Post Apocalypse Gaming Inspiration

When I first started at secondary school in the late 1980s we had rather strange setup in my home town.  At eleven years old we went to what was effectively a middle school, this was co-ed and following a couple of years the majority of pupils transferred to either the local girls or boys school, which catered for 13 to 18 year olds.  The other unique thing about my particular middle school was that it was split across two sites about a mile apart.  Break times were often spent on the transfer bus moving between buildings.

The main site (long since demolished), was kind of open plan with primarily outdoor corridors.  Believe me when I say this was actually the better of the two.  What however has any of this got to do with drawing inspiration for post apocalyptic tabletop gaming?  Well apart from the prison camp styling of the architecture, one thing that really sticks in my mind was the school library.  At the time I couldn’t really look beyond the classic Target novelisations of Doctor Who serials (I was slightly obsessed), but I do remember in particular another series of books with very striking covers.  I never read these at the time as something about the content was too close to a very frightening possible reality that hung over us all in the Cold War – nuclear armageddon.  These novels were the ‘Survivalist’ series by Jerry Ahern.

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Recently as I have been working on my 28mm scale post apocalypse projects (with 7TV Apocalypse very much my cross-hairs) I’d started thinking about backgrounds and settings for my games and models.  Aside from the obvious Mad Max style road warrior scenarios, my memory of the old school library and the ‘Survivalist’ came to the fore.  Needless to say a quick trip to Amazon and eBay and I’ve got the first few volumes.

First things first.  These books are very much of their time.  The hero is in that Reagan era 80’s mold. They are not literary masterpieces, they are pulp, but by heck (as they say round here) I’m enjoying them.  Needless to say the basic premise is following the titular ‘survivalist’ John O’Rouke in his adventures in a nuclear war ravaged United States.  John has to fight off marauding gangs, invading Soviets and the like, while searching for his wife and children.  Our hero is not only a survival specialist, but also a trained medical doctor, former CIA operative and weapons expert.  There is an almost lurid amount of detail in these books about guns and weapons with the caliber of ammo, background and description of rifles and machine guns all being describe in minute detail each time they are used (and they are used a lot).  There is also a lot of cigarette smoking in these books (check out the covers)!

There’s certainly plenty in here to act as inspiration for gaming on the tabletop.  I particularly like that the Soviet Union is attempting an occupation of the US (somehow this is possible after a nuclear exchange), but this gives a bit more scope for scenarios, rather than just the usual marauding gangs versus gangs setup.

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Unsurprisingly I’ve been looking into miniatures for John O’Rourke, and remembered the Wargames Factory Male Survivors multi-part plastic kit.  This came out originally a few years ago and was more recently re-packaged and re-released by Warlord Games as part of their Project Z range.

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Is that John McClane or John O’Rourke on the cover?

It seems uncannily like the creators of this set had read some of these books as out of the box I was quite easily able to pull together a figure which is almost a spitting image of the Survivalist from the book covers.  The next stage will be to paint him up and get some stats created for 7TV.

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Inspired by this I’ve also been looking into other background material and thanks to an excellent article in the November 2018 issue of Wargames Illustrated on ‘near apocalypse’ gaming have come across the old GDW Games Twilight 2000 source books.  But more on that another time…..

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For more information on the Survivalist series, I’d heartily recommend this article on ‘We are the Mutants’.

Warhammer World Road Trip

I’ve recently started playing Kill Team, the Warhammer 40k small scale skirmish game by Games Workshop.  While I’ve never really been that into the whole ‘grimdark’ thing something about Kill Team really appealed and I’ve had some very enjoyable games recently.  I think it’s the mix of being able to collect and build multiple small squads, the undeniable quality of the Citadel Miniatures and the objective based missions that make it (even though the rules follow the quite clunky and old fashioned to hit/to wound/save approach of most GW games).

With Warhammer World only about 30 miles away down the motorway, I’ve been a couple of times in the past (mainly to look round the exhibition), but never to play games.  This changed earlier this week when I ventured down to Nottingham with a few friends for some gaming.

Surprisingly (to me anyway) is that there is no charge to play, so you can go along and take advantage of the amazing gaming tables quite freely (providing you are of course playing GW games with GW miniatures).  We booked a single 8 foot square city table, with the intention of playing multiple games of Kill Team in parallel (originally there were going to a few more of us in attendance).  In reality this was far too big, but we were able to scout out some really great potential tables for Kill Team on a future visit.

The games themselves were very enjoyable and there is something special about the venue.  Yes the fake castle walls are a bit tacky, but they kind of really build an atmosphere, especially with a room full of people all sharing the same passion for gaming.  There is of course plenty of opportunity to shop and visit the exhibition, and Bugman’s Bar provides a great range of food, snacks and drinks (at reasonable prices).  There are even some painting and modelling stations, so if you really can’t wait to get your new purchases assembled you can get straight to it.

Personally I crashed and burned in all three games I played (losing my leader in the first round of each).  Somehow this poor performance was achieved using Death Guard, who are supposedly one of the most resilient factions on the game!

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My Nurgle Death Guard Kill Team 

If you are a wargamer  and even if Warhammer is not your thing, I’d highly recommend a visit.  Entrance to the gaming hall, shops and bar is all free, with the only charge being for the (optional) exhibition tour.  I’m even tempted to expand my forces so I can play a full game of 40k there sometime soon!

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Obligatory photo of the 1:1 scale Rhino at Warhammer World

7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter Campaign

Much of my recent hobby activity has been around the modelling and painting of 28mm scale post apocalypse figures and vehicles.  This was inspired by my involvement in the beta testing of 7TV Apocalypse which is now coming towards it’s conclusion on Kickstarter.

Currently over three times funded, but with plenty of good stuff still to be unlocked I’d heartily recommend backing this (if not so we can please unlock the Alien Invaders (‘Visitors’).

The campaign is running until 9pm (GMT) on Tuesday 6th November.

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Some of the new miniatures…..

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Action Force Motor Pool – work in progress

I’ve been doing this Action Force in 28mm thing for a few years now.  I keep getting distracted, but always get pulled back in.  I blogged recently about the ultimate goal of getting a Roboskull to the table, but this reminded me I have a number of part finished other vehicles to add to the motor pool.  So with a concerted effort I have gone back and revisited these.

Most of the vehicles I have previously started have been for the ‘Enemy’.  I’ve kind of handled this in a couple of different ways – both accurate replicas of the toys/comics and an ‘inspired by’  approach.

The latter has basically involved me finding models and toys (in the right scale) that kind of fit the setting.  For Action Force themselves this could be standard military type kit such as land rovers or tanks (concentrating on the eighties period), but for the Red Shadows I’ve thought a bit wider.  So this has led to some interesting choices and conversions.  Presented below are a couple of the more wild ideas I have completed, including a flying saucer and a ‘Dust 1947’ plane.

I’ve also recently gone down the ‘walker’/’mech’ route as well, utilising a Konflikt 47 resin/metal model kit from Warlord Games.  A head swap for the pilot and voila – the Red Spider!

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Going further back to the German World War II inspiration for the Enemy, many years ago I picked up a Tamiya 1:48 scale Sdkfz.69. I’ve recently gone back and finished this, with the idea that this could represent the ubiquitous Shadowtrak.

And this brings me back to the other of the two top level options – accurate replicas of the toys in 28mm scale.  The obvious route to go down here is 3D printing – more about this later.  However there is at least one off the shelf option that is (relatively) widely available.

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This is a novelty gift pack / toy by Running Press – the sort of thing you normally see for sale in stands next to checkouts in bookshops alongside Harry Potter wands or small TARDIS or Dalek models.  This particular item represents a Cobra HISS tank, better known to Action Force aficionados as the Enemy (and later Cobra) Hyena.  The scale is pretty much spot on for 28mm scale.

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3D printed Hyena from Shapeways in the foreground, unpainted gift toy version at the back.  28mm scale Red Shadow for scale.

This is also sometimes available from third party sellers on Amazon, and that is where a few years ago I picked up half a dozen of these bad boys.  Out of the box it is coloured black and comes with a set of Cobra stickers to apply as well as an information booklet.  It also has sound!  Press a button on the turret and you get a slightly cartoony laser gun sound – totally unnecessary, but totally amazing.

I’ve painted these in a slightly different way than usually.  As the base model is black, I wanted the main body to be red, but also wanted to leave a lot of the detail untouched (including the clear canopy in case I ever wanted to add a driver); I’ve gone down the Gundam marker route…..

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Gundam markers are named for and used almost exclusively in the Gunpla (Gundam kit building) community.  They come in various types ranging from large nibbed pens that apply enamel paint on application of pressure to fine tipped markers which are used for panel lining.  I’ve found these to be an interesting addition to my hobby toolkit.

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For the Hyena I used a thick nibbed paint pen to apply a base coat of red (leaving some of the recesses black where appropriate).  Once dry (which takes a while longer for enamels) I drybrushed a light red acrylic over this to apply both a highlight and to dull down the shininess of the enamel base coat.  The markings were applied with a thinner nibbed marker.

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So, the elephant in the room then?  Yes 3D printing.  I still covet a printer of my own, but in the meantime and for those like me bereft of the hardware there are still plenty of options.  There are a surprising number of 3D models of GI Joe vehicles out there (just search on Shapeways or Thingiverse).  I have in the past both ordered a printed model from the former, but more recently have been able to get some files printed out by a friend.

Currently on my workbench are these two beauties – a Red Shadows Laser Exterminator (aka a GI Joe HAL) and an SAS Panther jeep (aka a Cobra Stinger).  I’m going to do a detailed prep, build and painting guide on these in a future blog.

Where things are a little lacking in availability of 3D models on line is in those Action Force vehicles that weren’t based on existing GI Joe toys back in the day.  What that does mean is that there is in particular a big Shadowtrak and Roboskull shaped hole in the Baron’s armoury.

Talking of the Roboskull…..

Empire of Men – To catch a Stahlratte!

I recently blogged about building the epic Stahlratte, a sci-fi style heavy tank in the style of the legendary Maus produced by Archon Studio as part of their Empire of Men Kickstarter.

I’d got to the point of having assembled the resin beast and through copies use of greenstuff and a bit of boiling water got the build to the point at which I was ready to get some paint down.

First off, I’d made a decision to go ‘German Weird World War’ rather than ‘Grimdark Future’ in terms of theme. However rather than go with the classic late war yellow / camo look of the immediate post war timelines of things like Dust and Konflikt 47, I decided to go with a more science fiction / modern camo look. Originally I was planning on using some splinter style camo templates from Anarchy Models, but upon inspection these looked a bit too small. In the end I decided on a light grey/dark grey angular camo pattern using masking tape to mark the pattern out. Using a Panzer Grey spray from Plastic Soldier Company over a white undercoat, the masking was applied and a light grey then applied (Humbrol).

Once dry I tackled the tracks, using a Reaper Miniatures Charred Brown mixed with a few drops of Valejo Glaze Medium to help thin.  This was then followed with a silver drybrush using Army Painter Plate Mail.

I decided to tackle decals next (prior to weathering). Decals were sourced from my decals spares box. Most of these were Dust Tactics Axis decals.

Weathering was achieved by applying an all over brush on of Army Painter Quickshade Dark. Once dry chipping was applied using a bit of old sponge, first using a dark brown and then a silver, concentrating on the edges and areas that would be subject to the most wear. Finally (and as an experiment) I applied a bit of Modelmates engine oil around some of the grills and as vertical streaks on the side panels.  Final steps were to dull down the Quickshade using an all over spray of Testors Dullcote.

All in all I pretty pleased with the outcome. I haven’t really got a game lined up for this, but I imagine this might be appearing in a ‘moon Nazis’ scenario in 7TV as a centrepiece or objective.

I’ve still got a couple more vehicles to finish off from the Kickstarter and the troops I’ve got are ear marked for Imperial Guard proxies for Kill Team (not a game I have tried yet, but something my gaming group is starting to get into).

Action Force in 28mm – Roboskull!

One of the most unique and recognisable toys from the second wave ‘Baron Ironblood’ era of Action Force was the Roboskull.  One of the last vehicles to be released prior to the switch over to repackaged GI Joe figures, this was an amazing piece of kit (and something as a kid I never had, but coveted intensely).

Back in the world of 28mm scale wargaming, I have recently blogged about the expansion of my Space Force ‘cast’ for 7TV.  These guys really need something to go up against in games, something outer space based…., something robotic….., something skeletal.

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The Roboskull even transitioned over to Cobra, where once again it went up against Action Force

When looking at vehicles for the project so far I have tended to concentrate on converting existing model kits or die-casts, and have dipped my toe a bit into 3D printing as well (more on that in a later post).  However getting hold of something to represent what is a very strikingly unique vehicle as the Roboskull was proving challenging.  I had thought that this might have to wait until I was able to invest some money and time into getting into the 3D printing hobby myself, or trawling through Thingiverse for someone who might have had a similar idea.  Then I thought back to a Heroclix model I remember stocking when I ran a games shop.  A quick ‘popular auction site’ search and behold a few days later in the post….

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DC Heroclix Brainiac Skull Ship

This is a Heroclix ‘Brainiac Skull Ship’ and it’s going to need a fair bit of work to get it into shape.  The basis for a Roboskull is there though and it’s going to be an interesting ride. Plasticard, hobby saw and bits box at the ready!

(For more info on the Roboskull check out the excellent Blood for the Baron website, and also the video below which is a great documentary by Analog Toys on the production of the memorable original.)

Action Force in 28mm – Space Force Mobile Command

Many years before Space Force was a real actual thing (maybe), they were the eyes and ears of Action Force monitoring the skies and protecting the Earth from afar from the evil machinations of Ironblood.

 

Along with Q Force (the underwater team), I think it is fair to say that they were not quite as popular as their ground based infantry comrades in Z Force and the SAS.  Part of it was down to the more limited range of toys available and the fact that they didn’t feature as much as other teams in the comic strips.

 

In fact the overt sci-fi stylings of Space Force did seem to clash a bit with the modern militaristic feel of the rest of the range.  It was not actually towards the end of this era of Action Force toys that the Red Shadows had anything ‘space-related’ to field against them, with the awesome Roboskull.

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A couple of years ago I picked up the excellent ‘not Space Force’ miniatures from the Woodbine Design Company (part of Gripping Beast) and as part of this very long running project have just started to think about vehicles and transport for them.

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Rather than go down the ‘spaceship’ route I’ve tried to mix the militaristic with near future sci-fi and have started to paint up a vintage IMAI model kit of the Shado Mobile from Gerry Anderson’s UFO.

Initially undercoated using an Army Painter Wolf Grey spray can.  I have so far gone through and added some additional darker blue to match the general livery of Space Force vehicles from the toy range; as well as blocking out colour on the tracks and wheels.

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The ‘Action Force’ logo sticker is from a reproduction set scaled for the toys.  Next step will be adding some Space Force logos (which I will freehand) and some weathering.  My target game system for this is of course 7TV!