Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Amera Castle

Introduction

I'm a great fan of vac-formed plastic for terrain.  It's light and cheap and easy to work.  Some people may find the lack of detail to be an issue, but it doesn't bother me.  I have fond memories as a child of buying many of the old Bellona pieces, though sadly they are long gone and there doesn't seem to be much archive data about them on the internet.

The parcel from Amera, with a 12" (30cm) ruler for reference and some of the packaging material removed to create a better view.
 A short while ago, I ordered a few products from Amera.  My first thought when the parcel was delivered was "Oh, my - it's a huge box".  Dimensions are given for each of the products in their catalogue, but I hadn't paid much attention to them.  OK, that's not really a problem - terrain features shouldn't be too cramped or else figures won't fit in them!

The Castle Keep (F214)

Rather than describe all the pieces in the box, I'll show how I handled just one from start to finish.  This is mainly because it's the model that I've finished; the others have all been started but progress on them hasn't been as swift.  Hopefully this will also give you the idea that these pieces are really quick and easy to prepare.

The castle keep consists of a small rectangle of crenelated walls set on a hill, with a broad staircase leading up one size.  The hill is about 13" (33cm) across and the battlements are perhaps 5" (13cm) from the ground.  It may not be obvious from the picture, but there are small, flattened areas all over the hill, presumably so that figures on standard 1" (25mm) bases can stand there.  In the same vein, the staircase has a flat platform every few steps, easily big enough to hold a 28mm miniature.

I started by trimming the square base into a more rounded shape using a heavy pair of scissors.  This was fairly tough work; the plastic was about at the limit of thickness that my scissors could handle (and I wouldn't use high quality dressmaking scissors for this either - they would end up blunt or worse).  Partly I wanted to reduce the possibility of the sharp corners snagging on anything either during a game or in storage and partly I wanted to improve the appearance by removing the hard, straight edges from the base of the model.

Once trimmed, I coated the non-masonry parts of the model with tacky glue and then sprinkled this with grit (in clusters), followed by sand.

The piece was then undercoated.  I used the last of an old can of Games Workshop's "Roughcoat", which is (was - they don't make it any more) a mildly-textured spray paint.  It's as if there were some very fine grains of sand in the paint, which makes it very good for otherwise featureless terrain.  Now that I've finished the can, I'll have to look in my local hardware store for a similar type of spray from a different manufacturer.

After the undercoat, the masonry was given a wash with thinned-down black paint.  When that was dry, I dry-brushed the walls with a light grey.

On to the ground.  The dirt received a base coat of chocolate brown (raw umber), followed by dry-brushes of 2 successively paler browns.

Finally, flock and clump foliage was glued to the model fairly liberally.  In doing this, I tried to follow the following principles:
  • don't flock over the "standing spots" where miniatures might be placed.
  • vegetation often looks better in clumps, rather than spread evenly over the whole area.
  • foliage is very good for covering up imperfections - either where the painting isn't very neat or where the underlying model isn't as good as it might be.  I placed a lot of clumps around the edge of the base, especially in the slightly unnatural "gulley" where the hill starts to rise from the flat base.

Conclusion

Big isn't difficult!  This model took no more than an hour or two of effort (though considerably longer than that in drying time).  It was also cheap; the castle keep cost no more than 2 or 3 28mm metal miniatures from the likes of Hasslefree. or maybe 10 plastic figures.  It's not a perfect representation of any real-life building, but it is designed for gaming and will work very well in that role.

Hmm, I wonder if I should have added a flagpole right in the centre?

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Pulp: The Mad and the Bad

Introduction

A little while ago (I thought it was but a few weeks, but it turns out to have been October last year), I showed my painted model of Herr Stengel, a sinister pulp Nazi villain.  Since then, I've finished off a few more pulp figures including some associates of his.  Today is the first day of the week where I've had good enough sunlight to take semi-decent pictures of them, so here they are...

The Bad

This is a pair of fairly generic 1930s or 1940s thugs.  The only thing about the models that really makes them "Nazis" is the German sub-machine guns they are carrying.  However to make their affiliation a bit more obvious, I've painted an arm-band on one and a "swastika" tie on the other.  Mind you, I think that the design on the tie may be a little too small to spot!


So, here they are with their boss, just ready to thwart some American archaeologist or British pilot/adventurer.  Good luck with that, boys!

The Mad

I've also completed another Artizan figure, billed as "Mad Jack, the Lighthouse Keeper".  I liked the name so much that I kept it, though I did consider "Crazy Joe" as well.  I can just see him being the lonely caretaker for some semi-ruined building in a remote part of the Northumbrian coast!

Although I think it's unlikely that Mad Jack will fit into a scenario that involves Nazis, I might use him with Mystery Inc in a Scooby Doo game.  Alternatively, I could get out my Sea Devils and related Doctor Who miniatures; he'd be a perfect victim for these maritime pests!

Friday, 13 February 2015

ATZ Short Stories: Our Boys at the Front, part 2

<==  part 1 is this way

Continued...


As the initial gunfire died down, the situation was this:
  • Team 1 halted the Hummer when they reached the next block.  The lieutenant and his 2 assistants leaped out of the vehicle and turned to face the zombie horde.
    "I want careful, aimed shots only" explained Brosnan.  "Fire at will, but keep it clean.  There's plenty of targets, but they don't move too fast.  We should be able to drop them all before they reach us."
  • Team 2 were still working their way up the road behind the burger bar.  They intended to carry on the mission by searching the garage just ahead of them.
  • Team 3 were crouching low inside the bookstore, waiting for the zombie herd to pass.  They were still looking for Dalton, who had disappeared.  This was because he'd taken a wrong turn and had exited the building through a back door.  He now found himself on some wasteland and was immediately set upon by a nearby zombie!

The garage wasn't clear: team 2 found a single hostile inside.  However, they had no trouble at all in convincing Laura to surrender; she was promptly disarmed, arrested and handcuffed.

Back at the Hummer, Connery and Van Damme were concentrating on shooting at the zombies further down the road, though this wasn't having the effect that they had hoped.  Brosnan's pistol was out of range, so he stood at the back.

Breaking News

All 3 of the soldiers failed initially to notice a small boy zombie approaching them from behind.  However, they were no longer the only people in the area.  The last remaining PEF was resolved as 2 civilians, who turned out to be a news crew (reporter Lynne Gosnett and cameraman Pete Maclennan).  From now on, all that happened would be broadcast on the evening news bulletin!

The very first thing that the camera crew recorded was a small boy zombie approaching the soldiers from behind.  Lieutenant Brosnan must have heard voices or something, for he looked around and sized up the situation quickly.  He drew his combat knife, ran at the child zombie and caved in its skull with several mighty blows.  As the gore sprayed around, Lynne's stomach heaved and her news commentary faltered.

Team 2 (and the prisoner they had arrested) were still making their way through the maze of buildings to the north-east.  For a moment it looked as if their perfect record would be spoilt when they were ambushed by a pair of gunmen.

Ambush: 7 dice and no successes (1-3).
However, the "Drop Your Weapons" test went very badly for the ambushers; they came out holding their hands high before the soldiers had even realised that the gangers were there.  They lost their nerve, I guess.  Team 2 now had 3 prisoners and was running short of plasticuffs...

The "single, aimed shot" policy wasn't working for team 1.  In desperation, they resorted to burst fire in an attempt to thin out the horde of shamblers that was approaching them.

We then drew another random event.  Even though all the original PEFs on the board had been removed, we added a new PEF to the board.  Random placement put it in the crossroads in the centre of the board, which happened at that moment to be unobserved by any of the player characters.

Team 3 (minus Dalton, who was lost and fighting off one zombie after another in the wasteland) had finally crept out of the bookstore and had taken their 2 prisoners back to the truck.  They chained the gangers to the inside and then returned to the main street, just in time to see the new PEF.  It was immediately resolved as another 4 zombies - as if anyone needed that!

By now, there were zombies everywhere!  The news team skedaddled, barely escaping from a zombie that got to within 1" behind them before they could activate.  I suppose they were too intent on filming the scene ahead of them (or, in Lynne's case, too busy heaving her guts up!).

Team 2 ran out of the now-cleared garages to reinforce the command team near the Humvee.  In doing this, they didn't pay much attention to their prisoners, who wandered aimlessly but unscathed through the whole mess.

The remnants of team 3 started to move up the street, using their combat knives to fight off the light opposition near them.

For a moment, it looked as if the extra soldiers might turn the tide, but then Lieutenant Brosnan made a terrible slip.  He ordered his men to cease fire and attack the zombies with knives instead of guns.  Whilst Connery and Van Damme managed to fell their victims, Brosnan missed his stroke against a small girl zombie.  She grabbed his hand and bit a finger off; when the Lieutenant reeled and fell over from the pain, she leaped upon him and tore his face off with her sharp, little teeth.

The resulting "Man Down" test went very badly for the soldiers.  4 of the 5 remaining members of teams 1 & 2 were close enough to see or hear the Lieutenant's screams of anguish and all of them were horrified and stunned into inactivity for at least one turn.  At this critical moment, the zombies advanced again and, meeting no resistance, promptly killed and started to eat both Van Damme and Gibson.  The other 2 squaddies were only saved because all of the zombies had closer targets than each of them.

The 3 prisoners decided that this would be a good moment to split, so they ran off as fast as they could (with their hands still tied behind their backs).

Once they had recovered from their initial horror, Eastwood and Weaver ran for the Humvee.  The zombies were all distracted by their feasting, so they didn't have any trouble in reaching the vehicle.  They waited a moment for Connery to join them, though by this time some of the zombies were beginning to look round in search of fresh prey.

Fortunately for the soldiers, Eastwood managed to start the Humvee on his first try, though his comrades had to fend off some fresh attacks before the vehicle could start to move.

Finally, the Humvee reversed away from the immediate danger, just as team 3 came up the road to assist.  Even the wayward Dalton rejoined team 3, having finally finished off all the zombies that had attacked him one after the other.  Was this the break that the soldiers needed?  Could they turn this around and sweep the area clean?

Another random event occurred, though it wasn't immediately obvious what benefit a Safe Haven would be to the squad.

Once again, the temptation to use their automatic weaponry was too much for most of the soldiers.  After all, there were plenty of targets; perhaps some automatic gunfire could thin out the mob a bit?

Moore had other ideas; he thought that a knife might work better.  He was slightly ahead of his colleagues and had dispatched a zombie successfully, when...

...he found himself cut off and surrounded by the ever-growing numbers of hungry zeds.  Although Moore fought the first one to a standstill and knocked down the second, the third, fourth and fifth zombies overwhelmed him.  Moore vanished beneath a pile of bloodied, clutching arms.

Time for another random event.  Hackman sneezed, though in the heat of the battle no-one else really noticed.  He'd been feeling fine this morning, but had a bit of a sore throat now that he came to think about it.

The Humvee moved forward again as Eastwood hit the accelerator.  He crunched round the corner, barely able to see where he was going because of the zombie corpses already caught on the bonnet of the vehicle.  As it was, the Humvee clipped the feeding frenzy over Moore''s body and sent zombies flying in all directions.

On foot, Hackman and Dalton moved through the park, trying desperately to keep away from the larger groups of zombies.

This time it was Dalton who found himself alone and outnumbered.  Unlike his predecessor, he managed to keep knocking the zombies down so that he never had to face more than 2 or 3 at a time.  For several rounds, he held his own in this manner until Hackman ran over to assist and finish off those zeds that were still moving.

Eastwood, in the Humvee, didn't fancy his chances of manoeuvring the vehicle back on to the road.  "Everybody out!" he commanded.  "Make for the garage - perhaps we can hold them off there!"

The crew disembarked swiftly and ran for the building whilst the zombies from the road smash were still picking themselves up.  [Remember that "Safe House" event earlier?  There was something about the garage that repelled the zombies, for now at least.  Perhaps it was the oil fumes that masked the scent of the men's blood and sweat?  Maybe the zombies had vestigial memories and thought of it as a dangerous place that was unlikely to be a source of food.  Or the light shining off tools, hubcaps and mirrors confused their senses?  Who knows?]

Seeing this, Dalton and Hackman ran to join the rest of the squad.  They closed and barricaded the door and then slumped to the ground, ragged with exhaustion.  As they listened to the moans from the street, they knew that it would be a long night...

Aftermath

This was a disaster, no doubt about it!  4 of the 9 soldiers were dead, 3 of the prisoners had run away and the other 2 were still locked up inside the armoured truck.  Although it probably didn't matter now, some of the worst violence inflicted by (and to) the squad had made it onto the early evening news.

We rolled for the effects of the illness that Hackman had contracted.  He recovered without any ill effects, while none of the other soldiers caught it.  I suppose that's something positive, at least!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

ATZ Short Stories: Our boys at the Front!

Introduction

Welcome to another of my ATZ "Short Stories".  This was planned as a one-off game, but I might continue with some of the characters in further games if I feel like it.

"We can now go live to our city correspondent, Lynne Gosnett, to find out the latest on the Government's calming measures.  Lynne, tell us what you can see."

"Yes indeed.  We're approaching the junction of Harbour Road and Hill View, near the supposed origin of the outbreak.  Troops have been sent in to restore order and we can see some soldiers just a few yards away.  They're on foot and ... oh - they're shooting at something.  We can't quite see what's happening, but if we just step round this corner ... Augh!  That's ... urk, I can't look!  We've just ..." <sounds of automatic weapons fire, heavy breathing and rapid footsteps>

"Thank you, Lynne.  I think you need to get to a place of safety now, while we return to the studio.  Now, sports.  Darren, tell us what's been happening today on the pitch."

The Scenario

Teams 2 and 3 debus from the APC, whilst team 1 remains in the Humvee

We decided to play the "Law & Order Patrol" scenario from the Haven scenario book for All Things Zombie.  In this, a group of soldiers have to disarm & arrest any armed humans and eliminate any zombies from the board.  There are initially no other forces on the streets, but there are 6 buildings that need to be cleared.  We decided to add 3 PEF (Possible Enemy Force) markers as well, though Haven doesn't mention these.

The Squad

Team 1 (in the Humvee)

  • Lieutenant Brosnan, REP 5, pistol
  • Connery, REP 4, assault rifle
  • Van Damme, REP 4, assault rifle

Team 2 (deployed to the left of the road)

  • Hackman, REP 4, assault rifle
  • Dalton, REP 4, assault rifle
  • Moore, REP 4 (medic), pistol

Team 3 (deployed to the right of the road)

  • Corporal Eastwood, REP 5, assault rifle
  • Weaver, REP 4, assault rifle
  • Gibson, REP 4, squad automatic weapon

So, these soldiers are reasonably competent and have a considerable amount of firepower.  They're confident and well trained, but - importantly - they haven't a lot of experience in dealing with zombies.  They are authorised to use deadly force right from the start.

Vehicles

The Humvee has a mounted medium machine gun.  The truck has no weapons, but it is armoured and (if all the openings are fastened properly) it is pretty much impervious to small arms fire - and zombies.  On turn 1, both vehicles are already deployed on the board with their engines switched off.

The Game

Almost before any of the troops had moved, one of the Possible Enemy Force markers came into view just beyond the bus stop.  This turned out to be a single civilian - an old gent who was waiting for a bus.  Obviously he'd heard the trucks coming along the road and then stopping; he must have thought that this was his bus arriving!

Once the soldiers had shouted at him a bit, he toddled up the road past them and went in search of a train instead.

The 2 squads on foot entered the buildings nearest to them, but found nothing.  They relaxed somewhat; this wasn't going to be so bad after all!

After the In Sight test.  Dice indicate the number of successes for each model (and therefore the order in which they will act).
However it was a different matter when squad 3 climbed the stairs to investigate the upper floor of the bookshop.  The troops came face-to-face with a pair of men who were acting very suspiciously.  The younger punk ("Barack") was armed with a pistol, whilst the older hard case ("Smiley") had a nasty-looking pump action shotgun.

"Drop your weapons!" shouted Hackman.  "Make me, pussy!" responded Smiley without any hesitation.  And before anyone could say anything else, bullets were flying.
  • Barack fired at Dalton, but missed.
  • Simultaneously, Dalton fired at Smiley and sent the ganger scurrying for cover.
  • Hackman then shot Barack twice; the young punk dropped to the ground, bleeding.
  • Moore (the medic) moved over to the injured man and kicked away his pistol.  He examined him briefly, cuffed him and said "You'll live.  On your feet; we're going to go for a little ride..."
  • Dalton and Hackman advanced cautiously round the desk where Smiley was hiding.  All the fight had gone out of the older man; he surrendered quietly and was also cuffed.

Meanwhile, out in the street, Van Damme was keeping a good, all-round watch.  He saw a very obviously dead figure stumbling towards the flank of the Humvee, so he unlocked the MMG, swung it round carefully and opened fire.  When the gun eventually ran out of ammunition, there was nothing left but a few bloody parts; the threat (such as it was) had been neutralised.  "I've always wanted to do that!", Van Damme thought to himself.

"Pass me another magazine" he called to the crew inside the Humvee.  He whistled a bit while he reloaded the gun, but the smile dropped from his face when he looked up again.  "Contact, right!" he shouted, just as Brosnan (in the passenger seat) yelled "Multiple hostiles, front!"

Van Damme worked at the gun with one hand whilst using the other to fend off a zombie that was attempting to climb onto the vehicle.  He finished reloading and cocked the weapon just as Connery fired up the engine and Brosnan pushed away a little girl zombie.  As the Humvee started to move, Van Damme emptied the new magazine into the crowd of zombies to the front.

The Humvee shot forwards, just as even more zombies closed in on its previous position.  All of the soldiers were horrified at how many of the undead were now present.  Where had they all come from?  It had been so easy just a short while ago!

Teams 2 and 3 wisely kept out of sight of the main street.  Team 3 continued to work their way through the burger bar's car park whilst team 2 guarded their prisoners in the bookshop and watched the horde go past.  The mission had started so well, but what a difference a few minutes can make!

As if this wasn't enough, we then drew an event card.  Dalton (team 3, in the bookshop) wasn't there when Hackman looked round.  Somewhere in the confusion of hustling the prisoners down the stairs and then hiding from the zombies in the street, he must have taken a different route.  Hackman and Moore didn't dare to call out loud, but a fierce whisper was met with no reply; Dalton was gone!


To Be Continued...  [This way to part 2 ==>]

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Antigone: Greek Heroine

Introduction

It's been a few days since my last post.  I had intended to show some figures in the middle of last week and had even got as far as taking photographs of them.  However, when I looked at the pictures on the computer they were not very good, having been taken at night under artificial light.  At this time of year, the only time I see natural daylight at home is over the weekend; during the rest of the week it's dark both when I leave for work and when I return.

Today I've re-photographed the same models, but this time under natural light.  So, later than I had intended, here are some more legendary Greeks...

Antigone

The ancient Greeks were not well known for their equal opportunities for both sexes.  With very few exceptions, women in both the myth and reality of classical Greece were either sorceresses, wives & mothers or damsels in need of rescue.  Just about the only one I can think of who didn't fit this pattern was Atalanta, who was an accomplished huntress (not a warrior, mind) - and even she was resented by some of the male hunters!

However, when I saw this model from North Star, I knew that I had to have it.  Of course, it helped that the model was on sale at the time!  I've named this adventuress "Antigone" after a respectable young woman from Greek myth who stood up to her uncle Creon (though she died horribly as a consequence).  In my alternate world, she's a seeker after truth and justice who has decided to take up arms against tyranny by joining the Argonauts.

I'm somewhat tempted to buy another of these figures to convert into an enchantress such as Circe, Medea or Pasiphae.  The shield is a separate part, so that wouldn't be a problem.  I'd need to convert the spear into a staff or wand, but that should be simple enough.  The big part of such a conversion would be to remove the helmet and rebuild the hair.  Hmm.

Psiloi

I realised some time ago that my Argonauts needed a mixture of troop types.  I already had some heavily-armoured hoplites, but was missing any light troops - javelinmen, slingers or archers.  To fill this gap, I recently purchased a box of Wargames Factory's Numidians; despite the name on the kit, these models are a good basis for pretty much any Mediterranean light troops from the classical period.

My first 4 javelinmen are here; they may not be capable of killing many monsters themselves but should be able to distract and harry them.  Or maybe they'll just sit on the sidelines and act as cheerleaders for the real heroes!

I have plans to build a number of different figures from this box of Numidians.  As well as skirmishers for the Argonauts, I'll make some with helmet and shield to act as another human force, either to oppose the Argonauts or as neutrals.  So many possibilities...

Finally, here is one of the less-than-perfect, mid-week photos that was taken under artificial light.  'Nuff said!

Conclusion

I've got a bunch more of these Greeks on the painting table, but they're not ready to show yet.  Additionally, I'm making a determined effort to tackle some of the long-standing, part-complete models that clutter up my workbench.  It would be nice to finish off some of these and release that space; you may see some of these models in future posts.

Oh, yesterday, my sons and I played a large game of All Things Zombie.  Expect a report on this sometime soon!