Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Feed by Mira Grant

In my editorial that I posted last week I mentioned that Feed by Mira Grant was the best book that I'd read in 2010. I also noted that it deserved a more detailed review, so here it is. In the year 2014 mankind had cured cancer and the common cold but at a terrible price. A virus spread causing the infected and the dead to return as flesh eating zombies. Over twenty years later humanity has evolved and learnt how to survive in a world populated by millions of the undead. For the most part, this means staying indoors and living in rigourously monitored enclaves, where checks and tests for the zombie infection are an everyday occurance. The more important the area you want to visit, the greater and more thorough the tests become. These tests are so routine and commonplace that the populace accepts them wholeheartedly. Few dare travel across the country, so great is the fear of infection.
Feed tells the story of a trio of bloggers - Georgia and Shaun Mason and their friend Buffy Meissonier. Georgia and Shaun are siblings and all three are teenagers, meaning they were born after the outbreak began. As a consequence, they never knew what life was like in a world where zombies never existed. Blogging has become such a growth industry as more and more people turn to the internet for the news of the day.
Georgia is the narrator of the story and the most level-headed and grounded of the trio. Shaun likes to live dangerously and in the eyes of his sister takes too many unnecessary risks. Buffy on the other hand, is much more reserved and shuns the limelight. Her forte is that she is a technical whizkid. Their lives change forever when they are asked by Senator Peter Ryman to record his presidential nomination campaign trail. Ryman is one of the first politicians to see the merit of involving the blogging community to join him personally on his quest for the presidency of the USA. All goes well at first, until one night their security is breached and a zombie horde almost breaks through the supposedly impregnable perimeter. Lives are lost and lessons are learned. From then on it becomes increasingly obvious that someone is out to stop Senator Ryman at all costs.
Mira has crafted a very believable world and comes up with a plausible explanation for the zombie virus or as it is called in the book - the Kellis-Amberlee disease. The development of the world of blogging has been well thought out, with bloggers categorised as one of four archetypes - Newsies, Irwins, Stewarts and Fictionals. Georgia is a Newsie, Shaun an Irwin (named after Steve Irwin the Australian wildlife expert) and Buffy is a Fictional.
The novel is divided into five parts, with each part becoming more gripping and absorbing than the last. At the end of part four there is a death that I could never have predicted and is such a shock. Even though it's not quite the end of the book it is such a huge sting in the tail. I read parts four and five in one sitting as I was so emotionally tied up with the story that I had to know what happened next. It was one hell of an emotional rollercoast ride!
It is fair to say that Feed starts off slowly as it introduces the major players and the very different world they live in to ours. The pace picks up once Georgia, Shaun and Buffy are chosen to ride with the Senator on his campaign trail. You won't have much trouble in predicting who the main villain is but by the end of the book it is just as obvious that he/she was working at the behest of someone else. Which neatly leads to book two. Feed is the first part of a planned trilogy and if parts two and three are anyway near as good as part one, I'll be a very happy bunny indeed.
What made this book such a compelling read for me was that the main characters were people I cared about. Even the senator came across as likeable and trustworthy, traits that I wouldn't normally associate with a politician. As a blogger myself I could instantly relate with the heroic trio. No one is perfect in real life and in Feed everyone has their flaws, which only makes them more believable. This is a novel that can be read as a political thriller with zombies, which is how I described it to my parents. They both read it and both enjoyed it as much as me, which is high praise as neither of them has ever read a zombie novel before. Some may be disappointed that the zombies only make a few appearances but the threat of them is ever-present. Don't let that put you off. This is far and away one of the finest zombie novels I've ever read. Book two will be called Blackout and is due to be released in the summer of 2011. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Vampifan's Views 07 Festive Greetings

As we approach Christmas and the New Year I thought I'd do an editorial to look back on 2010 and let you know what to expect next year. This past year has seen my blog go from strength to strength. As I type this I have 105 followers and my hit counter is just shy of 70,000, both of which are fantastic achievements. For me, one of the best things to happen to my blog is that I started my All Things Zombie campaign with my alter ego, Vampifan, taking centre stage. I deliberately set out to make my batreps as instructional as possible to help newcomers come to grips with the rules of the game. From the feedback I've received I certainly succeeded in that goal. I would like to do some purely narrative batreps and I have a scenario in mind for one. Before I can run it I need to get more scenery made, specifically a headquarters for Team Vampifan. One of their first goals next year will be to find somewhere in Mayhem City that they can call home. It also needs to be big enough to accommodate newcomers to the group. That is Vampifan's second objective - to recruit more survivors. For the HQ, I'm thinking of basing it on the Mayhem Junkyard. With its perimeter wall, it should make a good defensive outpost. I've been making a few Ebbles prefabricated buildings, which come in four sizes. They'll do fine for barracks, store-rooms and garages. So, lots to look forward to folks. Also, bear in mind, my last scenario took place on the night of Project Lazarus. So in future, expect to see Ragers and Smart Zombies joining in (yikes!).
Moving on to books, films and TV, 2010 turned out to be a poor year for horror films at the cinema but much better for DVD buying. My favourite undead related film that I saw at the cinema this year was Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3D. Alice sure knows how to kick zombie butt. All hail St. Milla! Best DVD went to True Blood series 2. I don't have satellite TV so I missed The Walking Dead TV series, but I am so looking forward to buying it on DVD when it's released next year. It'll be a tough call to decide which is best - True Blood series 3 or The Walking Dead series 1. I also enjoyed the zombie movies of Doghouse, Survival of the Dead, Zombieland and The Horde that I'd bought on DVD earlier this year.
As for books, I probably read more zombie novels in 2010 than I have in any other year. I have a huge collection of vampire novels but not many zombie novels. I made a deliberate effort to change that at the start of the year. I have no hesitation in choosing Feed by Mira Grant as the best novel I read this year. It is set 20 years after a zombie apocalypse and the world has changed forever. It follows the fortunes of a group of very successful bloggers who are chosen to record the campaign of a presidential nominee during election year. With bloggers as the heroes I was immediately drawn to them. The book starts off slowly, with zombies being almost incidental to the plot, but  once the heroes get the campaign gig, it really kicks off and by the end I literally couldn't put it down. I read the last 150 pages in one sitting as I was so caught up in the story. Oh, and it has one hell of a surprise ending that I just never saw coming. An outstanding novel. In fact, it was so good both my parents read it and enjoyed it as much as I did and they have never read a zombie novel in their lives!
Looking to the future, there won't be any major changes to how I run my blog. Figure reviews will continue to dominate most posts. Expect to see more size comparison photos in 2011. The zombie one proved very popular and I'll probably do a follow up to it later in the year as I add to my horde. Also, I'll continue with my scenery reviews and ATZ batreps. For January, I have something new planned. I plan on showcasing some of my undead related artwork. It says in my profile that I'm a graphic designer. One of my most pleasing assignments was to illustrate an anthology of short stories about vampires. I'll do a post to let you see my illustrations. I have a secret project that I'd love to share with you but I'm keeping it under wraps until it's finalised. For the moment, let's just call it "the Italian Job."
For me, one of the most pleasing aspects of 2010 was seeing the launch of so many new blog sites dedicated to zombie gaming. You guys know who you are and I'm proud to call you all friends. What I love about this blogging lark is we are a community. There is no rivalry or oneupmanship. I go out of my way to help others whenever I can and the positive feedback I get is more than enough reward. To everyone who runs a blog I salute you and I wish you every success. To those who just follow or lurk, my sincere thanks to you as well. Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog and I feel blessed to have so many enthusiastic followers willing to share their views.
The picture that I chose to illustrate this post is of course, Vampirella, in a festive mood. It is by comic artist Kevin Lau, who illustrated many of the Vampi comics.
So all that remains is for me to wish you a very happy Christmas and a joyous New Year. Peace and goodwill to you all.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Eolith Miniatures Zombies 01

This is my first review of anything produced by Eolith Miniatures. They are a small UK-based company run by Steve Buddle. Steve's motto would seem to be quality rather than quantity as the output of his company is quite meagre. Eolith Miniatures are one of four companies who make up the Forum of Doom, along with Hasslefree, Heresy and Black Scorpion. Eolith currently sells only one pack of three 28mm scale zombies, who are described as measuring 31mm from the soles of their feet to the top of their heads. Although designed with the fantasy gamer in mind, I found that these will work just as well in a contemporary setting.
At the far left of the photos is the only female of the group. She wears a long dress, which has been torn at the left side to reveal most of her leg. The lady has a long cut to her right thigh in addition to the cuts and bites on her left leg. The left arm of her dress has also been ripped apart, revealing another cut to her lower arm.
Next up is a shirtless male zombie, who could have been a drifter before he was infected. He wears sturdy shoes, trousers and a ragged jacket. He has a wound to his forehead, along with minor wounds to his chest and limbs.
The third figure from this set is armed with a small hand axe. He wears a waistcoat, trousers and one sock and one shoe on his left foot. He suffers from numerous small bites, cuts and stab wounds but from a distance looks almost normal.
The fourth figure in these two photos is Ugh the Zombie (dreadful name, Steve!) whom Steve sculpted and sold when his company was called Spyglass Miniatures. It is only recently that Spyglass has evolved into Eolith. Sadly, nearly all of the figures produced by Spyglass are now out of production. I include this figure purely for completeness and also because it's another Steve Buddle sculpt. Ugh is dressed in jacket, trousers and one shoe. Apart from a few cuts to his jacket he appears to unwounded. He isn't badly sculpted but is of a lower standard than the other three zombies shown here.
The pack of three Eolith Miniatures zombies costs £8.00 from their website. I like them a lot as they are beautifully sculpted figures. There was talk on the Forum of Doom about Steve sculpting contemporary versions of these three but I don't know if that'll happen. As I said, I have no problem with using these as part of my horde of contemporary zombies.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Blue Moon Zombies 04

Here's the second part of my review of the Blue Moon Manufacturing 28mm scale zombies from their boxed set BMM111B Box 8 "I Just Can't seem to Get a Good Night's Sleep." These are all unarmed male zombies.
I'll start by looking at the zombie at the far left of the two photos above. I painted his flesh tones as normal but gave him a couple of washes of Citadel Ogryn Flesh to indicate he was dark-skinned before he became infected. If you compare the figures from this boxed set with those from the first boxed set you can see that some of them are conversions. Some have had weapons removed, others have had limbs altered. This fellow held a wooden club and had hair on his head but now he's bald and unarmed. Altering figures like this is an easy option for the makers but not everyone approves of this tactic. It does not bother me and be honest, would you have known if I hadn't pointed it out? This zombie has been wounded in all four limbs and the stomach.
Next up is a zombie wearing nothing more than a badly torn baggy shirt, which I painted Citadel Warlock Purple. His wounds are numerous. Note the flesh torn off his left leg to reveal his kneecap and thighbone. He has had a big chunk of his face bitten off as well as minor wounds to his arms, right leg and torso.
In the centre of this group is another zombie whose shirt has been ruined beyond repair. Still, that's the least of his worries as he has been gutshot and had a large bite taken out of his right upper leg. His hands are smeared in blood, perhaps as a result of trying to stem his blood loss. His head is thrown back as if in mid moan. Methinks he has just smelt fresh blood!
Moving on, is a zombie staggering along with his head hanging down. His shirt and trousers have been ripped to shreds and his footwear has gone missing. He has two head wounds - a cut to his left temple and a bite taken out of his right cheek. His left leg has been very badly chewed up and once again, bone is visible around his knee.
Last in line with this group is a zombie wearing dungarees. He has a bloodied bandage around his head. He looks to have been shot in the stomach and left shoulder. The underside of his right arm has been severely cut and a chunk of flesh is missing from his right thigh. He's not fat but he is overweight.
This next batch of male zombies features four in suits and one in military uniform. At the far left in the two photos above is a guy with his head tilted back and his arms held high. His left arm has been mangled and he has a cut to the left side of his groin. I gave him a bright red tie to counter the drab colours of his suit.
To his left is a zombie with a skull-like face, revealing a huge mouth. He has a deep wound to his lower right arm and he appears to have been shot or stabbed in the stomach. He is striding with a purposeful gait and with his left arm stretched out.
The zombie in the centre of the group is in a similar pose. The left side of his face has been chewed off and his right arm has been severed just above the elbow. His right knee has been bloodied and he appears to have a stab wound to his lower back.
Next up is a very old-looking zombie whose hair is almost white. His tongue is protruding from his mouth and I covered it and his chin with blood. The right arm sleeve of his jacket has been torn and reveals a few minor cuts and bites. His body is stooped forward, further suggesting old age.
Last up is a bit of an oddity. This zombie is clearly a soldier, and I have no problem with that at all. However, his helmet and uniform suggest he's from anywhere between World War Two to the Vietnam War period. It does seem rather anachronistic, unless he's from a contemporary re-enactment group, which would explain the way he's dressed. His uniform has been torn on all four limbs and he has a gaping wound to the left side of his stomach. I'll get double use out of him as I can use him in my contemporary ATZ campaign and in my Weird World War Two games. So no complaints from me!
This boxed set costs$40.00 if you order it from the BMM website. However, as I told you when I reviewed the first boxed set, I ordered mine from UK-based company Old Glory and the set cost me £30.00.
This boxed set is probably going to have greater appeal than the first boxed set, due to it containing 20 contemporary style unarmed zombies. The 10 armed zombies in the first boxed set may put some folk off. It certainly put me off for many months. I praised the fact that the zombies in the first boxed set looked like they'd been dead for a long time and the same is true for this second set. You just have to look at the skull-like faces of many of the figures to realise these are not freshly created zombies. These zeds have been around for a long time. They are well sculpted and are a worthy addition to anyone's zombie horde.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Blue Moon Zombies 03

This is the first of another two part review looking at the second box set of 28mm scale zombies from Blue Moon Manufacturing, namely BMM111B Box 8 "I Just Can't Seem to Get a Good Night's Sleep." In Box 7, half of the figures were unarmed, whilst in this set, all of them are unarmed.
I'll start off by looking at the female zombies that come with this set. In Box 7, there were just three females. This time, there are seven. At the far left in the two photos above, is the woman in red whom I mentioned in my last review. (She appears on the cover of both boxes but it is with this set that you actually get the figure.) What struck me the most when I first saw her, is how badly deformed her left arm is. It looks like her upper arm from elbow to shoulder is missing! Very strange and I can't decide if that was a deliberate choice or a mistake by the sculptor. Her dress seems to be far too large for her but death does reduce a person's weight, especially if the person has been dead a long time, so don't take that as a criticism. She looks like she's been dead a very long time and she is covered in bites, cuts and scratches.
Next up is a more elderly-looking woman with an almost skull-like face. Her pose is a classic as she lunges forward with outstretched arms. She is well dressed in a blouse, long skirt, and knee-length boots. She has bite wounds to both arms and her right cheek.
In the middle of this group is the first of two one-armed female zombies. This woman has lost her left arm and a large portion of the left side of her torso has been eaten away. She is dressed very similarly to the previous zombie, wearing a blouse and long skirt but ankle-length boots.
The second one-armed female zombie has lost her right arm. Also, note her right eye, as the eyeball hangs from its socket. Most blondes that I see today are "bottle blondes." The black roots are a dead giveaway. For this lady I decided she'd only bleached half of her hair to give a two-tone look, which I have seen in real life. It is a striking look but not one that I particularly like. For me, the natural look is always best, but hey, I'm just an old-fashioned git! What do I know about women's fashion?
The last of this batch of five females can best be described in two words - trailer trash! I must admit, that for a zombie, she has a very shapely figure! If you ignore her wounds, from the neck down she is quite a looker! But with a massive bite wound to her stomach, the left half of her face chewed off, a deep and long wound to her lower left arm and a couple of small bite wounds to her left leg it is impossible to ignore her wounds. As with quite a few of my zombies, I have smeared her hands in gore.
In the next two photos (shown above) at the far left is a crouching female wearing a very brief crop-top and a badly torn midi-dress. Note the absence of any footwear. It could be that she's attempting to stand up as she has a massive wound to her right leg that reveals bone. Her left leg is little better with one major and a couple of minor bite wounds. She is another zombie in this set whose face closely resembles a skull. Her nose is completely absent. 
Next to her is a zombie of indeterminate sex. He/she has long hair and a flat chest, neither of which is proof of gender. However, I've decided that she is a female, simply because I want more female zeds. Her dress could be a long loincloth but somehow, I doubt it. Just like the previous figure, she too, is lacking any footwear. She has a long cut to her left thigh and the front of her blouse is covered in blood, indicating she has had her throat ripped out.
In the centre of this group is the first of the thirteen males available with this set. I'm sticking with the theme of bare-footed zombies. He wears tight trousers and a very ragged shirt, which exposes a horrific torso wound to his right side. He has also been wounded in the left shoulder. His pose is that of a staggering drunk as he appears rather unsteady on his feet.
With the next figure BMM once again backed away from offending by omitting genitalia from this partially nude figure. I don't suffer such prudishness and have sculpted his "meat and two veg" back on with modelling putty. He has wounds all over his body, including a large chunk of flesh that has been chewed from his backside! Ouch! Anyone thinking, perhaps he had his manhood bitten off, don't! If he had, there'd be a gaping hole in its place and not the smooth groin area this figure originally had.
Finally is a guy wearing knee-length trousers, a belt and nothing else. He sports quite a few wounds all over his body but they all appear to be minor. I guess they must have had a cumulative effect, although even one minor bite wound is enough to infect a person. He is not an outstanding figure by any means but neither is he a turkey. Mr. Average Zombie would sum him up nicely.
The price for this boxed set is the same as box 7, which if you can't be arsed to check out, was $40.00 if you order direct from Blue Moon Manufacturing. I'll give further price details next time when I review the second batch of figures from this set.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

My ATZ Campaign - Day 21 - Blackout part 2

DAY 21 - Blackout part 2
Turn 4 of this scenario saw the biggest gunfight in a single round of my campaign, as Team Vampifan, a SWAT team and a group of red neck Gangers fought a three-way gunbattle that ended with Big Sil, Angie and Gap from Team Vampifan the only ones left standing. Outside of the power station that all three teams had entered, a small horde of 12 zombies were closing in.
TURN 5.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 5, Zombies = 2, SWAT = 3, Gangers = 6
Big Sil walked over to where the SWAT leader was lying OOF.
"You were well out of order claiming we'd killed the workers here," he said as he drew his combat knife. "I can't stand pompous assholes!"
With one quick motion and without a hint of remorse, he bent down and slit the throat of the SWAT leader.
"God, I hate cops!" Angie snarled as she followed suit and slit the throat of the stunned SWAT Trooper with her flick-knife.
Both deaths were auto-kills as per the rules on p.19 of BDTZ.
Angie then led the way to the foot of one of the ladders leading up to the catwalk. Big Sil picked up Vampifan and followed. Gap kept quiet, keeping his judgement to himself. He was appalled at what Big Sil and Angie had just done. What kind of monsters were they becoming? he thought. Instead of voicing his concerns, he reloaded his Assault Rifle and ambled across to the ladder.
The 12 zombies moved closer to the three entrances into the power station. Six were to the right at the back...
...three were at the front, including the little girl zombie, who just made it inside...
...and three more zombie children approached the rear entrance at the back left of the building. The only SWAT trooper left alive was OOF, so he couldn't activate and the Gangers, who had two men stunned, rolled too high to activate. There were no zombie reinforcements to roll for this turn.
TURN 6.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 3, Zombies = 1, Gangers = 4
The two stunned Gangers, both Rep:4, were able to stand up this turn but could do nothing else, although I did allow them to take the Leader Lost test. They both passed 2d6 and the ganger with the SMG was nominated leader.
Angie made a Fast move to get up the ladder to the alcove at the front of the building. Gap also made a Fast Move, but struggled to keep up with Angie. Big Sil brought up the rear, carrying Vampifan over his shoulder as he moved at normal pace.
With the building being so big, I felt that it warranted another turn of the card from my Risks and Rewards deck to see if there was anyone or anything on the upper floor. It turned out there was a single Ganger, a Rep:4 female Goth, armed with a sub-machine gun and guarding a cache of food. Big Sil decided to try and recruit her, so both sides rolled on the Meet and Greet table against their Reps. Big Sil received a +2d6 bonus for having two more friends than the Ganger. He scored 4 successes out of 7d6 and the Ganger scored 2 successes out of 4d6. They kept on rolling, using only their successes. Big Sil scored two successes out of four but the Ganger scored none. This resulted in the Ganger joining Team Vampifan on a permanent basis. She introduced herself as Rhiannon Marlow.
Nine zombies were able to enter the power station this turn. The only two who failed to make it were part of the group of six at the back right of the building.
Note that I have removed the dead humans just to give myself more room to fit in all these extra figures, although the original corpses remained. The little girl zombie who entered the power station last turn was immediately drawn to the unconscious SWAT trooper and she moved next to him to eat his flesh. The feasting would last for three more turns.
The four zombies who had entered via the same door used by the SWAT team and the Gangers charged the two rednecks who had just stood up earlier this turn. The Gangers took the Being Charged test and passed 1d6. They could melee normally but weren't allowed to shoot at the zeds. With each Ganger being attacked by two zombies they were forced to split their melee dice and they chose the obvious option of rolling 2d6 against each zombie.
The Ganger armed with the SMG scored one success against his first zombie but none against his second. The first zombie scored zero successes and so was Obviously Dead. However, the second zombie scored one success, which put the Ganger Out Of the Fight. The zombie immediately began to feast on his victim and would continue to do so for the next four turns.
The Ganger armed with the BA Pistol scored two successes against his first zombie and one against his second. His opponents scored zero and one success, meaning that the first zombie was Obviously Dead. With both sides scoring one success each in the second fight, the combat continued. This time, neither side scored any successes so the fight would carry on until the next turn.
Once again, there were no zombie reinforcements to roll for.
TURN 7.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 2, Zombies = 4, Gangers = 4
Because the zombies and Gangers rolled the same score, neither could activate this turn (see p.11 of BDTZ). I'll admit that I'd forgotten all about this rule until I read one of Whiteface's batreps and noticed him using it. At first I thought he'd made a mistake but when I checked the Turn Sequence rules I saw that he was right and I was wrong. It only applies if there are multiple human groups in play. It's not something I'll forget in future!
Angie and Gap moved into the alcove alongside Rhiannon. Big Sil spent the turn administering to Vampifan in an attempt to revive him.

TURN 8.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 6, Zombies = 3, Gangers = 3
A rare turn in which no one was able to activate.
TURN 9.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 2, Zombies = 4, Gangers = 5
This was not good news for the sole remaining Ganger as two more zombies entered the building and charged him. He only passed 1d6 on the Being Charged test, which meant he could melee as normal but he couldn't fire at his attackers. He split his four dice as two against the zombie who attacked him last turn and one against each of the two newcomers. Alas, he only scored one success against the second newcomer , a little girl zombie. Incredibly, all three zombies scored one success on him. He did win the tie-off with the little girl, so he went down fighting. He was still alive when the other two zombies began to feast on him. This feast would last for six turns. Being overweight, he had a lot of flesh on him.
The two zombies who had entered via the front door joined the girl zombie who was feasting on the SWAT trooper. The other three zombies shuffled towards the foot of the ladder used by Team Vampifan.
Vampifan made a full recovery, passing 2d6 on the Recovery Test (see p.22 of BDTZ). Before he could speak, Big Sil clamped a hand over his mouth and pointed with his Assault Rifle at the scene downstairs. Vampifan nodded in understanding and his friend removed his hand. The question was, had the three zombie children at the foot of the ladder seen or heard them?
TURN 10.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 1, Zombies = 3
The only zombies not feasting this turn were the three children at the foot of the ladder. As they climbed up, it was obvious that they had seen Team Vampifan. Vampifan took the Being Charged Test and because he was a Star, he automatically passed 2d6. He fired a three round burst at them and scored two hits with two OOF results, which were upgraded to Obviously Dead because his targets were zombies. The third zombie child made it onto the catwalk before Vampifan stove his skull in with the butt of his Assault Rifle as he scored four melee successes to the zombie's zero.
"Let's get out of here at the double!" Vampifan urged.
Everyone made a Fast Move to get down the ladder and as far away as possible from the feasting zeds. I realised I hadn't rolled to see what Attribute Rhiannon possessed, so I rolled for her then and scored an 8 on 2d6. If I rolled a 1-3 on a further 1d6, she'd be a Knifefighter, but if I rolled 4-6, she'd be an Athlete. I rolled a 4, so she'd be able to roll 3d6 instead of 2d6 when taking the Fast Move Test.
I rolled 3d6 for zombie reinforcements and one appeared next to the taxi opposite the front entrance to the power station.
TURN 11.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 4, Zombies = 6
Team Vampifan exited the power station via the back door leading to the row of parked cars.
TURN 12.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 2, Zombies = 3
The zombie who had appeared by the taxi crossed the road.
Team Vampifan moved away from the power station to arrive at the front entrance to a small storage building.
TURN 13.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 1, Zombies = 4
The lone zombie outdoors moved into the power station to join in the feastings. There were rich pickings for the zombies with so many people OOF or recently dead.
Team Vampifan entered the storage building and I turned over a new card from my Risks and Rewards deck. Inside was one zombie and one resource - a unit of fuel.
Vampifan easily beat the zombie on the Zombie Surprise Test and put a single round in the zombie's forehead, killing him instantly. Big Sil found the unit of fuel.
I rolled 1d6 for zombie reinforcements but none turned up.
TURN 14.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 5, Zombies = 2
Team Vampifan moved out of the storage building by the back door and walked towards the large ruined building.
Inside the power station the zombies continued to feast.
TURN 15.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 1, Zombies = 4
The zombies carried on feeding on the flesh of the Gangers.
Team Vampifan reached the back of the ruined building.
TURN 16.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 5, Zombies = 2
Team Vampifan entered the large ruined building and I turned over the next card from my Risks and Rewards deck. It revealed nothing - no humans, no zombies or no resources. What an anticlimax!

With nowhere left to explore the heroes left the table to return to their vehicles. 
It was time to roll for Rep increases. Only Big Sil and Angie were eligible to roll. Vampifan lost out when he went OOF. Gap failed because he found no resources and Rhiannon lucked out for failing to kill any zombies. Sadly, I rolled a 4 for Big Sil and a 2 for Angie, so no Rep increases. It was a shame as I felt they both performed marvellously in this scenario.

Here's a couple of group photos of Team Vampifan to better show off Rhiannon Marlow.
To the left is a photo of the person she's based on. I saw this picture on an advert for boots for Goths and immediately had the urge to make a miniature of her. I chose a Heroclix figure of Black Cat to base her on. It was a simple conversion as I removed Black Cat's fur trims from her costume with a sharp modelling knife and added a mini-skirt and boots with loads of buckles down the sides. Her Uzi SMG came from my spare parts box. I have quite a few Goth figures, male and female, but very few of them are carrying a firearm, so she was a welcome addition.

This scenario did not turn out as I expected it to and that is one of the things that I love about ATZ. I was sure the Blackout rule with the limited Line of Sight would have had a much greater impact on the game. As it turned out, it never affected anything. Most gunfights occurred within a range of 4-6 inches. I envisaged Team Vampifan making a stand in the power station as they manned the catwalks, whilst the zombies lay siege from outside. It never happened. I certainly could not have foreseen the three way fight between Team Vampifan, the SWAT team and the red neck Gangers. Nor could I have predicted Vampifan getting the crap beaten out of him by the SWAT leader. ATZ - you've got to love it!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

My ATZ Campaign - Day 21 - Blackout part 1

Team Vampifan had kept a low profile since their last encounter with a zombie horde. In the following week, Mayhem City descended into the depths of Hell. The urban areas were totally abandoned to the zombies. Some local areas were secured but at the cost of individual freedom. Areas in between became totally lawless and gangs of individuals staked their claim to their own little part of the world. A company of US Army soldiers patrolling close to where Team Vampifan had temporarily holed up forced them back on the road. Night had fallen and they still hadn't found anywhere safe to spend the hours of darkness. As they drove around the suburbs of Mayhem City, the whole area was suddenly plunged into darkness as another blackout occured. Such incidents were happening more and more often. Big Sil mentioned that a power station was close by, so they parked their pick-up truck and bikes and proceeded towards the building on foot.
This scenario was played on a 3' by 3' board, divided into 9 one foot square sections, with section 1 at the top left corner and moving down from left to right  to section 9 in the bottom right corner. I noticed in my past batreps that my roads were far too devoid of traffic. There should be a lot more crashed and abandoned vehicles about as the zombie outbreak gripped Mayhem City, so I rectified that slip-up in this scenario
The power station in the centre of the board is a scratchbuilt building using the walls from Games Workshop's Necromunda game. The small grey building behind it is an Ebbles medium sized Folding Unit Structure or a prefabricated building as we call them in the UK. I've only just recently made it. Reviews of both will follow soon.
The large ruined building, which I haven't shown before, came from Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 Imperial City set and is based on the Sanctum Imperialis model.
Team Vampifan began the game in sector 8, just across the road from the power station. Just to remind you, all were armed with Assault Rifles and all wore concealed Body Armour. Vampifan, Big Sil and Angie were Rep:5, whilst Gap was still only Rep:4.
I rolled for the Rep and placement of the three PEFs.
PEF:1 was Rep:2 and began play in the small park in sector 3.
PEF:3 was Rep:3 and appeared amidst the ruins of the big building in sector 6.
PEF:2 was Rep:1 and appeared in sector 5, which placed it inside the power station. Note the corpses, something else I felt was missing from previous batreps. They have no affect on play but they add to the ambience of the setting.

DAY 21 - Blackout part 1
There was only one special rule for this scenario. Because it took place at night during a blackout, visibility or Line of Sight, was reduced to 12". Unbeknownst to Team Vampifan, this was the night that the US Government launched Project Lazarus. However, the results of that fiasco would have no bearing on this encounter.
I rolled for lack of sleep for each member of Team Vampifan. Vampifan and Big Sil had slept for 8 hours during the past 24 hours and were fine. Angie had only slept for 4 hours and Gap for 6 hours. Both had to take the test. Angie passed 2d6 and Gap passed 1d6, meaning both were fine.
TURN 1.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 5, PEFs = 4
To get all the way across the road, Team Vampifan had to make Fast Moves. They all made it okay, even Vampifan who has the Slow Attribute. I've just noticed that I forgot to add my Fast Move counters behind the figures. Oh well, too late now! The heroes noticed a male corpse lying just outside the power station. Both of his legs were missing. From the trail of blood he had left behind, it looked like he had crawled from out of the power station. He also appeared to be only recently dead.
TURN 2.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 6, PEFs = 4
The dice rolls meant that no one could activate this turn. However, it did give Team Vampifan the chance to have a closer look at the legless corpse and they confirmed that he was a fresh kill.
TURN 3.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 4, PEFs = 6
Team Vampifan entered the darkened power station and immediately noticed more corpses strewn about the place. They also came in sight of PEF:2, which had to be resolved before I could draw a card from my Risks and Rewards deck. The PEF was determined to be Hostile NPCs, or more specifically, zombies. I rolled to see how many of them there should be and got a result of one more than the players, i.e. five. The leaders of both sides had to roll against their Reps on the Encounter Awareness Test table. Vampifan suffered a -1d6 penalty for being active and the zombie suffered a -1d6 penalty for being a zombie. Both sides passed 2d6, which meant that the inactive side should take an In Sight test with 2d6. However, the inactive side were the zombies, who never take any reaction tests, so they charged instead.
I rolled to see who out of Team Vampifan would be facing two zombies and it turned out to be Vampifan himself. Both sides had to roll for surprise as per the Meeting Zombies rule (see p.44 of BDTZ). The zombies rolled first and scored a 4 on 1d6, to which 5 was added for their numbers to give a total of 9. Vampifan rolled a 5, which added to his Rep score gave a total of 10. He could open fire on his assailants. With results of 8, 7 and 6 respectively, Big Sil, Angie and Gap failed to beat the zombie score and thus had to engage them in melee combat.
Vampifan fired a three round burst at the two zombies he was facing. He hit and killed them both, despite not being able to use the Easy To Hit rule because the zombies charged him. With an Impact rating of 3, Assault Rifles have 50%  chance of killing zombies and I rolled low for Vampifan both times.
Big Sil easily won his fight, scoring three successes to the zombie's zero. Scratch one zombie!
Angie took a lot longer to kill her zombie assailant. In the first round of combat she scored three successes and the zombie scored one. Next round, she scored two successes and the zombie scored none. Her opponent was Obviously Dead.
Gap got lucky. He only managed one success, but his opponent scored no successes and ended up Obviously Dead.
With the PEF successfully dealt with, I turned over the top card of my Risks and Rewards deck. It revealed no humans or zombies, but one resource - a set of keys. They belonged to the blue van parked outside the front door. I rolled to see who found them and it was Angie who got lucky.
All that remained to do was to roll 3d6 for zombie reinforcements. One turned up by the crashed car at the front of the big ruined building.
TURN 4.   ACTIVATION - Vampifan = 1, PEFs = 2, Zombies = 4
The zombie child shuffled closer to the power station front entrance.
Next to activate were the PEFs. I rolled for PEF:3 first as it had the higher Rep. I rolled 2d6 on the PEF Movement table and scored two successes. This meant that it moved one section towards the largest group of players, which placed it inside the power station.Rolling on the PEF Resolution table, I rolled result B: NPC Interaction. Rolling to see who they were and how many they were I determined that they were four Survivors and I decided to make them a SWAT team who had not gone rogue. They were on a mission to see why the power station had gone down in this part of Mayhem City. All of them were Rep:5 and all wore Body Armour. Three of them, including the team leader, were armed with Assault Rifles and BA Pistols. The fourth member toted a Shotgun and BA Pistol. (The figures I used for the SWAT team are from West Wind's Road Kill range.) 
Now that I knew who they were I had to roll on the NPC Interaction Table (see p. 117 of IZ). Both sides rolled 5d6 for the Rep of their leaders. No modifiers applied. Vampifan scored two successes and the SWAT leader scored three successes. This meant that the SWAT leader would roll again, using the NPC Negative Reaction Table (see p.118 of IZ). He rolled 1d6 and had a +1 modifier for beating Vampifan by one in the previous roll off. He scored a total of 6, meaning he became angry with Vampifan, and decided that a fistfight was the only way to resolve their differences.
Both characters rolled on the Draw Down Table (see p.119 of IZ) with no modifiers applying to either side. Rolling against their Rep scores, Vampifan managed just one success, whilst the SWAT leader scored four successes. With his superior fighting skills, he "cold cocked" Vampifan and knocked him Out Of the Fight. If ever the two met again in the future, the SWAT leader would regard Vampifan as a "hated enemy," which would have an adverse affect on further NPC Interaction tests.
With Vampifan being OOF, his colleagues had to take the Leader Lost test. All three passed 2d6 and Big Sil stepped up to take the leadership reins. That encounter most certainly did not pan out as I thought it might!
It was now time to roll for PEF:1 on the PEF Movement Table. It scored one success, which moved it one sector to the nearest group of players. This meant placing it just behind the SWAT team by the right hand rear door. As I rolled on the PEF Resolution Table, I was hoping for a result of 4, 5 or 6, indicating a false alarm. However, I rolled a 3, indicating Hostile NPCs. This time they turned out to be human, Gangers to be precise. There were six of them, lead by a Rep:5 Hard Case armed with an Assault Rifle. His colleagues were four Rep:4 Bangers, two of whom were armed with Shotguns, one who carried an SMG and one who held a BA Pistol. The sixth Ganger was a Rep:3 Punk armed with an SMG. (The leader was an eM4 Biker wearing a WW2 German helmet. The Banger armed with the BA Pistol was a figure I had sculpted myself and the remaining four were from West Wind's Redneck Militia pack.) They were not happy at seeing Team Vampifan, hoping the place would be deserted, but even less happy at seeing cops. This was about to get very messy!
I was faced with a situation not covered in the rules - a three way face-off between hostile humans. I decided to treat it as a two way encounter but rolled an extra dice for the third party on the Encounter Awareness Table. The three leaders rolled against their Reps (all Rep:5) with the Gangers suffering a -1d6 penalty for being active. Big Sil and the Ganger leader scored three successes but the SWAT leader scored four successes. The SWAT team were allowed to take an In Sight test using 2d6. However, they only passed 1d6, so all of their shooting would count as snapfiring. This made a big difference to the outcome!
The SWAT leader fired a three round burst at the Ganger leader and missed with every shot!
The first of the other two Assault Rifle armed troopers fired a three round burst at two Rep:4 Gangers. He hit and killed one of them who was armed with a Shotgun but missed with his other two shots.
The second Assault Rifle armed SWAT Trooper also fired a three round burst at two Gangers. His first shot hit the Rep:3 Punk and knocked him Out Of the Fight. His other two shots missed.
The SWAT Trooper armed with the Shotgun had better luck in that he hit two Rep:4 Gangers (one with the BA Pistol and one with an SMG). However, he only knocked them down. They both passed 2d6 on the Recover From Knockdown test and were only stunned.
That left the Ganger leader and one of the Shotgun armed Gangers standing. They had to take the Received Fire Test and both passed 2d6, which allowed them to snapfire. Not surprisingly, they chose to shoot at the SWAT Troopers. The Gang leader fired a three round burst at the SWAT leader. He hit him once and knocked him Out Of the Fight.
The Ganger with the Shotgun let rip and hit the two cops armed with Assault Rifles. One was killed outright and the other just knocked down. He only passed 1d6 on the Recover From Knockdown Test, which would have put him OOF but because he wore Body Armour, he was only stunned.
This triggered a Leader Lost test to be taken by the surviving SWAT Trooper. He passed 2d6 and by default, became the new leader.
This action packed turn was far from over. It was now time for Team Vampifan to activate and it would be an understatement to say they were well pissed off! They moved a couple of steps to get a closer look at who was left standing. Big Sil sought vengeance on Vampifan's behalf and fired a single shot from his Assault Rifle in the back of the last standing SWAT Trooper.
"Payback!" he snarled as the trooper crashed to the ground, seriously wounded and Out Of the Fight.
Angie fired a three round burst at the Gang Leader, hitting him once and putting him Out Of the Fight as well.
Gap also fired a three round burst, aiming for the last opponent standing - the Ganger with a Shotgun. He hit once but then ran out of ammo. Fortunately, his shot placed the Ganger Out Of the Fight. 
After the gunsmoke had cleared, Big Sil, Angie and Gap were the only folk left standing. A total of 31 shots had been fired in this one turn - a record for me! Note that I deliberately omitted my bullet counters from the photos above as there simply wasn't enough space left to include them.
All that remained to do this turn was to roll 31d6 for zombie reinforcements. Thank God this was only in a suburban area and not an urban location! I scored 11 successes, which was about par for the course. Six zombies appeared to the back and right side of the power station.
Another three (all zombie children) appeared across the road to the left of the building.
And finally, two more appeared at either side of the taxi left abandoned opposite the front of the power station, within sight of the little girl zombie.