minus the Weird West stuff, of course).
Characters can be one of three Classes - Cowboy, Gunman or Townsfolk. Each Class comes with its own Attribute. This is a new rule now and one that I approve of. For Cowboy it is Brawler. (Counts a +1d6 bonus when rolling on the Melee Table). For Gunman it  is Marksman. (Can roll twice when rolling on the Ranged Combat Table, counting the best result, but only when firing one shot). For Townsfolk it is Slow to React. (Counts a -1d6 penalty when taking the In Sight and Draw! Tests).
Each Class is furthered defined by one of seven professions. You get to choose from the lists. Cowboys can be a Buffalo Hunter, a Cowboy (obviously!), a Deputy, a Gambler, a Homesteader, a Mountain Man or a Prospector. Gunmen can be a Bounty Hunter, a Gunslinger, a Marshal, an Outlaw, a Ranger, a Sheriff or a Warrior. Townsfolk can be a Citizen, a Greenhorn, a Merchant, a Preacher, a Saloon Staff, a Trades Person or a Villager. I noticed there wasn't a profession for the 7th Cavalry but you can easily class them as Rangers, who function very similarly.
Stars are allowed to have three Attributes - their Class Attribute and two others (choose one and roll for the other) and Grunts may have their Class Attribute and one more Attribute (randomly chosen). Reputation (Rep) defines a character by means of experience, morale and motivation and is rated from 3 to 6+, with 3 being the lowest permitted. Characters can advance beyond Rep:6 but they are extremely rare. Rep is the stat that is used the most often. It is recommended that Stars start at Rep:5.
The actual game rules in SGS are pretty much the same as in other current THW supplements, meaning they are simple and quick to play once you understand how the reaction system works. THW games are not normal IGOUGO games. Reactions play a major part in deciding who does what and when. The Quick Reference Tables have been drastically cut down and kept to a minimum. It was very noticeable to me that the new rules have been greatly simplified from the original game. One thing that Blaze of Glory did differently to any other THW product was provide very detailed rules for combat. Ranged Combat featured Hit Location Charts for shooting various parts of the body. Cover also played a more important role in deciding what body parts could be hit. There were even Hit Location Charts for horses. In short, the original rules were highly detailed and I loved that extra detail. I can understand why version 2.0 has dropped them, to speed up game play, but they were a big reason why I loved the original rules so much. I will probably still use the original Hit Location rules in future games of Six Gun Sound.
Gone too are the Skills like Sand (coolness under fire), Toughness (both physical and mental), Riding (aka horsemanship) and Driving (specifically wagons). Now Rep (Reputation) covers them all, which is kind of boring but much quicker. Once again, I'd prefer to keep the old Skills.
Moving on, the latter half of the book covers individual scenarios, called Encounters, and campaign rules. There are five Encounters listed - Carousing, Confrontation, Raid/Rescue, Riding the Trail and Robbery. Carousing can not occur out of town and Riding the Trail cannot occur in town. An optional Encounter that can only be played if the circumstances dictate it is the Jail Break. A campaign can take place anywhere in North America in the 19th Century and need not be tied to just one location, although that is also an option. Once again, I look back at the campaign rules in Blaze of Glory and they were far more detailed. They were split into six types based on profession - Cowboy, Gunfighter, Marshal, Outlaw, Ranger and Sheriff with the Cowboy campaign being by far the most detailed and hardest. To be fair, THW seem to have realised this and the first new supplement for the updated version of Six Gun Sound will be Range War, due out later this year. Hopefully, this will cover much of the missing Cowboy Campaign rules from Blaze of Glory. They really were very good!
One rule which has been discarded from the original rules was how to place enemy figures on the board. Incredibly, this used a deck of playing cards to determine who went where. I'm glad it has been dropped.
A true blast from the past!
By now, you're probably under the impression that I much prefer the version 1.0 rules to version 2.0 rules and in many ways you'd be right. I miss the extra detail from the old rules. Blaze of Glory reminded my very much of GURPS Old West, the first set of Wild West rules that I used with my 28mm scale figures. It also reminded me of The Old West Skirmish Wargames rules (printed in 1975. See right for the cover) which were the first Wild West rules I ever played. That was way back in the days during the 1980's when I gamed with 54mm scale figures and scenery. Both rulebooks used Hit Location Tables, which for me, is what makes Wild West skirmish games so unique. I grew up with them, and when they're not included I miss them.
However, I am not going to criticise the new version of SGS for being too simple. As I said, I fully understand why Ed has made the changes in the new book. Many gamers want simpler rules and faster game play. There's nothing wrong with that and in that respect the new version deserves the highest praise. Just because I like extra detail in my games does not make the book inherently at fault. It has a specific audience and it surely caters to them extremely well. I'm only too pleased that I own both versions so that I can cherry pick the best parts from both books to suit my own style of play.
Six Gun Sound  can be ordered from the THW webstore for $20 for a PDF version or for $22 for a printed version. Order the print version and you get the PDF version for free. In addition, you can download a set of Wild West building floor plans for free from the same webstore. They measure 11" by 17" and feature over 10 different buildings. I prefer 3D model buildings but free is free so I downloaded them anyway.

I have big plans ahead of me for Wild West and Weird West gaming. It'll take time. These things always do. But I have made a start and I'm committed to making it happen. I have the rules I need - Six Gun Sound, High Moon and Shadows of Brimstone. I need to build up my collection of figures although I have enough already to make a good start. But most of all I need 3D scenery. Lots of it! At present I only have one 28mm scale Wild West building - a Stoelzel's Structure barn that I reviewed on my blog here
My future options are -
  1. Make lots of card and/or foam-board models. Carl Stoelzel's Final Frontier set is the perfect place to start. I already own it and lots of other Wild West card models on my computer but they need printing out and making.
  2. Buy pre-painted MDF models and make them. 4Ground are the number one company for pre-painted buildings and scenery but they are very expensive. Some of their bigger buildings cost over £100!
  3. Buy unpainted MDF models, make them and paint them myself. Both Sarissa and TTCombat have a good range of Wild West buildings and scenery at reasonable prices.
  4. Go for a combination of the above - mix and match.
Option 1 is by far the cheapest but also the most time consuming. Option 2 is the most expensive, although, to be fair, the 4Ground models are absolutely superb. If money was no object, I'd certainly choose this option. Option 3 will be cheaper than Option 2 but less time consuming than Option 1. However, Option 4 is the one I'll most likely settle on. By mixing card buildings with pre-painted and painted by me MDF buildings I'll be able to come up with something uniquely mine. We'll see how it goes. Watch this space!

Please note that my Weird West and Wild West posts now have their own Page links which you can access from the top of my blog.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

EM4 Pre-painted Wild West Figures

Anyone starting out on collecting 28mm scale figures for Wild West gaming faces a wide choice of suitable figures from assorted manufacturers they can buy from. One company that may not be immediately apparent is UK-based EM4 Miniatures. What I particularly like about their two Wild West boxed sets is that their figures come pre-painted to a very high standard, making them ideal starter figures. I bought both sets just last month, despite the fact that I've been after them for a very long time.
OWH1 Old West Heroes Set 1 contains the following five figures shown from left to right in the two photos directly above and below - a dapper sheriff armed with a pistol, a no-nonsense gambler armed with a holstered pistol, a poncho-wearing gun-slinger armed with twin holstered pistols, an overweight Mexican bandit armed with a double-barrelled scatter-gun and a plains Indian warrior armed with a rifle and tomahawk.
All I did to them was add sand and gravel to their bases and then paint the bases. Nothing more needed doing to them. What a lovely, refreshing change! By the way, the slottabases provided with both sets were hexagonal-shaped, I replaced them with 25mm diameter circular bases.
OWH2 Old West Heroes 2 contains the following five figures shown from left to right in the two photos directly above and below - a "soiled dove" saloon girl armed with a pistol, a grizzly mountain man armed with a knife and buffalo gun, a simple farmer armed with a rifle, a deputy sheriff armed with a pistol and a Negro buffalo soldier armed with a pistol.
I repainted the trousers of the buffalo soldier as I felt they were too dark and I also painted the turn-ups of the jeans worn by the deputy. Once again, I textured then painted the bases.
These two sets contain a nice cross section of character types and in my opinion, there isn't a bad one amongst them. I particularly like the Mexican bandit and the mountain man. The fact that they are all pre-painted is a huge plus and a great time saver, even for someone like me. That they are so well painted is just the icing on the cake. I doubt if I could have done such a good paint job on them or chosen these colour schemes, not that I'm criticising the colour schemes (apart from the buffalo soldier's trousers, which I didn't like).
Set OWH1 costs £12.25 for all five figures. £2.45 per figure is not bad value for such well painted figures. However, I do have a complaint to make about set OWH2. It costs £15.30. The reason it costs a lot more is that it was "supposed" to include a CD of simple skirmish rules and floor plans for a Wild West town for you to print out. My set did not contain this extra CD. I resented paying extra for something that wasn't there. That said, the rules are very basic (just 4 pages long) and not that good and I certainly would not have used them or the floor plans either. I have seen both on-line and was far from impressed by them. So, I don't really miss them. It's just the principle of paying for something that should have been included but wasn't that rankles me. Incidentally, both sets also come with five different coloured d20 dice, with skull symbols replacing the number 1's.
This is the floor plan that should have been included with set OWH2.
EM4 used to sell a lot of pre-painted boxed figure sets but I have noticed over the past years that their ranges are dwindling and are not being restocked. The moral of this story would seem to be, buy them whilst they are available, because if you wait too long they may well be gone for good. It is such a shame that these sets are not being restocked. I'm only too glad I bought so many of them when I did.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Ainsty Castings Assorted Weird West Figures

I have mentioned on my blog before that I am keen to get into Wild West skirmish gaming and to that end I already have the two Shadows of Brimstone (SoB) board-game starter sets and the THW Weird West rules supplement, High Moon, both of which I reviewed on my blog earlier. See here for SoB and here for High Moon. Obviously, I got a bunch of figures with the two SoB sets but what else do I have in the way of Weird or Wild West figures? The answer to that is loads of figures, but sadly most need re-basing and re-painting. They were bought many years ago. Some are over 40 years old! However, I have started to actively collect more modern manufactured miniatures, starting with these two sets from Ainsty Castings Weird West range, which I bought earlier this year.
 
These three figures shown directly above and below are from set WW01 The Good Guys 1 and consist of a gunfighter, a townsman and an Indian princess. The gunfighter is armed with twin Colt .45 revolvers and could just as easily be used as an outlaw. Indeed, Ainsty have named him as Billy the Kid, but I won't be using him as such. My preferred choice is as a generic gunfighter. I do wonder why Ainsty would class such a notorious outlaw as a "good guy?"
The townsman is named Abe on Ainsty's webstore, after Abraham Lincoln, whom students of the occult will know was secretly a vampire hunter! What? Have you never seen the film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? I'm more likely to use him as a townsman, possibly a doctor, which is why my version doesn't really look like the former U.S, president. He is armed with a hefty axe.
The title "Indian Princess" does not sit well with me. I see her more of a squaw, warrior or scout. SoB features an Indian Scout character as one of the heroes and provides a figure for the male version but not the female version. She'd fit that role admirably. She is armed with a hunting knife.
The next set, WW02 Bad Guys 1, shows why these are described as Weird West as opposed to Wild West figures. They contain a Victorian vampire, a werewolf and a zombie (mislabelled a mummy on Ainsty's webstore). Rules for all three types of villains appear in the High Moon supplement, making these a "must have" buy if you own this set of rules.
All six figures are very well sculpted and were a lot of fun to paint. I can use all of them in High Moon, but only the good guys and the zombie in SoB. Rules for vampires and werewolves in SoB don't exist for this game at the time of writing.
Sets WW01 and WW02 cost £7.50 each or you can do what I did and order set WW03 Good Guys and Bad Guys which contains both sets for the reduced price of £14.00, saving you a quid. Expect to see more Weird West and Wild West posts on my blog in the future.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Heroes 02

When I first saw the My Way Miniatures 28mm scale figures of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle heroes on Andy's blog site here I immediately liked them. They were so well sculpted and beautifully animated. I mentioned to Andy that I already owned figures of the four Ninja Turtles but that mine were in a smaller scale. He wanted to see them, so for Andy, and everyone else, here they are.
These figures were made by Dark Horse many years ago (mid 1980's) and are no longer available. They are 20mm scale metal figures and are extremely rare. I read that Dark Horse had a lot of troubles casting them with as many as one in two figures being miscast! They are very nicely sculpted and I like how they are all scowling angrily. These are not the fun-loving heroes from the cartoon TV series. They came with integral bases and I have glued them to pieces of plasti-card and filled in the surrounds with Milliput. In the days before slottabases were invented, this was how I based most of my figures. They are also painted in simple block colours with no highlighting, shading or ink washes, which just goes to show how much I have developed as a painter over the years.
I'm sure you can recognise them all but they are arranged alphabetically from left to right with Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. I'd seen them in the very first comics they appeared in and to be honest, back then I had no idea how tall they were meant to be in real life. So, I was happy to use these figures in games using 25mm scale and later, 28mm scale figures. How times have changed.
I knew that there was no way I could write this post without showing you some size comparison photos of the Dark Horse Ninja Turtles and the My Way Miniatures Ninja Turtles. So, to begin with here are the two versions of Donatello and the two versions of Leonardo. Note that I painted the flesh of the Dark Horse Turtles a lot darker than on the My Way Turtles. I also used different shades of brown for the belts, elbow pads and knee pads. Incidentally, when I dug them out for this post I noticed they all wore the same coloured red bandana. This is how they originally appeared but I decided to bring them more up to date so I repainted the bandanas for Donnie, Leo and Mikey.
Finally, here are the two versions of Michelangelo and both versions of Raphael. Another thing to notice is the difference in height between the bases. I am not a fan of slottabases but I have so many figures glued on them it would be a nightmare to change them now. My preferred bases are either flat plastic or wooden MDF bases and you'll see more and more of my figures glued on them in the future. It is highly unlikely I will ever use my Dark Horse Ninja Turtles in a game, although a scenario in which some mad scientist villain has a shrink ray may be a good way to use them. There is no way I'll be getting rid of them, because they must be worth a nice sum nowadays.
Incidentally, I forgot to mention that the My Way Ninja Turtles cost 11 Euros each or you can get all four for 36 Euros, which is what I did. An alternative is to get all four figures plus a scenic sewer base for just 40 Euros. You can find details of their complete range here - http://mywayminiatures.com/
I have just placed an order for the Ninja Turtles' ally, Casey Jones, as well as the main villains of the Turtles, Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady and a horde of Foot Clan Ninjas, all based on Andy's recommendations, i.e. figures from Greebo Games and Crossover Miniatures. As soon as I get them they'll be jumping to the front of my painting queue. Turtle power!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Heroes 01

I respectively dedicate this post to my friend, Andy Nash, aka da Gobbo Grotto. It was thanks to his wonderful blog posts about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), their friends and villains that inspired me to collect my own versions of these iconic characters from comics, film and TV. Andy and I both agree that the best 28mm scale figures of the four "heroes in a hard shell" are produced by Russian  company, My Way Miniatures. Their customer service is first rate.
From left to right are Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, all named after Renaissance artists by their rat sensei, Splinter. From their home in the sewers of New York, they battle petty criminals, evil overlords, mutated creatures and alien invaders whilst attempting to remain hidden from society. Note that these are all multi-part figures made of resin and are rather fiddly to glue together.
Donatello (or Donnie) is a scientist, inventor, engineer, and technological genius. He wears a purple mask and wields a bo staff. Donatello is perhaps the least violent turtle, preferring to use his knowledge to solve conflicts, but never hesitates to defend his brothers.
Leonardo (or Leo) is a tactical, courageous leader and devoted student of his sensei. He wears a blue mask and wields two katanas. As the most conscientious of the four, he often bears the burden of responsibility for his brothers, which commonly leads to conflict with Raphael.
Michelangelo (or Mikey) is the most stereotypical teenager of the team. He is a free-spirited, relaxed, and often goofy jokester and known for his love of pizza. Michelangelo wears an orange mask and wields a pair of nunchakus. He provides the comic relief, though he still has an adventurous side. The least mature of the four Turtles, he shows characteristics of a "surfer" type and is often depicted with a Southern Californian accent.
Raphael (or Raph) is the team's bad boy. He wears a dark red mask and wields a pair of sai. He is physically very strong, has an aggressive nature, and seldom hesitates to throw the first punch. He is often depicted with a very pronounced New York accent. His personality can be fierce and sarcastic, and often-times delivers deadpan humour. He is intensely loyal to his brothers and sensei.
Next up are two very important characters in the TMNT world, April O'Neil and Splinter.
April O'Neil is a former lab assistant to the mad scientist Baxter Stockman and is the plucky human companion of the Turtles. April first met the Turtles when they saved her from Baxter's Mouser robots. She embarks on many of the Turtles' adventures and aids them by doing the work in public that the Turtles cannot. Originally, April was a television news reporter. Later, she and her friend and TMNT ally, Casey Jones, worked for a shipping firm. My version of April is clearly based on her role as a TV reporter. The figure is a conversion of the Crooked Dice Games second version of Pandora King. I snipped of her pistol and made it into a microphone. I also cut off the holster from her right hip. It was a very easy conversion.
Splinter is the Turtles' sensei and adoptive father. He is a Japanese mutant rat who learned the ways of ninjutsu from his owner and master, Hamato Yoshi. Originally, Splinter was Hamato Yoshi mutated into a humanoid rat instead of being just Yoshi's pet. In the IDW comics, he is Hamato Yoshi reincarnated as a mutated rat. The figure I used for Splinter is by Mantic Games from their DreadBall set of three team trainers (the other two are human and dwarf). In DreadBall, he is a Veer-myn team coach. He is such a good match for Splinter that I didn't have to convert him at all.

Andy knows far more about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than I do and I recommend checking out his own post for the four hero Turtles here. He covers April and Splinter in this post here. Note that he has chosen different figures from me to represent both characters. Finally, in yet more praise for my esteemed blogger friend, he has created stats for the TMNT and friends to appear in the 7TV2e game, which is exactly what I want to use them for. Check out his 7TV2e stats for them here.

Finally, before I leave, I'd just like to point out these are the first photos I took with my brand new Canon EOS 1200D camera. It took me no time at all to get the hang of it and transferring the photos to my computer so I could edit them and show them on my blog was a doddle. I couldn't be happier with my new purchase and I look forward to many years of hassle-free photography.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Goki Wooden Dice Plate

First up, my camera news. My new Canon camera arrived yesterday and I'm absolutely delighted with it. I'm not quite ready to take photos of my miniatures with it but it shouldn't take me too long to master it. It is similar in many ways to my old Nikon but also different enough to make me feel the need to fully read the instruction manual first. Always a good idea, in my opinion! I fitted a 32Gb memory card to it and I also bought a shutter release cable to use for photos that I take with my tripod. With close up photography anything that helps reduce camera shake is a good thing. I have loaded the software that comes with the camera onto my computer. I have taken a few test shots and its all looking good so far. I'm hoping to have some new photos to show you on Sunday.

So for today this is very much a filler post but it's something I thought might interest you. Last month I ordered this Goki wooden dice plate from Amazon UK. It was, to be honest, more of an impulse buy than something I was particularly looking for. That said, now that I have it, I think it is an essential gaming aid. As you know, I play a lot of board games and skirmish war-games. Normally, I'd just roll my dice on the table or on a blank area of the gaming board. Occasionally, but not very often, the dice would roll off the table, which was always frustrating and annoying. Now, with my dice plate that never happens.
The plate is very solidly made and sturdy. It measures 10" (25.7cm) square and just over 1" (3cm) tall, which is just a nice size for rolling dice. The inner height of the walls is 1" (2.5cm). I have never had an instance of dice "jumping" the walls and I have used dice of different sizes to fully test it. The base is covered in green felt, which helps reduce the noise of the rolling dice. The plate comes with five six-sided dice as shown above.
An alternative to the dice plate is the dice tower. These can come in a wide variety of materials, shapes, sizes and designs. I got a plastic one as a free stretch goal with my Zombicide season 3 Kickstarter. There's another one on the way with my Zombicide: Black Plague Kickstarter expansion set. However, I don't like them. They're just too noisy and dropping dice doesn't feel the same as rolling dice.
The Goki wooden dice plate costs £10.14 on Amazon UK. I very rarely comment on Amazon about the products I buy there but on this occasion I did and I gave it a five star rating. To me, it is an indispensable gaming aid.