Sunday, 31 August 2014

Vampifan's Views 55 - Monthly Musings 33

Vampirella by my favourite Vampi artist, Joe Jusko. She looks gorgeous!
So another month draws to a close. It has been a month of ups and downs for me. The big good news story for me was that I recently had a check up at Sunderland Eye Infirmary to see how I was getting on after my cataract operation on my left eye last month. That went amazingly well. The nurse who examined me asked me to read an eye chart with my right eye first. This is my bad eye. I could read the top three lines okay but I struggled with the fourth line. Lines five and six were just a complete blur. However, when I read the chart with my left eye I could read all six lines. Even the bottom line, which was very small was perfectly legible. The nurse was delighted and I felt just amazing. I later saw a consultant, who was just as pleased with my progress and she booked me an appointment in October to have the operation done on my right eye. I can't wait to get it done so I can have perfect vision in both eyes. I came home feeling ten feet tall and utterly delighted. This check up that I had last week gave me a massive boost and also something to look forward to. Having already undergone one cataract operation I now know what to expect and I have no fear or anxiety about the operation. I wish I could get it done sooner but fortunately I'm very patient.
On the hobby front, things have gone really well. I have just about finished making my Stoelzel's Structures' Brummie's Burgers fast food restaurant. All of the furniture, fittings and props have been made and glued in place. All that remains to do is the roof, which I have started on. It looks fantastic and I can't wait to finish it. I should complete it next week, then I'll photograph it and review it as soon as I can. So what will I make next? Whenever I complete a building I like to switch tactics and make some more card vehicles. I haven't made any of Carl's vehicle's from his Auto Park set, which is something I really must remedy. Top of my wish list for vehicles are a fleet of black SUVs. I'll probably make four of them and as luck would have it, they are an option in the Auto Park set. The black SUV is such an iconic vehicle with a multitude of uses.
On the figure painting front, I have now finished painting the last of my Zombicide season 2 survivors and zombivors. Currently, I am painting more Zombicide season 1 zombies. I have 30 left to do, which will complete the second and final tray of zombies from the original boxed set. I have split them up into two lots of 15 to make painting them a bit easier. With both trays of zombies you get four of each pose, giving you eight of each sculpt in total. I differentiated between them in the first tray by painting each set of four in different colours. For the second tray I have decided that all 32 will be converted. Remember, I have already made my Laurel and Hardy zombies from this tray. So, I have recently converted two lots of four zombie Runners, four female zombie Walkers and three zombie Fatties. Most are simple conversions but I did push the boat out on one of the Fatties by converting him into a chef. Once they are finished I'll convert and paint the remaining 15 - 11 male zombie Walkers and 4 female zombie Walkers. Getting the second tray of zombies painted will give me enough zombies to play the game without having to resort to using unpainted figures, something I hate doing.
The picture of Vampirella I used for this post was painted by Joe Jusko, who, in my opinion, paints her better than any other artist. This painting was one of a number used for the front cover to celebrate the recent relaunch of the new Vampirella monthly comic. Dynamite Entertainment went overboard with variant covers for this relaunch, producing a staggering 26 different covers! Despite being one of Vampi's biggest fans I only bought one Vampirella #1 comic - the variant cover painted by Joe Jusko.
Incredible as it may seem, I have now read all of the novels I own. This leaves me with the option(s) of buying something new or revisiting some old favourites. I've gone for the cheaper option and have begun re-reading one of my all-time favourite vampire trilogies - The Vampire Odyssey by Scott Ciencin. It is over 15 years since I last read them. I just know I will enjoy them all over again. All three were originally published in 1992 and I can vividly remember buying them on one of my holidays to Florida, USA.
That's all for now, folks. Take care and be happy.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Zombicide Season 2 Survivors and Zombivors 07

I'm almost at the end of my reviews of the Zombicide season 2 survivors and zombivors. After this review there will be just one more to show, but that will have to wait until I photograph them. This lot features three characters from the "Moustache Pack" set (Don, Frank and Rob). Smith came from the Survivors and Zombivors Set #3. Two of these (Smith and Rob) are based on characters from films and the other two (Frank and Don) are based on characters from TV shows.
First in line is Kurt Smith the dog of war (I think they mean mercenary), who should be recognisable to most of you as Bob "Snake" Plissken, played by Kurt Russell in the post apocalypse films, Escape From New York and Escape From L.A. Smith mustered out of the special forces straight into private "security" working all over the world for the highest bidder. Specialising in wetwork and asking no questions, Smith was in town for a contract when all hell broke loose. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for the zombies, he had his arsenal stashed away nearby. Though used to working alone, even Smith knows he doesn't have enough bullets to take on the zombie hordes by himself. Forced to co-operate with other survivors, he's finding it hard on his limited social skills. Survivor Smith is armed with a 5.56mm Colt Commando assault rifle and a .44 Magnum revolver. Zombivor Smith is armed with a pair of .44 Magnum revolvers. He starts the game with the +1 Free Combat Action skill, which gives him an extra combat action per Turn, which he can use for Melee or Ranged Combat.
Another military type is Rob Connery the security expert, who is based on Sean Connery's character, John Mason from the film, The Rock. After decades as an anti-intrusion expert, testing security systems the world over, Rob reluctantly retired to a life of idyll on a sunny beach. The boredom was just getting to him when the zombies appeared. This was exactly what he needed to make a new start. Rob doesn't feel old at all. With a gun in each hand, he'll prove it, anywhere, anytime. Survivor Rob holds a 9mm Uzi sub-machine gun in each hand but his zombivor counterpart only holds one Uzi. Rob starts the game with the Break-in skill, which means he does not need any equipment to open doors. He also does not make any noise when using this skill. However, other prerequisites are still mandatory (such as taking a designated objective). Moreover, Rob has one extra free door opening action, which can only be used for opening doors.
Moving on, we come to Frank Selleck the repo man, and he's based on Tom Selleck's detective character, Thomas Magnum, from the TV series, Magnum P.I. Frank is a laid back guy who used to repossess stuff that folks didn't make their payments on. In his case, his specialty was cars, usually getting into them and driving off before the previous owners even realised what was going on. Not usually a dangerous job, Frank still found it best to carry some protection with him when on a job - his handy baseball bat has since saved him countless times. He's got a fondness for loud Hawaiian shirts and may make small side trips into stores looking for fresh ones to add to his wardrobe. Both survivor and zombivor Frank are armed with a baseball bat. As you'd expect, he starts the game with the Starts With a Baseball Bat skill.
And finally, is Don Cleese the civil servant, who is a dead ringer for John Cleese's bumbling hotel owner, Basil Fawlty, from the classic British comedy TV series, Fawlty Towers. Good old reliable Donald was until recently an under-secretary at an obscure ministry. Pushing papers his entire career, Donald enjoyed his calm, ordered life. Governments might come and go, but whoever happened to be in power always needed the civil bureaucracy. Of course, Don noticed things were amiss when, instead of nodding off while he gave his daily briefing, his Minister tried to have him as a light snack. This was terribly impolite and improper, and so, with some reluctance, he stove her head in with a bust of Winston Churchill. Now the weighty responsibility of organising a new society rests on Don's shoulders. Things have to be done properly of course - ammo requisition, food rationing, sleeping arrangements and the like. He does quite enjoy executing the unruly zombie constituents, though. Both survivor and zombivor Don are armed with a double-barreled shotgun. Don starts the game with the Born Leader skill, which allows him to give one free action to another survivor to use as he or she pleases. This action must be used during the recipient's next turn or it is lost.
Well, this is certainly an eclectic group of characters. I was surprised to see the not-Basil Fawlty lookalike character included but actually, he's quite a useful chap. He is certainly NOT Basil Fawlty! All of them would make fine additions to any party of survivors.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Zombicide Season 2 Survivors and Zombivors 06

And so my review of all of the Zombicide season 2 survivors and zombivors continues with a look at six more characters. These are all based on characters from films and TV, some more recognisable than others.
I'll start with Mack Cage the car salesman, who is based on Nicholas Cage's character, Cameron Poe from the film, Con Air. Mack's story, like most, began when the zombies came and killed his wife and two daughters. After burying them, he took a car from his lot, and began a cross-country zombicide, eventually joining a motley crew of survivors. His fighting spirit has made him a precious resource for any team and his manic grin gets even wider the worse the odds are! Mack the survivor is armed with a pair of Kukri knives, much favoured by the Gurkha army. Mack the zombivor only has one Kukri knife. He starts the game with the Starts With 2 Kukris skill, which needs no explanation.
Looking quite manic is Mike Nicholson the misfit, who is based on the psychopathic Jack Torrance as played by Jack Nicholson in the film, The Shining. Once again there is some confusion over this person's name. His character record sheet calls him Mike but the background info provided on the back of the box he comes from calls him Gary. It seems like Guillotine Games have mixed up his name with that of Gary/Mike the miniature games sculptor that I reviewed earlier (he's the character based on Jeff Lebowski from The Big Lebowski). Anyway, I've decided the character record cards are right and the background blurb is wrong. So, Mike was not well educated and struggled to find a job before the apocalypse struck. Now, however, Mike has done well and thrived on his own. He has always been a survivor and the zombies didn't really change his habits. Survivor Mike is armed with a chainsaw (yes, another chainsaw wielding hero!), whilst zombivor Mike is armed with a one-handed axe. He begins the game in both forms with the Starts With a Chainsaw skill. 'Nuff said!
Next up is a character who is instantly recognisable. This is Brad Eastwood who is inexplicably known as a crime lord when he is clearly based on Clint Eastwood's iconic detective, Harry Callahan from the Dirty Harry series of films and books. From his very youth, Brad could not live by the rules and wished he was born in the Wild West. Retraining anyone's potential has always been anathema for him. So, he became a mobster and climbed the crime ladder, eventually becoming a crime lord until he was betrayed and imprisoned. Brad allied with the prison director when the apocalypse came and they escaped together. Now Brad is free in a world that doesn't have rules anymore... just like the Wild West! Survivor and zombivor Brad are each armed with a .44 Magnum revolver and indeed, he starts the game with the Starts With a .44 Magnum skill. I just can't imagine using him as a criminal and not as "Dirty Harry." "Go ahead, zombie. Make my day!"
Kirk Torrez the old sensei is based on Stephen Seagal's character, Rogelio Torrez in the film, Machete. This is not the lean and mean Seagal of his early career but Seagal from more recent times with an expanding belly! Kirk gained some fame twenty years ago when learning martial arts was considered cool, and he was the best teacher in town. That respect faded over time as people found new idols among the rich and famous. Kirk became a nobody and nearly abandoned his passion. Wealth and fortune are useless against zombies, however, and Kirk surprised himself upon discovering he hadn't lost his martial arts skills. Sure, he's older now, but once again his abilities are in high demand. Both survivor and zombivor Kirk are armed with a katana. Kirk starts the game with the +1 Damage: Melee skill, which grants him a +1 bonus to the damage of all Melee Attacks.
Rose Lansbury the old aunt is based upon Angela Lansbury's sleuthing amateur detective, Jessica Fletcher from the popular TV series, Murder, She Wrote. Rose was your ideal loving, caring, cooking, lovable aunt, always smiling and giving out wise words to the whole family. Some people, however, started to worry about her after a few memory lapses. They were wrong to underestimate Aunt Rose. When the zombies came, she was horrified at first but adapted to the situation faster than many youngsters. Sure, there is blood and mayhem, and sure, she sometimes forgets her reading glasses in the fridge, but Rose has found a brand new family of survivors to care for. Survivor Rose is armed with a flamethrower (yeah, I couldn't believe it, either!) but zombivor Rose is totally unarmed, which is unusual as both types start the game with the Starts With a Flamethrower skill. Go figure!
Finally, is Thaissa Hayward, who is probably the hardest character to identify. Apparently she is based upon Bridget Fonda's assassin character, Maggie Hayward, from the film Point of No Return aka The Assassin, a pointless and dire US remake of the excellent French film, Nikita. Thaissa was a successful entrepreneur when the zombies came and tried to change the deal. She kept her cool and slightly altered her terms of service to fit the situation. Thaissa now grows her network among local survivors, dealing in equipment, information and weapons. Of course, her beauty and unusual attire help a lot. After all, a new world means new opportunities. Survivor Thaissa is armed with a pair of 9mm pistols, whilst zombivor Thaissa is armed with a pair of knives. She starts the game with the +1 Free Search Action, which may only be used to search and can still only be used once per Turn.
Most of the characters based upon movie and TV characters have been male, so it was especially nice to see a couple of females amongst this lot. Note that four of these characters start the game with the Start with a... skill, which gets them well armed from the very beginning. That makes them useful for starting players wishing to learn the game and I'm sure more experienced players will appreciate having the character armed exactly as the figure is. My criticisms of these figures are as follows - Mike with a chainsaw. Why not a large axe? Brad the crime lord? No way! Not in my games. For me, he can only ever be detective "Dirty Harry" Callahan. Rose armed with a flamethrower? WTF! Who's idea was it to give a little old granny a freaking flamethrower?!!!!! And why hasn't the zombivor version got one when she's supposed to start the game with it? Even if she lost it when she died as a human she gets it back as soon as she reanimates.
I do like Mack's choice of weapons. Kukris are very unusual and very lethal. Now that is being original and different. All in all, they are a nice collection of figures, well sculpted and all are very usable.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Twilight - the Awakening by Stephen Gilbert

I have recently become very good friends with Stephen Gilbert, an author, games designer and zombie fanatic. Inspired by my blog, he got in touch with me to chat about all things to do with zombies. He is planning on running his own zombie apocalypse campaign using 15mm scale figures. Hopefully, when he's ready he'll chronicle it in his own blog. As we got chatting I learned that he had written a zombie novel, which was published in 2009. The novel is called Twilight - the Awakening and was going to be the start of  a series of zombie apocalypse novels. Originally, it was supposed to be a promotional novel for Hasslefree Miniatures' range of contemporary adventurers and zombies. Many of the characters in the book are named after some of the Hasslefree adventurers and you may recognise their names. However, HF pulled the plug on the project and refused to pay Stephen for his work. So, Stephen went ahead and found someone else to publish his novel.
Two things about the novel greatly embarrass Stephen and I do apologise to him for mentioning them. First up, he was in such a hurry to get the book published that he neglected to proofread it properly. I won't say there are a lot of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors in the book because there aren't. However, there are enough that they do become noticeable. Secondly, it is an unfortunate coincidence that Stephenie Meyer brought out her Twilight novel just before Stephen and now the word "Twilight" has become synonymous with sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves much loved by hordes of teenage girls.
So, on to the plot of Stephen's novel. It is set in the near future in England. The hero of the story is a former school teacher, Ray Matsuyama Timoshenko, who is based on Hasslefree's figure of Ray, aka their version of Shaun of the Dead. Ray is in a loveless marriage and has one daughter with whom he has an on/off relationship. He finds solace in alcohol and in the arms of another woman, Geraldine Fletcher, who is also going through a bad marriage. They often meet up in a local hotel run by Madge and Gerald Patterson. All four become good friends and it is during a stay at the hotel for Ray and Geraldine that the zombie apocalypse begins. What caused 95% of the world's population to die and reanimate as flesh eating zombies was a rogue asteroid that broke up high above our planet. Microscopic particles from the asteroid entered our atmosphere and affected the vast majority of the population. A lucky few proved to be immune to the space virus but there seemed to be no logical pattern or reason why so few people were immune.
I won't spoil the plot of the novel by saying who lives and who dies but Ray ends up leading a ragtag assortment of survivors looking for shelter and safety. One other drastic consequence of the asteroid breaking up was that it knocked the earth a few degrees of its axis and very swiftly the weather turned into a nuclear winter. Now the few remaining humans left alive not only have to deal with the undead menace but lethally cold weather. Things look very grim for Ray and his friends.
I enjoyed this novel a lot. Knowing who most of the characters were from their Hasslefree Miniatures counterparts helped me to picture them in my mind's eye and that was a big help. It is a hard hitting novel and many of the small band of survivors meet untimely and horrific endings. You can tell that this was meant to be part one of an ongoing series but Stephen has admitted that it seems unlikely that he'll write any more novels in this series. With a page count of 239 pages and a large typeface this is a book you can read very quickly. But it did keep me entertained from start to finish.
Alas, it is hard to ignore the typos but I respect Stephen for admitting they are entirely his fault. Also, it was just bad luck that the other Twilight novel turned out to be such a smash hit. The book is published by Lulu Marketing and can be found here - for £8.73. I received my copy within three days of ordering it. It is a worthy addition to any zombie fan's book collection and I'll give it a 7 out of 10 rating.

NOTE. My proposed meeting with my girlfriend did not go as planned. At the last minute she was refused entry to her flight by customs officials for what has to be the craziest and most draconian of reasons. She is a Russian citizen and in order to leave Russia a citizen must be able to show customs officials that they have enough funds to live on £60 per day. This money doesn't have to be spent abroad, it just has to be shown at the customs check in. Marina planned to spend 20 days with me, which meant she had to show the customs officials £1,200. This she did not have as I told her because she'd be living with me she wouldn't need to pay for food, drink and accommodation. All she needed to bring was some money for personal spending. How little we knew! To think that the authorities can dictate how much money a person must take abroad is just beyond comprehension! Suffice to say, we are heartbroken but also extremely angry at her treatment. The one good thing to come out of this sorry situation is that it has served to strengthen our love.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Zombicide Season 2 Survivors and Zombivors 05

I continue my review of Zombicide season 2 survivors and zombivors with another four characters. Three of these guys are based on characters from films - The Big Lebowski (Ross and Gary) and Zombieland (Ralph), whilst one is from the TV series, The Big Bang Theory (Will).
I begin with Ross Goodman the warehouse manager, who is obviously based on John Goodman's character, Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski. Ross is more than he appears. He left the army twenty years ago with scars and PTSD but believed he had moved on. Now that the zombie apocalypse is here his soldier's instincts have come roaring back along with his tactical awareness and skill with weapons. Now if he would just put down his bowling ball... Survivor Ross is armed with a .44 Magnum revolver and a bowling ball, which he keeps in a shoulder bag. Note that he comes with a unique equipment card for his bowling ball, which can inflict a massive 3 points of damage! Zombivor Ross is armed with a .38 revolver. He starts the game with the +1 die: Ranged skill, which gives him an extra die to roll for all Ranged Weapon Attacks.
Next up is Gary Bridges the miniature sculptor, and he is based on Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski as played by Jeff Bridges in the film, The Big Lebowski. Note that in the descriptive text about him on the back of the survivors and zombivors boxed set he comes in, he is called Mike. Clearly some confusion here. On his character record card he is called Gary. Being obsessed with his sculpting work, he never noticed when his wife left and took their daughter with her or even the arrival of the zombie apocalypse. That was until he wandered outside and joined a small group of survivors, who find it odd that he quite readily accepts that zombies are "finally" running around. Survivor and zombivor Gary/Mike are each armed with a double-barreled sawn-off shotgun. Note that survivor Gary/Mike has a  torch tucked into his belt. He starts the game with the Slippery skill, which means he does not have to spend extra actions when he performs a Move action through a Zone occupied by zombies.
Moving on, we come to Will Wolowitz the game designer, who is based on Simon Maxwell Helberg's character, Howard Joel Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory TV series. Will served his stint at a video game design company as a noob trainee, spending more time carrying coffee than programming. After three difficult years, he finally got a full time job and his own noob trainee. Only his passion for video games - and above all, zombie video games - gave him the will to endure this. Now that the zombies have come for real, everything is perfect. Survivor Will is armed with his unique comet launcher. Just like Ross's bowling ball, this weapon comes with its own stat card and it is a mighty powerful weapon. It will kill ALL zombies in a single Zone at a range of 2 to 3 Zones. And, yes, that does include Abomination zombies! Zombivor Will is armed with a hunting rifle with scope sight. Will starts the game with the +1 Damage: Ranged skill, which gives him a +1 bonus to the damage of all Ranged Weapon attacks.
Finally, is Ralph Wood the cowboy and he is based on Woody Harrelson's character, Tallahassee in the film, Zombieland. After a successful investment, Ralph earned enough money to buy a quiet ranch and retire. When he heard zombies had come from the city to invade the country, he fortified his house and armed his family to face anything. Later, he decided to return to the city to help his friends there. The situation is even worse then expected but, so far, wilderness lessons apply very well to urban survival. Survivor Ralph is armed with a hunting rifle with fitted scope sight, whilst zombivor Ralph carries a baseball bat. Ralph's starting skill is Steady Hand. which allows him to ignore allied characters when making a Ranged Attack or driving a car through a Zone.
As always these are nicely sculpted figures although I'm not too happy with my paint work on Ross and Gary/Mike. They're adequate I suppose, but once I get my eyesight fully restored I'll probably redo them. Oddly enough, I painted Will and Ralph at the same time and I'm much happier with them. Ross and Will are unique in Zombicide due to them having their own personal weapon cards. Mind you, once they get mixed in with the other decks anyone could find and use them. Both weapons are extremely powerful and are able to take out a zombie abomination, which makes them well worth owning. Who'd have thought a bowling ball could wreak such carnage!

NOTE. I'll be taking a short break from all hobby related activities for the next three weeks as I'll be spending my time entertaining my beautiful new girlfriend. I'll try to keep up with your blogs but I hope you'll understand if I don't leave a comment. I haven't had a proper holiday this century so this is long overdue. Take care and have fun. I know I will!