Sunday, 31 January 2010

Frothers Zombies

Way back in March of 2009, FU-UK (Frothers Unite - United Kingdom) announced a competition to sculpt a zombie. Months later the winners were announced and at the beginning of November 2009 the winning entries went on sale. I ordered the whole lot immediately because I liked the look of the sculpts and I wanted the bonus figures. Over two months later, the figures finally arrived, proving beyond doubt that FU-UK could not organise a piss-up in a brewery. Their lack of communication and apologies to customers, who had ordered in good faith, was a first class lesson in how not to do customer service. This was the first time I had ever ordered from FU-UK and the experience has left me with both a loathing for and a mistrust of the company.
That said, I have nothing but praise for the figures or the sculptors. This fiasco had nothing to do with them and the sculptors certainly deserved better treatment and respect than what they received. I have not seen anyone else post pictures of the winning figures painted up, so I could be the first here. Let's take a closer look at the winning zombie sculpts.
In the two photos above the zombie at far left is clearly a hospital patient, who is a reminiscent of a similarly posed figure by Cold War Miniatures in their Horror Hospital set from The Dead Will Walk range. This chap is both taller and chunkier. He holds on to his blood drip bag with his right hand and in his left hand is the severed head of a surgeon. A nice, macabre touch is the inclusion of two rats, one sitting atop the pole holding the blood bag and the other lurking by the drain in the centre of the base. The base has been sculpted to represent a tiled floor. It was square originally but I've cut it slightly so that fits on a circular slottabase. The zombie has a line of stitches in his right arm and down his spine. A large chunk of flesh has bitten from his left knee, revealing the bone. He is an incredibly detailed figure, oozing character and personality, despite being a walking corpse!
The two figures in the centre of the group are zombie tanks or hulks, which will be recognisable to fans of certain computer games like Left4Dead and Resident Evil. The figure in the green combat pants came in three parts; his arms had to be glued in place. I added a small amount of modelling putty to hide the joins as there were small gaps when I glued them. I also added a large cut to his right shoulder. His only other wound is his right eye is dangling from its socket. The musculature on his arms and upper body is very impressive.
His companion is dressed only in a pair of Y-fronts, which might be amusing if he didn't look so fierce. You just know that when he swings those arms down he is going to smash something or someone to a pulp! His tongue seems too big and his mouth just too wide open but I mention that merely as an observation not a criticism. He has suffered a massive stomach wound, from which a couple of ribs are visible. These two zombie hulks are obviously specialist zombies. I'm keen to see how THW represent their rage zombies in the forthcoming ATZ supplement - The Lazarus Project. I'm sure these guys will fit in well for rage zombies.
The last figure in line appears to be much larger than the others even though only the top quarter of him is visible. I would guess that because the figures were sculpted by different people that scale was not a consistent factor. This chap is closer to 35mm scale than 28mm scale, which most of the others are. I'm still not sure if he is rising from a grave or trying to scramble free from a pile of rubble. Because I use rubble on nearly all of my bases I went with the second option. He has the look of a fat-cat businessman about him. His suit has been badly torn and ripped and his right shoulder is a bloody mess. I like the way that one eye is much bigger than the other, and his lolling tongue is something I always like to see. He is an unusual figure and, to be honest, is my least favourite figure out of the range. Nonetheless, I'll still find a use for him.
You'll know by now that I am always harping on about the need for more zombie kids. Well, this first figure in the two photos above really hits the spot. I think she is just superb! She so reminds me of the little girl zombie who attacks Peter the SWAT trooper in Romero's Dawn of the Dead after he empties a clip from his assault rifle at head height at a cupboard from which he'd heard moaning. Of course, head height for an adult meant the bullets passed harmlessly above the little girl! A great piece of zombie cinema! This little girl does not appear to be wounded but I have smeared her hands and mouth with blood and the top of her dress is soaked in gore. It just makes her look so scary!
Next up is another great female, this time a Japanese Cosplayer. I'll admit that I know very little about Cosplay and Googling it was quite a revelation! I've kept the colour scheme of this figure very simple - black and white. The sculpting of her is very delicate and reminds me of the work done by Kevin White for Hasslefree Miniatures. She looks rather cute from the front but from behind your eyes are drawn to her panties as her dress has been ripped to shreds and I'm sure I'm not the only male to think, "hmmm, nice arse!" Her right leg looks like it is about to give way, which isn't too surprising when you notice the large bite taken out of it.
The next zombie in line fills a niche that I really would like to see expanding - that of zombies feasting. We all know what happens if a zombie catches a victim - it'll feed on him/her. So why are there so few feeding zombies? This particular zombie has got himself half a leg to chew on and the way the sculptor has captured him in mid-bite is just perfect. The zed himself appears to be unharmed but note the position of his legs and you can tell instantly that he's a zombie and not a cannibalistic human. I definitely want to see more figures like him!
The final figure in line is a bonus figure that was only available if you bought the complete range. He is a zombified version of Colonel Marbles, who is the signature figure for Frothers. There is a version of the Colonel wielding a chainsaw whom I'll review in my next post along with the other zombie hunters that were sculpted as part of the competition. This figure is based on that chainsaw warrior. Obviously, he has lost the chainsaw but his clothing is virtually the same. His deerstalker hat has gone missing. Note the monocle hanging loose on his chest. His most obvious wound is that enormous hole in his stomach. The way his innards have been sculpted is just gross and as a confirmed gore-hound, an absolute joy to paint! What might not appear noticable is the wound to his left arm. It has been twisted through 180 degrees. Note his elbow is now facing to the front, which you can spot from his leather elbow patch! Another nice touch is the way the lower edges of his coat have been ripped away, revealing the stuffing inside. All in all, he is a great figure, and I was very pleased to get him.
There is no point in telling you how much these figures cost as the offer to buy them was a limited one, which closed at the beginning of this month. I was hoping to get them within a week of placing my order, Then after another week painting them I'd have reviewed them on my blog in mid-November, giving you readers plenty of time to order them yourselves. Sadly, I did not receive the figures until after the offer had closed. Now your best bet, if you want them, is to hope that someone on the likes of E-bay has a set to sell, but if they do, expect to pay over the odds. On the whole, I think the figures are exceptional. I hope the sculptors sell their master sculpts to another company. They really do need to be bought and appreciated by a wider audience.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ral Partha Zombies

Give yourself a pat on the back if you can recognise these four figures, as the title of this post is a little bit misleading. Yes, these are Ral Partha 28mm scale figures but officially speaking, none of them are zombies. Nonetheless, I'm using them as zombies and they fit in well with my horde. The first three figures in line are all ghouls from the Shadowrun range. The smartly dressed zombie at the far right is, I believe, a revenant vampire from the AD&D Ravenloft range. I might be mistaken about the origin of him as it is such a long time since I bought him. He might possibly be from the Vampire: The Masquerade range, but I don't think so. Anyone who knows for sure what range he comes from please let me know.
The only thing that differentiates the three ghouls from zombies is their hands. They have extended fingers, ending in claws. This is most noticable on the two males but less so on the female.
Looking at them in closer detail, the bald-headed zombie at the far left has had his shirt badly ripped. There is a deep cut to his right thigh. I have smeared his mouth and chin with blood, which has dribbled down to his chest. These figures all came with integral bases, and what I particularly like about this figure's base is that the sculptor has added a gravestone that has been knocked over. Look closely at his base and you can see the letters RIP inscribed on the gravestone.
The zombie in the torn black T-shirt has the longest fingers of the three, which to be honest, are only noticable if you look closely at the figure. He has a small cut to his left shoulder and a bigger cut running along the length of his lower right arm. I think that the main reason for using these as zombies rather than ghouls is that they don't fit my idea of what a ghoul should like. And what should a ghoul look like? Check out the range of ghouls by Heresy Miniatures - they are what ghouls should look like. These three are just too well dressed for ghouls despite the fact their clothes have been torn and ripped.
The female zombie does not have any obvious wounds although her dress has been torn and holed in places. I have smeared both of her hands in blood and the corners of her mouth are dripping with blood, although the effect is far subtler than what I used on the first zombie in line. Again, the sculptor, who I think was Chris Fitzpatrick, (he did a lot of work for Ral Partha in the early part of the 1990's) has added a knocked over gravestone to the base. this gravestone is in the shape of a cross, although only the top third is visible.
The face of the well dressed zombie is why I decided in using him as a zombie. It is almost skeletal-like with the flesh drawn back but still in place. In short, he looks like a corpse, and because he's a walking corpse, I decided to use him as a zombie. In gaming terms both he and the ghouls will see far more use as zombies than what they were originally intended to be used for. It is not often you see a zombie as smartly dressed as this chap. His clothes are immaculate, with not a mark on them. You could have a lot of fun thinking up a back story for this zed.
Sadly, all four figures are now out of production. I checked on the Ral Partha Europe website this morning to see if they sold the ghouls but despite stocking a lot of Shadowrun golden oldies, these were not on the list. If you are wondering why I am reviewing old figures that are out of production it is simply because I made a promise when I began my blog to showcase every single zombie in my horde. That is why my recent reviews have been distinctly retro. However, I've just finished painting a batch of new stuff, including the FU-UK zombies and zombie hunters. I'll be photographing them shortly and will probably start reviewing them with my next post.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Horrorclix Zombies 02

Following on from my last review, here as promised, are the rest of my Horrorclix zombies. No waffle this time, it's straight on with the review. The five figures shown above come from the expansion set called Freakshow, which contains a terrific collection of freaks and monsters from the Circus from Hell. First up is Herculon the zombie strongman, who is extremely tall (40mm from sole of feet to top of head) and muscular. His skin is pitted in many places and he has three nasty wounds. First up and most obvious, is a massive wound to his stomach, from which his internal organs are threatening to spill out but are kept in place by the coils of chain that circle his torso. Presumably, snapping those chains were part of his act but now they serve a different purpose. He also has two deep bite wounds to his left arm and lower right leg. The leg wound is so deep that you can see bone showing through. He holds a male victim in his right hand, who has been torn in half and had his left arm ripped off. Herculon is an extremely gory figure and I like him a lot!
Next in line is Hungry Bertha (as the rookie and experienced versions are called) or Big Big Bertha (as the veteran version is called). She is not classed as a zombie but as a psycopathic cannibal. It was the fact that she is a cannibal that prompted me to paint her up as a zombie. This grossly overweight figure is totally nude, with just a bib to cover her pendulous breasts. Painting her was a lot of fun and I did something different to her to my other zombies. I painted in bruises to show where the blood had pooled when she died. These were done with Citadel Leviathan Purple inkwash and a few others with Citadel Thraka Green inkwash. The trick is to water down the washes and to not overdo them. I'm happy with the results. On the original figure the blood on her bib was far more muted. I've really emphasised it with TCR. Note how it dribbles from her mouth and how her meat cleaver is stained. I like the way a lollipop has stuck to one of her bum cheeks! There were also pieces of salad stuck to her bib and left thigh but these got repainted as pieces of flesh. A truly gross figure but I mean that as a compliment.
In the centre of the group are Morty and Chuckles, the zombie ventriloquist and his dummy. Morty's clothes are full of holes but he does not appear to be suffering from any obvious wounds. He is a well sculpted figure and I particularly like Morty's sadly expressive face. If Morty's vocal chords still allow him to speak rather than moan I wonder if he gets Chuckles to shout, "Graaaaaaaaaaaaaains!"
Next in line is Southpaw, the zombie vendor offering liquid refreshment. But look closer and you'll see a severed hnd amongst the bottles on his tray! Apart from a few holes in his trousers he too, appears to be unwounded. I must admit to liking him the least out of this collection. There is nothing obviously wrong with him, it's just that I think the other four figures are much better.
The final figure out of this group is Johnny Dead, one of the twelve unique figures in the set. This former officer keeps a tight grip on the flag of the Confederate States of America. If he is from the American Civil War, he has aged well. Personally, I think he is a contemporary chap from an ACW re-enactment society, which makes more sense. He has suffered from an extremely debilitating wound, namely, he has been cut in two. When I got this figure, his flag was badly bent out of position. It is a problem that is quite common to Horrorclix figures due to the plastic they are made of. I recommend reading my reply to Rogzombie's comment in my last post to see how I fixed this problem.

This next batch of figures consist of one from the basic starter set (the skeletal biker) and four from the Lab expansion set. Technically speaking, the skeletal biker is not a zombie but I like him so much I had to include him with my other zeds. Perhaps the body parts covered by his clothes still retain flesh. What I particularly like about him is the way his clothes have been sculpted. The way they hang from his body is great. Also, check out the badge on the back of his leather jacket. No, I didn't paint that - that is how the figure comes in the box. It must be a decal, but it sure does look cool!
The pod zombie is one of my least favourite figures from the Lab expansion set. The idea of a zombie being reanimated by vegetation does not float my boat. His left lower leg has turned to bark, two stumps of wood protrude from his shoulder blades and vines twist all around him. There is nothing wrong with the sculpting of the figure, it is simply the concept of him that I question. Nonetheless, he is a zombie and so he's in my horde.
The irradiated zombie is interesting in that he has been sculpted out of transparent, luminous green plastic. It is an effect that Wizkids use on a few of their more unusual Horrorclix figures and it works well. His boots, belt, trousers and goggles have been painted normally. I gave his flesh tones a drybrushing of Citadel Scorpion Green just to make the details stand out more. Whatever he was working on in the lab has gone drastically wrong!
The evil cosmonaut is another figure that strictly speaking should be a skeleton but in this case, who's to say he isn't a zombie? Sure, he has a bony skull but that just shows that the flesh eating zeds were only able to feast on the one part of his body that was exposed! He is a very tall figure and although he is very nicely sculpted I do wonder what type of scenario is going to need a zombie cosmonaut? Incidentally, Wizkids had a promotion in which you could send away for a zombie astronaut. I did and when I received him I noticed the only difference between him and the cosmonaut was the paint scheme!
The final figure out of this group is called a frothweiler. I've included it in my collection for those who like zombie dogs and for those of you who are fans of Resident Evil. All the flesh is supposed to have been stripped from its body, leaving its muscles and sinews on display. Giving it a coat of TCR makes it look extremely wet and much more disgusting than its original matt red paint scheme. You can see from its size that this is one mean and nasty doggie! Down, boy!
In my previous review of my Horrorclix zombies I said that there were no bad sculpts amongst them. That is clearly not the case with this batch. The zombie vendor is just average and whilst the sculpting of the pod zombie is good, I just don't like the figure. Rogzombie mentioned in his comments for my previous review that you can buy Horrorclix zombies for as cheap as 25 cents each from the likes of E-bay. As I said before, look around and you can pick yourself some real bargains. I like the Horrorclix range of figures and I do hope that Wizkids bring the range back from the dead.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Horrorclix Zombies 01

In 2006, Wizkids added a new range to their successful Heroclix game called Horrorclix. Instead of collecting and gaming with superheroes and supervillains, monsters of various types took centre stage and I was hooked from the onset. Much as I liked superheroes my first love was always with the horror genre, hence this blog. I avidly collected the booster packs for Horrorclix and its three expansion sets, Freakshow, The Lab and Nightmares. The figures mainly came in three types of rarity value, labelled - rookie, experienced and veteran, or in other words, common, uncommon and rare. A fourth category called unique was also known as super-rare. Each set contained 28 figures of the rookie, experienced and veteran types and 12 unique figures, giving a total of 40 different figures per set and 96 in total. More often than not there was no difference in the sculpting of a figure for its rarity type. Things changed a bit for the Nightmares set, which comprised of 60 figures (16 each of common, uncommon and rare and 12 super-rare) with no duplicates amongst different types, thus making it much harder to collect them all. I did very well in collecting different figures from the first three sets but very poor for Nightmares. Matters weren't helped when Wizkids went belly up and the whole Horrorclix line got canned.
Most people who use them in games other than Horrorclix will do as I have, and remove the figure from its clix base and glue it to a slottabase. Some will also repaint the figures, as I have, whilst others will be happy to have a figure that they don't have to paint. The figures are quite tall, being roughly 32mm from the sole of the feet to the top of the head. This means that they do loom over smaller 28mm scale figures, so if you are a scale purist then steer clear! Fortunately, I'm not, so I'm only too happy to include them in my horde.
Looking at the five figures in the photos above, the first thing to point out is that they all come from the starter set. At the far left is an executed convict, who according to the Horrorclix rules is not a zombie but a spirit. Well, maybe, but the way he is walking screams "zombie!" to me. It is clear to see that he was going to be executed by means of the electric chair as you can see from the back view of him. It's a nice touch to have part of the chair attached to the cable running to his metal head cap. Going by the muscles showing on his arms and upper body he must have possessed incredible strength to rip the electric chair apart! Some may argue that he shouldn't be included amongst the zombies but I disagree. Besides which, I just like the figure.
Next up is the zombie lawyer, and don't we all wish there were a lot more of them? Lol! The sculpting on this figure is superb as you get a true sense of the pain he must have suffered when he was turned into one of the undead. Note how his left foot has been twisted all the way round so it now points backwards. Ouch! As if that wasn't bad enough to slow him down, a long metal spike has pierced his right thigh and gone all the way through. No wonder his arms are flailing about. Just to add to his woes, a large bite has been inflicted on his left arm.
In the centre of the group is what Wizkids describe as a shambling zombie. His clothing identifies him as a young man or elderly teenager. He has also suffered a lot when the rampaging zeds caught up with him. His most obvious wound is his left arm has been ripped off and he's holding it in his right hand. I suppose you could paint the arm up as belonging to someone else but I think it works best as being his own arm. The ankle of his left foot has shattered completely, leaving his foot attached to the body by a few sinews of flesh and muscle. His intestines are starting to spill out of a wound to the right side of his torso. Finally, he has been bitten on his right cheek.
Fourth in line is the zombie cop who is in the uniform of a police patrolman. His wounds are numerous and show he died an extremely gory death. Working from the top down, we can see that half of his face has been removed to reveal the skull. He has been shot about half a dozen times in the back. Both lower arms have bite wounds on them. A gaping stomach wound shows him spilling his guts. There are bullet wounds to both legs and numerous bite wounds to his right leg. What I particularly like about him is the way his fingers have been sculpted. Whenever I sculpt figures I always struggle to get the fingers looking realistic. His fingers really impressed me.
Finally out of this first group is the sorority zombie. She might have been one of the aloof bitches who make life hell for most students at high school but now look at her. Her designer dress has been ripped badly. But that is the least of her worries. Those nasty zombies have only gone and eaten her right hand and right foot. Don't you just hate it when that happens? They've also taken a huge bite out of her right shoulder. When I look at this figure, she reminds me of Paris Hilton and I just think, suffer you ugly bitch!

The three zombies to the left in these next two photos are from the Lab expansion set, whilst the two females are from the Nightmares expansion set. At the far left is the hardhat zombie, a beautifully sculpted former construction worker. Note how his tongue is sticking out of his mouth - I love that and the tilt of his head. His right arm has been torn away just above his elbow, so it's not hard to tell how he died. Rather oddly, his left boot and sock have gone missing. Again, I like how his left hand has been sculpted but being picky, I feel it is slightly too big.
The zombie patient in his hospital gown clutches his left arm to his chest after the hand had been bitten off. Blood stains the front of his gown and intriguingly, the hem as well. He has adopted the pigeon-footed stance of many zombies as he shuffles along on his quest for fresh blood. I can't remember why I painted him with Citadel Rotting Flesh. I usually reserve that colour for my toxic zombies. Perhaps he comes from a laboratory that was experimenting on reanimation techniques when it all went horribly wrong, as it inevitably does.
The zombie trooper in the centre of the group could represent an elite military special forces trooper or a police SWAT trooper. Either way, I think he is another excellent figure. His SMG is unmistakenly a 9mm Heckler and Koch MP5. You'd better hope he's not one of those intelligent zombies who knows how to use a firearm! Personally, I don't think he is. Most of his wounds appear to be bullet wounds, which are not easy to spot in the photos but are centred around his stomach, thighs and lower arms.
The zombie cheerleader really appeals to my sick sense of humour. Instead of waving pom-poms, she's waving the internal organs of a couple of victims. That is so gross but brilliant! For some reason zombie cheerleaders appear to be a popular choice amongst figure sculptors. This one has not fared too badly; she has two minor bite wounds to her legs and one to her left arm. Just by giving the entrails a coat of TCR really made them pop. Now they look disgustingly moist and fresh. I love this figure!
Finally, we come to the zombie chambermaid. The nine figures that I have shown before were all rookie or common figures. I had plenty of swaps of them so it was a no-brainer to add them to my horde. With the zombie chambermaid I was dealt a dilemma. She is a super rare figure, the only one that I was able to collect from the Nightmares set. Unfortunately, I did not receive a stat card with her, which was a horrible oversight by Wizkids. So, because I couldn't use her in a game of Horrorclix, I decided to make use of her in ATZ or other zombie games. Some of the Nightmare figures are crudely sculpted and painted. She is not. I can find no traces of a wound on her so I smeared blood around her mouth and chin to show she has recently fed. With a different paint scheme for her flesh tones she could quite easily pass for a human.
These figures may appear to be too big for some collectors and the paintjobs on them is at best, adequate. But, on the other hand, they offer a cheap way to build up a zombie horde, especially if you don't mind having duplicates. All ten figures that I have shown above are nicely sculpted and I don't think there is a bad 'un amongst them. I do know that you can buy individual figures and/or groups from various internet auction sites. Most rookie or common figures are dirt cheap, so I'd advise you to shop around for the best deal. I do know that Wizkids are now back in business and are still supporting their Heroclix ranges but whether the Horrorclix line will resurface remains to be seen. I hope it does, as I still need to collect a load more figures from the Nightmare set and I have gaps to fill in the other three sets. I'll review figures from the Freakshow expansion set and more figures from the Lab set next time.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Daybreakers Review

My first film review for 2010 is for the vampire flick called Daybreakers. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe and Claudia Karvan. It was directed by Michael and Peter Spierrig, the brothers behind the low budget movie, Undead. When I saw the trailer for it last year, I was intrigued enough to add it to my "must see" list. The premise of the film, a near future world in which vampires are the dominant species and humanity are either kept locked away as feeding stock or forced to go underground to eke out a precarious survival is an intriguing one. Could the film live up to the premise? Let's find out!
THE FILM. It is the year 2019 and vampires rule the world. Their numbers have grown exponentially, whilst those of humanity are dwindling. And therein lies a major problem for the vamps. At the rate they are drinking blood soon their supply of humans will have run out. Edward Dalton (played by Ethan Hawke) is a scientist tasked with finding a blood substitute before their natural stock runs out. He works for a huge pharmaceutical corporation, Bromley Marks, run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). As the film shows early on, only too graphically, the scientists are a long way from success. We also discover what happens to a vampire after it has gone too long without blood - it reverts to a feral beast. Edward encounters a human resistance movement led by Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe) and Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan). He is sympathetic to their plight and agrees to help them, especially when he learns that Elvis was once a vampire but is now cured. He moves in with them and is able to replicate that cure. Despite being hunted by a well armed security team from Bromley Marks he returns to Charles to offer all vampires his cure, fully believing a cure is better than a blood substitute. Sadly his timing is rather bad. His former colleagues have made a breakthrough whilst he was away and are preparing a blood substitute to go into full production in two days time. Cue extremely bloody and action-packed finale.
THE REVIEW. Okay, first things first. This film is not going to win any awards for acting or screenplay and nor is it a classic of the horror genre. The acting on the whole was cheesy and both Dafoe and Neill were more akin to panto characters, especially Neill. Hawke struggled to keep up but given his dialogue it was a thankless task. The plot was filled with so many holes and the whole concept of the vampire cure was just laughable and an insult to viewers' intelligence. However, despite all that, I liked it a lot. It kept me entertained for its running time of 98 minutes. I could find so much to criticise it for but I'm not going to.
You see, the film also had a lot to admire. Little touches like how vampires survive from day to day made this fanboy sit up and smile. For example, the concept of smart cars with windows that can block out UV rays was a logical concept. Tunnels and overhead passageways between buildings gave the vamps a way to cross the road during the day without suffering the ultimate sunburn. Coffee shops that substituted blood for milk sprung up. The film was also littered with TV reports from around the world showing just how deep the crisis was growing and these added a documentary air to the proceedings that I certainly appreciated. There were lots of nice little touches that I liked but they all added up. Then there was the ending. I am certainly not going to spoil it for you but it is so gloriously over the top and an absolute bloodfest! That alone made up for much of what went before. All in all I'd rate it 7 out of 10.

Left to right - Ethan Hawke, Claudia Karvan & Willem Dafoe. "We're the folks with the crossbows!"

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Citadel Zombies 02

This review is very much a blast from the past as I go ultra-retro with a look at some of the oldest zombie miniatures in my collection. These five minis that you see in the two photos above were all made by Citadel way back in the late 1970's. They are all in true 25mm scale and all include integral metal bases. In those days, slottabases had not been invented. and scale creep had yet to infect Citadel as badly as it has nowadays. In addition, the only non-historical wargaming figures you could buy were for fantasy role-playing games in general and Dungeons and Dragons in particular.
Once I decided that I was going to build a zombie horde in earnest I looked at my collection of fantasy figures to see what would work in a contemporary setting. Companies like Citadel, Grenadier and Ral Partha, along with others that have long since passed away, all had contenders. Admittedly, they all needed work doing on them. Repainting them was an essential, as my painting skills in those days was no more than adequate. Plus, they needed rebasing, which meant sticking them atop slottabases. Do you know, when slottabases first came out (I'm sure it was Games Workshop who introduced them) I hated them? I resisted sticking figures onto them and would cut off the slottatabs and glue the figures to pieces of plasticard. I also disliked thick metal bases. I wanted my figures to be as close to the ground as possible without having their height raised considerably by sticking them on a goddamned slottabase! Over the years my opinion has mellowed until now all of my figures MUST be stuck on a slottabase. For one thing, if all of the figures are on them then that doesn't affect the height of the actual figure. Everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. For a second thing, you can really go to town on making the bases scenic. My default flavour for bases is what you see above - a collection of grey rubble indicating a war-torn urban setting. For most of the games I play nowadays that works just fine.
So let's look more closely at the figures. First up, at the far left of the photo, is what could be the oldest zombie figure in my collection. He came out long before the other four in the photo and was part of the Citadel D&D monsters collection. Despite being a fantasy figure, with a new paintjob, he fits in very well in a contemporary setting. His face is almost skeletal like with the skin pulled tight to the skull. I've left his eye sockets without eyeballs, which isn't such a big deal for a zombie as they seem to use hearing as their primary sense. Blood has run down from his eye sockets to pool in his neck area. He has a nasty bite wound to his right arm, in addition to wounds to his right shoulder and centre of his back. He's a nicely sculpted figure and I still like him. I'm sure that he was made in the late half of the 1970's.
The next four figures in line are probably from the very late 1970's or very early 1980's. Citadel began producing armies of fantasy figures in those days with lots of variant heads for a particular figure in the range. It was this policy that stopped me in my efforts to buy every single figure they produced! The zombie with the meat cleaver has had his right arm bent slightly so that he holds the cleaver in front of him instead of to one side. He too is bald-headed but his head is not as skeletal looking as the previous zombie. His clothes are ragged and hang in tatters but the only blood I have added to him is on the blade of his cleaver.
The zombie in the middle is one that I have multiple versions of. I particularly like him because his intestines are flopping out of his stomach cavity. See, I've always been a gore hound! I also liked this model's head a lot, which is why I chose him for my contemporary zombie horde over the others I own. Note that his right eye is hanging out of its socket and a large piece of hair has been ripped away from the back of his head. Nice and gory!
Speaking of nice and gory, the zombie to his left has suffered severe damage. His head is a complete mess as pieces of flesh have been bitten or torn off, although amazingly, his eyes remain intact. He carries a large carving knife, that also has a bloody blade. There is a small bullet wound in his upper right chest with a massive exit wound only partially visible between his shoulder blades.
The final figure in this group has been painted in the bright orange garb of a prison inmate. Because he is in a crouching pose he appears to be the smallest figure in the group. The knees of his trousers are holed and bloodied and he has an assortment of wounds to his torso and right thigh. From the state of his wide open mouth it looks like dental hygiene was not high on his list of priorities!
I would imagine that these figures will be extremely difficult to get hold of nowadays and I would not like to place a price on them. If anyone has seen them on sale on any of the auction websites, do let me know how much they went for. They are small when placed alongside the more common 28mm scale figures that are so prevalent today but that does not matter to me. As I keep on saying, humans come in a vast array of sizes and shapes in real life so why worry about a few millimetres in a miniature figure?
Finally, in another dig at Citadel and their parent company, Games Workshop, I must say that these figures and most of the ones in my previous review are far superior to the horrible plastic zombies that they sell for Warhammer today. Just look at how perfectly proportioned these five figures are. Now take a look at the current GW plastic zombies and weep!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

ATZ scenario: Giving Up The Goat

This is the first of a series of scenarios for All Things Zombie (ATZ) by Two Hours Wargames. The introduction to the scenario reads as follows: "Three days ago two members of your group went down river by boat in search of supplies. They were expected back before nightfall but it's been three days since they left. Julie and Phil have only been with your little group of survivors for a short time. Maybe it was a mistake to let them go by themselves but sometimes that's the way things go. Since the zed outbreak it's better to look out for yourself. But that still doesn't make you feel any better. You asked for volunteers and two others will go with you. You just hope for their sake that Julie and Phil didn't go all the way down to Lake Havasu. Not with the rumours about things worse than zombies prowling the countryside."
This is a short scenario that introduces new rules and monsters to the world of ATZ. The new rules consist of sleep deprivation and its affects on a PC as well as detailed rules for using boats in your campaign. There are short rules for encountering feral dogs, javelinas (a large boar-like beast found in the US southwest) and rattlesnakes. The new monster that features in this scenario is the Chupacabra, whose name translates from Spanish to "goat-sucker." Be warned, they are a lot tougher than a zombie in a fight! The scenario also introduces a new concept to ATZ that is a common tool in other THW games - PEFs or Possible Enemy Forces. They can be enemies, allies, items or places. PEFs can be almost anything and their use reflects the uncertainty of what the player can expect.
So far, so good. the scenario is played as a series of random encounters on a board that has been divided into 18 squares, forming a 3' by 6' rectangle with each square being 1 foot per side. You start with a Rep:5 Star and two Grunts or you can substitute characters from your own campaign. I was going to give this scenario a negative review because it lacks a clear ending or indeed any guidance on how to end/continue it. I mentioned this on the THW forum and got a reply from Ed Texeira, the scenario's author. He informed me that the scenario was complete but the key to it is that it is the first of many. There are clues to be found as to what has happened to Julie and Phil but nothing concrete. At the end of the scenario you can only speculate upon their fate. I wanted something more satisfying, even if it was just a note to say "to be continued."
The scenario is only available as a PDF file but the good news is that it is only 14 pages long, which isn't much to print out if, like me, you prefer to have a physical copy to hold in your hands. The even better news is that it only costs $3.00. If you are a fan of ATZ, do you need this product? That depends entirely upon the campaign you're running. Yes, the rules for sleep deprivation and using boats are useful but they aren't essential. They're entirely optional. Ditto with the rules for the animal encounters and the Chupacabra. For me personally, I doubt if I'll ever use the Chupacabra in my games. It just doesn't really float my boat. However, I can see myself using the other new rules. So although the scenario has faults, I'm still going to give it a thumbs up and recommend it to ATZ fans. If, as Ed suggested, this is just the start of the story, then I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Citadel Zombies 01

When I showed off my horde of 332 painted zombies at the end of 2009 there were still some of them that I had not reviewed. I plan on redressing that now and over the coming weeks will hopefully get them all reviewed. The six zombies in the two photos above are all from the Games Workshop Necromunda skirmish game. These date back to the 1990's when the Outlanders supplement was published for Necromunda. These form part of the Scavvies, a gang of mutants and outcasts. You will notice that I have painted their flesh with a green tinge, which mainly comes from the GW Rotting Flesh acrylic paint. It seemed to fit them better than the pallid grey I normally paint my zombies.
Starting at the far left is a rather static zombie holding a wooden club that has been reinforced with metal bands. Like the rest of his colleagues he wears a collection of ragged clothing, with the sleeveless coat being common to all six. He has some deep gouges to his right arm and a bandaged left wrist and right foot.
The zombie standing next to him is similarly armed and attired. He has a fuller head of hair and waves his left fist in a threatening manner. He has a big bullet hole in the small of his back.
Next up, is a zombie waving a piece of pipe with a huge spike hammered through one end. I like how his tongue is sticking out of his mouth. However, the way his legs and feet are positioned makes him look like he is dying to go to the toilet! His wounds are rather minimal - a couple of bites to his right arm and a graze to his forehead.
The fourth zombie in line is wielding a large bone (probably a femur) that has been reinforced in places with metal. His left hand is heavily bandaged. He has lost his right shoe. What at first appears to be a holster on his right hip is actually a quiver for arrows or possibly a quarrel for crossbow bolts. Obviously he was an archer of some sort before he joined the ranks of the undead. His right arm is covered in scratches and unsightly boils. I've painted blood dribbling from the corners of his mouth.
To his left is another zombie armed with a very large bone; too large to have come from a human. He has lost his left shoe and he keeps his trousers up with a rope belt. Hmm, whatever works! He has cuts to his arms and legs but none that look life-threatening.
Finally, is a bow-legged zombie armed with a piece of piping. His shoulder pad identifies him as a member of the Scavvies gang. He is the only figure in this group to be wearing a wristwatch. I do like the way this zed's face has been sculpted. It is full of angry menace. He too, sports minor wounds to his arms and legs.

The two zombies to the left of the photo above are from the Games Workshop Bloodbowl range. Naturally, they are members of the Undead team. I have to admit that I do not like the zombie Bloodbowl player. His hands are far too big and that spike on his shoulder pad just looks silly. On the plus side, his face has been well sculpted. He has his tongue sticking out of his gob, which I like. His pose is decidedly average. I painted him up as part of the Scavvy zombies,
The zombie cheerleader on the other hand, is a delightful figure that I like a lot. She has been exceptionally well sculpted. Instead of waving a pair of pom-poms around, she has a pair of severed female heads, which is a great touch. The severed heads are beautifully sculpted and very different. The one in her right hand has been chopped off at mouth level, which you don't often see. Kudos to the sculptor for that decision. On the other severed head note the two pigtails on either side of her face. Also, note the corn-rows in the hair of the zombie herself. This is a quality sculpt, indeed. Looking at her from behind check out the size of her backside! J-Lo eat your heart out, pet! There are no wounds at all on the figure but that does not matter - you couldn't mistake her for being anything else but a zombie.
The final two figures on view are from the Games Workshop Chainsaw Warrior game, which has been out of production for many years now. The zombie on the right is unarmed and dressed in ragged clothing. I'm pretty certain that I sculpted his shoes on. He got repainted and rebased just last year and looks a lot better now. He fits into my zombie horde very well. He has been shot in the back with an exit wound emerging from his chest.
Finally, we come to another one of my favourites out of the Citadel range - the zombie soldier. Like his colleague he too was repainted and rebased last year. The addition of the rusty barbed wire to his base was a neat touch, I thought. He holds his M-16 assault rifle upside down as if he's going to use it as a club. His uniform hangs in shreds. He appears to have been shot in the heart. His face is almost skeletal-like but in my opinion, is just a bit too big for the rest of his body. This is a shame as I genuinely like this figure.
So, ten figures of mixed quality. The Necromunda zombies, which I regard as being of average quality, are still available at £8.00 for a pack of three. However, when I checked the GW website this morning it said that the figures would be supplied randomly. This pisses me off, not being able to stipulate what figures you want. Caveat emptor, my friends! The Bloodbowl zombie player is available for £5.00, which is way overpriced I think! Sadly, I couldn't see the zombie cheerleader on the website at all. It is not so very long that I ordered her from the GW website, maybe two or three years ago. I think I paid £4.00 for her. Perhaps you might find her on E-bay, as she is a very recent sculpt. As for the two Chainsaw Warrior zombies, they are long out of production and if you can find a buyer for them, good luck to you. No, mine are not for sale!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Miniature Vampifan & Vampirella

It's my first post of 2010 and what do we have here? A figure review that doesn't involve zombies? That's right - here we have Vampifan (that's me, folks!) and the love of his life, Vampirella. After posing with 332 zombies in my last post I figured Vampifan needed a break. And who better to pose him with than Vampirella?
The figure of Vampifan is one of five figures in the Copplestone Castings Civilian Militia set 2, which is part of the Dark Future range. The set costs £8.00, which is good value for money these days. As soon as I saw the figure I knew that I wanted to convert him to look more like me. Not that he needed much converting. I added the glasses and increased the size of his belly with modelling putty. It was nice to see Mark Copplestone sculpting someone who was overweight and it was this, more than anything else that attracted me to this figure. I make no bones about it, I'm fat. I don't exercise enough and I'm overly fond of junk food. However, my weight is coming down due to me cutting down on a lot of the things that I shouldn't eat and eating smaller portions of the stuff I do like.
When it came to painting Vampifan there was only ever going to be one design for his T-shirt and that's the portrait of Vampirella that I frequently use as my avatar on various web forums and which you can see on this blog-site as my portrait. And just in case you are wondering, I actually own that T-shirt in real life. It's hardly ever been worn as I want to keep it in good condition. The painting is one of my favourite portraits of Vampirella and was painted by Joe Jusko, an artist for whom I have great admiration. Reproducing Joe's portrait on the T-shirt was the hardest part of painting this figure but I'm pleased with the result, even if the word "Vampirella" underneath the portrait is an indecipherable squiggle.
The baseball cap is something I frequently wear and my current cap is identical to Vampifan's being navy blue with gold trim. I do not own any combat pants or boots and I certainly don't own any firearms. The Vampifan figure has seen numerous outings as leader of my gang, the Slayers, for the Gangs of Mega City One skirmish game. Both he and his gang have fared well. Rather than call him Bryan Scott (my real name) I called him Scotty Bryant. Although he is designed as a near future character I see no reason not to use him in a contemporary setting like All Things Zombie. Indeed, if I ever get round to running an ATZ campaign, I will certainly use this figure to represent me. Having seen how much fun Veloci is having with his ATZ campaign (you must check out his blog. You'll find the address for it, Tactical Miniatures Gaming, listed under My Favourite Websites in the sidebar. He writes the most entertaining battle reports) I too want to run a campaign rather just one off stand alone games. Whether that happens remains to be seen but I can dream, can't I?
Moving on, let's look at the Vampirella figure. She is a conversion of a 30mm scale vampire by Blood Moon Miniatures. You can visit their website here:
You'll find her listed under the Ladies Set 1, which consists of two vampires, retailing at $10.00 for the pair. The other figure is lying down on an animal skin rug or blanket. I guess for copyright reasons they can't call the figure Vampirella but one look at her costume (or lack of it!) and you could not mistake her for anyone else. The figure came with bare legs, so I added her knee length boots out of modelling putty and I also added a pair of bracelets to her upper arms to make her look even more like Vampirella should look. The sculptor has captured Vampirella in a playful mood and I absolutely love the figure. A few other companies make figures of not-Vampirella but of them all, this is my favourite. She has a stunning figure but if I was to be brutally honest I'd have to say that the sculptor has made her breasts too big. Given that I'm unashamedly a breast man, I can't believe I've just typed that! Still, Vampirella's vital statistics are 36C-24-36. Too many amateur artists over-inflate her breasts. Get real, guys!
The only time I have ever used Vampirella in a game was in a GURPS Supers campaign that I ran recently. Sadly it came to an abrupt end when one of my two gaming colleagues left, never to be seen again. Once he left the campaign just came to an abrupt halt, which is such a shame as Vampi was an awesome character. Perhaps I'll use her in a game of All Things Horror if Two Hours Wargames ever bring out rules for major vampires. I'm sure she could kick zombie butt without any problem. I've just thought, would zombies feed on a vampire? Probably not, I'm guessing but if the vampire has just fed then they just might.
I hope you'll forgive me for being so self-indulgent here. Normal service will be resumed with my next posting, I promise! Oh, and seeing as this is my first post of 2010, happy new year, everyone!