Sunday 30 November 2014

Vampifan's Views 58 - Monthly Musings 36

Vampirella and Dracula by Dan Brereton
November has been a very exciting month for me. In October 2013, I backed a Kickstarter project for the Mars Attacks game, along with a shed-load of extras. This took place a mere month after I had been discharged from a four month stay in hospital and I felt a bit of retail therapy would cheer me up. I made a very big pledge (about £200), despite the fact that I'm not really interested in Mars Attacks. I was not a fan of the film or of the Martian invaders. So why make a pledge for it at all? Simple. The human forces (civilian survivors and military forces) coupled with some great scenery items made this an excellent source of material to use in a zombie apocalypse game. I mention all of this because earlier this month I finally received everything I had ordered from Mantic Games, the producers of Mars Attacks. I knew I was in for a long wait for all of the stuff to be made and then shipped, but I'm a patient person and I didn't mind the wait. My order arrived in a very big box and it was like Christmas Day opening the box and admiring all of the goodies within. The miniatures are made of hard plastic and are very compatible with the figures found in Zombicide, which was a big bonus. The human survivors and US Army soldiers are excellent. I even like the Martians, despite my initial apathy.

Mars Attacks scenery items - so cool!
I ordered a load of scenery items to go with the game, including seven resin cast vehicles, five of which are wrecks and two that are intact and drivable. I also ordered a lot of scenery items, like ruined walls and an assortment of street furniture. All of these minis are crying out to be used in a zombie apocalypse game. The actual rulebooks for the game are nicely produced and easy to learn. This is, at heart, a simple skirmish game. Unusually, it uses eight sided dice for all dice rolls. Whether I ever play it or not remains to be seen but there is no doubt at all that I will use many of the minis in future games. Overall, I was very happy with what I got.
Components from the Mars Attacks boxed set. Note that everything comes unpainted.
In most other months, this would be my big news story, but not this month. For the past six years my over-riding passion has been for zombie gaming. The vast majority of my hobby time has been spent collecting, making and painting figures and scenery to use in zombie apocalypse games. Some of you have asked me, do I not fancy a change? My stock answer has always been, no, I'm very happy concentrating on zombie gaming. I do have other interests that have tempted me away from zombie gaming. Judge Dredd and Wild West skirmish gaming immediately spring to mind. Something happened at the start of this month that has changed my life in a most unexpected fashion. I have indeed, diversified away from zombie gaming, but not in the way I could ever have envisaged. My new passion is for Super Dungeon Explore (hereafter to be referred as SDE) by Soda Pop Miniatures.
Vampifan with Super Dungeon Explore and the Von Drakk Manor expansion set.
I have been a fan of fantasy gaming all of my adult life but in the 1990's I became disillusioned with the genre (Games Workshop had a LOT to do with my disillusionment) and so my interest in fantasy gaming has lain dormant. Gone but not forgotten. What brought about this seismic change in me was a conversation with my good friend, Steve Gilbert. I had introduced him to Zombicide, for which he was eternally grateful. He, in turn, introduced me to SDE. He suspected I might like it and he was right. I might have passed on the game if I hadn't seen the expansion sets for it. One in particular caught my attention - Von Drakk Manor. Vampires and undead - oh joy! - how could I resist? 
This month I have fully immersed myself in painting the figures from the basic boxed set. It comes with fifty 28mm scale figures consisting of 9 Heroes, 1 Dragon (very impressive!), 2 Kobold Ogres (huge), 2 Dragon Wyrmlings, 2 Dragon Whelps, 4 Dragon Hatchlings (2 per base), 22 Kobolds, 2 Boo Booty Treasure Monsters, 5 Treasure Chests and 5 Spawning Point Models. The figures will appeal to some of you, whilst others will hate them. They are based on Japanese Chibi characters. Chibi is Japanese for a short or diminutive person but amongst anime fans it means a person with a small body and a large head. They also have big eyes and small mouths. If you prefer characters who look realistic then you will not like these figures. I don't mind the anime style and I actually have a few Manga films in my DVD collection, along with some Manga graphic novels. What I have discovered with these Chibi miniatures is that because the heads take up roughly half the size of the figure, I can put a lot more detail into painting them than on a normal realistically scaled 28mm scale figure.
For far too long I have resisted the urge to diversify but I now realise that was a mistake. I needed this change. Because I am doing something SO different to anything I have ever done in my life before, my enthusiasm for this project is sky high. I also think the paint jobs I'm doing are the best I have ever done. This has been like a breath of fresh air for me and I'm fully embracing it. But best of all, I am fully enjoying painting these new figures. Not that I wasn't enjoying painting zombies and survivors - far from it. What better reason can there be for collecting and painting figures because we like them?
SDE is different to anything I've done before. It harks back to the old days of Dungeons and Dragons but has been given a modern twist. It is a simple fight between good and evil but most of all, it is fun. The game is meant to be played with 2 to 6 players but I know it can be played solo just as well. I haven't played it yet because I hate playing any game with unpainted minis. I'm roughly two thirds of the way through painting the 50 figures from the basic set. Expect lots of SDE related reviews and posts in 2015.
If you think my zombie gaming has come to an end, think again. I'm going to concentrate on SDE for the next couple of months but in the new year I will return to zombie gaming with a vengeance and with renewed enthusiasm. This is just a short break for me, albeit a most welcome and well earned break. After six years of painting hordes of zombies and survivors, I needed this break, so don't judge me too harshly.
Despite me saying I needed this break I haven't completely abandoned my zombie gaming. Remember I showed you some Stoelzel's SUVs I had recently made? I made one as a yellow SUV in honour of the heroes' vehicle from the film, Zombieland. Quite frankly, I was embarrassed by it. It was badly painted and fell far below my usual high standards. Well, I'm pleased to say it has had a major overhaul. I have converted it so it is now an almost exact copy of the Zombieland SUV. It has had a new paint job, which is much neater and it looks great! I'll post pics of it soon.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Assorted Shadowforge Female Figures

I have a mixed bag for you today. These are three 28mm scale Shadowforge figures that I bought from the Grekwood Minis webstore. Sadly, they are no longer for sale on this site but I thought I'd show them anyway.
I'll start with the US Army medic, Diane Webster. I am sure some of you will object to the fact that she has left her tunic unbuttoned to reveal a very nice cleavage. And the brazen hussy is not wearing a bra. How dare she! If you'd seen this figure when I first bought her the prudes amongst you would have had a fit because she was wearing no trousers either! I have no problems with women showing off their bodies. My attitude is if you've got it, flaunt it, but just for once, I decided this was uncalled for. So I added a pair of trousers and knee-pads from Milliput. I could have covered up her cleavage as well, but decided not to. I must admit that I have no idea what she is holding in her right hand. Is it a pistol, and if so, what kind? Is that a scope-sight on top of the pistol or perhaps a laser sight? Or is it a dart gun? Or some kind of medical device that just looks like a weapon? My preference is for a dart gun firing tranquiliser darts. Note that I have painted her in the same camouflage scheme as my Black Scorpion US Army troops that I reviewed recently. She will be attached to that group.
In the centre of the group is Tatiana the vampire. I was delighted to get hold of her because of my love of vampires. I don't show nearly enough vampires on my blog. I must admit that when I first saw her my initial reaction was to paint her up as Vampirella. But I have a lot of Vampirella figures and whilst she is a close match she is not an exact match. So, she is Tatiana, an Eastern European vampire. Perhaps she hails from Transylvania. That would be so fitting. I am extremely pleased at how well I have painted her mouth. Her fangs are quite noticeable, which is exactly the effect I was after.
Finally, we come to Nina Chi, a sci-fi cop, who I think has a Manga vibe about her. I used to do a lot of sci-fi role-playing way back in the 1990's, and I ran a long-running GURPS Space campaign, and before that a Fantasy Games Unlimited Space Opera campaign. More recently, my sci-fi gaming has switched to Judge Dredd and it seems most likely that this is where I'll use Nina. She is armed with a big carbine/SMG, which could be some kind of energy weapon (blaster, perhaps) or a large calibre projectile weapon. She is just a really nice figure and although I have no immediate need or use for her, that didn't stop me buying her. Yes, I'm just as susceptible to "shinyitis" as any other figure collector.
I know that when Carl got these figures from Shadowforge to sell on his webstore that he didn't get  many of them. It is good for him that he sold all his stock and good for me that I was able to get them before they sold out, but it's not so good for you if you really want any of these lovely minis.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Crooked Dice Doctor Who Figures 02

I recently finished painting three Crooked Dice Games 28mm scale Doctor Who companions, although for copyright reasons, CDG has renamed them. These were a lot of fun to paint.
First up is Daisy Taylor, whom Doctor Who fans will instantly recognise as Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper). She has been sculpted in a very casual pose, standing with her hands on her hips.
In the centre of the group is Miss Freeman, who appeared as Martha Jones (as played by Freema Agyeman) in the Doctor Who series. She is also standing in a casual pose with her arms crossed.
Finally, is May Killan, who is better known to Doctor Who fans as Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan). This is CDG's second sculpt of May/Amy. The first one had her dressed up a Woman Police Constable with a night stick. This figure is much more casually attired and she has been sculpted in a walking pose with her hands in her coat pockets.
I imagine that most people would buy these figures to use as Doctor Who companions. But they work equally well as normal civilians and civilians are a lot like zombies - you can never have too many of them. Each one costs £4.00 from the CDG webstore.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Stoelzel's Structures SUVs

I recently made my first vehicles produced by Stoelzel's Structures - five SUVs. SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle and these have been on my "to do" list for a long time. I was delighted to see that Carl had included the SUV in his Auto Park set, as I had a very specific use for a number of these vehicles. I wanted a fleet of them to transport my Men in Black (see my previous three posts). I was just going to make four of them, but after a chat with my friend Mathyoo, he asked if I'd be making a yellow SUV as well? I knew I wanted my MiB vehicles to be black and was curious to know why he asked about a yellow SUV. He replied that the heroes used a yellow SUV in the film Zombieland. How could I have forgotten? He was right! Technically speaking, they drove a civilian Humvee but it does look very like Carl's SUV. So I ended up making five SUVs and here they are.
Vampifan has just got out of the yellow SUV to face down my full complement of Men in Black (still in their vehicles). Does he have a death wish? In truth, he's only here to give a sense of scale to the models. When I printed out my yellow SUV, I did not like how the yellow came out. It was far too dull and very dark. So I repainted all the yellow bits with Foundry acrylic paints in a mix of lemon, yellow and light orange. I'm much happier with this colour scheme, although I need to touch it up in a few places, which I'll point out below.
The four SUVs have had their roofs painted a nice solid black. They looked too grey to me but now you can tell straightaway that these are black SUVs.
The trickiest part of making these SUVs was with the front windscreen. For all the card vehicles I have previously made the windscreen has been flat. Carl, however, decided his models should have curved windscreens. No question about it, this is more realistic, however, it does present a challenge if you like to reinforce your models as I do. I like to reinforce my card vehicles with 2mm thick mounting card. This does not bend well, so for the windscreens I reinforced them with thin card. It still strengthened them and also allowed me to bend them into shape. The windscreens were undoubtedly the trickiest and fiddliest part of the vehicle to make. I have to admit that some of my windscreens came out better than others but overall, I managed okay with them all.
The black lines that I painted on the side of my yellow SUV are far too thick and messy. I shall rectify my mistake soon. I still remain undecided about whether to paint a number three on the two front doors of my yellow SUV as per the Zombieland SUV (see photo below).
Until I saw this photo I hadn't realised I had smudged some yellow paint on the rear window of the SUV to the left. That's another mistake that needs cleaning up. You could argue that they should all have different number plates but be honest, when you see these on a gaming table who on earth is going to notice their number plates? It doesn't bother me and it shouldn't bother you.
The comments I made about my paintwork on the opposite side of the yellow SUV apply equally to this side. I am normally a much neater painter than this and I'm not happy with my sloppy paint work. It bugs me so much that I will clean up my mess.
As I mentioned in the intro, I had never made a Stoelzel's Structures vehicle before. The Auto Park set contains a car sales room, car wash and garage repair shop as well as 10 different types of vehicle, each with a minimum of 10 different colour schemes. Great value for money for just £5.74. The curved windscreen will cause a problem to newbie modellers but other than that, construction is pretty straight forward. For a long time now I have wanted a fleet of black SUVs and there was never any doubt that they'd be the first vehicles I made from Carl's excellent set. I plan on making a lot more vehicles from this set in the future.
Here is the Humvee as used in Zombieland, with Wichita (Emma Stone) by the front door. It is not the same as Carl's SUV but it is a close match. I might modify mine to make it an even closer match. After all, I have three of the four heroes from the film already (Columbus, Tallahassee and Wichita). Do you think I should go the whole hog and convert it into the Zombieland SUV? My feelings are that I should. Then I can at least, rephotograph it with a cleaned up paint job!

Sunday 16 November 2014

EM4 Men in Black

And so I come to the last of my three reviews of my collection of Men in Black figures. These five figures are all produced by EM4 Miniatures and if you think they look very similar to my five Copplestone Castings Men in Black that I reviewed last time you'd be right because Mark Copplestone also sculpted these. He made these way back in time when he worked for Grenadier Miniatures. However, when Grenadier went belly up, EM4 acquired their moulds and production rights. When Mark set up Copplestone Castings he  remade a lot of his old Grenadier figures but in slightly modified form so whilst they looked similar, they weren't exact copies. A clever move, in my opinion, as it allows us collectors to own two sets of lovely Copplestone goodness.
First in line is an agent firing his 9mm pistol. I like this pose as he looks very aggressive. Note the headphones and microphone he's wearing.
Next to him is another agent armed with a 9mm pistol. He is taking a cautious approach. Note that neither of the pistol armed agents are wearing sunglasses.
The next three figures are all armed with 9mm sub-machine guns. The figure in the centre of the group appears to be the leader from his pose. He is also equipped with a radio headset.
To his left is a very muscular looking African/American agent. With his bald head and surly expression, he looks to be one tough dude.
The last agent in line holds his sub-machine gun in a two-handed grip as he makes a threat assessment. He's on the alert for any danger.
As with the five Copplestone Castings Men in Black that I reviewed last time, these are a very nice group of figures, not excessively armed, and all nicely posed and sculpted. You can find these figures on the EM4 website under the Unpainted Metal Future Skirmish Suits range.They are listed as Ref 054 to 058 and they cost £1.50 each.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Copplestone Castings Men in Black

Continuing on from my last post here are some more Men in Black figures. These five 28mmm scale figures are from Copplestone Castings Future Wars range and are set FW24 Men in Black.
At the far left  is an agent preparing to fire his pistol, which looks to be some sort of 9mm type. He is the most animated of all the figures in this set.
The agent standing next to him is also holding a pistol, but his is of a design I do not recognise. Perhaps it is some form of advanced ray gun with the ability to disintegrate, freeze or shrink. Who knows with these guys? And what's this? Uh-oh - fashion alert! He has his hair tied back in a ponytail! The shame of it!!!!
Next in line are two agents holding pump action shotguns. The agent with the black hair and glasses is walking, whilst his colleague (who unusually, is not wearing dark glasses) is just standing still.
Finally, is an agent armed with a 9mm sub-machine gun, that looks like an Uzi but isn't.
These five figures retail for £8.50 from Copplestone's webstore. Mark Copplestone is a really great sculptor and I like this set a lot. Whilst none of the figures are particularly outstanding, collectively, they make a nice addition to my pool of Men in Black.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Assorted Men in Black

Today I present the first of three posts looking at the mysterious Men in Black. To some they are a force of good, defending earth from alien threats (see the popular Men in Black films), whilst to others they are a sinister and evil organisation (see White Wolf's Mage: the Ascension role-playing game). One thing that is not in doubt is that they belong to a highly secretive organisation and that they wield considerable power. They can arrest people with impunity and most worryingly of all, make people just disappear, never to be seen again.
At the far left of my two photos is the commander of my force of Men in Black and he was produced by Wizkids as part of their OOP Horrorclix range, where he was known simply as Man in Black. Like a lot of Horrorclix figures, he is over-scale when compared with most ranges of 28mm scale figures. However, in his case, I don't think that matters too much. He appears to be unarmed but who can tell? I think he is quite a sinister-looking figure, which has a lot to do with his skull-like face. One other feature makes him stand out from the rest of my Men in Black figures and that is he is the only one wearing a hat. I would not want to cross his path!
Next in line is a standard field agent. He is another OOP figure and he was originally made by RAFM. He is slim but well proportioned and he holds a 9mm pistol in a two-handed grip. In addition to his trademark black suit, white shirt and black tie he also wears a pair of regulation black-lensed sunglasses. 
The next two figures are also OOP and they were made by Target Games as part of their Mutant Chronicles range. Although they are 28mm scale they are very chunky and bulky. Their weapons do have a sci-fi feel to them, although in ATZ terms I'd class them as a Big Ass Pistol and a Big Ass Machine Pistol. The figure third in line has blotted his copybook, in my opinion, by wearing his hair in a ponytail. I have nothing against woman who wear their hair like this but on men it just looks silly!
The figure at the far right of the group is a Vampifan sculpt. I made him over twenty years ago for my White Wolf Vampire: the Masquerade role-playing game campaign. He was part of a covert vampire hunting organisation. He is armed with a 5.56mm Colt M16A1 Assault Rifle which came from my spare parts box.
These figures can be used in a variety of ways. Yes, as Men in Black, that is the obvious choice. But they will work just as well as US Secret Service agents or as corporate security agents. They can be good guys or bad guys. Indeed you could ask the question - are they even human? They could be aliens or robots. Anything is possible.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Recreational Conflict Biohazard Troopers 02

These six figures belong to the Recreational Conflict Biohazard set III and are very different to their first set. The most noticeable difference is that they are much more chunkier. I like their bulky protective clothing. With the current Ebola crisis in Africa featuring prominently in the news I thought this was a good time to get these figures painted. They have been waiting to get painted for more than a year now - shame on me!
The first decision I had to make was to decide on their colour scheme. Watching recent news footage, white seemed to be the most obvious choice and so I went with that. At the far left of my photos is the leader of the group, waving his men on to follow him. He holds a 9mm pistol in his right hand. The first thing you'll notice about this group is that they are well armed. Only one out of the six is not carrying a weapon and he is second in line from the left. He holds a box and a probe, most likely a Geiger counter as he tests for radiation levels.
Next in line is the flame thrower operator. Or he could possibly be a chemical sprayer. Readers of Mira Grant's excellent Feed trilogy will be well aware of how often the heroes had to endure chemical showers to ensure they didn't spread the zombie plague. Note he has three tank cylinders on his back - one oxygen tank and two for his flame thrower or chemical sprayer.
The next two troopers in line are armed with 5.56mm M4 Assault Carbines. Note that all troopers are fitted with yellow oxygen tanks.
Last in line is a kneeling trooper, firing his 9mm pistol in a two-handed grip.
It is obvious these are not humanitarian aid workers but some sort of military or paramilitary group. The obvious use for them is for clearing out pockets of zombies in a zombie apocalypse game. They are radically different to Recreational Conflict's first set of Biohazard troopers, which would suggest that these guys work for a different organisation.
These figures were sculpted by Alan Maguire and can be found in the Lead Bones 28mm Modern Horror section of Recreational Conflict's webstore. All six figures can be bought for $15.00, which is very reasonable for a metal figure these days.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Stoelzel's Structures Barn

I've just finished making a Stoelzel's Structures 28mm scale Barn. This was one of the first models that Carl produced and it was designed with the beginner in mind. However, as is usual with me, I have gone the extra mile on this model to show just what can be done if you put your mind to it.
I begin with a photo showing the front of the Barn and one side. My figure of Vampifan is included to give you some idea of the size of the model. It is 7" (18cm) wide, by 9" (23cm) long and 7" (18cm) tall. That is quite big. Note on the very top of the roof there is a row of tiles slightly darker than the others. When I made the roof there was a small but unsightly gap between the two halves. I covered this up with a strip of thick cartridge paper folded in half and then painted. It is hardly noticeable in my photos but I just wanted to point out that it was there and that it is not part of the set that Carl offers.
Here is Vampifan at the back of the Barn. You will notice that the front and back are identical and the two sides are slightly different. So how do I know which is the front and back? Simple. I keep the front doors open and the back doors closed. All of my doors are hinged and can open and close.
Here is the front of the Barn with all of the doors opened. Note on the upper door there is a grey bar at the top of the opening. That is part of the roof support beams. It is just as well I made the doors open outwards otherwise that would be a design flaw. Although if you took the roof off, it wouldn't matter.
This view shows one side of the Barn. Note the big hole in the wall. I actually cut that out for extra realism. You don't have to but I wanted to. As I said at the start, I like to go the extra mile.
Here is the back of the Barn. When Carl originally produced this model the big front and back doors were missing. This was not a good idea in my opinion. Carl had done a similar thing with his Warehouse model  and when I was making that I asked him to include doors with the model. He very kindly did and because the opening of the Warehouse was the same size as the openings in the Barn he added the same doors to the Barn set. Good move, Carl!
This the other side of the Barn and once again I cut the big hole in the wall. This was much more fiddly to cut than the other wall due to the small openings above and below the two wooden beams.
This photo shows the underside of the roof. Carl suggested printing out the roof tiles twice for the two outer halves of the roof but I printed them out four times to make inner and outer tiles. I also added four of the support beams that came with the set. These help to keep the roof in its distinctive shape.
Here is an overhead view of the interior of the Barn. I want to talk to you about the floor. You should note that the Barn does not come with a floor. I wanted my Barn to have a floor. Sadly, Carl had nothing suitable (or so I thought) and so I used some WWG tiles from their Deadfall Streets of Blood Wilderness tiles. The colour and texture was just what I was looking for. Shortly after I had finished making the Barn I bought and downloaded Carl's Wild West set - Fatal Frontier. In this set there are three options for making barns. One of them has the same footprint as this Barn and does come with a floor tile. Oh, if only I had known beforehand. I could have used that tile instead. Carl, if you're reading this how about adding that tile as an option for the contemporary Barn?
Let's take a closer look at the interior. Normally, for my interior photos I show front, back and side views but for this model I thought it best to shoot diagonally to show the four corners. I'll start by telling you about the ladders, The Barn comes with two ladders, which take up very little space on an A4 sheet of paper. Carl, you might think about adding more than two ladders. For sure, you only need two ladders for this model but I ended up making six because they are so versatile and I can see me using the spare ladders in other model buildings. The way I made them was as follows. First, print them out. Then cut them out, making sure you cut out both halves. You do not want the two halves folding. Next cut out all the black spaces between the rungs. Because you are only cutting paper this is easily done. It is a bit time consuming, especially, if like me, you're making six ladders. Next I cut out two long thin strips of mounting board for the sides of the ladders. My strips were 3mm wide. Glue these to the back of all the ladders you've printed - four separate ladders if you're only making two. Next, cut out lots of thinner strips of mounting board for the rungs. Mine were 2mm wide. Glue these in between the two long strips on the back of the rungs. When dry glue two ladders back to back. This will give you a very sturdy ladder. Finish off by painting the edges.
The Barn comes with a page of six hay-bales and three pages of crates of various sizes. I did not want to include any crates in my barn but I did want lots of hay bales. So I printed out five pages to give me a total of 30 hay bales. I used two pieces of foam-board stuck back to back and cut to size to reinforce my hay bales. The hay bales were cut out with their tabs removed and glued around the boxes formed by my foam-board. Once the glue had dried I painted the edges. In the corner shown, on the ground is my biggest stack of hay bales. I kind of cheated by using three foam-board boxes that did not have a print out glued to them for the hay bales hidden under this stack. So in actual fact, there are 33 hay bales in this Barn.
The two platforms are 2" (5cm) wide, giving you plenty of room for placing figures on them. Access to them is by the ladders, which you can place anywhere. There is plenty of space between the two platforms for placing figures on the floor.
I wanted to place hay bales all over my Barn - on the floor and on the platform. They add a lot to the ambience of the building.
My final thoughts on this model are that it will indeed be an excellent model for newbies to start on. You do not have to go to the lengths that I went to with my model. You can make the barn with or without the big doors. I would recommend adding them. Whether you want them to open and close is entirely up to you. Also, you can build this model with or without the props (ladders, hay bales or crates). Once I built this model it occurred to me that this would work just as well in a Wild West setting as in a contemporary setting. Indeed, it is such a generic design that it is almost timeless. I have always had a hankering for playing Wild West skirmish games in 28mm scale so I decided to download Carl's Wild West set of model buildings - Final Frontier. There are three barns in this set, including one that is quite similar to this one. They are well worth checking out.