Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Vampifan's Views 43 - Monthly Musings 24

Vampirella by Dorian Cleavanger
Phew, what a busy month this has been! I have lots of good news to spread, so I'll start with my hobby news. In my last post I reviewed the four new survivors from the revamped Zombie Plague game. Earlier this month, I received nine 28mm scale zombies to use in the game. They're waiting to get assembled and painted.
However, these were eclipsed a week later when I finally received my huge Zombicide 2 parcel. It arrived a week before my birthday which was great timing. So what did I get? The Prison Outbreak and Toxic City Mall supplements took up the bulk of the order. In addition I got a set of 9 new gaming tiles, 2 packs of 20 zombie dogs, 2 packs of 6 hero dogs, 9 new survivors and 9 zombivors (heroic zombies), a pack of 31 assorted zombies, 2 packs of 6 dice and a pack of 10 markers. Christmas had come early. I've read the new rulebooks and they offer a lot of new options that will help keep the game fresh, interesting and entertaining. By the way, Prison Outbreak contains 6 survivors, 6 zombivors and 78 berserker zombies (immune to ranged fire). Toxic City Mall contains 4 survivors, 10 zombivors and 29 toxic zombies (they explode when killed, spraying everyone in the same zone as them with poisonous toxins). All told, I make that 234 new figures to paint. Gulp! Incidentally, this was not everything that I ordered. There are more figures to arrive next year. Double gulp!!
I received a very nice and unexpected surprise from Richard Brooks at Recreational Conflict. He sent me three packs of brand new 28mm scale figures. A while back I reviewed his combination civilian/survivor figures. These consisted of 8 unarmed civilians and the same 8 figures but armed to use as survivors. I praised them very highly at the time and I mentioned that it would be so cool if Richard brought out zombie and corpse versions of them. He listened and to my utter joy that was what was in two of the new figure packs. Richard, sir, you are a hero! As if that wasn't good enough, he also sent me the new Hazmat troopers he's been working on, which complement his first set. It's at times like this that I love being a blogger of all things undead.
For a long time now I have been eyeing the figures made by Crooked Dice Games. I finally bowed to pressure and made a couple of orders to them. My first order consisted of 3 Doctor Who minis (Matt Smith, Amy Pond and Captain Jack Harkness), 7 agents and sidekicks and Misty the zombie killer. They have all just come off my painting table. The second set, about to get painted, contained 5 more Doctor Who companions and 7 St. Searle's schoolgirls. I'll definitely be placing more orders with CDG.
I have finally got to grips with my new computer and, touch wood, it is working just as I want it to. I now have a 2TB hard drive, which should be more than enough memory for my needs. I also have a 1TB external hard drive, which I use as a back up for my work. Windows 8 took a bit of getting used to but I think I've mastered it now.
Finally, I leave you with some very sad news. I received news from Ed at Two Hours Wargames that his ATZ poster girl, Carolee Gee, had died of a terminal disease. It is always sad to hear of the death of anyone loved by the gaming community, but when that person was so young and so beautiful it just makes it harder to take. My deepest condolences go to Ed and to Carolee's family and friends. I have no doubt that God will have a place reserved for her in Heaven. She will be missed.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Zombie Plague Survivors

Earlier this year, Brian S. Roe at R Squared Studios launched a Kickstarter project for his revitalised Zombie Plague game. I already had the original game and figures from when it was first launched quite a few years ago. The update greatly intrigued me, especially as the figures were going to be revamped and remodelled. The new sculpts are vastly superior to the old ones and I present them here.
At the far left is Crissy Hot-Rod. Her grandfather was "Fast" Johnny Hot-Rod, a famous guitarist from the golden age of Rock and Roll. He taught Crissy how to play guitar from when she was just a toddler. She is the leader of this group of four survivors and she has a spunky personality. When the zombie apocalypse kicked off she armed herself with a hockey stick. All four figures are two-piece castings with the hands and weapons separate from the rest of the figure.
Next up is Chelsea Harlowe, Crissy's best friend. She's a cheerleader and bass player in Crissy's band, "The Sleepy Ones." Chelsea is a free spirit with a happy-go-lucky attitude. Initially, she had a hard time coping with the zombie apocalypse. But that all changed when she found a chainsaw. Now she's turned into a psycho bitch from Hell. Zombies beware - she means business!
Timmy Leong was one of the Appleton High School's best baseball sluggers. His mother is Chinese and his father, American. Chelsea calls him "The New Kid" and even though he has attended the same high school as Crissy and Chelsea for the past two years, Chelsea argues that because there have been no more new arrivals, he is still technically, "The New Kid." Not surprisingly, he is armed with a baseball bat.
Last in line is John Blackthorne, Crissy's boyfriend and mechanic at the auto-centre of Appleton High School. He works there with his dad. He is the only one of the four survivors to be armed with a firearm - a pump-action shotgun.
These 28mm scale figures are very well sculpted and nicely posed. I wonder how many of you can remember the original Zombie Plague survivors? Here they are in the photo below. From left to right they were Timmy, Crissy, Chelsea and Scott. Note that John has now replaced Scott and that Timmy is now half-Chinese. They are quite crude sculpts and were produced by Fortress Figures. They are no longer in production. I reviewed them years ago. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two sets. The new figures are not currently for sale. I guess if you wanted them you had to back their Kickstarter project. Still, I'm glad I have them and you have to admit , they are FAR better than the original survivors.
As you can see I have sorted out my photo editing problem. My brother told me to download Picasa 3 because a) it is free and b) it is very good. As usual, he wasn't wrong. Now I'm off to enjoy the rest of my birthday with a young lady friend of mine.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Vampifan's Views 42 - Ashley

Ashley looking drop dead gorgeous.
When I posted my last Vampifan's Views - A Special Announcement, I should have included a photo of Ashley, so that you could see what my new girlfriend looks like. Unfortunately, at that time, I was having some problems with Blogger and I was unable to upload any pictures or photos. So, I had a word with my brother, who is a computer genius, and he sorted out the problem for me. Yesterday afternoon, I had a good photographic session, shooting my recently painted figures and some of my really old figures. I have enough new photos for at least five posts.
The plan was to do a figure review post today but that got knocked on the head when I found I couldn't transfer the photos to my computer properly. You see, what happened is that I have a brand new computer. It arrived on the day that I was admitted to hospital and remained idle and still in its box for about five months. A couple of weeks ago, my brother visited me and he set up my new computer. It's about 95% configured how I want it. I'm using the Windows 8 operating system, which I know has many critics, but I wanted the most up to date operating system to help future-proof my computer. I'm not using touch screen technology but a good old-fashioned mouse and keyboard. My photo manipulating software needs reviewing as its not working like it did on my old computer. So, apologies for the teething troubles but just bear with me whilst I get to grips with my new computer.
So my plans for a figure review got shot down in flames, leaving me in a pickle as to what I could do for today's post. Fortunately help came from my sweetheart, Ashley. She sent me two new photos of herself this morning and I have decided to share one of them with you. Yes, I am biased but I think she is stunningly beautiful. I can't believe my good fortune that I am dating someone as beautiful and as loving as Ashley. It is my birthday this coming Sunday and Ashley is flying home this weekend, so we'll meet at last. Meeting her will be the best birthday present I could ever wish for. If my regular Sunday post does not appear, it will be because I'm spending time with my one true love. By the way, the second photo she sent me today shows her in a tiny pink bikini and there is no way that I'm sharing that one with anyone else!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pretty When She Destroys by Rhiannon Frater

Pretty When She Destroys by Rhiannon Frater is the third and final part of her vampire trilogy starring young vampire necromancer, Amaliya Verzorak. This novel is an absolute roller-coaster of a ride as all Hell breaks loose. The Summoner, Amaliya's sire is back, albeit in spirit form. He has taken control of the body of Bianca Leduc, a young student whom he sired at the same time as Amaliya. Whereas Amaliya took three days to rise from her shallow grave, Bianca took four days and thus they became separated. Both girls inherited some of the Summoner's necromantic powers, giving them control over the dead.
The Summoner wants to open a portal to the demon dimension in order to usher in a host of supernatural nasties and eternal night. Unless he can be stopped, humanity will end up as slaves to the demons or worse. In order to open the portal, the summoner needs thirteen magical rings that were hidden throughout the world by monks many centuries ago. Unfortunately for Amaliya and her friends he possesses twelve of the rings. However, Amaliya holds the thirteenth and she won't give it up without a fight to the death. Not only does Amaliya want to stop the Summoner from achieving his goal, she also wants to rescue Bianca.
Fortunately, she is not alone in her quest. She has her own Scooby Gang of misfits, made up of humans and supernatural entities. These include Cian, the vampire lord of Austin, Texas and Amaliya's lover; Samantha, Cian's ex-girlfriend and now a phasmagus (someone who could control the spirits of the dead); Benchley, his sister, Alexia and Jeff are human paranormal investigators and vampire hunters; Cassandra, Cian's dhampir daughter and her lover, Aimee, a white witch; Rachon, a black female vampire and one time ruler of Louisiana, Eduardo the were-coyote and finally, Baptiste the elemagus (a magic user who can control the elements).
Cassandra leaned forward in her chair. "We fight."
Eduardo grinned fiendishly. "Until we die."
The witch gave him a dire look. "Or win."
"Like Buffy and the Scoobies," Samantha said, sounding almost jovial.
The reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her friends is well made. At times this novel certainly steps into Buffy territory and as a lifelong fan of Ms. Summers, I say this is no bad thing. I admit that I had high hopes for the final part of this trilogy. I wanted action galore, suspense, drama and witty dialogue and a healthy dose of gore. I was not disappointed. Rhiannon far exceeded my expectations and created a fitting finale. If your knowledge of vampire novels is limited to the Twilight phenomena then be prepared to be blown away. In my humble opinion, this is exactly what a vampire novel should be like. Rhiannon pulls out all the stops to bring the trilogy to a fitting and welcome climax. It is scary, witty and exciting and character development is at the forefront of the story. The sex scenes, so prevalent in the first novel are toned down but romance still blossoms for Amaliya and Cian, Jeff and Samantha and Cassandra and Aimee.
Pretty When She Destroys has a recommended retail price of £8.32 but I picked up my copy for £7.76 at Amazon.UK, not much of a saving but better than none. Having awarded the first two novels in this trilogy 10/10 scores, I simply have to give this the same award. 10 out of 10 and an absolute belter of a series. Vampire fiction doesn't get any better than this!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vampifan's Views 41 - A special announcement

Hi, folks. I've a couple of pieces of news I wish to share with you, one bad and one good. The bad news first is that Blogger is playing silly buggers and won't allow me to add pictures or photos to my posts. That's frustrating as hell! I may try composing my posts on my laptop, which is working fine. Just bear with me.
The second piece of good news is the special announcement I want to tell everyone about. I have got myself a new girlfriend and our romance is blossoming fantastically well. Her name is Ashley and we met on an online dating agency website. She comes from Glasgow, but is French from birth and she is only 44 years old, 11 years younger than me. This romance all came about from when I was in hospital. Believe me, when you are recovering from major surgery, you re-evaluate your life. Until my hospital visit, I just assumed that I'd remain a bachelor all of my life. I last had a girlfriend in 1999 but for all of this century I have been single. I've never been married and never thought I would marry. As I lay in hospital, I thought long and hard about my future and came to the realisation that I no longer want to spend the rest of my life being alone. I want to grow old with a woman I love, with someone I can call my soul-mate and someone with whom I can share many happy moments. So, when I was discharged from hospital it wasn't long before I enlisted on a dating agency website. I struck gold with the first woman who wrote back to me, although I waited a fortnight before I replied to her as I was getting lots of offers on a daily basis. However, what made Ashley's comments stand out were the fact that she was the only person to call me by my name. The first word that she wrote to me was Bryan. Secondly, she was the only person who sent me their personal e-mail address. That seemed to indicate that she was serious right from the beginning.
We stopped using the dating agency to communicate and we sent each other lots and lots of private e-mails. In the weeks that followed I came to realise that we had such a lot in common. She was the one for me and I was the one for her. We have yet to meet as she is currently on a business trip to Malaysia. However, she will be flying home this weekend or early next week. She wants to fly in to Newcastle Airport, instead of Glasgow, so that we can finally meet. I asked her how long she wants to stay with me and she replied, "forever!" Ah, bless!
So, I am all excited about meeting her. A new chapter of my life is about to begin. I honestly have no idea how our relationship will impact on my hobby but I'm unlikely to give it up completely. I will, of course, keep on blogging, but if my posts become less frequent you'll know the reason why.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Pretty When She Kills by Rhiannon Frater

Pretty When She Kills by Rhiannon Frater is the second part of her vampire trilogy featuring vampire necromancer Amaliya Vezorak and her vampire lover, Cian. Here's the blurb from the back cover of the book that briefly describes the plot.
"Amaliya Vezorak never believed in happy endings... When Amaliya harnessed her necromancer powers to defeat her greatest enemy, she believed she had finally found a happy ending with Cian, her lover and master of Austin. That happiness is short-lived when the vampire ruling over San Antonio attempts a takeover of Austin in order to capture Amaliya and use her power for his own devices.
To make matters worse, Samantha, Cian's ex-fiancée, is seeing ghosts; the untested vampire hunters of Austin are running scared as a supernatural war looms; a mysterious man is hunting Amaliya with the help of her one time lover, Pete; and Rachon, the Summoner's favourite progeny, appears to be out for revenge.
When Amaliya's grandmother, a powerful medium, experiences terrible visions that reveal there is another necromancer vampire and she is crying out for help, Amaliya realises happy endings do not come easily..."
Quite often in trilogies, the second part is the weakest of the three. In my opinion, that isn't so in this instance. Pretty When She Kills is every bit as good as Pretty When She Dies. Amaliya has grown more powerful since the first book and her control of the dead is impressive. Being a powerful vampire is impressive. Being a powerful vampire who can control a graveyard full of zombies to do her bidding is even more impressive. Little wonder then that other vampires from around Texas and further afield want to control Amaliya. The cast has grown now to the point where Amaliya and Cian have their own Scooby Gang, made up of an eclectic group of humans and supernatural beings, just as Buffy the Vampire Slayer had. Sure, Amaliya may be the number one target of powerful outside forces but she is not on her own and her allies are quite capable of defending each other. This is one of the things that I love about these books. The interplay between the principal characters crackles with great dialogue and much humour. Amaliya is exactly the kind of heroine I'd root for in a story. In the first book, she tended to run away from her problems. Now, she'll still run but if cornered she'll fight to a standstill. You can see her developing from a fledgling vampire into a kick ass killing machine. Actually, there is a lot of character development in Pretty When She Kills. Samantha, in particular, emerges from her shell to become a much liked character in her own right. Now she is no longer as annoying as she used to be and with her ghost vision she actually becomes a useful member of the group.
The story is fast paced and full of twists and turns. New characters are introduced and developed and old characters return, some unexpectedly. Rhiannon isn't afraid of killing off major characters and Amaliya suffers a heart rending loss when someone very dear to her is killed. No spoilers here, you'll have to read the book to see who it is. As with Pretty When She Dies, as soon as I read Pretty When She Kills, I wanted to read the final part of the trilogy, Pretty When She Destroys.
Pretty When She Kills costs £7.25 if bought at Amazon.UK. Once again, I enjoyed it so much I have to award it a 10 out of 10 rating. A superb addition to a superb series.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater

Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater is the first part of a trilogy of vampire novels. I have always been a sucker for vampire novels and I'll state right now that this is one of the best series of novels I have ever read. Until I read this trilogy my favourite vampires were Vampirella (obviously), Durham Red (from the 2000AD Strontium Dogs series), Selene (from the Underworld series of films) and Sonja Blue (from the Nancy A. Collins series of novels). Now I have another vampire heroine to add to my list - Amaliya (pronounced ah mal lee ya) Vezorak. Note that my top five favourite vampires are female although Angel and Spike from Angel and  Buffy the Vampire Slayer are just bubbling under in the next two slots.
Amaliya was a college student who was sired by one of her tutors. He was actually an ancient and powerful vampire necromancer known as The Summoner. He has the power to force the dead to do his bidding. Amaliya soon realises she is but a pawn in his twisted game, and her only hope for survival is to seek out one of her own kind. Born and raised in Texas, she heads for Austin, the state capital. Here she meets Cian (pronounced key inn). He rules Austin and unlike many other vampire lords, he does not have a coterie of vampires at his disposal. Fortunately for Amaliya, he proves to be a very reliable ally and he teaches his young protégé how to survive as a vampire. Not only does Amaliya survive, but she grows even more powerful under Cian's tutelage and she learns that she, too, can control the dead. Together with a small group of human allies, including Amaliya's grandmother (a wonderful character) and Cian's fiancé, Samantha (annoying and lovable in equal measures), they take on the Summoner in a climatic fight.
This was absolutely riveting from start to finish. It is very erotic, very violent, very gory and at times, laugh out loud funny. Amaliya and Cian are nothing like Bella and Edward from the Twilight series. They are proper hardcore vampires. Amaliya has her faults, (she is just a teenager after all) which made her more endearing to me. She is headstrong and swears a lot and she certainly needs Cian's caring and more cautious approach. Mind you, Cian is no wimp or pushover. He kicks ass when necessary. As soon as I read it I wanted to read the second novel in the series, Pretty When She Kills. I have been a huge fan of Rhiannon Frater for some time now and I had high hopes for this vampire series. My expectations were more than matched by Rhiannon's writing.
Please note that this novel also includes a small collection of Rhiannon's erotic short stories. I found them very enjoyable and an unexpected treat. Pretty When She Kills costs $10.99 or £6.88. I bought my copy from Amazon.UK for £5.93 and it was worth every penny. I loved this novel so much I will give it a perfect 10 out of 10 rating. It had everything that I wanted in a vampire novel.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Judge Dredd Miniatures Game rulebook

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Why on earth is Bryan reviewing the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game (JDMG) on a blog dedicated to the undead? Well, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I am a huge fan of the Judge Dredd comic strip. I have been collecting the 2000AD comic ever since the first issue, which came out in the mid-1970's. On a more spurious note, JDMG does include rules for zombies, super zombies and a zombie master/mistress to lead them. There are even a couple of scenarios listed that heavily feature zombies, one of which is called "Zombie Apocalypse" and the other "Dekker's Last Stand" pits Judge Dekker and a small force of Judges against Sabbat's horde of zombies. Will she fare better with you in control? In the comic strip she was torn apart by the zombie horde.
The JDMG by Mongoose Games is developed from the old Gangs of Mega City One (GOMC1) rules with a lot more options. The biggest change is that players are no longer limited to controlling one of the many gangs of Mega City One. If you want to take charge of a force of Mega City One Judges (and who wouldn't?) the choice is there. Alternatively, you can play Judges from around the globe, with the Brit City Judges and the East Meg Judges receiving the most attention. Or you can decide you want to control one of the many criminal gangs, be it juves and punks, apes, robots, mobsters or others. There are a lot of options for players to choose from.
Once you have chosen your gang you can arm and equip them with a large variety of gear, limited only by the amount of credits you have at your disposal. You can make your heroes even tougher by allocating Talents to them. These are basically special skills that give the figure an advantage in either scenario play or campaign play. Talents are divided into four categories - skill, weapon, judge and psi. Only Judges may take judge talents and only psykers may take psi talents.
The rules are very simple using the igo-ugo system. One side has the option of movement. melee, shooting or special action, with each figure in their force being able to do two actions per turn. When all of their figures have activated, play moves over to the second player. Anyone familiar with the GOMC1 rules will pick up the new JDMG rules very quickly. Plus, the rules are simple enough that newcomers to the game should have no trouble in learning the game mechanics. The rulebook includes numerous scenarios which may be linked to form a campaign. In addition, they include some memorable encounters from the past that appeared in the comic, like "Dekker's Last Stand" mentioned above.
The rulebook is very professionally produced with full colour throughout its 240 pages. But for me, what makes this game so appealing are the figures and vehicles. I already had all of the figures that Mongoose produced for the GOMC1 game, and they are still available for this new version. The good news is that the range has vastly increased with more individual figures, boxed sets of forces and lots of vehicles. Manta Prowl Tank anyone? Yours for a mere £99.99. No, I don't have one, but believe me, I want one!
The JDMG rulebook costs £30.00. It is hard-backed and when I ordered mine, I received a free figure of Judge Dredd himself. I can highly recommend it, more so if you are a fan of Judge Dredd.