Sunday 29 October 2023

Zomtober 2023, Week 5

<== Go here for Week 4

Introduction

It's the last week of Zomtober, at least for 2023.  As is required by the rules of that competition, I've completed another model - or rather two models.  My self-imposed extra goal is to finish figures for both a zombie and a survivor, then present the pair as a "duel".  The idea is that readers can then speculate on the likely outcome 😁.

Logan vs Old Man Zombie (OMZ)

This week sees Logan facing off against "Old Man" zombie (OMZ for short).  Logan is a fairly average-looking man, wearing an (army surplus?) sweater and a woolen hat.  He's wielding a very big tyre iron, so maybe he's a driver for some large vehicle (truck?  tractor?  excavator?).  Or perhaps it's a piece of plumbing instead - a bent pipe with a connector on the end of it?  Either way, it looks solid and heavy - as long as Logan keeps his grip then it ought to do some real damage when wielded.

The model of Logan comes from Offensive Miniatures "modern rioters" range; the traffic cone on his base is from the same pack.


OMZ is a straight build of a Studio Miniatures plastic zombie.  As such, he's not especially animated; swaying or shambling rather than anything else.  In fact, he's the epitome of the "crowd filler", back-rank zombie - there's nothing much to distinguish him from the rest of the horde.


I'm going to be blunt: I think that this week's models are some of the most generic, bland figures I've painted in a while.  Neither of them is especially exciting, though I have tried to add a bit of interest by placing the traffic cone on Logan's base and by painting a slightly more complex jacket on OMZ.  Still, neither model is especially memorable.

Conclusion

The eternal question is this: what happens next?

In my opinion, Logan is healthy, alert and armed, while OMZ doesn't look especially threatening.  I'd say that Logan is probably about to pulp the zombie's skull and carry on with the rest of his day as if the encounter had never happened?

On the other hand, what about that traffic cone?  Was Logan carrying it - and forced to drop it in order to defend himself?  If so then for what purpose?  Either way, Logan had better be careful not to step backwards as he makes his swing.  Tripping over such an obstacle would put him at a considerable disadvantage and could give OMZ the opening needed for the zombie to bite the man.

Saturday 21 October 2023

Zomtober 2023, Week 4

<== Week 3 is this way

Introduction

Right, so Zomtober 2023 is in progress and my self-appointed goal for this event is to finish off one survivor and one zombie model each week, presenting them as a 'duel' on the Sunday.  This week it's going to be a day early because I'll be busy all day on Sunday - so here's a Saturday duel instead!

Alicia vs. "Shirley Temple" Zombie (STZ)

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My pairing this week sees "Alicia" facing off against "Shirley Temple" zombie?  I've given the zombie this name because of her flowing golden locks and short stature - she has a (slight!) resemblance to the famous child actress.  STZ has lost one hand and at least part of her clothing, though her tartan miniskirt seems to have survived.  She's also carrying some shopping bags; I imagine that these are an indicator of the last thing she was doing before becoming infected.


Alicia looks like a fit, healthy woman, perhaps in her 30s or 40s.  She's dressed in decent, comfortable clothes and seems completely at ease with the situation - or perhaps she is day-dreaming and hasn't noticed the zombie approaching?  Alicia also has a pistol, though she hasn't raised it yet.


This picture from behind shows just how ragged is STZ's top.  It (and the missing right hand) suggest a significant trauma in her recent past.  Is that - and her waif-like frame - a significant disadvantage if it comes to a physical struggle?


Both models are straight builds from old, Wargames Factory sets - the Female Survivors and Zombie Vixens (sic!) kits.  Although that company is long gone, I believe Warlord Games own the moulds now and still produce the sprues.


Conclusion

What happens next?   Is Alicia just sizing up the situation, ready to shoot or run as appropriate?  Or has she been caught unawares, in the middle of an unrelated train of thought?  Will the lack of a right hand (and the use of her left hand to hold shopping bags) hinder STZ's attack?  Indeed, will STZ even attack Alicia - the zombie seems to be heading in slightly the wrong direction?  If Alicia freezes on the spot, will STZ fail to notice her and just carry on down the street?

As always, I'd be delighted to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Follow this for week 5 ==>

Sunday 15 October 2023

Zomtober 2023, Week 3

<== Go back to last week's duel

Introduction

Another week, another duel!  At least, that's how I'm marking Zomtober - by finishing some survivor and zombie models.  It's customary for me to present a pair of such models and ask my readers: what happens next?  Here you go...

Marion vs Emaciated Female Zombie (EFZ)

This week's survivor is called Marion.  She's a sporty-looking woman with a modern compound bow, but it seems that she has very little other equipment: only a single arrow and no knife or other reserve weapon.  She is also lacking a bracer or even thick clothes to protect her arm, so I imagine she'll end up with a bad burn from the bowstring when she does release the arrow.


It seems slightly unfair to call this zombie "emaciated", but I chose that title on account of her upraised arm.  At the very least, this looks quite thin, even to the point of being withered.  Does EFZ have any strength in that hand, or is it too weak to be useful?  The rest of her appears to be fairly sturdy, if now somewhat damaged.

Like Marion, EFZ appears to be dressed for some athletic activity, or partly so.  Maybe she was changing before or after exercise when she was turned into a zombie?

So, what's the scene?  Were these two both at the same sports club when the plague struck?  Or are they total strangers; just a chance encounter in the street?


Both Marion and EMZ are straight builds of old Wargames Factory models - respectively from the Female Survivors and Zombie Vixens kits.  I'm quite pleased with how they both look.  They're nothing very complex; just nice, simple figures.


The only minor quibble I'd have is that the female zombies kit from Wargames Factory had far too many very thin arms.  This is especially irritating when the bodies from that kit are reasonably well-proportioned (for healthy, good-looking young women, at least.  Not much diversity of body shapes here!)


Conclusion


What happens next?

On the one hand:

  • Marion has a weapon which is probably very effective
  • She seems to be able to wield it
  • She hasn't been taken by surprise.

On the other hand:

  • It looks as if she's aiming high (perhaps going for a riskier head shot?)
  • I do wonder if she really knows how to use the bow properly (lack of a bracer, spare arrows and not drawing quite to the chin - as is modern practice in Western archery).

If Marion hits her target then it should finish the zombie off, no question.  But if she misses then does EFZ have enough strength in her outstretched arm to grapple with the survivor?  Or is this relevant - does the zombie need anything other than teeth?

Forward to Week 4! ==>

Sunday 8 October 2023

Zomtober 2023, Week 2

<== Go here for the previous Zomtober article

Introduction

It's been a while since I last did a Zomtober post - I missed the whole of 2022 as well as the first week of 2023.  But here we are again!

As before, I'm presenting the initial stage of a duel or encounter between a zombie and a survivor.  The important question is "what happens next"?  There's no "right" answer, just use your imagination (but try to stay within the bounds of possibility πŸ˜€).

Harvey vs Dead Average Zombie

This week's survivor is called "Harvey".  He's well-armed, with twin automatic pistols - though he appears to be waving these in the air as if trying to scare off the zombie rather than destroying it.  Maybe Harvey has been taken by surprise - he is twisting his body in a manner that might suggest being off balance?

I've designated this week's zombie as "Dead Average Zombie" ("DAZ" for short).  DAZ is really quite unremarkable.  He's not particularly animated or rotten, though he does seem to have lost most of his shirt somehow.

Harvey is a straight build from the old Wargames Factory "Apocalypse Survivors" kit.  I'm not completely happy with my choice of parts for him, though.  In particular, the baseball cap doesn't really go with the shirt-and-tie body.  Hmm, maybe I should have given him a cowboy hat?

DAZ is a simple build from the Studio Miniatures zombie sprue.  As such, he's not particularly animated, but would be good filler for a crowd scene.

Conclusion

So, what happens next?  Is Harvey merely readying his weapons to blow the zombie away?  Or is he firing into the air as an intimidation tactic (which probably wouldn't work)?  If the latter, will he realise his mistake in time to take another, more fruitful course of action?  After all, DAZ doesn't look particularly fast-moving or tricky to deal with.

Look ahead to next week's entry ==>

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Away Team Red: Romulans

Introduction

Those who know me well will know that I have something of a fondness for Star Trek.  I've published a number of articles previously about my "not Trek" starships and the games of Full Thrust in which they have been used.  There are reasonably good sources of such models from a wide variety of sources.

Until recently, there has been a scarcity of figure models, suitable for use in games set on board a ship or as part of an away team on a planet's surface.  There have been some that would proxy for Federation crew, but very little for other races.

Well, not any more!  There's a range of 3D-printable designs called "Away Team Red" that I've only discovered in the last 6 months or so, even if they have been around for a bit longer than this.  Physical specimens are available from a number of suppliers on hosts such as etsy.com .

The Away Team Red collection is obviously designed by someone who loves and respects Star Trek, especially the original series.  If I've understood correctly, the sculptor goes by the handle of Lost Heresy Miniatures.

The range includes several alien races (including a "not Gorn" set - something of a holy grail for me!) as well as a considerable number of "not Federation" crew and a few monsters.  Excellent!

After that long preamble, here are some Romulans!

Aquilons

  • Firstly, they're not "Romulans" - the designer calls them "Aquilons".  Well, well.
  • There are two variants of the 10-model Aquilon set: one with helmets and one without.  I have the bare-headed figures.
  • The 10 models in the set include an obvious leader, but many of the rest are equipped with long guns.  Ideally I would have preferred a more diverse group, with some figures using equipment (scanners, comms...) rather than brandishing weapons.  But you get what you get.
  • I've converted several of the crew in small ways, though this was not easy.  They're printed in a very hard, very brittle resin and the only way to cut this was with a razor saw.  Of necessity, my conversions have been limited to swapping the occasional hand (plus what it's holding) or shortening the weapons to make them pistols rather than rifles.
  • These models are slightly larger than 28mm - maybe 30mm?  They're close enough for me to mix and match with other manufacturers, especially for other races.

The Crew

I painted the first four figures with coloured sashes; I suppose I'm thinking of these as officers or specialists.


Tomeet is obviously the captain and I imagine that Rukan is his second-in-command (since he's got the same colour of sash, albeit a lesser form).  The other two could be science, engineering, comms, medical or any other specialties I desire.


The next pair are in the "rank and file" uniform, with standard black sashes.  However, they're carrying pistols.  Perhaps they are ensigns - does the Romulan empire have such things?



Am I alone in thinking that the 3rd model's face looks like Leonard Nimoy/Spock?

Finally, we have the goon squad, security, mooks or whatever else you wish to call them.  I'm thinking that these are the equivalent of the Federation's "red shirts" - un-named characters whose chance of surviving an episode is low.


...except that I did give them names.  Does that create a paradox and break the universe?


Finally, here is the entire bunch all together.  Romulans aren't inherently evil; they're just very secretive and have their own honour code.  That should be plenty to bring them into conflict with my other Trek-like forces!


Conclusion

These are excellent models!  They're on the chunky side, but that gives them a lot of strength and they should resist handling damage well.  The hard resin does make it difficult to convert them, but that's too bad.

These aren't the first "Away Team Red" models I have bought - and I don't think they'll be the last, either.

Friday 25 August 2023

Mortal Gods: Who's in the House?

Introduction

I've had a copy of the Mortal Gods rules as well as the Mythic expansion for quite a long time now, but have not done much with them.  Until now, that is: recently I dug out these rules and my Ancient Greek models and played a game at my local club (Helensburgh Alternative Hobby Association, or HAHA for short).

I enjoyed that game so much that I decided to buy some more models, group bases &c. and to host another game at the club.  This time I recorded some of the action, so you can read about it as well.

Scenario

I pitted forces of Hades (on the left, mostly skeletons and necromancers, but with a phalanx of temple guard) against Heroes (on the right, led by Jason and Heracles, with a few minor names heroes and an odd assortment of warriors).  Each side came to about 660 points and was split into two allied contingents, so that we could accommodate two players per side.

The scenario was simple: there are 5 objective markers around the table.  Each of these is controlled by whichever side has the largest number of models within 3"; whichever force controls most objectives at the end of the game wins.

I did add one twist: a Cyclops inhabits one of the three central terrain features and would appear at the end of turn 1.  It would be controlled by a 5th player.  What I didn't tell the others at the start was that should this be slain then another cyclops would appear; once again it would appear randomly from one of the three central features.

The Game

So, how did it go?  Turn one was spent mostly with each player moving their forces forwards.

At the end of turn one, the cyclops appeared from the house, right in front of three Greek heroes.


The monster reacted before any of the humans: it tossed a large boulder at Jason.  The missile overshot the hero, but landed right in the middle of a group of approaching peltasts, flattening most of them!


Atalanta shot the cyclops full of arrows, before Herakles and the other heroes finished if off.  Almost immediately, another cyclops appeared at exactly the same position

After this, the heroic side became a bit fixated on monster hunting!  Most of their forces converged on the second cyclops, leaving very little to face off against the onrushing skeletons.


Again, Atalanta wounded the creature, but not enough to knock it out.  With a bellow of rage, the cyclops charged, injuring her and a nearby unarmoured hoplite, before Meleagros stabbed it from behind and felled the brute.


Whilst this side-show was happening, Hylas was the only Greek hero left to stem the undead tide.  He held his own to start with and even destroyed some skeletons, but eventually he was overcome and killed.


The heroes then caught an incredibly lucky break: At the start of a turn Hades drew one of the worst possible omen cards for the undead side.  Why was this so bad?  Well, all the skeleton groups have just a single die for Courage rolls, thus giving each one only a 50:50 chance of moving in the intended direction.

Predictably, much of the turn was spent with the skeletons milling about, whilst the heroes tried to reposition to a slightly better location.


Then, something unexpected happened.  Meleagros attacked a skeleton group, wiped them out and scored a critical hit in doing so.  This is extremely easy against skeletons with a base Resistance of 1; the hero rolled 5 or 6 attack dice and only needed to inflict 2 damage on the unarmoured group to score a crit - and that would then entitle him to another action (which could be used to make another attack).  Rinse and repeat...

By the time that Meleagros had run out of skeletons near enough to attack, he had destroyed two entire groups of them and badly injured a dark temple guard in (if I remember right) 3 follow-on attacks.


The same thing then happened in the centre of the table.  Herakles, driven to grief by the loss of Hylas, went on the rampage and destroyed everything within reach.  Badly wounded, he was only stopped by failing a Fear test to charge a Neukadaimon (sp?), else the damage would have been much greater.

At this point, the forces of Hades were considerably shaken and thought they had lost the game.  However, in a quick reversal their priests then summoned more groups of skeletons - and dropped these right beside three of the objectives!  The game ended before the heroes could respond to that (presumably by rampaging through these new groups as well).


At the conclusion of play, the heroes controlled 2 of the objectives (one isn't visible in this picture).  However, the last-minute summoning of more skeletons meant that Hades now controlled 3 objectives, thus making them the winner, by the narrowest of margins!


Conclusion

Well, that was fun!  The heroes became a bit distracted by the cyclops (both of them) and devoted the efforts of four named heroes to fighting the creatures.  They killed the creatures with relative ease, but this concentration of force left them short-handed elsewhere and I think they would have been overrun by the dark forces if it had not been for two things:

  1. The very unfortunate Siren Song omen; it affected the skeletons far more than it would have affected pretty much any other force.
  2. The rules for critical hits.  Once we realised that even a mid-level hero (like Meleagros) could run amok through multiple bases of skeletons in a single action, we were scouring the rules to see if we had made a mistake.  But (a) critical damage occurs on double the base resistance [so, 2 points of damage], (b) a critical entitles the model to another action, (c) that bonus action may be an attack and (d) there's no limit on how many times this can be repeated.  Am I wrong about this?

As it was, the late game saw the skeletons decimated, but a last minute summoning after the heroes had used all their actions for the turn and couldn't respond saw fresh skeletons swarm over the objectives and win the game.  Truly a lot of emotional swings!

Man of the Match: probably Meleagros, in my opinion.  He struck the killing blow against the second cyclops (after Atalanta had weakened it) and then went berserk against skeletons, destroying a considerable number.  For a not-quite-top-rank hero, that's impressive!

Most Useless: I think the phalanx of dark temple guard was very disappointing.  It looked impressive, but hardly moved during the game, never fought anything and never contested any objectives.  A waste!


Tuesday 16 May 2023

Carronade 2023: We Came, We Saw, We Played Games

 Introduction

My son (A.) and I have been going to the Carronade show in Falkirk every year since 2015 - at least, in years when the show wasn't cancelled due to Covid lockdowns and the like.  It's always been a good day for me; this year was no exception.  As always on my blog, this is a personal account of our experiences rather than any attempt to describe the entire event.  It's mainly for my own memories, though if others find my writing entertaining then that's good too!

My preferred mode of transport to Falkirk is by train.  It takes longer than driving from home (Helensburgh) once the walks to and from various stations are taken into account, but it's so much more relaxing.  The exercise is also better for me!  This Saturday was a beautiful day for walking - warm and dry.

The Venue

Carronade is a big show (not huge, but definitely big enough for a day out).  It's held in a school building, where the show is spread over 5 different halls.  One of these is reserved for the flea market (bring & buy) and another is mainly for the painting competition.

The other three halls (pictured below) are full of games and traders:




We spent time wandering around looking at the demonstration games, joining in various participation games, browsing trade stands and meeting various friends.

Also, we sampled some of the various participation games that were on offer.

Game 1: Xtreme G Racing (Glasgow Games Group)

Glasgow Games Group put on a home brew sci-fi racing game involving various jet bikes.  Apparently, the main design principle was to make a miniature game which felt somewhat like playing Mario Kart.

I'm not really able to judge how well that objective may have been achieved (I've heard of the console game, but I've never played it).  However, the Xtreme G Racing game was a good game in itself, with simple rules that still managed to offer tactical choices to the players.  Silly but fun!

So, here's how our race went:

I didn't have a jet bike, but rather drove a yellow mono-wheel.  They all have the same abilities anyway...

After the first lap (of two), I was well in the lead πŸ˜€

...but when the leaders crossed the finish line (a tie between blue and red), I was nowhere to be seen.  What happened?

There was a massive pile up on the last lap; most of us were thoroughly caught up in it.  I misjudged the distance remaining and thought I had time to go into the pits.  This was a big mistake and I came in a distant last πŸ˜–.  Oh, well...

Game 2: Moonstone

Now this is something unusual!  I thought I knew a bit about gaming and had at least heard about most games.  However, Moonstone has passed me by - until now.

So, it's a "whimsical fantasy" skirmish game.  Bands of creatures (goblins, humans, gnomes, other...) search for buried treasure (moonstones) and have to finish before dawn (i.e. there's a time limit).  The models are definitely whimsical, the abilities are interesting and the combat system is done via cards that depict fencing moves.  So far, so good.

Here's what happened in our game:

  • A's (human) sniper tried to shoot at me.  He misjudged badly and his musket blew up.  Injured, he decided to retreat.
  • One of my characters ("Grubb"?  Not pictured) found and dug up a shallow moonstone.  He then ran off the board with it, thus securing me one victory point.
  • My goblin-mounted-on-a-pug found two moonstones that were fairly well buried.  However, it turns out that the dog was an enthusiastic digger, so I retrieved both items quite easily.

  • However, A's knight ("Baron something von Fancyhat") saw this and decided that stealing my finds would be easier than discovering his own.  My pug+goblin was no match for this human in a fight and was slaughtered.
  • In revenge, my vicious midget then appeared out of nowhere and did some real damage to the Baron with his signature attack (hint: it involves stabbing upwards).  This left the Baron barely alive - but he counter-attacked and obliterated my little creature.  At this point I was beginning to really dislike the man...


  • In an ignominious move, my beaky goblin wizard approached Baron von Fancyhat and slew him with a noxious fart (yes, you read that right!  Whimsical fantasy?  You decide...).
  • This last goblin then grabbed one of the dropped moonstones and legged it before daybreak.

Final score: 2 moonstones to the goblins, 1 to the humans (I can't remember which human character had picked this up).  This was definitely a most interesting and unusual game, both for the subject matter and also for some of the game mechanisms.

Game 3: 02:00

Now here's a game that seems to be everywhere at the moment!  02:00 is a game pitting British commandos against German garrisons in night-time raids (I imagine that other forces can be used as well).  As such, it places a high emphasis on stealth and spotting; I was very curious to see what mechanisms were used for these aspects and how well they worked.

In our game, a small band of British special forces had to cross the board and escape off the other side.  We would win if at least two of our men achieved this.  That didn't sound too hard!


To this end, we crept along the hedgerows, ignoring the sleepy cattle.


However, I hadn't reckoned with the German officer.  He was a bit keen, to put it mildly!  This jackbooted thug personally spotted and shot 3 of my 4 troopers - my last squaddie was traumatised to the point where he couldn't resist a sentry and was (probably) taken prisoner.

In this last picture, you can just see my British officer running off the board (top left), fully expecting that his men were right behind him!  At least he escaped, though to be honest I think he deserved to be cashiered for his exceptionally poor leadership.

What of the rules, then?  Well, although the game looked fantastic, the assistant on my side of the table wasn't really comfortable or familiar with them.  The game host (on the other side of the table) was hoarse from having talked most of the game - and was overloaded with questions from both sides and from passers by.  Overall, I came away feeling that I still don't really know how the rules work.  A missed opportunity?

Game 4: Dead Man's Hand

Dead Man's Hand is a set of rules that seems to be very popular, possibly even to the point of dominating the "Old West" style of games.  Since I play such games myself - if only occasionally - I was interested to see what this rule set could offer.

As might be expected from the name, playing cards are an integral part of the game.  In this case, these serve two functions: determining the order in which models activate and also providing a hand of "event" cards that each player can use at an appropriate moment.

Here's the game we played:

I took a large group of desperadoes (Mexican bandit types), whilst my son commanded a similar number of outlaws or cowboys.


My leader was cut down (almost my only casualty), but in return my desperadoes incapacitated over half of the opposition in only two or three turns.  At that point, the enemy leader rolled really low on a nerve test and all his remaining figures ran away.

My thoughts on this game: the figures and scenery were perfectly good and set the scene nicely.  I'm not so sure about the rules, though:

  1. The cards used for activation order were almost entirely random, so there wasn't much decision-making around them (unlike, for example, the way that cards are used in A Fistful of Lead).
  2. The "event cards" didn't make much difference.  Maybe that was because we were unfamiliar with them (the text was very small and quite dense) and we didn't use many.
  3. I'm really not that keen on shots essentially taking "hit points" off models.  A single shot does (usually) 1 point or (occasionally) 2 points.  For reference, an average gunman can take 4 hits; a leader can take 5.  So it's not possible to kill an opponent with a single shot.
    This seems so odd that I'm wondering if I've understood the rules at all.
In summary, I was left cold by the game we played.  Is this because we didn't really understand the rules?  Or is it because Dead Man's Hand just isn't my kind of game?  Perhaps this was another missed opportunity to learn about a set of rules which sound very interesting.

Loot

Yes, there was some shopping - both small pre-orders and some impulse buying.  Here goes:



In no particular order:

  • Dodos.  Just because.
  • Centaurs - more Greek Myth classics.
  • Japanese cart crew, to flesh out my "samurai" village scenes.
  • What a Tanker - seems like a fun set of rules and I wanted to take a proper look.
  • Sarissa's "Guide to Laser Cut MDF Kits".  Should be an interesting read.
  • An Old West building.  Actually I wanted the saloon, but Warbases didn't have the extra floors (with balcony) at the show - so I treated myself to a different model instead.
  • Dice, paint brushes, bases.

Summary

This was a really good day.  The weather was nice for walking to the venue, the traders had (mostly) what I wanted and there were plenty of participation games (too many for us to play in all of them!).  I'm not sure what else I could have wanted!