Saturday, 29 August 2015

Vampifan's Views 67 - Monthly Musings 45

Miss Vampirella August 2015 - Leslie Culton
This month's Vampirella model, Leslie Culton, has achieved something I did not think was possible. She has taken Vampirella's skimpy costume and made it even skimpier! I have been critical of the costumes worn by some of the models I've shown in the past and Leslie's home-made costume is not strictly accurate but I just can't bring myself to criticise it. I think it is quite outstanding and I salute Leslie's courage for wearing it in public. I have a lot of photos of Leslie. Indeed I have more of her than any other Vampirella model. So to pick out just one from so many to show here was not an easy task.
American born Leslie is a bit of an unusual model. Initially, purely a sci-fi fan (Doctor Who in particular), at the age of 12 she attended her first convention and a legend was born. Apart from her fascination for the whole sci-fi/comic book scene, Leslie discovered costumes! Over the next few years Live Action Role-Playing dominated her life, and then in the late 1990's she left Georgia and started a professional career. Over the years Leslie has probably been the longest lasting Vampirella model, almost as famous at the conventions as the official artists and models.

For three days last week I was without my computer as it had to be taken away to have its hard drive re-formatted. Yes, it was a major systems crash, but all is well again. I'm still using Windows 8.1 and thanks to saving everything on my external hard drive, I didn't lose anything. Always, always, always back up anything that is remotely important to you! So, if you were wondering why my blog post didn't appear last Wednesday that's the reason why.

My biggest gaming news of the month is that I recently bought the Dungeons and Dragons Castle Ravenloft Board Game. I stopped playing Dungeons and Dragons in the late 1980's and I honestly never expected to play it again. But a number of factors made this purchase such a necessity. First up, my good friend Stephen Gilbert, has been trying to persuade me to buy this game all year. He rates it (and its expansions) very highly. It was Steve who persuaded me to buy Arkham Horror, Super Dungeon Explore and A Touch of Evil, so I very much value his opinion. The second factor is that I have come to love solo board games like the ones mentioned, plus of course, Zombicide. Castle Ravenloft is designed to be played by one to five players, so that's a big plus point. But probably the main reason for buying it is the setting. Castle Ravenloft is ruled by a very powerful vampire called Count Strahd Von Zarovich and is populated by all manner of undead monsters and villains. Given my love of all things undead it was a no-brainer that I'd want to own this game at some point. Just last week Steve tried to persuade me once more to buy Castle Ravenloft. Earlier in the year his timing was bad as I had so many other irons in the fire but this time round his  timing was perfect and I placed my order with the good folks from Amazon UK. Expect a full review of the game and the figures fairly soon.

In other gaming news I played my first game of the Arkham Horror board game and despite losing badly I very much enjoyed the experience. Arkham Horror shares a lot in common with A Touch Of Evil, which stood me in good stead for playing this Cthulhu Mythos based game. It took over five hours to play and quite a while to set up. Also, the game takes up a lot of table space. Game play is similar to A Touch Of Evil but far more detailed. I played with two investigator characters and they were doing well, managing to close five of the six dimensional gates required to win the game. But before they got anywhere near the sixth gate the Great Old One awoke and devoured them both with contemptuous ease. Of course, much of my playing time was spent referring to the rulebook, so hopefully, now that I know how the game plays future games should be shorter. It is definitely a game I can recommend if you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft's Call of the Cthulhu or if you just fancy a fully engaging board game that you can immerse yourself in for hours at a time.

Finally, there was one other purchase that I made recently that filled me with great joy and delight - a life-size cardboard cut-out of Vampirella. She stands 6 feet (182cm) tall, which makes her taller than me. I took a couple of photos of her outside on the patio of my back garden. First, by herself and then with me standing alongside her. She now has pride of place in my man cave.

Long live Vampirella!

I leave you with a bonus picture of Leslie Culton showing off her ample charms and how incredibly daring her costume is! This photo was taken at a comics convention, which just goes to show how much bottle she has to appear in public dressed like that. Leslie, I salute you. Part of me wishes I was there with her but another part (my devil half) asks, would I be able to keep my hands off her?
Vampirella and Vampifan aka Beauty and the Beast.
Leslie Culton just about bares all. Oh, my God! Sheer perfection!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Zombicide Murder of Crowz

Well, it hasn't taken me long to get back to my number one gaming passion - Zombicide. This time, however, I'm reviewing something decidedly far from the norm - zombie crows or crowz as Guillotine Games insist on calling them. In case you didn't know, the collective term for a group of crows is a murder of crows. I first became aware of zombie crows when I saw Resident Evil: Extinction. These figures make a great addition to Zombicide and could be used in many other games, either as zombie crowz or normal crows.
Stat-wise in Zombicide, Crowz are rather nasty. They can move up to three Zones per Activation, making them incredibly fast. However, they still only get one Activation per Turn, either moving or attacking. Murder of Crowz have the same Targeting Priority as Toxic Walkers (i.e. they come second on the chart after Survivors) and they only require one Wound to kill (note that is one Wound per stand not per crow!). Being flying pests, Murder of Crowz ignore ALL obstacles hindering or preventing movement when they move (including barricades, closed doors, Hole Zones, observation towers and walls). They also ignore game effects preventing them from staying in a Zone like Rubble or Security Zones.
The stand of six crowz is a thing of beauty. The sculptor has done a truly amazing job to fit six crowz on one base so cleverly. My reaction when I first saw them was, "WOW!" These are amongst the best sculpted figures I have ever seen. As for painting them, what could be easier? I primed them in black, painted the bases various shades of grey, painted the crowz matt black and added a dot of white for their eyes. It was time consuming simply because I painted all 20 stands in one go.
In the photo above Team Vampifan (remember them?) face a huge Murder of Crowz. Here I show the 15 stands of Crowz that come with the boxed set plus an extra 5 stands that I received as a Kickstarter free bonus for backing Zombicide Season 3. That makes for a total of 120 Crowz. Team Vampifan better hope they don't run out of ammo!
The Murder of Crowz expansion set is currently available from Amazon UK for £18.19.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Into the Unknown

Continuing this month's theme of diversity I bring you a rather unusual post. The seven 28mm scale figures I'm reviewing today have a few things in common. First of all, they are all gifts sent to me by followers of my blog. The first five are from Stefan Witthaus and the last two from Simon Moore aka BlaxKleric. Secondly, they are, for the most part, unknown to me. Thirdly, they are all usable in sci-fi games. Let's take a closer look at them.
These five figures from Stefan are all made of resin and I have no idea who made them or for what system or range. The tall (she's about 35mm tall) woman in red at the far left arrived without hands. She has the look of a fantasy heroine about her but she came with a sprue fitted with a  pair of hands holding MAC10 Machine Pistols, so that's what she is holding. She'll make for a fine survivor in any zombie apocalypse game.
Moving to the far right is an over-scaled female who could be a bounty hunter, mercenary, pirate or survivor. She'd also make a great perp for a Judge Dredd game. She is a one-piece casting armed with a huge assault rifle and a pistol. A number of grenades hang from her belt and she is smoking a cigar. I love this figure because she is so full of character and she must have one hell of a backstory. She reminds me of Reaper's Anime heroines from their Chronoscope range. Memo to self - must buy them soon!
The three triplets in the centre utilise the same body but come with separate arms. From left to right I armed the woman in yellow with a pair of Big Ass Pistols (they look like .50 calibre Desert Eagles); the woman in blue with a huge hammer (note the cybernetic hand holding it) and a Big Ass Machine Pistol; the woman in pink holds a hat with large feather (very swashbuckler) and a combi-sword/pistol. I added a huge antique-looking pistol in a holster on her right leg, which came with the figures. To add more diversity to them, I gave the woman in yellow a ponytail made out of Milliput and for the woman in blue I gave her long curly hair, also made out of Milliput. These three women have the look of Warhammer Empire nobles armed with a bewildering assortment of fantasy and sci-fi weapons. Curious! They are beautifully sculpted and very detailed. Once again, they could fill a wide variety of roles from good to bad.
Moving on to Simon's figures, I know that the one at the left is a Cyber Controller made by Black Tree Design as part of their extensive Doctor Who range. He is an early version of a Cyberman leader. He was very easy to paint. He does look a bit chunky and rather crude compared to the Cybermen shown on Doctor Who nowadays but I still like him. He has an old school charm about him. He retails for £2.75 on the BTD webstore, where you'll find him amongst the Second Doctor Who figures.
The figure on the right is more of a mystery to me. When Simon sent him to me he wrote, "The metal sci-fi trooper is a limited edition Survivor of the Plague by "Mantic Games". I believe there is a plastic version which is a different sculpt but this one only comes with the "Deadzone" boxed set apparently. I hoped you'd like him as (i) he's a survivor and (ii) you need something to keep your splendid-looking Plague monster company :-)" Looking on the Mantic Games "Deadzone" website, I can find no mention of him at all, so I guess he is no longer in production. I certainly do like him. My first thought when I initially saw him was that he was a specialist Souther Trooper from 2000AD's Rogue Trooper series. His helmet has the look of a Souther Trooper. I had no idea what colour to paint him in. Eventually, I decided on a rather neutral Foundry Granite with Foundry Bay Brown for the straps and backpack. He is a great figure and I can see a lot of uses for him, including as an assassin in a Judge Dredd game.
If anyone has any information on any of the figures other than the Cyber Controller, please do let me know. Finally, I would, once again, like to thank Stefan and Simon for their very generous gifts. Such kindness is always much appreciated.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Assorted Spectrum Ground Vehicles

The one thing I love above all else, of Gerry Anderson's TV series are the vehicles. All of his shows featured fantastic looking vehicles. Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was no different and featured a wide variety of vehicles that appeared on land, sea and air. I own models of three of the Spectrum ground vehicles and I'll review them all here.
The Maximum Security Vehicle (MSV) is the most secure vehicle in existence in the year 2068. It is designed to hold four people, usually V.I.P. personnel. It has a top speed of 250 mph and is armed with an electron ray cannon and a laser cannon, both front-mounted behind hidden hatches. Security forbids exposure of its construction.
In the event of an attack, the MSV is hermetically sealed by time-lock, only to open on the ultimate completion of its mission. In such conditions the MSV is air-pressurised, having its own air-filter console beneath the undercarriage. Stand-by motors fitted to the undercarriage are computer-controlled to be brought into operation in an emergency. It has hydraulic suspension independent of all wheels and special anti-heat flare windows.
My MSV is a die-cast model made by Dinky Toys and whilst it is not 28mm scale (its closer to 20mm scale), it still looks good when used alongside 28mm scale figures, like my CDG Captain Scarlet, as shown in all of my photos.
The MSV model measures 5.25" (13cm) in length, by 2.75" (7cm) in width and 2" (5cm) in height. The two side doors with the Spectrum logo open in a gull-wing fashion and a small step folds out. The model comes with a wooden crate containing bars of gold, which is stored inside (see last photo below).
The Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (SPV) is the main ground combat vehicle used by Spectrum. This three-seater vehicle has a top speed of 200 mph and is armed with an electron ray cannon, laser cannon and ground-to-air rocket launcher, all front-mounted behind hidden hatches. It is fitted with five pairs of wheels on either side (the three over the front, middle and rear axles constituting the main drive), with additional traction for mountainous environments provided by rear-mounted, hydraulically lowered caterpillar tracks.
Within the hermetically-sealed control compartment, the driver, co-driver and a passenger are seated backwards, facing the rear, to reduce the possibility of injury in the event of a crash; the driver is aided by a video monitor displaying (vertically-flipped) forward and rear views. It is equipped with ejector seats and radar. The hydrogenic power unit can be removed and re-assembled as a personal jet pack or other devices of comparable size (additional components for which are stored towards the back of the vehicle).
The SPV that I own is a die-cast model made by Product Enterprises, which I think is a better model than the one made by Dinky Toys. I do own a Dinky Toys SPV but it is buried away deep in a storage cupboard. The Dinky Toys version featured a working rocket launcher, which fired a plastic rocket from where the letters SPV are written on the front of the vehicle. The Product Enterprises version lacks this feature but is much better painted. As with the MSV, this model is closer to 20mm scale than 28mm scale, but that does not bother me unduly.
The SPV model measures 7" (17.5cm) in length by 3" (7.5cm) in width by 2.5" (6cm) in height. The door on the right side of the SPV springs open to reveal a seated Captain Scarlet figure (see previous photo above and the last photo below). The caterpillar tracks at the rear can be lowered.
The Spectrum Saloon Car (SSC) is sometimes known as the Spectrum Pursuit Car. It was designed for high-speed mobility for Spectrum personnel, capable of reaching speeds of 200 mph. It was specially made for Spectrum of the new lightweight metal, fleetonium. It can seat up to four people, has four wheel drive and is powered by a gas turbine located under the rear roof. The SSC is armed with a pair of machine guns, as well as an electron ray cannon and a laser cannon, all fitted behind hidden front-facing hatches.
The car is specially equipped with quartz headlights that permit the driver to see long distances in the dark. The vehicle also features transverse gearing, independent suspension and magnetic drums that provide powerful control braking by means of electromagnetically generated opposing magnetic fields. The road-tyre friction heat at high speeds is countered by wing intakes, while a central housing and rear-mounted fin maintain the vehicle's stability at speed. Safety airbags are fitted as standard.
My SSC vehicle is another die-cast model made by Dinky Toys. Once again, it is slightly under-scaled but not by much. There is a motor in the rear compartment, which, if you pull the car backwards on a flat surface will propel the SSC forward. Sadly, that stopped working years ago but I don't mind.
The SSC model measures 4.75" (12cm) in length by 1.75" (4.5cm) in width by 1.5" (4cm) in height. None of its doors open and its only special feature is the now defunct motor in the rear.
Here are a couple of group shots showing all three vehicles together, alongside Captain Scarlet for scale purposes. The photo below shows one of the open doors of the MSV along with its valuable cargo. The SPV has lowered its caterpillar tracks and its open door shows Captain Scarlet in the driver's seat, facing backwards.
Suffice to say, these models are long out of production but they frequently appear on eBay. Prices and condition does vary considerably. A quick search today showed a badly battered MSV going for 99p, whilst a Dinky Toys SPV with its original packaging is going for £99.99. I'd say £20-£30 is about the norm for any one of them. I have, however, just discovered a cheaper alternative for them. You can now get card models of them from Dave's Designs Star Carz If you want to see a review of them check out Colgar6's excellent review of them here -
I must admit that my passion for Captain Scarlet has been rekindled with these three posts of mine. I am very, very tempted to buy a trio of Angel Interceptor models. I used to own an Airfix 1/72 (or 20mm scale) plastic model of one but I have no idea what happened to it. Incredibly, after all these years, Airfix are still selling this model today. Will I succumb and buy three? Most likely! Watch this space.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Crooked Dice Games Spectrum Angels

There is a woman behind most great men, and behind every organisation there are great women who fight for success - to prove their equality in a world of men. Here, I review five exceptional women who belong to the global security organisation known as Spectrum. Following on from my previous post that reviewed twelve Crooked Dice Games not-Captain Scarlet figures I now turn the spotlight on the five ace pilots of Spectrum, known as the Angels. They fly the deadly Angel Interceptor jet fighter with extreme skill and courage. Note that the figures of the Angels are supplied headless. You get to choose which head to attach to which body.
At the far left of my first two photos is Destiny, leader of the Angels. Juliette Pontoin was born in Paris, France in 2038. Upon graduating from Rome University with degrees in telecommunications and weather control she joined the World Army Air Force. She worked in the Intelligence Corps, where she really excelled. The W.A.A.F. promoted her to Commanding Officer of the Women's Fighter Squadron and she soon became their ace pilot. When Spectrum heard of her faultless military career, they offered her the job of flying one of the Angel Interceptors. She accepted happily and quickly proved to be a totally efficient member of the Spectrum organisation. For my figure of Destiny I used the head with the twin ponytails to represent the blonde-haired Angel.
28-year old Symphony Angel was born in Iowa, USA as Karen Wainwright. She graduated to Yale University when she was 16 and attained the title "Student of the Year", before leaving with seven degrees. She was contacted by the Universal Secret Service and passed their comprehensive training course to become one of their top agents. For one particular U.S.S. mission she trained to become a pilot and discovered her true vocation. With five years active service under her belt she quit the U.S.S. and joined an airline company where she proved to be an outstanding pilot. Spectrum recognised she was just the type of person who would be a valuable asset to them. Signing onto Spectrum, Symphony became a happy and well-loved member. She normally keeps her long, light brown hair free but in the absence of a suitable head, I used the head with a pigtail for her figure. It is still a good match for her.
Born on a cotton farm in Atlanta, Georgia, Magnolia Jones, later to be known as Melody Angel, was the tomboy of her family. She was a rebellious youth and got expelled from school. After discovering a passion for flying she enrolled with the W.A.A.F. Achievement followed achievement and due to her iron nerve, she became the organisation's best test pilot. When she eventually left the W.A.A.F., she set up a luxury flying taxi service. Her amazing stamina and flying ability was soon noted by Spectrum. They asked her to become an Angel, a decision neither have had cause to regret. Melody's close cropped black hair was a perfect match for the short-haired head I used on her figure. However, I was not too keen on her holding a wrench, so I clipped the offending hand and tool off and replaced it with a hand holding a pistol.
Moving on to the helmeted pilots, I start with Harmony Angel. Chan Kwan, the only daughter of a wealthy flying-taxi owner was born in Tokyo, Japan in 2042. Educated in London then Tokyo University, she realised her only ambition was to fly. She spent all her spare time at the Tokyo Flying Club. She bought a second hand single-seater jet, which she redesigned and converted to her own requirements. Her goal was to fly solo around the world. Her first attempt ended in failure but six months later, she succeeded. When her father died later that year he left his flying-taxi business to her. She developed it into the fastest flying-taxi service in the world. Spectrum recognised that with her skill, courage and determination she'd make a first class Angel pilot. I chose the Daredevil Pilot Head wearing glasses for Harmony's head. Note that I have re-positioned her left arm.
Born in Chelsea, London, Dianne Simms is the daughter of Lord Robert Simms, one of the World Government's officials. When she left London University, she was thrust into the world of the debutante. This soon bored her, so when she met Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, she gladly accepted her offer to join the Federal Agents Bureau. Dianne and Lady Penelope became close friends. When Lady Penelope joined International Rescue, Dianne took over supreme command of F.A.B., a post she handled highly efficiently. When F.A.B. was forced to close, Dianne joined the Euro Charter Airline Company as Chief Security Officer. Spectrum realised her potential and invited her to join the Angels as Rhapsody Angel. I used another of the Daredevil Pilot Heads for Rhapsody but added Milliput to lengthen her long red hair.
Crooked Dice Games sell the Angels (they are actually called Daredevil Pilots) for £3.50 each or a set of three different bodies for just £9.00. They all come with separate heads, all bare-headed. A set of three Daredevil Pilot Heads wearing helmets are available for £1.60. So, I bought two sets of three figures along with the helmeted heads. This, of course, leaves one figure spare. What to do with her? Essentially, you have two options - invent her as the sixth, previously unseen Angel, or use her as a non-Angel. I chose the second option. I named her Katarina Dare (from the CDG website) and will most likely use her as a Mysteron agent. I used the third of the three helmeted heads on her figure.
I love the Angels and the Angel Interceptor is such a cool design (see the painting below). It is common amongst fans of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons to have a favourite Angel. Mine was (and still is) Rhapsody Angel - a true English rose.
Two Angel Interceptors take off from Cloudbase at dusk.