A few months ago I waxed lyrical about some inspiration for post-apocalypse gaming and in particular the Survivalist novels of the 1980s by Jerry Ahern. As fulfilment of the Crooked Dice 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter gets closer I’ve decided to revisit this irradiated world where men were men, women were women, guns were cool (and overly described repeatedly in the prose) and the red menace was real.
As a reminder this pulpy post-apocalyptic novel series racked up over 20 titles telling tales of the titular Survivalist, John Rourke and his adventures following the nuclear devastation of World War III and a subsequent Russian occupation. In case you had forgot our hero had the following traits:
Survival and wilderness expert
Super-sensitive eyesight (so has to wear mirrored shades ALL the time)
Motorbike rider (almost exclusively always a Harley Davidson)
Smoker (because it was respectable in the 80s)
Fluent in multiple languages
Irresistible to women
His middle name is Thomas (yes really)
This guy is crying out for the tabletop!
So two things to do. Find a figure to represent this alpha male in 28mm scale, and stat him up for 7TV.
Miniature choice first! Rourke has many weapons of choice, but the most iconic are his ‘twin Detonics Combat Master .45, shoulder holstered pistols’. The novels are very focused on the exact name, model, calibre and so on of the various weapons being used, in fact arguably more effort is put into the description of military hardware and material than is expended on characters. But I digress, the key thing is I had a couple of sprues of the old Wargames Factory Male Apocalypse survivors laying around and a quick snip round with the clippers and plastic glue and I had the vested, shade wearing, pistol wielding post-nuclear survivalist I need.
In terms of the stats, I used the excellent fan built Agency Casting Tool for 7TV to produce a suitably matching profile for 7TV. I based the core profile on the generic Action Hero, but made a few changes to the attacks and special abilities to match the unique range of skill our hero has. With a star quality of Burst of Action coupled with Blown Clear, Hard, Fight Back and Lucky as base special effects for this profile I felt we were nearly there, I swapped out Lucky for Medic (as previously mentioned Rourke is of course also a fully trained MD, and he’s so damned good he’s no need of luck).
The only problem I really came across was how to represent the ‘twin Detonics’. 7TV doesn’t have any rules for dual wielding; the 2 shot ability most pistols have doesn’t really cut it as it simply allows more than one shoot action to be taken a turn. What I wanted was double the fire power in just one attack. After some head scratching I decided to swap out the standard pistol from the Action Hero profile with a high powered pistol from the military weapons list. This gave me a boost to the strike value and still gave me the 2 shots option, but I didn’t really think that it still represented that balletic gun play action I was after. Rather than invent any rules I think I solved the problem but adding the ‘Deadly’ effect to the attack profile. This would allow me to chuck in an extra attack dice, so to me gave a nice approximation of the extra punch you might get from firing two pistols at once.
Of course non of this came cheap. Following the rules in the 7TV Producers Guide for customising profiles has led to John costing a chunky 15 ratings (points). The vast majority of stars in 7TV only cost 10. However as I’m sure you can appreciate our Survivalist has a very unique set of skills and is in effect a one man army, so I’m not too worried about this.
With 7TV Apocalypse due out in March John will be getting some action soon I’m sure. Might even build him his ride if I can find that Project Z bikers sprue anywhere…..
All are based on 7TV 2nd Edition core profiles with just names and profile pictures changed. I had to be a bit creative with the pictures. Wanting to stick to comic art rather than photos of the minis or original action figures I was reminded just how little Space Force featured in the Battle Action Force strips. Therefore not every character is accurately represented in pictures.
So presented below are the cards. Commander Connors is based on the ‘Military Mind’ profile, while the remainder of the team are ‘Armed Astronauts’. My re-purposed SHADO mobile transport is for gaming purposes stated up as a Land Rover.
This last weekend I made the journey down from Chesterfield to participate in a 7TV campaign day at Board in Brum in Walsall. This is the second such event held at this venue and my first time visiting.
Pitched as a campaign day rather than a tournament (which nicely fits in with the ethos of 7TV), this saw eighteen players come together to play three games each. Participants were encouraged to bring their own boards and this resulted in some suitably epic backdrops for the action that was to unfold.
Board in Brum is a new venue to me. Based in the upstairs of an office block on an industrial site in Walsall, it looks quite unassuming from the outside. However inside is a gem of a venue, including a well stocked shop (including not only Games Workshop and Warlord Games products but other interesting lines such as Gangs of Rome, Batllesystems Terrain and a range of board games and accessories), as well as a large gaming area. The gaming area consisted of nine 6′ by 4′ tables and looking at their events calendar looks well utilised, and as indicated by the footfall on the day a great local hub for hobbyists and gamers.
Upon arrival I met some of the participants, many of whom I knew from the 7TV Productions Facebook group. As always it is great to put names to faces. I had at the last minute decided to bring a board myself. This was quite quickly knocked together and consisted of some high rise MDF office blocks (an eBay purchase last year), a recently acquired 4′ by 4′ city map from Antenocitis Workshop (originally designed for Infinity) and (of course) a flying saucer.
As more folk started arriving I got a view of some fantastic tables and layouts. These included a Nazi Moonbase, an abandoned MOD site, a desert compound, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a concealed secret base and downtown New York (complete with mutant turtles).
Post Apocalypse Town
Downtown New York
The amazing effort and eclectic nature of the boards was matched by the casts that were brought along on the day. Again another thing I love about 7TV is the ability to field pretty much whatever you like without worrying about balance or theme – after all we are making a television programme.
Talking of the TV background, Mike Strong who was running the event on the day had written a detailed and amusing back story for the day’s ‘filming’. Against a back drop of industrial action and union unrest at Barron Studios we were to shoot 3 episodes (games) with some specific scenario stipulations to match the problems the ‘studio’ was experiencing. So for example due to budgetary restrictions (in actuality the fact that Mr.Barron had never bothered upgrading the studio electricity meter to metric in the early 70s and was now down to his last few half crowns), episode 1 saw the ability for us players to choose to turn off the studio lights in certain situations. The in game effect being to reduce ranges and visibility at random. This added a real fun flavour to proceedings!
In addition to these scenario specific rules we were also tasked as players to get as much product placement into our shows as possible to aid the ailing fortunes of the production studio. Each player was given a product and catch phrase to try and shoehorn into the narrative in as appropriate a way as possible (with the benefit of gaining extra plot points to spend as a result). Now I must admit I kept forgetting about this throughout the day (I like to think that I was very much in the mindset of a BBC rather than ITV director), but I was myself the victim of some excellently placed advertising, including a well timed ‘I bet he drinks Carling Black Label’ as a sniper (with a Jezzail) took out once of my armed astronauts!
So to the actual games. I had chosen to rock up with my Action Force Space Force cast, including my re-purposed SHADO Mobile (acting in game terms as a humble Land Rover).
Game 1 saw the Space Force team go up against Alistair’s SHIVA cast on my city board. I made the mistake of not piling everyone into the transport first off and very quickly my chaps were picked off by the aforementioned sniper and some nifty sword work by the daughters of SHIVA. The highlight of this game for me was the ‘set dressing’ event card which saw a continuity error/set problem move one of the office blocks mid-episode. Well those are the breaks I guess when you’ve not paid your stage hands properly for months and you’ve got the union on your backs!
Special mention here also to my product placement which I failed to pull off. I was just waiting for that moment to express the slightly amended catchphrase ‘M&Ms, melts in your FACE not in your hand’ as I blasted a member of the opposing cast away with lasers. That moment never came to be.
Game 2 followed a chippy lunch and saw a switch to the excellent secret base (which was nominated for and won best setup on the day). I setup in the base and faced off against a cast comprising a tough detective, a ghost, a tomorrow person and some Victorian police officers. For this episode budget cuts meant that certain abilities for stars and co-stars were reduced in effectiveness, although due to the choices myself and my opponent Steve made this didn’t have too much effect.
This time I decided to load up the transport and try and nip around collecting objectives as fast as I could. This worked to a certain degree, but upon disembarking and dealing with the ghost and blocking off the progress of my opponents stars and co-stars I only really had the police to deal with. The moral of this story is never underestimate police brutality. Overly confident my spacesuit clad specialists could easily ‘zap’ their way to victory, I underestimated the power of the good old British police truncheon. And it hurt. It hurt a lot. So another great game played in excellent spirit, and no real chance to get off my advertising slogan (‘all because the lady loves milk tray’)!
The final game of the day saw a move to a sci-fi cityscape board and opposition in the shape of Shaun Pike’s ‘The Laundry’ cast (based on the The Nightmare Stacks, a novel by Charles Stross). Now this was a fun episode! Staff shortages in the studio kitchens and an under cooked chicken curry had led to a number of cases of ‘the trots’ and cast members having to very quickly exit to the nearest facilities. In game this was represented by a ‘line of doom’ gradually moving across the board, with both casts having to keep ahead of this, deal with each other and collect objectives and exit off the board at the other side. Any cast member caught by the line would have to be removed from ‘the set’ as the dodgy chicken curry caught hold.
Ha! Thinks I (being all cock of the walk). I have a transport that I can load up and drive fast across the board. No problems. I even sort of apologise to my opponent up from. Oh dear, as someone once said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ‘your overconfidence is your weakness’. I had not factored on the luck of the draw when it comes to the countdown cards in 7TV. For those who don’t know in 7TV at the beginning of each turn you draw a countdown card. This is an event that may of may not be of advantage to either yourself, your opponent or some combination of the two. These might include things like wobbly sets (scenery disappearing or moving), continuity errors (cast miniatures from each side suddenly swapping places on the board) or special effects malfunctions (often resulting in unexpected explosions in the vicinity of your cast).
Now unfortunately I was the victim of a couple of these, which resulted in my transport driver swapping places with an enemy minion, who promptly drove me in the wrong direction to the line of doom (at least once). Couple this with an enemy cast member driving a tracked motorbike around and dropping explosive devices to block my exit and let’s just say that the Space Force crew yet again didn’t cover themselves in glory.
Again another splendid game and like all the games played no real notice was taken of winners and losers. I think combined with the freedom of choice when it comes to settings, figures and genres, the creativity that this enables with board design, the quirky meta-game of creating a TV programme/film, the easy to understand and flexible rules and most importantly a community of players that embraces narrative and a good time over competitive play really reinforces my love for all things 7TV.
So a massive thanks to Mike for organising the day, to Simon and Jez at Board in Brum for a great venue and everyone who attended. A special shout out to Wayne Bollands who brought along a lucky dip bag of out of production miniatures that everyone got to delve into.
Finally of course thanks to Karl at Crooked Dice for 7TV itself.
If you’re interested in finding out more about 7TV, check out the Crooked Dice Games Design website or the ultra friendly 7TV Productions community on Facebook. The next events which are both in my diary are:
7TV Day III at Board in Brum (which should by this time have expanded into the rest of their building) is happening on Saturday 21st September 2018 (I’m already starting to think about a board for this, let’s just say it involves a lot of biscuit tins and coffee jars!)
Back in the heady days of the mid-eighties my Dad made a decision. A decision that would resonate for the rest of my childhood. A decision that would fundamentally change my outlook on life. A decision that would be looked back on as one of the most important of the late 20th Century. He decided to buy a video recorder.
Not just any video recorder, but a Betamax video recorder.
Those of you that know your history will recall that back in these times of big hair and constant fear of nuclear Armageddon there were a number of competing formats for home video. Betamax (arguably technically superior) backed by Sony and VHS by JVC appeared as the top runners and therein entered into a brief period of competition from which one only would emerge triumphant (spoiler – it was VHS). (Older readers may also remember other formats, including the curious Video 2000 with it’s curious two sided cassettes – something that remained in use in my school anyway well into the nineties, often wheeled into classrooms on giant wheeled trolleys also holding very flammable looking wooden framed TVs).
So the fateful decision having being made we were then the proud owner of a technically great machine, but within a few months without the ability to rent or buy any tapes. What this did mean was that as a youngster I was limited to those films we taped off the telly and the increasingly rare (and often ex-rental) tapes we could still buy. Accordingly I had a relatively small pool of things to watch, and watch them I did, repeatedly. Some of my all-time favorite films were discovered during this period, including the 1978 animated version of the Lord of the Rings, the second 60’s Peter Cushing Doctor Who movie (Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD) and of course the camp, cult classic Flash Gordon.
I must have watched the 1980 Flash Gordon film hundreds of times over the past few decades, and I’ve often thought about how I might bring Flash to the tabletop. A successful Kickstarter was recently run to publish a Flash Gordon setting for the Savage Worlds roleplaying system. I’m more of a miniatures person though, and although the Kickstarter produced a limited set of miniatures they weren’t quick what I was looking for.
Princes of the Universe Hawkmen
Fast forward to last year and a random Facebook post pointed me in the direction of Cold War Miniatures. This is a small Scottish based miniatures produced (who interestingly despite their name do not have any Cold War ranges), but do have a number of interesting lines, including a wonderful range called Princes of the Universe (retro sci fi minis with a Flash Gordon flavour in 28mm scale miniatures in both resin and metal). I ordered a couple late last year to check them out and they are very well sculpted, clean and crisp with no flash at all.
The style is very much based on the classic Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond from the 30’s and 40’s, with a significant nod to the Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe movie serials of the same time. (The black and white serials were often shown daily during school summer holidays on TV in the UK and I remember watching and loving these way before I got a view of the Technicolor delights of the 1980 Mike Hodges film.)
As regular readers of my blog may know, my go-to miniatures game is 7TV as it allows me to game pretty much what I want and allows me to field all those random cool toys that catch my eye. So it is that my ‘Flash Gordon’ cast is beginning to take shape. I’ve decided to concentrate on the good guys to start with, so an additional order to Cold War Miniatures has resulted in the fleshing out of the team to include not only the dashing hero, his muse and their mad scientist companion, but also a couple of alien princes (one at home in the forest kingdoms, the other a winged behemoth with a passion for shouting!)
These guys are currently work in progress. I am due to attend a couple of 7TV gaming days this year. The one at Board in Brum in January might be a bit too soon to get these guys finished, however I’ve also recently signed up for the Wargames Illustrated 7TV day at Wargames Foundry in the summer (at which conveniently the new Pulp version of the rules will be being used). (You can read about last year’s event elsewhere on the site).
I also bought some Imperial troopers as opposition for the heroes
Also from the range a Rocket Man inspired by another classic serial
I’d highly recommend checking Princes of the Universe and Cold War Miniatures in general. Not only lovely miniatures but great service and very quick postage within the UK. In addition to the miniatures I also bought from them a couple of the 3D print files for a rocket ship and some giant trees to go have a go at with my newly acquired toy (but that is a story for another time….)
Now the last time I played a game of Warhammer 40k was way back in the midst of time when I was about 12 years old – funnily enough the same age as my opponent for this game. Back then of course we were still on first edition, i.e. Rogue Trader, and when I say ‘played’ I mean roughly moved some figures around on the floor and make some dice rolls. (I distinctly remember that we played purely with the contents of one of the classic plastic Imperial Guard boxed sets.)
So why come back to it now? Well, this is partly down to the recent release of the aforementioned Kill Team (which I have been really enjoying) which itself is symptomatic of a significant change in direction for Games Workshop in the last few years.
When I first got back into gaming (after the obligatory break that most people of a certain age refer to), Games Workshop had just released Space Hulk Third Edition. In fact it was seeing this that prompted me to fall in love with the hobby again. However I soon discovered that the release of Space Hulk was the exception rather than the rule. GW were very much in the mode of concentrating on their core games of 40k and Warhammer while seemingly continuing to minimise their engagement with the community and customer base. Perhaps stung by the post Lord of the Rings crash this decision resulted in a set of products and supporting release schedule that became quite opaque and difficult to engage with as someone getting back into the hobby. Multiple editions of Warhammer and Warhammer 40k came and went in the following years, each of which seemed to the casual outsider such as myself to become more bloated and impenetrable each time.
However something changed in recent years and the approach has been to engage more with the community, release more games (providing multiple jump on points for new gamers) and make their core games and IP more accessible and easier to get into. For example the continued release and ongoing support of what used to be referred to as Specialist Games (for example Necromunda), the change in approach to both Warhammer (with Age of Sigmar) and 40k into an almost ‘living ruleset’ supporting and encouraging narrative gaming (as well as continuing to support the tournament scene) all aided in accessibility. In addition the move into more public domain gateway products (such as the Conquest part work and a change in focus in White Dwarf) has meant for me personally I am much more interested and engaged in their offerings than I think I ever have been.
So to that end I’ve found myself actually being interested in expanding on what I have been doing recently with Kill Team and giving the main 40k game a go. To be honest part of this is that I am loving painting tanks at the moment and I just want to get a lot of toys on the table at once!
Some of my armour
Who doesn’t like walkers (with chain swords)?
As you can probably guess this means I have gone Imperial Guard (now known more commonly as Astra Millitarum) for my first army. In a ode to my original games back in the late eighties/early nineties I have based their colour scheme on the classic Necromunda regiment embodied in the original Rogue Trader plastic box set.
Having pulled together a rough force (and again this is where I really like the new 40k with it giving you the flexibility to within reason just field what you want without having to worry too much about points and lists) I was challenged by my friend’s son to a game.
So how did it go?
Well, unsurprisingly not well for me. My opponent had played a few times recently with his Dad (who was umpiring / supporting us on the day), is young (so can remember things like stats, special rules and tactics) and basically took it a whole lot more seriously than me (I was just making lots of ‘pew pew’ noises in my head as I pushed my troops around). But you know what, it was a lot of fun. It is always great playing at Warhammer World, the game was fun and although my Guard were utterly devoured by their Tyranid foes and the game retains an old fashioned and kind of clunky core mechanic (rolling to hit, to wound, to save) I’m definitely looking to expand my forces and play again. Age of Sigmar might even be whispering in my ear (come on, I mean steampunk airship dwarves are a no brainer).
Any how, presented below are a few shots of the battle in progress, hopefully the first of many games this year.
One of the great pleasures I get from the hobby is the chance to view everything through the hobbyists eyes. So when I am out shopping (ostensibly for real word stuff) I’ve always got half an eye on what I could use for the latest project on the tabletop. I’ve written before about my ongoing love of re-purposing toys for gaming and toy shops are a great place to start. However I never overlook what might be lurking in the local discount store, Poundland or craft supplies shop.
Although I have an airbrush I also make extensive use of spray cans to undercoat and basecoat miniatures and models. There is a lot to be said for the convenience, particularly of the Army Painter coloured sprays of quickly and effectively getting minis to the table. That said one of the areas that people often overlook are the basic colours used for undercoating (black, white and grey). Yes you could shell out a tenner (or more) on some Games Workshop or Army Painter sprays for this, but the basic car primers you can get from places like Halfords or even the pound shop are in most cases just as good or even better (just be careful to avoid the gloss versions). I’d highly recommend the matt black Halfords own brand cans, they give a really nice flat finish on most surfaces and are good value for the amount you get).
Anyway, I digress. On a recent lunchtime wander round my local Boyes store (one of the few places in the UK outside of specialist gaming shops that stock a good supply of Vallejo paints), I happened across these…
Stone effect aerosol sprays in a variety of colours. I had a few years ago used one of the these in a dark grey to provide a tarmac like surface to a game board I was building, but like many projects a few years back didn’t see it through to the end. However having recently bought a Bastion Stronghold (Z2014) from Amera Plastic Mouldings for use as a ‘wasteland’ fortification for post-apocalypse gaming (and potentially a bit of Kill Team / 40k on the side) I had an idea…..
Amera have been on my radar for a while. They produce a range of vac formed plastic terrain and scenery aimed at both the wargames and scale modelling (dioramas) markets. Their products are good value and in many cases substantial in terms of size. One of the downsides of using vac-formed plastic however is that the surface details of larger pieces tend to be very flat and lack texture. If only there was a quick and easy way to apply a textured finish, maybe to emulate concrete or pebble dash to my recently acquired ‘post-apocalypse’ stronghold?
So having put two and two together I started work. After the recommended wash in warm soapy water I gave the whole piece a black undercoat. After leaving this to dry I applied the first coat of stone effect. I had chosen ‘bleached stone’ as my preferred colour of sprays as I though it would match an arid PA wasteland type setting.
Matt Black Halfords paint from a can (it is still wet here but dries to a very flat matt finish)
Undercoated bunker roof ready for texture!
First thing to note on the stone effects aerosol is that it is under quite high pressure and comes out very forcefully. It became quite apparent early on that this meant I was going to have to be very patient, do a number of thin coats and wait for each to dry properly. Repeated application of layers on a surface that was not yet dry just ended up moving the stone effect paint already laid down around.
First layer of textured paint (initially looks a real mess)
Note masked areas which will be painted silver and ‘rusted’
What also became clear was that the black undercoat was not working. The light ‘desert yellow’ / ‘skeleton bone’ like colour of the spray was being overpowered by the dark base. To rectify this, once the first thin layer was applied and was dry (after about 15 minutes) I gave the whole model a full all over spray of Citadel Averland Sunset (a darkish yellow). Building subsequent layers over this was much more effective.
Once I’d completed about 4 or 5 coats using the stone effect I had a good covering and a good scale approximation of either pebble dashed concrete or sandstone.
Where to take it from here? I knew I definitely wanted to weather this down, especially as it was intended to be a wastelands style outpost, but simply dry brushing a highlight over the stone effect would perhaps make it too light. I could of course have left it there, the effect was good enough for ‘basic tabletop standard’, but I was keen to take it further.
I also wanted to ensure that the stone effect paint was protected, so rolled the weathering and protection into one by painting on Army Painter Quickshade Strong Tone. I’m a big fan of Quickshade; not the dipping method, rather painting in the same way as a shade or wash. Normally with miniatures following an initial drying period the shade ‘pulls back’ into the recesses of the model and you can ‘dab’ up any excess with a brush. With this scenery piece there weren’t really any recesses into which to recede so I had to work hard not to show brush strokes in the finished effect. I achieved this using swirling motions with a cheap large brush.
At this stage it did not look good!
At this stage, to be honest, I wasn’t very happy, it looked like I had dulled down the stone effect too much and the natural gloss of the Quickshade kind of made things worse (albeit I knew I was going to have to dull this down with a top coat). A quick dry brush back up of Army Painter Skeleton Bone seemed to retrieve the situation, but I was now left with a much darker piece than I was originally intending.
I was on the verge of going back to the drawing board, when I thought about maybe rather than weathering this up as an arid desert stronghold, I could shift my post-apocalyptic mindset more towards a ‘nature reclaiming the landscape’ scenario. To that end I liberally applied some green washes and made use of an old bottle of Modelmates mould effect I had.
With the addition of some flock, tufts and overgrowth I was much happier with the final result. The metal supports and door were painted silver and then (probably overly) weathered up using again a Modelmates rust effect. Finally the whole thing was sealed with a couple of thin coats of Testors Dullcote.
All in all I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. I’d highly recommend Amera Plastic Mouldings as a cost effective and striking alternative to other options for tabletop scenery. Using the textured spray paint added that extra level of detail, but required some patience. As they say, you learn from your mistakes.
This finished piece will hopefully be finding it’s way into a game of 7TV Apocalypse soon.
I was recently given the opportunity to go on the long running Meeples and Miniatures Podcast as a guest presenter.
I talk to regular presenters Mike and Neil about my background in the hobby, current projects and purchases and also spend sometime discussing my experiences of working in the industry.
The episode is now available to download for free from their website (or via your favourite podcasting app). They also have a Patreon account setup up if you feel like donating a few pennies to the upkeep and ongoing production of the show.
Neil Shuck & Mike Hobbs are joined by a guest presenter in the shape of Patreon backer James Aldridge for this episode of the podcast.
00:00 – Introduction – We chat with James and discover how he got into the hobby and what his favourite games/miniatures are.
21:20 – Confessional – Time to own up to all those hobby purchases we have made recently.
57:55 – Our Hobby – We talk about our recent gaming, including Keyforge, 1066 Tears for Many Mothers and Kill Team. James tells us about his recent trip to Warhammer World whilst Hobbsy reveals all about his adventures at Grogmeet.
1:34:35 – Tales of a Twisted Pinnacle – James tells us his somewhat cautionary tale of his brief foray into the hobby as a retail seller. On a more positive note, he then shares with us his passion for repurposing toys as wargaming…