Down to the Wire – Zona Alpha Battle Report

John presents us with another Zona Alpha battle report.

A Zona Alfa Solo play battle report, a continuation from The Hostage in bunker c7.
It had all been too good to be true. With half a kilometre travelled the BPM 97 coughed and spluttered it’s last and came to a grinding halt.
‘Where are we?’ Kovacs asked. ‘Strelets’ replied Leila, ‘The fence is just beyond the village’. He picked up a cluster of hotspots in the village and with the zombies in pursuit He needed to think fast.
‘Ice Queen, booby trap the doors, they’ll smell our sweat first’. Cover us whilst we check out the village.’ ‘Leila, grab the wire cutters and stock up on grenades everyone’.
Kovacs headed out first followed by Leila. They’d reached the outskirts of the village as the zombies arrived. Sure enough they triggered the Booby trap and the doors were well and truly blown off.

Four of the zombies are caught in the blast zone. With an ‘armour’ of 6 minus 2 for the grenade blast, they need 4 or less to survive. Two down!

Ice Queen takes aim at the zombies.

Ice Queen aims 3 shots at the zombies but only hits one (needing 7 or less).The Zombie is downed. She has no further actions fortunately, the zombies have activated twice this turn.

Whilst she could, Ice Queen ran around the building to Kovacs and Leila. ‘This will slow us down’ muttered Kovacs as Leila attempted to take out the zombies unsuccessfully. Kovacs lobbed a well aimed grenade in their direction and all three fell dead.

All three zombies are caught in the blast zone and all fail their armour save rolls, needing 4 or less

Picking their way through the village, it was clear that other hotspots would be triggered. ‘Better choose ourselves’ said Kovacs as he tossed a bolt at the building in front triggering the hot spot
‘Holy Cow! Four mechs’ groaned Kovacs.

Between Kovacs and Ice Queen, two mechs are destroyed.

‘Drat!’ shouted Kovacs as one of the mechs aimed at him. Luckily it missed, the second mech fired and wounded Ice Queen before it too was downed.
Having disposed of the Mechs and administering a med pack to Ice Queen, Kovacs weaved between the village buildings and clambered onto some farm machinery to get a clear throw for a bolt toss to trigger the hot spot near the fence. It was then that Kovacs noticed the sensors.

A good throw triggered the hot spot, revealing a huge Man eating plant

‘What the …’ ‘Ice Queen, here now!’ shouted Kovacs.

A skilful shot from the sniper rifle takes out the mutant who rolled a 10 needing a 3 or less to survive

‘Leila, run to the fence and cut a hole in the wire – don’t worry about the alarm’ ordered Kovacs. Without a fumble, the bolt cutters easily made a hole in the fence as the alarm started, waking up some Ghouls – tortured irradiated souls who had escaped from the Sanatorium.

Kovacs opens up first and between him and Ice Queen, the ghouls are eliminated

As Kovacs makes a run for the fence, the mayhem roused a group of zombies near the bath house.

Ice Queen was stranded, deserted by her comrades. With the alarms going, there was only one course of action to survive. Her Sniper rifle weighed too much, she had to ditch it to stand a chance and run for the wire before the zombies got to her. At the wire, Kovacs handed her a bottle of Electric Juice . ‘Here take this’. ‘Now run for that Sewage drain to the left’. They made it into the cold damp darkness of the sewage pipe before the first drone came over. ‘You owe me’ howled Ice Queen.
Some people say you can never get rid of the smell.

 

An urban battle mat, for less than £10!

Society member John describes how he made a Zona Alfa battle mat. This was written up after the mat had been made, so there aren’t many WIP shots.

I wanted a battle mat for Zona Alfa so decided to make my own following the Sea mat I made for Galleys and Galleons using the same techniques. Here’s what I used:-

As much weed control fabric for as many mats as I’m ever likely to use for £3.99 from Poundstretcher. 4 x decorators caulk from Wickes £4.00. The Wickes caulk appears to be the best. I’ve found lumps of dried caulk within the tube in other brands

Construction

The fabric appears to be polythene with paper fibre bonded to it in a small waffle pattern. If possible I wanted this to show through in on the finished mat so decided to start on the reverse of the mat with a thin layer over all of it, using a caulking gun without nozzle fitted to the caulk tube.

Firstly, I taped the material down to hardboard with masking tape, smoothing out any creases, before applying the first coat. I applied a thin layer of the caulk and smoothed with a trowel. Here I hit upon a snag. Some of the mastic seeped through the fabric and bonded to the hardboard I was using, I ended with a number of tears which were easily patched with packing tape – they would be covered with caulk later. I’ve tried using greaseproof paper under the fabric when applying the first layer and this seems to prevent the problem.

When the first layer was dried, I flipped the mat over and applied a thin coat on the second side. When this had dried, I decided which surface was going to be the playing area and applied a second coat to the reverse side. After this dried, I checked any areas with packing tape patching showing and gave these another coat of mastic, I dabbed the surface with a sponge to provide some texture.

Finishing

When fully dry, I cut the mat to shape (3 foot square) with a Stanley knife and straight edge and painted the playing area with grey match pots, blending the colours in. Now it was time to get creative with washes to get some variation in the colours. I used burnt umber and black acrylic tube paint. I started by applying blobs of paint on the mat and taking a jar of water, diluted the paint outwards. You can see that here.

I always use fairy liquid in the water when using acrylic paints to break surface tension. This created bubbles on the mat. See detail near base of photo.

I then placed cans under the mat to let the washes flow across the mat. You can see this near the top corner of this photo. Accidently, I spilt drips of wash on the mat and decided to leave them, see below.

When the mat was fully dried, I then dry brushed any raised detail with pale grey and then white acrylic, before applying some light green wash to indicate moss or alga growth.

The finished mat ready for use.

Storage and Transport.

For the two mats I’ve made, I store them in the garage on top of other items, I haven’t tried storing them rolled up and I wouldn’t stack mats on top of each other (I had a problem with two pieces of marsh terrain I made which permanently bonded together when stacked). Any creases disappear if the mat is rolled and unrolled. From the above photo you can see it unrolls flat.

Further Ideas

I’m thinking of making some 2 x 2ft mats for Perilous tales – a desert area, a swamp, desolate moorland as the techniques are quite versatile.

Every Cloud …

Jeremey gets plastered (it had to be done, AK)…

Sometimes I do worry about us miniature wargamers. Faced with the challenges of everyday life, their outlook can be slightly different to the non-hobbyist.

Recently there was a crashing sound and on investigation the utility room ceiling was no more. There were plaster board fragments everywhere. Dealing with reality first I cleaned the area up and started looking for someone to repair the damage.

Remains of the Ceiling and Collected Detritus

Not the sort of expense I wanted (but quite fitting given how 2020 was), however during the clean up operation I kept picking up bits of rubble and thinking how the chunks of plaster reminded me of concrete.

Proof of Concept

Before you could say “how much!” to the plasterer, I’d put together a proof of concept to turn the plaster fragments, into rubble for my 28mm troopers to fight over.

But I paused at this point when someone pointed out that old plasterboard could contain Asbestos! Well regardless of using the plasterboard for scenery I still had to tidy up my utility room. So I sent a sample off to be tested which came back as negative. So please do be cautious if you’re thinking of doing a similar project as this.

The plaster board rubble was very weak and dusty so I used a genuine DIY tip and painted the plaster with a watered down PVA glue solution to seal it. This made the plaster more like concrete and stopped it from crumbling while being handled.

Glue Gun to Stick it Together then more PVA

A lot of the rubble still had all the layers attached to it which I left in place to make it even more authentic looking. In the pictures I’ve done nothing but glue the pieces together and coated everything in a second layer of PVA glue.

These pieces have become very solid and are still very light, as light as resin would be. As you can imagine I have quite a lot of material to work with and so will be returning to the blog with an update on building an entire destroyed settlement.

Petrified Forest

Jeremey adds more ‘real’ trees to make a Petrified Forest.

After building my large spooky dead tree , well I say building but it was more like nature built it and I just based it. I also took a dozen or so other cuttings from the dead bush to use as trees in a Dead or Petrified Forest.

Additional dead branches to act as trees

I started by basing these in exactly the same way as the large tree I did. A round wooden base appropriate to the size of the stick with a metal washer stuck on top to provide some weight. I’ve started to add weight to a lot of my terrain projects. It helps to stop taller pieces from being constantly knocked over during games.

Using the hot glue gun I then stuck a piece of the dead bush to each base and covered the whole base with the coloured bathroom sealant mix. If you saw my other post about the large tree you will remember I mixed far too much of the sealant, so it was useful to have these additional trees to base.

Just a bit of dry brushing and some flock

Once the base material had dried I dry brushed it with two other lighter brown colours to give some contrast. While I had the paint brushes out I also used a watered down solution of brown ink wash to go over all the freshly snapped of parts to make the wood look like it had been broken for a long while. The appearance of fresh sap wood is a dead give away, just ask any experienced tracker … ahem I then added a bit of flock and a few grass tuffs for good measure.

The cheapest dead forest you will see this year

Here is a wider shot of the whole forest complete with a unit on patrol. I’ve put them on my lighter desert mat but they go just as well on the grass one and I have some darker brown mat pieces to put the trees on to define an area of forest in games. Although I will also put these on my swamp mat as they look just the part for those areas you see in fantasy films were rising water as killed the trees, sort of the forest of doom or swamp of despair.

Work in Progress Wednesday

It was troopers and gaming aids for this Wednesday.

Steve finally managed to get around to rebasing some troopers, as Steve himself says “A while ago I decided to strip and re-paint some EM4 plastic colonial marines. I also cut away the old guns and bought some replacements.

EM4 Plastic Troopers with Weapon Swaps

John L has also been painting troopers in the form of a group of Spetsnaz he actually won in a Zona Alfa competition.

Footsore America Spetsnaz

And finally this week Tony F has created for himself some stat trackers for Lord of the Rings.

Lord of the Rings Stat Trackers

Tony explains these far better than I could: “I’ve made some gaming aids for Lord of the Rings games; these are stats trackers to record the special abilities of heroes and commanders using small D6. The original was 3D printed and then I’ve made moulds and cast them up in resin. The lettering and army badges are raised to make them easy to paint. I’ve painted some in appropriate colours for each army, and I’ve painted the ‘W’ for Wounds in red to differentiate it from the ‘W’ for Will (the other stats are Might and Fate).”

It will be interesting to see how these work. Tony is still looking at how to add the heroes name to the tracker.

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.

Birch Forest

John Lambert gets green fingers.

I’d missed out on the bargain miniature Christmas trees from The Works but needed some trees for Zona Alfa. I thought about birch trees, this is how I made them.

Wire Armature
I used wire armatures for the trees and found a tutorial on the Marklin model railway site. I had some thin wire from B & Q Garden section and start by cutting two pieces about 45cm long and folded them in two. I placed the handle of a wooden spoon in the bends and gripping the 4 strands of wire in pliers, rotated the handle to twist the wire. I continued twisting until I wanted to inset a branch. These were made by taking a piece of wire about 20 cm in length which I bent half way. Taking one of the 4 strand of wire, I twist this around one half of the new piece of wire, the second half of the added wire now becomes a strand for the trunk, then continued twisting the trunk until I was ready to insert another branch. I then went back to twist the two wires for the branch until it was long enough, leaving lengths of wire at the end of the branch. The tree canopy will be attached to these. I then continued up the trunk, dropping the number of trunk wires or splitting the trunk into two near the top. The loops at the foot of the trunk are folded out and glued to a base.

The next stage was to get rid of the twisted wire appearance and add some body to the lower section of the trunk. I used Decorator’s acrylic caulk for this, using a wet modelling knife to smooth the caulk and provide texture. I didn’t add caulk to the free ends of the branch. Once the caulk was dry, I painted the trunk pale stone colour, applied a thin pale green wash then dry brushed white. I painted the ends of the branches black. I had a look at our local birch trees, the branches lose thickness abruptly then a mesh of fine branches drop down almost vertically.
I had a pack of black scourers also from B & Q and by gently ripping the scourer, I could get a very thin mesh which I would superglue to the black branch ends

This mesh is pretty robust and ideal to provide the canopy. For foliage, I had some small clump foliage which was just the job. Once the canopy pieces were glued to the branch ends, it was time to add the foliage. I dry brushed the canopy with PVA and sprinkled the canopy with the clump foliage, leaving to dry overnight. The next day, I gently brushed off any loose foliage and the tree was complete, once sprayed with matt sealant.

Tree on left is painted Armature ready for canopy mesh, Tree on right has partial canopy applied. Tree in centre is finished tree.
If you look a photos of Birch forest, the trees are often grouped closely together in stands, I think due to a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. I decided to create stands that would conveniently fit into a storage box. These could be grouped together as dense clumps, or spread out to form a birch forest. I used the same technique as the trees above.

Nimzo’s Crew

John Lambert goes into the Zone.

I had a good look around for a suitable crew for Zona Alfa and chose figures from Empress Miniatures. I wanted a good mix and chose one pack from their Chechen range and one from their insurgents range, I also bought a set of heads with gas masks to covert a couple of figures. I was really impressed with the casting quality and they were a joy to paint. I used mainly hobby shop acrylics and of course, the figures needed to be named.

I really liked the RPG figure with tank crew hat – I think my favourite. The next three I painted in Urban winter style camouflage and did a head swap on Kovacs, the piping on the track suit bottoms I added with a fineliner brush.

(l/r Blokin, Zeitsev, Nimzovitch (Nimzo), Sashlik)

The second set I painted a forest digitised camouflage adding extra dots of paint with a cocktail stick.

You need a sniper called Zeitsev – the Stalingrad hero!. Stay tuned to Radio Pripyat for the next instalment.

BPM 97 Scratchbuild

John Lambert shares his latest Zona Alfa projekt.

I’d bought into Zona Alfa intrigued by the period, the campaign system and the terrain building potential. One of the mission objectives in the rulebook scenarios involves a broken down APC. I wasn’t going to splash out £20.00 for a resin cast model so what could I do instead?. Scanning the ASDA shelves for Gaslands stuff I came across this for £3.00.

Could I use the bits from this as a basis for a model ?

I’d remembered that this brand was secured by screws and not rivets so opening it up took a matter of minutes. I was left with a cab, fuel tank, wheels and chassis. I could use the fuel tank, cab and upper chassis as extra terrain pieces later. What about the lower chassis and wheels?

I’d got this plan off the internet and hoped it would work

The wheels were the right diameter but the wheelbase was 1cm too long so I’d have to cut the chassis and join the pieces with 2 x 30 thou plastic card – my go to modelling material for 45 years!. The track was a bit wide 2mm but I could live with that. I’d sketched out templates for the sides and front of the body, cut them out from 20 thou plastic card and quickly had the basis of the bodywork, which warped overnight!.
I decided to build the front wheel arches from strips of 30 thou card to provide better rigidity and to ensure a square structure. Referring to internet photos I found the bonnet top would be quite complex to make. I used 2 pieces of 60 thou plastic card and sanded this down with wet and dry to get the right profile.
On to the detailing, I decided to be systematic. First I added access doors to the rear and roof hatches from 20 thou plastic card then side access doors from 10 thou plastic card. Cupolas above the driving positions were from 40 thou plasticard. Hinges were from plastic micro rod and I made catches from microstrip and micro rod in long sections that I could then cut to size. These WIP shots show the detailing in progress – there’s more than I thought when starting this project!

I painted the body in dark green, dry brushing with lighter green and using a section from the packaging for the windows. The chassis I painted black and dry brushed grey and light brown before fixing to the bodywork.

Overall I was pleased with the results – a good project for isolation. More episodes to follow!

Gaslands Geezers

Andy gets out of his car and walks.

Many, many, many years ago I bought some Platoon 20 armed civilians and SAS style figures. I can’t now remember what I bought them for, and they’ve been a small part of my metal mountain for a very long time. This range has changed hands a few times, but are now available from East Riding Miniatures. You can find the armed civilians here, and the SAS here.

Last year I got into Gaslands, and thought these might be useful as vehicle crew or aggressive bystanders.

I based them on 1p coins, built up the bases with 4Ground base render and undercoated them black. Paints are mostly Vallejo, with Army Painter washes. All bases were painted Grey Black and bare skin Medium Flesh.

First up are three ne’er-do-wells (top) in boiler suits and stocking masks (hence the ill-defined faces) a woman armed with a pistol, and two chaps one with a sawn-off shotgun and the other with an Uzi (or similar). The masks and hands were painted Brown Sand, the boiler suits Dark Prussian Blue or German Field Grey and boots black. Guns were, surprisingly, Gunmetal.

Next are a woman and a couple of men with handguns. These guy on the left has a German Cam. Med Brown jacket, grey T shirt and black trousers. The woman in the middle has a Grey Jacket and Dark Prussian Blue trousers. These guy on the right has a German Camouflage Black Brown jacket, white shirt and Army Painter Crystal Blue trousers washed with Blue Tone wash.

Another three figures, the guy on the left has a M3 “Grease Gun” SMG, and maybe a Flak Jacket. The trousers were Army Painter Crystal Blue with a Blue wash, shirt white and the flak jacket Brown Violet (which is green, go figure!). The guy in the centre just has a hand gun. His shirt is pale sand, trousers London Grey and jacket German Camouflage Black Brown.
The guy on the right is not from Platoon 20, I suspect he may be some sort of Sci-Fi figure of unknown manufacture, but I’ll treat him as (mostly) human and armed with a pump action shotgun. He has German Cam. Med Brown overalls with a dark tone wash.

Finally, the two SAS figures. I went with a camouflage pattern here, German field Grey base, with Flat Green, Mahogany Brown and Chocolate Brown patches. The Helmet and Flak Jackets were painted Brown Violet and the gas mask case German Camouflage Beige.