Sunday, January 22, 2023

Flying Drones for Space Station Zero (& more terrain)

    Unmanned aerial drones fly over my newest terrain piece for Space Station Zero
One of the dangers that crews can possibly run into when exploring Space Station Zero are flying drones. With my dearth of Science-Fiction terrain and figures, I had nothing I could reasonably use as them. So, when I was at Shore Wars 2022 this past December, I was very interested to see RRB Minis & More's booth at the show. They carry an extensive line of 25mm Sci-Fi figures, vehicles, and accessories. Maybe I'd be able to find something there?

    Closeups of the red and blue color schemes I painted on the Stormbirds from RRB Minis & More
Naturally, I did find something that would be perfect with a little modification. From the McEwan Miniatures Classics line that RRB carries, I picked out the Stormbird flying vehicle. Leaving off the crewman and a couple other pieces, I thought it would make a suitable unmanned drone to guard the corridors of the space station. Because I wanted the figures to fit on some magnetic flight stands I'd bought long ago from Litko, I had to glue a washer on the underside of the drone. I also epoxied in the gatling/minigun, and that was it for construction. I can certainly deal with a minimum of fiddly-ness!

Drones endlessly patrolling corridors for intruding crews (I really like the dark red metallic color!)
I primed the figures white, and then applied metallic craft paints to them. My favorite color scheme turned out to be the dark red metallic. I had recently purchased that bottle of paint, along with the dark blue, which I used for another pair. The green and white colors I already had, and had painted earlier droids, robots, or terrain with those colors. After the base coat was painted, I decided to get fancy and add in stripes. I am not really happy with how they came out. My hands apparently aren't steady enough to paint an even width line that is good and straight anymore! I did a dark metallic gray wider stripe with a slightly narrower stripe of either silver or gold. I then decided to paint the two nacelles that project forward on the model in the accent metallic, too. For the white metallic ones, I used the dark red and a lighter blue as my accent colors.

    Four more aerial drones that will be a menace to any exploring crew in the derelict space station
The mini gun was painted with a range of steel metallic colors. The breech and housing ring were done in Ral Partha steel, while the gun barrels themselves were painted pewter. I highlighted the barrels with an aluminum color that I don't like using often. It is a weird, almost enamel consistency and is really hard to remove from my brushes. Finally, I did a dark black wash over the mini gun. I decided not to do the usual black wash over the entire drone surface, rationalizing that if they are in good enough working order to be still flying, the machines would probably be kept fairly clean. 

    Luckily, I had some unused flight stands from Litko and some rare earth magnets to attach them
In the photos, the drones are flying above my latest piece of 6"x4" terrain for Space Station Zero. As with earlier ones, it is a combination of store-bought pieces (Mantic Games) and scratch-built items. I painted it in the same colors and style as the previous ones. The only difference was I decided to do the floor slightly different. I wasn't happy with how dark the metallic floors were looking in previous pieces, so I lightened the floor up with a watered down pewter. I added in full strength, dark black wash to represent oil leaks or other equipment seepage.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Gang Rumble in the Short North, Columbus

    The streets of the Short North in Columbus were taken over by gangs at Origins Game Day
A new Winter game day here in Columbus, OH, gave me the opportunity to host a gang rumble using my Mean Streets rules. The Origins Game Day was held Jan. 14, and was the brainchild of my old friend, Bryan Borgman. It was an incredible success, with 400+ folks coming out for a free day of gaming, flea market tables, and fun. I ran into a number of Columbus area gamers I had not seen for awhile, so it was good to catch up. I also spent the rest of my Christmas gaming money on some great purchases from Bryan's flea market table, and RRB Minis & More (who drove down for the day from Youngstown).

    I had full table of six players for Mean Streets -- three of them brand new to the rules!
I used the same six gang setup that I used for Historicon 2022, this past July. Each of the six gangs was given a primary mission and two secondary missions. As a GM, I like players to have choices on what to do with their forces in a game. Not only does it make the game more interactive, it also helps make each running of it a different outcome. Saturday's' game was a perfect example of that. The gang that scored the most points was the Eastmoor Kings. In the beginning of the game, they stayed away from the other five gangs, concentrating on "tagging" buildings with their gang logo - a green crown with a black "K" on it. I make up circular discs with each gang's logo that players place against the walls when they tag a building. John, who was playing them, had an opportunity to engage in some of the multi-gang scrums, but waited until it had broken up and his "payback target" -- the Santanas -- had split up. He pounced, and after knocking two of them out, finally headed off to Wallace's Brewpub to complete his primary mission -- steal some beer for the gang's Saturday night party!

    With five other gangs on the streets, the punk rockers, the Indianola Mohawks, stuck together
Some gangs stayed together as a mass, others split off 2-3 to complete their primary mission. The Indianola Mohawks, played by Michael, kept together and waded into a big melee by the Shell Station's pumps. He admitted his die rolls were above average while his opponent, Mike S (playing the clown-faced, Franklinton Flippos) continued his run of miserable die rolling. Normally that is MY specialty, but Mike took over the job in earnest, that day. His gang boss and two punks were knocked out in short order. The Warchief and another punk did make it to the Market Booths, though. They completed their primary mission of knocking out several of the vendors and convincing them to give the gang "protection money." After completing that, and seeing how the rest of the gang was laying, bleeding on the gas station's asphalt, they skulked off the table.

   Julio, Cruz, and Manana of the Santanas disembark after their joyride on the stolen car
Another gang that completed their primary mission towards the end was the Santanas. Not only did Julio and his gang mates steal the car from the Shell Service Station, his several of them went for a joyride around the table in their hot, blue convertible. I had never seen a player take the stolen car for a joyride, so it was kind of fun to see what Jenny (who was playing them) had in mind. The trio in the convertible were the only three from the gang not knocked out of action, though, as shortly after they split off from Ramona and El Lobo, those two were jumped by the Kings and taken down.

Hilltop Highlanders split up at the start of the rumble, though Lenny's calls brought the others back
Two gangs mixed it up almost immediately. The black martial arts gang, The Daos, ambushed the leader of the Hilltop Highlanders and an accompanying punk in the back alley behind Wallace's Brewpub. Lenny fought off the first wave of attackers, and his shouts brought the rest of the gang sprinting around the building to join in the melee. It was a fairly even fight for most of it, as each side knocked out opposing gang members. Slowly, the Highlanders began to get the better of it, though. Eventually, the two agreed to call it even, and scampered off to complete their primary missions. The Highlanders hightailed it to Jack & Benny's Diner, while the Daos made their way to Finn's factory. 

    Bobbie and the rest of the Eastmoor Kings are tempted to wade into the rumble at the gas station
There were three brand new players in this game, and they all said they had fun. I believe they also picked up the rules from RRB Minis & More. Rich, the owner of the store, said they needed a restock of the rules, so I ducked out to my car and got some for him. The thing I like about the Mean Streets rules is that it is very easy to teach. Typically, it takes only 20 minutes to go over the rules at a convention with new players. Within a turn or two of combat, the players have the mechanics down, too, and are figuring out their combat factors by themselves without my help.

    I like how my new wound markers look - clear bases with blood splotches arranged like a d6
One new thing I introduced for this game were my brand new wound markers. In the past, I've used red pom-poms from the craft store to mark on a figure's base how many wounds it has suffered. Recently, I picked up 100 clear square bases from Litko. I painted varying numbers of blood red splotches on them to indicate the number of wounds. I arranged the blood spots to match the pips on a six-sided dice. This makes it easy for a player to recognize with a quick glance whether the figure has suffered three wounds (three blood splotches arranged diagonally), or four wounds (one in each corner). I was much happier with how these bases looked on the table. I had coated the clear base with Vallejo Matte Clear, which takes the shine or reflection off the material, but it is still transparent and you can see the street underneath of it. Success!

    Gang Boss Marvin leads the creepy, clown-masked Franklinton Flippos through an alley
One of the players had signed up to play because he was interested in using Mean Streets rules for Mad Max-style, post-Apocalyptic biker gang battles. That was interesting, because I had just been exchanging emails with Rich about how to treat a character mounted on a motorcycle in the rules. We put some ideas together and he said he is going to play test them. I will probably also post on the Mean Streets Facebook group page and see if anyone else has ideas. I don't have any miniatures mounted on motorcycles, but biker gangs certainly fit the theme.

    Mohawks gang boss Sid taunts the Eastmoor Kings for avoiding the fight
I had planned on running my game only once, so I packed up, took my stuff out to the car, and returned to do my shopping. It was great to see so many people coming out to support Bryan's idea. Most of the tables in the room were still full when I finished my shopping and headed out for a late lunch. The weather had been as perfect as can be asked for in mid-January, Ohio. So, all in all, the game day was a success!

    The Linden Daos jump Lenny & Bo of the Hilltop Highlanders behind Wallace's Brewpub

    The rest of the Highlanders come running when they hear Lenny's shouts - the rumble is on!

    The Eastmoor Kings stayed disciplined and focused on their missions throughout the game

    The Kings get closer to their objective - the brewpub - and beers for their Saturday night party!

    After busting some heads in the rumble at the gas station, the Santanas head around the back

    Although gangs were completing their missions, there was still a lot of mayhem on the streets

    Great turnout at Origins Game Day - Bryan said more than 400 people showed up to game and shop!

Monday, January 9, 2023

First Game of Space Station Zero!


    The Discovery crew explore the vast interior of the derelict Space Station Zero
After all the hours of painting terrain, creating boards, and corridor walls, we finally got our first mission of Space Station Zero in on Saturday evening. Jenny and I were trying a two-player, cooperative game. I was bringing the Discovery crew from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and she was bringing Ripley and the Marines from Aliens. Humans stick together when lost in time and space, especially when marooned on a hulking, derelict space station!

    My newly-constructed terrain, walls, and boards made for a nice looking table, I thought!
Both of us had chosen four-man crews (not counting the commanders - Dr. David Bowman and the redoubtable Commander Ripley), so we had relatively elite troops. We were playing the Docking Bay scenario, which all explorers of Space Station Zero begin with. We rolled up Ancient Sentries and Poison Gas as our dangers. We also rolled for how much terrain to place on the 22"x30" board, and used every one of my completed large pieces, but only a few of the small ones. My scratch-built Droids and some 3-D printed Bots assumed the role of the dozen derelict, barely-functioning Ancient Sentries.

    The two crews deploy, with the Discovery crew moving up on the left and Ripley's marines the right
We weren't 100% sure how to do the sequence of a multi-player, cooperative game. We decided that since my Discovery crew was deployed to take on one group of six sentries and Ripley's marines were set up against the other six, we'd treat it like four separate forces. I would go first. When I lost the initiative, the sentries lined up against me would go. Then, Jenny's marines would go, and when she failed the initiative, the sentries lined up against her would take their actions. I'm not sure if we did it correctly, but it seemed to work okay. It would certainly keep us from arguing which figures we would activate amongst our crew if we had to share a player activation phase!

    Whirring and clanking through the poison mists were the robot denizens of the Docking Bay
Dr. Frank Poole, my soldier, activated first. He ran to the corner of a piece of machinery and opened fire on one of the sentries. Talk about good omens! I rolled a critical success on my first die roll in Space Station Zero. Poole's sidearm shattered the sentry into several pieces and it fell to the metallic floor with a loud clatter. We then said, "Oops - we forgot to roll for the poison gas!" Poole rolled his Life saves, looking for at least 3 successes (even numbers) out of the six dice rolled). Not so good! Poole took one damage. I also failed to roll high enough to activate my next guy, so the initiative passed to the sentries. Two of the sentries whirred and clanked forward before they failed, and passed the initiative to Jenny. 

A good omen! First shot - two 12's on 12-sided dice meant a critical success (double damage)

Ever the lead-from-the-front type, Commander Ripley darted out front and blasted away at the only sentry she could see. Her rolls were not nearly as good (or my saves for them were better -- sorry!) and she put only one damage on it. Her soldier, Corporal Lucius then pulled out his bayonet and chivalrously sprinted just beyond Ripley, so any sentries would have to go through him. As more sentries appeared around the corner, one of the marines was heard to mutter, "We're in some pretty $hi% now, man!" When my turn came up again, the Discovery crew continued to move forward. Dr. Victor Kaminsky moved a full move towards the machinery vent that was spewing poison gas, making sure to stay behind Poole, though. I continued to activate one and fail, so the initiative passed back to the sentries, again. The remaining three sentries arrayed against my crew moved up two moves.

    Two of the Ancient Sentries close in on Dr. Frank Poole - the Discovery crew's 'point man'
Jenny's medic, after taking a shot at one of the sentries, moved up close to Lucius to heal him next turn, as the soldier had taken two damage from breathing in the caustic gas. Her remaining crew move to the right towards the ruptured pipeline that was spewing gas nearest to the marines' side of the board. After the rest of the sentries moved forward, it was back to my turn. Dr. David Bowman moved forward and blasted away at another of the automatons, shattering it, too. Two of the sentries were down on our first turn of shooting! I was doing well, so far, on this "roll 12-sided dice and hope for even numbers" system...ha, ha! Dr. Charles Hunter, my medical doctor, followed up to get in position to heal up anyone who rolled badly against the poison gas. 

    The Discovery crew's shooting was on target! We took out three of the sentries on our first turn!
Turn two arrived, and Dr. Poole aimed at one of the sentries closing in on him and blasted it into a pile of mechanical junk. Behind him, the Chief Engineer, Dr. Jack Kimball, raised his side army and sighted at what looked to him the most vital bits of the machinery. His assessment proved correct, and a fourth sentry fell to the floor in a shower of broken and damaged machinery. My "M.O." in miniatures games is usually my poor dice rolling. However, Space Station Zero seemed to be proving the opposite (so far!). Four shots and four kills! The remaining two sentries moved up doggedly forward towards Poole, but had yet to engage him with their jagged mechanical arms.

    The ancient sentries close in on Commander Ripley's marines, too, our companions in exploration
Meanwhile, that was not the case with the marines. The closest sentry whirred towards the gallant Cpl. Lucius, who defeated the sentry in close combat, ripping off sections of the machine with his titanium bayonet. Ripley called out encouragement, then fired at the next sentry in line, putting some holes in it, but failing to stop it. The medic had a hard time patching up Lucius while the soldier was engaging the sentries, healing only one of the damage he'd suffered. With our elite crewmen rolling six dice and needing three successes, we were doing relatively well. I did flub one roll rather badly, but used my Time Masters "edge" to re-roll for a better result. Apparently, a passing through the Monolith and warping space and time to arrive at Space Station Zero, had enabled Dr. Bowman with some unique and useful abilities!

    The Discovery crew hangs back as Dr. Poole advances to make sure the sentries are truly destroyed
Meanwhile, Dr. Kaminsky darted to the machine spewing toxic gas, and began shutting off the valves. Poole rushed over to help and finished the job, closing off the leak. The Discovery crew was doing rather well on its first mission aboard the mysterious station. The marines were doing fairly well, too, although Cpl. Lucius had taken wounds from another sentry that tore rents in his spacesuit. The medic tried again to heal him, but failed on all his rolls. Dr. Bowman noticed that, though, and used his Monolith-given power to move the medic back in time to try again. This time, he was able to heal Lucius some.

    The sentries move through the poison gas preparing to engage the intruding crew of marines
At the start of turn three, the Discovery crew opened up on the remaining two sentries and took them out. Dr. Bowman then sprinted towards the furthest piece of machinery spewing gas, followed by Dr. Kimball and Dr. Hunter. The marines shut off the valves closest to them, as well. They were downing sentry after sentry until only one remained. Ripley placed her pistol next to what she determined to be its head and pulled the trigger. The robot fell to the ground in a mechanical heap. A shout of "All clear!" from the far end of the docking bay marked the success of Bowman and Kimball in shutting off the third valve. 

    Dr. Bowman and Frank Poole step over the lifeless hulks of the ancient sentries as all six are downed
With that, our first mission came to an end. The only damage the Discovery crew took was from poison gas failures. The marines were similar, except Cpl. Lucius came dangerously low in life. We collected our experience and then rolled to see our next mission, the Medical Bay. Hopefully, we'll be able to game that out next weekend. How did we like it? I felt the mission was fairly easy, but my rolls were way above average, I feel. I also think the early missions are meant to be easier. Plus, with both of us choosing the elite crew of four, our stats were high enough that we were never in much danger from the poison gas or sentries. I'm looking forward to the next game, even though I realize it will likely be more difficult. Stay tuned!

    One after another, the sentries advance through the marines' gunfire...still coming!
    Unlike with the Discovery crew, the sentries make it into contact with the marines, drawing blood

    Dr. Kaminsky and Dr. Poole team up to shut off the flow of poison gas at one of the leaks
    Hoping the marine take care of the second leak, Bowman, Kimball & Hunter sprint for the third
    Ripley places her pistol against the sentries 'head,' and pulls the trigger: "Game over!"

Saturday, January 7, 2023

More Terrain for Space Station Zero

    The interior of Space Station Zero with my combination of scratch-built and purchased components
I have been working steadily on my terrain for Space Station Zero. This post shows another of the larger, 6"x4" pieces, as well as five of the smaller, roughly 2"x2" pieces. Both are a mix of store-bought components and scratch-built portions using pieces bought from the local craft store. After this batch, I have one more larger piece that is about halfway complete. Perhaps one more evening's worth of work is all that is needed on it and I should be done with terrain that I have to complete.

    Two smaller terrain pieces, mostly from the Star Wars Legion line of plastic terrain

I was at another of our local game stores, Dragons Lair Comics and Games (in the Polaris area), when I saw the Star Wars Legion "Priority Supplies" box on their shelf. The box contains four moisture evaporators, five supply crates, and three communications stations that were perfect for random terrain to affix to a base. I tossed in a wooden barrel from the craft store on one of the bases to fill up the area on the base. Just like pretty much all the other terrain that I have painted up for this project, I began with a black spray prime and 50/50 acrylic black paint and water base coat. Next came an overall covering of Metallic Battleship Gray. I applied Metallic Pewter highlights for the evaporators and communication stations. I also applied a coppery gold as highlights in various panels The crates were given various other metallic colors. Finally, a black wash was applied overall. The communication stations received a pastel colored panel with bright yellow, red, or green "buttons" or lighted switches.

    Some items from the local craft store with a panel from RRB Minis & More made for more terrain

The Priority Supplies box gave me four bases worth of Sci-Fi terrain. For the fifth base, I used a wooden spool from the craft store, with a round disc atop it. I added three computer panels which I had purchased from RRB Miniatures at Shore Wars last month. I had to take a large craft knife and shave off part of the panels so they would look like they belonged on the rounded surface of the wooden spool. I prepared the piece the same way I had the others. I decided that the cylindrical portion should be a metallic green. I would say of all the craft metallic colors I've been using, I like how the green looks the best. It is more subtle than the blue and red (looks pink) shades. I gave the panel the same combination of Metallic Gray and Gold accents like the other pieces. I figured if the pieces looked like they belonged together, thematically, that would help the overall appearance of the spaceship.

    Another larger piece of Sci-Fi terrain, most of which comes from a Mantic Games terrain box

The larger piece is mostly from the Mantic Games "Industrial Accessories" box I mentioned in previous posts. It contains a big diameter section of piping coming out of and going back into the floor. It also contains one of the large pieces of machinery that the plastic terrain box. You can see in the photo some scratch-built pieces to fill out the area, too. The upright piece is a collection of wooden pieces from the craft store with various MDF gears that I had also picked up at the same spot. Around them are conical beads topped with a large sequin. Since this is an alien space station, I feel it is within keeping with the them to have unexplained terminals and other bits on the pieces.

    The other two small pieces created from the Star Wars Legion Priority Supplice pack
I really like how the terrain is coming out, though I may rethink my bases. I applied Metallic Gray to them and pretty much left it at that. In the pictures at least, they look a little dark next to my texture paper space station floor. After playing a game and seeing how it looks, I may go back and use a lighter color that matches the silvery color for the floors I created. We'll see.

    My most recent batch of Space Station Zero terrain on my gaming boards
What's next? Like I said, one more piece of large terrain needs to be finished. And also coming soon should be a game report! Woo-hoo!! My girlfriend Jenny and I may play our first cooperative game of Space Station Zero as early as this evening...!

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Discovery Crew for Space Station Zero

    Discovery crew from 2001: A Space Odyssey are transported by the Monolith to Space Station Zero

When I decided to play Space Station Zero, I went back and forth over which of my miniatures I should use for my lost and stranded crew. I thought about using my Planet of the Apes figures. I have too many nice figs for them to be sitting in the box unused for years on end. I also thought about using my Night Stalkers gang from my post-apocalyptic gang. They looked suitably Sci-Fi (and like the apes, were already painted). In that vein, I even thought about painting up the Eureka Miniatures Sci-Fi Gibbons. However, I kept pulling a pack from the old Sgt. Major Miniatures line (which I'd purchased a couple years ago from Battle Valor Games) called "Full Chem Suit" miniatures.

Closeup of Dr. David Bowman and two of his crewmates as they begin to explore the space station
The more I looked at these guys, the more I felt that their outfits could easily be painted up as spacesuits. As an added bonus, there really wasn't a lot of detail on their suits. So, they should paint up very quickly. Then I began thinking about what to base them off of to fit with the Space Station Zero storyline. According to the rules, it is a derelict space station lost in time and space when ships traveling by hyperlight speeds have a malfunction and end up drawn there. Wait...warped time?? That reminded me immediately of the ending of the classic Sci-Fi movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. I pulled the minis out again and thought, "Why not?" I've always loved that creepily friendly voice of HAL 9000. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave..."

    I made Dr. Frank Poole, in yellow, my "Soldier" for my Exploration ship under the rules

I did a little research into what color to paint the costumes and how many people were in the Discovery crew. Much to my excitement, I found a fan blog that had an extensive entry on each crew member (including the three that never make it out of suspended animation and are killed by HAL). What's more, with those three and Dr. Dave Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole, they had five crew. Space Station Zero allows you to have a commander plus a crew of 4, 6, or 8. The fewer figures you have, the better their stats are in the game. Perfect! I had my five man crew and names to go with each fig!

    Zooming in a bit on Commander Bowman and his highly-trained, four-man crew of exploration
I was also excited to see that the Discovery featured colorful suits -- not just boring white, retro American-style space suits. I was ready to roll at that point, and pulled out the chem suit guys for the final time and began cleaning them up. I have to admit, I was very disappointed with the castings. There are huge mold lines, including one that goes diagonally across the front of the figure which I felt there was no way to get rid of. I would simply have to paint it up as part of the suit design. The figures didn't exactly match the Discovery spacesuits, but I felt that I could paint them up to give the right effect.

    The ship that brought them there - The Discovery, from the classic Sci-Fi movie
I decided to go with the red-orange suit that 2001's main star, Dave Bowman, wears. He would be the crew commander. Frank Poole is featured in the yellow suit, so I made him the "soldier" in my crew and painted him up in that suit. I decided to do the other three in green, blue, and white. Mainly, I wanted to be able to tell the miniatures apart and easily remember who's who on the tabletop. Also, the colored suits were featured in the movie, so why not? I painted each suit a base color then did a lighter dry brush. For the trim and accents of the space suit, I used black to give nice contrast with the primary colors. The face plate on the space suit I painted Metallic Gray with Pewter and Aluminum highlights. I researched the patches the Discovery spacesuits had and did my best to mimic them in 28mm. I went a little crazy on yellow, green, and red lighted buttons on their backpacks and radios. But I am happy with how they came out (other than the mold lines).

With my crew done, and most of the terrain I need for my first mission ready, I am very close to playing my first game of Space Station Zero!