Sunday, 31 March 2013

Armoured transport

 I've been accumulating a number of old toy cars over the last 6 months, mainly Matchbox (military stuff) and Hot Wheels (racing cars of a futuristic design).  The Hot Wheels have all come from charity shops, usually 15-20p each, the Matchbox mainly from e-bay for 50p-£1 each (often in bulk groups).

The 5 Personnel Carriers ready for action.

Here's the first I'll be working on, the old Matchbox Personnel Carrier. I'd forgotten about this vehicle, I never had one as a lad but once my memory had been jogged I did remember a couple of friends having them.  We used to sit in the classroom at lunchtime, playing with 1/72 scale Airfix and Matchbox soldiers, we must have been about 10 or 11 years old.  Happy days...

15mm GZG OUDF troopers for scale.

Anyway, I digress.  These vehicles are going to be modified by enclosing the rear troop compartment with plasticard.  I was inspired by the article on Glue in the Carpet (which it turns out was inspired by one of my previous articles - all part of the joy of blogging!).

Rivets drilled out and vehicle separated into component parts.

 I've drilled out the rivets and the next stage will be to give them a scrub to get rid of the mud and fluff...

This one had obviously seen action - witness the bullet-holes!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Some burnt-out cars to go with my ruins...

 More bargain buys from Poundland, this time a plastic tube containing "Fire Service" vehicles, a car, box van and helicopter.  The helicopter has been put to one side for conversion into a small space pod and the car and van have received an all-over coat of Inscribe burnt umber with roughly dabbed-on patches of Inscribe burnt sienna.  A light drybrush with GW chainmail completes the effect.

These ones do have reasonable detail on the underside, so I made sure to paint them under there too.

I popped the body shells apart so that I could remove the windscreens whilst painting.  I know that they shouldn't really be back in place in a pristine condition but I couldn't be bothered with creating interiors for the vehicles - they're only supposed to be 10-minute pieces of random scatter scenery!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

I need more buildings! (A belated part 3!)

Regular readers might have recognised the background scenery in my Kaamados Dominion post as one of the buildings I've been working on.  It was mostly completed a couple of months ago but I keep forgetting to finish off the drybrushing when I have the right paints out.  Today I finally remembered!

The most intact side of the building.
I decided to have the large hole in the front of the building so that BattleMechs can fire out, also prone weapons teams cam make use of the section of floor behind the hole.

The most damaged side.
The base is 20x20cm to fit in with all my other bases which are variations on a 10x10cm basic size.  The zombies give you an idea of the scale of the building.

Intermediate damage.
It's been painted with a medium grey, some brown drybrushed here and there to give a patchy appearance with a final drybrush of "silver grey".

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Flood - another scenario idea

Another idea inspired by Stephen Baxter's Flood.  This one seemed to need a post all of its own!

It's the final curtain - the waters are about to close over one particular piece of land, a mountain-top that has provided refuge for some time.  A group of VIPs must be escorted to the waiting aircraft in order to escape the rising waters.  Perhaps it's a shuttle to take them to an orbiting spacecraft or maybe it's just a helicopter to take them to an even higher mountain plateau which is still habitable - fit it to whatever game universe or range of models you have available.  The arrival of the aircraft has not gone unnoticed, boats are approaching from all directions with refugees eager to escape - or if they cannot, to stop anyone else from escaping!

This map gives an example of the game board layout, the contours of the mountain peaks rising above the water.  Red marker 1 is a small boat in which the VIPs have just arrived, 2 is the aircraft, 3 are weapon emplacements.

The forces involved will comprise:

20 (veteran) - 30 (regular) troops in units of 4-6, armed with small arms plus 1-2 support weapons (SAW, RPG/LAW) per unit.  If using power armour, reduce the number of troops by 50%.  1 unit will start by a boat at the waters edge, the rest can be deployed as the defender wishes.

10 VIPs (unarmed).  These will start in contact with the boat at the waters edge.

8 weapon emplacements - each will contain a single heavy weapon, should be a mixture of heavy machine guns, missiles and anti-tank guns.  The weapons are fixed in place and cannot be moved during the game, though they will have a 90 degree fire arc to their front.  These should be arranged 2 or 3 on each contour starting with the 2nd contour above the water (there will therefore be 2 turns in which all can fire, after which they will gradually stop working).

Dropship/helicopter/shuttle on landing pad (might have a couple of door gunners to provide a last-ditch defence).

Starts with 20 troops in units of 4-6.  Troops should be green or regular quality (probably 1 level lower than the defenders).  Weapons can be allocated to either individuals or to groups depending upon how quickly and easily you want to play.
Roll 1D6 to determine weapons for each individual or unit:
1 - knife/club
2-3 - pistol
4 - shotgun
5-6 - rifle
These starting units can be placed on the shoreline as the attacker wishes, with a minimum of 6" between units, and at least 18" from the VIP party.  At the start of every turn (including turn 1) there will be 4D6 extra troops appearing, divided evenly amongst D4 boats approaching the island.  Roll a D12 clockface or scatter die centred on the middle of the table to determine the direction from which the boat is coming.  It will appear 6" offshore in the direction indicated and moves 5" per turn.  Depending upon how lucky they are, the passengers might be able to disembark on the second turn - or the tide might be rising so fast that they take 3 or 4 turns or make landfall!
(If you are short of figures, you could just represent each new boat with a piece of card and note the number of figures on it.  Once the boat reached the shore, the appropriate figures can be placed on the table).
Roll a D6 for each boat:
1-2 = an unarmed raft,
3-5 = a boat (provides limited cover for those inside),
6 = armed boat (provides limited cover for those inside, armed with a heavy machine gun).

Victory conditions:

Everything hinges on the escape of the VIPs.  If the VIPs are all killed of the aircraft is captured, victory goes to the attackers.  If at least 1 VIP makes it to the aircraft and the aircraft takes off, the game counts as a draw.  If 2 or more VIPs make it to the aircraft and escape, it is a victory for the defender.
If playing this game as part of a campaign, the survival or loss of certain VIPs may affect future games - they might have vital plans, maps or important scientific or military knowledge that will influence deployment or availability of troops/technology.

Special Rules:

Boats: Boats and rafts count as light vehicles.  If one is destroyed, roll the attacking weapons damage against all passengers to see if any survive.  Survivors are placed in the water on the spot at which the boat was destroyed and can swim the rest of the way to the shore.  If they are too far from shore to reach it before the game ends, it may be simpler just to remove them.

VIPs: The VIPs need to be escorted to the waiting aircraft before the tide reaches it.  They will travel at the normal movement rate of the troops who are protecting them and must remain within 4" of them.  If the accompanying troops are all killed, the VIPs will hunker down in place until another friendly unit gets within 4", at which point they can move once again, using this new unit as their protectors.  Once they are within 8" of the aircraft the VIPs will move directly towards it regardless of incoming enemy fire or casualties amongst themselves or their protectors.

Aircraft: The aircraft has a door gunner on each side (180 degree fire arc to the side) who can fire a SAW at enemy troops.  If attacking troops manage to reach the aircraft and overcome the door gunners (who count as in cover against incoming fire and will fight as normal infantry in close combat), the aircraft is lost and the attackers have won the game.  The aircraft can take off as soon as at least 1 VIP is on board.  When the waters close over the landing pad, the aircraft must either take off (if at least 1 VIP is on board) or is submerged and destroyed (if no VIPs on board).

Swimming: Figures may end up in the water during the game, either through the destruction of their raft or by voluntarily swimming between rafts.  Anyone falling in the water will lose any weapons larger than assault rifles/SMGs, so all SAWs, LSWs, LAWs, RPGs etc. will be lost.  Figures can swim at a rate equal to 1/3 of their normal move (probably about 1½ - 2") and should suffer some sort of penalty for shooting (-1 to hit modifier or -1D firepower).  Anyone shooting at swimming figures receives no penalty but swimming figures should be able to claim complete cover if desired from any floating debris or rafts they can reach (it is assumed that they duck down with only part of their head above the water).  Climbing out of the water onto a boat or raft takes ½ a move.  Anyone who has swum to the shore does not need to climb out - once at the shoreline they immediately continue moving at their normal rate with no ½ move penalty.

Rising tide:This should add some fun and a real sense of urgency to the game!
Using a blue sheet as the base of your gaming surface, create the playing area by stacking several polystyrene hill contour sections to form the mountain-top or island.  The aircraft should be on a landing pad at the highest point of the land.
At the end of every turn, carefully remove the lowest hill section as the waters rise to cover it.
Anything that was on the contour which has been removed is placed back on the table in the same location relative to the remaining scenery.  Figures who end up in the water can swim as per the special rule mentioned below.  Heavy equipment, support weapons, vehicles etc. are lost.  Grav/GEV/amphibious vehicles remain in play assuming that they were manned at the time - any which are unmanned are assumed to have sunk before anyone managed to activate the engines.  If you are using powered armour, figures could remain in play underwater, moving at ½ normal move rate and firing their weapons at a -1 to hit modifier or -1D firepower.
As an alternative to polystyrene hill sections you could represent the contours using sheets of corrugated cardboard, cork, or even just sheets of coloured card.
As the game progresses, the defenders will gradually lose their heavy weapon emplacements as they are submerged, but the length of coastline they are guarding will be reducing all the time.  Some of their opponents will also be ending up in the water or getting cut off on separate pieces of land, reducing the immediate threat.  As the attackers start to clump together in a smaller area, they might become more susceptible to area effect weapons.

As you will no doubt have realised, the number of hill contours will determine the length of the game.  If you haven't got many contours, you could remove the lowest layer every 2 or 3 turns, if this is the case make sure that you start the attacking boats further away or move them a shorter distance each turn.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Flood by Stephen Baxter = game ideas!

I've just finished Flood by Stephen Baxter and what an excellent read it was!  The premise is thus: in 2016 sea levels start rising.  It isn't due to global warming melting the icecaps but to something else entirely (though I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the book.  As the increase in sea level accelerates, it doesn't look like a happy ending is in sight... will the human race end, not with a bang or a whimper but just a faint gurgle?

It's given me several ideas for games, which I present below for your entertainment.  You'll need to adjust the scenarios and special rules to take account of whatever game system you're using.  Forces will need to be balanced depending upon whether the attackers are high or low tech, scenario objectives etc.

Raft fight

Easy scenery for this game.  A blue cloth to represent the sea, rafts and connecting pontoons made from balsa scraps, wooden skewers, coffee stirrers, lollypop sticks and whatever else you can find - see map below for an example layout.  The walkways/pontoons should be of varying length and not necessarily attached to the rafts (see the notes on drifting below).  On some of the rafts will be shacks (grey rectangles on the map), either purchased ones (GZG shanty town springs to mind) or home-made from wood/plasticard/cardboard scraps.  I'd also add a few crates, barrels, storage containers and other scatter scenery to provide plenty of cover across all the rafts.  The raft might have a power supply, either a generator (some sort of engine from a 1/35 tank or 25mm armoured vehicle?  Ramshackle games have a great selection) or solar cells (several companies produce 15mm solar panel sets or you could whip up a set from a bit of plasticard for the frame and some clear plastic from a blister pack or box of chocolates, painted blue-black on the reverse to give that glossy PV-cell look).  Perhaps a wind turbine, and some rafts might even have sails.

Figures would probably be a mixture of low-tech troops such as Peter Pig militia, GZG armed civilians, Rebel Minis zombie hunters, gang members and the like.  There might be a number of unarmed civilians too (GZG colonists have a good mix, Rebel Minis, also Peter Pig civilians from AK47 and Vietnam ranges).  Attackers could be either similarly low-tech, arriving on powered rafts / landing craft (plenty of 15mm landing craft on e-bay, Peter Pig and The Scene produce some nice boats too) or a higher tech bunch of survivors after a specific person or item (either boat-borne or in GEV / Grav vehicles).

I can think of  a number of scenarios you could run on the rafts...

1) Seize item

Raiders attack the raft to try and seize or destroy a particular valuable item, perhaps a crate of valuable supplies, a vital spare part from the generator/solar cells, a box of food supplements...

Special Rule: If the valuable item is to be seized, it can be carried by a raider at ½ normal movement rate and they are unable to fire a weapon whilst carrying it.  No-one is allowed to destroy the item or sink it! (It is assumed that it floats)

Victory criteria: Attacker must carry the item back to their boat and escape with at least ¼ of their starting force.

2) Seize people

Raiders attack to seize prisoners, whether for use as hostages/bargaining tools, slave labour, to expand their gene pool or just as a food source (these are hard times indeed...)
If the attackers are high-tech, maybe they're after a specific individual who has important scientific knowledge.

Special Rule: Use unarmed civilians for the victims, scatter them across the rafts. Civilians may either cower unmoving or move randomly around the rafts (use a scatter die and move ½ normal movement but following the edge of rafts/walkways rather than walking straight into the water!).  Attackers need to move into base to base contact to seize a civilian and can move at ½ rate back to their boat with the prisoner.  Each attacker can only seize 1 civilian at a time.  When firing at a civilian and captor, roll 1D6: evens = captor hit, odds = civilian hit.  Defender cannot deliberately kill/drown civilians to prevent the raider winning!

Victory criteria: Attacker must herd the people back to their boat and escape with at least ¼ of their starting force and over 50% of the unarmed civilians captured.  If more than half the civilians are killed the defender loses.

3) Seize part of rafts

Raiders attack to try and gain control of part of the raft network.  The objective raft has some important use (power generation, food stocks, maybe just to provide additional living space or raw materials).  The raiders need to reach the objective raft and cut the connecting walkways, allowing their captured section to drift free.

Special rules: see drifting and destroying rafts/walkways below...

Victory criteria: Attacker must capture the target raft, separate it from the main raft and escape with at least ¼ of their starting force.

4) Kill them all!

Raiders attack with the intention of wiping out all the raft-dwellers!  Perhaps it's to take control of their rafts, maybe it's to appease some war-hungry god or maybe they're just really hungry...

Victory criteria: Whoever has the last surviving figure wins!

Special raft rules:

Drift (optional): The various rafts may drift around as the game progresses.  At the start of every turn, roll a scatter die or D12 clockface for each raft and move it ½ inch in the direction indicated.  Instead of moving/firing, a unit of troops can push against a walkway/pontoon that crosses their raft or pull on ropes connecting to another raft/boat.  The smaller of the 2 rafts will move towards/away from the larger at a rate of 1" per figure pushing/pulling per turn.

Sails: Smaller rafts or boats might be equipped with sails.  Determine wind direction at the start of the game using scatter die/D12 clockface.  Each turn (roll again every turn for each separate vessel) sailing vessels roll 1D4 per turn (light breeze), 1D6 (moderate wind), 1D8 (strong wind), 1D10 (gale, capsize on a roll of 1) in the direction of the wind or can tack against the wind ¼ of the die score rolled.  If the main raft network is equipped with sails, it is assumed that the entire thing is moving.  For ease of play it remains in the centre of the board but any smaller rafts separated from it without sails will move in the opposite direction to the wind at the appropriate number of inches.  Swimmers etc. may also get left behind - a strong incentive not to fall in the water!

Heavy weapons: very powerful weapons may damage the rafts or the connecting walkways/pontoons.  Infantry support weapons such as medium or heavy machine guns would probably be powerful enough to cut through the connecting walkways.  Blast weapons such as RPGs, LAWs and grenades may even cause the rafts themselves to break up.  Players need to agree how tough/damage resistant walkways and rafts are before the game starts.  If a raft is destroyed, it could be replaced by a scatter of wood fragments and crates/barrels that will bob around in the water to provide limited cover.

Swimming: Figures may end up in the water during the game, either through the destruction of their raft or by voluntarily swimming between rafts.  Anyone falling in the water will lose any weapons larger than assault rifles/SMGs, so all SAWs, LSWs, LAWs, RPGs etc. will be lost.  Figures can swim at a rate equal to 1/3 of their normal move (probably about 1½ - 2") and should suffer some sort of penalty for shooting (-1 to hit modifier or -1D firepower).  Anyone shooting at swimming figures receives no penalty but swimming figures should be able to claim complete cover if desired from any floating debris or rafts they can reach (it is assumed that they duck down with only part of their head above the water).  Climbing out of the water takes ½ a move.

Sea monsters: Sharks, giant octopi and other ferocious sea beasts might be attracted by all the noise and the blood in the water!  Roll a D6 every turn, on a roll of 6 there is a creature in the area which will make 2 close assault attacks on someone in the water (determine the victim at random) or if there is no-one in the water, 1 attack on someone standing on a walkway/pontoon or at the edge of a raft.  Once there is a dead body in the water, the chance of a creature being in the area increases to a roll of 5 (1 creature) or 6 (2 creatures).

Civilians: Civilians may be present to get in the way of the fighting - move them randomly around the rafts as per the "seize person" scenario above.  Additional victory points could be allocated for civilians saved/killed during the game.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mad Mecha Guy crowd control barriers

Crowd Control Barriers

When I asked about these, Mad Mecha Guy said that he was reviewing how he makes them.  I said that I didn't mind any changes, so instead of the pack of 40 that I ordered, I received 60 - but cut from 2mm MDF instead of 3mm.  They've obviously been redesigned slightly too, he said he was planning to reduce the number of uprights from the originals in order to reduce cutting time but mine appear to have the same number.  The little feet have been redesigned to take the thinner 2mm thickness.  I think that this reduction in thickness is a good thing, I wonder if they'd look a little too thick in 3mm MDF.

I'm extremely pleased with these.  The original pack of 40 would provide 1.2m of barrier, my pack provided 1.8m!  I can't see anyone ever needing to buy more than one pack, there are enough that you can paint them in a range of different colours.  I've done the first 10 blue for my Colonial Security team to use but I intend to do some more of them in orange or red (safety/construction barriers), grey (civic barriers to delineate parking bays etc.) and rusty metal (marking areas in scrapyards, shanty-towns).

60 barriers!
All 60 are undamaged despite their delicate looking construction.  I've assembled the first 10 with no difficulty, any remaining blank areas between the bars pressed out easily.  I might need a sharp craft knife to gently separate the blank section from some of the others where the cutting residue has held them in place, but only as a precaution to ensure I don't snap anything by accident.

Barrier and feet ready for assembly
They assemble easily, the little feet have a small cut-out where the base of the barrier rests.  I brushed a small amount of PVA into the gap on the foot and place a tiny smear on the base of the barrier then just popped the parts together and left them to dry for a few minutes.  I found it easiest to line up several sets of feet on a cutting mat, brush the glue into them all (use a very small paintbrush!), then press the base of each barrier into them on an assembly-line process.  Easier than trying to use tweezers!

These barriers had a stickier finish than most of the other parts, presumably due to the more intense cutting in such a small space.  They painted easily with the MDF primer and after this had dried all traces of the stickiness had vanished.  A quick coat of Humbrol Matt 104 oxford blue followed by a lighter coat of Humbrol Matt 24 blue completed my security barriers.  I imagine they'd take drybrushing very well if you wanted to paint them as rusting metal.

A few ideas of how they could be used...

Safety barriers - move along citizens, nothing to see here...

Marking traffic lanes

A very controlled crowd.

A less-controlled crowd.  Barriers aren't so good at keeping out zombies!

Parking bays marked.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Mad Mecha Guy laser cut MDF scenery

Mad Mecha Guy started selling laser cut MDF scenery in November 2012 but I only recently discovered him via Dropship Horizon's "Cataloguing 15mm Scenery" article.  He's still revising some of his products and refining the web site, at the moment you have to contact him via e-mail to confirm postage costs and to order but he hopes to add a PayPal cart to the site soon which should speed things up.  I e-mailed to check postage on Sunday, received the information and confirmed my intent to purchase on Tuesday, received and paid the PayPal invoice on Thursday, received notice it had been posted on Friday and received the box on Saturday.  Communication was very good throughout and he removed much of the excess cuttings to save weight and therefore postage costs.  I don't mind receiving the few remaining cuttings, I can see that it would take a long time to remove all of them and besides, lots of tiny regular-shaped blocks are always handy to use as additional surface detailing on buildings, or just as rubble.

The contents of the parcel...

The first thing that struck me when I opened the box from Mad Mecha Guy was... the strong smell of burning!  I hadn't really thought about it before but if you're getting a box full of freshly laser cut MDF scenery, of course it's going to smell of burnt wood.  I've left the bits out of their bags so the smell can dissipate but it's something to bear in mind if you order any - don't open them in the dining room half an hour before you're due to eat a meal in there or in the living room if you're expecting guests!  I should say now that this is the first set of laser cut MDF scenery that I've bought so I don't know if this is a common feature of all of them or a particular quirk of the way Mad Mecha Guy cuts his.

The second thing that struck me was how much you get for your money and the well-thought out way that all the parts go together.

I purchased a range of items  - a set of crowd control barriers, a set of 2 x 3-storey shops, 2 x 3-storey houses and a pair of large 2-storey shops.  There was also a large bag of mystery MDF squares with rounded edges, it turns out that these are small bases (suitable for figures etc.) that he throws in to make use of any excess MDF because he can't stand wastage - a man after my own heart!

3mm MDF bases

Each individual set comes in plastic bag, with larger sets these are subdivided into additional bags to separate the different parts.  The quality of the cutting is excellent, all but one of the parts (that's one in probably over 1000 separate bits)  pressed out without any problem and there wasn't a single broken bit in the entire order despite many of the pieces having detail sections less than 1mm thick.

Very finely cut detail and it all arrived completely intact!

Where they differ, ground floor walls interlock differently from upper storey walls so that there is no chance of you accidentally incorporating the wrong sort as you build.  The design of the interlocking wall-ends differed between the various packs I ordered, depending upon your point of view this could be an advantage (no accidental mixing of packs together) or a disadvantage (harder to customise buildings by using wall sections from other packs).  There is such a range of different packs on offer that I don't think the latter inability to customise buildings is an issue, there are often different wall types within a pack that enable you to create variety even using only the basic set of bits.

A wide variety of wall types within a single building set.

Many of the parts seem to have a slightly tacky surface texture near the cut edges, which I assume comes from the cutting process.  I think this is from the waxes and resins used in manufacturing MDF, I've heard that these can spread onto the surface either because of the heat of cutting or because of the jet of air that some cutters blow as they work.  Whatever the cause, a quick wipe over with a piece of damp kitchen roll removed most of the residue and I've undercoated the buildings with MDF primer which has sealed in anything that remained.  I painted the crowd control barriers with primer without wiping them first and they've come out fine.

Crowd control barriers
I'll review the individual sets at a later date but here are a few more photographs to whet your appetite...

3 storey shop

3 storey dwelling

Single shop unit

Large shop

Crowd control barriers (easy peasy to assemble and paint!)