Bingo!

We promised something new to replace the To-do lists, which have been a source of inspiration and entertainment for quite a few years, but have probably reached a natural end point.

So instead we have … Hobby Bingo. The idea isn’t new, it’s been shamelessly adapted it from the pages of White Dwarf. Their versions are very much tailored towards Games Workshop rulesets, so the tasks have been modified to make them as generic as possible and not tied to particular scales or periods, that way everyone can take part. It’s more flexible than the old To-do lists because you don’t need to commit to anything in advance – if you happen to paint something on a whim one weekend, or start a new army halfway through the year, it all counts.

Everyone gets a 5×4 Bingo Card (below), and on each square of the card is a task – some are straightforward ones like painting a unit of infantry or cavalry, or a piece of terrain. Some are a bit more involved, like converting or scratchbuilding a model. Others require you to play a game, write a blog post or take a photo or two.

We won’t be all that strict about things, it’s only meant to be a bit of fun. The definition of a ‘unit’ would depend on the scale of the figures – maybe 6-10 28mm figures, a platoon of 15mm figures or a company of 6mm figures (or vehicles). It should constitute a complete unit for whichever sets of rules they’re intended. An ‘army’ is a complete force for a game of your choice, but it should be a proper army, not just a skirmish force – again, this might be scale dependent (a 15mm Hammer’s Slammers detachment might be an army, but their 6mm equivalent would only be a unit).

Cavalry could be horse mounted (or some other beast – camels, elephants or giant lizards would all qualify), or armoured vehicles – after all, many regiments of horse converted to tank or armoured car units. Likewise, artillery could be towed guns, self-propelled howitzers, ballistae, catapults or even rocket batteries mounted on landing craft! Anything that vaguely fits the bill will qualify – in the event of disputes, you’ll be judged by a jury of your peers (ie we’ll see what the consensus is on the email list).

The rules, such as they are, can be summarised as follows…

– entries should be submitted on WIP Wednesdays, with proof – pictures or it didn’t happen. The ‘read a book’ task would include your brief book report and preferably a photo of the book cover (we’ll work out something for those of us that use Kindles…).
– each entry can only be used for one square – the exception is complete armies which can be made up of previously finished units (although they should contain at least one new unit that hasn’t been used for another square).
– each square is worth 10 points, each complete line 20 points, so a complete card is worth 380 points. If you finish all 20 squares, you can start a second card if you want to. If someone gets as far as a third card we’ll be mightily impressed!

So that’s it – once again, to your brushes, gents!

Click on the image for a larger version

Signs o’ the Times (2)

Tony F gives a further look through his garage archive.

Lager Louts in the 25th Century
This game was a sci-fi bar-room brawl based on a board game (we’re trying to find out what that was – we’re hoping someone still has it) that we’d played at the club quite a bit, especially at Christmas meetings as it was great fun. I built a bar (named The Blazing Shuttle) on a 3×2 board complete with flashing and strobing LED lighting, Phil made some furniture from plasticard and Brian provided the denizens of the bar in the shape of some toy figures – we’re not sure what they were. We even had an audio track – the Star Wars Cantina theme. Nowadays we’d probably try concealing a small bluetooth speaker in the scenery, but this was 1989, so the technology was simply a portable cassette player under the table. It began to get a little wearing by the end of the day…

Given the amount of work we put in, it’s surprising that it only had a single outing – Salute 1989. Sadly there are no photos of the day – it was pre- digital cameras, let alone smartphones. We can’t even recreate any photos now, since the bar ended up in the tip when I moved house 🙁 But it was quite a memorable event. It started with one club member changing from his jeans and T-shirt into a full dinner suit since he had designated himself as the bouncer – no dressing room was provided, so he simply dropped his trousers where he stood! Fortunately we were in one of the upstairs committee rooms at the Kensington Town Hall venue, rather than the main hall, so there weren’t too many witnesses. His wearing of a DJ and bow tie all day launched the club’s tradition of wearing shirts and ties to shows, which lasted for many years.

We shared the room with a bunch of ECW re-enactors from The Sealed Knot, dressed up in their period finery. They had a TV and video recorder which showed films of their events on a loop throughout the day to help with their recruiting. But before and after the show was open they were running Kate Bush videos, which kept everyone entertained (Babooshka was a particular favourite). At the end of the day they insisted that we ran an extra game for them after closing time, so we were late getting away.

Anyway, onto the signs. At the time I worked at GEC Marconi with a fellow programmer who also happened to be a talented cartoonist. I gave him £20 and a selection of my sci-fi art books to come up with a couple of display boards for the game. He did a fantastic job, as you can see; I’ve blown up parts of the logo so you can get a good look at some of the details.

The Price of Neutrality
My final walk down memory lane is another 20mm WW2 game, depicting a what-if scenario that had the Germans attempting to force a landing in Norway in 1940 against concerted British and Norwegian opposition (rather than the unopposed landings which really occurred).

The game ran in 1993 and ’94 at three shows. By this time technology had moved onto colour printers rather than typewriters and letraset – we had a very expensive wax thermal one at work that I used to create some display materials. I came across yet another club name banner and a couple of different ones for the game (although that Union Flag looks a bit suspect). I’m not sure why there is more than one game name, they may have been for different shows.

We also have a two page handout covering the game, and another one about the club from the same period.

Signs o’ the Times (1)

Tony F shares some finds from the past.

I was digging in the garage the other day, ostensibly hunting for an old book (Kenneth Macksey’s First Clash, in case you really wanted to know). Besides dust and cobwebs, I managed to unearth a very old Burton’s plastic bag containing a treasure trove of vintage club display material (but no book – although it turned up elsewhere, you’ll be delighted to hear). These relate to some of our very first show games, dating from the second half of the eighties and early nineties.

The Vire Incident
This was a 54mm World War 2 skirmish game, featuring scratchbuilt terrain and Tamiya figures. It was a collaborative effort between half a dozen members, and saw service at four shows in 1986 and 1987. Secretary Brian arranged for a couple of display boards (painted by a bloke he met in the pub apparently !) with the club (above) and game names. You can click on all the thumbnails in this post for bigger versions.

For its fourth outing we had an extra sign made up – unfortunately I have no memory of where this came from or who made it.

Berlin or Bust
This game was our project for 1988’s shows. Again it was set in WW2, but this time in 20mm. It was a participation game which had members of the public playing an advancing US force against the defending Germans, run by the club. The participants had 45 minutes to get from one end of the table to the other. The format was obviously successful as we revived it a few years later, with Drive to Dunkirk taking the basic scenario and applying it to the French campaign in 1940.

I’ve unearthed a copy of the handout we made for the game (a first, I don’t think we’d had handouts previously). This was carefully written out on a typewriter (no word processors in 1988 !) with wonky letraset headlines.

We had a new club logo, drawn by me (well, it has my initials at the bottom) – hand drawn with letraset type. I also found the original which has big blobs of correction fluid all round the Tiger tank, but they don’t come through on the photocopy fortunately.

The sign for the game was made from letters cut out of red card mounted on art board – this must have taken me a while to do, as I drew out letters by hand.

There was also another display board, similar to the later Vire one – so again, I don’t remember where this came from.

And finally, a sign imploring the public to join in – I think at busier shows we did have a sign-up sheet with timed slots for games.

That’s it for now – part two will cover a sci-fi game that we only ran once, but which had some fabulous display artwork.

Driftin’ Along

Tony F builds a shuttle craft…

Inspired by the imminent arrival of Osprey’s new Stargrave rulebook, Marcus suggested that we have a shuttle scratchbuilding contest (this was several months ago, the book is of course out now). Although the rules are aimed at 28mm figures, this very loose ‘contest’ was for 15mm models.

A while ago I saw a 15mm scale spaceship made from a Nerf rifle on Facebook – it was probably the size of a corvette or small frigate. While I had no desire to make anything that big, the idea still seemed sound for a much smaller vessel made from a pistol or similar. So I picked up an X-Shot branded gun from a supermarket for a fiver … which then sat untouched in its box for over a year. The shuttle building competition seemed like the ideal time to dig it out and make something of it.

I started by dismantling it (it was held together by screws) and removing the trigger, grip and the spring mechanism that propelled the rubber projectiles. This left me with just three pieces – the triple barrel and the two body halves, which I superglued back together. The screw holes were filled with green stuff which I tried to hide as best I could by sculpting in detail to match the surrounding area. The plan was to turn the pistol round so that the gun barrels became the engines and the cockpit would somehow be grafted onto the trigger end. This was all a very vague concept, since I had no idea of the details and what I was going to use to make it all (this make-it-up-as-I-went-along theme ran through the whole build…).

I had to tidy up a couple of bits – I took a razor saw to what would be the nose and removed a protruding bit of plastic, which I covered with a hatch from a Games Workshop vehicle. The hole where the grip came out was boxed in with plasticard with a view to becoming a well for the nose landing gear.

After hunting through my spares box for a suitable aircraft cockpit I came up blank, so in the end I built a simple frame around a curved protrusion which should look like a cockpit when painted up.

Engines were my next issue. Try as I might, in my extensive pile of half-built kits I could not find three identical engines to cover the three muzzles of the original gun. I did find two Mirage-III engines which I used for the lower two. For the upper, central engine I found a rather odd finned one which came from a Japanese spaceship kit. I rationalised the different designs by designating the lower two as the sublight drives, while the upper one is the ship’s FTL or Jump drive.

The final major subassembly that I had to work out was the landing gear – it would have to be robust enough to hold the weight of the ship and stand up to the rigours of gameplay. I’d originally planned to scratchbuild something with skids or feet along the lines of the Millennium Falcon, but during my various delves through my kit pile I came across the landing gear of a 1/48th Rafale which looked like it would work. Having wheels rather than skids also made sense as it would make the shuttle easier to manoeuvre in the tight confines of a carrier bay or hangar. The nose wheel fitted perfectly into the well I’d made earlier – I just superglued it solidly to the back of the well. I drilled holes in the fuselage sides to secure the two larger rear wheel struts and added some extra supports to make them even more secure.

The forward hull had a circular recess on each side – on the left I put the main hatch, originally from a GW Rhino. I gave it some hinges and a grab rail from various kits, and an entry keypad which is the only 3D printed piece on the ship. On the right is the ship’s main armament – when the shuttle was originally built this would have been a second hatch, but now it’s in private service the captain has added a twin heavy cannon mounting, which came from a GW dreadnought. I’ve never played Warhammer 40k, but once upon a time I worked on a video game project for Games Workshop and ended up with number of WH40K sprues in my bits box, which have finally proved to be very handy.

Then I was into full-scale greeblie mode, covering much of the surface of the vessel with all manner of bits and pieces – there are aircraft weapon pylons, bits of superstructure from 1/1200th battleships, a metal radome, some windows and shutters from model railway buildings, helicopter rocket pods and many other unidentifiable bits. There’s also a small defensive gun turret under the main hatch. The engine body got lots of pipes and valves made from plastic rod and strip, and a couple of lengths of old bass guitar strings.

Eventually I called a halt and declared the build finished, and moved onto painting. The overall colour scheme reversed the original colours of the plastic gun, with the main body in white and the nose in orange, and the engines bare metal. I sprayed it overall with Halfords’ white car primer and then washed it with light grey acrylic paint thinned with Johnson’s floor polish (I had planned to use Citadel Apothecary White contrast paint but I’d run out and had to improvise…). This was then heavily drybrushed with pure white with some edge highlights thrown in. The nose was painted with Gryph Hound Orange (another contrast paint) and drybrushed up, and then the engines painted with Citadel Leadbelcher before washing black and drybrushing silver. Contrast paints can be a bit patchy on large flat areas, which just what I was after – this is meant to be an well used, battered vessel that has seen plenty of use.

I painted the gun housing in dark blue-grey, along with the numbers etched into the sides of the fuselage, the cockpit glass in a variety of blues to give a graduated shade and the undercarriage in silver. I then picked out lots of details in different spot colours – a red and white striped probe, yellow emergency gas tanks, grey sensors, a green radome and orange and blue dorsal fins. I even had a go at a rainbow-like heat distortion effect on the engine using washes.

Finally I raided my collection of decals to finish things off – a mixed selection of aircraft markings and GW Tau symbols.

So that’s it – the Empyrean Drifter takes to the spacelanes. Of course it needs a crew, which I’m currently pulling together from various sources. And I’ve now started to think that they need a base to operate the Drifter from, which is a whole new rabbit hole…

Renedra Ramshackle Barn

I bought one of these kits unintentionally recently. Unintentionally? Well, I was buying some other bits from Mighty Lancer Games and wanted to get over the threshold for free postage. This seemed a very useful building to add to my Lord of the Rings scenery collection along with the Games Workshop Rohan Houses already in my shopping basket.

The kit is about as simple as you can get; there are three sprues, two identical ones each with a roof half and sidewall for the main barn and a reversible end wall for the small lean-to, and another with two different end walls for the main barn with different doors, plus the single sidewall and roof of the lean-to. So there are just six pieces for the building and four for the lean-to. The two roof sprues also have some accessories in the form of a pitchfork, cartwheel and ladder, making a grand total of sixteen parts.

Doors and windows are all integral – the sidewalls each have a window, but one can be covered by the lean-to. There are no optional pieces, so the only decisions you need to make are exactly where the lean-to goes and which end to put the doors.

So assembly should have been a doddle, but for some reason I couldn’t get the pieces to stick together with superglue. Initially I thought it might be the cheap poundshop glue, but switching to Loctite didn’t help either. So in the end I reverted to Humbrol Liquid Poly – this stuck everything together safely, I’m not sure why superglue didn’t work – it might just have been a bad day.

Once assembled, I sprayed the barn with Army Painter Leather Brown, and when dry stuck it to a base cut from 5mm Foamex. A mistake I made here was not painting the base first; the barn lives up to the Ramshackle part of its name and has a number of holes in the walls, through which the white base was clearly visible. I spent a while poking an old brush loaded with dark brown paint through the holes to cover up the white bits…

I also added some of the accessory pieces plus a barrel taken from a GW kit to the base.

Painting was straightforward – I gave it an overall wash of Agrax Earthshade, then gave it several drybrushes of increasingly lighter browns. The only other painting needed was to pick out the ropes hanging from the doors, and the hinges in rusty steel.

I smeared a home-made mix of PVA, sand and brown emulsion paint over the base and once that had dried, drybrushed it with mid-brown and bone. I finished the barn off with some Woodland Scenics bushes and some long fibre flock (manufacturer unknown, it came from eBay).

With Mighty Lancer’s already very good prices, plus a discount voucher they sent with a previous order and the free postage it worked out to be a bargain. But having built one I’d say this was a very good item even at full price.

Painting 6mm Armour using Contrast Paints

The latest innovation in hobby paints has been Citadel’s new Contrast Paints. These are fairly dilute acrylic paints, like a thick wash in consistency but with more pigment than a wash. The idea is to speed up the painting of armies by getting your shading and highlighting in one coat. Having tried them out I’ve been impressed so far, although they do need to be used on areas of heavy detail – they don’t really work on large flat areas when they can result in a very patchy finish.

I thought I’d give them a try on some 6mm AFVs to see how they worked and if they did speed things up. I’m using some Brigade Models 6mm Hammer’s Slammers vehicles to try them out on – nine Prosperity National Army tanks and APCs. These have plenty of surface detail so should be ideal.

All of the models were cleaned up, assembled and then given a good solid base coat of Halfords white car primer.

Stage 1 – Base Colour

The first colour I used was an overall coat of Agaros Dunes (desert sand, essentially). With the Contrast paints you need to take care that the paint goes into all of the nooks, crannies and panel lines – if not, when it dries you can be left with unsightly white spots. So make sure you brush along the direction of the panel lines, not across them. Try not to let the paint pool too much in one place either.

Stage 2 – Camouflage Coat

When dry, I followed this up with a camouflage coat of Militarum Green in irregular stripes across the hull, 3-4 stripes per vehicle. This needs to be reasonably thick, too thin and the colour doesn’t stand out enough.

Stage 3 – Tracks

I then used Gore-Grunta Fur (an orangey-brown) on the tracks – I painted one track on each vehicle, then went back and did the second track – it just gives the first one a chance to dry a bit and reduces the chance of finger smudges.

Stage 4 – Weapons

The only other painting on these models was to pick out some of the guns in silver, followed by a Nuln Oil (black) wash.

And that’s it – battle ready 6mm vehicles using just five paints (plus primer and varnish). I did consider giving them an overall drybrush of a pale stone colour (Citadel Terminatus Stone would be ideal) but they really are fine as they are. Excluding drying time, these took less than an hour so it’s a great way to paint large forces quickly.

Treasure Islands

John Lambert goes in search of treasure in the South China Seas.

Emperor Ming has sent his treasure fleet south laden with tea, ceramics, gold and fine silks. Bound for India, it is beset by a massive typhoon in the South China Seas close to Borneo. The resultant Tsunami, sweeps the fleets on to treacherous shores of an archipelago, the ships are crushed like matchwood. Ming orders Admiral Feng Shui to recover Gold treasure from the once mighty Treasure Ship the ‘Shandong Trader’. En route, Feng Shui enlists a local Proa to help with navigation and the search. As they approach the islands, Feng Shui is disturbed to find they have company. The black sails of Pirate Queen Li Chee in the ‘Sea Scorpion’, accompanied by a small pirate junk have been shadowing him for days and now it was a race against time.

In the first turn, both sides locate treasure on two of the islands. All this commotion triggered the ire of Head hunters in dugout canoes, which headed for the nearest vessel, the Proa.

(In the scenario, a roll of 5, 6 means treasure is successfully located. Headhunters are normally discovered on a search roll of 1. I added this extra element selecting the island of deployment randomly then location for deployment determined by a D10).

At the end of the first turn, the Headhunters are closing in on the Proa and the Imperial treasure. Li Chee prepares a cunning move seeking to stern rake the Imperial Flagship, whilst the second pirate junk will head for the bottom island.

In the morning light, Li Chee in a more manoeuvrable junk prepares a devastating Stern Rake.

The stern rake is not devastating!

(The white dice show the combat modifiers applied to the base combat factors. The red dice are the combat rolls. Li Chee needed to double Feng Shui or roll an even number on the red dice to cause damage).

This shows the Headhunters in hot pursuit of the Proa whilst the Pirate junk prepares to search the lower Island.

A Change in wind direction allows Feng Shui to close in on the pirate junk and fire.

(There were not enough activation dice to fire a broadside and the reinforced junk hull has prevented a doubling. The danger was not heeded!).

The Headhunters attempt to board the Proa and fail!

(The Proa has a combat value of 0 but it’s a 6:1 combat roll!)

A fatal error. Instead of sailing off the edge of the board and safety, the pirate junk is exposed to a stern rake which this time is devastating. Meanwhile, the tenacious Headhunters manage to board the Proa.

(The Junk is tripled. 3 damage [red dice for Feng Shui not shown] and a roll on the critical hit table [3, 3] means it begins to sink. The Proa takes one damage but is not captured by the Headhunters [another lucky 6!]).

The Proa decides to head off table and safety, the crazed Headhunters attack Feng Shui’s flagship to no avail, it’s just too powerful a target to attempt.

As a tropical squall closes in, Li Chee heads off to nurse a bruised ego, vowing revenge whilst Feng Shui has recovered some treasure. Will Feng Shui get that promotion He is after or will Li Chee get her revenge, stay tuned to the next instalment of ‘On Farthest Tides’.

(I’d played this scenario several times, each time giving a different result. The activation method and variation in wind direction during the game really make for exciting and unpredictable battles. The rules play smoothly and suit solo play well.)

The Aftermath

Tony F tells the tale of a game that not even Phil could lose … or could he? Photos by Tony and Andy.

As the club is still unable to meet formally, a few of us met for some outdoor gaming in Phil’s back garden to throw a few dice for the first time since lockdown began. The chosen game was Games Workshop’s Middle Earth rules, The scenario, suggested by our host (and provider of tea and ice-creams), took place between the assault on Minas Tirith and the Battle of the Black Gate.

The Battle of Pelennor Fields is over; the armies of Mordor have been vanquished, defeated by the combined intervention of the Grey Company and the Rohirrim, and finally by the death of the Witch King. In the aftermath, the remnants of the Dark Lord’s forces were pursued from the scene by the combined armies of Men; Gondor, Rohan and the various fiefdoms of Dol Amroth, Lossarnach, Llamedon and others.

View from the western edge.

In our scenario, 500 points of Mordor forces (orcs, Uruks and a troll) are retreating through a small hamlet (in the book, the Pelennor is a fertile area of fields and farms, not the barren plain seen in the films). An equal size force from Dol Amroth are in hot pursuit and have begun to encircle the fleeing orcs. The orcs set up 1/3rd of the way from the Western edge, while the Dol Amroth forces deployed into three separate groups; a group of Knights led by Prince Imrahil on the northern edge, a group of Warriors and Men at Arms on foot on the southern edge and a small group of archers provided harassing fire from the west. The evil forces, being greater in number than the Dol Amroth troops, were split into three forces led by Andy (mostly a covering force of archers), Stephen (Uruk Hai and the troll) and Phil (Mordor orcs). Jeremey handled the Dol Amroth warriors, while Tony took the small group of archers and the knights (“you’ve played this before, you should know what to do with them…”). The Mordor forces were required to get 1/3rd of their troops off the table.

The battle naturally split into three combats; the covering force of orc archers spent much of the game exchanging remarkably ineffective bow fire with their Dol Amroth counterparts who slowly advanced on their barricade.

Jeremey’s main force of Dol Amroth warriors closed on Andy’s Mordor orcs in a small fenced-off area, and between them they spent most of the game performing what became known as the ‘Pelennor Two-Step’, inching forwards and backwards for most of the game.

In the centre, Stephen’s crack Uruk Hai seemed to be the ones selected to lead the retreat. They were engaged by a smaller group of warriors including some foot knights, which slowed their progress somewhat.

Andy offered to give some fire support – in the GW Middle Earth rules, only evil figures are permitted to fire into combats (the good side won’t risk hitting their own figures). Andy checked with his fellow orc that this was OK, but it seems that Stephen didn’t read the small print and realise that there was a chance that he could be hit! One dead Uruk later, it was decided that the experiment was was not to be repeated.

In the meantime, the formation dance teams carried on their pas des deux on the southern flank, with much two-ing and fro-ing and “After you, Claude”. It involved lots of jockeying for position with supporting spears and pikes in the second rank, much bluff and bluster and very little blood.

The archers slowly kept up their advance, pushing forward in bounds with three moving and three firing (until one got shot, then the numbers went all to pot).

The Knights meanwhile had sped down the northern flank, hoping to cut off the Uruks as they headed for the table edge – and it worked. Although the orcs tried to disperse, the Knights hit them hard – and with foot figures charged by cavalry being automatically knocked over, even those who survived an attack were delayed by a further turn as they got to their feet again.

Although the troll took a toll of several knights, the Prince himself took a hand and, with the aid of the horn blower (who led a charmed life), made sure that not enough orcs reached safety. By this time the dance had broken up, and the Dol Amroth archers reached their Mordor counterparts and their heavier armour proved decisive.

Phil’s evil minions don’t have a great record in our Middle Earth games. But this one involved retreating, so he should be good at that. But after five hours of hard fought combat, he still found himself on the wrong end of the stick…

Delving Deepest

Andy’s beard can now be tucked into his belt…

The last of the Dwarf collection are now complete including some odds and ends that won’t make up full Dragon Rampant units.

Originally there were 9 more Archers, but I picked up 3 more from e-bay to round out the Dragon Rampant unit to 12. There were also 6 Warriors with double handed axes, and 17 Rangers; 4 with longbow, 5 with throwing axes and 8 with double handed axes.

The figures were based up in the same way as previous batches. The archers were painted in various shades of red, with boots, leather armour and belts various shades of brown. The axemen were the same, except the tunics were various shades of blue. Armour was painted Gunmetal Grey and washed with AP Dark tone wash.

And the final 3 “E-bay” archers.

Ranger’s tunics were various shades of grey, green and brown; armour in brown and cloaks were painted in greens or greys.

Both Warriors and Rangers skin had a base coat of Brown Sand followed by Medium Flesh Tone and a coat of Flesh Wash. Hair had Soft or Dark tone washes. Bases were then flocked, and the figures varnished with a matt spray varnish.

So, that’s the Dwarves finished. 148 figures, making a 90 point Dragon Rampant army, or around 1800 points in LOTR Strategy Battle Game.

The Attack Drone at Zamatkya

John Lambert enters the Forbidden zone in this solo Zona Alfa battle report

It was getting tough in Sector 27. The Federation had replaced unreliable Mercenary patrol Vigilantes with mechanised robots who didn’t need paying and in a sinister development areas of the zone were now patrolled by Kamov attack drones – pickings were slim, it kept Big Ilya awake at night. Rumours spread through his base that one of the drones had crash landed close to Zamatkya village. Ilya called up Cziscova ‘Czisco’. She had worked on development at Kamov and He thought if He could get hold of the flight control software, the drones could be jammed. Maybe the happy times would return.

Kovacs sat in the bar opposite Big Ilya and ‘Czisco’, He’d been bought a shot of Bison Grass vodka, things looked bad.

‘I need you to get a Software copy’ whispered Big Ilya, take ‘Czisco’. Nobody had said ‘No’ to an ex Cage Fighter.

Kovacs was a seasoned Zone veteran – act first, question later. His tactics were simple, eliminate the hostiles first, then scavenge and he had an ace scavenger, Ali – the thief of Baghdad. Little more than a kid, He’d survived by scavenging through the rubble before the shutters came down for good. Then there was Anasova ‘ice Queen’ the silent one, a deadly sniper from Riga, ever reliable. At the bar, He’d been taken by Czisco’s long legs and spray on denim but she never stopped prattling on, it was like a never ending hangover from cheap vodka.

They had arrived at the village in good time 35 minutes to act before a patrol drone returned, a weak sun failed to penetrate the greyness. Quickly, they identified their objective – the damaged drone in the centre but what was this? Howling mutant hounds from Hell with their sadistic Hound master Pavlov could be heard coming from a building to the west of the drone. They were guarding a hotspot. The crew would have to creep around an intervening hotspot to eliminate them. ‘Damn’ muttered Kovacs ‘This will slow us down’

Zamatkya village, with attack drone in centre and zone hostile hounds to the west
Ali moved into position and eliminated two hounds in good time

Then disaster! Both Czisco’s and Ice Queens guns jammed. There was only one thing for it. Kovacs lobbed a smoke grenade at hounds. He just didn’t want one of the crew mauled so early into the mission. He checked his watch 5 minutes gone, things weren’t going to plan and would get worse

That should stop an attack but attempts to destroy the remaining hounds were ineffective so the crew got into position for the smoke to clear. Ten minutes gone. As the smoke cleared Kovacs killed one hound before his gun jammed. Ice Queen’s gun jammed for a second time before Czisco despatched the other dogs – perhaps He’d been wrong about her all along mused Kovacs. This allowed Ali to search the building – 1250 salvage value and two red dot sights.

Fifteen minutes gone, time to head for the objective Ali tosses a bolt revealing two dangerous luminous venomous insect swarms.

Again Ice Queen’s gun jams. Ali destroys one of the swarms and then his gun jams also!

‘What the …’ snarled Kovacs, this was more than coincidence, running across open ground he blasted the remaining swarm as He and Czisco made it to the drone.

Twenty minutes gone, it was cutting it fine as it would take more than five minutes to remove the access panel, download the software then replace the panel. As the panel is removed, Kovacs orders Ali and Ice Queen to search the closest hotspot. Not ideal as Czisco’s Laptop crashes and they’ll have to spend longer at the drone!

Meanwhile Ali throws a bolt at the hotspot which reveals a mutant – looks like He’d taken a heavy dose of radiation when searching an anomaly.

Ice Queen took aim and this time the mutant was despatched instantly – phew! Ali searched the area diligently but only came away with 350 worth of salvage.

With thirty minutes approaching there was no time to search any other hotspots and it was time to get out before the patrol drone turned up. Whilst the objective had been achieved, Kovacs was no nearer to retiring to that Black Sea Dacha. He thought the ammo He’d recently bought had caused the jams. Time to visit the Dealer and ask Him if He feels lucky.