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.
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.
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.
(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.