Wednesday 29 August 2012

Vampifan's Views 28 - Monthly Musings 13

Vampirella by Greg Hildebrandt
In my last post, I reviewed two WWG construction vehicles, a digger and a grabber. I was extremely embarrassed to discover that I had stuck the bucket of the digger on back to front. Thanks to Johnny and Mathyoo for pointing this out to me. I corrected my mistake and I took a new set of photos, which I have used to replace the original ones in my review. Check them out if you want to see what the digger should look like. I also took that opportunity to reposition the arms of the grabber so that the claw attachment is now raised off the ground. I posted a couple of pics of the two vehicles on the WWG forum and from the following comment it might appear that I didn't get it wrong with the placement of the bucket - "The bucket on an excavator is made to be removed, and some models have made this an 'on the fly' operation with a locking system that can be disengaged to swap buckets or to mount other tools (like a grab or a steel roller for tamping soil to the right hardness). I have seen operators use this to swap the bucket placement back and forth, from the classic 'curled back pulling toward the operator' position to the 'scooping away from the operator' position yours is in above. That can be really handy when they are digging around previously buried pipes and foundations.
(I'm an archaeologist, part of the job is watching trenching and excavations)"

That made me feel less like a klutz. Even so, I do think the change was necessary.

 Once again, I have a story to tell you about the kindness of others and the generosity of my fellow bloggers. I recently received an e-mail from Phil Hynes asking if I'd be interested in a green of a tar zombie that he had sculpted and painted? Phil did point out that the figure was slightly larger than 28mm scale, but that certainly didn't bother me. Within two days of confirmining that I was very interested, I received a small package that not only contained the aforementioned  tar zombie but also a fridge magnet of a zombiefied head of Elvis Presley. I'm sorry I don't have a photo of the fridge magnet. The two photos to the left show Phil's tar zombie. For those who don't know what a tar zombie is, they first appeared in the film, Return of the Living Dead. They were kept stuffed and locked away in large metal drums and they got their name from the thick fluid that was used to preserve them. No, it is not tar, but the name stuck. Mayhem ensued when one of the barrels was accidentally opened.

Not only is Phil's sculpting spot on but so is his paint job. I stuck the figure onto a circular slottabase and added the sand and gravel. The only painting I did was on the base to tie it in with the rest of my zombie horde. I am absolutely delighted with this figure, especially knowing that it is a one off. Once again, many thanks, Phil!

In other news, I have seen four films at the cinema this month, which is very good going for me. They were The Amazing Spiderman (not bad but I wasn't wholly convinced by the make-up/CGI of the Lizardman), Batman - The Dark Knight Rises (very good but I'd rate it no more than 4 stars), Ted (rude, crude and very funny) and finally, The Expendables 2 (mindless action that is just so over the top it made me smile!) All four were entertaining in their own ways. I'm looking forward to seeing Dredd 3D, Cockneys vs Zombies, and The Sweeney next month.

I have to admit that these past couple of weeks my figure painting and card modelling have almost come to a standstill. I do have a very good excuse, however. I was chosen by Ed Teixeira of Two Hours Wargames to be a play-tester of the new ATZ rulebook - Final Fade Out (FFO). This has been a dream come true for me. Let me tell you that FFO is a very different set of rules to BDTZ. In my somewhat biased opinion I think that they will be the best set of zombie skirmish rules on the market. BDTZ certainly had its faults but FFO is such a vast improvement. It is undoubtedly ATZ, but not as you know it. It is leaner, meaner and more streamlined.
In my last Monthly Musings, I said was a bit uncertain about continuing my current ATZ campaign or should I start a new campaign? I also said I'd make my mind up after I'd read FFO. Well, not only have I read it, I have also play-tested a lot of the rules. I am now more convinced than ever that I want to start a new campaign. Vampifan will still be the Star and team leader. His team will consist of Gap, Big Sil and Angie. Yes, I'm bringing back Angie but this time she and Big Sil are going to be a married couple.
I could have continued my current campaign but after carefully weighing up all of the pros and cons, I decided it would be best to start again.
I'm sorry to say that I made a lot of mistakes in my BDTZ campaign. I never rolled to see if any of the team left at the end of a month. I ignored the use of resources, especially food and fuel. When I started using the PEF rules from I, Zombie I didn't realise that they should be used in addition to the initial zombie placement rules. I used them instead of initial zombie placement, so my encounters should have had a lot more zombies in them. There were a few other minor points that I got wrong. As a result, I view this campaign as a practice session. It was fun but it was also flawed.
With my experience from that campaign and a better set of rules, the FFO campaign should be very different. FFO is part skirmish game but with more of a role-playing element thrown in, albeit role-playing lite. FFO has so many changes from BDTZ that it will feel like a totally new game. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to playing it for real.

Sunday 26 August 2012

WWG Digger and Grabber

As well as making card buildings, I like to make card vehicles. Now, I may have fell out of favour with World Works Games when it comes to buildings (basically, I'm not a fan of their new TLX buildings) but as far as model vehicles go, WWG are still number one in my opinion. Here are my two latest models and these came from the old Mayhem Junkyard set - a digger and a grabber.

When I decided to make these, my first thought was, "should I make the digger or the grabber?" What an idiot! The obvious answer was to make both! To the left is the digger with its bucket scoop at the end of its arm. To the right is the grabber with its mechanical claw at the end its arm.

Regarding the construction of these two models, the tracks and body were very easy to make. The arms and their attachments were much, much harder to build, especially as I reinforce my models with mounting card. Actually, despite the extra effort, it has paid dividends. I can just imagine how flimsy the arms and attachments would be if I hadn't reinforced them. I'm comforted by the fact that these will stand up to a lot of handling when I'm gaming.

This side view shows the vehicle with the digger attachment. The two small, slender hydraulic arms on either side of the main arms were reinforced with thin card, but when glued back to back are quite thick and robust. There is very little space to work with for attaching the bucket to the end of the arm, so I glued it in place with a dab of superglue to get a really strong bond.

I normally print my vehicles onto satin photo paper for a semi-gloss look. For these, however, I printed them onto my standard matte photo paper. It reinforces the fact that they have not just rolled out of a factory but are working vehicles that will get dirty very quickly. One thing I did do, which isn't too clear from my photos was to gloss varnish the windows.

Here we have the side view of the grabber. The grabber itself was reinforced with thin card and it was the most fiddly part of the model to cut out and glue together. One thing that I always do with any card model is to "edge" them. Edging is colouring in the white edges of your model so that they blend in with the rest of the model. Most tutorials suggest using felt tip markers to edge. I prefer to use acrylic paints. This means you have to take extra care and a steady hand is a must. However, on the plus side, it gives me a greater range of colours to play with and I can more accurately match up the colours required.
If these were die-cast models, you'd be able to move the arms up and down. Unfortunately, that is not an option with these, so the arms have to be glued into one position only.The hydraulic joint between the bend in the two arms gives you some variation in how the arms can be positioned.
Keen-eyed viewers will have seen the digger version of this pair making an appearance in my "Assault on Precinct 13" scenario, where it was no more than a background prop. These would both make fine zombie fighting tools, with a number of options for dispatching zeds. I'm very happy with how they have turned out, but I must stress that these are not suitable models for the beginner.
NOTE: the first five photos have been edited to show the bucket attachement to the digger fitted the correct way round - facing the cab.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Vampifan's Views 27 - Twenty Questions

  Two of my favourite bloggers, Ray of Don't Throw a 1 and Fran the Angry Lurker, recently ran a Q and A session on their blogs. It has proved so popular that other bloggers have decided to run it with their own answers. So here's my answers to the questions.

1.       Favourite Wargaming period and why?
Zombie apocalypse gaming. It is something I have wanted to do ever since I saw Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" at the cinema in 1978. That film had a huge influence on me. It is only in recent years I have been able to achieve my goal, but it has been well worth waiting for. Thank God that All Things Zombie caters for the solo gamer.
2.       Next period, money no object?
So many to choose from, but if I had to choose just one I'd say the Wild West in 28mm scale.
3.       Favourite 5 films?
Listed alphabetically, although Dawn of the Dead is my number one film of all time.
       1. Dawn of the Dead (1978 version) by George A. Romero.
       2. Day of the Dead (1985 version) by George A. Romero
       3. Hard Boiled by John Woo.
       4. The Outlaw Josey Wales by Clint Eastwood.
       5. Underworld by Len Wiseman
4.       Favourite 5 TV series?
Again, listed alphabetically.

       1. Angel.
       2. Being Human.
       3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
       4. The Sweeney.
       5. True Blood
       Just bubbling under is The Walking Dead
5.       Favourite book and author?
Sigh, just one choice! Fair enough then - Feed by Mira Grant. It's one of the few books that deserves to be called unputdownable.
6.       Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!
 Admiral Ackbar, commander of the rebel fleet in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." Hey, he was ultimately responsible for defeating the Empire. Respect!
7.      Favourite Wargames rules?
All Things Zombie by Two Hour Wargames. Their decision to cater for the solo gamer has been a life saver for me. 
8.      Favourite sport and team?
I have no interest in sport but I did end up watching far more of the 2012 Olympic Games than I intended. Team GB made me feel very proud, so I nominate them as my favourite team.
9.      If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?
If it ever did exist in reality, I'd like to go back to the time of King Arthur and to see Camelot.
10.   Last meal on Death Row?
Roast chicken and chips, followed by Vienetta chocolate ice cream.
11.   Fantasy relationship and why?
If we're talking pure fantasy, it has to be Vampirella, otherwise, someone who looks like Vampirella, like the adorable Leslie Culton, pictured below Why? I fell in love with Vampirella as soon as I saw her. She was the first "good" vampire that I'd read about. Up until then I believed all vampires were evil. Of course, things are a lot different nowadays as attitudes have changed and vampires can be good or evil.
12.   If your life were a movie, who would play you?
Mel Smith.
13.   Favourite Comic  Superhero?
Ho, ho, ho, need you ask? With Vampifan as my alias, it can only be Vampirella.
14.   Favourite Military quote?
"Upon my command unleash hell!" by General Maximus Decimus Meridius
15.   Historical destination to visit?
The OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
16.   Biggest Wargaming regret?
Losing my old bunch of gaming buddies as they left the area. Most left to get married and settle down elsewhere. One died very young at the age of 34. Now I'm a solo gamer and I just think, if they could see my gaming set up now, they'd be gobsmacked.
17.   Favourite Fantasy job?
Getting paid to indulge in my gaming hobby - making models, painting figures and skirmish gaming.
18.   Favourite Song Top 5?
Listed in alphabetical order.
       1. Listen To Your Heart by Roxette.
       2. The 1812 by Bond
       3. The Winner Takes It All by Abba.
       4. Vampyre Erotica by Inkubus Sukkubus
       5. When The Night's On Fire by Mike Oldfield.
19.   Favourite Wargaming Moment?
 In my Necromunda campaign, which was one of the most successful gaming campaigns I ever ran, I played a Goliath gang led by Big Fub. He became the target of the Orlock gangers in an Assassinate scenario. Sadly for me, the scenario lasted half a turn. An Orlock heavy with a Plasma Cannon made a lucky hit on turn one and knocked Big Fub out of the fight. It just goes to show how unbalanced this scenario was when a person could lose without even getting to move or fire! No matter, I got my revenge when I rolled for Big Fub's injury. He scored 65 on the injury table which incredibly, earned him Impressive Scars. Everyone remembered Big Fub walking away from a Plasma Cannon hit. No one remembered the name of the cowardly Orlock who tried to backstab him. That was a pivotal point in the campaign because after that, my Goliath gang went on winning streak that just defied all odds.
20.   The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
Far too much! However, seeing as Fran and Ray limited their answers to 11, so shall I.
1.   Having to go to a job centre to sign on every two week's to pick up a paltry Jobseeker's Allowance. It is soul destroying!
2.   The DWP (Department of Worthless Pricks) who run the job centres.
3.   ATOS (Association of Twats and Odious Shitheads) the incompetent scum who decide that 7 in 8 of the sick, the infirm and the disabled are actually fit for work. I hope all ATOS staff burn in Hell for all eternity. Yes, they did declare me fit for work  and my hatred for them knows no depths!
4.   The current government who haven't got a bloody clue how to run this country. Don't get me started on that waste of skin that is George Osborne!
5.   So-called reality TV "stars" without an ounce of talent but are looked up to as acceptable role-models.
6.   The shameful way our elderly are treated in this country. Why can't we show them some respect?
7.   People who talk in cinemas when a film is showing. Two words to them - SHUT UP!
8.   All adverts on TV. They're just boring and repetitive!
9.   Cruelty to animals.
10. Litterbugs.
11. The fat cats who run our banks.
I'd better stop there, otherwise this is going to run and run.

This has been a whole lot of fun to do. A big thanks to Fran and Ray for compiling the questions. 

Sunday 19 August 2012

Stoelzel's Structures Cottage

In January of this year I discovered a new name in the market of card buildings - Stoelzel's Structures, named after its creator, Carl Stoelzel. I am always on the look out for new buildings to populate Mayhem City, venue of my All Things Zombie campaign. What really attracted me to this new range of models is that they came with interior detail, furniture and props. Always a good thing, in my opinion! This is why I am such a big fan of World Works Games. I ordered and downloaded Carl's initial releases and was very impressed with them. Whenever he released a new model, I'd buy and download it. This way, I kept up to date with his output. He kept churning new stuff out every month and the more I saw of them the more I liked them. So, a couple of months ago I decided it was time to take the plunge and build one of his models. The one I chose was the Cottage.
Here it is, showing the front and one side. Its dimension are 7" long by 7" wide by 6.5" tall and it is a single storey building.
This view shows the back of the Cottage and another side. I added the ridge tiles along the top of the roof. They're made out of thin card and I painted them slightly darker than the other roof tiles.
Here is the front of the Cottage, and as you can see, I have added my 28mm scale figure of Vampifan to give you a sense of its size.
Moving round in an anti-clockwise direction, is one side of the building. Regular followers of my blog will be well aware of my mantra when it comes to card models - always go the extra mile. In the case of windows I always replace those on the printed wall with transparencies. The Cottage did not come with a separate sheet of windows as some models do, both by Carl and other companies. In this case it didn't matter that much as the windows were featureless and lacked any tracery. So I was able to replace them rectangles of transparency paper.
Here's the back of the Cottage and I must admit to being slightly surprised that the building only has one entrance/exit. My brother, who is an architect, picked up on this straight away and said this design would fail planning permission. Speaking as a layman, I don't think it's that important but what do I know about building regulations and health and safety law?
The opposite side of the Cottage is identical to the other side, even down to the weathering!
Moving on, we now come to the interior and to use a bit of adspeak we can see the Unique Selling Point of a Stoelzel's Structures model - it is designed to be used with foamboard. The walls and floor are reinforced with 5mm thick foamboard. I normally reinforce my buildings with mounting card, which is 1.5mm thick, so this was a major change for me. I have kept clear from reinforcing my buildings with foamboard because you have to take into account the thickness of it when working on the interior. To be honest, you still do with mounting card but to a much lesser degree. Fortunately for the person making the model, Carl has taken the thickness of the foamboard into consideration and his measurements are spot on. I found that using foamboard instead of mounting card just as easy. Those not used to reinforcing their models may find some difficulties with using foamboard. Top tip - never try to cut it in one go. I use three passes - first to cut the top card, second to cut the foam and third to cut the bottom card. Oh, and always use a sharp knife. If the blade starts to get dull it will tear the foam, not cut it.
The Cottage has been divided into three rooms with a large chimney situated in the centre. The fireplace in the chimney faces the front door. Wherever possible I have tried to use Stoelzel's furniture to furnish the rooms but in a few instances I have had to resort to using non-Stoelzel furniture, which was a shame but a necessary evil at this point. Perhaps in the future Carl will make the items I had to replace. Above the fireplace is a flatscreen TV that came from the WWG Mayhem Mega Mall set (sorry, Carl!). The settee and easy chair in front of the fireplace and TV were from the Cottage set. All of my furniture items are reinforced with mounting board. The dining table and four chairs came from The Stoezel's Modular Mansion 2 - The Estate set, whilst the cupboard just above them in the photo above came from the Stoezel's Victorian District Townhouse.
There is a small niche between the back of the chimney and the entrance wall to the bathroom. I decided to fill that gap with a grandfather clock, which also came from the Victorian District Townhouse. It was a perfect fit. The bath and toilet were both part of the Cottage set. Interestingly enough, the thickness of the bath is the same thickness as a sheet of mounting card. Coincidence? The two tall cupboards in the bedroon were scratchbuilt by me. I wish I'd waited until I'd bought the Modular Mansion 2 - The Estate set, as it contained a medium sized and large dresser, which I'd have used instead. Ah well, I wasn't to know. Next to the cupboard against the side wall is a small table, which is part of the Cottage set. On the same sheet as this table are a few table lamps. These did not come with instructions on how to build them, which is a shame as they are quite complex models. On the other hand, they do come with the biggest light bulbs I have ever seen, so I didn't mind too much omitting it.
Against the left hand wall in the large room shown in the photo above is the kitchen area of the Cottage. From top to bottom are a kitchen sink unit, an oven, a washing machine and a fridge. The kitchen sink unit came from the WWG TLX Mayhem Apartment. Once again, I was too hasty in adding it. If I'd waited a couple of weeks until I bought the Stoelzel's Modular Mansion 3 - The Asylum, I'd have found some useful sink units there, some with metal surrounds and others with wooden surrounds. Alas, too late was the cry! The cooker and fridge are both from the Cottage set. I have one criticism to make about the cooker. The control panel is behind the four rings. Surely, from a health and safety aspect, it should be at the front. This is where it is on the oven in my house. The washing machine came from Jim's Dollhouse Minis, a useful website for furniture and fittings.
In the bathroom, against the rear wall in the above photo is a sink, that came with the Cottage set. Moving down to the bedroom, the two beds and the chest between tham are also from the Cottage. I do think that the beds are too small. I measured them and they are 30mm long, which sounds good for a 28mm scale figure. But... they look underscaled. A length of 35mm would have been much better. Also, they are very low to the ground. I countered this by sticking them to a rectangular offcut of foamboard. Raising them by 5mm made a notable difference. Note that all of the doors of the Cottage can open and close. Each side of the door is reinforced with thin card with a sandwich filling of masking tape for the hinges. 
The Cottage itself was very easy to build, especially as I have had loads of experience in reinforcing my card buildings. If I'd only used the furniture items provided with the set I think it would have looked very spartan. I felt it needed a lot more furniture adding. I am genuinely sorry that I couldn't furnish it purely with Stoezel products but at the time I had to work with what was in my collection. How was I to know that I'd find most of the missing stuff in future sets from Carl?
My experience of building the Cottage has only whetted my appetite to make a lot more Stoezel's Structures models. Indeed, I am now working on Carl's Warehouse model. I said in a previous post that Stoezel's Structures are now my favourite card models, having knocked WWG from my number one place. Carl is making the type of buildings that I want to use in my model city. I just wish I had more time to get them all built as there isn't one in his catalogue that I don't want to make. If you'd like to know a lot more about Stoelzel's Structures I can recommend joining or just checking out his online forum, which can be found here I've found Carl to be a very friendly bloke. Best of all, he listens to suggestions and will, if valid, make changes to a set. Customer service at its best!
Incidentally, I buy all of his products from the Wargame Vault, which can be found here Check it out, as just today Carl has added three new models.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Red Box Games Zombies

One of my followers advised me to check out a bunch of zombie figures on the Red Box Games (RBG) webstore. I hadn't seen them before. All I knew about RBG is that they made high quality sculpts of fantasy figures. As soon as I saw their Lesser Undead set of 9 zombies I was smitten. I sent away for them and here they are, along with a fantasy female that I liked the look of. All 10 figures can be found in the Infernals range on RBG's website.
The female chaos warrior/demoness is called Zyvara Helsmaiden and I was attracted to her by her similarity to one of my comic book heroines, Lady Death. I wanted to paint her up as Lady Death until I saw her in the flesh (no pun intended) and realised that her breasts were too small (Lady Death has quite a spectacular rack!) and that her hair would need some remodelling. I know nothing about the universe these figures are meant to populate, hence my uncertainty about whether she is a chaos warrior or a demoness. Her horns could be natural or they could be part of her crown. Her flesh tones are Foundry Tan 14, which contrasts well with her dark blue costume. I tried to paint her sword with a lightning effect pattern, to show it is a magical sword. I'm not sure if I was wholly successful but it works for me. She is superbly sculpted and is the first true fantasy figure I have painted in many years.
The four zombies accompanying Zyvara have a really emaciated look to them. All are bald-headed and appear to be male. What struck me when I saw these zombies is that they look to be in agony, as if being undead is a painful curse. These are no ordinary-looking zombies.
The zombie in the beige gown has been bitten in the right arm. I suppose he could be a she - it's hard to tell. His/her head is bent far back and leans to the left.
Next in line, this zombie has lost a boot. He also has his head thrown back as he looks skywards. He has bite wounds to his right wrist and both legs. The blood around his mouth and neck has come from a victim he has fed upon.
Moving on, the zombie second from the left is in a similar pose but his legs are spread wider and his back is arched even further to allow his head to stretch even further back. You can only imagine the pain he must be in.
Last in line, this zombie looks like his neck has been snapped as his head has dropped to an unnatural angle upon his right shoulder. Was he strangled or has he been hung? His knees are bloody.
I decided to paint the zombie at the far left of this group in hospital clothing, with a gown and pyjama trousers. His left hand is pressed into a deep wound in his stomach.
To his left is a zombie staggering along whilst bent over in agony. The bones of his spine are very prominent.
I'm guessing that the zombie in the centre of the group is female, purely because she is wearing a long skirt. She has a boot on her right foot but nothing on her left foot. Her pose is very similar to the previous zombie. She has a cut to the side of her head and a few other minor-looking wounds.
Fourth in line is a zombie leaning forward as he advances. He has had a big chunk of flesh bitten off his left cheek.
Finally, is a zombie in a near identical pose to the last one. What really differentiates this one is that his right eyeball is dangling down the side of his face from its socket. Gross but cool!
These really are exquisitely sculpted by Tre Manor. They may have been produced with the fantasy gamer in mind but they will work equally well in a contemporary setting. I should note that the figures come supplied with 20mm diameter slottabases. I replaced them with my standard 25mm diameter slottabases that use on the vast majority of my figures. Another point that I'd like to make regards their size. These are true 28mm scale figures. This means that some figure ranges will dwarf them (Citadel, Horrorclix, RAFM, etc.) but they will fit in well with most 28mm scale figure lines.
The Lesser Undead set costs $17.99 for the nine figures, roughly $2.00 per figure. If you are interested in purchasing the Zyvara Helsmaiden figure (and I doubt if many will) she is a lot more expensive, costing a whopping $8.99. I highly recommend the zombie figures.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Armorcast Road Kill Animals

When I posted July's Monthly Musings post I mentioned that I was painting some figures whose identity I wanted to keep a secret. Well, the secret can now be revealed. These six unique figures are from the Armorcast 28mm scale ACM001 Road Kill set.
As soon as I saw these on the Armorcast webstore, I knew I had to have them. They just appeal to my sick nature! I have arranged them alphabetically, so from left to right are an armadillo, a coyote, a jack rabbit, a raccoon, a rattlesnake and a skunk. When it came to painting them I could have easily copied the colour schemes from the Armorcast webstore. However, I was bit suspicious of the accuracy of their paint schemes when I saw the rattlesnake painted green. So I did some research using Google Images and all of my colour schemes are based on real life photos of the various animals and are thus accurate representations. I am very happy with how they have turned out.
As for using them in games, these are like any other piece of street furniture or corpses. They aren't an essential purchase but they will undoubtedly add to the ambience of your gaming board. I would not recommend using all six on the same gaming board. One, or at most two, will work best. But you can ring the changes from game to game. I am often complimented on the corpses that litter my game boards when I run my batreps. Now I can (and will) add a bit of variety to the human corpses.
My only criticism of them is that they are rather limited for use in the USA. It is, I must admit, a very minor criticism. If you wanted to use them here in the UK, the coyote could be repainted as an Alsatian dog, the jackrabbit as a hare, the rattlesnake as an adder if you cut off its rattle, and the skunk as a squirrel. You could only justify the inclusion of the armadillo and the raccoon if they had escaped from a local zoo.
I'd like to see a second set made up of domestic pets - a cat, three dogs (small, medium and large), a hamster and a rabbit.
As I said, these are not an essential purchase, but my god, they are a lot of fun! I can guarantee that if you do use them in one of your games, they will be a talking point if anyone sees them. This set costs a very reasonable $6.00.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Vampifan's Bouncers and Bodyguards

Forgive me for this vanity post but I thought you'd like to see some more of my sculpted figures and for this review I have chosen the theme of bodyguards and bouncers.
The first two figures in line are based upon a pair of 40mm scale figures from Monolith's Dystopia range. They're nice figures that were sculpted by Jim Bowen but at that size were far too big to use with 28mm scale figures. So, I made 28mm scale copies of them, although my sculpts ended up being 32mm tall. Bouncers are often taller than average so I didn't mind them being a bit overscale. They both look rather thuggish and I'm very happy with how their faces have turned out. Their brightly coloured waistcoats make them stand out from the crowd.
The flamboyant-looking gent in the middle is based on a NPC from the GURPS Supporting Cast supplement. This is Tony Zbediak, nicknamed, "The Zee." He may look small but in actuall fact he is true 28mm scale. It's the four other figures who are perhaps too big. Tony has a low IQ but a high strength, ideal qualifications for a nightclub bouncer.
The two figures at the far right of the photos are bodyguards, although they could just as easily double as bouncers. Many years ago I saw a photograph of this pair in the Daily Mirror bodyguarding some huge breasted (patently fake) blonde bimbo. I cut the photo out purely because I liked the look of the bodyguards and I knew I had to sculpt them. They are deliberately overscale because I wanted them to look intimidating and imposing. I designed the guy at the far left as a GURPS NPC and named him Sean Crawshaw. He ended up being a 300 points character, which made him more than a match for most starting characters in GURPS. They tend to be in the 100-200 points range.
I'll leave you with a photo of the Monolith Bouncers and three of my illustrations so that you can compare the figures with the photo and the portraits. By the way, who else thinks that my portrait of Sean Crawshaw looks remarkably similar to my fellow blogger, Fran aka the Angry Lurker?
Monolith 40mm scale Bouncers
Portraits done by me to use on my GURPS Character Record Sheets

Sunday 5 August 2012

Tooth and Nail by Craig DiLouie

Okay, so Tooth and Nail came out in 2010, so this is hardly an up to date review but I only recently bought it and read it. I enjoyed it so much that I thought it was worthy of a full review rather than just a mention in my Monthly Musings. What makes this zombie apocalypse novel different (but not unique) from many other books in this genre is that the heroes are all military men. Having never served in the military myself, I cannot vouch for how accurate Craig DiLouie's novel is from a purely military perspective, but it all sounds plausible and authentic to me.
The story focuses on Lieutenant Todd Bowman and his men in Charlie Company's Second Platoon. The U.S. Army had suddenly withdrawn tens of thousands of troops from the Middle East to defend their homeland against an internal threat. A plague, similar to rabies, had run out of control and infected millions. The infected became rabid and violent and soon ran amok as they spread slaughter and disease in their path. The U.S. Army were tasked with safeguarding hospitals and other vital buildings.
The story opens with Second Platoon defending the perimeter of a hospital in the city of New York. There is much confusion about why they are there, and especially about who they are defending the hospital from. All around them they can hear the sound of gunfire and screams. When the soldiers are attacked by a few of the infected some are reluctant to shoot American civilians. After all, aren't they supposed to protect their fellow countrymen?
When Bowman receives order to relocate to a school that is being used as a overspill facility to relieve the hospitals and clinics, which are rapidly becoming over full with casualties, a short journey of a few blocks becomes a dangerous trek. More and more of the infected attack the group as they make their way to their destination on foot. Once they reach the school they have to clear it of the infected to make the building safe and secure.
Elsewhere in a research facility, Dr. Valeriya Petrova is one of a small group of scientists searching for a cure to the disease. Unfortunately, the disease spreads to the building and disaster strikes.
Lieutenant Bowman discovers that the U.S. Army are suffering catastrophic losses. Contact with higher command becomes increasingly difficult due to the loss of so many personnel. Eventually, he receives new orders - travel to the research facility occupied by Dr. Petrova and lead her safely to Central Park for a helicopter evacuation. I shall say no more about the mission but by now the infected outnumber the healthy in New York.
On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this tense and action-packed thriller. I do have reservations about calling it a zombie novel. Some of the soldiers in the novel do call the infected "zombies" but most of them call them "Mad Dogs" or "Maddies". These "zombies" are more akin to the infected seen in the films 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. They are all fast runners, they pass on the infection by biting and they can be killed very easily. Any wound that would be fatal to a normal human will be fatal to them. So, no head shots only in here. I must admit that this did partially dilute my enjoyment of the novel as I am not a fan of this type of "zombie". In ATZ terms, the infected would be Ragers, although a lot easier to kill - on a par with normal zombies.
What is abundantly clear is that without a clearly defined strategy for dealing with the infected, chaos rules. Thus the virus spreads far too quickly and society collapses into panic and anarchy. The breakdown in communications between Second Platoon and the rest of its Company has the feel of authenticity when no one is sure of just what is happening. Despite my concerns about this being a true zombie novel, I enjoyed it enough to give it an 8 out of 10 rating. It's worth hunting down if you haven't already bought it.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Assorted Media Figures 01

The media have a tough time reporting the news at the best of times, but in a zombie apocalypse their job becomes a whole lot harder. I thought I'd showcase my media figures in this post. In ATZ, there are three media types that you can meet - the Anchor, the Reporter and the Cameraman. All three are reperesented below.
The woman at the far left of my photo above and below has appeared twice before on my blog. The first time was when I reviewed my Frothers UK set of zombie hunters way back in February 2010. The second time was when Team Vampifan met her in an ATZ scenario called, appropriately enough, Meeting the Media. She was called Jenny Tyrell and she was a Rep:3 Reporter. I really like this figure but sadly, she is no longer available for sale. You can tell from her size when compared with the other figures in the line up just how small she is. That's not a bad thing in my opinion, as females tend to be shorter than males.
The rest of the figures shown above could also be Reporters but I think they work better as Anchors, given how smartly dressed they are. The woman in the grey dress and jacket is from EM4 Miniatures. She was originally a Grenadier figure sculpted by Mark Copplestone, but when Grenadier folded, EM4 acquired a lot of Mark's sculpts. Her beautifully coiffeured hair is outstanding.
Mark rescupted a lot of his old Grenadier figures for his Copplestone Castings' Future Wars range and you can see many similarities between the third figure in line and the second. The heads are the obvious differences. To accentuate the difference even further, I decided to paint her as an African/American. Both figures are much bigger than 28mm.
The fourth figure in line was a Ral Partha Shadowrun adventurer. I say was, because she is now long out of production. Originally, she was holding a flashlight in her left hand but I cut the head off it and with a piece of modelling putty, I converted it into a microphone. Now I use her as Lucille Carter, anchor woman for Channel 5 News.
At the far right of the group is a unique figure. Yes, she is one of my sculpts. She is based on a reporter found in the Cyber Rogues supplement of the Cyber Space RPG. I never played Cyber Space, but I did use it to cadge ideas from for my Cyberpunk 2020 campaign that I ran in the early 1990s. I liked Tanith, but a few of my players positively hated her, due to her cropping up at the most inappropriate of moments - usually at the end of a gunfight that my players had been involved in! Tanith is definitely a Reporter. In my Cyberpunk 2020 campaign she was fitted with state of the art recording implants in her eyes and ears. Nowadays, she'd just be a gutsy woman relying on her wits and street smarts. What I like most about my sculpt are her hair and her smile. What I least like about her is she is too wide. She should be slimmer.
Moving on, we come to the Cameramen and women. Once again, we start of with an OOP Frothers cameraman. He appeared alongside Jenny Tyrell in my Meeting the Media scenario for my ATZ campaign and he was a Rep:4 Cameraman called Simon McQuarrie. It is such a shame that no one has picked up the moulds for Simon and Jenny as they truly deserve to be appreciated by a wider audience.
Next to Simon is an EM4 Miniatures' Handycam Operator. He is another ex-Grenadier figure sculpted by Mark Copplestone. The logo on his back shows that he works for Channel 54.
Looking very similar to him is a Copplestone Castings' News Team member. It is basically the same figure but with a different head. Note his spectacular quiff! He works for WNS - World News Service.
The female, fourth from the left, is a RAFM figure - Paige Fox, reporter of note. Although she holds a compact camera in her hands, RAFM have got it right, she is a reporter not a camera-woman. She is the tallest figure in this group and makes a mockery of RAFM's claim that she is a 28mm scale miniature. Even so, she is nicely sculpted and I quite like her.
To the left of Paige is a figure that I converted from a Horrorclix Runaway from the basic set. I cut off her right arm holding a severed head, the knife in her left hand and her beanie hat. I resculpted her right arm and added a camera, which is slung around her neck. I also resculpted her hair. She is called Sarah Barstow and she is based on an NPC from the GURPS Illuminati supplement. She is a freelance camera-woman.
Last in line is another unique Vampifan sculpt. Meet Andy Halloran, an NPC who appeared in the GURPS Autoduel Characters supplement. He is just one of many characters that I made from that supplement. He is also a freelancer. I think he should be slightly slimmer, but other than that, I'm happy with how he's turned out, especially his video camera.
I should point out that anyone who wants to use a media team in ATZ should check out the ATZ Supplement, Haven on pages 28 and 29 for full rules on how to play them. You can even play them as part of your team, although their conditions for advancing their Rep differs from the main rules. For them, getting interviews and video footage is more important than killing zombies.
It is rather sad that out of these 11 figures only 5 are currently available for sale. You'll find the Copplestone Castings Anchor woman and Camera-man in the Future Wars set FW3 News Team and Minders, which contains five figures in total for £8.50. The EM4 pair, 0036 Female Reporter and 0037 Handycam Operator, are available separately for just £1.50 each. Finally, RAF02819 Paige Fox costs $4.95 from the RAFM webstore.