Friday, 3 February 2023

Last Days Seasons campaign: January

Last weekend I managed to play the first game of what will hopefully be a year-long Last Days Seasons campaign.

The premise of the campaign is that when the zombie apocalypse kicked off, my leader (Devon) has managed to get his friend Jess and helper monkey Umlaut (sue me, I’m a Y: the Last Man fan) out of the city, and headed to a hobby farm where Jess had been taking agriculture classes, and on the way they have picked up a motley crew of other survivors looking to wait out the end of the world - Lynn, a medic, Kevin, a random guy with a cricket bat, Cece, a teenager, and Dionne, who wandered up to them one day with a samurai sword in one hand and an assault rifle in the other, which is hard to argue against.

They’ve made their way to the farm, cleared it out of its former occupants, and hunkered down to wait for this all to blow over. But it hasn’t. After a relatively quiet week where the group are starting to realise that they’re somewhat under equipped with food and fuel to survive the winter, they hear something - rushing outside, they see a helicopter in the distance, and it’s losing height rapidly. It crashes into the tree line not too far away, so our survivors pull on their packs to go and see if there’s anyone that needs help (or any unattended cans of beans…)


I won’t write out a full turn by turn report, more of a cribs notes version with key happenings.

After setting up the table which took quite a while, as there was a lot of flipping through the rulebook refreshing myself on rules (side note - why don’t modern rulebooks have an index or page references by rules to make it easier to actually use during a game?) I realised that I hadn’t printed out any tokens needed to play the game. Being as I was already at about an hour in at this point, I went with the low tech solution:


I popped my head in to see my wife at this point to see if she wanted a cup of tea, and she asked ‘oh have you finished your game?’ to which I sheepishly replied ‘ah, no I’ve not actually started yet…’

So, having placed the supply markers across the board, my merry band split up into three groups to sweep across the terrain laying waste to all the opposed them. Or at least that was the plan…


Jess (being hardy and able to carry more than the average bear) was sweeping up the left hand side, with Dionne covering her; Devon and Umlaut up the centre towards the crashed helicopter, with Cece and her hunting rifle hanging back at a safe distance to try and plink anyone that came near them; and Kevin and Lynn on the right, back to back Charlie’s Angels style.

However, Kevin my shotgun armed survivor, despite needing a 2+ to hit at close range whenever he shot, somehow missed multiple times, which impeded the effectiveness of the plan.

Rolling on the solo play event table at the end of each turn, I managed to get the result where a zombie stands up and carries off a supply token multiple times, which made operation sweep in, grab the goods and then get the hell out of there a little trickier…

Given that he’s the fastest moving member of the group, my monkey largely bounced from group to group piling on whenever someone got caught in combat with a zombie - and even though I always activated him last in the hopes of someone else getting XP, even in a three on one fight it still seemed to be him that ended up landing the killing blow more often than not.


Disastrous dice rolling aside, things went largely to plan, with Jess snatching up two supply tokens in short order. 

Then, rolling on the events table I got a ‘weather changes’ result, resulting in a sudden thaw that made all non man-made surfaces sticking mud. Which wasn’t ideal, as the board I set up was all woodland, so every move was halved for the rest of the game.


Thus began a knock down drag out war of attrition… against mud, mostly, as what was supposed to be a smash and grab operation became a game of increments. If anyone needed to reload, they were then only able to move an inch or so across the board, and then add being slowed by being encumbered by supplies. I imagine a certain amount of falling over accompanied by Yakkity-Sax in the movie adaptation of this story.

One major learning from this first game: the surplus assault rifle is very noisy. So noisy that if you fire it twice in one turn, there is then a 100% chance of another zombie turning up. And given the way I roll, I wasn’t taking out two zombies for every one that I was bringing on, so by the end of the game we were operating on such a deficit that the number of zombies entering the board from the same edge as the survivors suggested they’ve led a horde here!


XP is XP though, so I kept on blasting for far longer than I probably should have. We’ll, until everyone’s guns ran out of ammo and reloading was ignored in favour of booking it to try and get off of the board with the spoils!

It was a close run thing at the end, with Devon and Kevin flailing at smiths zombie carrying the final supply token, eventually succeeding in wrestling it from the zombie’s cold dead hands before running, screaming off of the board.

Between my unfamiliarity with the rules and the sudden appearance of mud in the game, I didn’t finish playing until half 1, so I tidied up (so that my children had somewhere to eat breakfast in the morning!) and went to bed, saving the best bit of any campaign for the morning after, the post-game sequence!


Everyone other than Cece got enough experience to level up, which was exciting. Devon got tougher, Jess and Lynn (the two with no ranged weapons) got better at bashing in zombie brains, Kevin got weirdly more energetic, and Dionne learned the double tap skill, which should allow her to more effectively take down zombies at range (whilst also summoning more due to more bullets=more noise). 

One thing that the Seasons expansion adds is additional supply tables, to represent a focus on scavenging for useful supplies, so I rolled on the winter table for three of my five supply tokens, hoping to find some of the unique things like cold weather gear and space heaters, and two on the general table, hoping to get a better (quieter!) assault rifle for Dionne. Instead I found another surplus assault rifle, a heavy club, and then a smattering of food, fuel and supplies. Ah well, there’s always next month, maybe I’ll find a knife or two, as having to roll a 5+ to take out a zombie with my rolls is trickier than you’d think…

In a Seasons campaign, you also track hunger, thirst, sickness and warmth. Thankfully, the two survivors that had gotten sick were able to make a full recovery with just bed rest, and everyone else managed to scrape together enough food and fuel to keep everyone fed and warm (which is harder than you’d think, a drafty old farmhouse takes more fuel than it does to heat a cosy little cabin).

So, no one died, the survivors have somewhere warm to sleep and food in their bellies, month one was a success. It’s still early days though…

Sunday, 29 January 2023

‘Was that a helicopter?’


For the first scenario in my Last Days campaign, I decided that I needed to model a crashed helicopter, as the sort of thing that a newly formed group of survivors might find themselves investigating whilst searching for supplies in the early days of the zombie apocalypse.

Handily, I already had a toy helicopter that I’d cut in half:


This was bought from the poundshop so long ago that it actually only cost a pound. Showing how long I’ve had this for, when I cut out a chunk to make it look slightly buried in the ground, I found that past me had used rizla packet to cover some holes, and I’ve not been a smoker for at least twelve years, suggesting that this broken toy has moved house with me at least three times:


On the other hand, it’s proof to my wife that I will eventually get round to finishing of all those half-finished projects.

So, having cut and sanded away a chunk of the undercarriage, I mounted it to a base cut from my usual scrap board:


and then started building up some ground around it using chunks of cork.


I love cork, it’s lightweight, easily cut, and will also make nice looking rocks wherever I leave it poking out of the ground.

To further build up the ground, to make it look like the crashing helicopter ploughed into the ground rather than just sitting flat atop it, I built up around the helicopter with some filler:


The helicopter’s tail got it’s own base, and had the ground level around it built up more on one side than the other to make it look like it had slid along as it buried itself in the ground:


Once I was happy with how that looked, it was onto detailing! Being a toy, there were a number of screw holes that needed filling - where there was only a void behind some holes, I glued in a little chunk of cork first to give the filler something to butt up against. I wasn’t overly fussed about getting a smooth finish on these cover-ups, as I figured that since I was making a wreck any imperfections would only add to the overall effect once I got to the weathering stage. 

Many years ago when I first chopped this toy in half, I’d put some tube and sprue into the tail piece, to make it look like some internal structures existed that had snapped in the crash, so now I needed to do the same with the hole in the main body of the helicopter. 

Fun fact - lollies don’t come with plastic tubes as their sticks any more, instead coming on a paper stick that is no use when you’re trying to make a miniature tube. Handily, being a terrible pack rat like most wargamers, I had one of the old style ones from at least a decade ago still: 


Which I used to make some broken pipes and a broken rotor housing (as the toy rotor blades had apparently disappeared at some point in the distant past, I figured they’d likely have sheared off in the crash so I could get away with just having a damaged housing for them rather than having to carve some replacements out of plasticard).

I also added some plastic girder (that came with a Fenris Games kit) and distressed some sprue with a pair of pliers to give a suitably mechanical appearance.



Speaking of things that had gone missing at some point, the ski foot thing on the helicopter was also nowhere to be found, so I bent up some leftover model spearshafts to make it look like the legs had bent and snapped in the crash:


Fun fact, after finishing this project I found the exact same part from one of my son’s toy helicopters that I could have scavenged for this if only I’d found it a day earlier, but isn’t that always the way.

Building complete, I slathered the base on my usual textured paint (which is going surprisingly well considering I made it a couple of years ago and it’s been living in a sauce pot ever since), and then once that was dry went back over the piece adding sand and stones to give greater depth and texture:



Then it was time for painting! Big brushes and a simple colour scheme was the plan here, as I knew I was going to weather the bejesus out of it. As there was a lot of deep lined detail on the toy, I figured I go and panel line it as if it was a proper model kit:


Which turned out looking alright, so I was pleasantly surprised. 

I opted for a pale bluey grey, as I figured it was generic enough that I might be able to use this terrain piece more than once, and painted the panel on the tail blue to give it a little pop of colour. I also added a transfer from an old Bretonnian transfer sheet, which has got huge mileage over the years providing me with a variety of generic items and patterns that I’ve used on pretty much everything other than what they were originally intended for.

Then it was a case of weathering, weathering and more weathering! Silver brown and black in various amounts combine to make it look like this crash was a real doozy (even if realistically a crash like this would likely have a few scrapes if it had landed relatively intact, but allow me some artistic license):

And voila, that’s it ready for my survivors to scavenge for supplies!

Sunday, 15 January 2023

The Last of Us…

 …if by us, you mean the last of the miniatures I need to start playing a Last Days campaign:

All from Hasslefree, taking inspiration from characters from The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. Fun fact, my daughter was impressed that I’d painted the same design on the shirt of a miniature as was on the shirt of a shark man on Dance Monsters, the Netflix show she was watching this morning.

My not-Michonne is a conversion too, as I couldn’t decide whether to use the samurai sword or the assault rifle arm, so decided to go for both! Don’t look too closely at the hand holding the gun, glueing that tiny contact point was a bit of a pickle.


I also used my second favourite of the available backpack options, as I wanted to use the more backpack like one to make another loot token at some point in the future…

In terms of painting, they’ve come out rather dark haven’t they? Given the subject matter, I’m not super unhappy about that though. One thing that could have come out better was not-Joel’s shirt - there is a checkered brown pattern on the green shirt, that you can only really see if you get it about an inch away from your eyes. Ah well, done is done though, and I can start playing games now!

And so, a group shot:


You see from the other members of the group why I needed to paint some additional miniatures to give myself some firepower! 

The premise for the group is that when things went south, my Leader (and the helper monkey he’d been training - so sue me, I like Y: the Last Man) booked it out of the city to a farm where the young lady in pink at the back of the group had been taking a course to wait out the apocalypse, picking up a motley crew of hangers-on along the way.


So, the first finished miniatures of the year sets the Tally to:

3 vs 0 = +3


Up next, a specific piece of scenery for the first scenario in my Seasons campaign, hopefully…

Sunday, 1 January 2023

2022 in review

Ah, the annual post where I look back at the year just gone by, and compare what I thought I’d be doing in the previous year’s review post to what actually happened!

Tally

Thanks to the usual last minute scramble to get stuff painted, 2022 ended up on:

85 vs 85 = +0

Which while technically not a positive result, isn’t a negative so I’m still calling it a win. 

Twelve years of stats:

2022: 0 (85 painted)

2021: +16 (52 painted)

2020: -100 (47 painted)

2019: +3 (46 painted)

2018: +52 (52 painted)

2017: -14 (47 painted)

2016: -287 (56 painted)

2015: -96 (59 painted)

2014: 0 (80 painted)

2013: -416 (25 painted)

2012: -103 (68 painted)

2011: -173 (122 painted)



That’s the most miniatures I’ve painted in a year since the very first year I started blogging, which is an impressive achievement! I think the secret to big numbers is batch painting, but I just don’t enjoy that as much as I do faffing around with individual miniatures, so who knows whether we’ll match or surpass this number next year…


Posts

At least one post every month bar April last year, and that I think was because I was chugging away batch painting an entire unit of Skavenslaves, which I didn’t finish until June (and the two posts in May were single minis). March had the highest number of posts, but that’s because I had Covid and so played a bunch of solo games of Frostgrave…


Last year’s Challenge

As ever, the Challenge was largely ignored, in favour of projects that I was actually doing. 

  • Finish something years old Gorman Di Wulfe!
  • Finish some terrain (2/3) 
  • Prep all of the monkeys in the monkey box (I mean it wouldn’t be a Challenge without this eternal listing)
  • Play a game with fully painted miniatures
  • Finish a complete skirmish force for a project (at least 16 miniatures, unless it's for a much smaller scale game like Frostgrave)
  • Repaint something (either a miniature that I have previously painted, or one that was received painted
  • Convert a miniature and show WIP pics
  • Finish the last member of the Nextwave team
  • Complete the project to have painted miniatures to represent all of the Races in the 5e D&D Players Handbook
  • Add at least 3 entries to the Monstrous Alphabet Project
  • Average at least a miniature a week by the end of the year (so, paint 52 miniatures)
  • End the year with the Tally in the positive!

Huh, that’s actually not a bad number of things crossed off…


Projects (according to the last end of year post):

Rangers of Shadow Deep

I made the nest trees that I need for the second scenario, so it’s just the webbed victim markers that I made that are sat undercoated to go and I can play the next game…


Frostgrave

I managed to paint up my warband, and play through the entirety of the Dark Alchemy campaign, as well as an additional solo scenario to introduce my Captain, making this the best year since records began for games played! 


Silver Bayonet

Thanks to the last minute dash to try and get the Tally out of the negative I actually have nearly all of the monsters I need painted for the first solo scenario - all I need now is to paint the two werewolves that are sat undercoated in the queue and I’m good to go as soon as my unit is painted! Do I need another ongoing solo campaign game? No. Am I excited to do it anyway? Of course!

Japanese Fantasy

In an unusual display of self control, I’ve not added any minis to the pile of shame for this project this year. I’ve got several minis sat undercoated in the painting queue, but I think the fact that I’d have to paint everything from scratch before I could play a game with this project is stopping it from being higher up the queue.


Star Wars

As predicted, I did May the Fourth. I’d like to get back to painting minis for Imperial Assault, but with so many projects vying for my attention who knows if that will ever get to the top of the priority list. On the other hand, my youngest is probably getting old enough to start watching Star Wars, which might accelerate some miniatures from a galaxy far, far away up the paint queue…


Zombies

Ahh Zomtober, the one constant in this blog, this time with bonus Warhammer!


Warhammer

Despite being sworn off GW, this was actually one of the more successful projects last year, in that I’m nearly 40 models into my 500 points Skaven army list! My opponent has finished the 18 models that make up his 500 point Bretonnian lost though, so I should probably knuckle down and get the next almost 40 models finished to get to the same point level…

Plus, Zomtober last year was also Warhammer, kickstarting the post-Skaven Warhammer project…


2023 Projects


Warhammer

I want to get my 500 points of Skaven painted so that I can play a game. After that, endless plans abound - more Skaven, some Undead (vague plans to update Circle of Blood), or maybe some Mordheim…


Zombies


For the last decade or so, I’ve been working on a set of home brew zombie rules. I had various mechanics worked out, and a basic working framework. To avoid accidentally plagiarising other people’s rules, I’d intentionally avoided reading any other rule sets. Until randomly one day while doing the washing up when I fancied watching a Guerrilla Miniature Games video on Ash Barker’s zombie rule set, where it turned out he’d already written the game I was writing, only better! Noise mechanics, zombie spawning, a lot of similar things, but just more elegantly designed than my own, so I figured I’d buy both available rulebooks and play that instead! 
The Seasons expansion gives rules for a more complex campaign, tracking survival as well as hunger, warmth etc across the course of a year; so I’d like to play a game every month next year, essentially playing through the campaign in real time. 
One benefit of starting a zombie campaign game is that I already have plenty of painted miniatures, but on the other hand when I started putting together my group of survivors I realised that my collection of Survivor miniatures is very British - more cricket bats than guns, so I need to paint a couple of more heavily armed miniatures to fill out my roster! 
Although I chose what survivors I wanted in my starting group, I’ll use the Chaos Theory expansion to randomly generate any future additions, and just hope that I can find suitable miniatures and get them painted in time before they’re needed for the next month’s game.


Frostgrave


Plans are afoot for the continued adventures of Tim the Necromancer - having played through Dark Alchemy, I’d like to start working my way through Perilous Dark, and then maybe adapt Hunt for the Golem to a solo campaign after that. I’ve got the miniatures I need to make the Ballistae for the first scenario, and saw someone make their own Vapour Snakes using hot glue, so maybe I’ll give that a go…


Rangers of Shadow Deep


As previously alluded to, I only need to paint a set of webbed victim markers in order to be able to play the second scenario, so I’m hoping to get in at least one game of this this year! Although the reminds me, where did I leave the fake spiderweb that my wife bought at Halloween that I was going to use to fancy up my nest trees…?


Silver Bayonet


I’ve decided on the majority of my unit, so I need to paint them! I’m still undecided as to how to finish it off though - I’m torn between even more specialists (either a Junior Officer or Monster shunted or something like that) or just getting a couple more bodies on the board… once I’ve decided and gotten them painted up, I just need to paint a pair of werewolves and I’ll be able to play the first solo scenario, and if memory serves I only need to paint the pair of previously acquired vampires I have in order to also be able to play the second…


Star Wars


I’ll do May the Fourth. Anything beyond that, I can’t predict!


Japanese Fantasy has moved onto the back burner, which almost guarantees I’ll paint my Ronin as a palette cleanser between other projects at some point…


New Year’s Challenge

I’m going for some slightly more specific challenges this year:

  • Finish my 500 point Skaven Warhammer army
  • Play at least 12 games in 2023 
  • Prep all the monkeys in the monkey box (I mean I couldn’t delete this one after so many years)
  • Convert at least one miniature
  • Add to the Monstrous Alphabet project
  • Do Zomtober posts
  • Do a May the Fourth post
  • Do a festive post
  • Average at least a miniature a week (so at least 52 completed miniatures across the year)
  • End the year with the Tally in the positive
I mean realistically I know I have too many competing ongoing projects, but I love them all, so let’s see how it went in a year’s time!




Saturday, 31 December 2022

The traditional end of year scramble…

 …to get the Tally back into the black:

Wolves! Ten, to be precise, as that’s how many you need to play the first solo Silver Bayonet scenario, and coincidentally the exact number needed to rapidly drybrush of an evening across the last week of the year to get the Tally back to zero.

‘But wait’ I hear you cry ‘in your last post the tally was only at minus six?’. That’s right, dear attention-paying reader, but Christmas has happened since then, and one of my presents was these:


A pack of medieval beekeepers from Midlam Miniatures, and accompanying hives. My wife has queried that I count miniatures towards the Tally but not small scenic pieces like the hives, but that’s just how the rules work. She also asked why I hadn’t painted the eyes on the wolves when I asked her opinion on them at nearly midnight last night when I thought I was done, so she clearly wants me to fail. (I did in fact then paint the wolves eye though)

End of year Tally total:

85 vs 85 = +0

Sunday, 25 December 2022

The tiniest of Tims!

Merry Christmas to all that celebrate, and shapely Holidays if that’s your preference. This year’s Christmas offering is another of the Artizan Designs Dickens set, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim:


Let’s pretend that the sunken eyes on Tiny Tim are a carefully selected choice and not just a happy accident. The snow has a coat of gloss to give it a frosty sparkle that hasn’t really come across in these pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I’ve only got one more mini left to paint of those currently available, so hopefully they sculpt up some more of the ghosts next year to keep me in festive posts for years to come!

Obviously, had to use Muppet Christmas Carol for colour reference:


Which leaves the Tally at a jolly:

75 vs 81 = -6

This post is being drafted on Christmas Eve, so it’s entirely possible that by the time it goes live the Tally will have taken another hit in the opposite direction once I discover what Santa has brought…

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

A mercenary life…

As the end of the year draws closer, so begins the desperate rush to try and drag the Tally back into positive figures. So, in that light, here is a miniature that has been basically finished since the end of September, when he was put aside for Zomtober, and I kept looking at unable to decide what else I wanted to do to finish him off:


Adding that little tuft of grass was the final touch I settled on, as I figured ‘done’ is a quality all of its own, and after spending a couple of months on my painting palette it was time to let him move on.


Unfortunately the harsh lighting of my dining room has washed out the cloak entirely, but in hand he’s actually very dark grey, fading to black in the recesses.

I think I originally bought him back in the day (an embarrassing number of years ago) purely on the strength of that impressive hat, and because apparently he worked well with Asphyxious’ pet Jack. Two editions of the game have passed since that point though, so who knows if he’s a smart choice to take anymore. Cool hats, though, are eternal.

Finishing him brings the Tally to:

74 vs 81 = -7

and also is another mercenary Warmachine model, still nothing completed from any of the factions…

So, what next? My next mini is already finished, but saved to post on a certain day (which I’m sure you can guess), but after that, I’m torn between the huddle of half-painted ratmen on my palette (which would drag the Tally up to 0, as well as being a step closer to being able to play a game of Warhammer), or the three minis that recently got undercoated, for next year’s soon to be announced ongoing project…