Sunday, 21 October 2018

Zomtober 2018, Week 3

<== Week 2 is this way

Introduction

Well, we're into the third week of Zomtober 2018.  I've presented a zombie/survivor duel on each such occasion since 2013 and I'm not going to let you down this time.  Hope you enjoy this week's offering!

Sarah vs Parking Meter Zombie (PMZ)


This week, I have painted a couple of oddments from my lead pile.  The survivor is a young woman made by Hasslefree Miniatures; I've called her "Sarah".  She is reasonably well dressed and has a (camouflaged) hunting crossbow slung on her back.  Oddly, she doesn't seem to have any bolts for the bow.




Instead, Sarah is clutching what looks like a wooden stake or tent peg (are wooden tent pegs even a thing these days?).  It's not the improvised weapon I would chose to deal with post-apocalyptic monsters!  Something with a long handle and sharp bits at the far end - perhaps a type of gardening tool - might work better...



Sarah is about to attack Parking Meter Zombie (PMZ).  This zombie appears to be heavily damaged - he's missing half a leg and his belly has been ripped open.  However, he hasn't quite given up yet; he's using a parking meter that has been ripped out of the ground as a support.

PMZ is from one of Studio Miniatures's "zombie mobs".  I've mounted both figures on resin bases from Escenorama.



There seems little doubt in my mind that a fit young woman with a weapon - even a poor one - should be more than a match for a single, crippled zombie.  The real question must be why is she about to attack PMZ, though?



Here are some possibilities:

  • She's shot her last crossbow bolt deep into PMZ without killing the creature and intends to retrieve the arrow, come what may?
  • It's an act of revenge for something PMZ has done, either in his previous life or in his continuing zombie existence?
  • Sarah is using the weak zombie as an opportunity to practice her hand-to-hand combat skills?
  • The woman has a desperate need for any coins that are in the meter, perhaps to operate a vending machine that cannot be prised open?
  • The zombie and his parking meter are blocking her path?
  • She's cleaning up the street, making it safer for some companions who aren't as capable as her (possibly children or elderly)?
  • Maybe Sarah isn't about to attack, but instead was caught off guard by a low moan from behind and has spun around to see what might be threatening her?
None of these possible reasons seem especially convincing to me.  Can you come up with anything better?


Friday, 19 October 2018

7TV: The Mystery of Frenchman's Cove

Introduction


Recently at the Helensburgh games club, I had the urge to play 7TV again.  I wanted to use my new "haunted" lighthouse model; this seemed like an excellent opportunity to deploy a "Scooby Doo" cast!  Hmm, who could be their opponents, then?  Who...Doctor Who...monsters...why, Sea Devils, of course!  I downloaded the free "Scooby Doo" program guide from the Crooked Dice website and set up my game.





Casts

Mystery Inc


The program guide has just a single scenario and this uses a fixed cast for Mystery Inc:
  • Fred
  • Daphne
  • Velma
  • Shaggy
  • Scooby Doo
  • The Mystery Machine
  • A local sheriff and 3 deputies.
There's also a lost friend ("Tia") who is added to this cast when/if she is found.
Note that this cast is short on fighting skills, especially for ranged combat.  However, they do have a lot of gadgets, special effects and star qualities.

Monsters


As opposition, I put together the following:
  • The Master (for the purposes of this game, he was playing the role of Sinister Mystic)
  • A large monster (the Myrka - the Sea Devils' bio-weapon.  It looks a little bit like a pantomime horse)
  • A spy (the crusty old lighthouse keeper)
  • 6 alien warriors (sea devils)
The monsters have quite a lot of firepower, but the alien warriors are unreliable allies.  Also note that the cast is dominated by extras and therefore won't generate as many plot points as it would like.

The Game


From the beginning, Mystery Inc advanced rapidly:

  • The sheriff and his deputies formed a firing line along the hedge in the north.  Note that one of the deputies tripped and fell over whilst crossing the rocky ground [courtesy of a Countdown card].
  • Fred and Daphne drove the Mystery Machine through the field and towards the lighthouse, uneventfully.
  • Velma ran forwards to investigate a clue, whilst Shaggy and Scooby hung back noticeably.  She took a long range shot from one of the alien warriors, but fortunately a First Aid Kit soon put her right again.
Worryingly, the Myrka was charging across the grass towards the good guys!



In a stroke of outrageous luck, the very first objective counter investigated by Mystery Inc turned out to be the lost friend, Tia.  This would give them significant victory points in the bag if they could just get her to run off the table the way they had come.  Easy!



Shaggy had an interesting ability: if he ran at full speed then he could cause an enemy to run towards him, also at full speed.  Normally I imagine that this would be used during a chase, but in this case Shaggy and Scooby ran towards the lighthouse, thus causing the Master to attempt to intercept them.  In doing so, the villain had to run straight across the gun line of local deputies!

It was a very cunning plan, only spoilt by the fact that the deputies couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.  The sinister mystic may have used a few plot points to mess with their minds as well; that probably didn't help!  Whatever the reason, the Master emerged from the fusilade unscathed.

In desperation, Fred activated several traps and gadgets.  His rocket cigarette bounced off the Myrka without injuring the beast and the Master evaded the capture bubble with ease.



The angry monster retaliated by zapping Velma and then charging Scooby Doo from behind.



Things started to go bad for Mystery Inc now.  Firstly, an alien warrior shot down one of the deputies; even though he was behind a hedge the heat beam passed through the cover as if it wasn't there.



Then Shaggy was subjected to a series of attacks from the Master's disorienting gaze and the alien weapons of a trio of Sea Devils.  The combination was too much for him and he disappeared [I reckon that Shaggy probably couldn't take the mystic's withering glare and crawled under the hedge to hide there for the rest of the game, rather than being killed by the aliens' ray guns.  The effect was the same either way: the model ceased being in play].



With yet another piece of bad luck, the remaining 3 cops were set on fire by a badly-judged piece of pyrotechnics[another countdown card!].  Perhaps the alien soldier's heat ray had set fire to the hedge, or the grassy embankment?



In a strange reversal of fortune, some of the alien warriors were then subjected to a gratuitous special effects sequence.  The series of explosions left one of them dead.



Having scared off Scooby Doo, the Myrka turned its attention to the stunned Velma.  She recovered enough (just!) to escape by means of a jetpack gadget.  At the same time, Fred and Daphne gave up any hope of recovering more objectives, turned the Mystery Machine around and fled...



In the last turn, while Mystery Inc fled the table, the good side drew a Big Break countdown card.  They only had 2 extras left, the sheriff and one of his deputies - both of whom were still on fire.



The opportunity was too good to waste, so the deputy drew a bead on one of the alien warriors who were advancing up the beach - and nailed the loathsome creature!


Conclusion


Even though Mystery Inc had fled, they did recover 1 objective - and it was the most important one as it turned out to be their missing friend, Tia.  When the victory points were added up, it turned out that this scored enough to counteract the loss of Shaggy and give the good side a victory by 1 point!

I feel that the monster side were somewhat cheated by this rather technical win.  After all, the good guys ran away without solving the riddle of Frenchman's Creek.  Indeed, the monster side never even got to use all their models; their spy wasn't activated at any point.  The lighthouse keeper just watched over the entire debacle from his tower, probably laughing softly to himself at how his plans were coming to fruition...

I feel it's worth making a few comments about the game play.  The Mystery Inc cast is a very unusual one which cannot do much to hurt its enemies.  Instead, it needs to use its abilities to score victory points in other ways; this probably requires some very imaginative planning.

It's difficult to keep track of all their special effects and star qualities; they have so many.  When you add in "disadvantage" effects which the monster cast may have, the range of possibilities becomes overwhelming!  How many of you remembered that the alien warriors were unreliable?  Mystery Inc could have spent plot points on them [up to a point] as well as their own models - but who can keep track of all of this?

Another comment: we used virtually the entire pool of gadget cards in this game [Mystery Inc get to choose from a huge number of cards].  If we play with these casts many more times then I suspect that the gadgets will become a bit predictable.  It would be nice to have a much bigger set of cards, just to keep things fresh and different.

In a similar vein, more [generic] countdown cards and more Mystery Inc-specific scenarios would be very nice to have!


Saturday, 13 October 2018

Zomtober 2018, Week 2

<== Week 1 is this way

Introduction

This is the second period in Zomtober 2018 and so far I'm keeping to my pledge of painting at least one zombie or survivor each week.  In case anyone is new here (does that ever happen?  If so then you're very welcome 🙂), I've gone slightly beyond the absolute minimum required, in that I've painted both a survivor and a zombie.  These are presented below as a duel, with the standard question of "what happens next".  See what you think...


Brett vs Dead Average Zombie


Today's survivor is "Brett".  He's heavily wrapped up, with his head and face covered and thick gloves on his hands.  It's hard to tell what age Brett is from his appearance, but his clothing and manner suggest that he's probably a young man.



Facing him, or rather creeping up behind him, is "dead average zombie" (DAZ).  This is one of the most unremarkable zombies that I've painted in quite a while; he's definitely just "one of the herd".



If I had posed these models with both facing each other then I don't think that most observers would have given much for DAZ's chances.  After all, Brett looks young, fit and aggressive - and he has a weapon (even if it's only a house brick).  Brett should therefore be quite capable of defeating a lone zombie with no special features.

However, this time the zombie is behind the survivor.  Brett doesn't seem to have noticed the peril; he's too focussed on his current task.  Maybe he's breaking a shop window in order to loot it, or maybe he's defending against another zombie that we don't see in this vignette?  Either way, it would appear that Brett's choice of clothing has muffled his hearing and restricted his peripheral vision.



Like last week's duel, the survivor is from Offensive Miniatures, specifically he's one of the street kids from their "Rioters and the Law" range.

DAZ is from Studio Miniatures; I forget which pack.  Both models are fixed to resin bases from Escenorama.

Conclusion

So, will Brett notice DAZ (and be able to respond) before the zombie makes an attack?  Failing that, will the survivor's heavy clothing provide enough protection to defend against the initial onslaught and give him a fighting chance of victory or escape?  Will Brett's thrown brick bounce off the toughened glass of the store he is trying to loot and hit him instead (or DAZ, or both)?  What you you think?

Click here for Week 3 ==>

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Zomtober 2018, Week 1

Introduction

It's the first Sunday in October and that means it's Zomtober time!  I admit that I look forward to this event for much of the year.  Judging by the number of comments I get for my posts during this time I imagine that my audience also enjoy them more than my average output.

I've been putting up a duel between a zombie and a survivor every Sunday in Zomtober since 2013.  I can hardly believe it's been that long, but the evidence is here if you'd like to check for yourself: all posts labelled 'Zomtober'.  OK, enough rambling; on with this week's duel...


Luke vs The Baron


Today's survivor is a young thug called "Luke" (aka "Luke the looter").  He has decided that the most important thing to do in the apocalypse is to go out and steal a flat-screen TV.  I think that the education system has failed this lad somewhat...



On his return from his "shopping" trip, Luke has come face to face with a zombie that I'll call "the Baron".  Why "the Baron"?  Well, he's dressed in very formal clothes, though this doesn't in itself mean that he is/was a member of the aristocracy.  He would appear to be very polite (for a zombie); he's lifting his hat as a gesture of recognition or friendship (!).  Again, this doesn't mean that he is upper class.  No, I call him "The Baron" because this zombie bears at least a passing resemblance to Baron Samedi, the supernatural Haitian voodoo master of death!



The model of The Baron was a giveaway at some wargames show a while ago - I think the tag said "Newark".  I didn't acquire it there, but rather it was a welcome extra in some eBay job lot that I bought some time.  I haven't modified the figure at all, other than to mount him on an Escenorama resin base.




Luke comes from Offensive Miniatures' "Street Kids" pack.  I've made one tiny conversion here; I added an outstretched finger to his left hand.  Whilst it's a slightly crude modification, I think it does add an extra air of disrespect to the already uncouth youth.  Or maybe he's just picking his nose?

Conclusion


As always, the question is "what happens next?"  On the face of it, a young, fit man should be able to evade and outrun a somewhat damaged zombie, especially if he ditches his encumberance (the TV).  But what if this zombie really is Baron Samedi, or if it believes itself to be?  That might give it unusually strong powers, even if only for a short while.  And what happens if Luke isn't prepared to drop his acquisition?




One thing's for certain: Luke is going to be disappointed when he realises that the mains electricity doesn't work any more.  Even if he is smart enough to find and hook up a generator, I imagine that not many TV stations will continue to broadcast once the apocalypse is in full swing, so the TV is essentially useless.  Luke would have been better off if he'd looted food, tools or weapons...

Week 2 is here ==>


Friday, 5 October 2018

Pulp Alley: Assault on Camp Powell

Introduction

On the last Thursday bar one at the HAHA club meeting, I introduced Joe to the delights of Pulp Alley.  He had put together a league using figures of his own from some Necromunda models; I decided to field Stahlhelm's Nazi Doom Squad to meet them.  The story goes something like this:

It's 1943 and the Second World War is in full swing.  Professor Petersen, the renowned Danish physicist, is working on something that has the potential to change the course of the war.  His research project is so secret that he's being protected in a British army camp somewhere in one of the more remote parts of the British Isles.

However, despite being top secret, rumours have reached the ears of eager listeners.  In this case, the Nazi unconventional warfare "Doom Squad" on the one hand and a group of time-travelling mercenaries on the other (I'll call them "Mundans", since I don't know this league's official title).  Both groups have infiltrated the base and would like to get their hands on the good professor to find out all about his research.


The Scenario


This is a standard, 5-plot point scenario, as described in the base Pulp Alley rules.

Plot points are as follows:

  • The major plot point is Professor Pedersen.  He's standing in the middle of the camp, taking in some fresh air before retiring to bed for the night.
  • There's a radio in one of the huts (minor).
  • In another hut nearby, there is a journal (minor).
  • Someone has dropped some dynamite between two of the huts on the left.  How careless (minor)!
  • The armoury (square building, top centre) contains a crate of unusual rifles (minor).

Perils:

We placed 5 blue-beret guards around the base.  These had the following rules:
  1. A guard would be perilous to anyone who came within 3" of him.  If the person was stealthy then the guard would have to make base contact instead.
  2. Each guard would move 2d6" in a random direction at the end of every turn.  They are not impeded by buildings or the presence of other models, but will not move off the board entirely.
  3. The guard models cannot be attacked.  After all, even if you did knock one out, there are probably many others close by and one of them would replace the casualty immediately.
  4. If a guard model moves randomly into the armoury (centre top building) then it will upgrade to become a machine-gun team.  This makes it extremely perilous instead of merely perilous, but doesn't change any other behaviour.

Random Events

  • I rolled night time, so visibility is limited to 12".  It makes sense, I suppose - after all, why would you try to attack such a camp in daylight!
  • Joe rolled a delay, so one of the Mundans wouldn't turn up until turn 2.
A pair of Mundans.  These are, I believe, Tommy "Two Guns" and Tony.

The Game


Immediately the game started, Panzerbot 5 strode forward and opened fire on the nearest two Mundans [annoyingly, I had forgotten to bring my blast templates and so we had to use a ring of dice to mark the dangerous area].  Sadly for the Doom Squad, the hail of bullets had no effect whatsoever - maybe the robot's targeting systems were confused in the dark?



In return, Two Gun stormed towards his assailant and unleashed a devastating fusilade; the Nazi machine was quickly reduced to a smouldering heap of junk.  [If I remember correctly, Tommy Two Gun had a combination of abilities which allowed him a shoot stat of 7d6 at close range; this is a staggeringly high number of shots for Pulp Alley, though at least a d6 shot isn't all that accurate...]


Ernst takes 6 hits from 7 shots.  He even manages to make 1 save - leaving only 5 wounds taken!

Ernst was next to feel the wrath of the Mundan.  The grenadier threw bombs towards the tall mercenary, but these had no effect and this Nazi also suffered a devastating volley from the twin pistols.

In the nearby hut, all was not going so well for the Mundans.  Tony rushed in to try to retrieve the camp radio, only to be felled by a lucky shot from Johann, who had beaten him to the objective.  Despite being a mere follower [i.e. a level-1 character with virtually no skills], Johann eventually figured out the radio plot point and ran off with it into the darkness without being stopped by either a Mundan or a camp guard.



At the west side of the camp, "Baldy" Murdoch cut a hole in the perimeter fence and clambered through it.  He hadn't reckoned with Kurt, however; the Nazi bruiser bumped into the Mundan in the dark.  Both adversaries grappled and fought each other to a standstill, leaving the dynamite plot point unclaimed [at least, for now].



Stahl Helm approached the Danish Scientist in the middle of the table.  Initially, it looked as if solving this plot point would be simple as it required a mere 1 success against Might or Finesse [neither of which would be especially hard for the Nazi Leader].  However, a cunningly-played Mundan "Got to be Kidding" card increased the requirement to 3 successes.  It seems that Professor Pedersen was more than a bit suspicious of the German's motives...

To make matters worse, one of the camp guards chose that moment to wander past; it was all Stahl Helm could do to bluff his way out of the situation.



At the other end of the table, Mack the Knife tried to creep stealthily to the back of the armoury.  However, he must have been doing something wrong [aftershave too strong?] as the blue caps were combing the area very intently [it's just random movement, but it really did look as if the guards were hunting for poor Mack; they were all over the place!].

This left the way clear for Herr Stengel to ransack the professor's quarters and come away with his journal [i.e. an easily-claimed minor objective].



Mack's efforts at being stealthy had taken him almost to the back door of the armoury before one of the camp's soldiers finally stumbled over him.  The soldier immediately arrested the intruder and marched him off to the guard house.



In the centre of the camp, Stahl Helm was still trying to coerce the reluctant Danish professor when he was rushed by a couple of huge Mundans.  "Hands" Gruber pounced on him from the north, whilst Tommy "Two Guns" approached from the south.



Between the huts, Kurt finally recovered from his brawl with the Mundan near the broken fence.  The dazed German managed to pick up the dynamite, but Two Guns didn't let him hold it for long.  The Mundan unleashed another volley of shots and this was enough to knock the Nazi out again (incidentally, causing him to drop the dynamite objective).

Meanwhile, Stahl Helm had beaten "Hands" down for long enough to give him time to convince the professor - but before he could go anywhere his Mundan adversary was back up and at him!



Whilst his boss was beset by Mundans who just wouldn't stay down, Herr Stengel entered the armoury and claimed the crate of rifles objective.  However before he could make off with his prize, randomly-moving guards surrounded him [including one who entered the armoury and upgraded to an extremely perilous machine gun team].



The smooth-talking Nazi managed to befuddle and misdirect all of the squaddies, though.  He made his escape off the table to the north, leaving his boss to fend for himself [after all, Herr Stengel had collected two minor objectives by this point; he didn't want to risk losing them].



Stahl Helm and "Hands" Gruber continued to fight over possession of the scientist, who was distinctly unimpressed by the tussle.  Indeed, the two petitioners punched each other's lights out and lay on the ground, dazed and staring up at the nighttime stars.


So, let's see: that's 3 hits on each contestant.  Let's see how many of those can be saved!
Seeing an opportunity, "Two Gun" tried to sidle up to the professor.  However, a recovered Kurt was having none of it: his thunderous charge and the subsequent collision led to both parties being floored!


Tweety birds all round!


As the game ended, Kurt and "Hands" both managed to stagger back on to their feet - but it was too late to achieve anything.  With the camp thoroughly aroused and with their heads ringing, it was all they could do to drag their respective colleagues to safety before a fresh influx of guards discovered and arrested them.


Conclusion

So, the final score is this:
  • Mundans: no objectives, 0 victory points
  • Doom Squad: 3 minor objectives (the rifles and journal collected by Herr Stengel and the radio by Johann)
Therefore, the Nazis have officially won the game!  Against this, no-one managed to spirit Professor Pedersen away, so any sense of victory is distinctly hollow.

I don't think I've ever seen a game before where all of the characters were knocked out at the same time, though admittedly two Nazis had run away off table and so maybe this doesn't really count.  Certainly the boss-fight over the Danish academic was one in which neither side was prepared to give an inch; consequently no-one got the major prize.

I imagine that both leagues are now licking their wounds and wondering what is the best next step towards fulfilling their ambitions - whatever those are!



Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Haunted Lighthouse from Tin-Soldier

Introduction

For some time now I have been looking for a lighthouse model that I can use with my 28mm figures.  This would play a vital role in certain Pulp-style games as the lonely rendezvous for a spy and his/her handler, or as a focus for a raid by Nazis/aliens/sea monsters/...

I did consider converting a bedside lamp.  Yes, apparently you can buy table lamps in the form of a lighthouse!  However, they're (a) a bit too expensive for this type of project and (b) often quite kitsch - not very realistic representations of anything found in the real world.

It took a long time, but my hunt is now over.  I discovered that Tin Soldier publish a range of slightly unusual paper models to download and print; amongst these is a "Haunted Lighthouse".


The Kit


For a mere $10 (US), I bought the kit and downloaded the resulting PDF.  It's taken me about a week to build this kit, though note that this could be done a lot quicker if desired:

  1. I was only spending an hour or two after work on this project most days.
  2. My version of the kit has a lot of reinforcement and other adaptations to make it stronger and more suitable for the games table.  This extra work did add to the construction time.
Other observations about the kit:
  • I found that I wanted some parts in paper, but others in card or even on a transparency.  Initially, I printed the entire PDF onto paper without thinking; this did waste some sheets.
  • Sometimes, the pieces I wanted on card were on the same page as others that I intended to print onto paper.  This is not unusual in paper modelling, but again it leads to waste as the same sheet needs to be printed onto both the thinner and the thicker materials.
  • The instructions were comprehensive, but largely written in prose rather than drawn as schematics or build stages.  There's nothing wrong with that, but it is harder to follow, I think.  As an experienced card modeller, I didn't need to refer to the instructions very often anyway; the sequence and location of most parts was fairly obvious.
  • Pieces fitted together well; I didn't have to make any changes to the basic shape and form of the model.

The Build

The first thing to say about my version is that I cut out an MDF base for the building.  This is slightly larger than the supplied (printed, coloured) ground and will be stronger & heavier than a foam core base.  It should make the whole assembly a bit more stable, especially considering the height of the tower.  I then painted and textured the base to fit in with my other terrain pieces, so the base you see in these pictures is quite different from that supplied with the kit.



So, here's the next adaptation: I didn't glue the tower to the base.  Instead, there is a rare earth magnet at the bottom of the tower and an iron washer buried in the MDF base.  Together, these hold the tower in place very well, whilst still allowing it to be removed for storage.



I made the roof as a separate piece too.  This allows access to the inside, though note that the kit does not supply textures for interior walls.  Instead, the inside is entirely my own work; it was easy enough for me to reuse parts from other kits or to download free wallpapers for dollhouses (look for 1/4" scale if you intend to do this as most dollhouses are intended for much larger figures).



Here's another adaptation: the top platform is separate from the main tower.  This uses a simple plug & socket joint; the socket is 3" of solid cardboard tube from some packaging or other, glued firmly into the upper part of the tower.

Whilst on this part, note that the railing around the platform is especially fiddly to build from paper & card; it's easily the most difficult part of the entire project.  I did consider very seriously trying to scratch build a replacement from wire and/or balsa, but in the end I went with the printed parts.



It's a lighthouse, so I couldn't resist making one final adaptation.  I embedded a cheap LED "pen" torch into the upper part (it's the "plug" part from the previous picture).  I added a clear plastic bead glued to the top to help redirect the light and then glued a plastic cap from a drinks bottle over that.  Yes, it does light up!  At night time it seemed very bright, though in this daytime photograph it's not so strong.


Conclusion

I'm delighted with this model!  It's certainly unique and should lead to some interesting games.  The kit didn't cost much in terms of money or materials, though it did take a certain amount of construction time, as all paper/card builds do.

Although it's described as a "haunted" lighthouse, there's nothing particularly spooky about it other than the derelict roofs and optional, grimy version of the lantern room.  Indeed, if the kit offered alternate, "clean" roofs then I think this could make an excellent working building instead.