Friday, 26 August 2016

Oh, you turnip, Adso.

Now it might just be me*, but Brother James, my latest Zombicide Black Plague survivor, seems to bare an uncanny resemblance to a certain Scotsman's portrayal of Friar William of Baskerville in Jean-Jacques Annard's The Name of the Rose.

This was another one of those films that had a lasting impact on the 'oh so serious' young Master Awdry, but it wasn't until much later on that I managed to tackle the splendid book, of the same name, by Umberto Eco.  Whilst an incredibly worthy piece of literature, brimming with biblical analysis and semiotics we will be referring to the celluloid interpretation for the purposes of this post.
*Although somehow I doubt it.
For those who have yet to experience this little gem, The Name of the Rose, is a murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, stick with me, it's better than it sounds.  Sean Connery wonderfully hams up the role of William of Baskerville**, the mentor to a young Christian Slater's Adso.

The pair set about unraveling the clues in order to explain the mysterious death of a talented manuscript illuminator.  As the death toll rises the Abbot is forced to employ the services of the, quite brilliant,  F. Murray Abraham as Bernardo Gui of the Spanish Inquisition.  Twist and turns abound, with ancient Greek texts, labyrinthine secret libraries and of course the delectable Valentina Vargas as the 'Rose' - what more could an impressionable sixteen year old wish for?
**Love or loathe him, the man has genuine screen presence. 
To this day it still looks good, with some great performances, but I have a feeling that it was not quite the epic piece of work the director had hoped for.  Umberto Eco himself damned the production with faint praise, referring to it as, "a nice movie".***  For me, however, it was pure escapism and one of those films that I am more than happy to revisit when given the opportunity.
***"A book like this is a club sandwich, with turkey, salami, tomato, cheese, lettuce. And the movie is obliged to choose only the lettuce or the cheese, eliminating everything else – the theological side, the political side.  It's a nice movie" - The Guardian 2011
Returning to point of the post, Brother James/William has been selected for his starting skill of Search, allowing him to draw an extra card when searching.  Combine this with his ability to hold a torch in his armour slot and our benevolent Brother will provide the team with three equipment cards every turn - just what every beleaguered survivor wants to hear!  When it came to painting, I was inspired by my good friend, Stefan's interpretation which is well worth a look here.  He has done a stunning job on James' face, remarkable work.  

William of Baskerville: But what is so alarming about laughter?
Jorge de Burgos: Laughter kills fear, and without fear there can be no faith, because without fear of the Devil there is no more need of God.
 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dirty Old Town

It is perhaps not surprising that at this time of year the day job demands much of my attention.  The publication of the A-Level results last week meant that hobby time, and Blogging, had to take a bit of a back seat of late, but I haven't been completely idle.  Earlier in the week my pledge for the 'Battle Systems' Urban Apocalypse Terrain Kickstarter arrived; I had heard whisper that it was landing on doormats across Europe and now I had my hands on mine.  
I had already seen a couple of unpacking videos and watched some of the assembly tutorials on the company's website, but when I had the actual product in front of me I was so excited that I just didn't know where to start.  I think the hesitancy was initially caused by being too precious about the individual parts and if I could offer some words of advice, don't be.  Of course care is required as the card stock, whilst of a fabulous quality, does have delicate parts and sometimes the interlocking grooves or tabs might be too small or thin,* just cut them to fit and move on.  The thing I had to remind myself was that I had bought this as playable terrain for games like 'The Walking Dead, Mars Attacks, ZombieTV and the Batman Miniatures Game, it was not going to be for display purposes.  It was backed for the very reason that it could be assembled, played with and packed away again without incurring the wrath of the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry'.  
*although it has to be said that this is rarely the case.
Resolute in my determination to actually assemble something before the Lady of the house returned, I ploughed on regardless and started pressing out the plastic clips that are instrumental in the construction of the various levels.  This was followed by some sheets of the card stock, and again I need to point out the sheer quality of the printing.  Those familiar with the quality of the Zombicide boards will not be disappointed at the design and printing of the different textures that 'Battle Systems' have employed.  Exterior and internal walls aside there is a plethora of different furniture pieces and scatter terrain squeezed on to each sheet and because of this hours seemed to slip by before I had achieved very much at all.  
Having assembled a couple of things and placed them on the superb, rubber backed neoprene mat, again beautifully printed, She, who must be obeyed returned and all had to packed away so I could lay the table for supper.  Given the lightweight nature of the terrain, I simply picked up two opposite corners of the mat and took the whole street off the table, resigned to the fact that I could have another go at town planning the following day.  I am happy to report that the second attempt was much quicker as not requiring to push out the individual items I was able to give more thought to what I wanted to construct and in no time at all things were coming together. 
Whilst some of the individual pieces of furniture have just one purpose and can therefore remain assembled the bulk of the terrain is completely interchangeable and so you really are only limited by your imagination and the amount of clips you have.  Pleased with my initial attempt at town planning it was time to unleash the horde onto the streets to see how it looked and I have to tell you I was thrilled with the outcome!  The quality of the design and the actual product really are amazing.  The photographs that I have taken just show the 'raw' card stock straight from the box and before even considering edging with a felt pen or graphic marker.
The terrain allows you to use both interior and exterior playing surfaces, but you will need to give this some thought before putting your town together.  You should simply just be able to lift a floor or roof off to gain access to the interior space below, and in theory you can, but some of my initial designs meant that when lifting the floor out I kept catching it on the clips supporting the other walls. This often resulted in showering the streets below with all manner of debris and accompanied by the occasional harsh word.  This is a minor moan and one I took pains to avoid in revised builds by simplifying those areas I wanted to remove.  So really, really pleased with this and I hope that it will get some use in the months to come, well done 'Battle Systems';  now on with the photographs! 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

STAND BACK! Be silent! Be still!



John Boorman's 1981 epic, Excalibur left quite an impression on young master Awdry.  Whilst familiar with the Arthurian legend, albeit in the sanitised form that was freely available to schoolchildren at the time, nothing had prepared me for this this dark, often harrowing, interpretation based of the 15th century, Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory.  The was a visually stunning piece of work, but I remember being as confused as I was amazed, not least because they used the Old Spice theme tune to ride into battle!*
*Carl Orff's O Fortuna
With a formidable cast of British and Irish talent a stand out turn has to be that of Nicol Williamson as Merlin.  Mesmerised by the metallic skull cap, Williamson's Merlin steals every scene he is in, his comedic timing combined with a genuine screen presence giving the role true gravitas.  Perhaps not surprising then that a Merlinesque miniature would appear as part of the Zombicide Black Plague Kickstarter.  
Morgan, to give him his correct Zombicide name, was one of the randomly selected miniatures that the 'Dark Templar' fielded on his recent excursion to 'Awdry Towers', but what a revelation he soon became.  Armed with dual magic spells, Mike was rolling in excess of six dice at one point with devastating effects on the undead hoard.  With the ability to hold a third, longer ranged spell in the armour slot, Morgan was fast becoming an indispensable addition to the team.  
His official Zombicide blurb reads as follows, The third son of a knight, Morgan was always too poor to be a knight, too strong to be a scholar, and too smart to be a thug. What magic he could find was second-hand stuff, gleaned from sneaking into old castles and stealing from necromancers. He knows enough magic to get by, but in a pinch, his staff is a wonderful mace and his dagger will slow down even a zombie. Morgan always dreamed of advising a king. Now his best bet may be saving one’s life.
So, again in homage to his efforts on the board, Morgan/Merlin becomes the latest addition to the team and seeing how effective he was when loaded with spells, I am hopeful that he will continue to perform this roll when deployed in similar missions.  

"Look into the eyes of the dragon and despair!"

Click the logo for a treat! 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Warrior Princess

Well the 'play date' came and went and it was lovely the catch up with 'The Dark Templar' and 'Bullcher Feb'.  I haven't posted a battle report mostly because I didn't take any photographs and was simply enjoying the opportunity to actually play a few games with friends.  Mike has posted a quick round up of the pertinent action including a nod to the key players here.  I was keen to get my newly painted miniatures onto the board, but I have to confess that they didn't perform quite as I thought.  'Klom' wasn't given much opportunity to call upon his Barbarian skill as we tended to opt for a more cautious approach of game play.
When he did manage to deliberately put himself in harm's way it ended up with dire consequences for the group, a zombie activation card meaning that they were on him before he had an opportunity to unleash his mighty mace.  'Gowan', who will be for evermore known as  Connor, faired a little better, although I was concerned initially when he just seemed to be ambling around the board wondering why nobody would stand and fight him!  His Regeneration skill is particularly useful and on several occasions he was able to take the bite for the team knowing that it would be simply removed at the end of the turn.
 My compatriots, however, dominated the show with their choices of characters, which rather brings me to the point of the post.  So taken was I with the make up of our little band of warriors that I felt it only right and proper to promote a couple of them up the painting queue in honour of their achievements.
Xuxa with her super strength meant that even armed with the smallest of pointed weapons we had an abomination killer on our team from the outset!  Just knowing this seemed to steady the nerves and as a result we played through each encounter in a calm and organised manner.  Xuxa official blurb reads as follows:

Xuxa leads a bandit crew, a great troupe of scum and villains that makes its way across the land, pillaging and stealing and never staying in one place long enough to get caught. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s a living.  Or, at least, it was. Then the zombies started cutting in on their business. Xuxa isn’t really into humanitarian causes, but she’s very into turning a profit, and if the creatures are going to get in the way of that, she’s going to get in their way in return.

Now this is all well and good, but Xuxa is always going to represent Xena, Warrior Princess in my eyes and as was duly painted accordingly.  Interestingly I don't remember being a huge fan of the television program, although why the exploits of leather clad Amazonian warrior wouldn't appeal escape me and perhaps a spot of retrospective reviewing will be required?  What I can tell you as a Zombicide, Black Plague character, Xuxa is a devastating force as 'The Dark Templar' has already identified, much more eloquently, here.
So with Xuxa joining the ranks of my other survivors, it is time to go in search of a Wizard!



Friday, 5 August 2016

There can be only one!

From the dawn of time we came; moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering; when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you... until now.

Much maligned and often derided the 1980s have been enjoying something of a revival of late, as only the other day the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry' took in a concert performed by her teen idol, Nik Kershaw Esq.  Certainly, from my point of view, they were a decade of scintillating highs and desperate lows as witnessed through the eyes of an adolescent schoolboy.  That said solace was often found through the escapism of the cinema or the renting of videos* and one particular title that has endeared a place in my heart, and dare I say earned cult status on a global scale, was Russell Mulcahy's 1986, Highlander.  

*Even this was a potential minefield of disappointment given the myriad of truly appalling 'straight to video' releases of the time. 

From Sean Connery's opening narration as Ramirez, I was hooked.  Add to this a heady mix of battle scenes, time travel, a love story and a thumping soundtrack from Queen and, as far as this sixteen year old was concerned, you have cinematic gold!  Now I am happy to concede that it is floored, but Christopher Lambert's dire Scottish accent not withstanding I still very much enjoy it, probably in a similar way that a toddler still craves a baby blanket, yes Highlander has become a 'thumb sucker' of a film, you know you should let it go, but something won't let you.  
Anyway, I digress, but there is a relevance buried here, I promise.  In preparation for Saturday's 'Gathering' I felt the need to paint a couple of Zombicicde Black Plague Survivors to bring to the table.  Having already completed the plastic mountain of an Ogre that is 'Klom', I was looking for something a bit different.  'Bullcher Feb' has already identified a couple of candidates that he would like to add to the mix, namely 'Redcap Rodney' and 'Nelly the Barmaid' and so I went in search of inspiration of my own.  I have been quite taken of late by my good friend, Stefan's** work, particularly his 'Bother James' and 'Xuxa'.  Now of course any resemblance to cinematic characters is purely coincidental, but I think we all love the 'not' characters best and I was delighted when my eyes fell upon a potential Connor MacLeod.

** A.K.A. Monty of 'Monty's Caravan'.
Having selected Gowan, to give him his official name, I quickly checked the official blurb, which read as follows.  Gowan was born in a filthy hut, lived in a filthy hut, and nearly died there when the zombies attacked. He was the only man of his village to survive their vicious, mindless attack, and, when the dust had settled, he took a sword off of a dead soldier and went about killing his former friends and kin a second time as they rose as zombies. He has been wandering the land ever since, looking for a place to call home. But everywhere he goes, death seems to follow behind.
With a nod to his cinematic lineage, Gowan is gifted Regeneration as a starting skill, meaning that at the end of each game round, all wounds that he received are removed.   In my eyes this would make him a good character to take on that risky search at the end of his go or a character that could buy the rest of the group some time at the start of the game as they look to 'tool up' for the battles ahead.  Of course there are limits and Gowan will need to be careful not to be bitten three times in one turn as Regeneration doesn’t work if the Survivor has been eliminated.
Painting was relatively straight forward until it came to the tartan.  Now I can tell you that there is, of course, a MacLeod tartan, but it doesn't look anything like this!  I had meticulously planned my approach trying out paints and intended on using inks mixed with my chosen colours to make the lines easier to control.  This had all worked splendidly on paper, but when I tried it on the miniature it all went wrong.  The consistency of the paint just wouldn't adhere to the plastic and I had to resort to plan 'B'.  Although far too bright, with a couple of washes I have rather come to accept my new colour scheme as it adds some much needed vibrancy to the piece and I feel impact is important, after all in the words of the Kurgan himself,

"It's better to burn out than to fade away!'



Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Kickstarter arrives!

Now I had rather hoped that this morning's post was going to showcase another Zombicide Black Plague survivor, namely Gowan, ahead of Saturday's gathering.  Unfortunately here on the the Sunshine Coast we have had a couple of days of rain, the joys of the the Great British summer.  I am reliably informed that this weather is good for the garden, but not so for a chap wanting to varnish his toy soldiers!  That said my spirits have been lifted somewhat by the timely arrival of a Kickstarter. 

 Earlier in the year, May to be precise, Joakim Ström of 'the Miniatures Man' fame alerted to us the fact that a young German gentleman, called Rene, was fulifing a dream to became a sculptor by running a small Kickstarter to launch a range of fantasy miniatures.  It struck me that this is exactly what Kickstarter was created for and although not exactly to my immediate tastes I thought that I might be able to use the miniatures for my 'Witchfinder General' project and so signed up of the Undead Troops pledge.
The whole process has run very smoothly with Rene keeping us abreast of progress with updates the most recent, only last week, alerting us to the fact that all the pledges had now been sent out.  Imagine my surprise then when mine landed on the doormat on Monday!  The sculpts look great with plenty of detail to keep my brush happy and the casting is crisp with very little work required to prepare the pieces for painting.  My attention was immediately drawn towards the Headless Horseman, when I suddenly realised that the pieces don't have integrated bases.  This isn't a problem of course, but with the Horseman's mount rearing up, I was going to need to give its basing a little thought.
This was to become my 'wet play' project and with the bits box duly raided, I set about assembling the piece.  Having pinned the Horseman's hand to the body, I tried the same with the horse's hoof to a 50mm 'Warbases' MDF disc, but my concern was this wasn't going to be strong enough.  To ease my stability wobbles I used some 'Fenris Games' ruined rubble pieces I had lying around along with 'Games Workshop' branch from their Wylde Wood.  
The space at the front of the base was crying out for a couple of extra pieces and the 'Reaper Miniatures' raven perched on a skull seemed to fit the bill.  In fact the inclusion of this detail reminded me of the Horsemean's penchant for collecting heads and so a few more macabre reminders of his collection were added.  That is pretty much where I have got to at the moment, but I am thinking perhaps a pumpkin or two as a final nod to Washington Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
So well done to Rene, for running such a great Kickstarter and I hope that its success encourages the young man to continue with his passion for sculpting as clearly there is a talent there.  



Saturday, 30 July 2016

Zombicide Black Plague - Klom

Ahead of next Saturday's gaming day, or play date as the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry' likes to refer to them, I thought that I would paint up a couple of Zombicide, Black Plague survivors to take to the table.  'Bullcher Feb' has approached this is a very scientific matter, analysing the different attributes and putting together a balanced team capable of taking on the zombie hoard, I've just picked the biggest chunk of plastic I could lay my hands on - I give you Klom.
Lifted shamelessly from the official 'Black Plague' site, I can tell you that  Klom isn’t afraid of Zombies. He’s not afraid of anything – except spiders, but he’ll never own up to that one. An Ogre, Klom was a tough fighter and bandit long before the zombies started overrunning his camp. Once those pests showed up, well, then he just had something else to fight. With his flail in hand, Klom can stop just about anything and if that doesn’t work, he’ll just stomp them!  He’s taken a few trophies in his day, but others are finding the rotting zombie heads almost too much to bear, perhaps fingers would be better?
Initially I was worried about the sheer level of detail on this model, and with a base just shy of 35mm there is a lot of detail to contend with, but Klom has been a wonderful foil to the terrain building of late.  I would just spend forty miniatures or so every time I was waiting for something to dry and slowly, but surely, the massive frame of the Ogre has come to fruition.
I'm not sure how he will fair in the game, but given that he starts with Barbarian, which allows him, when resolving a Melee Action to substitute the dice number of the melee weapon(s) he uses with the number of Zombies standing in the targeted zone, I see him very much as 'go-to' survivor when the hordes start to mass.  With the addition of Super Strength at orange level, Klom becomes an Abomination killer!  
Whilst subtlety will never be his thing, I am hoping that Klom will raise the group's spirits and bring some levity to those tense moments, after all we all know that Ogres have layers.    



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