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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Re-opening of the space lanes - Silent Death returns!

Tonight I introduced Daz to an old favourite boardgame of Silent Death. It seems the game has gone through several changes since I played it in the early 90s with an iteration even as an online game through Electronic Arts. Today it seems to be having a slight resurgence under the re-imagined company Metal Express (whose website shows all of the miniatures available).

Tonight's game was a simple dust up between some of the universe's smallest opponents. On one side flew a detachment of Pit Vipers, the lightest, and most difficult to hit, space fighters in the star lanes. They were manned by fairly average pilots who could shoot (just about) in a straight line. These fighters were supported by a single Dart whose speed and manouvrebility is similar, but included a minigun armament to support those pulse lasers. Daz was given some flight training before the main dogfight began.

Against this brave little band stood a flight of four Spirit Riders. These equally small craft packed a stronger punch with a main armament of two Splatterguns, and a pair of Mk10 torpedoes each; a consideration for the enemy when jockeying for that killer shot.

Each team started at opposite sides of the space mat. The initial manouvres began with a position for a head on pass, with a fighter from each side taking a wide angle. The Spirit Riders each released one of their torpedoes at each of the Pit Vipers, causing them some concern as they closed the distance.

By the time both sides had come within cannon range, the Pit Vipers were trying to jam the first salvo of torpedoes, at which they were unsuccessful. Initial shots seemed wild, without damage except for...a lucky shot from the wide Spirit Rider requiring 16 or higher on 3 D6. With a 5,5 and 6 rolled, and the weapon system doing 'low +2 damage', the pit viper sustained 10 points of damage after damage reduction, blowing it into thousands of pieces of space dust.

The next round began with both sides within engagement range. The Spirit Riders each released their final Mk10 torpedoes. The Pit Vipers responded by using their single decoys to jam the multiple warheads facing them, with only a few being jammed.

As the fighters intermingled, the Pit Vipers found it difficult to dodge the torpedoes as they exploded nearby. One fighter disintegrated under the explosion of 2 torps at the same time. A second Viper sustained light damage.

Both sides now began the close in dodging and weaving, looking for the best shot, where deflection had the least impact. The Vipers valiantly struck home their attack, however their light pulse lasers were generally unable to pierce the defensive screen of the Spirit Riders. This was not the case for the damage caused by the Splatterguns armament of the Riders. The remaining Vipers and the Dart began to receive more damage than given. One spirit rider was partially destroyed with it's drive systems reduced. However the Vipers suffered worse, with one of them sustaining heavy engine damage.

At this stage of the game, the remaining Dart and Viper disengaged to return home, licking their wounds.

The game played quickly, with the spacecraft displays containing most of the information needed. The torpedo tracking was a little difficult as the torps are very small markers. We are going to try and create a hexless version of the game using home made turning keys to help the movement system, then we can do away with the hex mat...we'll let you know how we get on...


Monday, 30 March 2015

Maintenance flight from 'operation bring and buy'

Just finished my first batch of revamped Silent Death miniatures. The range is approximately 1/300th scale.

Some of my bargain fleet were already painted to a basic standard. So out came the washes, drybrushes and weathering powders.

I quite liked the modern dazzle basic paint scheme, so left that quite clear by adding Newton and Windsor nut brown ink as a starting point.

Then a delicate drybrush of Vallejo off white and edging using a flat edge brush.

Next to the canopies with Vallejo sky blue, followed by nut brown wash, then Vallejo sky grey blue, with a final spot of Vallejo off white.

Final touches included some mig weathering powders (smoke black and rust), blackening of the bases, and a final varnish. Tomorrow night I will hopefully be introducing Daz to playing Silent Death...visors down, scanners on and weapons live!


Sunday, 29 March 2015

A Visit to Cannon 2015

Today was a visit to the Cannon show at Retford. This is mine and Daz's second (I think!) visit. The weather was a suitable start to some school holidays - very wet!

The show is an example of one of those small enterprises which have a calm, gentle feel. The number of traders were low by normal show standards, and some of those traders are ones you don't regularly see on the mainstream show circuit.

Likewise, the number of games for viewing varied. There was a good balance between demonstration and participation, with a good mix of themes.

As part of the show there was a small, but for myself, little gem of a bring and buy. I purchased the best find ever! Four blockgames by Columbia Games; Eastfront, Westfront, Medfront and Eurofront for the princely price of £20!

There was also another personal little gem from the past; a box of 'Silent Death' miniatures. In the box of delights was found over 100 miniatures (both plastic and metal). Admittedly, there were many repeats and examples of miniatures from the first edition. However at £30, another real bargain.

The space fighter miniatures will add nicely to my existing collection. The sense of nostalgia was a perfect reminder of some of my early adventures in gaming. I bought the original, first edition game in 1987 (as far as the memory recalls) from the Virgin Megastore in Nottingham.

How times change! The Megastore was at that time one of the few places which sold miniatures and boardgames, alongside the growing video and CD market. It's opportunities for something new was always an incentive to jump on the train for a visit. Now the store is long gone, along with some of the other independent retailers of that time.

The final purchase of the day was a copy of GMT's 'Europe Combat Commander'. Ironically I bought a copy of Avalon Hill's 'Advanced Squad Leader' from the aforementioned Virgin Megastore and have superfood memories of playing and buying the relevant extensions for the system. Combat Commander seems to very much have a similar flavour, with the addition of card driven activations - a current favourite mechanic of mine.

ASL for me had that magical quality of creating a new twist and turn literally with every dice roll. The learning curve (especially for friends who I 'positively encouraged') was steep. But the results were rewarding. Likewise the core mechanics were stable and allowed the integration of all the national variations of troops and equipment easily. I certainly felt that an infantry assault or armoured breakthrough played well in my mind's eye when considering the tactical choices which are needed in a fluid combat environment.

Another thing that I liked, that you now see more often in games, is the part that fate plays. The use of particular dice rolls to activate snipers, or malfunction equipment, always seemed to play havoc with those well planned strategies. Similarly, the role of battlefield integrity showed how the better trained troops could maintain some level of co-ordination, as other nation's troops began to fall apart and disintegrate. Maybe Comvbat Commander has a lot to live up to!

So Cannon may have been a small show, however it certainly provided the right level of interest for an old gamer. And it also encouraged Daz to buy some Victrix Greek mercenary hoplites for a fantasy Greek mythology skirmish game, now let's hope there are some fan made Saga boards with Centaurs and Harpies...


Sunday, 15 March 2015

A cold day in the 'Dead of Winter'

It's been some time since I have managed to set up a game on a Sunday afternoon for the family. Mum and dad have slowly been encouraged to try boardgames. Their initial skepticism of the 'Monopoly' effect and learning lots of new rules has slowly been changed with the new generation of involving, thematic games which are beautifully illustrated to increase the involvement of the players.

Today we played the wonderful 'Dead of Winter' by Plaid Hat Games. This is a great story telling journey set in a frozen world where survivors battle to ensure the safety of their meager colony. Despairingly, Both the icy weather and even colder zombies threaten their very existence.

This was only our second try at this game.Our mission today was to collect medical supplies in the hope of finding a cure to the undead plague. Each of us began with a varied set of characters, from janitors to fitness instructors, police controllers to amateur ninjas. All wanting to aid the survival of the small, weak community.

Whilst contending with the impending doom of failing the main objective, each round also saw a crisis to be addressed. Our first one involved the collection of yet more medical supplies to fend off an outbreak of natural illness within the colony. Already a strain was placed upon the characters to search for additional supplies.

The game features several locations to search out the items needed, from routine junk to more useful items such as padlocks. These locations include the gas station, grocery store and hospital but to mention a few.

As part of the game each player has a secret objective. Most need the main objective to be completed successfully before a secondary one can be achieved (such as having each character equipped with an item). The spicy sauce to the gaming main meal is the possibility that one player maybe set to betray the colony for them to win the game; not a guarantee but a real threat all the same.

The game round went along with no serious issues. Random crossroad cards were not activated due to the actions of the characters. Supplies were collected and secretly added to the crisis and no zombies were encountered as the characters safely moved from location to location. The end of the turn was reached where The team felt secure. Except for Mum who suspected Will of his motivations as he spent some time at the police station, searching for weapons...

The food was adequately provided for to feed the survivors and we confidently expected to resolve the crisis with enough medical supplies. The cards were shuffled to reveal...some food instead of medicine - betrayal! With all our usual powers of reasoning, accusations immediately began to fly! Mum, following up on her initial suspicions accused Will. Being young and wonderfully innocent, he was unable to convince the players that it was not him. Whilst the debate continued each of our characters received a wound for failing (three wounds kill) and colony morale was lowered by one.


The next turn of this six turn game was decisive and you can probably guess in which direction...Will continued to protest his innocence and was given the benefit of the doubt by not being exiled immediately. The new crisis for the turn required for the 'team' to collect additional food supplies. Fortune was not to shine on the survivors. Initially the start was positive with new strangers joining the colony including a doctor to Lucy's group. Will began to protect himself by heading to the police station and gaining more firearm support. My characters were asked to build additional barricades too late in the turn which lowered morale again. Lucy's turn was the most fatally eventful...


Lucy used her new found doctor leader to heal herself and head out into the wastelands. Before this happened a small family tried to join the group. Unfortunately they were turned away as they needed additional food which we had to commit to our current crisis. Whilst required, It was a harsh decision which lowered the morale of the colony. Knowing looks of 'I'm glad that wasn't me' was shared around the board. Another strange incident occurred when Lucy's janitor character was found keeping strange artifacts from his cleaning activities and received a beating from Will's ninja! Positively, Lucy decided to send her doctor to the hospital to gain supplies. The doctor was exposed to more than just the cold On her journey and was bitten! (A 1 in 12 chance on the dice) sadly she died lowering the confidence of the colony again with morale reduced. With morale now at one we needed to lift the spirits of the survivors by contributing more food to the crisis.

When my turn began my police controller immediately had a crossroad event where she had the option of rescuing some family pictures from a previous police case. With 2 'fifty fifty' chances of success to avoid being wounded, the intrepid police women strode forward bravely...and succombed! This was the final straw for the characters and the colony collapsed, game over. We had lasted just two of the six turns before accumulated disaster caused our downfall.

The real irony of the game was that Will was not a traitor, but placed the food in the medical supplies to draw out a traitor if they were within our midst, and paranoia and misfortune did the rest. A fun game full of twists and turns where the story weighed more heavily than a victory. We look forward to applying our snowshoes again for another installment.




Sunday, 8 March 2015

E-Bay upscaling

I'm sure I am not alone in looking for shortcuts to quickly get figures ready for the table. Likewise, I'm even more sure that the lure of E-Bay helps to scratch that itch. However it is often difficult to feel that you received the perfect bargain at the perfect price. Sometimes all that is needed is a little 'spit and polish' to bring that purchase up to scratch

Recently I bought some Imperial Guard for what worked out at less than one pound a figure painted. The Imperial Guard Cadians are some of the few figures which I think can be used comfortably with figures from other manufacturers - colonial militia for instance. The basic paint job would certainly have been okay to place straight on the gaming table. With a little extra effort ( and shortcuts ) I wanted to give the figures a little more life.


Using my magic Vallejo wash, i gave each figure a wash to bring out some of the detail, ready for a little detailing. Once dry, I only used two colours to add a little detail; light grey for some of the uniform as a contrast, and flesh highlight for the skin. I like to give energy to the faces as it brings the figure to life and draws your eye away from the less well painted parts of the figure. Something I have to be mindful of with my limited painting expertise and patience!


Just a pet dislike of my own, but I am not keen on the Games Workshop slotta bases - like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. I re-based the figures using some of Warbase's excellent range of pre cut bases. The pictures that follow are the finished articles. All told it took me about 3 hours from start to finish.



Let me know if you feel the extra work was worth the effort, or should I just have used the figures as they were? P.S. The final picture below is another purchase from E-Bay that needed less attention - four pounds a weapon team!


Sunday, 1 March 2015

Zombie survivors - painting guide part one

Thought I would have a go at a painting guide for some figures. Let me make something clear from the start...I'm no expert! My painting has improved dramatically over the years, with lots of help from reading materials and most of all friends. The journey has been quite challenging, especially as I am colorblind (lots of labelled pots and memories of good colour matches).


I bought some zombie survivors at Hammerhead, both men and women - sixty miniatures to build. I am probably not alone in finding the building of plastic figures both frustrating and fiddly. I found it a tad difficult to decide which arms fitted appropriately together around the weapons. Also the main torsos are full of movement, and therefore sometimes it was difficult to chose arm options which made the figures look realistic. What I did like about the set was a sprue of equipment and weapons - always useful for scratch building.

Over the years I have used many different undercoats as a starting point. Initially white, which required good basic coverage and neatness, through to black undercoat which provided an initial shade, but could become a little dark.

Now a days I tend to use Browns as they are a good intermediate between lightness and contrast; especially if painting modern figures. However I am not objectionable to using any base colour if it saves time! Red for Napoleonic British for instance.


I don't know if it is my poor eyesight, but I often find it difficult to pick out the detail of a figure from a base coat. I now usually use a wash over the basecoat, and when needed, wash again over basic colours. This often produces quite a stylistic approach to painting, however a friend often reminds me that a figure is judged from at least three feet away when they are on the table. I often use Newton and Windsor 'nut brown' ink, particularly for smaller scale figures. Recently the joys of Buoys came to the fore, with their excellent selection of modelling materials. I discovered Vallejo acrylic brown wash, which I now use regularly. Hopefully part two will show some progress on the figures...