Monday 29 December 2014

ATZ: Short stories - the thief


It's been a long while since I played a game of All Things Zombie and I really miss it!  The reason for this delay is that the last game which involved the B-Team (here) required a hospital for the follow-up scenario.  Although I have started to build such a piece of terrain (here), it's a long way from being complete and I cannot continue the story without it.  I had resigned myself to a gap of many months before I carried on with the B-Team.

A couple of days ago, my eldest son asked if we could play ATZ during this holiday season.  I carefully explained that I wasn't ready to continue the main plot arc of my campaign.  In return, he pointed out just as carefully that we could use some other characters, either as a sub-plot for the main story or as a one-off game.  So why didn't I think of this rather obvious possibility?  D'oh!

Nicky the Thief

Those of you with very good memories for detail may remember that a small time crook called Nicky appeared briefly in one of my earlier B-team adventures.  He was locked up in a cell in a police station that was in danger of being overrun by zombies (here).  The B-team managed to release him from captivity before the zombies entered, but Nicky repaid this favour by fleeing into the darkness without making any attempt to help the other humans.

This game follows the little crook and shows what happened to him after his escape.

Since we had 2 players (both of my sons), I needed to introduce another character as well.  Here is Vince, along with a bonus sidekick, Tracy.  They're acquaintances of Nicky, but they don't know he's in the area or that he has escaped from jail.
  • Nicky, REP 4 ganger, greedy
  • Vince, REP 4 ganger, born leader (I suspect that this skill is manifested through his biting sarcasm and occasional use of his fists, rather than via any more uplifting means!)
  • Tracy, REP 3 ganger, rage

The Scenario

  • Nicky starts at one corner of the board, whilst Vince and Tracy begin at the opposite corner.  Nicky's goal is to find food, weapons and/or a vehicle so that he can escape from the area.  If he can meet up with friends with similar intentions then so much the better!
  • The area is in the suburbs, so zombies spawn on a 5 or 6.
  • Initial encounter level is 3.
  • There are 3 PEFs, randomly placed (though when we played, they all ended up in or next to the bookstore near Vince and Tracy).  It is possible that one of these will be Inspector Lestrade, the heroic detective who escaped from the same police station as Nicky.  Lestrade is a REP 5 star cop with a shotgun, though he doesn't have any reloads at the moment.   Lestrade will be placed instead of the first PEF that resolves as "Contact!" on a d6 roll of 5+, or on a 3+ for the 2nd or further contacts.  If he does appear then Lestrade will attempt to re-arrest Nicky, along with anyone who assists the offender.  Note that the players do not know about the possibility that Lestrade will appear!
  • A scattering of zombies are placed as normal.

The Game

Nicky strolled forwards, intent on investigating the interesting-looking convertible that appeared to have been abandoned in the car park.  However, he was soon spotted by a couple of zombies; they started to move towards him.

On the other side of town, Vince and Tracy crept forward very slowly.  They were dismayed when a zombie walked round the corner, right in front of them.

The couple fled along the street and tried to seek shelter in a nearby gun shop.  However, the door was locked and they had no way of breaking in to the well-protected building.  On turning round, Tracy saw another zombie blocking their path.  With a scream of rage, she flung herself at the creature, intending to take out all of her frustrations on the decaying, reanimated corpse!

Sadly for Tracy, rage (and a handbag) proved to be insufficient to defeat the zombie.  Instead, the undead housewife bit deep into her attacker's arm before tearing chunks out of the now-dying woman's face.

"Stupid cow!" Vince muttered, before he turned and jogged on the other way.

As Nicky trotted along, keeping just ahead of the trailing zombies, he thought he saw a familiar figure running in the other direction.

He swerved into the park and finally caught up with Vince, just as the other paused for breath.  "Hey, Vince!  I thought it was you" said Nicky.  The, seeing the look on his friend's face, he subsided.  "Tough day, eh?" he muttered to himself.

Just then, 2 men got out of a nearby parked car (PEF 1 had already resolved as "there's something out there - increase the encounter level by 1.  PEF 2 now moved straight for the players and ended up over the car, where it resolved as a random "contact!").

Mark and Ted were workmates who had become lost and were hiding out in the hope that they could make a break for it when the zombies left the area.  When they saw other humans, they decided that making contact with them might be a better plan.  However, as they scanned the newcomers, they concluded that Nicky and Vince weren't very likely to assist them.  In turn, the unarmed gangers looked at Mark's pistol with covetous eyes, but decided with trepidation that their odds of acquiring it were poor (in other words, the talk the talk rolls were tied, so both sides would go about their business separately).

In any case, fate intervened before either group could act.  A pair of zombies charged at the civilians from behind.  Ted heard something and didn't wait to find out what was behind him.  He fled and ducked behind the nearby hoarding.  Finding himself alone, Mark fought with the desperation of a trapped man; he managed to knock both zombies to the ground, hard.

As the 2 zombies lay winded on the ground, Mark used his machete to decapitate one of them.  Ted recovered his nerve and ran back up to his friend's side.  With a muffled apology to Mark for leaving him in the lurch, Ted jabbed his tyre iron into the second zombie's eye socket and silenced it forever.

The pair of civilians were catching their breath, so the crooks ran past them.  "Hungry?" asked Vince.  "You bet!" answered Nicky.  The pair of them entered a nearby burger bar, but backed out quickly on seeing yet more zombies.  "Bugger this!" exclaimed Vince.  "Let's find a car and get out of here!".

The pair ran across the street and started trying the doors on the block of lockups.  "This'll be where they keep the good stuff" muttered Vince, though in reality there was probably no better loot in the units than anywhere else.  Unfortunately for the crooks, all of the garages were locked; without tools they couldn't force them open.

Nicky and Vince were so preoccupied with their attempts to break in that they failed to notice Ted and Mark running down the road, even though they looked terrified and were calling out a warning of "Zombies!!".

As they ran, Ted felt a sneeze coming on.  "I think I'm allergic to the undead!" he wailed.  However, before he exploded into his handkerchief, both he and Mark ran off the board (much to the disgust of the players.  Random events had been very sparse during this game and the sneezing fit had considerable potential to entertain, if the character had only stayed around!).

The thieves gave up on the garages and turned their attention to the small, green hatchback that was parked in front of them.  Nicky smashed a window to gain entry and started rooting around inside the vehicle.  Straight away, he found a spare can of fuel, so he kept searching (that greedy attribute can be bad news somethimes: Nicky was completely occupied with looting for 2 turns).

Vince turned his attention to hot-wiring the car.  With the practised efficiency of a pro, he had the motor running within just a few seconds, though he also was oblivious to the approaching zeds.

"Just like normal" though Vince, as he swung the wheel and accelerated.  "Gone in 20 seconds!"  There was a slight bump as he left the sidewalk.  "What was that?" he wondered, but he didn't even bother to look in the rear view mirror as they drove away and off the board.


For a small game, there seemed to be a lot going on.  The players never really got much of a chance to steal and loot; there were always at least a few zombies around and they didn't want to take their chances in melee with these creatures.  At least Lestrade didn't appear; the thieves probably would have been in even more trouble if they'd had to deal with him!  Finally, when all's said and done, they did manage to acquire a small car with a broken window and extra fuel...

So, Nicky is not eligible for REP advancement because he didn't kill any zombies, though he did fulfil all the other victory conditions.

Vince technically lost the scenario because a member of his party was killed (since he has the born leader trait, I think that this is a significant demerit to him).  He did steal stuff (the car) and did kill a zombie, even if he wasn't aware that he'd run it down.  We rolled to see if Vince would lose REP, but didn't get the requisite '6'.  I guess that he wasn't really that bothered about Tracy and wouldn't be losing any sleep over her demise...

Wednesday 24 December 2014

HOTT: Christmas vs. Halloween!


It's time for my annual Christmas game of Hordes of the Things, I think.  This year, my undead armies (the Cabal of the Black Hand) have invaded somewhere in south-east Asia.  Why do we care?  Because the necromancers are after the toy factories!  Turning out to defend his sources of supply is Santa and his minions, aided by some of the local Kung Fu masters.

In previous years, Santa and his allies have trounced most comers (2013, 2012).  However, this time the bony ones have got a new secret weapon.  They've managed to resurrect an undead dragon, so let's see how the man in red likes that!

The Game

We decided that the rivers were shallow and not particularly fast-flowing.  They would affect magic as normal and would reduce movement by 50%, but wouldn't have any effect on combat.

The forces were as follows:
  • Santa: aerial hero general, elf shooters, toy soldier cannon, polar bears, hordes of snowmen
  • Kung Fu: 2 heroes, priest, swordsmen, hordes of peasants
  • Undead (N): Necromancer, anti-hero, lots of bats, hordes of skeletons.
  • Undead (S): Necromancer, bone dragon (arrives later at a cost of 6 PiPs), skeleton cavalry, hordes of zombies and ghouls.

The southern necromancer and his cavalry advanced as quickly as possible.  The river would have a very negative effect on any magic that crossed it, so the sooner the magician was on the same side as his foes, the better.  However, he was somewhat dismayed to see the entire Kung Fu army charging towards him.  Interestingly, they were leading with the hordes of peasants; the heroes were at the back!

In the north, the other necromancer sent forwards his bats, intending to use them as a screen between him and that nasty cannon on the hill opposite.  The huge column of skeletons on the far flank also advanced, albeit more slowly.

It turns out that bats don't make a very good screen.  The elves and the cannon in the hill opened fire with devastating results.  Two stands of bats were shot out of the sky just like that!  Suddenly the northern necromancer felt very vulnerable as a large pack of ice bears cantered towards him.

A plan: stick the anti-hero in front of the bears and let him deal with them!  Sadly, the bears didn't even slow down as they bundled the undead wight backwards.  At least the necromancer himself was a little safer - for now!

The southern skeleton cavalry crashed into the Chinese peasant hordes and sent them reeling with some casualties.  This wasn't too surprising, really.  On the other hand, the nearby zombies and ghouls on the hill were reluctant to cross the river and face the line of Kung Fu warriors; that fight would have been heavily in the swordsmen's favour!

Finally (ta-da!), the bone dragon arrived to bolster the southern undead force.  This was none too soon, really... the northern force was in trouble.  The ice bears continued to make life difficult for the anti-hero and also tried to catch some of the irritating bats, without much success.

In desperation, the necromancer fled from the fierce beasts and attacked the elves to try to put a stop to their galling rifle fire.  He was completely successful and slew one group of the shooters with a shower of violet sparks.

However, this was a step too far.  Seeing the enemy general alone and unsupported, Santa flew his sleigh down to confront the evil magician.  He attacked just as the ice bears caught up with the necromancer from behind; the undead commander couldn't survive such an assault and perished miserably!

The loss of their commander meant that the northern undead army would need to take a demoralisation check in their next turn.  Since they had now taken 10AP of casualties (mostly bats!), they would need a '6' to avoid fleeing from the field.

Predictably, the northern undead command failed the test and became demoralised.  Their anti-hero sat on his skeletal steed in the middle of the river, miserable and unmoving, whilst the hordes of skeletons started to shuffle back to wherever they had come from.

The southern general was now faced by 2 virtually-intact enemy armies.  He sent the dragon to attack the ice bears in an attempt to hold them up, whilst his zombies trudged towards the waiting Kung Fu blades.  If he didn't inflict serious losses on the enemy really quickly then he wouldn't get any chance at all!

The desperate gambit seemed initially to be working as the dragon destroyed the first group of bears very easily.  However, Santa's army responded swiftly and the monster was quickly surrounded.  The dispirited anti-hero sat and watched whilst the dragon fought against a multitude of foes.  Although it survived for a short while, the creature could only push back one foe at a time and eventually it was overwhelmed.  The bears smashed the bone dragon to pieces and howled in triumph as the magic which bound it flickered and dissipated.

Briefly, the line of zombies stood intact against the Kung Fu blades, but then the swordsmen overcame their doubts.  They sensed victory, laid into the undead hordes with vigour and started to wipe them out methodically.

While the warriors laid into the zombies, the Kung Fu heroes and Santa launched devastating attacks on the skeleton cavalry.  In a flurry of blows, they destroyed much of the remainder of the southern undead force, leaving the necromancer fleeing in terror as his army crumbled around him.  Game over!


This was another devastating victory for the good guys.  The casualty lists really sum it up quite nicely, I think:
Santa's losses

    Undead (N) Losses
    Undead (S) Losses
    Note that although the Kung Fu army did suffer some peasant horde casualties early on, these had all been replaced by the end of the game.  So technically, they didn't have any losses!

    I still don't think that we've figured out how to use flyers properly.  My attempt to deploy the bats as a screen against shooting was a complete disaster.  Between them, the cannon and rapid rifle fire from the elves threw me onto the back foot right from the start of the game!

    The dragon was given an impossible task.  As it was, it only held up Santa for so long because that army spent all its energy on surrounding and (ultimately) felling the creature.

    Finally, I HATE BEARS!

    Monday 22 December 2014

    The Workbench: December 2014


    It's been about 8 months since I last posted any pictures of my workbench (here) and I thought it would be worth while to see how that compares with today's reality.  I'm expecting that it's much less tidy today; I'm having real problems in trying to keep on top of the mess and my ever-expanding range of interests.

    OK, it's a mess...
    As you can see from the picture above, I can barely sit at my desk, let alone do any work.  This is partly why I've not been doing much recently; I just don't feel much sense of satisfaction at making models in such an untidy environment.

    In Detail

    To the right of the desk (on the pull-out leaf) are a couple of part-built Old West buildings - an undertakers and a construction site.  In front of them are smaller outhouses (a garden cold frame and a hen house); the box on the right has a 28mm quad bike.

    On the left hand leaf is a tray of models that aren't yet opened and started.  I'm being very conscientious about this: they mustn't be built until space has been made on the table by completing something else first.  The tray contains some barbarian heroes (well, heroines, I suppose) from Hasslefree as well as the "Daredevil sisters" (aka Angels from Captain Scarlet).  I wish to get some helmeted heads for the latter before assembly.

    At the back are some ruined buildings from the Stoelzel's Structures car sales yard.  They are ruined in the sense that my builds of the models are warped and twisted, not that they portray derelict buildings.  I haven't yet decided what to do with these, so they stay there as reminders to go back to that project some time...

     On the desk itself, the extreme left has my collection of paints.  On top of these (due to lack of space, even though it is very awkward to use the paints) are a couple more trays.  The front one holds completed models that haven't yet been put into storage.  You may well recognise some of my recent works such as the undead dragon and the 2 Viridian skimmers.

    Behind the completed models, another tray holds elements of my partly-finished Barbarian army for Hordes of the Things.  I think that 3 elements are painted and varnished; all the rest are only partly painted.

     The working part of the bench, in the centre of the desk, is very cluttered at the moment.  Some items come onto this space and move off it again very quickly, but many of the models have been here for months or even years!

     In a little more detail, the bench contains a few more 28mm Ancient Greeks.  These are nearly finished.  They will join (or maybe oppose?) Jason and the Argonauts when I finally get this project ready for the gaming table.  You can see here 3 archers, 1 new hoplite, a slinger and an old man.

    Also note that my 3rd Viridian skimmer is just behind the Greeks.

     Next on the bench are 4 bases of Barbarians for Hordes of the Things.  Although I'm itching to build some of the heroes for this army, I've set myself the goal of completing at least some of the rank-and-file first.  It's not going very well; these figures haven't progressed much for months.

     Moving further to the left, I have a few modern survivors, with some cowboys behind them (as well as a lone zombie child).

     At the right hand end of the workspace are the horses for the first figures in my SAGA Strathclyde army.  This faction are notorious for the high proportion of cavalry in their warbands, though it is really the riders that are holding me back from completing the models rather than the mounts.  Anyway, if/when I complete the few that are here, I've got another 20 or so to build!

    Mixed in with them are a few pulp villains and heroes.

     At the back of the workstation, partly hidden under the shelf, are my 28mm bikers.  They've probably been there longer than pretty much any other model on the bench.

     Here are the 4 Strathclyde riders.  As you can see, I've not managed to paint much of them yet, despite having these models since Claymore 2014 (i.e. August).

    To the other side of the workstation, there are some new additions.  The guys in metallic green armour are my middle son's elves.  He hasn't done anything on these for many weeks and I suspect strongly that I'll need to nag him horribly to get them finished and moved out of my space.


    It's nearly Christmas, when I know for certain that I will receive even more models.  If I cannot find a better way of managing this area (and if I cannot find more storage space!) then I'm in danger of drowning in figures.  Metaphorically, of course (I hope)!

    I'm pretty much at my wits end here; I've no desire to cut down on the number of my projects, but equally I don't see how I can manage all the current ones either.  What to do?

    Wednesday 17 December 2014

    Showcase: Viridian Skimmers


    Some of you may remember previous posts on my VOID Viridian models:
    If you have seen these before then you'll know of my fondness for this army.  If not, then be aware that I display something from this force about once a year, as the fancy takes me!

    Who are the Viridians?  As written in the original VOID fluff, they are technologically-capable fervent ecologists.  They usually choose not to use equipment which would harm the environment in any way.  Most of their military uses updated versions of 20th century weapons, with specially-bred dinosaurs acting as transport (!).  However, that doesn't mean they cannot build fighting vehicles as well, when necessary.  The fast attack skimmers are an example of that...

    Viridian Skimmers

    Here's one of the Viridian skimmers.  If you have particularly sharp eyes and a good memory, you might have spotted one just like this on my workbench in July 2012.  I've actually got 5 of these models (of 3 different subclasses) and I built them all many years ago.  After that, one was left out on my workbench as a reminder that I needed to paint them.  That lonely model stayed there for at least 2 years (possibly a lot more), until last month - November 2014.

    In an attempt to reclaim some of my work space, I finally got round to painting the first skimmer a few weeks ago, though I had to give it a good dusting first.  Since then, I've painted a second as well.  Indeed, the bare model in the pictures above and below is the 3rd skimmer that I have brought out of storage!

    I've done a head swap on this pilot; he's got a helmet from one of the EM-4 plastic troopers
    I've made some slight adjustments to these models.  The most obvious one is the "roll cage" that I've made from brass wire and plasticard.  I felt that the pilot just looked too exposed on the original models and needed some form of enclosure.  Indeed, if I could have found a source of clear spheres about the size of ping pong balls then I would have used those as canopies, a bit like those on early US helicopters such as the Bell H-13 Sioux.

    Since I didn't find anything to use as clear canopies, I went with my second choice and created the "dune buggy" effect.  I built a jig from scrap pieces of plasticard and used this to ensure that each piece of brass wire was cut and bent in exactly the same way.

    ...And Painted

    Support skimmer on the left, regular skimmer on the right
     I've painted the 2 completed skimmers in my standard Viridian camouflage, with a dark green background, superimposed with elongated triangles of dusty, pale green, edged with black.

    The basing on the skimmers is something with which I'm not totally happy.  It's meant to look like dust clouds being kicked up, but I think it just isn't right.  If I could think of a better way to achieve such an effect, I might rework the bases.

    I think I went a bit heavy on the dark wash for the support skimmer (on the left).  It doesn't seem too bad under the bright camera flash, but the vehicle looks very dark when viewed in real life.  There's not much I can do about this, short of repainting it from scratch (and I'm not considering that!), so I'll just have to live with it.


    2 down, 3 to go!  These aren't actually too difficult to paint, once I get round to it - I can hardly believe that I put off painting the first one for years!  Making the extra bars for the cockpit is probably the most time-consuming part of the job.

    Finally, a word on realism.  Hovercraft don't have much purchase on the ground (well, that's the whole point, really) and therefore need to rely on aerofoils or directed propulsion systems to change speed or direction.  These skimmers seem as if they're capable of travelling very fast, but I wouldn't like to try turning or slowing down!  They also look very tail-heavy, especially the 2-man command variant that I haven't shown here.

    But hey, they're science fiction models, yes?  So everything is all right!

    Sunday 14 December 2014

    The Mantic Crazy Box, 2014


    Every December, at least for the past few years, Mantic have put a "crazy box" into their online shop.  This is, according to their own description, "a massive box of goodies for next to nothing".  Well, £25 plus postage isn't really my definition of next to nothing, but you do tend to get quite a lot of stuff in these boxes.

    This year, I was curious to see what I might get in this lucky dip, so I ordered a box.  I was hopeful that I might get some Dreadball models or some of their new sci-fi zombies.  Even some more fantasy elves would be welcome, since my middle son has decided that he wants to build such an army for Hordes of the Things (though to be honest, I don't think that he wants to put any real effort into painting them himself).

    I'm full of cold this weekend and feeling pretty rubbish, really.  However, my crazy box arrived on Friday and I've had a day to look at it now.  So, what did I get - and did it cheer me up?

    The Contents

    Firstly, there was a Kings of War poster in the box.  However that doesn't even appear in any of these pictures because one of my sons snaffled it immediately.  I haven't seen it since.  However, here's the rest of the stuff:

    A sprue of 10 elf archers

    A packet of 10 (?) Basilean cavalry.  Think "nuns riding giant panthers" and you won't be too far wrong.

    One Dreadball figure.  I believe that this is a Keeper from the female Corporation team (the Void Sirens) and therefore this model will be immediately useful.  It does have a considerable amount of flash, sadly.

    An introductory, pocket-sized version of the rules for Kings of War.  Seems nice and simple, but I don't think I'll be playing this game - I've already got too many other sets of rules.

    2 terrain accessory sprues.  I've got a couple of these already; they have a good collection of sci-fi barrels and crates on them, as well as a lamp-post and a ladder.

    2 strange creatures, a bit like giant wolves with mechanical heads and chainsaws instead of tongues.  I believe that these are Deadzone "mawbeasts" and I really don't like them at all.  Too silly...

    A pack with 3 figures: 2 sci-fi humans and a small, crouching alien (something like a chimpanzee).

    Another alien.  This time it's a giant, floating squid/jellyfish thing.  Interesting.  I wonder how I could use such a creature in one of my games?  Perhaps as a space monster in Full Thrust

    A sci-fi Orc with a cloak and a peaked cap.

    3 single-piece, 28mm modern humans.  I think that these must be from the newish Mars Attacks range.


    There are some interesting models here, though not as much as I'd hoped that will be immediately useful.  The really big item is the panther cavalry (the Mantic website gives them an rrp of £19.99); I'm wondering whether I can re-purpose these either as beasts for my embryonic Hordes of the Things Barbarian army (by adding a figure or two as handlers/beastmasters), or use them as exotic cavalry for my son's elf army.  The supplied mounted figures really aren't right for the latter, though and I don't think that I have any suitable spares.

    I've no use for the Orc or the mawbeasts.  Of the rest, I can use the Dreadball keeper straight away, the Mars Attacks people can be used as survivors of the zombie apocalypse and most of the other models have possibilities for the future.

    So, was it worth it?  There are some models here that I can use, most certainly!  If I ever get round to selling the bits I don't need then the answer is probably yes, it was worth it.  On the other hand, if they just end up taking storage space forever more then perhaps it wasn't?