Wednesday 30 December 2009

My Zombie Horde part 1

In my last post I promised that I'd show you my horde of zombie miniatures in their entirety and here they are! As the year 2009 draws to a close I currently have 332 painted zombies in scales ranging from 25mm to 35mm, with the vast majority being 28mm scale. When you see them all grouped up like this a couple of millimetres here or there makes no difference.
Thanks must go to two of my followers,  6MilPhil for first suggesting I photograph my horde and to Veloci for suggesting I add a figure that represents me in the photos. The 14 photos are split into two groups of seven. The first group shows Vampifan being chased by the zombie horde. As you can see, the horde just about covers two of my WWG modular gaming boards. In the second set of photos, Vampifan stands atop a pick-up truck surrounded by the horde. I was able to fit everyone onto the one board for these shots.
The figure of Vampifan comes from Copplestone Casting's Dark Future range and is from the Citizen Militia set 2. I converted him a bit to look more like me. Don't worry about not seeing him in close up as I'll be doing a proper review of him in my next post. I originally used him as the leader of my gang in the Gangs of Mega City One skirmish game. This is the first time he's ever faced zombies. If I ever get round to doing a full ATZ campaign I'll most certainly use him again.
Setting up all 333 figures was a time consuming affair. For the chase scene I decided to group the zombies by manufacturer, which is how they are grouped in my storage boxes. For most zombies, one row was sufficient but any company that made 15 or more zombie figures were split up into more manageable-sized groups. A lot of fun can be had trying to identify the figures. Don't forget that if you left-click on any photo it opens up on a new page at a far larger size than shown here on my blog. Most photos should then fill your screen allowing you a closer look at the figures.
The photo above and the next two following show the zombies in closer detail and I'll identify them for you by starting at the back and working my way forward. So here's the list from the back to the front. Any entry that ends with a * indicates that it has not been reviewed on my blog... yet.
10 Fortress Figures 35mm scale resin cast zombies
11 Fortress Figures 35mm scale white metal zombies
10 Wizkids Horrorclix 35mm scale zombies *
9 Wizkids Horrorclix 35mm scale zombies*
10 Citadel Bloodbowl, Chainsaw Warrior & Necromunda 30mm scale zombies*
10 East Riding Miniatures 28mm scale zombies
5 Citadel 25mm scale fantasy zombies (with integral bases, which shows how old they are!)*
4 Ral Partha 28mm scale zombies*
8 assorted one of a kind 28mm scale zombies (all out of production now)*
7 Grenadier 28mm scale zombies*
5 Copplestone Castings 28mm scale zombies
6 EM4 converted 28mm scale rockers and roadie zombies
4 Vampifan 28mm scale zombies (yes, I made these many years ago!)*
5 Victory Force 28mm scale zombies
4 Twilight Creations Inc. 25mm scale zombies
3 Black Hat 28mm skeletal marines (converted into zombies)*
8 Heresy 28mm scale zombies
11 Eureka 28mm scale toxic zombies
6 Spinespur 28mm scale toxic zombies
4 RAFM 32mm scale zombies
7 Rezolution 30mm scale zombies
I'll carry on with what should be the next row:
12 Zombiesmith 28mm scale zombies
13 Zombiesmith 28mm scale zombies
6 Crocodile Games 28mm scale zombies
14 Hasslefree Miniatures 28mm scale zombies
10 Alpha Forge 28mm scale zombies
8 Griffin Miniatures 32mm scale zombies
7 Griffin Miniatures 32mm scale zombies
10 Cold War Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (sets 1 & 2)
11 Cold War Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (sets 3 & 4 plus one from set 7)
10 Cold War Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (sets 5 & 6)
The final lot of figures follow on directly from the previous group:
11 Cold War Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (sets 8 & 9 plus one from set 7)
10 Cold War Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (sets 10 & 11)
11 Cold War Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (sets 12 & 13 plus one from set 7)
8 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (Mob set 001)
8 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (Mob set 002)
8 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (Mob set 003)
8 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (Mob set 004)
8 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (Mob set 005)
8 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies (Mob set 006)
3 Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies
...and of course, the only living human in the photos:
1 Copplestone Casting 28mm scale Vampifan
Now we move onto the second series of photos, in which the zombie horde has completely surrounded Vampifan. Things do not look too good for him, do they?
The pick-up truck upon which Vampifan is standing is from my collection of card vehicles from World Works Games. This particular model can be found in the Mayhem Armoury set. I plan on doing reviews of all my WWG vehicles in 2010.
Once again, I arranged the zombies by manufacturer. It was another time consuming task but not as bad as the initial set up for the chase scene. Nonetheless, it was a hugely enjoyable afternoon's work. Work? Can this really be called work?
In each of these photos you will notice that Vampifan is always facing the camera. I think he's trying to assess where the greatest danger is going to come from!
This must surely be any survivor's worst nightmare! It doesn't matter how many bullets you've got left in your rifle the horde will still get you before you can kill enough to escape. The optimist will call it a "target rich environment!" The pessimist will say "Oh shit, I am so screwed!" The realist will say, "I'm dead but let's see how many I can take out first!"
This is almost an overhead shot and shows just how impressive the horde is. I'd love to run a scenario that uses all of my zombie figures. Note that I called this post "My Zombie Horde part 1." Hopefully, if I'm still around this time next year, I'll showcase my horde again and we'll see how much it has grown. A total of 400 is easily achievable and I'm sure I'll surpass that figure in 2010. Will I reach the magic figure of 500 by the end of 2010? I don't know about that. Probably not but it is a target I hope to achieve sometime in the near future.
I'll leave the final words to Vampifan as he prepares for death or glory - "Come on have a go if you think you're hard enough!"

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Vampifan's Views 04 Christmas Greetings

This will be my last post before Christmas so I thought I'd let you know what my plans are for 2010 regarding my blog and have a reminisce about the past year, looking at the highs and lows.
First up, remember that I entered the Diorama of Doom 2009 for the first time with an entry that featured Vampirella beheading a chaos demoness as the demoness attempted a zombie summoning ritual. You can see it below if you've forgotten what it looked like. Well, it is now a prize winning Diorama of Doom. Yep, the judges awarded it fourth place in the competition. I was absolutely ecstatic. My first diorama in years and years and it wins a prize! Result! That was certainly a major highlight of the year for me as I did not expect to be placed at all. There were some excellent entries and the three that beat me deserved their placings.
I think for me, 2009 will be remembered as the Year of the Zombie! My 28mm scale zombie horde grew at the fastest rate ever and shows no sign of slowing down. Even though I have bought dozens and dozens of zombie miniatures this year I have kept on top of them by getting them all painted. That is quite an achievement in itself.
2009 saw the release of All Things Zombie: Better Dead Than Zed by Two Hours Wargames, which has been my favourite zombie game to date. Haven, the first supplement for the game was also released, although Ragers, the second supplement has been delayed, whilst THW work on All Things Horror, a game that is supposed to encompass a plethora of undead and supernatural types. I already own a copy of ATH:Origins, being one of the lucky few to get it as soon as it was released. I'm in somewhat of a quandary about reviewing it as shortly after buying it, it got pulled from sale due to some creative differences between THW and a third party. What I can say about ATH:Origins is that it is little more than a teaser for the main course. All of the good stuff will appear in part 2, if and when it gets released.
I began the year and indeed my blog by playtesting a set of skirmish rules featuring zombies that must still remain unnamed. I'm not sure if they will ever see the light of day. I'd like to think they will but that decision is out of my hands.
My greatest achievement of 2009 has undoubtedly been my blog. It has grown beyond my wildest dreams and it continues to be a labour of love for me. I now have 35 followers (thank you all for signing up, I truly appreciate it) and the numbers continue to grow. Even those who haven't signed up but still pop in to see what I have to say are welcome and again I appreciate you taking the time out. Likewise, the hit counter reached 10,000 far faster than I expected and then streaked ahead to pass the 20,000 mark in even less time. Remarkable! I made a vow to post regularly on my site, at least once a week and most times twice a week. I am pleased to say that I have kept that vow and it is a vow I hope to maintain for the next year.
The blog mainly concentrates on undead miniature figures and that will continue. I have concentrated on zombies because I wanted to show off my complete horde as well as showcasing new releases. 2010 should see more figure reviews of ghouls, vampires and werewolves. Yes, I know that werewolves are not undead but I'm still going to feature them. It just feels wrong not to.
My award for best figure manufacturer of 2009 goes to Studio Miniatures, manufacturers of the finest 28mm scale zombies on the market. They haven't been in business a year yet, but what an impressive debut they've made. Congratulations to all at Studio Miniatures. Worst manufacturer by far is FU-UK, who at the start of November announced that the winning entries of their zombie sculpting competition were available from their website store. I ordered them all immediately and I'm still waiting for them to arrive. Absolutely lousy customer service and a disgrace to the many people who placed an order in good faith. I have only been made aware of their monumental cock-up by checking the Frothers forum. There a lot of angry people on that forum!
I also like to review films, DVDs and books related to the undead. 2009 has been a good year for me with more crackers than turkeys. Best film of 2009 was undoubtedly Zombieland, which mixed comedy and gore to great affect. Worst film had to be Lesbian Vampire Killers. Great title, crap film! The best book that I read in 2009 was without doubt, Zombie CSU by Jonathan Maberry. In fact, I've yet to read a better book about zombies. The fact that Jonathan himself took the time out to thank me for my reviews of both that book and his excellent novel, Patient Zero, shows what a top notch bloke he is. The worst zombie novel that I read this year was Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It was unbelievably boring, which was a great shame, as his previous offering, Let the Right One In, a vampire novel, was a corker. As for TV, there is very little that I do watch. Most drama series that I watch nowadays tend to be DVD boxed sets. My last post saw me enthusing about True Blood, which has now become my favourite vampire TV series since the sadly missed Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both classics of the genre.
So, enough reminiscing. What of the future? My next project that I'll be working on these Crimble holidays is to photograph my zombie horde in its entirety. That's over 300 figures, folks! 6MilPhil, one of my followers asked me if I'd do it a couple of months ago. I thought it was excellent idea. Veloci, another keen follower, suggested I put a figure of myself in the photos, either being chased by the horde or surrounded by them. I shall do both. I have a perfect figure of myself by Mark Copplestone. He used to lead my gang in Gangs of Mega City One. Expect to see the results very soon.
I'll continue to review zombie miniatures but as I said earlier in this post, expect to see more undead and supernatural figures as well. I'd love to do more gaming but sadly that won't happen as often as I'd like. I certainly hope that ATH part 2 and ATZ:Ragers get released soon, as I'd love to play them both. I am sure that a lot of the increased traffic to my blog came after I started reviewing my World Works Games scenery. There is still more lovely WWG stuff that I haven't shown you yet so look out for more reviews in 2010.
I know that I'm getting the Sookie Stackhouse series of 8 paperback novels by Charlaine Harris for Christmas. They are the novels that True Blood is based on, so I shall look forward to reading and probably reviewing them here. are offering all eight novels for just £24 in a boxed set - fantastic value for money at just £3 per novel.
Well, I'll wrap things up now and wish you all a zombietastic Christmas and all the best for the new year. Take care and thanks for reading.
My prize winning Diorama of Doom 2009.

Sunday 20 December 2009

True Blood Series 1 DVD

Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel ended I have been waiting for a new vampire-themed TV series to sink my teeth into (pun intended). A couple of month's ago, True Blood aired on terrestial TV in the UK for the first time. Channel 4 attained the rights to screen the series and I was hooked from the start. The only thing that put me off watching it again was having to put up with annoying advert breaks every 10 minutes. Nothing kills my viewing enjoyment more than advert breaks. So I did what I always do when faced with such a situation - I waited for the boxed set of DVDs to come out. In this particular case my wait was very brief as the DVD boxed set came out before the TV series had finished airing. Result!
THE STORY. True Blood is based on the Sookie (invariably pronounced "Sucky") Stackhouse series of books by Charlaine Harris. Sookie (superbly played by Anna Paquin) is young waitress working in a bar in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has a special gift/curse in that she is a telepath. In her world, vampires are known to exist, having come out of the closet a few years ago. When a vampire called Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) walks into Sookie's bar for the first time she instantly falls in love with him. The fact that she cannot read his mind gives her a comforting break that she has been searching for ever since her special ability first manifested. He is just as infatuated with Sookie, although for different reasons. Her love life becomes even more complicated when her boss, Bill Merlotte (Sam Trammell) admits to being in love with her. Not only is Bill her boss but he's a shapeshifter as well. He generally transforms into a dog. Series 1 deals with a serial killer who is killing young women who have had sex with vampires.
The supporting cast are just as interesting and well-rounded as the three main leads mentioned above. First up is Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) who isn't the brightest tool in the box but whose good looks ensures he is never short of female companionship. He enjoys a tempestuous relationship with a V addicted hippie called Amy Burley (Lizzie Kaplan). V is vampire blood, a drop of which gives humans an incredible high. Some vampires still drink human blood but most drink a synthetic blood designed by the Japanese, known as True Blood. Sookie's best friend is Tara, (Rutina Wesley) a young woman with a quick temper, whose life is a mess, thanks to her alcoholic, bible-fearing mother. Tara's cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) is extremely funny as the bar's chef. He might be a gay, black man from the deep south but you wouldn't want to mess with him. The nicest character in the show is Adele, (Lois Smith) Sookie's grandmother, a sweet old lady, with whom Sookie lives.
THE EXTRAS. The DVD set comprises of five discs, containing all 12 episodes of series 1. Six of them feature very good commentaries by members of the cast and crew including Anna, Stephen and the series executive producer, writer and director, Alan Ball. It was interesting listening to Stephen Moyer do his commentary, as he is an English actor but his character, Bill, speaks with an American accent. The only other extra was a mockumentary called "Vampires in America" which took a serious look at how vampires have integrated into modern society. I liked it but at 15 minutes long it was far too short. I'd have loved to have seen more features about the making of the show as well as interviews with cast and crew.
THE VERDICT. This is a series that ticks all the right boxes. Gratuitous violence, bloody check. Explicit sex scenes, sizzling check. Harsh language, effing check. Humour, check. Tragedy, check. Mystery, check. Throw in characters that you quickly come to love and care about and you have a winning combination. The sex, violence and bad language pretty much ensured this was going to get an 18 certificate rating and it did. This vampire tale is about as far removed from the saccharine and kiddy-friendly world of Twilight as you can get. This a series for adults and I welcome that approach with open arms. Produced by HBO, one of the directors admitted that they could get away with far more than normal TV series or motion pictures. Yeehah! I say. The series did start slow but by episode 3 it picks up the pace and come episode 12 you are on a roller-coaster ride and you don't want to get off. I am so glad that this series has received such critical acclaim and a wide fan-base. My only complaint is that I'm going to have to wait about a year for series two to be released on DVD.
The big advantages of buying a boxed set of DVDs is being able to watch the series when you want to, and as many episodes as you want, and not having to put up with bloody adverts! True Blood series 1 costs £39.99 but if you shop around you should get it for a lot cheaper than that. I bought my copy from Amazon for a fraction of that price.
Oh, I've just remembered one other thing that I absolutely love about the series - its opening credits and theme song. Just sublime! I rate the series 10 out of 10. However, I rate the DVD set 8 out of 10 - let down by the lack of extras. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend all vampire fans to purchase this treat. It's funny, sexy, gory, smartly written and directed and a sheer joy to watch.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Studio Miniatures Zombies 06 - Mob 6

The arrival of a new set of Studio Miniatures 28mm scale zombies is something I always look forward to. When I heard that they were going to make a set of doctors and nurses to complement set 005 the hospital patients I thought it was a great idea. Alas, my joy turned to indifference when I saw that all of the figures were based on the cast of the US TV series Scrubs. You can probably guess that I am not a fan of Scrubs. I've only ever watched four episodes of it and never laughed once, leaving me wondering why it is called a comedy. Seeing as Studio Miniatures are a UK-based company, I wonder why they chose to pick an American hospital series over an English one. My choice would have been for Green Wing, which was a far racier comedy than Scrubs could ever aspire to be. Anyway, enough of my moaning, let's take a closer look at the figures, starting with the four in the two photos above.
At the far left is John "JD" Dorian, whom I believe is the star of the show. He is in a very static pose. To me, his head looks too big for his body. I wonder if the sculptor made the heads slightly bigger to achieve a closer likeness to whover the figure was supposed to represent? No question, he really does look like Zach Braff. He isn't the only figure to suffer this fault. He has a small hole in the left knee of his trousers and his only wound is to his right cheek.
Next up is the first of the two females in the set, Dr. Eliot Reid. As hard as I looked, I couldn't find any wounds on her. I do wonder if the sculptor likes these characters too much that he does not want to disfigure them. I have no qualms in slapping the gore on, so I gave her a stomach wound with the blood seeping through to her pristine white coat and smeared her left hand in blood as if she attempted to staunch the blood flow.
Dr. Christopher Turk is dressed in his green surgical scrubs. He has a small hole in his back and he also suffers from a cheek wound, this time to the left side of his face. I've made it bleed profusely, so that the front of his uniform is covered in blood. Again, he stands in a very static pose, and he too, appears to have a slightly over-sized head.
Last in line, is Nurse Carla Espinosa, who I think is married to Turk. I saw the episode where they got married but I have no idea if they still are and nor do I care. I'm not too sure what she is meant to be holding in her right hand. I've painted it up as a disposable surgical glove, which seems like an apt choice. The right side of her face has been bitten off - at last, a decent injury! I also added a couple of scratches to her left arm.
Moving on to the next batch, we begin at far left with Dr. Perry Cox. I like the stethoscope slung casually around his neck. He has lost his left shoe and his sock has a big hole in it that shows a few of his toes poking through. Again, this is a nice touch. I've bloodied both his knees, seeing as his jeans had holes there. He has had a small bite taken out of his left cheek. Yet again, I am forced to criticise the size of his head - it's just too big.
Standing in exactly the same pose as Cox is Dr. Bob Kelso. The only differences between the two are the heads (obviously) and Kelso wears a shirt and tie instead of a T-shirt. Kelso has a hole in his upper back, which I've painted as a bullet wound and also added blood to the front of his shirt for the entry wound. I have slightly bent his right arm forwards just to make his pose a bit more different to that of Dr. Cox.
I'm not 100% certain of the identity of the figure in the centre of the group but I'm guessing from my Wikipedia search that he is Ted Buckland, the lawyer. I'm sure that any Scrubs fan will correct me if I'm wrong. This figure came in two parts. His briefcase was a separate casting that slotted into a peg on his right hand. This is the most animated figure out of the group and thus, my favourite. He is staggering forward on bent legs. His jacket is all awry. I've painted him with a missing left eye, so blood has covered the left side of his face and severely stained his shirt.
The figure with the sink plunger is apparently known only as the Janitor. He too, has had a bite taken out of the side of his face - a popular injury amongst this group! How I'd love to have seen at least one of them disembowelled! I've added a small bite wound to his left arm and gave him a bloodied right knee.
The final figure in this group is the free figure that you can get if you buy sets 005 and 006 together. My initial reaction upon seeing him was "who the hell is this?" I later found out from the TMP Horror Forum that he was another cast member of Scrubs, someone called Todd Quinlan or The Todd. This changed my reaction to one of "meh!" He is dressed in a posing pouch, boots and socks and a surgeon's hat. He has a bite wound to his lower left arm and he is eating some unidentifiable body part.
Zombie Mob 006 costs £15.99 if you buy them in white metal or £24.99 if you buy them in resin. If you want The Todd figure then you'll need to buy Zombie Horde 003 (comprising Zombie Mobs 005 and 006), which costs £29.99 for the white metal figures or £44.99 for the resin cast figures. I must admit to being very disappointed with this set. This is primarily down to my dislike of Scrubs. I can't relate to the characters so these will just be generic doctors and nurses when I use them. I do welcome the inclusion of zombie doctors and nurses. In any zombie outbreak they are going to be right in the frontline and will suffer severe casualties.
I would say to any fans of the show that I would seriously consider buying two sets, one to paint up as zombies and one to paint up as ordinary humans. Apart from filling in a few holes in their clothing there is very little work needed doing to make them all human. The poses are such that you could easily get away with it. Your thoughts on this set will surely depend on what you think of Scrubs.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero is a new thriller novel by an author whom I greatly admire, Jonathan Maberry. I raved about his previous book Zombie CSU a few months back and proclaimed it as the best zombie book I'd ever read. Zombie CSU took a simple premise - if a zombie attack happened now, how would the world react? It dealt with this theme in a serious manner, getting opinions from a wide range of experts. Patient Zero picks up on some of the points raised in Jonathan's earlier work but is entirely a work of fiction.
The hero of the story is a Baltimore detective called Joe Ledger, who is recruited into a covert organisation known as the Department of Military Sciences (DMS). DMS is run by a mysterious chap called Mr. Church, which may well be an alias. His background is unknown but he has unbelievable authority, funding and contacts. In short, he is not a man to cross with. But neither is Joe Ledger. He is ex-army and a martial arts expert. He reacts extremely well in combat situations. His world is turned upside down when he killed a terrorist on a raid he led, only to face the same terrorist shortly afterwards when Mr. Church first tried to recruit him.
Yes, the terrorist came back to life as a zombie with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. The premise of the book is that a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists with the help of some top-ranking scientists have found a way to reanimate the dead. I'm no scientist, so I couldn't possibly comment on whether such a feat is possible but from what I do know about prions, the basis for the zombie infection, I'd have to say it all sounds very plausible.
The terrorists plan to release the zombie plague on American soil. It is fast acting so in no time at all the whole of the United States would be infected. The major effect of such a catastrophe would be to force the US government to spend billions of dollars to research a cure. This would reduce the country's military spending such that the USA could no longer be termed a global superpower. I like the thinking behind the terrorist's plot, especially as they had already developed a cure.
DMS has intell on the whereabouts of a couple of the terrorists' cells and Joe is tasked with leading a small group of hand-picked military personnel to take them out. He succeeds in both missions, although not without a great deal of suffering in the second raid. His findings lead him to believe that the terrorists were planning something a lot more devastating and with the July the Fourth celebrations looming fast he isn't wrong.
I absolutely lapped this book up and I loved it. The back cover describes the novel as a coming together of 24 and 28 Days Later, which is a perfectly apt description of it. Jonathan's writing style reminded me a lot of James Patterson's work and like Patterson he uses a lot of short chapters, often just a page long and rarely longer than four pages. I love this way of writing as it makes it much harder to put the book down. I'll often look at the clock and say to myself that I'll just read one more chapter. But the next chapter is only one page long, so I'll read another... and another... and another. Before I know it another hour has passed!
I hope this is just the first in a series of books. The ending leaves it open for a sequel, so make it happen, Jonathan! The book is fast-paced and exciting and comes with my highest recommendation. It would make for a terrific movie. It is unfair to compare it with Zombie CSU, since that was a non-fictional book and this is pure fiction, but I will say that I enjoyed reading it as much as I did with Zombie CSU, and that is high praise indeed.
 I have read some negative comments about one of the book's characters - Major Grace Courtland, just because she's a high ranking female in the SAS. Again, I'm no expert on the recruitment policy of my nation's elite fighting force, but I had no problems with her inclusion. After all, this is fiction and if I can believe that zombies may exist then I have no problem in accepting a female SAS major!
The book costs £9.99 and is a large format paperback, running to 424 pages. It is printed by Orion Books in the UK. I got my copy a lot cheaper than that from Believe me, if you're a fan of zombie horror, this is well worth seeking out.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Twilight Creations Inc. Zombies

Twilight Creations Inc. ought to be well known to fans of zombie games as they produced a very successful boardgame called Zombies!!! along with numerous expansion sets. I've played Zombies!!! and a few of the expansions and they are what we call "beer and pretzels" games, meaning they are fun to play if you are limited in time and don't want to stretch your brain cells too much. This is not meant to be a review of the game(s) but a look at some of the figures that are provided with the games.
First thing to note is their size. These are only 25mm tall, making them quite small when compared with 28mm scale metal figures. Readers of my blog will be well aware that I am not a scale snob. I wanted to add some of these plastic figures to my zombie horde, so I just reasoned that the four humans shown above in my photos were young teenagers, not yet fully grown. If you go with that rationale, they fit in well.
At the far left is one of the standard male zombies that you get with the starter set. He is dressed in track suit, trainers and baseball cap, which I have painted in a Burberry pattern to make him a young "chav" - an obnoxious breed of youths that infest many deprived areas and sink estates in the UK. He has a massive wound in his stomach - you can see daylight through it! His right arm and right ankle have been bitten. As far as the sculpting goes, he is very average, with surface detail notable by its absence.
Next to him is a conversion of the same figure. I've repositioned his head and left arm. Now that the left arm is hanging down by his side it appears to be longer than his right arm! I filled in the hole in his back but added a spool of intestines spilling out off his stomach. I added modelling putty to his right arm and lower right leg, but shifted the location of the two bites there slightly by moving them further up the limbs. He too is painted in the traditional colours of a "chav."
In the centre of the group is a female zombie, who also comes with the original boxed set. When Zombies!!! was first released you only got male zombies with it but now you get a mixture of male and female zeds. She is a much better sculpt than the male zombie. Her dress has been badly torn and she has bite wounds to both legs and her right arm. There is also a wound to her back that may have been caused by a bullet. She holds a severed head in her left hand, which interestingly wears glasses.
The fourth zombie human in the group comes from the expansion set called Humans!!! and he is one of the humans. However, because he is running I have painted him up as a rage zombie like those seen in 28 Days Later. I used a pin vice to drill a line of holes across his chest and back to indicate bullet wounds. I used modelling putty to create a bite wound on his right arm.
The final figure in the group comes from Zombies!!! 4: The End and is a zombie dog. Its right eye is almost popping out of its socket. Its main wounds are to either side of its body, with most of the flesh stripped away. It also has a bite wound at the top of its front right leg. I was able to fit it onto a 20mm diameter plastic slottabase. Not all games allow for zombie dogs but if they do this figure will make a welcome addition. I like it.
I should mention that you can buy a "Bag o'Zombies" which contains 100 of the male zombies and a "Bag o' Zombie Dogs" which contains 100 zombie dogs if you want the figures without having to buy the boardgame. These are not the best sculpted figures on the market; the faces in particular lack detail. The fact that they are made of soft plastic and that they are only 25mm in size will put off many a purchaser. I reinforced the limbs of most of the figures shown above with a thin strip of modelling putty to stop them bending and thus flaking the paint off. I do know that some gamers have used these as a cheap means to create a large zombie horde. I wouldn't go to that extreme but I did not mind using the few I have shown above to add to my primarily metal horde.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

WWG Bookstore

This week's World Works Games review looks at a building that I am especially proud of - the Mayhem City bookstore. The reason that I am so proud of this is because it is a complete conversion that I came up with. If you look on the WWG website you won't find any Mayhem City bookstore listed amongst their contemporary products. The idea for this conversion came about when I bought the Shellendrak Manor set and saw the long bookshelves that came with it. That was the spark that set me off on this unique project.

The roof comes from the Mayhem Downtown set. There are two roofs supplied with this set and I chose the broom roof, so called because there is a broom discarded on it. There is also a knocked over white plastic chair printed on the roof. I did not like this feature because it should be in 3-D not a flat image, so I Photo-shopped it out on my computer. The box of air conditioning units in the centre of the roof came from the Mayhem Armoury set. They make a very useful handle for lifting the roof off!

So, the first decision to make was to choose a set of exterior walls for the building and for me, the obvious place to look was in the Mayhem Downtown set, which consists of numerous "Hollywood flats" i.e. exterior walls for buildings without any interiors. I chose the stucco wall from that set. The sign above the front doors also came from that set and I like the pun name of Baiurs and Selers, which sounds like Buyers and Sellers. The front doors are also from the Mayhem Downtown set and are stuck onto the ground floor wall that has only two windows. There is another ground floor wall in this set that has four windows printed on it, which was not used in this project. Note that on all the upper floor windows I cut out the strip at the bottom of each window and glued it to thick mounting board. I then stuck them back in place. This gives them a more realistic appearance, especially when viewed from an angle as in the first two photos.

The side walls came from a kitbash set designed by Bob Cooper called Urban Mayhem Flats: Siding 1 (Neutral Colours). The grey walls fit in perfectly with the grey stone work of the ground floor. I had to do a bit of work in Photoshop with the ground floor wall to remove the two windows - not that hard a task for me, a qualified graphic designer.

For the back wall I used the stucco walls with two windows in from the Mayhem Downtown set. I placed a back door directly over the right hand window on the ground floor. This came from the set of spare doors that are supplied with the Mayhem Downtown set. I wanted a solid-looking door with no windows in and this fit the bill perfectly.

The right hand wall is identical to the left hand wall so my previous comments apply here.

The photo above shows an overhead view of the interior of the ground floor. The wood panelled floor came from the Fantasy set, Pubs and Inns. I added a welcome mat taken from Jim's Dollhouse Minis website, where all the props are free to download. the piles of books that you can see stacked next to the sales counter came from the same website. I just glued the bookcovers to offcuts of mounting board to create differing heights. The stairs came from the Mayhem Industrial set

Now that I am moving onto the interiors I ought to say how my bookshelves differ from those found in the Shellendrak Manor set. Once again, some copy and paste work in Photoshop was used. The SM bookshelves come with five rows of shelves atop a row of drawers and a strip of wood panelling. I added an extra row of shelves for the books to give six in total. This strip replaced the row of drawers. The wood panelling was cut in half so that I had a strip running along the top of the shelves as well as the bottom.. Then I designed a series of black strips with white writing on to go over the top strip of wood. The shelf that you see against the back wall says "Best Sellers" and "A-Z by Author" on the black strip. The height of all my shelves remained the same as the Shellendrak Manor shelves but the lengths vary. The SM bookshelves are really three shelves joined together. For my bookstore I printed some off as triple units, some as double units and others as single units. If there is sufficient interest in my bookshelf conversion I may submit it to WWG as a kitbash. The wall clock above the back door is another prop from Jim's Dollhouse Minis.
The single bookshelf next to the stairs contains children's books. The two shelves in the centre of the floor are stacked with fiction. The sales counter is a conversion of the one that came with the Mayhem Armoury set. I've changed it from an "L" shape to a single long unit. the drawers are in the centre at the back and the two shelves have been moved to the front left and their contents replaced with stacks of books, waiting to go on display. The phone on the desk is from the Mayhem Police set, whilst the laptop computer is from the Ebbles Derelict Core 2 set - Office Props. The painting by the back door came from the Mayhem Police set.

Note the filing cabinet hidden underneath the stairs. That came from the Mayhem Industrial set but was cut in half to fit in the space. Throughout the store, on walls and ends of the bookshelves you'll see posters of books. I got these from an excellent website called Fantastic Fiction, which must list every work of fiction ever published. I had a look at their list of top twenty books and copied the images of the front covers to a separate file. I resized them then printed them out. They give the place a very authentic feel. The only downside is that they date the store. This can't be helped and it would be unrealistic to try and keep them current.

The five shelves along the back wall contain works of general fiction, whilst the two shelves in the centre of the floor are where you'll find the romance novels. I spent an interesting morning in a large bookstore (Waterstone's) noting down the different categories of books they stock. Very useful research!

This overhead view shows the first floor (or second floor if you're American) and is devoted to specific genres of fiction, like for instance, crime, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi and horror.

Against the back wall are three shelf units stacked with fantasy and science fiction novels. The stairs are identical to those on the ground floor, coming as they do from the Mayhem Industrial set.

I made a simple parapet to run along the hole in the floor caused by the stairwell. It's just a piece of grey mounting board with a brown strip running along the top and bottom. The shelf at the bottom of the stairs is devoted to film and TV tie-in novels and is flanked by posters for Star Wars and Doctor Who. The two shelves in the centre of the floor contain mystery novels.

I like reading but there are very few of the books that I chose to advertise that I have read. In the centre of the far wall above is a poster for Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton, which I have read, as I'm a big fan of her Anita Blake series.

The two shleves in the centre of the floor are stacked with crime thrillers, which is rather appropriate as the mystery novels occupied the opposite side. Against the far wall are one shelf of science fiction novels, two shelves of horror novels and two shelves of historical fiction.

Moving up a floor, this section is devoted to the non-fiction and reference books. I did wonder whether each floor should have a sales counter but due to lack of space I ditched that idea. Anyone who buys a book here has to pay for it on the ground floor.

The three categories of books found on the shelves against the far wall are art and architecture, biographies and cookery. The L-shaped parapet around the stairwell was made in a similar manner to the one on the floor below.

Against the far wall in the photo above are a pair of bookshelves devoted to reference books, like dictionaries. The two shelves in the centre of the floor stock books on religion and sport. To some people sport is a religion!

I chose a couple of large book covers from Jim's Dollhouse Minis to stick on the end of the shelves in the centre of this floor. They are both to do with cookery.

I arranged the different categories of books on this floor in alphabetical order going in a clockwise direction. So, on the five shelves against the far wall you will find books on film and TV, gardening, military, natural history and poetry. Transport and travel are the two categories of books found on the two centrally placed shelves.
This was an enormously satisfying project to work on and quite a challenge. It is not something that I would recommend beginners to try. There is nothing I like more than to see a building that is fully furnished on the inside. "Hollywood flats" may have their place in a lot of people's cities but not in mine. I like my interiors too much!

Sunday 29 November 2009

Spinespur Zombies 02

A few months ago I reviewed the Torn, a set of three 28mm scale naked zombies by Comfy Chair Games for their Spinespur game. See here for my review if you want a reminder -
Shortly after I had reviewed them Rogzombie reviewed them on his blog site. See here for his review -  At first I thought he'd reviewed the same three figures as I had but a close look revealed that his three figures were very different to my three. It was Roger himself who solved the mystery. The three figures he had bought were pre-production castings and were withdrawn from sale when the powers that be at Spinspur deemed them to be too thin. So the ones that I reviewed are the official Torn figures and the ones that appear on Spinespur's website. I was rather disappointed that the figures that Roger reviewed were no longer available as I would have dearly loved to have added them to my collection.
So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when Roger recently e-mailed me with news that he had a spare set for sale and he wondered if I'd be interested in buying them. Naturally I was very interested and the sale went ahead. My first reaction upon seeing them in the flesh was that they don't look that thin. They are just as good as the new figures.
Looking at the figures in the two photos above, you'll immediately see that I've painted them with a greenish tinge, which is how I paint my toxic zombies. At the far left is a partially bald male with a huge gaping hole in his stomach revealing his intestines. He is staring up to space as if to curse the gods for his predicament. Note that these three figures are heavily pock-marked, unlike the other three Torn figures. This is especially noticable when you look at the back of the figures.
The figure in the centre of the group epitomises the name of the Torn, as he tears the flesh from his chest to reveal his rib-cage. He is also partially bald but I've painted his hair grey rather than brown.
The last figure in line is totally bald. He is also in the process of tearing the skin from his body, only this time he is mutilating his face. In the original set there was another zombie pulling the skin off his face but this guy is in a far worse state as he also has a massive stomach wound, similar to zombie at the left of the group.
As someone who loves painting gore effects on zombies, these were an absolute joy to paint. Also because they are all naked they got painted very quickly. No worries about what colour to paint their clothes! I like these three as much as the first three that I reviewed and in my opinion they are definitely not too thin. I wish that Spinespur would sell both sets.
It is usually at this point when I tell you how much the figures are but as these are now out of production that is rather a moot point. Obviously there are still some available and Evil-Bay might be your best bet if you really want a set. I'd like to offer a huge thank you to Roger for thinking of me when he had a spare set for sale. Roger, you made my day, mate!

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Twilight: New Moon Review

It was my birthday yesterday and as a treat for myself I went to the cinema to see New Moon, the second in the Twilight series based on the hugely successful books by Stephenie Meyer. I reviewed Twilight, the first film in the series quite a few months ago. It is hard to escape the phenomenon that surrounds this series. In one way, I like it, as vampires and werewolves are now officially "cool" and a whole new audience is being introduced to the genre. On the other hand, what I dislike about this series is that it ignores the horror of being a vampire or a werewolf for a soppy love story firmly aimed at teenage girls. In no way can these books or films be called horror stories.
THE PLOT. The film opens with Bella Swann celebrating her 18th birthday. She wants a quiet affair at home with her vampire lover, Edward Cullen, but Edward's family of vampires have other ideas and so Bella is invited to a party held in her honour at the Cullen household. Things go badly wrong when Bella suffers a paper cut when opening one of her presents causing Jasper, the least experienced vampire to freak out and attack her. It is a pivotal point in the Bella/Edward relationship as it forces Edward to break up with Bella. He and his family depart, leaving Bella heartbroken. She finds solace and a new love with Jacob Black, a friendly neighbour. Bella sure knows how to pick them. It turns out that Jacob is a werewolf and his clan have a long lasting feud with all vampires. Bella catches glimpses of Edward, but only in times of great stress or danger. This causes her to become more and more rash as she becomes almost addicted to thrill rushes, putting her life in peril. One stunt, where she dives from atop a steep cliff almost ends in her drowning but for a timely rescue from Jacob. Alice Cullen, the vampire who can see the future, had a premonition of Bella dying because of the cliff jumping. She rushes back to find out the truth. Due to a misunderstanding Edward believes that Bella really is dead and decides to end his life by revealing himself to be a vampire in an Italian town ruled by the elite of the vampiric society, the Volturi. Cue Bella and Alice in a race to save him.
THE FILM. The cast of the first film all reprise their roles, with the leads played by Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward), Taylor Lautner (Jacob) and Ashley Greene (Alice). Michael Sheen plays Aro, the leader of the Volturi, who are the vampiric leaders and enforcers of their laws, of which there is only really one - keep the existance of vampires secret from humanity. Catherine Hardwicke passed the directing duties over to Chris Weitz and he does an admirable job with the material. With a running time of 130 minutes, this was quite a long film but never boring.
THE REVIEW. Whatever I say about this film won't alter the fact that it is going to do outstanding business at the box office. Twilight was a huge succes and this looks like it will be an even bigger hit. So my views amount to little but for what it's worth I liked the film in parts but found it lacking as well.
The good points include the introduction of the werewolves to the saga. They look suitably impressive when in wolf form. These critters are are about the size of a grizzly bear and even more lethal in a fight! Apparently, Jacob is the only werewolf who can transform in mid-leap, a very impressive feat. Alice continues to be my favourite character. I just wish she had more screen time. The Volturi were also a welcome addition and you do not want to mess with them, which probably explained why Edward wanted to fulfil his death wish on their home territory. The scenes with the Volturi at the end of the film gave a palpable taste of their true power.
The bad points are that not much really happens. When I saw Twilight for the first time, I hadn't read any of the books so I didn't know what to expect from the film. Now though, I've read the complete saga and in my opinion, New Moon is the weakest out of the four books. As a consequence, I did not have high hopes for the film. Bella and Edward continue to be annoying adolescents. Edward may be over 100 years but my God, he still acts like a pouty teenager. At times I just wanted to bash the pair of them together to knock some sense into their brains. The film sags after Edward departs but picks up when the werewolf clan take out Laurent, one of the three vampire rogues from the first film. This is the first time that Bella sees a werewolf pack but she runs away before witnessing Laurent's demise.
I'll certainly buy the DVD when it comes out and I'll go see the next installment, Eclipse when it is released next year. I rate New Moon 6 out of 10.

Team Edward
Team Jacob