I'm going to start this review of Zombie CSU by Jonathan Maberry by stating that it is the best book about zombies that I have ever read! Better even than Max Brooks' World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide? Yep, definitely! How does one classify such a book? It is not a work of fiction but given that zombies (as portrayed in the media) do not exist, nor can it be described as a factual book. It is a book based on hypotheses. The premise of the book is this - what if zombies were real? What would happen if tomorrow, a zombie attacked someone and the attack was witnessed? How would the police react to this crime? How long would it take them to determine that the attacker was a zombie? How would they go about apprehending him? What resources could they call upon? How would the media react?
CSU stands for Crime Scene Unit and this book works on a "what if" scenario that brings in experts from many fields to give their opinion on the investigation. The author was initially concerned that the people he spoke to might not take the subject too seriously. He need not have worried. All of the people he interviewed spoke eloquently and seriously. This is what makes this book such a fascinating read. The experts speak with a knowing authority that left me nodding in agreement with their comments.
When talking of a zombie apocalypse it is important to determine what caused the apocalypse and what type of zombies we are dealing with. Cinema alone offers many choices - slow moving shambling plague zombies (the most common variation on the standard Romero model and the default setting for the book's scenario); toxic contamination zombies, unexplained radiation zombies, fast moving plague/virus zombies, demon zombies, alien zombies, etc. What caused the zombies to reanimate and how they move/react will determine whether humanity can survive. In one of the appendices of the book the author takes a look at each type of apocalypse to present a scorecard to cover four salient points - potential for global pandemic, limits to disease spread, likelihood of successful human opposition and likelihood that we're all toast. This section is well worth reading and the results are varied depending upon the zombie apocalypse. Best case apocalypse features revenge zombies (like the water-logged zombies in Creepshow). Worst case apocalypse features demon zombies (like the zombies from the Evil Dead series).
The forensic investigation of the very first zombie attack would have made for a fascinating read on its own. But Jonathan Maberry gives the reader a whole lot more to enjoy with this book. It is littered with artwork (most of which are excellent) from many zombie-loving artists along with comments from the artists. In addition actors, authors and other luminaries involved with popular zombie culture give their opinions on which is scarier - slow or fast zombies. My opinion? Slow - they are just so relentless. I find fast-moving zombies too illogical to be believable. The book also features lists like the worst zombie movies ever made and zombies movies you've never heard of but must see. Hollywood comes in for a lot of well-deserved criticism in this book with the way it treats the police, the military, the press and scientists in films. Far too often, their professionalism is questioned and they give in or screw up too easily. In real life that would rarely happen. There is a wonderful quote from Max Brooks on zombie realism - "Have you ever gone to a movie with your friends and one of them, that particular tight-assed nerd bag who won't shut up about "how that would never happen" or "this isn't realistic and here's why"? Well, I am that nerd bag!"
Before I read this book I had a rather pessimistic view of humanity's chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse (based on the default setting used throughout the book). Now, I have completely reversed my opinion and I believe humanity will win. However, what kind of a world the survivors will inherit is subject for another debate that I'm not getting into.
Before I wrap up this review let me leave you with this quote from the book - "are zombies likely? No. And we can all be thankful for that. Are they totally impossible? Also no. And we can all lose some sleep over that."
Prions are the most likely origin for starting a zombie plague, and the really bad news is that there is no cure against prions! I really can't recommend this book too highly. I learnt a lot from it and it is written in a very easy-going and entertaining manner. It is printed by Citadel Press Kensington and costs $16.95. I bought my copy for £11.99 at my local Forbidden Planet shop. Seeing as it was first printed in 2008 you may find a cheaper copy on Amazon.com, for example.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
For this week's World Works Games review I'm looking at what was without doubt, the easiest Mayhem building I've made so far - a single storey burned down house. This model can be found in the WWG Modern Kitbash section. Someone has taken the apartment from the Mayhem Armoury set and converted it into a burned down building.
The kitbash consists of the four outer walls, textured inside and outside and the floor. That's it! Of course, me being the person I am, I couldn't just leave it at that, so I added two internal walls.
In the Mayhem Armoury set there is an optional wall that can be used with the apartment that can either run from one wall to the opposite or wall or form an L-shape. The wall comes with an open doorway, but no door. For the burned down building this was certainly not a problem.
As you can see in the photo above I've run the internal wall from the front of the house to the back. The colouring did not match the smoky and charred look of the interior walls so I gave it a liberal coating of Badab Black from the Citadel Washes range of inks. It looks streaky in places, which I like as it adds to the effect that the walls have been hosed down by a fire crew.
I used the rug on the floor to determine where I stuck that wall, so you can see it is slightly off-centre. I added a second internal wall, roughly two inches in length to help break up the larger of the two rooms. It also provides more cover when used in a wargaming situation. This was also painted with a Badab Black wash. Also, note that although the front and back doors are only half the height they should be, they still open and close.
There is not much more to say about this. Adding furniture seemed pointless so I didn't. What I particularly like about this building is its versatility. As a wargamer and role-player scenery is very important to me. A model like this has a timeless quality to it that allows you to use it in such a wide range of time periods. That is what I mean about versatility; you're not tied down to the same narrower time periods of the previous buildings I've reviewed.
There is also a two-storey burned down building available and I'll review that next week.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Studio Miniatures released their fourth boxed set of 28mm scale zombies earlier this week. Expect a full review soon, once I get them painted. But first, I need to review the third set, which as usual contains eight finely detailed zombies - five male and three female.
Starting with the male zombies in the photos above at the far left is a grey-haired negro zombie, holding a pistol in his right hand. Two things spring to mind regarding that pistol. First, he was almost certainly holding it when he died - cause of death would appear to be two bullet wounds to his chest, presumably from a small calibre gun as there are no exit wounds in his back. Second, it seems doubtful that he knows how to use it any more. I love to see non-Caucasian zombies as they are poorly represented by miniature companies.
The zombie to his left suffers a horrendous neck wound that has caused his head to hang limply on his left shoulder. That wound runs deep! In addition, he has lost his right hand and both knees have been cut, scraped or bitten. You decide.
Next up is a bare-chested zombie who appears almost skeleton-like, especially in regards to his head. His lower left arm has been heavily bandaged. But that didn't help him at all, as the zombies have certainly feasted well on him. His stomach has been ripped open to reveal his internal organs. It's a wound that is so common to zombies nowadays. I guess sculptors just like sculpting intestines. However, what is very rare, is his back wound. The flesh from his back from the top of his spine to his backside has been stripped away to reveal his spinal column. Now that is nasty! And as a gore fan I mean that in a good way! Finally, a large chunk has been taken out of his left lower leg.
The final member of this group wears an aviator's jacket, which is a nice touch. He too has the obligatory stomach wound with intestines spilling out. I've smeared the lower half of his face in blood to show he's been feasting. Aren't zombies such messy eaters?!
In the next group of figures, we start with my favourite figure out of this set - the guy in bobble hat and parka. Looking at his face, he reminds me of Charlie from Land of the Dead. Thankfully, Charlie never got turned into a zombie, as I liked his character. One look at this figure and it's obvious how he died - a meat cleaver to the heart (or is it a spade with the handle snapped off?). There is a small bite to his right lower arm and his left eye is hanging out of its socket. You don't see many figures in parkas or winter clothing so I welcome him to my zombie horde with open arms. More like him, please!
Now for the females. The lass in the brown skirt has had her right foot bitten off and her lower right leg is all chewed up. Still, she limps onwards in search of fresh meat. The loss of a foot is not going to stop her.
In the middle of the trio of females is a corporate type dressed in what was once a smart business suit. Now it is torn and blood-stained. Her left arm has been ripped off at the elbow and she has a bite wound to the side of her face.
Do you remember my review of the headless zombie in the Zombiesmith range? I did not like him being headless so I added a spare head to the back of his neck, supported there by a few sinews of flesh after being inspired by a scene from Land of the Dead. Well, Studio Miniatures have done exactly the same thing with this female zombie. Her head has almost been decapitated but enough flesh remains so that it hangs between her shoulder blades. Like the bare-chested male above, she was once bitten in the arm and has had the wound bandaged. Also, like the same male, she has had her stomach ripped open. She is a mess, but also a wonderful figure!
Zombie Mob 003 costs £15.99 if you want metal figures or £24.99 if you want resin figures. I've stated before that I think the Studio Miniatures zombies are the finest on the market today. I still maintain that opinion, but it must be said that this is the weakest set they have produced yet. Why? Well, as far as I can tell only two of the figures - the zombie in the aviator's jacket and the zombie in the parka - are original sculpts. The other six are conversions of figures from sets 1 and 2. I know this practice bothers some people but less so for me. Even though six of them are conversions, they are still excellent conversions and fine figures in their own right. You really shouldn't let that fact put you off buying them. These deserve to be at the forefront of anyone's zombie horde.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
The warehouse featured in this review comes from the Mayhem Industrial set. Like a lot of Mayhem models (Bank, Mega-Mall, Police, etc.) this is a modular build, which means you get to decide how big you want to make it. The default setting in the instructions for this building is 14" by 14" square or two ground tiles by two (a ground tile being 7" by 7"). I've kind of adhered to this suggestion but instead of making my warehouse square I've made it L-shaped and made use of the outdoor loading bay tile in the fourth corner. There is no right or wrong way in the size or shape of warehouse; just go with whatever works best for you.
The set comes with seven signs to choose from to name your warehouse. I chose the John Dragon Cargo and Transport sign as a nod to the days when I ran a Feng Shui rpg campaign. The heroes of that game belonged to a faction known as the Dragons. If only I had this scenery way back then! As with just about everything else on this model, the sign is stuck to mounting board (or matteboard as it's known as in America). The only parts not reinforced with mounting board on this model are the doors. They are all stuck to thin card of the kind found on cereal packets. This makes the walls thicker than the doors, which is only logical in my opinion.
What is very noticable about my roof are the ventilation ducts. There are twelve in total, four per roof section. Each roof section has four small white squares printed on them to represent small air vents. I decided to stick these larger vents over the smaller ones. Someone asked me, when I posted pictures of this warehouse on my battle report for St Trinian's and the Living Dead (see http://vampifansworldoftheundead.blogspot.com/2009/06/st-trinians-and-living-dead.html ) what was inside the warehouse that would require so many air vents? I honestly have no idea! I stuck them on simply because I thought a) they looked good and b) that they would provide plenty of cover for anyone who got on the roof. Note that the roof is further reinforced with foamboard cut slightly smaller than the roof outline so that it fits snugly within the walls when put in place.
There are four upright posts along the wall with the two large doors. You can see three of them in the photo above, topped in yellow. I cut them out of the wall section, stuck them onto thin strips of mounting card, then glued them back in place. this gives them a more 3-D appearance and is a technique that I often use.
Here is an overhead view of the interior of the warehouse. The pile of crates to the left came from the Chunky Dungeon set. Although designed for a fantasy setting, a crate is pretty universal and these fit in well in a contemporary setting. They are glued in place but don't have to be. The large black boxes that come with the Mayhem Industrial set would make perfectly adequate replacements. You are not short of props to use for cover with this set, as you also get wooden pallets (which can be stacked as high as you want) and plenty of barrels (either singularly or in groups). I'd also recommend looking at Mel Ebbles' Ambient Elements set - Storeroom for more boxes, crates and barrels to fill your warehouse with.
Looking inside from the front, you'll immediately notice one big change that I've made to the instructions - my office is not on the ground - it's raised up. I thought that placing the office on the ground would waste space, space that could be better served for storing stuff. After all this is a warehouse. Also, with a 7" square footprint I felt that the office was far too big. The only furniture it comes with is a desk with a computer, two chairs and a set of filing cabinets. You don't need that amount of space to fit them in. I made my office 7" by 3". I chose 3" as it is a handy measurement, as it is the length of the filing cabinets and the width of two platforms placed side by side.
The floor of the office came from the Mayhem Police set concrete floors with the 1" grid printed on. You'll have noticed by now that all of my WWG models use the gridless floor option. To me, this looks more realistic and makes the models less of a gaming accessory. However, for the office I wanted a tiled appearance so choosing the 1" grid suited my purposes ideally. Note how the filing cabinets only just fit. If you click on the pictures for a closer look you may notice a number of Bruce Lee posters dotted around the office. With the owner being called John Dragon I had to make him a Bruce Lee fan. As before with the portraits of the lawyers in my four-storey office block, I did a search in Google Images for Bruce Lee and just printed out the first page of options at A5 size. Then it was a simple matter of choosing the four or five pictures that I wanted. There is, of course, an Enter the Dragon poster.
The raised platform gives the warehouse even more storage space. As for the two large rear doors, they swing up to open. Keeping them open is difficult as there is nothing to keep them in place when opened. I did toy with the idea of including the garage door track that I used on my Mayhem Garage (see http://vampifansworldoftheundead.blogspot.com/2009/07/wwg-mayhem-garage.html ) but chickened out as I knew it would add a considerable amount of time and effort to finish this project. I think this may well be the only example of me not going the extra mile! Yeah, I know, slapped wrists for me! I took the easy way out! For the photos that I took for my St. Trinian's and the Living Dead battle report when the girls opened the doors I kept the doors open with a couple of juduciously placed pieces of Blu-tac.
There are a number of items printed on the interior walls, like step ladders, medical stations, fire extinguishers and the "clocking-in" board. These are all cut out and glued onto mounting card before being stuck back in place. As I mentioned with the four exterior pillars this gives the items a three-dimensional appearance that only helps to enhance the model. They look like separate props rather than being just a part of the wall.
I enjoyed using this building for the climax of the St. Trinian's and the Living Dead battle report. There is a lot of floor space to utilise. It certainly won't be the only Mayhem Warehouse that I build. I already have plans for at least two more, one smaller and one bigger.
Sunday, 16 August 2009
When looking for zombie miniatures it pays to thoroughly check out a company's catalogue. A few months ago I reviewed the Alpha Forge range of zombies and survivors (see here at http://vampifansworldoftheundead.blogspot.com/2009/05/alpha-forge-zombies-survivors.html ). These were all part of Alpha Forge's modern horror line. Whilst browsing their sc-fi range I came across these two figures - DMZ0M1 Female Death Mask Zombie and DMZ0M2 Male Death Mask Zombie. They can be found amongst the range of Mephalians and are described thus - "the Mephalian aliens use the strange 'Death Mask' drones. These ancient artifacts, when activated, seek the corpses of fallen enemies upon the battlefield and re-animate them. The Mephalians then send them back into combat against their former crew members!"
As you can see from my photos these two will fit into a contemporary setting with no problem. They both appear to be military types from their clothing, or perhaps they were survivalists.
The female wears combat trousers, boots, sweat shirt and has pads on both shoulders and her right elbow. There is a gaping hole in the right side of her head, which ought to be a fatal wound but clearly isn't. I know nothing at all about the Mephalians other than the blurb above, so perhaps they can reanimate someone who has been shot in the head. She also sports another nasty wound, this time to the stomach. A coil of intestine is worming its way out of the wound.
The male is dressed in a combat jacket, opened to reveal a vest or t-shirt underneath, combat trousers, boots and a bandolier of ammo pouches slung over his right shoulder. His right arm has been ripped off at the elbow. His trousers have a large tear over the left thigh but I restrained myself in painting the gore here and just gave him a slight cut or scratch.
These 28mm scale figures are not bad sculpts but neither are they anything special. Average is an apt description for them. They certainly fit in well with the other Alpha Forge zombies. The two packs cost $3.30 each. If you haven't placed an order with Alpha Forge yet I'd recommend adding them to your order for the zombies and/or survivors. If you weren't specifically looking for them you'd easily miss them.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Okay, this is going to be my biggest review to date, so buckle in and enjoy the ride. This is my office block, based on the "Hollywood Flats" walls found in the Bits of Mayhem set. Hollywood Flats is a term used for buildings that are put up on a movie set that lack any interior detail. They are just a facade. World Works Games provide more Hollywood Flats in the Downtown Mayhem set. These are useful for people who play Heroclix, for example, when all that is required is the outer shell of a building. However, these are absolutely no use to me. One of the things that I love about WWG's buildings is that they come with interior detail. As a skirmish wargamer this is important to me. So I decided my office block would have interior detail. I knew from the onset that this would be my toughest challenge so far, and so it proved.
The two photos above give you a good view of the roof so I'll comment on that now. The roof is also from the Bits of Mayhem set and I made sure that the trapdoor hinged so that it could open and close. The roof is glued onto mounting board and further reinforced with foamboard. The foamboard is thick enough to allow it to sit on the floor below without moving as it is cut flush with the inside of the lower walls. Also, the hole for the trapdoor is cut slightly smaller than the hole I cut in the mounting board. This helps keep the door flush with the roof.
The roof is provided with edging that is supposed to hide the sides of the foamboard as WWG expect you to cut it flush with the outside of the walls. It wasn't necessary for me to do this, so I printed out some extra pieces and used them to make a parapet surrounding the roof.
I knew that this was going to be an office block but what kind of offices? The answer to that came with the signage provided in the Downtown Mayhem set. One of them was for a firm of barristers and solicitors. If you have your own ideas for what the offices should be you can still follow my tips here and just make a few cosmetic changes. Replace the front sign with whatever you fancy.
Another decision that I made when I was planning this was that I wanted to alter the building's footprint. Most WWG Mayhem buildings have a 7" by 7" footprint or some multiple of this, although now they seem to be moving towards 6" by 6" footprints. A footprint, by the way, is the ground area that the building covers. The walls for this building come with four clearly marked columns of windows. If I made this without making any alterations it would give me four columns front and back and eight on the sides. I opted for three front and back and seven on the sides. The sides had to be reduced to give me enough room to fit my fire escapes. The actual footprint of these offices is 5.25" by 14".
The fire escapes come from the Bits of Mayhem set. This is my first building fitted with them. I knew that I wanted this to be four storeys high, making it my tallest building so far, so I reckoned that fire escapes ought to be a necessity. They were the last thing I made on this project apart from the roof. Edging makes a big difference and I edged my fire escapes with acrylic paints, mostly black, but also some rust stains added for good measure.
As I mentioned before, the walls come with four columns of windows. Take a close look at where I made my cuts. For the front and back I cut the walls one and a half columns to the right and one and a half columns to the left. For the sides I made the cuts three and a half columns to the right and three and a half columns to the left. Why? For aesthetic reasons - it looks better doing it my way. If you look very carefully you will note the outer columns are not quite the same as the inner columns. It's only a subtle difference but it is a difference. My way makes the walls perfectly symmetricral.
And now we come to the interiors with an overhead view of the ground floor. The floor tiles come from Return to Shellendrak Manor for the reception room; Mayhem Police for the junior lawyer's office and Pubs and Inns for the corridor and stairwell. The stairs are from the Mayhem Police set, whilst the stair rail is found in the Mayhem Industrial set. I mentioned a website called Jim's Printable Minis found at http://www.printmini.com/printables/pq.shtml in my review of my semi-detached houses. Jim provides free downloads for dolls' houses. I made quite a few trips there for this project. The wallpaper in the reception room and the junior lawyer's office came from Jim. The inner walls of the corridor are simply coloured card (yellow and pastel yellow) purchased from an art supplier's shop. Most stationers should stock them. An important tip - do not glue the windows in place until after you have marked where the window opening is on the back of your interior wall.
In the reception room, the desk, telephone and receptionist's chair are from the Mayhem Police set. Her laptop computer comes from the Ebbles Derelict Core 2 set (Office Props). If you want to remain loyal to WWG, there is an excellent laptop computer in the Mayhem Junkyard set, which wasn't available when I made this. You'll notice a lot of portraits on the walls as well as numerous certificates. I typed in "lawyers" in the Google Images search engine and printed out page 1 of the results at A5 size to give me lots of individual portraits and group portraits. The certificates came from the same place as the laptop computers - Ebbles Derelict Core 2 set (Office Props).
The desk used by the junior lawyer is found in Mayhem Industrial. Ditto with his computer. His chair comes from the Mayhem Police set. The welcome mat found in the reception room comes from Jim's Printable Minis.
The two long red seats in the reception room are from the Mayhem Police set. The filing cabinet in the junior lawyer's office can be found in the Mayhem Industrial set but cut in half. The other half gets used later. His ancient looking bookcase comes from the Castles and Keeps set, with one set of shelves removed to make it fit heightwise. Remember to leave a 0.25" gap on the top of your internal walls so that the foamboard that reinforces the floor above can fit in place.
The smaller bookcase in the junior lawyer's office is one third of the extremely long bookcase found in the Shellendrak Manor set. The big, black coffee machine in the reception room is from the Mayhem Police set.
This floor represents the secretarial pool. The corridor floor and walls are made in the same way as the the ground floor corridor. Now here's a clever tip for the cork effect floor in the big room. Go to Microsoft Office Word. Click on Insert. Click on Shapes and choose the Rectangle shape in the Basic Shapes choices. Draw a rectangle that just about covers the page. Now click on Shape Fill and choose the Textures option. The cork texture is the sixth one down at the extreme left column. Click on that and your rectangle will be filled. Print it out and then cut to measure. I'm using Windows Vista, so I don't know if this will work on earlier versions of Windows. The floor and walls of the toilet are both wallpaper patterns from Jim's Printable Minis. The walls of the big room are red and pastel red card, similar to those used in the corridors and stairwells.
Most of the furniture found in the secretarial pool comes from the Mayhem Police set, which is a godsend for furnishing offices. I'll only mention the stuff that doesn't come from there. The six room dividers are a great way to form cubicles for the secretaries.
The six laptop computers are the same ones as used by the receptionist downstairs. You can also find a good set of laptop computers in the Ebbles Ambient Elements - Barracks set. Very useful if you want variety on the screens.
The clock at the top of the photo above comes from Jim's Printable minis.
The toilet and sink were used from the Mayhem Police set. For an older look, use the ones found in Shellendrak manor.
The second floor (or third floor if you are an American) consists of offices for the barrister (far left)and the solicitor (centre) as well as a store room. The walls and floor of the corridor and stairwell continue the theme started on the ground floor. The floor and walls of the barrister come from Jim's Printable Minis. The floors for the solicitor and the storeroom can both be found in the Mayhem Police set. The walls of both rooms are just thin coloured card - light grey for the storeroom and pastel green for the solicitor.
The two long bookcases are kitbashed from the very long bookcase found in Shellendrak Manor. I've replaced the lower set of drawers with more bookshelves. A simple cut and paste job. These bookcases are two thirds the length of the Shellendrak Manor one. The filing cabinet in the solicitor's office is from Mayhem Police. The shelves and boxes found in the storeroom are from the Ebbles Ambient Elements - Storeroom set.
Both desks are from Shellendrak Manor, as are the four chairs for clients. The barrister and solicitor sit on the bigger chairs found in the Mayhem Police set. This is where their computers, keyboards, monitors and telephones come from.
The small bookcase seen in the solicitor's office comes once again, from the Mayhem Police set.
The filing cabinet in the barrister's offices can be found in the Mayhem Industrial set but here, I've cut it in half. It comes with four sets of drawers but I only wanted two sets of drawers. The other half was used in the junior lawyer's office on the ground floor.
The fourth storey is where the senior partners have their offices. As you can see, I've made all corridors and stairwells the same. The big office to the left uses wallpaper and carpets from Jim's Printable Minis. The carpet in the other office utilises the same technique that I used for the secretarial pool. This time look at the top row of the textures and chose the one at the far right - denim. Once again, I turned to Jim's Printable Minis for my choice of wallpaper here.
The big bookcase seen in the big office above is a fullsized kitbash of the Shellendrak Manor bookcase with no drawers and extra shelves. It's quite a size and only just fit in.
The desk in the big office is identical to the receptionist's desk, i.e. it came from Mayhem Police. The other desk is the one found in Shellendrak Manor. Chairs and desk items are identical to the ones found in the two offices below.
The two bookcases shown in the small(ish) office are my kitbashes of the Shellendrak Manor bookcase but both at one third its size. The filing cabinet seen at the very top of the above photo is from Mayhem Police.
The filing cabinets in the smaller office are those that come with the Mayhem Industrial set but this time cut to three-quarter length. The filing cabinets in the larger office are from the Mayhem Police set.
Still with me? This was a much bigger project than I thought it would be. It took over five months to complete and when I was finished I just couldn't face making another building with lots of furniture in. This was the last building that I've made. I'm now working on the Mayhem Skateboard Park, which I've almost completed. Yippee, no interiors to worry about! As you can see there was a hell of a lot of work involved in bringing this project to fruition but once completed my sense of satisfaction was immense. I'm very, very proud of this model but I wouldn't want to make another one soon!