Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Vampifan's Views 24 - Monthly Musings 10

Vampirella by Julie Bell in a dynamic pose
It's the end of another month and once more it is time for me to reflect on the past four weeks and to let you know what I have planned for the near future. Currently on my painting desk are 16 Grekwood Minis 28mm scale hospital zombies and the second set of 4 Studio Minis 28mm scale Left4Dead mutant zombies. I should finish them in the next day or two. I have just finished making two WWG 28mm scale construction vehicles from their old Mayhem Junkyard set. One has the crane arm and the other has the digger arm. Incredibly, I initially only printed one set out and actually thought about which version to make. I was favouring the crane over the digger. Thankfully, I got hit with a dose of common sense and I printed out a second set so that I could make one of each. D'oh! What was I thinking of?
Next up, I'll paint my second set of 25 Victory Force zombies from their first horde collection. In case you missed my comment to Joe/Zabadak in my review of the West Wind Zombie Rock Fans, let me just repeat here that I have ordered VF's Zombie Horde II. That's another 100 figures to add to my collection of zeds. I am very confident of reaching my goal of 1,000 individual (i.e. no duplicates) zombies before the end of 2012. On the card modelling front I'm torn between making another Dave Graffam ruin (I quite fancy the Ruined Church) or making my first Stoelzel's Structure model (possibly the Cottage because it'll be such an easy project). Yes, I will end up making them both, but I'm not sure which one will get made first.
This month I finished reading two excellent novels - Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry and Siege by Rhiannon Frater. Assassin's Code is volume 4 of the Joe Ledger series and sees Joe going up against vampires in Iran. It's another fast paced and action packed rollercoaster ride. Siege was one of two novels that I was eagerly awaiting this year. The other one is Blackout by Mira Grant. Both are part three of a trilogy. Siege brings to a close the As the World Dies trilogy and was most enjoyable. The survivors have to face a zombie meta-horde! Nuff said, although expect a much longer review very soon.
I got to see three films at the cinema this month and I enjoyed all three immensely. First up was Avengers Assemble, easily the best superhero film I've seen. The Hulk just steals the film and had me laughing out loud at times. Next was The Cabin in the Woods, a horror film that looks familiar (five teengers stay in a cabin on a weekend break, far from civilisation and one by one meet a grisly end) but is full of surprises as all is not what it seems. Thankfully, it doen't cop out with the ending either. Finally I saw the Indonesian martial arts movie, The Raid. Extremely brutal and violent. A team of 20 SWAT troopers raid a multi-storey apartment block run by a vicious criminal element. What they don't know is that their mission has not been officially authorised, meaning they are on their own with no chance of back up.
Whilst I was in Newcastle city centre I called in at Wilkinson's supermarket and bought these -
This is a Wilko 1/43 scale car and caravan set priced at £4.39. Yes, I admit it is a tad too large, but I really wanted it for the caravan, which I think is excellent.
The cars come in a choice of three colours - blue, red and metallic grey. As you can see, I bought one of each. The cars are die-cast metal and feature opening doors and interior detail. The caravans have plastic bodies and are all the same colour - beige. They feature retractable tow-bars but sadly, not opening doors and the darkened windows means you can't see inside. With these three I have the start of a caravan park or more importantly, mobile accomodation for three groups of survivors in my ATZ campaign.
I had more good news regarding model vehicles when right out of the blue I received a parcel from my good friend and fellow blogger, Lucky Joe. Inside were these four superb vehicles -
These were a thank you present for me sending Joe a free copy of the Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? novel by Max Brallier. I told Joe there was no need to send me anything but he insisted and I must admit, I am absolutely ecstatic at receiving them.
Note that as per a request from one of my followers (that's you, Zabadak) I am now including a figure in all of my vehicle and scenery reviews from now on. Naturally, I chose my Vampifan mini-me figure to give you a sense of scale. I hope you all appreciate it.
The above photo shows Vampifan standing between a fast food van and a fire department SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). I love the interior detail of the fast food van, and the SUV has opening doors, which I always like.
Here's a closer look at the camper van and the sheriff's department patrol car. The camper van, or RV (Recreational Vehicle) has a fully detailed interior that is beautifully sculpted. Vampifan has to get himself one of these! The patrol car comes with opening doors. Once again, many thanks, Joe. You are a true star!
Finally, I'd like to leave with an announcement. Fellow zombie gaming blogger, Morbious, is running a contest on his blog to create a zombie-themed diorama. You can find all the details on his blog-site. I'd urge you all to give it a try. As Morbious stresses, this is more about having fun than technical ability. There's plenty of time to enter, so don't let that put you off.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

West Wind Biker Gang 02

Just over a year ago I reviewed the West Wind Biker Gang of 10 figures on motorbikes from their Road Kill range. (See here if you want a reminder). I'd have liked to have seen dismounted versions of these figures but sadly, West Wind don't make them. However, whilst looking round some of West Wind's other ranges I found these - set GHB0005 Biker Gang, hidden in the Gothic Horror range, Bad Moon Over Memphis.
This bunch of hard asses are tooled up for close combat. It does appear that none of them are armed with a firearm but that's not true. See if you can spot who has a concealed pistol before I reveal the answer below.
West Wind have not named any of the figures in this set, but I have, so I'll use my names to identify them. At the far left of my two photos is Slash. He is armed with a broken bottle, not the best of melee weapons but if he jabbed you in the eye with it you'd know about it! He wears a denim waistcoat and flared denim trousers, capturing the spirit of the 1970's. All of these bikers are wearing sunglasses but Slash has decided to look cool by wearing mirror-shades.
Next in line is Rupe and, yes, it is short for Rupert, but no one calls him by his full name... at least not if they want to keep their teeth! He is wielding a tyre iron in his right hand. He has a scowl on him that would do Judge Dredd proud! However, despite his bulging muscles and bad ass attitude, I couldn't help but think when I first saw him, is he auditioning for the Village People? I think it's the cap that makes him look so gay. I'm not sure if there is a band called "Hair of the Dog". It's just something I made up. I'll explain why below.
Jethro is the figure that I've nominated as the leader of this gang. He has a pair of brass knuckle-dusters on his hands, making him a dangerous opponent to take on in a fist fight. Congratulations if you spotted the pistol sticking out of the back of his jeans. You can just see the brown handle of it in the rear view photo. Have you noticed that each figure is more muscular than the last one, which is why I arranged them this way.
Which nicely brings us to the final figure in the group, the very aptly named Tank. Tank is a force of nature! If you need a door breaking down, he's your man. In fact, he could probably run through brick walls! He carries a short length of bike chain in his right hand, which he uses to lethal effect in close combat. He has his hair braided into a ponytail but who's going to be brave enough to tell him it's not a good look?! It's bad enough he has a ponytail, but a braided ponytail? Come on!
I have to say that I am very impressed with this set of figures. I like the fact that they aren't a bunch of gun-toting bikers. What has got me thinking about this set is that because they are part of the Bad Moon Over Memphis range, which mainly features werewolves, perhaps these are all werewolves as well, only they have been depicted in human form. It's just a thought. So for that reason I wanted one of them to be wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of a band that could also be werewolves. Thus I came up with the name, "Hair of the Dog", hinting at a werewolf connection. Alternatively, they could all be human, including Hair of the Dog, but at least I now have options.
This set of four 28mm scale figures sells for a very reasonable £6.00 from the West Wind webstore. They really are a worthy addition to any biker gang you might have. Here's another thought. Notice that all of them are holding nothing in their left hands. I'm discounting Jethro's knuckle-duster here. Those hands could be gripping a bike's handlebar. If you buy the mounted biker gang you could convert these four to mounted bikers by cutting them in half at the waist and gluing them to a set of mounted biker's legs. The left arms will need a bit of tweaking to grip a bike's handlebar but that shouldn't be too difficult (he says confidently!). I'm very tempted to give this conversion a go, as I have been thinking of buying a second set of West Wind's mounted biker gang to use for conversions.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

West Wind Vampire Rock Stars

It can now be revealed who my zombie rock fans (see last post) were following and sorry, all of you who thought it was Elvis, you're wrong. It is of course more undead in the form of Vampire Rock Stars - set GHB0004 from West Wind's Bad Moon Over Memphis figures, which are part of the Gothic Horror range.
Once again, I feel that West Wind are letting down any potential buyers by only showing one figure from this set on their website (the figure at the far right of my two photos). Still, at least they managed to paint him this time, but I did not copy their colour scheme.
Two things that all four of my figures have in common are that they all have red eyes, to accentuate the fact that they are no longer human, and secondly, they are all wearing black trousers. This helps to tie them together as a group. Does this group have a name? Yes it does. Meet the Degenerates. Why that name? As I have mentioned before, I was a big fan of the role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade. My favourite clan was Clan Toreador, the artists and the creatively talented. I see this group being made up mostly of Toreador vampires. Clan Toreador were derisively called the Degenerates by other non-Toreador vampires, so this group has taken the name and used it as a badge of honour. Let's meet them individually.
At the far left of the group is the enigmatic Wysper. With his long flowing white hair, he certainly stands out from the crowd. All three of the backing musicians are bare-chested. Wysper is particularly well-muscled. He does not say much but he can surely pack a punch, both physically and musically. He belongs to Clan: Brujah (made up of intellectuals and rebels) and he plays electric guitar.
Standing next to him is the group's lead singer, Krymson Sky. He is instantly recognisable by his flowing crimson shirt, white streak in his hair and his gold-plated acoustic guitar. Yes, he is as flamboyant as he looks. One of Clan Toreador's primary vampiric disciplines is Presence, the ability to sway the emotions of others. Krymson is so highly charismatic that he rarely has need to use it to influence large crowds. That and his musical prowess are enough to win over many a critic.
Third in line is another Toreador vampire, Requiem. He writes most of the group's lyrics and is the most outspoken member of The Degenerates. His guitar playing is legendary and he has been known to go off on ten minute or longer riffs when performing in concert. He is also a front man for a number of men's hair care products... because he's worth it! Note that this figure comes in two pieces - the guitar is separate from the body.
Lastly, is the most feral-looking member of the group, Diablo. Diablo is a member of Clan Gangrel, known as the shape shifters. There is something anatomically incorrect about him, but I mention that merely as a statement of fact, not a criticism. It actually fits the character very well. Note that he is the only member of the group to be bare-footed. Presumably, this is to make any transformation he makes that much easier. Gangrel vampires can transform into bats, wolves or at higher levels, mist. Diablo plays bass guitar.
Note that all names and clan affiliations were designed by me. As with the zombie rock fans, these are heroically scaled, meaning thay are a lot taller than true 28mm scale figures. No matter, I say. They are nicely sculpted and look like a right bunch of head-bangers. I think it's safe to say they won't be playing middle-of-the-road pop.
Now I happen to like vampires more than zombies so this set was a "must have" for me. I suspect however, that I'm going to be in a minority here and that most of you will prefer the zombie rock fans. Ah, well! For those of you who are interested in purchasing this set, they cost just £6.00. In my descriptions of the figures I have deliberately tied them in to the Vampire: the Masquerade RPG, as I know some of you are also fans of the game. If you are not familiar with the game then just consider them for what they really are - vampire rock stars.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

West Wind Zombie Rock Fans

I rather suspect that when folk check out West Wind for contemporary zombies, they look no further than the rage zombies from their Road Kill range. Well, I'm going to show you a set of four 28mm scale zombies that you might not have seen before. These are from set GHB0006 Zombie Rock Fans and they can be found amongst the Gothic Horror range under the Bad Moon Over Memphis category. There are some nice figures in this category and I'll showcase my favourites amongst them over the next few weeks.
The West Wind website only shows one of the four figures and he's not even painted. I don't think this is a very good marketing strategy as we gamers like to know what we're buying. Anyway, I took the plunge on your behalf, dear readers, and I can now show the four figures that comprise this motley crew.
The figure at the far left of my two photos is the one shown on West Wind's website. He has something of a Native American vibe going on about him. At first I thought that those tufts of hair sticking out of his head might be feathers, but they're not. They are definitely part of his hair. I gave him brown leather trousers and waistcoat to reflect his heritage. The bone that he's holding aloft in his left hand still has sinews of flesh attached to it, so he'll no doubt enjoy chewing on that. His wounds are quite severe. His guts are spilling out of a massive hole in his belly. His right eye is on the point of popping out of its socket. He also has bite wounds to his right cheek, right shoulder and left elbow. His musculature is very well defined, making him a very nicely sculpted figure.
Next to him is another zombie who could also be of Native American origin, although I've painted him in more traditional bikers' garb - black leather jacket and faded denim jeans. I don't know what's going on with his hair - it's all over the place! He's holding a bone, which is adorned with small feathers so it could be some sort of fetish item used by a tribal shaman. His wounds are almost identical to that of the previous figure. His right eyeball has popped out of its socket and hangs down his face. His belly wound is not as severe as the first zombie's but is still bad enough. Note that he is bare-footed.
Third figure in line is a zombie with a very impressive Mohican haircut. He wears a badly ripped T-shirt, faded denim jeans and black leather boots. He has a blood-soaked bandage on his left arm. He has been bitten in both shoulders and has a small puncture wound in his lower right leg.
I'm not sure if the fourth zombie in line should still be standing. He has had the top of his skull removed to reveal his brain. That should prove fatal to any zombie, so we must assume that the brain was not damaged when he lost the top of his skull. He is dressed in similar attire to the previous zombie but his boots are sandy brown in colour.
It has to be said that these are not your normal run of the mill zombies and are someting of a niche choice. I like them, simply because thay are so different from the norm. Be aware that these figures are heroically scaled for 28mm scale figures. The two standing zombies are about 32mm from the soles of their feet to the top of their heads, which does not take into account their weird hairstyles. Hence, they look even taller. The second two zombies are crouching down, making it harder to gauge their actual heights. Suffice to say, some of you may find them too tall for your liking.
They retail for £6.00 for all four figures, making them very good value for money. So, where would you expect to find a group of zombie rock fans? I'll provide the answer next time, when I show you the group they are most likely to be following.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Being Human series 1-4

Being Human is a big hit on BBC 3 and one of my favourite TV series. With the recent release of series 4 on DVD, a review of this series is long overdue. The premise of the series sounds like the opening line of a joke - a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf share a house together. Well, there certainly is humour in the series, but mainly there is drama centred around three very different characters, whom you will quickly come to love, admire and most important of all, care deeply about. Annie Sawyer, played by Lenora Crichlow, is a ghost who haunts the house, having been murdered there by her last boyfriend. At first she doesn't realise this. Only other supernatural creatures can see and hear her, which makes her very happy when George and Mitchell move in. George Sands, played by Russell Tovey, is a reluctant werewolf, who doesn't want to hurt anyone or pass on the werewolf curse. He's a bit of a nerd but very intelligent, being able to speak multiple languages fluently. John Mitchell, played by Aiden Turner, is a 100+ year old vampire but has the looks and appearance of a 20 year old. He also doesn't want to hurt anyone, so he abstains from taking blood. No one calls him John, he's just known as Mitchell. The trio try to live normal lives and blend in with humanity. George and Mitchell work as porters in a Bristol hospital, keeping a low profile. Series 1 deals with their struggles at "being human" as they deal with mundane issues like house-sharing and girlfriends. However, their primary conflict is stopping the rise of the rest of Bristol's vampire population, led by Herrick, played by Adrian Lester, who just happens to be Mitchell's sire. Herrick masquerades as a policeman and is a complete and utter bastard but such a joy to watch! Incidentally, in this series, vampires are not affected by sunlight.
Series two picks up almost directly after the climax of series one. George's girlfriend, Nina Pickering, played by Sinead Keenan, got scratched by George when he was in werewolf form at the end of series one. You know what that means? Yes, come the next full moon, she also transforms into a werewolf. She tries to keep her condition a secret from the others, especially George, but fails. Annie searches for a new meaning to her existence, now that she has resolved her murder as a human. Mitchell steps into the power vacuum in the ranks of the Bristol vampires, following what happened at the end of series one. With great reluctance, he becomes their new leader, a decision that he soon comes to regret. A new threat to our heroes arrives in the form of a mysterious organisation known as CenSSA (Centre for the Study of Supernatural Activity). Their leader, Dr. Jaggett, convinces Nina that they have a cure for lycanthropy (they don't!) and she happily believes him to such an extent that she splits up with George. Annie learns of the existence of Purgatory, a place she does not want to visit... ever. George tries hard to live a normal life. He gets a new job as a language teacher and tries to settle down with a young mother although her daughter never takes to him. The veil is lifted from his eyes when he almost transforms at a PTA meeting and thus he welcomes Nina back into his life and agrees to meet with CenSSA. He is now so desperate for any possibility of a cure for his lycanthropy. Annie tags along with them but suffers a cruel fate at the hands of Dr. Jaggett. Unbeknownst to all of them, Mitchell falls off the wagon in spectacular fashion as he slaughters a load of passengers on a train. It is such an important and devastating turning point in his unlife, the ramifications of which are fully explored in series three.
Series three is a lot darker than the previous two series. After the events of series two, you just know that life can never be the same for Annie, George, Nina and especially, Mitchell. They move to a large house situated in Barry, South Wales, which becomes their new home for the rest of the series. The house used to be a former bed and breakfast hotel and is called Honolulu Heights. The quartet have to deal with figures from their past, including one huge surprise, as well as further encounters with vampires (a likable teenager and an obnoxious husband and wife pair of swingers), a very sympathetic zombie and a pair of werewolves who hunt vampires. This last two, MacNair, played by Robson Green, and his adopted son, Tom, played by Michael Socha, have the biggest impact on their lives. Meanwhile, Mitchell is desperate to atone for his actions in series two. Over the course of the six episodes of series three the truth about what he did is revealed to Annie, George and Nina and he realises there is only one way to resolve the matter - he has to die! He asks George to stake him. Does he die or not? If you don't want to know then do not highlight my spoiler alert below.
SPOILER ALERT BEGINS Series three does indeed end with George staking Mitchell, proving that the makers are not afraid to kill off major characters. Even more surprising, series four begins with the deaths of Nina (off screen) and George and ends with the death of Annie and baby Eve. Gulp! SPOILER ALERT ENDS 
Series four shifts gear, with young werewolf Tom MacNair and an ancient vampire (500+ years old) called Hal Yorke, played by newcomer Damien Moloney, joining Annie in Honolulu Heights. Hal shared a house in Southend with a ghost called Pearl and an old werewolf called Leo. They travel to Barry on a quest, which sees Leo and Pearl departing and Hal stuck behind. Annie has a new quest in her life - to raise and protect baby Eve, the offspring of George and Nina. A vampire prophecy written on human flesh reveals that Eve is the War Child, the person who will destroy all vampires. This series has been expanded from six episodes to eight and is without doubt, my favourite series so far. Being Human has always had its moments of comedy but in series four there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. Episode 4.06, in particular, has some outstanding comedy scenes. Early on in the series, it is announced that the Old Ones, a group of ancient vampires, will arrive in Barry. Naturally, Hal knows all about them. After all, he was once part of their group. For fifty years, Hal has avoided drinking blood but that all ends when the Old Ones finally arrive. They are led by Mr. Snow, evil personified and brilliantly played by Mark Gatiss. If baby Eve lives, the vampires will take over the world and Hal will lead them to victory. If baby Eve dies, humanity's dark future will be avoided. Given that Annie, who really is a very powerful entity in her own right, has sworn to protect baby Eve, this leaves her with an unenviable dilemma. Kill the baby to save humanity or save the baby and condemn humanity?

VERDICT. Suffice to say, I am a huge fan of this series. It is one of those series that improves with every episode. It started strongly but ended so impressively. Actually, when I say ended, that isn't strictly true. Thankfully, the BBC have already commissioned series five. Oh joy! It should air in 2013. The stories have been a delight to watch. I can't think of a single duff episode, but I can think of plenty of outstanding episodes. Credit must go to the main leads, whose characters want nothing more than to lead normal lives and blend in with society even though they are, essentially, monsters. Being Human achieves a very difficult feat of being superb in so many categories - comedy, drama, horror and romance.
The first three series all have special features on the DVD sets, but I kept wishing for more. Series four, however, more than makes up for that "fault" by having over two hours worth of extras. If you haven't seen any of the series, I'd recommend buying the boxed set containing all four series, currently priced at £35.99 from Amazon. Of course you can buy each series separately. My ratings for the series are 8/10 for series one, 8.5/10 for series two, 9/10 for series three and 9.5/10 for series four. So, have you heard the one about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who share a house?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Black Cat Bases Gangstas 02

As promised last time, I'm going to review Black Cat Bases' 28mm scale female gangstas - the Sun Valley Bulldog Babes.These will perfectly complement BCB's Da Dowgs gang or Bobby Jackson's Thugz.
Each of the BCB gangs comes with thir own canine mascot and each dog is unique to that particular gang. As their name would indicate, the Sun Valley Bulldog Babes have a Bulldog as their mascot. Once again the colour scheme came courtesy of Google Images. The light brown patch on his back is obvious but you may not have noticed that he has a smaller patch surrounding his right eye. I have named the dog, Winnie, in honour of Winston Churchill. I couldn't call him Churchill, as that name is too associated with an insurance company of the same name. Winnie is fine, as it suggests, he just might be a she, which would be appropriate for a female gang.
As with the male gangstas, I have named each of these figures and I'll use my names to identify them. The lady in the pink jacket and shoes is called Ebonolu Omoregie. Her nickname is Ebony because it's easier to say then Ebonolu. Although she was born in America, her parents are Nigerian, hence her unusual name. She is armed with a six-shot revolver. To me, her attire just screams "streetwalker!" Why else would she be flashing her bra? I thought that giving her a lemon-coloured bra would make for a nice contrast and it moves away from the obvious choices of black or white.
Next to her is Sita Farah and you don't often see bald females. She has quite a butch look going on, with her black vest, urban camouflage combat pants and boots. She casually carries a sawn-off pump-action shotgun. I'm betting she's as hard as nails. She just looks like someone you don't want to mess with.
The same can be said about the gangsta bitch in the centre of the group. This is Missy Maffia. Missy is short for Melissa. This woman is full of bad attitude. Her hair has been cut short and styled into corn rows. She's into her gold jewellry with her bracelets, necklace and ear-rings all on display. She also carries a revolver but hers is a much larger one than Ebony's, possibly a .44 Magnum. I'd class it as a Big Ass Pistol. She is one big bad momma!
Moving on, we come to Melesha James, the babe of the group. She is nicely posed fitting a new ammo clip into her 9mm pistol. You very rarely see armed figures reloading. Melesha would appear to be a keep fit fanatic, going off her sporty appearance. It's a nice touch that the straps of her T-shirt are sliding down her arms, to give a flash of her bra. She appears to be the least intimidating member of the gang... but be aware, appearances can be deceptive!
Last in line is Beverley "Bang Bang" Osoteku, whom I have appointed as leader of this gang. She has been sculpted in a very dynamic pose that is full of movement. For that reason alone, she is my favourite figure in this set. "Bang Bang" is so named for her choice of using two pistols in combat. She is firing one of them gangsta style, which isn't a very clever move, as I explained last time. Even so, I like this figure a lot!
This set is just as good as the "Da Dowgs" gangstas that I reviewed last time and they fit together so well. The sculpting of them is just spot on and there's not one bad figure amongst them. Even the Bulldog is a cracking good sculpt. Thanks to these sets I'm building up a nice collection of dogs of different breeds. As with "Da Dowgs" you can buy the humans for £3.00 each and the dog for £2.00, but by far and away, your best bet is to buy all six as a set for just £12.00. It's another winner from Black Cat Bases.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Black Cat Bases Gangstas 01

I had a lot of fun painting this set of Black Cat Bases 28mm scale gangsta figures, known as "Da Dowgs." These are very reminiscent of Bobby Jackson's "Thugz" range and if you have them, the two sets combine together very well.
Each of the five Black Cat Bases' gangs comes with a canine mascot and five human gang members. Da Dowgs have a Doberman (shown at the far left of my photos) as their mascot. I have named him Tyson, after the boxer, Mike Tyson. His face is snarling aggressively. I think the term "beware of the dog" certainly applies to him.
I have named all of my gangstas in this set, so I'll use my names to identify them. The dude at the left of the gang, wearing the light blue vest, is Enoch Sinclair. He is pointing down with his right hand, which makes me wonder if he's telling Tyson to "sit!" In his left hand he holds a Big Ass Pistol like the .50 calibre IMI Desert Eagle. Note his gold medallion and gold bracelets. He likes to show off his "bling."
Next up is Dougie Da Dowg, whom I have appointed leader of this gang. He's not fat but he is overweight, so he probably gets his posse to do all the hard work for him, whilst he enjoys too many fast food meals. He is armed with a pump-action Shotgun, possibly a 12 gauge Remington. When I first saw him I thought he was wearing knee-length shorts, like the dude to his left. But upon closer inspection, I saw that he'd tucked his baggy trousers into the tops of his combat boots. It quite took me by surprise but it does show off his individuality. I'll let you decide whether he looks cool or not. Speaking of looking cool, I actually think he's wearing the glasses to help with his vision and not because they make him look cool... which they certainly don't! The least said about his tiny quiff of hair the better!
Selasie Richards is the name of the gangsta wearing the green T-shirt and pale blue knee-length shorts. Like Dougie, he is also armed with a pump-action shotgun but his is a sawed-off version with a much shorter barrel and no butt. His hair is just turning grey, making him the oldest member of my gang.
The gangsta second from the right is the uber-cool (in his eyes, anyway!) Adonis Mensah. GURPS Tactical Shooting has a section called "Things Not To Do" and second on the list is "Gangsta Shooting" as demonstrated by Adonis here. GURPS disparagingly remarks, "gangsta shooting has become popular with people who don't know what they're doing but worry about how they look while doing it." Ouch! The problem is gunmen who adopt this stance cannot aim properly. Adonis is clearly a fool. Just look how he's clutching his crotch. Who's he trying to impress? Note that he is wearing a black bandana on his head.
Finally, is Samuel Amoah, who, even though he's wearing a belt, has his trousers at half mast - all the better to show off his Calvin Klein boxer shorts. Yes, he's another poseur! In his right hand is a Coca-Cola bottle and in his left, a 9mm Micro-Uzi Machine Pistol. He's wearing a black beanie hat. Check out his gold ear-rings and bracelets, as he also shows off his "bling."
I love these figures, as they are so typical of African-American gangstas, for whom attitude is everything. These figures are so full of character and beautifully sculpted. They are crying out to be teamed up with Bobby Jackson's Thugz. Scale purists will be pleased to know that these figures are true 28mm scale. You can buy each figure separately for £3.00 each or £2.00 for the Doberman, but a better deal is to buy all six as a group for £12.00, saving you £5.00. Next time, I'll take a look at their female counterparts, the Sun Valley Bulldog Babes.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Studio Miniatures' Zombies 13 - Left4Dead 1

Here are another four zombies from my favourite maker of zombie figures - Studio Miniatures. These 28mm scale figures are from their "Only The Dead Are Left" set, an obvious reference to the Left 4 Dead (herafter abbreviated to L4D) computer games. Fans of the game should have no difficulty in identifying the different types of zombies in this set.
From left to right are the Tank, the Boomer, the Smoker and the Hunter, giving them their L4D names.
The Tank is L4D's zombified version of the Incredible Hulk. He has super strength and resiliance and is fully capapble of wiping out a party of survivors on his own. Painting him in Foundry Cadaverous Green 46 was my nod to the Incredible Hulk. He has a few cuts to his left arm and a bullet wound to the left side of his chest, but I doubt if he has even noticed them. Note that I have based him on a 30mm diameter slottabase as I thought he looked way oversized on a 25mm diameter slottabase, even though he would fit on it.
The Boomer has two very nasty abilities. First of all, it can projectile vomit on opponents. The bile will attract any nearby zombies to the victim. His second ability comes into play if the Boomer is killed. At that point he'll explode, covering any one too close to him with more bile that will attract more zombies to them. The way this figure has been sculpted gives you a sense that he is just about to explode. He's my favourite figure out of this set, simply because I like obese zombies and there aren't enough of them on the market.
When you first see the Smoker you'd be forgiven for thinking he's just a normal zombie and he's wearing a pink tie. Big mistake! That's not a tie - it's his tongue. He can use it as a weapon to drag victims close to him. If an opponent does cut the Smoker's tongue off, he will grow another one. Smokers don't moan like other zombies do, instead they cough. So, why is he called a Smoker? Well, when he is killed his body emits a cloud of smoke, which will impair the vision of any human close by, temporarily stunning them.
The Hunter is the most human-looking figure in this set, and is not so much a zombie as an infected person, similar to the infected flesh-eaters in the films 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. He is very fast and agile and he uses his hands to rip his victims apart rather than his teeth. In ATZ terms, he is a Rager. However, in L4D, Hunters are a lot easier to kill than ATZ's Ragers. Also, in L4D, Hunters can remain absolutely silent, making them very good ambushers.
I have included this picture taken from one of the L4D websites, showing the concept art for the four types of Infected, and you can see that Studio's sculptor has obviously used these pictures for reference when he was sculpting them.
ATZ does not cater for these types of mutated zombies, although, as I said, the Hunter could double up as a Rager. I may use the Tank as another Rager, and keep the Boomer and the Smoker as normal zombies. For those of you playing No More Room In Hell, there are rules for using all four of these figures under the section, Generating Special Zombies. So, the Tank becomes the Brute, the Boomer becomes the Bloat, the Smoker becomes Dr. Tongue and the Hunter becomes Infected Runner. It looks like the author of NMRIH, Bryan Miley, was a fan of L4D. By the way, in case you're wondering how come I know so much about NMRIH, I recently bought the rulebook. A review of it will appear soon.
This set of four figures retails for £14.99 from the Studio Minis website. I should point out that Studio have just released "Only The Dead are Left II," which contains four more special Infected types from L4D - the Charger, the Jockey, the Spitter and the Witch. I sent away for them a couple of days ago and once I receive them I will paint them up as soon as possible. Look out for a review of them in the very near future, probably sometime next month.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

War Against the Walking Dead by Sean T. Page

War Against the Walking Dead by Sean T. Page is the sequel to The Official Zombie Handbook (UK). Sean's first book was very much a survival guide, which hopefully will help you to live through the first three months of a global zombie apocalypse. The sequel is a very different beast indeed. It not only teaches you and your fellow survivors how to fight back against the zombie hordes but actively encourages such a strategy. Put simply, sitting back and hoping for the best is not an option. At least not if you want to survive in the long term.
This brings me to the question I posed at the end of my last post - how do you expect your zombie apocalypse campaign to end? I don't expect many of you will have given it much thought. To be honest, neither had I. Plus, you can envisage as many endings as you have for reasons why the apocalypse began. I envisaged my campaign going in one of two directions. First, there was the happy ending. Team Vampifan helps find a cure for the zombie disease and slowly the world returns to normal. That was my original planned ending when I first started playing ATZ. After all, a zombie cure was part of the original ATZ rules, prior to Better Dead Than Zed being published. However, I have since decided that there is no cure for the zombie disease. Secondly, there was the uncertain but deadly future. All Things Zombie segues into an After The Horsemen campaign. Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and all kinds of supernatural creatures rise and threaten the world. Vampifan meets the woman of his dreams, Vampirella, and together they kick supernatural ass.
Well, I can tell you now that neither of those will happen. If I do play ATH, it will be a separate campaign from my ATZ campaign. My ATZ campaign will feature nothing but humans and zombies. Fortunately, I now have a long term goal for Team Vampifan and it is this - amass as many followers as possible and take the war to the zombies. I have set my campaign in the fictional Mayhem City, U.S.A. Vampifan wants to rid Mayhem City of every last zombie and reclaim it for humanity. Looking even further afield, he wants to destroy as many zombies in the U.S.A. as possible in as short a time as possible. Thanks to War Against the Walking Dead I have seen how the zombie apocalypse will end and the future is very bleak for humanity unless urgent action is taken.
Vampifan is chased by part of a meta-horde
Sean T. Page presents one possible, very plausible, outcome to the zombie apocalypse that I have to admit, really captured my imagination. It is the frightening concept of zombie meta-hordes. What is a meta-horde? It is when large hordes of zombies group together to form one gigantic horde numbering in the millions. Such a concept is not new. It was mentioned in World War Z by Max Brooks. The concept is also mentioned in The Walking Dead comics. Rick encounters part of one and promptly runs away from it as fast as possible. The novel Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne ends with the heroes fleeing a very large meta-horde and are saved by the U.S. Navy. Even attacks by helicopter gunships and a naval bombardment do little to thin the numbers of the meta-horde in Bourne's novel. Sean speculates that unless left unchecked, meta-hordes of 100 million zombies will form in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. In addition, about a dozen smaller meta-hordes, numbering more than five million zombies, will also emerge across the globe, including one in the U.K. They are described as "a tsunami of the dead, huge meta-hordes, which will at some point, extinguish human life from virtually every part of the globe."
Frankly, that scares the life out of me! All of which begs the question, how do you defeat a meta-horde? War Against the Walking Dead offers some solutions but they all come at a great price. Nuking the meta-horde is the favoured tactic but do you really want to create a large radio-active wasteland, assuming you can find a nuclear warhead in the first place? No, the best tactic is to stop the meta-horde forming in the first place. This is why Sean advises taking the war to the zombies as soon as possible. Left unchecked they will eventually form into a meta-horde. It may not happen for a few years but it will happen and when it does you are well and truly screwed.
Fortunately, War Against the Walking Dead offers loads of practical advice and tactics to deal with the zombie menace before it grows into a meta-horde. This is where the book really excels and these sections were the ones I enjoyed reading the most. The book is not without its faults. Again, it is marred by typo errors that should have been caught by a competent proof-reader. The sections on zombie outbreaks throughout history should be taken with a large dose of salt. Sean does labour the point about meta-hordes and he does have a worrying fascination with the pop group Culture Club. However, I am  prepared to overlook these flaws and award this book a 10 out of 10 rating. The main reason for such a high score is because this a book that made me think. It made me re-evaluate my thoughts on how a zombie apocalypse will end, and more specifically, how I envisage my own ATZ campaign will end. It has given me a long-term goal for Team Vampifan, which they didn't have before. And it validates my decision to collect as many zombie miniatures as I can. I now have an excuse to use my complete horde in a single scenario, although I'm going to have to come up with some new rules for using that amount of zombies. Team Vampifan versus 1,000+ zombies won't constitute an attack on a meta-horde but at some point my heroes are going to have to enter the centre of Mayhem City and deal with the horde that has gathered there. That's not going to be easy but it will be one hell of a scenario.