Saturday 30 January 2016

Vampifan's Views 75 - Monthly Musings 50

It's my first Monthly Musings post of 2016 and as always I start with a picture of my favourite comic book super-heroine, Vampirella. Last year I had a theme which was to show my 12 favourite real life Vampirella models and cosplayers. This year, I also have a theme and it is to showcase 12 paintings by my all-time favourite Vampirella artist and friend, Joe Jusko. A Google search of Vampirella artwork by Joe netted me more than enough paintings to show one a month. Enjoy!

My biggest hobby news of January was the arrival of my Ninja All-Stars Kickstarter package. I was immediately smitten with this game and I'm looking forward to getting some Clan teams painted up. That will most likely happen later rather than sooner as I'm currently concentrating on painting zombies for Zombicide: Black Plague. I have already painted the 6 heroes, Necromancer and one each of the 10 different zombie sculpts. Expect reviews of them soon. Also on my painting table are some new figures that I bought earlier this month. I ordered a set of 6 Weird West figures from Ainsty Miniatures (3 heroes and 3 supernatural bad guys), 4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by My Way Miniatures (thanks for the heads up, Andy!) and to go with them, a Crooked Dice figure of Pandora King, who I've converted into reporter April O'Neill (friend of the Turtles) and a Mantic Dreadball Veer-myn coach to use as Splinter (mentor of the Turtles).

In a reply to a comment made to me in my first Ninja All-Stars review by my good friend Stephen Gilbert I listed my favourite board-games. Knowing that some of you will have missed our conversation I'm going to update my list to include ALL of my favourite games that I play and want to play.
  1. Zombicide: Black Plague (this fantasy version takes Zombicide to even greater heights - just perfect!)
  2. Zombicide (set in contemporary times, I didn't think it could be bettered. I was wrong! Until Black Plague came along this was my favourite board-game.)
  3. All Things Zombie: Final Fade Out (soon to be upgraded to Fade To Black, this was the game that began my love affair with zombie gaming. I'll be starting a new campaign later this year, combining rules from both versions.)
  4. Super Dungeon Explore (the game that re-sparked my long dormant interest in fantasy gaming. I immediately fell in love with the Chibi miniatures.)
  5. Rum and Bones (at last, after much searching, I found a pirate-themed game that I love.)
  6. Ninja All-Stars (more Chibi goodness that is both a stand alone game and a tie in with SDE.)
  7. Last Night on Earth (a zombie game with a real B-movie vibe about it, giving it a unique feel.)
  8. A Touch of Evil (supernatural horror set at the start of the 19th century in rural America.)
  9. Thunderbirds (superb 50th anniversary celebration of a classic TV series.)
  10. Judge Dredd Miniatures Game (a sci-fi skirmish game set in the world of 2000AD comic's most iconic hero, Judge Dredd. I'll be playing a lot more of this later this year.)
  11. Shadows of Brimstone (a Weird Wild West game. Unplayed at present but I just know I'm going to love it.)
  12. Arkham Horror (incredibly detailed and atmospheric board-game based on H.P. Lovecraft's Call of the Cthulhu stories.)
  13. Castle Ravenloft (the undead abound in this 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons game.)
There are a few other games that I must mention, none of which I've played. First up is Mars Attacks. I bought this game primarily for the human soldiers, survivors and scenery items to use with ATZ. The Martians don't really interest me. I'm unsure if I'll ever play it but I don't regret buying it. Second is another Kickstarter game, The Others: 7 Sins. I'm still waiting for this to arrive so can't comment on its game play but the figures do look quite stunning. Finally, is a new game that I plan on buying within the next week, 7TV 2nd edition. I've read nothing but good reviews of it and it does intrigue me. Most likely I'll add The Others and 7TV to my list in the near future.
Finally, I'm in two minds about buying Imperial Assault, the Star Wars game. It looks good and the figures are more detailed than those found in the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Collectible Minis game. However, it is expensive, especially if you want to replace the card counters with 3D figures (which I would). Plus, the figures for Imperial Assault come unpainted, whereas the WotC figures are all pre-painted. It was suggested (by Brummie Simon) that I buy 7TV instead and use the Star Wars rules for that game along with my WotC figures. Seeing as I plan on buying 7TV anyway, that might be the most sensible option. But seeing Blaxkleric posting lots of pics of his superbly painted Imperial Assault figures is weakening my resolve to resist the game's allure. Ah, choices, choices!

By the way, if any one else wants to make a list of their favourite games, I'd love to see them, either as a comment on here or as a separate blog post of your own, if you run a blog.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Ninja All-Stars Review part 2

Last time I posted a very comprehensive review of the Ninja All-Stars board-game. This time I want to show you all the add-ons that came with the Kickstarter package.
This is my box, which is full of miniatures. How many miniatures are in there? That'd be 186, not including my two trophies. How long will it take to paint this lot? God only knows. My plans for painting them are as follows - paint the 6 Clan teams first, (most likely starting with Clan Tora), paint the lanterns, shines and samurai sentries (in that order), then the Ronin and finally, the 6 Shrine teams because they're the least likeliest to get used. Of course, things may change but at least I have a plan.
Last time I showed you the six Shrine teams. Now I'd like to show you the six Clan teams, who are of a vastly superior quality. I have listed them alphabetically.
Clan Ijin have affinity with the Void element and they are the most demonic looking of the clans. Their tribal totem is a horned demon and all of these figures have a pair of horns. The Ijin value strength above all else. Their clan is founded on the belief that might makes right. In the front row, from left to right, are the Chunin (clan leader), 2 Heroes (Bomechan and Yobuko (Clan Heroes are very powerful allies but they can never gain experience points, meaning their stats and abilities remain fixed) and 3 Kaiken (foot soldiers). In the middle row, from left to right, are 2 Yajiri (archers), 3 Kunoichi (female scouts and my favourite figure from this clan because she so reminds me of Lady Demon, the evil alter ego of Lady Death) and 2 Madoushi (mystics). Right at the back are a pair of fearsome Oni (demons). It is suggested that players start with 100 Koban (KB - the monetary unit of the game) to build their teams. Note that Clan team members come with 4 stats, Movement, Attack, Defence and Koban cost. The two Heroes come with separate stat cards (not shown). When designing a Clan Ijin team, the player must choose 1 Chunin, 1 Kaiken and 1 Kunoichi, totalling 41 Koban.
Clan Ika have affinity with the Water element and their tribal totem is the octopus. In a land where paranoia and insularism are a way of life, the Ika are famous for being even more secretive, cryptic and distrustful of outsiders than usual. In the front row from left to right, are the Chunin, 2 Heroes (Akkorokamui (my favourite figure of this clan) and Mizuchi), 2 Kunoichi and 2 Madoushi. In the centre row, from left to right are 4 Kaiken and 2 Yajiri. Standing at the back are a pair of Oni, looking like avatars of the great god, Cthulhu! When designing a Clan Ijin team a player must choose 1 Chunin and 2 Kaiken, totalling 39 Koban.
Clan Kitsune have affinity with the Spirit element and their tribal totem is the fox. All possess big bushy tails and either have fox-like faces or wear fox-like masks. For many on Kagejima, the difference between the Kitsune and the kami inhabitants of the dark forest is non-existent. In the front row, from left to right are the Chunin, 2 Heroes (Uzumaki and Tamamo No Mae) and 3 Kaiken. In the centre row, from left to right, are 2 Kunoichi, 3 Yajiri (armed with blowpipes) and 2 Madoushi. In the back row are 2 Oni (giant foxes and my favourite figure from this clan). When designing a Clan Kitsune team a player must choose 1 Chunin, 1 Kaiken and 1 Yajiri, totalling 41 Koban.
Clan Tanchyo have affinity with the Air element and their tribal totem is the crane. They are renowned for their archery skills and possess more archers than any other clan. The Tanchyo have close ties to the many spirits of the air and earth that they share the great forests with. In the front row, from left to right are the Chunin (so close to being my favourite figure from this clan) 2 Heroes (Karura and Zenyo Ryu (my favourite figure from this clan. Look, she's firing 3 arrows at once!)), 2 Kunoichi and 2 Madoushi. In the centre row, from left to right are 2 Kaiken and 4 Yajiri. The 2 Oni at the back are hybrid crane-like creatures. When designing a Clan Tanchyo team a player must choose 1 Chunin and 2 Yajiri, totalling 37 Koban.
Clan Tora have affinity with the Fire element and their tribal totem is the tiger. The Tora are much like their tiger totem, a proud and haughty people, always ready to pounce, taking the initiative or advantage. I must admit to liking this clan the most. When I ran my Bushido RPG campaign in the 1980's, my players were all members of Clan Tora. A pure coincidence as they were all samurai. In the front row, from left to right are the Chunin, 2 Heroes (Byakko (who bears a striking resemblance to Wolverine of Marvel Comics fame. Not surprising he's my favourite Clan Tora figure!) and Ryu), 2 Kunoichi and 2 Madoushi. In the centre row, from left to right are 4 Kaiken and 2 Yajiri (armed with flintlock rifles). In the back row are 2 Oni, looking like a really cool pair of Samurai Warriors. When designing a Clan Tora team a player must choose 1 Chunin and 2 Kaiken, totalling 40 Koban.
Clan Yamazaru have affinity with the Earth element and their tribal totem is a mountain. The Yamazaru are hardy, fierce, spiritual and good natured people, capable of feats of toughness unmatched by other clans. In the front row, from left to right, are the Chunin (my favourite figure in this clan), 2 Heroes (Mizaru and Son Goku), 2 Kunoichi and 2 Madoushi (who are excellent healers). In the centre row, from left to right, are 4 Kaiken and 2 Yajiri. Finally, are two Oni, who appear almost ogre-like with tails that prevent back strikes against them. When designing a Clan Yamazaru team, a player must choose 1 Chunin and 2 Kaiken, totalling 44 Koban.
Players may also hire Ronin (clanless mercenaries) to their teams. Just like Heroes, Ronin cannot earn experience points and their stats remain fixed throughout a campaign. Ronin have a Koban cost to hire, but if a player wishes to retain them on his team, he must pay an upkeep cost per game after the first. The upkeep cost is roughly 25 to 35% of the initial purchase cost. A Ronin may be retired at any time. There are currently 26 Ronin to choose from and I have them all. I'm listing them alphabetically apart from Candy and Cola, who deserve special mention. 18 Ronin are listed in the rulebook but all have their own stat cards.
In the front row above, moving from left to right, are Arashikage (MV6, AT5, DF2, KB23/6, Fire and Water Affinity), Bakusho Mondai (MV6, AT3, DF3, KB19/5, Fire and Spirit Affinity), Benkei (MV3, AT3, DF4, KB16/5, Earth Affinity) and Blind Swordsman (MV5, AT3, DF2, KB16/5, Air and Spirit Affinity).
Behind them, from left to right, are Dark Kitsune (MV7, AT2, DF2, KB15/5, Spirit and Void Affinity), Goemon (MV6, AT4, DF3, KB23/7, Earth and Water Affinity), Hanzo (MV5, AT4, DF4, KB25/7, Air and Fire Affinity) and Howl and Yip (who are based on the Manga heroes, Lone Wolf and Cub, MV5, AT3, DF4, KB23/5, Earth and Fire Affinity).
In the front row above, going from left to right, are Inu Clan Kaiken (MV6, AT2, DF2, KB13/3, Earth Affinity), the giant spider demon, Jorogumo (MV5, AT2, DF2, KB16/5, Void and Water Affinity), Kappa (MV4, AT2, DF4, KB20/5, Earth, Void and Water Affinity) and Komuso (MV5, AT1, DF2, KB13/5, Earth and Spirit Affinity).
In the back row, from left to right, are a real life Japanese hero, Miyamoto Musashi (born in 1580 and possibly the greatest swordsman to have ever lived. He was also author of the famous Book of Five Rings. MV5, AT4, DF3, KB20/6. Fire Affinity), Mochizuki (MV6, AT2, DF2, KB18/6, Air, Fire and Water Affinity), Momotaro (MV5, AT5, DF4, KB21/6, Earth and Fire Affinity) and Moon Princess (MV7, AT2, DF2, KB18/6, All 6 Affinities!). Moon Princess is the current ruler of Kagejima, the Land of the Moon, which is the setting of Ninja All-Stars. It was she who organised the various challenges between the six main clans that take place at the Moon Castle once a year during midsummer. The Moonlight Tournament lasts from one full moon to the next.
In the front row of the photo above, going from left to right, are Ondori Clan Kaiken (MV6, AT3, DF2, KB14/3, Air Affinity), Onibaba (MV5, AT2, DF2, KB14/5, Void Affinity), Onryo, (MV6, AT2, DF2, KB16/4, Air and Void Affinity) and Shojo (MV6, AT2, DF2, KB16/6, Earth and Water Affinity).
Bringing up the rear, from left to right, are Sun Empire Wandering Samurai (if Kagejima represents a fantasy version of Japan then the Sun Empire represents China. Eleven Sun Empire armies who tried to invade Kagejima have been repulsed so far with none succeeding in taking the Land of the Moon. Nowadays peace reigns between the two nations, thanks to the machinations of the Moon Princess. MV4, AT4, DF4, KB22/6, Earth and Fire Affinity), Tengu (MV8, AT2, DF2, KB14/5, Air and Fire Affinity), Yagyu Jubei (MV5, AT5, DF4, KB24/6, Air and Earth Affinity) and Sumo Wrestler, Yokozuma (MV4, AT5, DF4, KB24/6, Earth and Water Affinity).
The last two Ronin are Soda Pop Miniatures' mascot pair, Candy and Cola. I love Candy and Cola and so I was delighted to see them making an appearance in Ninja All-Stars. Kunoichi Candy has stats of MV8, AT3, DF2, KB18/4 and Spirit and Water Affinity. Her best friend/pet familiar, Stealth Cola, has stats of MV7, AT2, DF3, KB16/4 and Earth and Void Affinity. Stat cards for using them in Super Dungeon Explore are included. Interestingly enough, Stealth Cola is considered by many to be the most powerful Hero in SDE. I've never used this version of him yet, so can't comment, but others present a compelling argument for why this should be.
These are lanterns (front row) and shrines (back row), which were a stretch goal to replace the card counters. Lanterns are obscuring terrain that cannot be moved across. If a model in Stealth moves within one space of a lantern, it loses Stealth due to the lantern's light. Shrines are also obscuring terrain that cannot be moved across. When a shrine is placed on the board, the player chooses one of the status effects that the shrine radiates: Haste, Lucky or Protect (all beneficial) or Curse, Poison or Slow (all detrimental). When a model moves within one space of a shrine with a detrimental effect it must make an Affinity test. If it fails it receives the status effect shown by the shrine. When a model moves within one space of a shrine with a beneficial effect it may spend one action to make an Affinity test. If it succeeds it it gains the status effect shown by the shrine. A maximum of 6 lanterns and 4 shrines may be placed on the board before play begins and a minimum of 4 of either type must be placed.
And finally are a pair of Ninja All-Stars large trophies. They measure 11cm tall and their bases are 5cm square. These play no part in the game but can be awarded at the end of a campaign to the winning team. So, why do I have two of them? Well, they were a free stretch goal, but it appears that everyone who backed the game on Kickstarter received two trophies per box they ordered. Cool! I may leave one gold and paint the other as a Giant Ninja to use in a unique challenge.
There are so many fantastically sculpted figures amongst the ones I've shown in my two posts. I've mentioned a few of my favourite figures but do I have one figure that I like the most? Yes, I do. It is the Clan Tanchyo Hero, Zenyo Ryu. She's cute and deadly and anyone who can fire three arrows at once earns my respect. I leave you with this picture of her, expertly painted by Minx Studios so you can really appreciate the quality of this superb figure. I think she's the coolest Chibi miniature I've ever seen!

Sunday 24 January 2016

Ninja All-Stars Review part 1

Just last week, I received a parcel from Soda Pop Miniatures containing the Ninja All-Stars game and lots of add-on miniatures. These were all part of the Kickstarter project that I backed last year. There is so much to show that I'm splitting this review into two parts. Part one concentrates on all that you get with the basic boxed set, whilst part two will cover all the add-on extras and stretch goal sets.
First up is the box that the game comes in and what is immediately noticeable is just how deep it is. My one and only criticism of the box is that it does not contain any plastic inserts for storing the cards, dice and figures. It's just a big box. Obviously, there are ways around this but it needs pointing out. The rulebook runs to 80 pages and is in glorious full-colour throughout. The rules themselves are easy to learn and they don't take up too many pages. Most of the book covers stats and info on the characters as well as background detail. Once you learn how to use the dice, which uses 6 elemental symbols instead of numbers you're good to go. More on these later. The game is designed to be played by 2 to 4 players, with 2 being the default option. I'll be playing it solo without bias towards any team I choose. There are eight scenarios, or challenges as they are called, to choose from. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from designing your own challenges.
As well as the rulebook, you get a team roster sheet pad to record your team's stats and progress if you play league games. The game works fine playing one-off challenges but really excels if you choose league play. In this respect it is reminiscent of Bloodbowl and indeed, shares a lot in common with it. You get six large-sized cards of stats for Clan teams and six for Shrine teams. Also included are a deck of 52 Moon Cards which can be played throughout the game to help your team or hinder your opponent, 12 cards of Clan Heroes, 26 cards of assorted Ronin and a deck of cards showing stats of various Ninja All-Stars figures for those who want to use the minis in Super Dungeon Explore, which is something a lot of fans (myself included) wanted to see and clamoured for.
You get two sheets packed with counters to use in the game, all very colourful and characterful. Most feature status effects - Activated, Curse, Delay, Haste, Lucky, Moon Power, Poison, Protect, Slow, Stealth and Stun.
The 16 dice (8 black and 8 white) feature symbols of the six elements - Air, Earth, Fire, Spirit, Void and Water, as shown respectively on the first six white dice reading from left to right. The most common use of the dice is for an Affinity Test. Each model has an affinity with one or more elements. To make an Affinity Test, the player rolls three dice, looking for at least one match with his or her affinity. Models with more than one affinity must choose which element to use before the dice are rolled. In combat, the attacker rolls a number of dice equal to their Attack stat whilst the defender rolls dice equal to their Defence stat. These stats can be modified by certain circumstances. The results of the two rolls are compared and dice are eliminated based on the following pairs - Air and Earth cancel each other out, Fire and Water cancel each other out and Spirit and Void cancel each other out. After all eliminations have been made, the player with the most remaining dice chooses a single die from those remaining for the result of the attack. If the results are tied, the attacker chooses the result. The results vary from element to element. Not all results are good! Three favour the attacker (Air, Earth and Void), one favours the defender (Spirit), one is subjective (Water, which could be good or bad) and one is harmful to attacker and defender (Fire).
The game boards are just superb! To the left and right are the two dojo boards, which show a team's Healing House and Training Ground at both ends. Injured team members are placed in the Healing House until they recover and are then moved to the Training Ground. Models held in reserve are also placed in the Training Ground.
The main board, shown above, is double-sided, and shows a manor house or temple on this side. Figures move from dot to dot, some of which have restrictions depending on their surrounding terrain. For example, it costs 2 movement points instead of 1 to move through Rough terrain, Obscured terrain blocks Line of Sight and Elevated terrain cost 3 movement points to climb up on but only 1 to drop down from.
In the centre of the dojo board to the left is a tracker for marking how many Victory Points a team amasses, whilst in the centre of the dojo board to the right are spaces for placing the Moon Cards deck, discarded Moon Cards and a tracker to determine the six phases of the moon, plus a tracker to note how many rounds have been played.
The game board shown above depicts a small village. Soda Pop Miniatures have announced that new game boards will be produced in the future. Yay!
Finally, I come to the figures you get with the game. All figures are 28mm scale Chibi-style miniatures, very similar to the figures used in Super Dungeon Explore and fully compatible with them. These six shown above are the Samurai Sentries, whose purpose is to protect various objectives depending upon the challenge chosen. They are not affiliated to any Clan or Shrine team and operate independently and against them. I love these figures and I do regret not buying more of them as add-ons, as they'd make a fine force to use in other games or as a tougher challenge for this game.
Now we come to the six Shrine teams, each of which are affiliated with one of the six elements. The nine figures for each team are made up of identical sculpts of five different types. The game supplies you with four Shrine teams - Fire, Spirit, Void and Water. Air and Earth Shrine teams are not included but I'm showing them here just for completeness.
Each Shrine team has an equivalent Clan team. The Air Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Tanchyo. To ease identification, both teams are moulded in green plastic.
At first glance, it may appear that all six teams are identical but that is not the case. For example, compare the stats for the Air Shrine Chunin (leader above) with those of the Earth Shrine Chunin (shown to the right). The Air Shrine Chunin has stats of Move 5, Attack 4 and Defence 3, whilst the Earth Shrine Chunin has stats of Move 5, Attack 3 and Defence 4. Also, the Abilities of certain types, shown below their three stats, differ from team to team.
The Earth Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Yamazaru. Both teams are moulded in brown plastic.
The five character types depicted on each Shrine team reference sheet are Chunin (clan leader), Kaiken (foot soldier), Yajiri (ranged weapon specialist, usually bow armed), Kunoichi (female scout) and Madoushi (mystic). If you play with Clan teams you have limits as to how many of each different type you can take. However, to get you started, Ninja All-Stars includes four of these six pre-generated Shrine teams so you can get straight down to the business of playing the game.
Note that  all of the figures in the game have a small mark on their bases to indicate their front facing. This is a great idea, I think.
The Fire Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Tora. Both teams are moulded in red plastic.
The Shrine team characters come with just three stats - Movement (MV), Attack (AT) and Defence (DF). However, Clan teams have an extra stat, which is Koban (the monetary unit used in the game) and this tells you how much it will cost you to buy that particular character for your team. The more powerful the character the more expensive he or she will be. Koban costs are not given for the Shrine teams but if you wanted to add any Shrine figures to your Clan teams you can find the equivalent costs provided with the Clan team sheets.
The Spirit Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Kitsune. Both teams are moulded in orange plastic.
At the start of each round of the game the players determine the order their team activates. The rules recommend playing rock, paper and scissors but I prefer to make a dice roll with the highest result going first. I use a d20 for this. Then each player chooses one figure to move then act. This continues until all the figures have moved and acted. Movement always comes first, although players can choose to not move a figure if it would benefit them. Actions can be any one of a melee attack, a ranged attack, a second move, searching or going into Stealth mode.
The Void Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Ijin. Both teams are moulded in purple plastic.
The figures for the Shrine teams are very nicely sculpted but they aren't particularly outstanding. However, the figures for the Clan teams and the Ronin (mercenaries who can be hired by any team) are absolutely superb. You'll see what I mean when I review them next time. This begs the question - do you really need the Shrine teams? The honest answer is no, you don't. They are just a tool to help you get started and are probably of most use for teaching newcomers how to play the game. I got my Shrine teams simply because I'm a completist.
The Water Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Ika. Both teams are moulded in blue plastic.
Although I only received this game very recently, I have played it once just to try out the rules. I rolled to see which two teams to use and ended up with the Air Shrine and Void Shrine teams. I played the introductory Brawl Challenge and the first team to accumulate 9 Victory Points was the winner. It took about 90 minutes to play and ended in a 9-5 victory to the Void Shrine team. I must say, the game played very well. It was a lot of fun and is a game that should not be taken too seriously at all. 
The game is more akin to a non-lethal sports match than to a fight to the death. In Ninja All-Stars no one dies. Characters are either injured or stunned. A character who receives three stuns in a round is automatically wounded. Your role is as a coach, picking the best team for the challenge in hand and coming up with a winning game plan. Like many good games, Ninja All-Stars is easy to play but difficult to master.
I have read some misguided negative reviews of the combat system, with a few people moaning about the colours of the dice (WTF!), the cancelling elements and how characters with low attack stats have no chance of defeating enemies with a high defence stat. I totally dismiss all these criticisms. If you are stupid enough to send a low attack character head to head with a high defence foe then you deserve to lose! The game is all about tactics. Let us assume you are sending a character with AT1 against an enemy with DF3. First, you should have your attacker go into Stealth mode and move behind the enemy. Attacking the enemy in the rear from Stealth adds +2 to your AT (+1AT for a rear attack and +1AT for attacking from Stealth). Now its 3AT versus 3DF. The odds are tied. For each friendly model next to and facing the enemy you get +1AT for each assist. With just one colleague assisting your attacker the odds are now in the attacker's favour - AT4 vs DF3. Ninjas are meant to be stealthy and to attack from a position of strength. Really, combat is all about good tactics, which is why I said the game is easy to play but difficult to master. 
I absolutely love the game and can highly recommend it. From what I gather, it ought to go on general release in mid to late February.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Zombicide Zombies - Season 2 Berserker Fatties 01

Today I present my Berserker Fatties from the Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak supplement.
The first three Berserker Fatties shown here came from Prison Outbreak. The one at the far right was a free stretch goal figure I received for backing Season 2 of Zombicide. Berserker Fatties follow the same rules as standard Fatties: each one spawned is accompanied with two Walkers of the same type, only weapons doing 2 or more points of damage can kill them and as with all Berserker Zombies they are immune to ranged fire.
The first three Berserker Zombies in the two photos above have been left as they came with the boxed set. Only my paint schemes distinguishes them. The Fatty at the far right has been converted by simply cutting off his left arm at the elbow.
The first three of these sculpts came from the Angry Zombies boxed set, which contains 24 extra Berserker Zombies, including some new sculpts like these ones. The one at the far right was another stretch goal freebie for backing Zombicide Season 2.
The two at the far left and far right are straight sculpts from the box. The middle two have been converted by me. Once again, I've done a simple arm removal on one. For the other one I added a mass of intestines spilling from his stomach. These were made from Milliput rolled up into thin sausage shapes. It's not too difficult a conversion to do and looks suitably disgusting when painted.
Note that the majority of the Berserker Zombies are wearing the orange jumpsuits worn by prison inmates. The reason why this is, is in the name of the supplement they appear in - Prison Outbreak. It sure made painting them an easy task as I didn't have to think up different colour schemes for each one. I like all of the Fatty Zombies produced for Zombicide and these are particularly cool.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Zombicide Zombies - Season 2 Berserker Abominations 01

Berserker Zombies were introduced in the Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak supplement. I'll begin the first of my many reviews of them (I do have lots of them to show!) with a close look at the most dangerous of all - the Berserker Abominations.
Berserker Zombies differ from other zombie types in Zombicide in the following ways -
  1. Berserker Zombies are immune to Ranged Weapon Damage, except for weapons killing everything in their target Zone (such as Molotov Cocktails or Flame-throwers). Unless otherwise stated, the only way to kill a Berserker Zombie is in Melee Combat.
  2. Berserker Zombies exist in all four types: Abominations, Fatties, Runners and Walkers. They have the same characteristics and get the same targeting priority as their counterparts, but in Ranged Combat and Car Attacks, a Berserker of a given type is targeted after the other Zombies (Standard, Toxic, etc.) of the same type. Players still choose their targets in Melee Combat.
  3. Berserker Fatties are spawned with an escort of two Berserker Walkers.
  4. Berserker Zombies do not benefit from the extra activation cards of other Zombie types.
  5. Car Attacks can kill Berserker Zombies.
  6. The Berserker Abomination has an additional game effect: it moves up to two Zones instead of one.
Note that Berserker Zombies are not turned into Toxic Zombies by the Toxic Abomination.
The Prison Outbreak boxed set only includes one Berserker Abomination figure but I picked up a second one as part of the stretch goals for backing Season 2. According to the rules, it is perfectly okay to field two or more Abominations in a game, if you have extra figures of them. Otherwise, spawn a Fatty with its escort of two Walkers of the appropriate type.
I decided that the easiest way to differentiate between my two Berserker Abominations was to give them contrasting hair colours, so one is black-haired and the other (obviously much older) is grey-haired. The various Abominations are always impressively sculpted and these are no exception.  Check out those claws on their right hands. They could slice a man in two! I have been waiting until I painted all of my Berserker Zombies before using them in a game. Now that they are all finished I'm looking forward to trying them out in a few scenarios. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Studio Miniatures' Survivors 05

I have just recently painted the first four Survivor figures from the Studio Miniatures Z-Clips Outbreak Kickstarter parcel I received late last year. Any zombie fan should instantly recognise them as the four heroes from George A. Romero's classic 1978 film, Dawn of the Dead.
First in line are the two WGON television staff members, Francine and Stephen. What is immediately apparent about the figure of Francine Parker (as played by Gaylen Ross) is just how small she is. This is not meant as a criticism, just an observation. Francine works in administration and is the girlfriend of Stephen, from whom she learns how to pilot a helicopter just in case anything untoward happens to him. Note, it does! She is a strong-willed character and is armed with a Bolt Action Rifle.
Stephen Andrews (played by David Emge) is a helicopter pilot, who earns the nickname "Flyboy" in the film. He is often rash and prone to acting first before thinking of the consequences. When the zombie apocalypse kicks off he plans to fly Francine, himself and their friend, Roger, away from Philadelphia to somewhere safer. Haven turns out to be a huge shopping mall located in Monroeville. He is armed with a six-shot revolver.
Next up are the two SWAT Troopers, Peter and Roger. Roger DeMarco (played by Scott Reiniger) is a close friend of Stephen and Francine. For the most part, Roger acts very professionally but when on a zombie clearing mission outside the Monroeville Mall, he gets overconfident and suffers a zombie bite, which inevitably, proves fatal. He is armed with a 9mm Pistol (held in a two-handed grip) and a 5.56mm Colt AR-15 Assault Carbine.
Peter Washington (played by Ken Foree) teamed up with Roger when they were part of a SWAT team tasked to clearing out an apartment block whose residents were defying martial law by refusing to hand over their dead to the National Guard. Afterwards, Roger invited Peter to join his trio to flee in Stephen's helicopter. Peter more than proved himself capable and was the most level-headed of the group. He is armed exactly the same as Roger.
Of all the survivor figures made for a zombie apocalypse game these are the four I have been waiting for the longest. I was just 21 when I first saw Dawn of the Dead in the cinema way back in early 1979. No other film since has made such a lasting impression on me as that one! It totally blew me away and so began my lifelong love affair with all things zombie-related. Even today, Dawn of the Dead remains my all-time favourite zombie movie. Studio Miniatures are renowned for making arguably the best sculpted zombie miniatures on the market and these four survivors are just first rate. The likenesses to their on screen characters are amazing. I am dying to use them in a game of Zombicide set in a shopping mall, of course!
I leave you with a couple of photos taken from the film, showing all four survivors together.
Fran, Stephen, Peter and Roger take a well earned break from killing zombies in the Monroeville shopping mall.
Ready for action. Roger may be down but he's not out of the fight just yet. Now let's kill some zombies!

Sunday 10 January 2016

Heresy Miniatures Vampires 01

Last month I finally got round to painting four Heresy Miniatures 28mm scale Vampire figures that I bought years ago. I think the only reason they lay unpainted for so long is that they all required some assembly and I was just too lazy to glue them together. My interest in vampires (which has never wavered, although you wouldn't tell from my blog posts) was reignited when I recently painted my Castle Ravenloft figures. That prompted me to dig out my Heresy Vampires and show them some love.
At the far left of my two photos is a Vampire in a long coat. He came with a choice of three heads and I chose the head wearing the top hat to make him look like a Victorian Vampire. I wouldn't mind buying another copy of him and giving him the traditional Nosferatu head, all bald with long pointed ears and prominent fangs. As is, he has an air of mystery and arrogance about him. Most befitting for a Vampire!
Next up is Lord Von Blutgericht, who is a multi-part model. His head, right hand and left leg and skull are separate pieces. You can choose between an open right hand or a hand holding a long sword. I felt he'd look more dramatic with the long sword. Actually, it just occurs to me that he'd make a good substitute for the awful plastic figure of Count Strahd Von Zarovich that you get in the Castle Ravenloft game.
Third in line is Lady Von Blutgericht, wife of the aforementioned Lord. She is also a multi-part model with separate head and a choice of right and left hands. Her right hand is open-handed but you can choose between a hand holding a large goblet or a long sword for her left hand. I see her as being every bit as vicious as her husband, so gave her the long sword. Together, they make a fearsome pair.
Finally, is a Vampire in Man-Bat Form. He was the figure I was least looking forward to making as his bat wings were separate pieces. Fortunately, I was able to drill and pin them at the arm joints and glued them in place with super-glue. In the end, he went together a lot easier than I thought he would. I had to glue him to a 30mm diameter slotta-base, because his wings made him unbalanced when I tried him on a 25mm diameter slotta-base. I decided to paint him in a dry bone colour (Foundry Boneyard 9, with a Citadel Seraphim Sepia ink wash). He was the easiest of the four to paint. Note that all four vampires have glowing red eyes, a sure sign that they aren't human!
I do like this quartet of Vampires and it's nice to start the New Year off with a post of some Vampire figures. I don't showcase nearly enough of them, which is odd as I still have loads left to review. I've just checked on the Heresy website for the prices of these and sadly, the Lord and Lady Von Blutgericht are no longer available. Bummer! The Victorian Vampire is listed as Posing Vampire and he costs £4.00, whilst the Vampire in Man-Bat Form costs £7.00.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Zombicide: Black Plague WIP Figures

I am well on my way to finishing painting the six Survivors and one of each of the Zombies from the Zombicide: Black Plague game and whilst I don't normally post Work In Progress reviews I needed a quick filler today whilst I build up my library of photos to post on my blog. All figures are roughly 32mm tall, apart from the Abomination who stands 45mm tall to the top of his head. With his arms raised he stands closer to 55mm tall.
I'm more than halfway through painting them all, with most of the block colouring and shading done and the bases finished. Next comes the fiddly bits - highlighting and detail work. Shown above from left to right are three of the six Survivors - Ann the Warrior Nun, Baldric the Wizard and Clovis the Fighter.
Next up are the three remaining Survivors - Nelly the Barmaid, Samson the Dwarf Blacksmith and Silas the Elf Archer - and an unnamed evil Necromancer, who for game-play purposes is classed as a zombie.
Here are five non-Walker Zombies from the game, the fearsome Abomination, a pair of Fatties and a pair of Runners.
Finally, are five Walkers, the most numerous of the zombie types, comprising three males and two females. The game includes multiple duplicates of the Fatty, Runner and Walker zombies.
I plan on showing off a lot of Zombicide figures over the next few months, with posts split between contemporary Zombicide (namely, Prison Outbreak) and Black Plague.

Sunday 3 January 2016

Shadows of Brimstone Overview

The components of the City of the Ancients Core set. Note, the cards and counters are not shown.
The two core sets for Shadows of Brimstone by Flying Frog Productions were my main Christmas presents for 2015. I'm going to review them in closer detail in this post. The two Core sets, called City of the Ancients and Swamps of Death share a lot in common but are also sufficiently different to present their own unique set of challenges.
When you open either of these two large boxed sets you'll be overwhelmed by how much is packed inside. Oh boy, you do get a lot! The game tiles and card counters rest underneath the plastic trays containing all the other stuff. These games use lots of cards and counters and I do mean LOTS! The figures are made of hard plastic and most of them have to be glued together. Some gamers find this a bad thing but not me. I enjoy making models. The game uses Map Tiles, which clip together like pieces of a jigsaw. There are two types of Map Tiles - Rooms and Passages. There are also End Cap pieces for blocking off Room exits that are not Doors and Portal Gates which give access to the Other World. All Map Tiles are double-sided with the Mines on one side and the Other World on the other side.
Each Core set for Shadows of Brimstone has a shared Rulebook as well as a unique Adventure Book. The main rules for the game are found in the Rulebook, while Special Rules and notes about elements of the game that are specific to the appropriate Core Set can be found in the Adventure Book.
The game is designed for co-operative play by 1 to 4 players but if you own both sets you can play it with 5 to 6 players. For me, the big draw was the option for solo play. The layout of the Tiles, the encounters and threats, gear and artefacts, and many other events are all determined by drawing a card from the appropriate deck. Please note that this game does use lots of different decks of cards.
The components of the Swamps of Death Core set. Note, the cards and counters are not shown.
This is a complex game but I imagine game play will get easier the more games you play. Be warned, there are a lot of rules to learn. I've read all the books and have a basic grasp of the game but I'm sure I'll be regularly consulting the books when I do play my first game.
The aim of the game is to take your characters down into the mines in the foothills surrounding the demonically overrun town of Brimstone. The Heroes can embark on a variety of missions, from finding and sealing a gateway to another world to rescuing a farmer's son who was hauled off in the night by a horrible creature. The Heroes explore a dynamically generated mine, overcoming dangerous encounters and fighting savage creatures, while collecting up useful Gear and ancient Artefacts to help them during their adventures. It is essentially a Wild West dungeon crawl. Heroes can even find portals to other worlds, stepping through to continue their adventure on the other side.
In the City of the Ancients set, the Other World featured is the frozen over Targa Plateau. This is a dead world that has slipped into the ice age, covering over alien architecture with ice and snow. Though the city is long abandoned, its technology and systems are still running and it is still being watched over and maintained by robotic custodians and massive Guardians that awaken to defend sections of the city against invasion. The icy corridors have also become infested with hordes of Ancient Void Spiders, Ice Scarabs and  lumbering Snow Terrors.
In the Swamps of Death set, the Other World featured is the overgrown Swamps of Jargono. There you will find a hot and humid swampland, with knee-deep murky water and massive bundles of roots and vines erupting from the marshy ground and dangling from the dense canopy overhead. Tribal drums can often be heard in the distance and the wild roar of massive predators stalking the half-sunken ruins for their next meal. The thick bog is also infested with slithering serpents, poisonous Bog-bats and carnivorous plants.
The Heroes from both sets. These were not painted by me.
Shown above are the four Heroes from both sets. From left to right are the Saloon Girl, the Indian Scout, the Preacher, the Lawman, the Rancher, the Gunslinger, the Bandido and the U.S. Marshal. These are all multi-part models. You get the Bandido, Gunslinger, Saloon Girl and U.S. Marshal with the City of the Ancients Core set and the Indian Scout, Lawman, Preacher and Rancher with the Swamps of Death Core set. Each Hero comes with their own sets of skills and abilities unique to them. One rule that I do like a lot is that the Hero Character Cards are double-sided with a male Hero on one side and a female Hero on the other side, so you can chose the sex of the Hero you want to play. Unfortunately, the figures provided are limited to one sex only. I'd have liked to seen both sets of figures included in the game. However, at the back of each Adventure Book is a page showing upcoming figures and opposite sex versions for some (hopefully, all) of the Heroes will be produced later. For example, the male version of the Saloon Girl will be the Piano Player, whilst the female version of the Preacher will be the Nun.
One aspect of this game that I really do like are the campaign play rules. You can link your games together and watch your Heroes grow more powerful as they increase in Level and gain more skills and abilities as well as increased stats. The game even provides rules for what the Heroes do between adventures as they rest in a nearby town. They can have encounters on the way to town and in the town itself. Once in the town, they can buy new items, get healed physically and/or spiritually or sell some of their loot. This game has really been well thought out with a high level of re-playability.
The Hungry Dead aka Wild West zombies. Not painted by me.
Moving on to the monsters, they do look like they'd be right at home in a Call of the Cthulhu setting (check out the two pictures below). The monsters supplied with the City of the Ancients set are 1 huge Goliath (fits on a 60mm base), 3 large Night Terrors (fits on 40mm bases), 6 Stranglers and 6 Tentacles (both fit on 30mm bases) and 12 Void Spiders (not provided with bases). Note that the Heroes also fit on 30mm diameter bases. The monsters supplied with the Swamps of Death are 1 huge Harbinger (fits on a 60mm base), 3 large Slashers (fits on 40mm bases), 6 HellBats, 6 Tentacles and 12 Hungry Dead (all of whom fit on 30mm bases). Note that the Tentacles in both sets are identical. All monsters come with double-sided stat cards. On one side are their normal stats for when they go up against level 1 - 4 Heroes and on the reverse side are their more powerful Brutal stats, which they use against level 5 - 8 Heroes. As with the Heroes, most of the monsters are multi-part models that must be assembled. The Goliath and Harbinger are particularly impressive.
The Heroes and monsters of the game.
In the picture above you can see colour illustrations of all of the heroes and monsters from the game. However, whoever produced this has made a couple of mistakes. First up, the Outlaw is not included in either set. Shadows of Brimstone was originally launched as a Kickstarter project (which I totally missed out on), so it's possible he was included as a stretch goal. Secondly, one of the monsters is missing - the Slasher. I have included a picture of a beautifully painted version of two of the Slasher figures below. Finally, the Corpse Pile and Targa Pylons shown above are represented in the game by card counters. They might also have appeared as models in the Kickstarter stretch goals.
A pair of Slashers, superbly painted but not by me.
So, what are my thoughts on the game? Bearing in mind that I've yet to play the game that's hard to say, but from what I've seen, plus what I know about Flying Frog games, I fully expect it to be a great game. It certainly looks good. Everything about the game just screams high quality. If you play the campaign rules, which I strongly urge you to do, you'll find yourself coming back to this game time after time. As I said above, the replay value of Shadows of Brimstone is very high.
There are a few potential negatives to the game. First of all, not all board-gamers like making model figures. Some of the parts of the figures are very small and could prove problematic to a novice modeller. Secondly, the figures are mostly based on 30mm diameter plastic bases and the grid of squares of the game Tiles are 30mm square. This means that the game tiles take up more space than if they used 25mm square tiles. Be aware, this game can potentially take up a lot of table space. I'm not a fan of the lipped plastic bases supplied with the sets and so I'll be substituting my bases for smaller sized 25mm diameter wooden bases in the case of the 30mm bases and similar sized wooden bases for the large 40mm based and extra-large 60mm based monsters. Finally, it has to be said that there are a lot of rules to learn. I would not recommend this game for novice gamers. Being familiar with Flying Frog's previous games, Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, gave me a good grasp of how the game should work as all three games share a lot in common rules-wise.
In my last post, Blaxcleric asked me which of the two sets I preferred? I answered Swamps of Death purely because this set contains the zombie figures. But to be honest, there is so little to choose between the two. I'm sure if you buy one you'll want the other, so if you can afford it buy both together. Amazon UK currently has both sets in stock but stock levels are very low. City of the Ancients costs £74.12 and Swamps of Death costs £69.25. RRP for both games should be £109.99 each, so Amazon is offering a really good deal. I ordered both my sets from them.