Saturday, 24 September 2016

My Imaginary World + Zombicide Black Plague: The Kick Starter

September 24th 2016

My Imaginary World:
{Game Year: 4706 AR - or circa 1750/83 Tanikan calendar}

Using Warlord Games 28mm Minis... and other stuff.
The Adventures of Lord & Lady Bingly
(and a Host of Other Entertainments)
Guest Appearances by Lady Scarlet Blightingdale
and Count Milo De Winter

From the novelette by Stephen A Gilbert
"A Golorion Overboard"
or..... "oh crikey - Splash!"

Being in part... a`Gallic-Golorion & Wendigo War` colonial setting; but based firmly in the time of `The Armorkan & Tanikan Uprising` yet in truth... Ain`t it a part of both the above, with deep smatterings of `Imagi-fiction` besides!
It is...
"Armorka: A Nation Born"
~ A New Campaign in the Making ~

The success of an Imaginary world lies in all those little details... especially knowing when to leave them out.

The Campaign is Born:
   the glint in a parent`s eye

Tarot was meant to be writing this week`s article, but things have recently taken an unexpected turn (as so often happens in life), and she finds herself extremely busy... probably for some time ahead.. both with work and in her academic studies. It is unlikely she will be able to write for us any more for the foreseeable future, as sadly, she simply will not be able to fit us in here at “The Cupboard” to her incredibly hectic schedule. However, you may have lost Tarot as a major contributor here. But thankfully we here in Ireland have not. She is still an attentive and wonderful part of our gaming group, and will continue to contribute to our endeavours at the club(s) and at our private (home) gaming group.

Before I launch full steam with my new `baby`, and romp my way (solitaire) through the fantastical whimsies of my quasi historically inclined, daydreaming... farcical mind: I would like to roll the title screen and give credit where due to the cast of my warped (and satirically jaded) wargaming and role playing extravaganza and pantomime show.

I had originally intended to start my new venture in the colonies, in 54mm, using the superb range of  "All the King`s Men" toy soldiers - made by Ken Cliffe. I not only find his range of French & Indian War and American Revolution miniatures very exciting and complete, but the guy is a very friendly fellow, and really helpful to deal with on line.

Alas, the great divide of the Atlantic Sea, crippling postage prices from America to Ireland (these figures are heavy), and my inherent abhorrence of using the automated PayPal purchasing system, meant that in the end I was forced to continue the search for my ideal collection a little closer to home.

In the end I found the perfect solution to my problem, and the ultimate answer to my dreams; strange really that my search for a miniatures company to collect from, should end up being a company so similar to the one I loathe with a vengeance (in fact, I am still not fully convinced they are not one and the same, with a different name. GW and WG... Coincidence or what? Reverse the letters and it becomes teasingly clear... interesting huh)?
Warlord Games (WG) make the most splendid 28mm `old school` multi pose soldiers, in both plastic and in metal. Hmmmm yeah, I personally like plastic, and as WG produce a vast range of these, I really am in my gaming element with this company; and I could quite realistically `flesh out` my chosen collection using miniatures just from this company`s ranges alone (without needing to look elsewhere for those `special` pieces).  Warlord Games are quick, efficient, and very friendly (just like Games Workshop used to be twenty years and more ago). Effectively meaning you can place an order online and know there will be no complication, quick delivery, and amazingly friendly, knowledgeable staff (post is cheap... usually £2.50p, £5:00 for BIG heavy orders, and free post for orders over £50:00 in value).

I spent many a pleasurable hour browsing their site and creating wish lists for myself, which I invariably pick off a bit at a time as time and money allows. I never buy more though, until I have painted what I already have. Literally making a purchase at a time, a box of soldiers, a blister pack of a much needed general, the over worked working surgeon (complete with nurse and patient), a colonial log cabin, an outdoors water shed, etc etc. An exception to this rule of never buying too much at one time, would be pieces I suspect will sell out if I don’t pick up at the time I spot them as available... such as some of the more unusual terrain pieces I perceive are only made in limited numbers and which will probably be retired (“Sold Out”) once current stocks have dwindled.  

That's another beauty of the Warlord Games range of minis... the sculpts (being multi pose) have been well thought out to provide maximum usefulness to wargamers to utilise in their games (especially the "Seven Year War" ones, which are superb and come with interchangeable tricorn, fusilier, or grenadier heads. Not only useful poses on the pieces themselves, but many of the plastic sprue `extras` can be used to represent different soldiers and nationalities. Absolutely ideal for the starved and hungry Imagi-Nation gamers out there.... like me!

For example, I am planning to play my own Imaginary World games set within an undefined but pre-supposed 18th century civilisation...  s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y resembling the `real life` French and Indian Wars, plus bits of the American Revolutionary Wars, welded together into one.... sort of: but then this is where it starts to get interesting, because thrust firmly into the mix is a kind of low fantasy style Dungeons and Dragons/Pathfinder world of indigenous native American and Canadian Indian folk lore and a rich bestiary of macabre things to add. By choosing my pieces very carefully, I have ensured that I can use all of the figures to double up as appropriate quasi-historical facsimiles, which effectively allows me to `multi purpose` everything... i.e. a French infantryman of 1756 serves as a standard infantryman, or a grenadier of 1776; and not only for the French. But I can use a French Infantryman (aka Armorkan) to represent a British soldier (aka Tanikan) of the same era, or I can skip forward a few years and suddenly I have an American Militiaman or Patriot soldier (The Golarion Colonies) of 1783, even a German Hessian (Gothic Principality States)... or even more importantly to me, a French Revolutionary - 1792. Another sculpt might serve as a French, American, British, or German light infantryman.... and even as a Loyalist "Queens Ranger" infantryman. Or I can simply use it as a soldier in part of the army of any imaginary wars of my devising. The tricorn and the bicorn era of history is, indeed, very flexible like that.

Painted correctly, you can turn any sculpt into a host of different things for the happy wargamer to enjoy.

One of the best parts about planning a new Imagi-Nation (or imaginary world if you prefer) is the initial stage of planning.

So often overlooked at the start: all the focus usually tends to be placed firmly on the miniatures... undercoating, deciding which wargame rules system to use (then basing the figures according to the dictates of those favoured rules), painting, and varnishing/purity seal; all this before even working on the `story` beyond a vague notion, perhaps, of the period to be envisaged and enjoyed.

No, a good imaginary world lives and breathes in those quiet moments of cogitation, the daydream contemplations of the mind. The inspiration we hold so dear. Precious and quintessential to the suspension of disbelief, which breathes soul and purpose into our make believe lands of never-where.

Even as I sit and paint... and paint... and.. oh boy.... paint yet more (yes I have a lot to paint... about 500 figures all told)... even thus, I plan, and scheme, and write (often just little notes to remind myself of important snippets of insight and facets of campaign infrastructure). I like to get started long before the bulk of my toy soldiers are painted and ready. Cameos of everyday life, the serious, the humourous, the macabre and the fantastical. Satellites of the shape of things to come.

Welcome to my world. Haha, yes maybe there is a mark of insanity there somewhere, that I spend so much time making plans and preparing to immerse in a world that doesn’t really exist *whispers* but in my mind`s eye - is does.

Indeed, I plan to continue this new imaginary world for many years to come, so it will develop and thrive at my own happy pace. My passion for historical type games, is, and always has been, the main hobby focus for me... and probably, all told, takes up a good 70% of my hobby time (leaving only about 30% for ALL the other things I do: I am simply that focussed on this more `in depth` side of my gaming endeavours). I just thought I would share some of it with you, so you can see how I do things. I dunno, I guess I hope you may find some of it interesting, and sparks something within you to want to immerse into your favourite gaming tipple. I know Bryan has just embarked upon a new venture into a long term Judge Dredd campaign, and I believe that will soon become, for him, every bit as deep as my imagi-nation quasi American colonial world is for me. Andy has his Bushido, and man oh man, his immersion into that subject is a perfect example of how dedicated focus in the hobby should be, if you wish to reap the true rewards it has to offer: because then you get results like.... well, like he achieves, which are a wonder to behold, and a banner for us all to follow by his example there-of.

           So Where Did I Make My Start?

The first place, for me, was with my Tanikan Army Commander in Chief, Colonel Bingly. As my Liberty or Death collectors boxed set of Seven Year War miniatures get assembled and painted from my precious collection of sprues, I shall paint the Platoons, Companies and Battalions one at a time until the whole Regiment is ready and fit for on table action. Will my commander be a Scarlet Pimpernel type (Lord Percy Blakeney), or another Harry Flashman? Hmmm, we shall see.
I do know that, although I am preferring to play big skirmish games using material like The League of Ausburg`s “Donnybrook”  rules system... which suggests between 12 and 50 figures per side, I WILL be fleshing out an entire Tanikan (British) Regiment (comprising three Battalions) simply because I will enjoy the process. I have enough miniatures to do it, and end of the day, and I need this if I want to create many gaming options for myself.. with its proposed narrative/soap style continuing `satellite` colonial campaign. For smaller, more involved skirmish games, I will be using Ganesha Games “Song of Drums and Tomahawk.” I may even use the latter full stop, to the exclusion of Donnybrook.... which is a pure visual feast of interior artwork and beautiful book-man-ship. But if Song of Drums and Tomahawks can handle larger scale games when I need them to, I may just stick with this modest little handbook; because quite frankly, the rules do exactly what I want them to, they are easy to remember, and play dreamily well on the table. They are not a pretty set of rules, type set is a bit wonky, a few pages are faded ink, and the paper quality is.. meh! But the rules are good and solid, and the whole deal has that `old school` feel to it... a bit like the old Wargames Research Group rules of yester-year (does anyone even remember those classic rule books of the 70s and 80s)? They were functional, ugly, and presented the reader with a wall of type, endless pages of rules.... but the rules were GOOD, very good. So good, that for nearly two decades, they were the pinnacle by which most serious wargamers measured their gaming endeavours.
Meanwhile, I want to bring my new forthcoming campaign alive by `breathing life into the beast` while I prepare all the other elements for the game. This can come in a number of guises, such as fleshing out and personalising my commanders and their families. Creating my own made up imagi-nation Regimental flags and banners: I already have my Britanikan or Britanish flags {nowadays, fashionably shortened to Tanika, Tanikan or Tanish... or B`Tanika by scholars of history} worked out on paper... a little like the Union Jack, but not quite. Dull, you may say, very under inspiring you might add? Balls! I reply: I`m having fun with my imaginary world so let me be ^^  haha. But naaa, I want my Ruling Nation to have a very unmistakable British feel to it all.
I wish to Muster my troops for some snazzy photography as well, so I can add each new magnum opus to my growing collection and show them off in all their painted glory, bit at a time, within the blog after action write ups (battle reports). I personally don’t go in for showing off my figures with “Look what I can do”  blog articles. I know it is popular to do so, and most people do this.. and fair play to them all. I would not take away that pleasure for one moment. But for me personally.... I refuse to do it. Mostly I think because I can’t stand to see pages and pages of comments all saying: That’s good Stephen, That’s excellent Stephen, Very nice Stephen, Wow how do you do it Stephen, oh if only I had your skill Stephen, and so on and so on. You would think by reading the comments on the average blog painting response, that no one ever painted a bad figure in their lives, the praise is always the same... one sided and obvious. In fact, if you ever dare rock the boat and say “I don’t like that much” okay they won’t say it openly (how could they after all), and will swear blind they don’t mind, and say that they actually respect the comments, but truthfully, inside, they feel slighted by any criticism and can end up taking it very personally, and so this endless merry-go-round of praise endures (you scratch my back and I`ll scratch yours), and, in truth, it all just makes me go yeeeesh! Painting, to me, should be a means to an end to get your pieces on the table with all due expediency, thus to enjoy in all their splendour. If you enjoy the painting process along the way, as you get your guys ready to play with... then great. But endlessly needing everyone to praise you for what you do... is mind bogglingly boring to me haha. Imagine I were painting our house and every few days I went to all the neighbours showing them photos of my work so far and what I`d done (hoping, and needing them all to tell me how clever I was) expecting endless praise in this way is not healthy.... and I observe it all too often promotes a `thing` I am seeing more and more over the last few years, where the people painting the stuff are doing it MORE for the blogs and the praise it generates, than painting for the actual games table itself. Just a personal observation. Just saying.
But back to the topic.... yeah, in the early stages of a new campaign, I also like to indulge in something I enjoy immensely - something I like best... namely, writing up short cameos... stories to bring my characters into existence.

Lately, I have been borrowing heavily from Henry Hyde`s "The Wargaming Compendium". This book has fast become a `gaming bible` to me of late, and is a book I would heartily recommend to any serious gamer - especially the soloist.

Hardback copy - pages 309 to 311.... a really useful section called: "Adding Personality".

I know already that I want my Lord Bingly... good old "Bingo" to be married, and just coming up to middle age. So I will place him at 38 years old at the start of this existence in my game.

Using my trusty percentage dice (%) to determine my new Colonel`s starting character stats I thus proceed to the following table. I never cheat when I am using dice in my solo role playing or wargames, and always abide by the results no matter what. I have a saying "there are no such things as bad dice rolls... just interesting ones".
Lord Henry Arthur Bingly                                                
Intelligence    Initiative     Courage     Charisma     Strength     Health
   33           76        92      37 (95)     87       19

Intelligence 33: okay, Bingo isn`t exactly the brightest cherry on the bush, which fits my mind’s eye perception of this fellow perfectly. A true blood aristocrat, a bit dim, but as charming as a rather annoying but helplessly dependent puppy. "I sssay.... jolly good show.. wot!"

Initiative 76: A bit ` thick` Bingo may be, but professionally, as a soldier, he is sharp as a blade, and totally on the ball. Probably a card shark, a gambler, and a bit of an amiable rogue, especially with the ladies. He is the type who, if a woman even talks nicely to him, sees this as an `amber light` and a deluded personal invitation into her boudoir. He charges at things head on, with an intuitive zest for life... but never stops to consider the consequences of his actions.

Courage 92: unbelievably courageous, fool heartedly brave, a total madman. A very fine blade and no doubt a champion duellist (slow to anger; due to his low intelligence, he rarely even notices when someone is mocking him to his face or, heaven forbid, insulting his good lady wife). Once roused, he is a nightmare and hard to calm down again. The graveyards are doubtless littered with gentlemen who have come up against his deadly duelling blade or pistols.

Charisma 37 (95): I give this character two separate stats for Charisma, one in his private life, another as a professional soldier. As a private man... a Lord (actually an Earl) he is a bit of an amiable buffoon, a dim witted devilishly annoying fop.

As a Colonel of his own Regiment... i.e. in his professional status... he is capable, respected and trusted by his fellow officers, and instils unswerving loyalty in the men under him.

His ravishingly beautiful wife, the Lady Chase Bingly (maiden name Lady Chase Bunting) is equally flirtatious, sexually veracious, and as wanton as her over-zealous husband. She travels everywhere with her husband, and loves to inspect the troops... sometimes several times a day *grins*

Strength 87: Built like an ox. Anytime he is in danger of receiving a wound, throw the percentage dice, and if the roll is equal to or below his Strength, Lord Bingly can pretty much shrug off the wound with impunity.
"meh! a mere flesh wound.... wot!"

Health 19: Sickly as a child, the family doctors predicted he would not live to adulthood. He suffered from endless colds, bronchial congestion (asthma), various allergies and a veritable legion of unhealthy and uncomfortable inflictions. To this day, he can often be found with his head buried in a bowl of steaming hot water, breathing in pungent aromas of eucalyptus and other equally strange and foul smelling medicinal unguents.
A Fox Hunt on the Bingly Estate... back in B`Tanika`s perpetual Green and Pleasant land.
While Lord Bingly`s Health is not always the best, his high Strength easily compensates for this defect, and ensures he is a formidable individual to be reckoned with in most things. God bless him, he just needs to stay out of the cold, the damp and the rain *achu!*

.... and avoid feather beds, household dust, animal hair, bird feathers, and.... well, everything really.
My trusty percentile dice (D100):
This pair are the first ever (hobby) dice I got - when I was about 13 years old. I can remember my Dad getting them for me... via mail order; which was still a foreign (almost alien) concept back then... the idea of hobby things being purchased by post, and not from a shop was quite snazzy and cool.

I  t-h-i-n-k  the dice were for a Western Skirmish game called "Once Upon a Time in the West" which may even have pre-dated the first ever Dungeons and Dragons game available for purchase outside the USA.
Anyway, back to the game:
So why do I like Colonial Gothic so much? I`m not entirely sure, certainly there are things about it that bother me; like the shamelessly pro American slant on the entire package, with the British being portrayed as nothing more than callous dogs... blatantly intended to be considered as the enemy, and even the monsters of the whole game. In fact, the entire make up of the huge rules book and its many supplement manuals (and yes I have them all) assumes the players will be characters on the American side of the Revolution, and even the vast pre-made campaign "Flames of Freedom" pre-supposes everything from only the Patriots point of view. One would presume, if you read American literature or listened to the standard American patriotic (school brain-washing) view point, that `the right side` won the war! It`s rare nowadays that, after over two hundred years of buried truth and patriotic zealousness, the other side of the story is ever told at all. My desire in creating my games will be to tell a lot of that British story. But it will be a lot easier to do this under the satirical parable of a quasi imaginary, semi historical setting.
This twisting of facts surrounding the Rebellion grates with me quite a bit, and is all just plain... wrong! On so many levels. Telling the story from reverse face of that proverbial double sided coin, will be rather refreshing.

But get past this flaw (and let’s face it, it is a pretty major frickin defect) and what you have here is one of the most amazingly atmospheric, historical role playing and wargame set of conditions and supporting supplement material ever written for the hobby. The campaign material is also top notch and extremely well put together. The history is fairly well researched, if not a little too biased at times... but I cannot fault its historical accuracy on pretty much all counts; despite the slant, and the bits on loyalist non patriotism, so obviously left out. Then throw in the game`s main `ace` card, and you have a whole new layer of make belief added to the cauldron - macabre gothic horror, and true monsters... a sort of "what if" history thrown in, but rather tastefully done.

To quote the rules book for a second:


Colonial Gothic is a world deeply mired in mysteries, secrets, and plots. The sense of darkness and horror your group will want to experience in your game sessions will rely heavily upon both the Gamemaster’s creativity and the players’ imaginations—and this book provides plenty of ideas and resources to stimulate both. Together, the Gamemaster and the players will craft a story in which the characters will face increasing wickedness and villainy in the world, discovering that while some enemies are all too human, others have never been human at all.

Whether your character is a soldier, grimly facing the brutality of war in the campaigns of the American Revolution, or a witch hunter relentlessly searching out and battling evil, is entirely up to you.

Colonial Gothic is designed with a simple premise: the occult and supernatural are real and extant within the world. Drawing upon history, Colonial Gothic’s perspective is that of the American Colonists: witches are real, devils and monsters run rampant in the world, and Magic can be worked—usually with terrible effect on all involved. Most Colonists have either chosen to deny the supernatural or rationalize it away, while others have been irreversibly damaged by their experiences with it. But some know and accept it for what it is and act accordingly, willingly choosing to place their reputations, faith, and sanity on the line to fight back. Seeing themselves as the last line of defence against the onslaught of evil, these characters war with the terrifying forces that lurk in the shadows.

Yep! pretty gripping stuff alright.

But so too is Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder or a host of other rpg games out there. So why this game in particular?

No! Colonial Gothic is different. First of all, it operates within the precepts of real life history, and simply adds to it all in a way that is quite delightful, and which I can only describe as `fitting nicely into the Imagi-Nation sensibilities`... which, of course, is exactly what I am looking for here. Secondly, it has an intense military feel to it all, with deep overtures of warfare running through its very core, yet nice and discrete in the background. But thirdly, and perhaps paramount to it all... the premise is sound and fully rounded as a conceptual whole.

Here is real history, real events, and real people, set in the time of a real French & Indian, and the American War of Independence, with all the tensions and atmosphere of, perhaps, the French Revolution, The Scarlet Pimpernel, the essence of Ruritania, The Son of Monte Cristo and the Prisoner of Zenda.... all rolled into one, yet totally separate from the European theatre, set in a mostly still unexplored New World, away from prying eyes... which allows me to play about with things, alter history, invent new stuff, and generally indulge in an `Imaginary` world of my very own.

I also like the way Colonial Gothic is written. I really enjoy regularly leafing through the many hundreds of pages of material I have accumulated for this package, and it has become like a favourite book I like to read in my study, or take to bed with me to read on those cold winter evenings.
Ordinarily, I would only ever really consider using my own rules (and only my own rules) and I might be inclined to make up my imaginary world from scratch (especially with a new campaign world): but in this case, I am perfectly happy to allow myself to be inspired by this material even as it is written. Maybe this is because it is real history, uses real old 18th century maps, is clear and concise in its presentation, and yet leaves the reader feeling totally in control, and fully able to extrapolate his or her own ideas into the mix to create a perfect world in which to `play about` in.

So would I use the Colonial Gothic rules to play a full campaign. No... oh gosh, never! I really do like the D12 system Colonial Gothic promotes.... or rather, I want to like it, I really do! But the rules are just too clunky, too messy for me ever to pay them any serious consideration. But so as not to `throw the baby out with the bath water` I have used much of the `tone` Colonial Gothic evokes, allowed it to sink into my psyche and to inspire my imagination to kick-start in its own unique directions. I suppose at the end of the day, I am saying that I really like Colonial Gothic for the way it makes me feel, but it does this without giving me any desire to play the game. Its good reading material and a great source of neat ideas: no more.
I have created the rpg rules I will be using for my games and I have called them: “A Colonial Affair.”
The main table top aspect of my forthcoming campaign will, however, be played using the rules I have already mentioned: Donnybrook and Song of Drums and Tomahawks. I Shall be using the card random events deck from “Maurice” to add some spice, and anything else I can throw into the pot to help make the thing more interesting. The direct campaign area I am going to zoom in on and satellite for my initial sandbox, will be all the excellent  maps, NPC characters and so on from Flying Frogs “A Touch of Evil.” To this I will pour all the other elements into the mould, and then sit back and watch the jelly set.
By a cool stroke of good luck, I have found the ideal solution to a small problem I have, of late, been pondering over: namely, trying to decide what I was going to do about adding non military type miniatures to my table top games. Playing in 28mm is all well and good, but it`s devilish hard at times always to find those essential bits and pieces of `everyday life` which turns a game into a living breathing thing... maids a milking their cows, market store holders selling their wares to ladies and gentlemen in their morning finery, as they stroll casually through the Friday market. Priests saying Mass (or a fantasy equivalent) to their enthralled congregation, children playing in the street, urchins hanging about darkened doorways, dogs roaming wild through the commons; watchmen vigilantly patrolling their lonely `beats`.... carriages and wagons wending their way hither and thither through the maze of cobblestone lanes etc, etc.

Then it struck me one day as I was browsing through my Pathfinder RPG material... Pawns!

These are thick card, stand up tokens... characters, villains and monsters, used by gamers to stand in for role playing game miniatures (at a nice price tag). Actually, they are very attractive, and because they are flat, thick card tokens, they go rather nicely alongside my Warlord Games soldiers.... if only they were the same size as my  28`s.

... but wait!

I suddenly had an idea, and with excited... almost feverish hands, I snatched up one of these pawns (a gentleman merchant in very 18th century looking garb), and rushing into the hall where my glass cabinets full of my latest creations reside, and I placed my pawn beside a painted 28mm flag bearer, resplendent in his  B`Tanikan red tunic.

Oh my goodness!

Because of the slight height adjustments... possible due to the plastic slot base the card miniature slides into; my pawn stood, near as damn it, shoulder to shoulder with my drummer. A perfect scale match!! By now I was very excited, and returning to my hobby room, I started to forage about in my Pathfinder pawns box for other pieces I might be able to use. By the end of a very pleasant half an hour of sorting things out, I realised I had just found myself a good couple of hundred nice new pieces to add to my games.

I was utterly delighted.

I then went on line and checked out for additional Pathfinder Pawns, and lo and behold, there were a number of complete rpg sets which might prove ideal for my forthcoming imagi-nation games. I guess we all know what`s now sitting in my Amazon` wish list` ^^
Meanwhile, my new project progresses apace... slowly but surely.
Article by Steve
_______________________________  )o(  __________________________________
“Musings of a Lady Gamer”
Zombicide Black Plague: The Kick Starter!
A year ago now, Stevie was seized with a impetuous desire to pledge a 150 euro for a cool new kick starter campaign from `Cool Mini or Not.` This was their brand new re-take on an already highly successful zombie style boardgame franchise. However, this second time round, they would do it all over again, but this time firmly set within a medieval fantasy setting. Actually, you could almost forget the word `fantasy` from the thing, and just call it a medieval setting... with a few dwarves and elves thrown in for good measure! The tone and style has a strong medieval flavour, and it is for this reason above all others that I am so drawn to it. The fantasy bit could quite comfortably have been left out and the game would not have suffered for it. To my mind, the inclusion of a few Dwarves and Elves and what not, has made the game a bit too much like any other game out there *yawn* and they missed an opportunity to make a bold premise with a more unusual stance - i.e. a medieval world torn apart by zombies. As it is, by opting for fantasy, they have simply gone the route of making a generic quasi medieval world with zombies in it.... just like every other fantasy setting, right?
The original Zombicide was very cool. Works perfectly at what it set out to do, and was probably (subjectively) the best zombie table top miniatures boardgame of this genre out there.
I t-h-i-n-k Zombicide Black Plague may just top its big sister, and take the golden crown! Though, ultimately,  I do not expect it will do as well in sales.
Put plain and simply: it is the better of the two games. The rules are smoother, there are more play options available, and it is supported by a staggering array of expansion and support material: and thankfully, we have most of it all, as we pledged quite highly on the kick starter campaign - Knights Level, if I recall correctly. The only thing that may make the original Zombicide game setting more popular in the long run, is the fact that most people like the modern day zombie genre better than the idea of zombies in the age of pitchforks, swords, armour, shields, bows, axes and spears. For me, the medieval idea is unusual and even more attractive than the idea of a modern day themed setting. More so because I tire of every single modern day zombie story being set in America: with American language jargon, American place names, American terminology and an obviously American character theme. Living in Ireland (though, like Stevie, I am actually British), thousands of miles divorced from the strange culture of the USA, I find it hard to relate to.. exacerbated by the fact that I don’t really like trash American movies and loud obvious plot lines... where the height of the budget seems to be to make lots of impressive looking gun fights and explosions, and loud mouthed heroes (are we meant to like these?) being obnoxious all the time in a way that would, in real life, probably end up causing Stevie to `bop them` on the nose in tired agitation. Cool Mini`s new medieval game is generic... it’s NOT American based (indeed, the Americans never actually had a medieval era of their own) so it easily fits into the mind`s eye as being English, or anywhere in Europe you like it to be.. or a fantasy world if you prefer. But the bottom line here is, just for once, we have a game that is not restrictively based in the USA.
This is one stretch goal expansion hero I am literally gasping to sink my teeth into playing. My lifelong hero Bowie.
Now.. our set, has been played lots, and we all love it. I am of course, talking about the base game. The one everyone can now buy in the shops. The sheer bulk of the expansion stretch goal add ones (which aren’t even yet available for the public to buy) still sits in the huge box it came in the day the courier dropped it off at the bottom of our drive. Its vast, and its staggering, almost too much to get our heads round right now, and so we packed it all up and placed it safely in a corner of a spare room, to be picked up and enjoyed at a later date when we have more time to savour it and use it to its full potential.

But I can see something I don’t think Stevie has seen yet! I can see just how MUCH amazing play potential this Black Plague game will one day present for us. Complete, as our game is... especially including the second add on boxed game that comes with the pledge... I can see that this is an entire hobby project in its own right. It’s not just a quick fix game. It’s not just another purchase game soon to be forgotten and moved on from when something new comes along and catches the eye. this game is HUGE. We simply haven’t gotten to grips with it all yet: which is probably just as well. Because it could swallow you, and you`d be swamped, even under enthused, the thing left unfinished, and eventually unloved, and un-played.  This game deserves time and respect. And so I am grateful we had other projects to complete first, before getting to grips with this caged beast of a game. We haven’t even opened the dozens of free pledge stretch goal packets yet. They remain sealed in their cellophane, so whenever we do get round to opening it all up, it will still feel new.. like Christmas Morning present opening time. It may not even be until next summer that we get round to Black Plague, but when we do, I think we are going to have a wonderful time.
I know it’s hard. There are days when Stevie and I both want to just tear open all the packets of goodies and bask in the beauty of this game. But we stay strong and ensure than when we do get round to it, it will all feel like the day it arrived at our house. Exciting and new.
*smiles happily*
Just quickly. I would like to finish by thanking Tarot for all the help she has given to this site over the last months (she never seeks praise or attention for herself, yet her presence in the site could always be felt: with her jovial, happy words, and her cool (often subtle) sense of humour.. also that sharp tongue hehe, never slow to speak the truth when ever she sees it. I will miss that most of all here I think.  Her stoic and steadfast loyalty and dedication to us all and to the blog in general has been a godsend and I don't know quite how we will manage without her from now on. I do know I will miss her here :( 
I am only glad that at least we still have you joining us at the club(s) and as one of our regular game group. The site may have lost out, but Stevie and I are still lucky to have you. You make our days brighter by your presence xxx

Article by Hilary

Friday, 16 September 2016

Battle Systems Urban Apocalypse Terrain part 1

As soon as I saw the notice that Battle Systems were planning to launch an Urban Apocalypse Terrain set project on Kickstarter last year I knew I had to back it. Of all of the Kickstarter projects I have backed, this was the one that excited me the most. As each new stretch goal and add-on was announced I knew that a) I wanted it, and b) this was going to cost me a fortune. In short, I wanted everything that Battle Systems produced for this project. At first, it was just the city scenery, but one pack would never satisfy my needs. So I ended up ordering four full sets. It was cheaper buying four together than four sets separately. This was enough to cover an area 4 feet square. Then the Shanty Town sets were announced and I saw even more possibilities. I ordered two full Shanty Town sets. Those six sets cost me £390. Ouch, I hear you say. But it got worse... or better depending upon your point of view. Just as the project was drawing to a close, Battle Systems added suburban houses and of course, I wanted them. Combined with other add-ons like the fire station, police station, art deco buildings, diner/casino and loads of other scenery items I ended up ordering over £700 worth of goods. A lot of money? Hell yes, indeed! But, first of all, I could afford it and second of all, this was something I REALLY, REALLY wanted. I could see my gaming hobby being transformed by these amazing sets.
Building card terrain and buildings is something I have always been interested in. Indeed it first started in the late 1970's when I began scratch-building 54mm scale Wild West buildings. I learned a lot from making them and that experience stood me in good stead when it came to making 28mm scale buildings and scenery for my zombie apocalypse games. I began making 28mm buildings in the early 2000's and started off by making contemporary buildings and scenery produced by World Work Games. I then moved on to the catalogue of card models from Stoelzel's Structures. I made loads of card buildings for my zombie apocalypse games but in recent years I have slowed down considerably. These new sets by Battle Systems were like a breath of fresh air to me. They had everything I loved about card terrain - interior details, detachable floors and roofs, made of thick card for strength and durability, incredibly detailed textures and of course, furniture and other scenery items to help bring a gaming board to life. Plus, these had the added bonus of being quick to assemble with no gluing required (although I do glue small items like furniture and street items). And when you've finished your game you can un-clip them and store everything away flat. Absolutely perfect!
Shown in the photo above is one of the boxes that the Urban Apocalypse Terrain sets came in. The Shanty Town sets have a different cover, which I'll show when I review them.
Inside the box are some of the items you get with this set. Shown here are the floors, roofs, ruined walls and hidden under those walls are the rooftop railings. I'm using the boxes to store all of my large flat items.
In this box are all of the undamaged walls from this set. This box, like the one above, contains the pieces from four boxed sets. It includes three types of exterior walls. All of the interior walls are identically coloured. The doors that come with the walls are kept in a separate box, which I haven't shown.
This plastic compartment box of mine (I have loads of these, which I buy online from Amazon UK, and they are very versatile) contains all of the grey plastic pegs (shown in the top two rows) used to clip the parts together. You will need a lot of them and although you get enough in each boxed set to make all of the contents of that box I ordered some extras just to be on the safe side, in case I ever make a massive town set. The other two rows contain counters to show the placement of stairs, manhole covers, lots of signs, computer monitors, wooden pallets and an assortment of scatter items.
 So, let me show you what I came up with for my very first build. First of all, this set up uses one of the gaming mats, which I must say are superb. The colours on them are so rich and vibrant but more importantly, very realistic. The mats are made of some kind of strong plastic that can be folded up after use but still retains its shape when laid out flat. I love them!
Here is a different wide angle shot. Note, that with these sets, you need not be limited by the space you have on your gaming table. One obvious solution if your strapped for space is to build upwards. I have tried to show this by showing what a five-storey apartment can look like. Oh, and how cool are those fire escapes? I have placed my 28mm scale figure of Vampifan in all of these photos to give you a sense of scale. That apartment is 600mm wide (approximately two feet).
From the front, the apartment looks like one big building but it is actually made up of three separate buildings. To be fair, by placing internal walls with doors there is nothing stopping you from making it one big building or even numerous smaller buildings all combined into one block.
Here is a closer view of Vampifan on the roof of the fifth storey. In case you're wondering, it took me just under three hours to build this cityscape.
 Here we have an overhead view of this set-up.
Finally, here is a shot showing the main street from closer to ground level. You get two types of awnings for your buildings - wide (shown to the right) and narrow (shown to the left) in red or blue. I haven't made much in the way of street furniture or interior furniture but I have made some. In the foreground you can see a dumpster. The lid comes off but if you prefer you can glue it in place. I have glued the sides of it but left the lid detachable. I wonder if the BS-Mart sign stands for Bryan Scott's Mart? Probably not, but it's nice to think so.
Let us have a closer look at the three buildings starting with the ruined store. Actually, the lowest two floors are intact but the top floor has suffered major damage. This explains why this city set is called Urban Apocalypse Terrain. It is specifically designed for a post-apocalypse setting. You don't have to make every building a ruin. Check out the supermarket shown in greater detail below.
Here, Vampifan has dropped down a level. I have added a few internal walls to these buildings but I have not added any back walls. Normally, I would include back walls. They are useful for photography purposes if they'd be seen in a photo but for gaming purposes they can be left off to make it easier to place figures inside. Of course, all of the floors and roofs are detachable. They are just lightly clipped in place, making it easier to remove a floor or roof to gain access to the interior.
This is the two-storey supermarket. The walls are meant to represent glass and metal. They do work but I am used to making all of my windows for my card buildings out of transparent plastic. Given the restraints of the designs I know this would not be a feasible option. Still, I do miss my transparent windows, but hey, this only a very minor complaint, so it's no big deal. The billboard on the roof is one of two designs you can use, but I guess you could always use your own poster, suitably cut to size to use instead. It's something I'm planning on doing. In the centre of the roof is an air-conditioning unit.
Here I show the ground floor of the supermarket with the upper floor removed. Note the door to the small room Vampifan is in comes with a small stand. It is up to you whether you want your doors open or closed. This one is partially open. The double doors at the front of the store are closed.  Once I start work on making my furniture items these buildings will really come to life.
Vampifan has moved across the road to the large apartment building. The Stop barrier is one of the few street furniture items I have made. One thing to point out about it is that I painted the edges of it. This is very important. Trust me on this ! You can use felt-tip pens if you want. I have a thick black magic marker that I use on the edges of any items that are black, like the fire escapes. The beauty of edging is that it brings an item to life and makes it look like it should and not an obvious cardboard cut-out with jarring light grey edges. I prefer edging with paints because I can get a much closer match to the surrounding colours but my god, it is slow and tedious work. Still, just look at that Stop sign and appreciate how realistic it looks.
Vampifan is now moving up the fire escapes. I have to admit, these are one of my favourite building accessory items. They really bring this building to life. Plus, just imagine the fun you can have on them in a game. So many possibilities!
Moving inside, Vampifan wonders what happened to all of the furniture and all of the people? Is he the "Last Man on Earth"? And where's that mournful wailing sound coming from?
This is just meant as a small insight into what can be done with a few of these boxed sets. There were far more walls and floors that I didn't use than those I did use. Plus you can combine these sets with any of the other sets in this range. I have just concentrated on a few pieces from one of the Urban Apocalypse sets. Still to come will be reviews of the Shanty Town sets, the fire station, police station, art deco mansion, suburban houses and lots more, including mixing and matching sets.
My god, I am in gaming heaven! My mind is filled with ideas of what I can do with these sets in future games. Yes, I will be starting up a new All Things Zombie campaign, starring Vampifan once again, but most likely with new supporting characters. But probably before then, I will begin my long awaited (well, for me anyway) Judge Dredd Miniatures Game campaign. I have played many games of Judge Dredd using various rules sets including a couple I designed myself. But they all used flat 2-D maps for gaming on. It was always a dream of mine to play Judge Dredd using 3D terrain. Now that dream can come true. Recently, Mega City one suffered catastrophic damage, so much of it lies in ruins. This makes these sets ideal for gaming in the "Big Meg". Even better, Battle Systems recently announced that their next Kickstarter project will be sci-fi terrain. It's due to start later this year. Oh joy! By combining the urban terrain sets with the sci-fi terrain sets I can make a superb looking Mega city One. I can't wait.
But, just think of what else you can do with these sets. Just off the top of my head I'm thinking Heroclix and/or Horrorclix, World War 2 city fighting, pulp fiction, 7TV2e style games, cyberpunk gaming, like Shadowrun, for example. So many choices, so many ideas. You'll be seeing a lot more of these sets on both this blog and on my Vampifan blog, particularly in upcoming batreps.
Good news for those of you who missed out on the Kickstarter project, Battle Systems now have all of the Urban Apocalypse Terrain sets up for sale on their webstore. here's the link to it -

Bryan ©2016