Sunday, 15 November 2015

I don't want to set the world on fire...

If you have any awareness of current computer games, and haven't been frozen in cryosleep for the last couple of weeks, you'll be aware that this week saw the release of Fallout 4, the latest installment in the massively successful post-apocalyptic adventure series.  Now to say Mi Hermano Apocalyptico Jonesy is a Fallout fan would be something of an understatement.  Let's just say that with the game due for release on Monday, he'd booked the entire week off to play it.

Me on the other hand, well I like the game well enough, but being poor I had to content myself with loading up the last game, Fallout-New Vegas and installing a ton of player-created mods to vastly improve the old game.

Anyway, all through our recent work on Paradiso and the Hillbilly/Vampire game, whenever Jonesy has looked at certain Plasticville or MDF kit buildings, a feverish look has crossed his brow, and he's been saying things like "You know this would make a great piece for a Fallout game."  For the uninitated, the Fallout setting has a very distinct visual style with elements of Art Deco and 1950s Americana.  But although a lot of the buildings and terrain I've sourced for the Paradiso project is in a similar style, that setting requires them to be relatively well maintained, whereas for a post-apocalyptic setting, you really need to dial the weathering effects up to 11.  Because of this and not wanting to lose focus on the Paradiso project, Jonesy's always resisted my suggestions that we do a Fallout/Post Apocalyptic side project.

So a few weeks back Jonesy did me a massive solid when my car battery packed up and I couldn't afford to get it replaced.  I couldn't afford to buy him anything to properly say thank-you, but one resource I did have a lot of was Time.  Time, a bitz-box full of junk and a room full of crafting supplies.  Thus was born Super Sekrit Mystery Crafting Projekt X, to create a basic wasteland terrain set mostly from scrap and spare materials at hand, which started immediately after the Halloween game.

This Friday, while watching Jonesy play Fallout 4 via Steam's game livestreaming feature, I was putting the finishing touches to this....

For a base cloth, I had a sheet of "Teddy-bear Brown" felt that I'd bought years ago when I was living in the flat.  It was when I was looking at gaming exclusively on my large coffee table and measures about 3 foot by 4 foot.  Unfortunately it was a little to dark to work as a desert basecloth and had never really been used, so I could happily donate it to this project.  The colour was still wrong though, so I pegged it up outside and went at it with assorted cans of spray paint, lightly dusting it to break up the solid colour and make it a little "dirtier".  It's still not perfect, and we may revisit it later to dirty it up some more, but for now it's perfectly adequate.

For a basic set of hills, it seemed poetic to mainly use the polystyrene packaging that came with the new car battery, which came in the form of several inch-thick sheets.  Where these had been broken in the process of removing the battery for installation,  these breaks became impassable rocky "cliff" faces, while the other sides were sculpted with a hot-wire cutter into climbable slopes.  This gave us seven relatively narrow "ridge" type hills and to round off the set I used some other spare polystyrene sheets to make three larger hills that the smaller ones could sit on top of to make double elevations.

Pretty much every terrain builder you see in forums, blogs or YouTube videos these days decries the use of white expanded polystyrene (the one with the bubbly texture that's everywhere) in favour of the denser, pink or blue extruded polystyrene which is easier to sculpt and less messy.  But the truth is that expanded polystyrene is still a very usable terrain material, which happens to have the side benefit of being so commonplace it's almost free.

Since this is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I made these hills a little differently to my usual greenfield hills.  The first layer was a coat of PVA onto which sand was scattered.  I used two different grades of sand to give some variations in texture, the "budgie grit" I use for regular figure basing, which is very fine but has bits and pieces of shell and tiny gravel mixed in with it, was used to create small patches on the top of the hills, while 90% of the surface was made up of the much larger grained "reptile" sand.  I didn't put any sand on the "cliff faces" at all, instead caking them in a filler/PVA mix to enhance the rocky texure.  Once the sand and the filler were dry, I gave everything a coating of black textured exterior masonry paint, which sealed in the loose sand and gave the hills a good solid protective shell.  Then I gave the sand covered parts a heavy drybrushed coat of light brown (almost a solid coat, but still with enough black showing through to break things up).  The final coat was a lighter drybrushing of mid-to-light grey to pick out the sand texture.

The cliff faces still felt a little vulnerable to damage, so I gave each an extra coat of PVA to reinforce it, followed by progressively lighter drybrush coats of progressively lighter shades of grey (so the darkest grey covered almost all the rocks, leaving spots of black showing, the mid grey covered about half the rocks and the lightest grey just picked out the highlights).

Many years ago, I'd bought one of those Woodland Scenics tree kits, which included dozens of premade wireframe skeletons and a couple of bags of clump foliage.  The trees I'd originally made with them were horribly prone to foliage falling off, so I recently revisited them using up most of the deciduous clump foliage on only half the deciduous wireframes.  This left 20 or so wireframes unused so instead of buying more clump foliage to finish these off, I decided they'd make perfect defoliated dead trees.  The wireframes were assembled as normal and attached to 2p bases that were textured exactly the same as the hills.  Instead of adding foliage though, the trees were spray painted black then dry brushed with light grey.  Quick, easy and very effective.

This turret is actually from a 1/32 scale kit.  While overscale
for 28mm it works fine as random wreckage.  Another piece has
the burned out remains of a 1/72 WWII Panzer, totally underscale
but since it's unrecognizable except as the remains of some sort
of tracked vehicle, that works fine too.  Yet another piece has a part
of a 1/24 car...
Next was the really fun part of the project: The rubble scatter terrain.  I had a number of pre-cut MDF bases from Wargames Tournaments left over from the Paradiso Jungle terrain project, a raid of the bits box for assorted bits and pieces easily produced ten bases of assorted wreckage, junk and rubble.  A little bit of filler and sand added the base wasteland ground texture, which was then painted the same way as the hills, and the assorted bits were roughly drybrushed., usually with touches of a base colour to show remnants of original paint, then silver to pick out metallic parts and a little brown and grey to dirty things up.  Depending on how long ago your apocalypse was, you could paint things as anything from "almost new, but abandoned" to "solid rust and dirt".  I wanted a middle ground, not only so I could have some spots of colour to "pop" from the grey-brown waste background, but also so at a pinch we can occasionally use non-apocalypsed buildings without them looking too out of place.

This was originally the cockpit of a toy Mad Cat battlemech,
but the curved styling fits perfectly with Fallout's Neo-Fifties
design aesthetic
The final part of the terrain set was the one thing I had to actually buy.  For the price of a couple of posh coffees, I got six bags of Javis brown lichen (not pictured).  If you want to do a post-apocalyptic game but don't want to do any genre-specific modelling, you can get a lot of mileage simply by dressing up a regular urban or city wargame terrain with a ton of lichen, trees and plants.  The idea that the trappings of civilisation have been abandoned and nature has reclaimed the land is a powerful post-apocalyptic vision, and for an eye-opening view of how quickly this can happen, try and track down a TV series called Life After People, which used CGI show how this process might happen at various cities around the world.

I'm particularly pleased with this one.  The wet mud effect wasn't
an expensive water effect product, it was just a coat of Army
Painter Quickshade, with the glossy finish left intact.
But for a Fallout themed terrain, Nature hasn't quite recovered enough for the lush green vegetation of regular green lichen and wargame trees to be appropriate - plants in the video game tend to be brown or blackened and generally stunted, so brown lichen is perfect to represent the sort of rough, hardy scrub plants that would be the first to recover in a post-nuclear wasteland.

And that's it.  The whole set fits into one big plastic storage box and makes a good starter post-apoc terrain set.  There's plenty that can be added to it - buildings obviously or at least some ruined wall sections, more small pieces of scatter terrain like telegraph poles or lampposts, maybe some road signs or billboards.  Roads in Fallout New Vegas tend to be the broken and blackened remains of pre-war highways and would make a fun modellng project.  But there's enough here to lay out a 3x3 table with enough terrain items for an interesting game, and that's what a starter set is for.

It remains to be seen whether this set is going to be enough to tip Jonesy over the edge into doing some actual Fallout-inspired gaming, or if it's even going to hit the mark as the thank-you present it was intended to be.  But it was a fun project to work on over the last couple of weeks, even if I did have to keep it Super Sekrit.

Meanwhile, another friend CrazyEddy saw me playing Fallout New Vegas on Steam this week and took pity on this poor boy.  I now have a shiny-new copy of Fallout 4 that he's sent me as an early Xmas present.  It's good to have friends.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Go ahead you can laugh all you want, but I got My Philosophy.

The Halloween game had been a great success.  It's fair to say that it was, by its nature, towards the less serious end of the wargaming spectrum.

Let's think about that for a moment.

Some gamers, many in fact, might call it "silly" and argue that it wasn't *real* wargaming at all.  To an extent, I'd have to agree with them.  We're not reproducing any real historical or hypothetical future conflict.  We weren't trying to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics of vampire on Hillbilly violence by running a detailed simulation.  Many of the rules were written to be played for laughs, like the ability of some Elder hill-folk to make a pinning attack against younger enemies by verbally berating them at length and in detail for their shoddy, dissolute ways.  Or the fact that the deadliest sniper in the game was a teenage girl whose teddy bear acted as her spotter.

Put in terms used for other forms of entertainment like books & TV, it was clearly a Comedy.  Or at least a comedy-drama (never a Dramedy - that word is an abomination and must never be allowed to make it into the dictionary!).  But a comedic novel is still a novel.  A comedy TV show is still a TV show.

We can be all worthy and intellectual and spend our TV viewing on nothing but Serious Dramas where everyone looks constipated, with maybe a few documentaries on obscure European monarchs or 17th century pottery.  But every now and then, everybody wants and needs an entertainment that doesn't tax the brain too much and makes you laugh, or at least smile wrily.

Thus I would argue that the Comedy Wargame has its place in the hobby.  While my general wargaming tastes to tend towards the lighter end of the spectrum, I wouldn't want ALL my gaming to be as off-the-wall as the Hillbilly games.  Other games I do, like the Paradiso modern day stuff, may have light-hearted details like a rebel leader nicknamed "The Green Pig", or a neighbouring nation named, appoximately "Rat's Ass".  But on the whole the core of the games are played straight, and are my small way of exploring modern combat, whether between semi-modern militaries, against insurent rebels, or street level violence between criminals and law enforcement.

(The VSF gaming is also spread out along this comedy-drama spectrum.  The more outrageous elements are obviously quite silly, like the SpringenPanzer, bouncing across the battlefield on its four pogo-stick legs.  But on the whole I'm a lot less whimsical than most other VSF players, and the games I play seem to be comparable to those of the Very British Civil War crowd, fundamentally grounded in real-world technology and tactics, with a little light-hearted nonsense as seasoning.)

The reason I'm discussing this is that the wargaming media channel The Beasts Of War are running a series of articles on gaming the current conflict in Ukraine.  Needless to say there's a certain amount of backlash, with some commenters arguing that the author shouldn't be gaming a war that's only just (hopefully) coming to a close.  Personally I think it's a valid and interesting subject, which can be approached in different ways.

The author of the articles advocates a serious, respectful and scholarly approach, using the game and associated research as a way of increasing general awareness of the real-life conflict.  I'd agree and support this approach wholeheartedly.  But does that mean that the wargamer isn't allowed to have "fun" gaming such a conflict.

The other, slightly more dangerous approach, would be to go down the "black comedy" route.  One of the way we as human beings process and deal with the most horrible aspects of life is through comedy.  Done right, it's not so much about making light of the horrible situation, but instead picking out the ridiculous and absurd elements so that we can use them to help rationalise what's happening and understand it.  While I would never run a Ukraine game with the same outright comedic tone as the Hillbilly games, the situation there has some obviously black comedic elements that could be picked out - the myriad of small paramilitary groups, some of whom may be at odds with others on their "side", the non-existent Russian troops in the conflict (The BOW articles' author mentioned that Vladimir Putin recently awarded a battle honour to a Russian Army unit for a Ukrainian battle that Russia officially denies any involvement in!)

Of course, you can have your cake and eat it if you shift the setting of the conflict to an Imagination.  Simply changing the names and filing off the serial numbers seems to take a lot of controversy out of modern gaming.  Or you can take situations and elements from the real-world headlines and transplant them to a totally different setting to disguise the source.  Paradiso might have a province that is largely culturally Spanish (where many of the people feel closer to Culo Raton, for some reason).  Some planned move toward Anglicizing the country further might prompt local separatist paramilitaries to declare independence.  Culo Raton might respond by NOT sending a couple of brigades of non-existent troops who totally don't wear any insignia, while numerous paramilitary units formup on both sides of the brewing conflict, using a mixture of modern and obsolete equipment.

Would such a game still be morally questionable to those who object to a "straight" gaming of the Ukraine?  If not why not?


All this is actually a major digression from what I did want to post about - on Monday night Jonesy and our friend Andy came round for what's turned into a regular monday night gathering and we gave Neil Thomas's "One Hour Wargames" a try out. I'd picked up a copy a couple of months ago thinking it might be useful as a source of scenarios, and when I showed it to Jonesy the other day, it piqued his interest and he promptly bought the eBook version.  To try out the rules, he produced a number of card cut-out counters to represent the units, which helpfully had the relevent game stats printed on them (dice to roll in combat, movement distance etc)

We did a couple of battles with the Horse and Musket rules.  The first pitted myself against Andy in a hill defence scenario.  I was able to concentrate my massed infantry fire on his troops defending the hill, wiping them away in the first few turns, then managed to hold the position when his re-inforcements arrived.  The second battle, between Andy and Jonesy, saw identical forces on each side battling over a hill and a crossroads, both of which had to be captured and/or defended.  That turned into a real grindfest, a battle of attrition where Andy won by effectively shielding a couple of units for the first few turns so that they came to the attrition phase of the game undamaged, where their opponents had already taken 4-5 points each from other units.

I have fairly mixed feelings about One-Hour Wargames as a whole.  I'm generally a big fan of short simple rulesets (in the book each period's rules is spread over three pages, but printing out from the eBook version managed to reduce that down to two sides) and fast-play games.  Play felt at times very much like early DBA/Hordes Of The Things, where tactics consisted of putting your units into positions to spoil enemy units manoeuvring and concentrating your attacking power.  There's lots of stuff that's a little vague and while one gaming group might assume it clearly means one thing, I can imagine a different group interpreting it a different way.  For example, units turn by rotating about the centre at the start and end of movement.  But since you can't pass through other units (unless you're a skirmisher), does that mean that if you have two units directly next to eachother in side to side contact, does that mean that neither can turn, because doing so would "clip" a corner through another unit.  Jonesy ruled that yes that was exactly what it meant, and we went with it, but I can easily see another group interpreting the rule as only prohibiting major interpenetrations and handwaving away any minor clipping.  The strict interpretation could lead to the risk of micro-measuring, with one side arguing unit X can't move because it was pass through unit Y by half a millimeter or so (yes I heard such arguments in the early days of DBA).  Like most one-page rulesets, I think both sides need to have an easy-going, loosey-goosey approach to the rules in order for it to be a fun game.

I love that you can produce two armies for the game at a relatively low price that would then allow you to fight every scenario in the book.  It's something that I long wanted to do for the Charles Grant scenario books, going as far as buying several boxes of plastic napoleonic figures (which are currently lost somewhere in storage).  The rules themselves are obviously simple and generally did a good job, though I felt there were a couple of instances where one side ought to have been given some advantage but weren't, such as an infantry unit firing into the flank or rear of another.  I greatly admire the way Neil Thomas took on the rules design challenge of limiting himself to four troop types per era, but I don't think that does a terribly good job of representing some of the periods covered.

On the whole, I think if I was looking for a compact, short-rules wargame I'd rather play Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame or a DBx variant, though I do want to try out a couple of other periods and maybe play with some actual toy soldiers on the table rather than card counters.


The most interesting thing that came out of the One Hour Wargames playtest was that Andy didn't enjoy the evening's gamng.  He started out by saying "I'm just not a wargamer" which didn't make much sense given that over the years I've seen him play many, many wargames.

This led to a very useful discussion on what it was that he enjoys in games, what exactly he gets out of the experience.  I've said it before on this blog, as I've grown older I've become a great believer in finding out what it is that you enjoy doing, and then doing that thing a lot.  It seems like stating the bleeding obvious, but I look back over a lifetime of gaming and a lot of that was spent in unsatisfactory games because I was just going with the flow of what I thought the games had to be like.  The 1HW test was so minimalist it became a matter of pure tactics and game mechanics, which are both very jonesy, while neither are things that Andy enjoys.  There was no context to the battle, no natty uniforms on either side, no characterisation... and then Andy said the magic word when he said he couldn't get the story of the game. It turns out Andy is looking for the same thing I am from a gaming experience, to tell an interesting and exiting story of the battle.

We talked a bit more about other wargames he'd enjoyed and those he hadn't, and eventually decided that next week we'd have a game with the Hillbilly figures, slightly smaller than the Big Game but with a more light-hearted, story-driven tone that I think Andy will appreciate.

I can't repeat this often enough: Find the things you enjoy doing the most.  Then go do those things.  Your gaming will be all the better for it.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

We Did The Monster Mash! It Was a Graveyard Smash!

It was a dark and stormy night at Chez Vesuvius.  Well actually it was an overcast and slightly soggy morning, but somehow that doesn't sound right for a Halloween Big Game.

Our regular monthly RPG group had agreed to forgo our usual Mutants And Masterminds game in favour of doing something more seasonal on the big wargame table.  As I mentioned in the last post here, the game was going to be Hillbillies vs Dracula, and that prompted a whole week of frantic last minute crafting to get some of the necessary terrain pieces ready. 

Having bought an absolute ton of second hand Plasticville buildings from the US last year (and a handful of new kits) for the Paradiso project, I had many that work equally well for a mainland US setting as for the Carribean holiday resort/warzone.  But a few are just too 1950s Americana to work anywhere else and get put aside for games like this.  That was the box I delved into the find the Plasticville church that formed the centrepiece of the table.

Surrounding the church was an extensive graveyard mainly made up of a mix of Ainsty Castings and Renedra gravestones.  Again I'd acquired a surprisingly large collection over the past few years, of which I'd only painted and assembled a small handful.  Since the graveyard was going to be a much more important location for this game, it seemed a good opportunity to get the rest put together.

I dug out the farm buildings, the diner and the old gas station from the previous Hillbilly game.  The farm had a few chickens painted and based, plus of course the Demon Goat (that had actually killed one of the players' leader in the last game), but I wanted to add to the livestock on the farm.  I'd been buying these Teamsterz farm trucks (around £4 each) for Paradiso to serve as transport for the Rebel forces (and a couple of which were turned into heavy Technicals/Gun Trucks) but each truck had come with a cow, a ram and a pig.  The cows are a bit small for 28mm, and I wasn't sure a flock of rams looked right, but the pigs were just about right, and got added to the speedpainting table, along with a couple of Heroclix figures that would serve as objective markers during the game.
The Plasticville trailer park kit was already on the workbench for use in Paradiso, but despite only being partly primed, we temporarily threw it together for the game.  Even in this simple state they looked pretty effective and I think all they need to finish them off will be a little weathering to bring them into line with the motorhome.

The main part of town was going to be a mix of Plasticville, K-Line and the TTCombat apartment building.  This latter I repainted from its original planned grey (in line with my Sarissa GASLIGHT buildings) to a much more American looking red.  The result was pretty effective, I think.

I also wanted to use the Mad Mecha Guy's monorail cargo depot crane, along with some of the many, many cargo containers we've assembled recently.  And right in the centre of the above pic, you can see one of the custom "temporary office" containers that Joseph produced for Jonesy and me.  Simple boxes with just enough detail, but very effective.  If he ever decides to sell these to the public I highly recommend them as useful utility clutter for urban/industrial terrain.

Looking for still more excuses to dig into the lead/plastic/MDF/Resin mountain, I decided that the town park ought to have a bandstand, and the Sarissa Precision Gaslamp Alley bandstand would do just fine for that.  It's a really nice kit, and while a little fiddley to assemble with lots of tiny curlicue pieces that need poking out, it's not too hard to assemble.  This is one of those kits that benefits from forward planning and spray painting the separate parts before assembly.

The Blotz gas station, a much more modern looking building than the Plasticville offerings, still had a bit of work needed to finish painting the pillars and pumps, but since this detail was hidden in shadow under the impressive canopy I figured I could get away with leaving it.  One thing which did become apparent was the need for a number of "baseplates" to represent areas of concrete for urban areas.  Luckily I had a few pieces of 3mm MDF that had originally been cut and primed grey for use as bases for other Plasticville buildings, which worked well as the garage forecourt.

There were a few other new bits of clutter terrain, bus stops and vending machines from TTCombat which also got assembled and painted in the week running up to the game.  This game also saw the debut of the separate pavement/sidewalk pieces from TTCombat and Sarissa Precision, which I felt worked really well.

On the figure front, while I had the Hillbillys covered I was sadly lacking for supernatural opposition, and so my good friend MarvinTheARVN agreed to lend me his Gothic Horror and Zombie figures for the game.  On the Friday he arrived with the figures, and although the zombies were well painted and his Werewolves (which we'd used before) were fine, all his vampires were unpainted and still primed black.  I needed at least one master vampire figure to be the main villain and I needed it ready for the following day.  This led to the fastest speed-painting job I think I've ever pulled off.

A few months ago, Carl from the "Solo Wargaming in the UK" blog sent me a selection of Victorian/Gothic Horror figures that he no longer needed. (and I'm painfully aware that until now I haven't credited or thanked him properly for this kind gift.)  Most of the figures were from the Blue Moon "Chaos in Carpathia" boxed set, which included a master vampire and three "Brides of Dracula" types.  In anticipation of needing them as a possible backup plan for this game, I'd put them in a jar of Dettol to strip the existing partial paintwork at the start of the week.  Minutes after Marvin had left, I was fishing them out to find that the magic liquid hadn't quite had enough time to do the job, and while one of the ladies was down to bare metal and Dracula was about 80% there, the other two were still mostly covered in paint.

Emergency measures were required, so I dug out some acetone-free nail varnish remover that I'd bought previously to remove tampo decals from die-cast cars.  Having previously only used the tiniest amounts on the end of a cotton wool swab, I knew a relatively small dribble over each figure would be enough to strip the remaining paint off the figures.  But my god!  That stuff was pungent!  Ladies, I don't know how you stand to put that stuff on your fingertips, but even the tiny amount I was using stank to high heaven, and I use the term "high" advisedly!

Once down to bare metal, I was able to skip a step from my usual figure preparation process.  The Blue Moon figures all have large round bases with appropriately sculpted detail.  They about match the size of the penny bases I use for GASLIGHT figures, and while I could have mounted them on slottabases to match the Hillbillies and modern figures, I thought I could get away without it.

From there, the figures went back outside for spray priming with Army Painter, black for him, white for the Brides.  Then straight back in to the painting table, where the girls simply got a skin tone (Porcelein Flesh) and a hair colour (red, black or Blonde).  Dracula got a little more attention, grey skin, waistcoat painted white then red (to brighten the colour) and a little drybrushing in progressively lighter shades of grey to bring out the details of his suit and cape/wings.  Then finally a coat of Army Painter Dark Tone Quickshade dip was painted on to work its magic.

Estimated time from coming out of the Dettol jar to closing up the Quickshade tin was about 90 minutes.  While I'm the first to admit that the results are at best a low "tabletop" standard paintjob, I'm more than happy with them given the time taken.

So onto the day of the game, and there was a gap on the table by the railway track that looked like it was just crying out for a railway station.  Although I hadn't planned to use it, and had done exactly zero restoration work on it, I dug out a Plasticville railway station from the "not Paradiso" box again and plonked it down.  The fact that it looked so good on the tabletop makes me question somewhat why I'm spending so much time and effort basing, repainting and restoring the Plasticville buildings and why don't I just throw them on the tabletop and play with them as-is?

So onto the game itself.  The scenario was simple - Dracula had taken over the tiny Appalachian town, killing or turning all its inhabitants.  Members of four nearby mountain-folk families had been caught up in the slaughter, and after a couple of weeks, the four families had come to town in search of their missing kinfolk.  The churchyard formed the centre of the table, surrounded by six seperate zones: The Farm, The Highway Rest Stop, The Trailer Park, The Cargo Depot, The Town Park and the Town.  In each zone was a clue, a figure or terrain piece that the Hillbillies could discover that would weaken Dracula's powers when they finally faced him down in the Churchyard.  Meanwhile Dracula would be sending his legions of zombies, wolves and werewolves out to slow them down.

The rules were Flying Lead from Ganesha Games, with a slight tweak to the turn sequence.  In the original rules, each players attempts to activate all of his or her figures before handing over to the next player.  While fine for simple 2 player games, in the previous Hillbilly game we found that this left people twiddling their thumbs for too long.  This time, each player attempted one figure activation at a time before handing over to the next player.  If they failed two activations then any figures they hadn't activated in that "grand cycle" would forfeit their move until the next cycle.  I also had each Wolf and Werewolf pack activating as a single entity rather than individuals, and instead of being controlled normally, the zombies all acted in a seperate phase at the end of each grand cycle, getting one medium move stick towards the nearest human and if that brought them into contact with, one attack.  It worked very well, the wolves working as packs and the zombies being relatively slow and more of a hazard than a threat (though they did manage to take out a couple of stragglers during the game).

Oh and finally, the players (CrazyEddy, KayDee, MarvinTheARVN and T'uther Chris) were told that they were still feuding with the other families, and any "victory points" would be modified by the number of kinfolk each family had left, so it was in their interest to "thin the rival herds" a little bit.

The game itself was pretty memorable.  Here are some highlights

The "CrazyEddy" family (yellow) had gotten stalled in the Cargo Depot thanks to Crapping Out on several early game turns.  Meanwhile, the Dee Clan (red) had stormed through the Farm and the Trailer park picking up their clues and only having to deal with a handful of zombies.  Seeing a werewolf about to pounce onto the Eddys' truck, the Dees decided to "help" their neighbours by ramming the beast.  Unfortunately the agile lycan dodged out of the way and... well the brakes on those old jalopies ain't all they ought to be.

This lead to a... .ahem... misunderstanding between the two families and harsh words and buckshot were exchanged between the two.  But any misundersanding was soon ironed out when the Dees backed their jalopy away from the Eddys... then shifted back into forward and rammed them a second time, this time clearly aiming for one of the Eddys' kinfolk.

The situation..... escalated.

Meanwhile, the Tuther clan (run by T'uther Chris) went into town and rescued young Lucy Westonra from the town's radio station.  Showing remarkable forsight, for his next activation after finding her, T'uther Chris had Granny clamber to the back of the Jalopy to check their new friend for injuries, only to find those two telltale puncture wounds at the neck and assorted other arterial points.

A scuffle ensued, ending when Lofty shoved the muzzle of his hunting rifle under Lucy's chin and scored a Gory Kill result, blowing her head clean off.  The scene was so entertaining and to reward the player's foresight, I gave him a second, bonus clue.

From that point on , the Tuthers were reluctant to leave their jalopy, using it as a rather effective sniping platform for Lofty and Minnie-Jo. (Minnie-Jo is the little girl with the teddy bear and huge rifle.  Mr Fluffles is her spotter and gives her the equivalent of the Marksman and Hit-Man abilities, making her an absolutely deadly sniper.

The Arvn clan had found a clue at the rest stop but disturbed a large nest of zombies.  With the zeds and a pack of wolves bearing down on them, they were forced to leave Old Abe to his fate.  Moving into the park, Li'l Billy-Bob ran ahead to the bandstand to talk to the strange wheelchair-bound professor who told him scary tales about vampires and werewolves.

With the clue secured, Li'l Billy Bob just had to evade the zombies staggering towards the bandstand and get back to the truck.

"I push his wheelchair down the steps towards the zombies as a distraction."

Sometimes I fear my players.

At the end, The Dee's had been completely wiped out, taking all but three of the Eddys with them.  Two of them were fast enough to leg it down the road in search of transport.  But a huge swarm of zombies had been raised in the churchyard and by mutual agreement of three of the players, all headed towards the loudest noise, namely the exploding and burning trucks.

Poor Bubba.  Poor old drunk Bubba.

Of all the Hillbilly figures, he's the least violent.  Unarmed, except for his jug of moonshine, which he'll happily offer to share with fallen kinfolk to help revive their spirits.  His pitiful drunken state had been known to drive other womenfolk to berate him mercilessly,  (basically his only "attack" forced hostile womenfolk to skip actions berating his drunkenness.)

Poor Bubba didn't make it.

On the other side of the churchyard, a conference had taken place between Clan Arvn and Clan Tuther, who agreed to unite their clans to deal with the threat from "that thar fancy-pants furriner"/  With most of the zombies drawn off to the explosions, that left Dracula, his three Brides and a couple of zombie/ghouls left.

Because they agreed to share the clues they'd found, the Tuthers and Arvns had four clues between them.  Each clue negated one of Dracula's abilities, which brought him down from being an unstoppable killing machine to about the level of one of the tougher Hillbilly fighters.

Sniper fire from Minni-Jo accounted for two of the Brides, though not after they'd fanged poor Cousin George.  Granny Tuther tried to chastise one of the brides for being such a shameless hussy, walking around in her slip like that, showing her ankles and she'll catch her death of cold one night and.... sadly the Brides, being a couple of centuries older than Granny herself, were immune to her Berate power.

(As an aside, Berate was an ability I'd given some of the Elder figures, especially the unarmed ones, which allowed them to pin enemy non-elders with a stern tongue-lashing, similar to using magic to pin figures in Song Of Blades And Heroes.  That power had worked wonders against the Werewolves, several of which had fallen foul of elders' stern words and disapproving tone of voice)

When the third Bride fell to fire from the Arvn clan, Dracula made his move, pouncing out and wafting his cape magnificently.  Uncle-Daddy Tuther, patriarch of the clan, charged him with his pitchfork but found himself ganged up on by Drac and a couple of his ghouls.  The fight went back and forth, until Uncle-Daddy finally succumbed to a ghoul bite.

Minnie-Jo listened to Mr Fluffles' voice in her head one last time, took careful aim and put a .50 cal round right between Dracula's eyes, ending the terror for good.

A heck of a good fun game.

MarvintheARVN has already suggested the subject of the next big game, when he noticed my "not quite Nelson's Column" terrain piece, complete with lions.

Hillbillies 3; Hillbillies in Old London Town

Should I be worried that I think I've already got most of the figures and terrain I need to make that happen?