Sunday, 23 August 2015

More card:FAB1 and M969OJB

Introduction

Last week, I published pictures of some card models that I built whilst on holiday: here.  These were all downloads from Dave's "Cut and Fold" Card Creations site and a wonderful resource it is!  I also mentioned in passing that I had started (but not finished) a 6-wheeled, pink Rolls Royce.  Well, I've now completed FAB1 and here it is!  There's also a nice, simple bonus model that only took me a short while to make.

FAB1

As all fans will know, FAB1 is the name of Lady Penelope's vehicle from the Thunderbirds TV series by Gerry Anderson.  She was described as International Rescue's "London Agent" and was a cross between a super-spy, a diplomat and a high society debutante.
In keeping with her extremely glamourous position, Lady Penelope was driven about in this flamboyant and brightly-coloured Rolls Royce by her dour butler/chauffeur, Parker.  Parker was a reformed criminal whose underworld contacts and burglary skills often came in useful, but his driving of FAB1 was near-legendary as well.
The limousine was not just a luxury transport, though.  FAB1 had more gadgets than one of James Bond's rides, including multiple weapons, defensive and anti-pursuit measures.  Heck, it could even drive on water at up to 50 mph!  Mind you, I don't like to think too much about the fuel consumption it must have required...

  • Size: this paper model measures about 10.5cm .  That works out at 1:60 scale, which is a tad small for 28mm figures such as the Crooked Dice "Daredevil sister" shown in the picture.  A purist might want to scale it up by 6% or so, but it's close enough for me.
  • Issues: Like many of Dave's paper car kits, the wheels are just single-thickness disks.  For gaming purposes I prefer to make them a bit more robust and so I've added treads to them.
    The clear, domed hood looks like a real pain to build from card.  Actually, it was much simpler than I had expected and went together quite easily.  It still shows a few rough edges, though.
    The "flying lady" hood ornament was described in the kit as "optional".  No kidding - it was far too small for my level of skill - and it would have been very vulnerable as well.
  • Overall: 4/5.  Another fine model of an iconic TV vehicle.  The canopy is slightly odd, but given the limitations of paper as a modelling material it is surprisingly effective.

M969OJB

At the other end of the price & luxury scale, we have another car from Dave's Cut and Fold site.  This is the much-rubbished Reliant Robin and unlike FAB1, it was a real vehicle which sold in considerable numbers!
It was often criticised for not being much of a car (to put it mildly!), but that's really missing the point.  The Robin was designed to fit with the lesser requirements of British license and tax regulations that more usually applied to motorcycles.  I'm simplifying a bit here, but the result was that it was much cheaper and simpler to run than a 4-wheel vehicle.
This particular Reliant Robin was made famous after it appeared in an episode of the BBC's Top Gear motoring programme.  In that, I believe M969OJB was driven by (and lambasted by) Jeremy Clarkson.  This kit has a small image of Mr Clarkson in the driver's window.

Oh, look - he's rolled it...
  • Size: I calculate this Reliant Robin model as 1:52 scale.  Like FAB1, that's about 5 or 6% wrong for 28mm models, though in this case it's too large.  Still, it's not enough of a difference for me to care.
  • Issues: none, really (other than the picture of Jeremy Clarkson - I'd have preferred not to see him in the window!)  There were a number of very small optional extras in this kit, such as more detailed wing mirrors and "anti-roll" bars (a Top Gear addition and not part of the manufacturer's specification for this vehicle, I suspect); I left these off.
    The wheels for this model are necessarily small; that may give trouble to some model-makers (indeed, I nearly lost the rear wheel treads several times!)
    Note that I have adapted my build of this kit somewhat.  Dave's original has a separate underbody, but I've just taken the printed "chassis" and attached it directly to the outer shell.  I think it works pretty well that way!
  • Overall: 4.5/5 .  This was easy to build and is very suitable for my gaming needs.  I think I'd have given it 5/5 if it didn't have the separate underbody and the picture of a grinning idiot in the window!

Conclusion

What can I say?  These are both fine models in their own ways.  FAB1 is the epitome of 1960s glamour, chic and hope for the future, whilst the Reliant Robin was a very easy build.  I hope to use both of these in my games, in due course.  Probably not in the same game, mind.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Captain Scarlet Vehicles - in card!

Introduction

Any long-term followers of this blog may remember that I like to take a card modelling kit with me when I go on my summer holidays.  It's light and self-contained, requires only a few tools and no paints at all - and I can afford to bin the results if anything goes wrong!

This year, I added several sheets printed out from Dave's "Cut and Fold" Card Creations site.  These are all free-to-download kits and there are a great many interesting subjects; I'd encourage anyone with even a passing interest in paper modelling to browse this site!  Anyway, I chose to build several of the iconic Spectrum vehicles from the Captain Scarlet TV show, to go along with my 28mm figures from Crooked Dice.

The SPC

The Spectrum Patrol Car is a basic light transport automobile.  It's fast (insanely so, compared to the roads and motorways that we know now!) and can carry 4 people.  A simple sports saloon from the future, as envisaged in the 1960s!


  • Size: This paper model is 10.2cm long.  By my reckoning, that works out at 1:53 scale (the TV original was nominally 5.4m long), which is a touch oversize for 28mm figures.  Still, it's pretty close to my preferred 1:56.
  • Issues: most of this kit is fairly straightforward and fitted well, though the central spine and fin is made from 3 very narrow parts that have to be laminated together.  That's definitely the most tricky part!
    The separate underbody does allow the wheels to be recessed, but makes it difficult to get them at the correct height.  My model looks as if the suspension has broken and the body has sunken down!
    Also note that as designed, the wheels in this kit are just a card disk,  I've added treads to them from another model, thus making the construction greatly more robust and able to withstand handling.
  • Overall: 4/5.  An excellent model, with a few minor quibbles that can be worked around by an experienced modeller.


The MSV

 In the Captain Scarlet show, the Spectrum organisation occasionally calls on the services of a Maximum Security Vehicle.  These are typically used as ultra-safe VIP transports; an MSV is supposedly proof against most weapons (up to and including a small nuclear bomb!)  Again, the vehicle can carry 4 people and travel at up to 200mph.


  • Size: In the TV show, an MSV is supposedly 7.3m long.  My model is 11.3cm, thus making it 1:64th scale.  That's really a touch small for 28mm figures.  If I make another of these then I would scale it up by 15% or so.
  • Issues: The central "cabin" has straight sides and a curved front: this proved quite tricky to glue flat to the lower bodywork.  In addition, the other parts of the superstructure then needed some slight adjustment to make them fit correctly.
    Again, the wheels were just card disks; I've added treads to them from another model.
    Finally, the front "bumpers" were rather small and fiddly.
  • Overall: 3.5/5.  The subject matter is excellent, but the kit didn't go together quite as smoothly as I had hoped.  It's still a pretty good kit, for all that!


The SPV

Every schoolboy's favourite was the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle!  These large armoured cars were stored in hideouts all over the world for use whenever a Spectrum agent required; they could be magicked out of a disused mine entrance, an old barn or similar location on demand.

The SPV had 10 wheels, alternating between large and small along each side.  It also had an auxiliary track unit at the read which could be deployed on rough ground.  It was armed, armoured - and the crew faced backwards and drove it via a TV screen.  It's a SciFi geek dream!


  • Size: this model is 11.5cm long.  The original measures 7.6m, so the model's scale is 1:66th.  Like the MSV, this is really a bit small for 28mm figures and I would recommend that it is scaled up by around 15%.
  • Issues: for the most part, this kit fitted together really well.  The white nose bumper was slightly awkward, though not as difficult as I had feared it might be.  The only other parts worthy of comment are the side skirts, which have an awkward curve along the length of them.  I think that if I make another of these models then I might add formers of balsa wood or similar to help the side skirts to keep their shape
  • Overall: 4/5.  Another iconic vehicle, most of which is a very easy build with just a couple of tricky areas.

Conclusion


It is possible to buy plastic or metal versions of all of these vehicles; there have been a number of versions over the years.  However, you are then limited to the sizes produced by the manufacturers and I suspect that the collector's market has pushed the prices way beyond all but the most dedicated wargamers.

Card models aren't to everyone's taste, but if you have the time and the ability then you can build as many of these excellent vehicles as you like, to any reasonable scale, for very little cost.  If only Dave produced some Spectrum aircraft as well!

Now please excuse me: I have to go and finish building a 6-wheeled pink Rolls Royce...

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Away in the Islands, summer 2015

Introduction

So, I haven't posted anything for a while.  Relax - this isn't because I've given up blogging, but rather because I've been away for my summer holiday.  We spent 2 weeks on the island of Barra, in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland.  It was cold and windy - the "summer" of 2015 has been dismal so far with temperatures up to 10 degrees Celsius below average for the time of year.  Still, we did a lot of walks and relaxed quite a bit.

A typically-crowded beach on Barra, on one of the better days of our visit
Apparently, it's been an excellent year for orchids.  We certainly saw huge numbers of several different sorts.  Here's one example:

So, what can I tell you about Barra that might be of interest to wargamers, model-makers or amateur historians?

Castlebay

The main settlement on Barra is Castlebay.  It's a somewhat obvious name, since the village lines the shore of a large bay - and there's a castle in the middle of the sea!  Kisimul Castle is on a rocky islet a couple of hundred metres offshore from the mainland of Barra and is the traditional seat of the MacNeill clan.  The MacNeills of Barra were famed (infamous?) as seaborne raiders; they terrorised quite a few other island and mainland communities during the Middle Ages.  Also, Barra was a hotbed of Viking activity long before that!

What you see of the castle these days is a restoration from the 1930s, so I've no idea how accurately it represents the original version.  However, one of the things that I like about it is that the interior of the castle is filled with buildings.  Too often, our wargames castles are barren, empty shells without any dwelling or utility rooms on the inside.

The well (which provided the castle with fresh water, despite its location on a rocky islet in the sea!) is in the centre in this picture, just in front of the partially-obscured door of the further building.

Dun a'Chaolais Broch

On a couple of occasions, we travelled from Barra to the adjacent island of Vatersay; there's a modern causeway linking the 2 islands so it is easy to drive from one to the other.  Near the road in the north of Vatersay, on the top of a small hill, are the remains of a probable broch.

Brochs are uniquely Scottish buildings from about 2000 years ago. found around the northern and western fringes of the country.  Originally, this structure would have been a round, dry-stone tower some 16m across and proportionally tall, with very thick walls.  The inside would have been divided into multiple small chambers.

No-one is sure how brochs were used (early theories that they were forts seem to be discouraged by modern archaeologists), but they may have been high status dwellings, watch towers or some combination of these and other factors.

Even though this site is essentially just a pile of stones with just traces of walls, it's still impressively large!

The Vatersay Catalina

Further south on Vatersay, but right beside the road, is the wreckage of an RAF Catalina flying boat that crashed on the island in 1944.  The aircraft was on a (night?) training flight out of Oban when it became lost and hit a nearby hill with the loss of several crew members.  RAF recovery teams dragged the wreckage down to the shore and took away the engines and some other parts.  The remainder of the aircraft has been left in place to this day.

There is a memorial at the site to the crew; it is well-maintained and respected (there was a wreath of poppies at the foot when we visited).  Around the highlands and islands of Scotland there are quite a few crash sites of long-range patrol aircraft, but this is by far the easiest to reach and has the most to see of any that I have encountered.

Visitors can walk right up to the pieces of wreckage; there are no barriers or warning signs.  It's quite a sobering moment, though.

Commonwealth War Grave

In the north of Barra there is the very old church of Kilbar.  This is most famous for a stone slab with early Christian symbols on one side and Viking runes on the other, possibly looted from Iona (I did say that the islanders from Barra had a reputation as raiders!)

However, something else caught my eye as well.  There's a marker at the gate to the cemetery proclaiming the presence of Commonwealth War Graves.  It turns out that there is just a single war-related grave here and it is inscribed with an Italian name.  I didn't write it down, so sadly I cannot remember it here.  I think that his first name was Enrico, though.

Further enquiries of a local historian revealed the following story: Enrico was a Jewish-Italian opera singer who happened to be in Britain when Italy entered the Second World War.  He was therefore detained and put on a ship, presumably to be deported.  However, the ship was torpedoed by German aircraft in the Bay of Biscay and sank.  Apparently bodies were washed up all along the Western Isles, including that of poor Enrico on Barra.

This version of events does raise a few questions in my mind, though:
  • If the ship was torpedoed in the Bay of Biscay then how did the bodies end up far away on the west coast of Scotland?  Perhaps it didn't sink immediately and drifted for a few days?  Or maybe it was further north than I've been told in the first place?  Possibly the currents or stormy winds were strong enough at that time to move the wreckage such a distance?
  • Enrico was not a member of any Commonwealth military force, so how did he end up in an official Commonwealth war grave?  My informant suggested that maybe this was because the British armed forces were responsible for collecting and burying the bodies of those killed at sea.  This is possibly correct, I suppose?  I had always assumed that Commonwealth war grave status was just for combatants, but I must be mistaken on this.

Conclusion

I've tried to avoid presenting a list of everything that we saw and did on Barra and the nearby islands.  Instead this article is edited to present just those items which (I hope!) might be of interest to the people that I imagine are my audience.

In my next post, I'll talk about the paper models I made whilst on holiday.  S.I.G!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

ATZ Short Stories: The Rescue

Introduction

It's been quite a while since we last played All Things Zombie, so here's a game just to show that we haven't forgotten about it.  If the terrain looks a little familiar, that's because we used essentially the same table that we had set up for Scooby Doo and the Death Knight; we didn't feel like creating a new layout!

The Scenario


The swiftness of the zombie apocalypse has caught out a number of people as they try to carry on with their regular lives.  At one country club & golf course, the members and staff have been preparing to evacuate when someone remembers that there is an old woman (Mabel) who lives alone in a nearby cottage.  She needs to be evacuated as well, so a small band of volunteers is put together to find her and return to the relative safety of the clubhouse.  Simple, really - what could go wrong?

The Rescue Party

  • Catriona: REP 4, golf club, brawler.  A keen amateur golfer and current ladies champion.
  • Melanie: REP 4, shotgun, initiative.  Head of ground-keeping staff, though she prefers working alone in the wilder parts of the estate over keeping the fairways and greens tidy.
  • Scott, REP 4, pistol, attractive.  A college student earning some money with a part-time job cleaning toilets and the like.
  • Mary, REP 3, golf club, dim.  Another member, though she's really in it for the social life and the club's shop rather than the outdoor exercise.

So, what happened?

The would-be rescuers ran along the north of the area, trying to stay behind cover.  There were quite a few zombies in the location, though only a few had seen the people.  The rest just wandered aimlessly through the woods or along the banks of the stream.

Briefly, the humans wondered if they could climb into the ruined tower from behind.  They reasoned that it would be good cover and - if the worst came to the worst - could be defended more easily than many places.  However, none of them managed to scale the 6 feet high back wall [I gave them a challenge vs. REP, but no-one passed 2 dice.  Also, it didn't occur to the players to ask if they could help each other up...].

After this, they jogged on towards the wooded, hilly area.  In theory that should provide cover for much of the trip towards the cottage.

[Note that the yellow markers are "Possible Enemy Forces", or PEFs.  These stalked the rescue party for several turns and made them quite nervous, though in the end all three of the PEFs were resolved as just figments of the characters' imaginations]

Round the back of the woods, however, the party ran headlong into a couple of zombies that they hadn't seen until then.  "No shooting!  We don't want to attract any more" hissed Melanie.  "We can take them - there are more of us than them".

Although everyone in the party had elected to charge, only Catriona passed her "brown pants" test and actually ran forwards.  The other 3 all had second thoughts when they were close enough to smell the rotting flesh and see the dead faces with strips of flesh hanging off them...

Catriona swung her golf club enthusiastically at first - she knocked down one of the zombies before the other one attacked her.  She knocked down the second one as well, but by then the first one had regained its feet and was threatening her again.  "Damn it!" she cried out in frustration - this was not going the way it was supposed to go.

After several turns where Catriona fended off first one zombie and then the other, Scott plucked up enough courage to charge into the melee.  He'd have done better to stay out of it, for the zombie he attacked clawed at him and sent the young man reeling with blood streaming down his face.

The distraction did finally give Catriona the breathing space to brain the other zombie, though her driver would never be the same again.

Before Scott could recover, the remaining zombie was upon him, biting and tearing gobbets of flesh away from his head and torso.  The 3 women were horrified; they scattered, running this way and that in a panic.  Other zombies were approaching from several directions to join the feast, so the humans ended up running through the woods and away from the awful scene.

The rescue party became strung out as they ran, with the fitter Catriona reaching the bridge before Mary had even cleared the woods.

However before she could cross, a gaggle of zombies appeared from the far side and blocked her way.

They were close enough to smell, but the zombies hadn't quite made contact.  Thinking quickly, Catriona called over her shoulder "Hide somewhere!  I'll draw them off and rejoin you."  Certain that the zombies had fixed their attentions on her, she fled across the open ground towards the tents.  Nearby, Mary and Melanie hunkered down behind the abandoned tractor, out of sight.

The plan may well have worked, but for a truly bizarre incident.  The lead figure on the bridge shouted out "Wait for me!  I'm not a zombie, please help me!"  He was Willie, a local hobo who had been mistaken by the zombies for one of their own.  But now he had revealed himself...

...and the other 3 zombies immediately fell on the hapless man from behind, knocked him to the ground and started to devour his corpse.

Melanie had fired her shotgun once at the zeds on the bridge to try to save the revealed human, but without success.  The noise did attract some more shamblers though, so the women all relocated behind a small clump of pine trees and waited for the feast to end and the zombies to lose interest and lurch away.  They waited and waited and waited [it was extraordinary how many times the zombies  failed their activation rolls and the humans passed theirs.  Must have been 8 or 10 turns in a row...].

Eventually, after much slow feeding, the crowd of zombies began to drift away in random directions.  Some headed back into the woods, but 4 of them crossed back over the bridge towards the cottage.  Mary, Melanie and Catriona decided that they wouldn't get a better chance than this, so they tiptoed across the bridge, praying that the retreating walkers wouldn't look round.

The zombies paused, perhaps listening for sounds of further prey.  However, the 3 women dared not remain in the open; they crept behind the rotters and quickly hid round the back of the house.  At least they'd be safe here for a time, while they figured out what to do next.  They tried the 2 windows along the west side of the building, but these were shut firmly and the humans didn't want to draw attention to themselves by breaking the glass and making a noise.

The rescuers were so close to their goal now, when we rolled another random event.  In one of those you could't make this up if you tried moments, we drew the Barking Dog card.  A small, terrified and very, very noisy beagle ran gratefully up to the humans.  It was thrilled to find masters who didn't smell of death or try to eat it; perhaps they might even have some dog food?

Of course, all the existing zombies heard it - and another 4 were following hard on the dog's heels!

Realising that their plan was in tatters, the women turned to flee with the dog tagging along as well.  Catriona was at the back of the group; she felt the cold, clammy hands grabbing at her shoulders as the zombies caught up with the group.

As Catriona fell in a mist of blood, Mary and Melanie fled.  They ran and ran, not looking back and were only aware of the dog's presence because of the happy little "wuff" noises that it occasionally made.

Conclusion

Err, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, right?  This was a bit of a disaster really, though not because of anything that the players did wrong.

We were playing in a rural area with encounter level of 2, so random events and newly-spawned zombies were a low probability.  However, I don't think that I've ever seen 2 random events occur which each ruined the player's plans so comprehensively!

So, we'll never know if the old woman is indeed hiding in the cottage and awaiting a rescue, will we?

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Batrep: Scooby Doo and the Death Knight

Introduction


Recently, I wrote an article about introducing plot points (as used by the "Pulp Alley" ruleset) into the "Fear and Faith" rules so that we could play a Scooby Doo game.  My deliberations on the subject can be found here.  "Fear and Faith" is a set of rules that is specifically designed for horror games (including comedy-horror!); it's derived from the ever-popular "Song of Blades and Heroes" fantasy skirmish set and therefore should produce a tense and exciting game.

In that previous article, I promised a report as soon as we played our first game.  This has now happened, so here's the article...

The Scenario

We decided that we'd play a variant of Pulp Alley's "Trail of Clues" scenario.  In this, 2 plot points are placed on the board, with others placed later as/when the first ones are solved.

Time Limit

The game would start at dawn.  Each time the good player rolled a turnover [i.e. 2 or more failures on an activation roll], the clock would advance through the following stages:
Dawn [game start] ->dawn2 ->daytime ->daytime2 ->evening ->evening2 ->night [game ends]
In other words, the game would be over once the good side had rolled a total of 6 turnovers.

Victory

  • Each minor plot point solved by the good side would be worth 1VP.
  • The major plot point would be worth 3VP to the good side, if solved.
  • The evil side would start the game with 2VP.  Hopefully this would give the good side some sense of urgency, since they couldn't just sit back and claim a draw for doing nothing!
  • The evil side would also gain 1VP for each good character that was eliminated.
This gave the good side a maximum possible of 7VP (if every plot point was solved) and the evil side a mutually-exclusive maximum possible of 7VP (if all the good characters were knocked out).  Seems fair to me.

The Forces

Good

  • The 5 members of "Mystery Inc" (aka the "Scooby Doo gang").  See here for details.

Evil

  • The "Death Knight".  A scary, powerful skeletal knight.  Who knows if it's really a man in a rubber mask, though?
  • 3 Spectres.  These are immaterial and have the haunt characteristic, which means that they are both unable to move outside of a preset area and are impossible to defeat with conventional melee.  However, they are vulnerable to a character with conviction, such as Fred or Velma.
  • Crazy Joe.  Q5+, C2, Morose.  A cheap "extra"; his morose ability will lower activation rolls for friend and foe who are near him.
  • Farmer Benton.  Q5+, C2.  A cheap extra with no particularly interesting abilities.
  • Rex (Benton's dog).  Q5+, C2.  Ditto.
  • 3 college students (Maxwell, Judy and Brad).  Q5+, C1, whatever!  More cheap fillers, though the whatever! effect has the potential to shock and stun nearly good guys.
Note that most of the evil side are not monsters.  Indeed, I view them more as bystanders and distractions rather than as agents of the bad guy.  They're not present to fight with Mystery Inc, though in game terms melee is a viable choice.  Any such contests represent argument, misdirection (intentional or not) and just general obstruction rather than physical punch ups.

The Setting

To the north-west of the table, there's a ruined tower (not a genuine medieval castle, but perhaps a deliberate folly constructed by some American magnate during the last century).  Nearby is a campsite for a summer study group of some type.  Across the river there is a slightly seedy farmer's cottage and in the foreground there is a wooded valley between 2 hills.

The initial 2 plot points have been deployed, one in the campsite and one in the valley.  The evil forces have also been placed; they're fairly well scattered around the table but with a spectre near each of the current plot points.

The Game

The Camp

Fred was in something of a daze as Mystery Inc disembarked from their van, so Shaggy, Daphne and Scooby pressed on to investigate the seemingly-deserted campsite.  Velma was a little way behind the lead group.

The campsite wasn't empty, though: a hideous apparition promptly floated across the meadow and through the group.  "Yoinks!" exclaimed Shaggy as he ran away.  Daphne stumbled backwards and tripped over a guy rope (or her high heels?); she fell over.

Shaggy stopped backing away from the spectre.  He had an uneasy feeling, so he took a quick look behind him.  There stood a hideous, black, skeletal knight, making awful wheezing sounds (the "Death Knight" had just run half the length of the table to get to this point)!

Meanwhile, a young student (Judy) approached Scooby and started to coo over him.  "What a cute puppy!" she said.  Let's see, you must be a poodle cross of some kind, I think".

"Ruppy?  Roodle?" gasped a shocked Scooby "Grr, rowf, rowf, rowf, ROWF!"  The college girl fled, crying loudly, just as Velma approached.  At the same time, the phantasm vanished [in game terms, Scooby scored a "gruesome kill" on poor Judy.  This then caused a fear test for all the evil side who were in range - and an immaterial model that fails a fear test is removed.  As the evil player, this effect was not something I had anticipated!].  The Death Knight also slunk away and hid in the morning shadows, though only temporarily.

Whilst Daphne stood up and dusted herself off, Scooby and Velma rooted around the campsite, looking for clues.  "This cable looks as if it goes to a projector of some type" said Velma, as she uncovered something in the grass.  "I wonder if it's high or low voltage?".  There was a flash and a bang as she discovered the answer the hard way - by being zapped [Velma and Scooby attempted the challenge for the plot point; it turned out to be a C3 physical attack.  Scooby shrugged it off, but poor Velma was "killed"].

"A crue!" exclaimed Scooby triumphantly as he dragged out some packaging from the edge of the campfire.  It was some packaging with a return label giving the address for the "Acme Halloween Costume" company.  Daphne took one look and said "Oh, great!  Another maniac in a rubber mask, right?"  [The reward for the plot point was indeed "It's a rubber mask", which would penalise the evil side in combat for the next turn].

"Um, guys" said Velma, looking pale and unsteady after her electric shock.  "I don't feel too good.  You go on without me; I'll just rest here for a while."

The Valley


With Fred still in his own dream world, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby started to make their way towards the next plot point, in the wooded valley [after the solution of the first plot point, a 3rd one had been deployed on the bridge across the river, but it seems that they weren't interested in that].

Although they had some close calls, all of the heroes managed to avoid the clutches of the Death Knight as they crossed the field.

Fred, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.  He thought that he had seen a monster and consequently wasn't watching his feet.  When he tripped and landed flat on his back, an obnoxious college student (Brad) was right there to "help" him up again.  This obstruction cost him quite a bit of time.

Reaching the wooded valley first, Daphne and Scooby tried to skirt round the hill to approach the hill.  Once again, a waiting spectre charged at them from out of the undergrowth.  Daphne fell over in surprise [not again!], whilst Scooby fled a short distance.

Recovering from their initial fright, the pair tried to climb the mound again.  this time, they were accosted by Crazy Joe, the ruined tower's custodian.  His foul mutterings and shouts scared Daphne so much that she turned and fled, whilst Scooby lost his footing, rolled down the hill and lay at the bottom, stunned.  [Joe's 'morose' attribute made it difficult for anyone near him to avoid him or do anything else that was useful - including the spectre!  When he did attack Scooby and Velma, he was outnumbered and should have been at some disadvantage.  However, in a major upset, he scored a "gruesome kill" against Daphne and this sent Scooby reeling in fright].

Crazy Joe ran down the hill to finish off Scooby Doo.  His swearing and thrashing of the undergrowth with a stick was too much for the poor hound; Scooby bolted away through the trees and wasn't seen again, at least during this game.

Meanwhile, Fred (who had finally shaken off the attentions of both Brad and the Death Knight) had caught up with Shaggy.  Together they approached the area from the other side.

However, it was Shaggy alone who completed the plot point.  He reached down a rabbit hole and drew out an item wrapped in waterproof cloth.  "Ouch, that hurts!" he exclaimed, as the rabbit scolded him for the intrusion by nipping at his fingers [once again, the challenge was a C3 attack - but this time Shaggy wasn't "injured" by it and could carry on].

"Look out!" called Fred, as an oblivious Shaggy scratched his head and wondered what he had found.  He had seen the spectre approaching Shaggy from one side and Crazy Joe from the other.  Fred ran up the hill towards the apparition, but slowed as he drew near.  "It's just a projection!" he exclaimed.  The projector device was hidden, but not so well that Fred couldn't find and disable it within moments [normally, a character wouldn't be able to melee an 'immaterial' model.  However, Fred had the 'conviction' trait, which permitted him to disregard superstitious explanations and instead look for a physical solution.  His combat rating of C3 made short work of the C0 spectre - and his easy victory caused a daunted Crazy Joe to step back a few paces as well!].

The End

Buoyed by his last success, Shaggy called out "I got this!" and ran through the woods and up the next hill.  There, he found the 4th minor plot point and attempted to solve it.  No-one was there to see what happened, but Shaggy ran away, screaming in terror [I can't remember what the plot challenge was for this one, but I think it might have been the 'scary' one.  Either that or yet another C3 attack.  Either way, Shaggy failed the challenge miserably and fled for his life, never to return].

On his own now, Fred was being pursued closely by the Death Knight, who had finally caught up, almost.  Fred ran and ran...

...until the villain trapped him amongst the trees.  Fred's conviction was of no help now, as the all-too-real physical foe beat him senseless!  As evening fell, the last hope for Mystery Inc to solve the case of the Death Knight faded into nothing...

Conclusion

This game was a bit frustrating for both sides, I think.  Although the adaptations and scenario we used are in the right direction, there's something still not quite right about it all and it didn't really work as we'd have liked.  Ok, let's see if I can figure out what are the problems:

  1. Fear tests.  Every time a monster charges one of the good models, that figure takes a fear test.  Unless the target either passes 3 dice against their quality stat (or fails all 3!) then the overwhelmingly likely result is that they will either recoil a base depth or flee a short distance.  Either way, the monster has failed to make contact.  So, assuming that the good side doesn't want to rumble and charge the monster themselves, just how does anything from the evil side ever fight a melee, let alone win one?  I think we must have interpreted something in the Fear and Faith rules incorrectly here, but I can't see what.  I'll need to make inquiries.
  2. Time Limits.  The idea of having a time-limited scenario with multiple objectives was spot on, I think.  It was intended to encourage the good side to "split up and look for clues".  However, basing the time limit on turnovers didn't lead to the desired result.  Indeed, it had exactly the opposite effect, as the good player moved extremely cautiously so as to avoid double-activation-failures (i.e. turnovers).  Indeed, it's a strange artifact of the Song of Blades and Heroes activation mechanism that the more you try to do in a turn, the less you're typically able to accomplish.  Do a few things reliably, or take a chance on doing more or doing nothing.  So, perhaps a more traditional "number of turns" mechanism would have worked better?  I'm not sure...
Finally, here are some other thoughts.  I'm not sure if these are problems that need addressing or not, though:
  • "Crazy Joe", the morose character, had an effect out of all proportion to his cost.  His morose trait acted as a huge and unexpected drag on all characters near him, but especially on the good side because there were more of them.  And then, his combat abilities seemed nothing short of amazing, though it has to be recognised that he saw off Daphne and Scooby through luck as much as anything else.  "Gerroff moi land!  And don't come back, you young whippersnappers!"
  • The house rules for the "Trail of Clues" adaptation didn't work too well.  Since only the good side could solve plot points (see my previous article), they could always place the next plot point fairly close to their current position.  This made it virtually impossible for the lesser "evil" characters to be in the right place to interfere as the game went on.  Remember the farmer and his dog from the force list, or the 3rd spectre?  They never got anywhere close to the action.
  • The challenges for the plot points seemed to be quite tough.  Out of 3 plot points attempted, 2 characters were lost.  Again, how much of that was just bad luck as opposed to unreasonably hard challenges, though?  I'm not sure...
  • I like the idea of having the "civilians" (or at least a large part of them) controlled by the evil player and used to distract, confuse and hinder the good guys.  However, it seems a little odd that the loss of such a "civilian" should cause a morale test for the monsters.  Similarly, the letter of the rules would have a civilian cause a fear test when he or she charges, just because they're part of the evil team.
    Perhaps we should have played them as a separate "faction", still controlled by the evil player in his/her turn, but acting as if they were good models otherwise [i.e. not causing fear tests when they charge, but being affected by fear of the monsters just as the heroic side's models would be].  Indeed, here's a thought: could the evil player have one of his monsters attack one of his "civilians", in order to cause a fear test in nearby heroes when they see a "friend" lost?  Hmm...
So, will we play Scooby Doo again?  Yes, I think so, probably.  However, I think there will need to be changes to some of the house rules first.  It's close, but not quite there yet...