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Back To The (Grim, Dark) Future Pt1

I have had a love/hate relationship with Warhammer 40000 since 1989.

Although I played a lot of games in that setting for years, I finally put it to one side in the mid 2000s.  I stopped reading White Dwarf, stopped buying Codices and stopped painting 40K figures.  I love the daft futuristic dark age setting but the games themselves extremely rarely lived up to the potential set by the background and so, that was that.

To make a long story short-ish, a few factors combined recently (namely the Horus Heresy series of novels, the totally unsuspected GW re-release of Space Hulk and the Fantasy Flight Warhammer/40K themed boardgames etc) that gradually worked on my subconscious to the point that I planned a gaming weekend with the main emphasis being on playing some small (400-600pt) games of 40K.  I guarantee that I am more surprised at this than you may be.

Despite my 180 degree turnaround on earlier standpoints regarding my willingness to play games of 40K at all, I still wasn’t prepared to play the rules as they are currently written.  Long time game co-conspirator MT and I decided to play using a hodge-podge version of the rules based mostly on our favourite 3rd edition, except where we didn’t want to because we felt that newer rules were better.  None of the rules selected as “better” were written down in advance.

Needless to say, that made this is an imprecise art, best only attempted by players that have successfully played the game together for a long time and who are not obsessed with trying to screw each other over.  I decided to play with MT anyway (thats a joke, geddit?)  Despite the fact that “jamming” with rules sets isn’t really our scene and the high potential for friction it worked out for us for these games.

We mostly played scenario heavy games, rather than the line-them-up-and-knock-them-down dice fests that 40K is infamous for.

This short series will document a small number of those games, mostly pictorially.

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GAME 1: Sin-Eaters Chaos Space Marines Vs Emperors Voice Space Marines

As this was the first game that I had played for a very long time we decided to go with a quick scenario-less game first of all.

Unsurprisingly both sides moved towards the middle, with the exception of the Emperors Voice Devastator squad who too the high ground in their deployment zone.  So far, so predictable.

The Sin Eaters Plague Marine Squad Klaus and Possessed Squad Nemesis along with Squad Van Helden took cover in the ruined temple.


Plum the cat observes the Emperors Voice force form a firing line ready to receive the inevitable charge of the more close combat orientated Chaos troops.

Sgt Klaus (with Klaus played by Brother Bakul in this instalment) is the only surviving member of his squad to reach the loyalist lines, where he begins to make them pay by bludgeoning them with his power weapon.

Chaos firepower almost wipes out a squad of loyalists, while Squad Nemesis is reduced to two survivors from reciprocal shots.  Sgt Klaus shrugs off the assault marines attacks against his bloated undead and armoured hide and kills a marine.

The remnants of Squad Nemesis combine with Sgt Klaus to kill another pair of Assault Marines.

The Tactical Sergeant kills the two Possessed with his power axe but Klaus kills everything in the area including the Tac Sarge.  Standing in the open and covered in gore, Klaus screams his defiance at the heavens.  Then the Devastators on the hill finally get a target again and blow him into rotting, slimy chunks with heavy weapon fire.
The Loyalists win.

Conclusions:In theory, having a large number of units in a game can provide some redundancy so that odd changes in fortune can either be exploited or countered by units held for such a purpose.

That’s the theory anyway, it never applies to games of 40K as the armies are set up so close together and have been min/maxed in such a way as to render thoughts of tactical or strategic play more or less redundant.  It’s a game of point your guys in the direction of the enemy and press “Go”.

This effect is exaggerated by smaller forces like those that we were playing with.  That said, that game was essentially a standard game of 40K in microcosm.

Parts TWO, THREE, FOUR and FIVE.

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The Zompocalypse Will Be Televised.

ZTV News Team

These two figures come from the limited edition Frothers sculpting competition winners from last year.  As far as I know they havent been made available anywhere else since, but I could be wrong.  Its a pity if they havent as they are really very nice sculpts.

I have seen pairs of reporters in 28mm a couple of times before, once from EM4 and once from Copplestone Castings.  While those figures are also great its the body armour on this pair that makes them stand out a little.  Despite the inherent daftness of body armour that fashionably exposes the wearers midriff, the body armour and reporting-from-a-warzone look is very appropriate for a zompocalypse game.

Some real life press in body armour have “PRESS” written across their gear.  I didnt have the patience to paint that on to the figures so I settled for five white lines on each of their backs.  From the distance that the figures are viewed from on the table it really is much of a muchness anyway.

Reporting live from the hot zone.

The paint job on these turned out ok (apart from the fact that I forgot to finish the face of the female figures watch before I took the photos).

To be honest painting the pair was a chore for a few reasons unconnected to the figures themselves.  Between daylight bulbs on my painting lamp blowing at inconvenient times, spilling the entire pot of one of the paints that I was using all over my painting area and finally dropping and breaking the cameraman on the floor when the painting was nearly finished, for a few weeks it looked like these figures were destined to remain unfinished forever.  As such I am happy that they got to this stage at all really.

I plan to use the News Team as special objective pieces in games of (Sho.R.T.) AR:SE.  They could also feature in other games in a variety of usually scenario specific roles.

Penultimate Vanity Project #1: Modern Zompocalyptic Me

The inaugural Penultimate Vanity Project offering is modern era, zompocalypse survivor Paul.

Modern Survivor Me

I decided to start this series with the model that most closely represents what I actually look like.  All further PVP entries (no matter how esoteric) can therefore be measured against this one.

The figure is Baker from Hasslefrees Adventurers range.

I bought the figure specifically to paint up as a modern version of myself for gaming with.  Despite all of my recent talk about using certain heads, cats, glasses and the like to create a recognisable “branding” of my self-portrait figures, I didn’t do anything like that this time.  I considered adding glasses to the model but didn’t for two reasons: the hood made it awkward and the miniature is so beautifully sculpted (as one would expect from Hasslefree) that I didn’t want to cover up the detail with some crude conversion work.

What I did do was paint the clothes to match some things that I wear in real life.  The Sho3box Zompocalyptic Fall Collection consists of:

  • Black hoodie with white piping  – Dunnes Stores – €9
  • Brown/Olive Drab jacket – Dunnes Stores – €38
  • Green Incredible Hulk t-shirt with Lou Ferrigno detail – Unknown Online Retailer $25USD inc shipping
  • Blue jeans – Penneys – €15
  • Black and Yellow Gola Trainers – Schuh.ie – €25 (sale price)

The miniature is sculpted wearing boots rather than trainers.  I don’t tend to wear boots very often so I decided to paint them up like a pair of my trainers anyway.  For the delectation of all of you fashionistas out there the trainers and the t-shirt are shown below.

Trainers

28mm Trainers

Hulk T-Shirt

 

I got a bit lazier than usual when highlighting the jacket, as is quite visible in the shot below.  As the viewers eye tends to be drawn to the face and bright green shirt I don’t think that it matters that much really.

Why am I only wearing one glove?

Although the real me is unlikely to behave in a terribly pro-active fashion in the event of the cannibalistic dead walking the Earth, I figured that some artistic licence was required to make a gaming piece that would be fun to use.  Although obtaining a muzzle suppressed machine pistol in rural Ireland is difficult at the best of times, I nonetheless decided to unrealistically arm the miniature with the supplied ranged weapon rather than the crowbar (also supplied) as it would be more fun to game with.  Miniature realism is a consideration, but I am not going to let it get in the way of my fun.  For the record, I don’t own a set of knuckledusters either.

I like the way that the face came out.  It looks close enough to my face to be acceptable, although as discussed in my project introduction post, getting a 28mm replica of any specific persons face is a tall order.  The painting on the face came out quite crisp and the eyes didn’t end up too crossed, which is always a bonus.

Painting this miniature brought a few things to my attention:

  • When fully dressed I look like a hundred dollars.  Not quite “Derelicte“, but far from haute couture.  A dedicated follower of fashion?  Not so much.
  • The photo is grainy.  I really must up my miniature photo taking game one of these days.
  • Putting photos of my clothes up on my gaming miniatures blog is absurd, but strangely amusing to me.  I may do it with some other PVP entries as appropriate.  Depending on feedback of course.
  • By painting a somewhat recognisable wardrobe on a 28mm figure it is possible to get recognition factor.  When I showed this figure to gaming colleagues they “got” it. I don’t think that if they had seen the figure on the table that they would have immediately known that it was supposed to be me, but when given the figure and asked “This is supposed to be a model of me.  What do you think?” they reacted positively.  This is encouraging for future, more ludicrous Penultimate Vanity Projects in waiting.  As some of the themes used for these figures are repeated I hope that a visual shorthand will develop that will make the PVP miniatures more recognisable to the observer.

Things that make you go “Boom” Pt2

Continuing on from a few weeks ago, here is another small post regarding some interactive little bits of scenery for my zombie game project.

Gas Cans

Players of Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2 will be aware of the various uses of gas cans in the games.  Generally where a “crescendo event” is about to take place the players have a little bit of time to set up the area ready to receive a large wave of infected.  There will usually be a few gas cans in the vicinity that can be arranged in such a way that when shot they will cover an area of advance for the mindless horde.

Good placement of these cans can barbeque a swathe of infected before they even get to the survivors.  They are also a lot of fun to use well, so I definitely wanted to include them in my zombie apocalypse game.

Things that make you go “Boom” Pt1

A small post today, with a rather hastily taken photo too.

When making my Spawn Points recently I took the opportunity to put together a few other smaller terrain/scenario items, all of which fill the roles of the exploding barrel trope (is that the right use of that word?)  popularised in computer games.

Butane tanks (coloured for local distributors rather than the white from L4D) and Fuel drums.

All of the above came from Fenris games and featured in the Zombie Apocalypse game covered over the last few posts here and here.

I was short a handful of gas cans, the sort that feature in L4D that are visible here.  I have ordered a few from Ebay and they will feature in a follow up post.  I bet that you cant wait.

Deadlines: Hostile Corporate Takeover of the Living Dead Pt 2

This report follows on from last Wednesdays post, visible here.

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In advance of the Regenerator the zombies lurched forward, wounding Anderson and Symes with their filthy clawing hands.  With the hissing Regenerator twitching forward on its palsied limbs things are looking bleak for Sigma Squad.

The Regenerator moved suddenly and with a spasm spikes erupted from its body, eviscerating Jerabeck.  With cold efficiency Anderson riddled the body of the Regenerator with rounds from her MP5 killing one of the Regenerators parasites, while weaving between the zombies all around her.

With skills honed by years of training Symes broke right, in the opposite direction to Anderson while putting three rounds into the nearby butane cylinder.  The cylinder burst sending zombie and Regenerator offal flying in all directions.  “Hasta la muerte” she uttered pithily as chunks of bloody, rotten flesh rain down around her.

(When setting up the table for the game some cinematically minded player decided that the best place for a butane cylinder was next to a Spawn Point, and he was probably right.  On this occasion it likely kept the wounded remnants of Sigma Squad in the game).

On the street between the Cinema and the rear of the Police station, USS Squad Gamma crossed paths with USFU Squad Sigma, the first living things that they had encountered since deployment.  Under strict orders to keep their noses out of each others highly sensitive business, a curt nod between fully masked sergeants was the sum of their exchange.  Gamma proceeded North while Sgt White went South.  Squad Epsilons  Ingram climbed the extendable ladder to the roof of the Police station to give covering fire over the vehicle holding the vault keycard.

Squad Gamma proceeded towards the milling throng of confused corpses that was trying to locate its last target, Squad Epsilon.

As Epsilon Sgt White rounds the South side of the police station, Ingram gives cover from the rooftop by detonating a fuel barrel, turning a handful of zeds into sub-human torches.  This cleared the way for Sgt White to get the vault keycard in the blue Porche.

Kaplan pauses from the rhythmic headshots and dismemberments to reload, and is caught unexpectedly.  Although he dies quickly from arterial blood loss, Gamma has no time to grieve as the Squad struggles to keep the mounting horde at bay.

Eerie wailing is heard as a Witch shows up near squad Epsilons keycard objective location.  Luckily, the Witch is inclined to keep itself to itself.  As it spawns a distance away from the main routes travelled by the forces, it remains undisturbed for now.

Squad Gamma, rattled by the loss of Kaplan get some payback on the large mob that has congealed near their objective, the Umbrella Corp local HQ.  After some unnecessary risks, some touch and go hand to hand where they were kept alive only by their kevlar, they get their heads back in the game…

…and tactically withdraw around the rear of their target building.

Meanwhile the wounded Sgt Anderson has procured the incriminating documents.  Now Symes (at the front of the fire truck) has the unenviable task of drawing the zombies away from the Sarge.

At this point the unmistakable howl of a Hunter is heard not far from the Police Station and the Umbrella building…

… and the pressure builds as a Licker shows up even closer to both buildings than the Hunter, next to the still crying Witch.

That doesnt bother Anderson and Symes of Sigma Squad. After reaching the chopper Anderson covers Symes sprint from where she had been heroically drawing the cannibal corpses away from the access point.

With a whine the helicopter begins to lift off, which is enough to agitate the Witch into action.  It also satisfies Sigma Squads mission objective.

Meanwhile Squad Gamma has procured Dr Braga and the vital information that he has.  The hordes are getting nearer however and the extraction chopper has to execute some fancy manoeuvring to get close enough for them to board (the Hunter can be seen approaching on the right, next to the game card).

At this point disaster struck.  Pvt Ocampo had been delayed while punching a couple of zeds tickets at ground level, where she has already seen the approach of the Hunter and Licker plus the large encroaching horde. “Get out of here!” she cried, “Don’t wait for me!”

As the chopper delayed the vital extra seconds for Pvt Rain Ocampo to get up the ladder, the brain dead hordes struggled out of the stairwell onto the roof, dragging the pilot and Pvt Symes of Squad Sigma from the vehicle.

The helicopter tilts, rotors spinning in slow motion, Michael Bay sty-lee.  Across the slow motion image of the chopper crashing into the roof the Hunter leaps screaming onto Pvt Symes, who is subsequently torn apart  while his limbs are used to beat the pilot to a mushy pulp.

The only survivor of Squads Sigma and Gamma is Rain Ocampo, and she is surrounded by zombies on a rooftop with her back to a flaming helicopter wreck.

Sgt White, the lone survivor of squad Epsilon has fought his way through the hordes to his objective, despite losing two good men en route, the last of them only moments ago.  Shoving the final zombies in his path aside he uses the key card to enter the bank and to lock himself into the vault.  There he must locate “the package” in the pitch dark before being extracted.  The vault lights dim and the power cut out.  An inhuman voice screams in the room that Sgt White is locked into behind inches of steel.

Credits roll.

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I was very pleased with how the game worked out.  The revised elements of the system functioned better than I could have hoped.  While a handful of minor issues were quickly recorded during the game for inclusion in future drafts the game trundled along quickly and cinematically.  Importantly the other players were able to work out the rules and mechanics of the game from the cards and rules document without the author (me) having to translate.  I have hopes that this system will regularly get played at Sho3box Castle.  Which will help me to justify my compulsion to paint even more zombies.

Deadlines: Hostile Corporate Takeover of the Living Dead Pt 1

Preamble

After last weeks diatribe regarding the build up and preparatory work for the zombie apocalypse segment of a recent gaming weekend, the report of the game itself follows as promised.

For info regarding the terrain and why it looks the way it does check out the previous zombie game report as I want to avoid repeating all of that stuff here.  All of the Survivors, Special Infected and Spawn Points plus many of the individual zombies themselves are pictured throughout this blog.  Use the tags to the right of the post if you want to see something in particular close up.

Objectives and Deployment

“Day 9.  Infection has not progressed further than 8km beyond the original release site, due to Umbrella containment at principal choke points.  Manipulation of political, media and other information sources has provided enough time for the virus to be tested in non-laboratory conditions and without interference from the authorities.

Final data must be gathered before Governmental intrusion becomes inevitable.  Your squad will be deployed directly into the hot zone.  Objective is priority.  All other considerations are secondary.  As a result all non Umbrella personnel are to be terminated with extreme prejudice.  Any contact with other Umbrella personnel is prohibited without express permission from your CO, due to the sensitivity of individual objectives.

Squad size is reduced to three to accommodate easy extraction and to minimise disruption to the test site”.

MT, PB and I picked a small force of Umbrella Security Service or Umbrella Special Forces Unit each.  PB picked USFU Squad Epsilon while MT and I each picked three members of USS Squads Sigma and Gamma respectively.

We had access to many more survivor figures, often with more esoteric equipment and or characteristics.  As this was a playtest game we deliberately choose not to use those and to each field very similar three man teams.  This was deliberate and intended to keep our focus a little more on the basic game mechanics.

Shade, Kaplan and Ocampo of USS Gamma Squad deployed on the roof of the bank…

…with orders to locate and evacuate Dr Braga from the roof of the Umbrella local HQ building.  The information that Dr Braga holds regarding the development of his ZG620 (zombie repellent) formula is of incalculable value.

White, Ingram and Hoffman of USFU Squad Epsilon are deployed on the roof of a local retail outlet (“Strangerous Liaisons”, a sex shop).  From this point Squad Epsilon must acquire the code key from the corpse of a deep cover Umbrella agent…

…in his blue porche (lovingly offset here by the wandering flesh eating remains of Michael Jackson).  The Umbrella agent used to work undercover in the bank where he concealed a sensitive package in the vault before being dismembered by Whiskey Deltas.  After acquiring the code from the car Epsilon has to progress to the bank vault to secure the package without destroying it (even if it bites).  Once there they need only wait for extraction.

Anderson, Symes and Jerabeck of Squad Sigma were airlifted to the Police Station roof in a locally acquired helo.

Similarly to the Gamma mission, Squad Sigma must reacquire potentially incriminating documents from the police vehicle shown (again being modelled by Michael Jackson) and return to the extraction vehicle.

Resistance is factored at Level Orange (that’s eighty zeds plonked down at random plus nine reinforcements per turn, plus a handful of randomly determined Special Infected showing up throughout the game, on a 6 x 4’ table, in case you were wondering).

The centre of the target area, just before the action begins

The Action

Squad Gamma proceeds with covering fire, by the numbers.  They encounter a still armoured ex-USS colleague.  The Sergeant puts a shotgun round through its head without a second thought.  “If necessary I expect each one of you to do the same for me” he rasps through internal comms (tough guys always rasp, they never just “say”).

Squad Sigma proceeds slowly and efficiently, clearing a path through the dispersed undead.

In stark, bloody contrast to the advance of the other Umbrella units, the overconfident Hoffman of Squad Epsilon gets too close to a mob of ex-police as he rounds the first corner.  Although he takes a few shamblers with him, he is torn limb from limb in moments, his screams of agony being heard through each Epsilon earpiece.

Squad Epsilon continued to advance.  The longer they stayed the more biters were going to be drawn to the area, so they grimly pressed on.

(This was an alarmingly sudden and early demise for one third of PBs forces, much to our amusement.  Despite being 100% lethal upon contact with Survivors, Zombie mobs move rarely and are very unlikely to move rapidly in succession before Survivors get to react.  At least that’s what Hoffman thought anyway.  This unpredictability is part of the appeal of card driven miniature games for me, even if this is an extreme example of things going not so well for a player.  Don’t feel sorry for Hoffman (or PB): they knew the odds)

Squad Sigma rounded the abandoned cinema, taking out the closest threats all the while.  Their gunfire had drawn zombies in the area towards them however and their firepower was not proving to be sufficient to clear a path…

Squad Gamma gave the horde nearby a wide berth, but still ran into to some opponents that could not be dropped at range.  Kaplan and Ocampo dealt with their targets, while the Sergeant dropped a zombie with the butt of his shotgun and blew its brain remnants out on the ground.  Having become separated from his squad by a small distance by a number of hostiles he confirmed rendezvous at the far side of the park.

Even while Hoffmans remains were being devoured Epsilon came under more pressure from the encroaching dead.

After a struggle that was touch and go for a while they blasted their way through the throng and proceeded towards their objective.

Sigma was finally making some headway when the first of the less common undead threats appeared alarmingly close to them.  While not especially fast, the Regenerator (square base, standing next to Spawn Point) is very dangerous up close and very resistant to gunfire, as the combination of T-virus and Las Plagas parasites work to knit its dead flesh beck together after trauma.

Will the Regenerator tear squad Sigma limb from limb?

Will Dr Braga be rescued?

Who will live?

Who will die?

What will explode?

Tune in next week for the thrilling (well somewhat amusing and entertaining in a well-you-had-to-be-there kind of way) conclusion of…

Deadlines: Hostile Corporate Takeover of the Living Dead!


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