Cowabunga, Dude!

I first discovered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was a freshman in high school. It was 1986, a pretty amazing year for comics as a whole. That year would see the publication of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, two pivotal and iconic stories that would rock the foundations of the comics industry and change comic books forever.

Up until then I only collected Marvel titles, and all of those were in color. Black and white comics, i.e. small press titles,  were unknown to me. Then my friend introduced me to TMNT #7, and I was immediately hooked. I hunted down as many back issues as I could find. They were surprisingly scarce and first printings of the first 3 issues were well above anything I could afford even if I could find copies. I managed to get everything from issue 4 and up, but even to this day I do not own copies of the first three issues. Instead I had to content myself with the First Comics graphic novel, which reprinted all three issues in color. (Prior to this reprint, the only TMNT color material was in a Munden’s Bar story in Grimjack #26. I bought that for the turtles, and ended up becoming a much bigger fan of Grimjack than of TMNT!)

The original turtles, by which I mean the version as presented in the comics prior to the first (1987) animated television series and the (1990) live-action movie (featuring the great Corey Feldman as Donatello), were a bit different than what we know today. The comic, although a parody of Daredevil (among others), was kind of dark. It managed to take itself somewhat seriously even in the midst of its absurd premise. For example: the turtles killed people. Lots of people. Ninja henchmen, mostly, but still people (I guess). When Leonardo slashed with his swords, someone bled. Obviously, this kind of thing didn’t make it into the cartoon, which was unsurprisingly targeted towards children. Also (as we knew from their early colorized appearances) the original turtles all wore red bandannas. The only way to visually distinguish which turtle was which was by the weapons they carried. Among other changes, the cartoon toned the turtles down, outfitted them in different colors, created a catchphrase (“Cowabunga!”) and inexplicably made them go crazy for pizza.

TMNT’s success spawned many imitators and started a “funny animal” comic craze, giving rise to the likes of such mercifully-forgotten titles as Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, Geriatric Gangrene Jiu-Jitsu Gerbils, and the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters.  None of these were any good. All of them were pretty blatant ripoffs. Nonetheless, the Hamsters seemed to enjoy the most success as a poor-man’s Band-Aid in between the irregular TMNT publishing schedule.

My friends and I got so hooked on TMNT that we played many hours of the Palladium RPG: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness (see above). This, in turn led us to Heroes Unlimited and later, briefly, RIFTS, before we abandoned the Palladium system altogether in favor of other games.

Before we did this, though, I managed to get my hands on these TMNT miniatures, released in very limited numbers from Dark Horse (yes, THAT Dark Horse). These figures go for a pretty penny nowadays, especially the other releases in the line (like the Mousers). I remember I bought this pack on Martha’s Vineyard on a day trip. Retail space isn’t cheap on the Vineyard, so who would have thought that Martha’s Vineyard would have had a comic shop, never mind one that sold miniatures, too? (Aside: even though I live on the South Coast of Massachusetts, I haven’t been back to the Vineyard since I bought these, mainly because I hate boats.) They’re supposedly 25mm scale, but they’re more like 15mm. Between my awful paint job, Donatello’s miscast staff, and Leonardo’s broken sword, they’ve seen better days…

And so, when I heard Wizkids got the license for TMNT Heroclix, I was happy. When I saw this set marked half off at the FLGS, I didn’t hesitate. Here’s what they looked like out of the box:

It appears I’m unlucky with turtle miniatures. Brand spankin’ new, both Leonardo and Donatello suffered from bent weapons that can’t be fixed. Bummer. They’re also all a  bit too bright and cartoony for me. I knew I wanted to repaint them as the original badass turtles of my youth.

Here is the result:

To continue my run of bad luck, somewhere in the painting process I appear to have broken one of Raphael’s sai. Drat! I based them on Armorcast sewer bases that I purchased specifically for this project. I don’t know if I will ever use them in a scenario, or what system I would use if I did; but, since Super Mission Force is my current favorite gaming system, here are my SMF builds for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

Aside from the weapons they favor, the turtles aren’t much different. The easy way to build them for SMF is to make them all the same.

All Turtles: (Brawler) Major: Scrapper;  Minor: Armor, Super Agility

Of course, that’s not much fun. The other way I would do it is to make them all Wild Cards. Yes, I know that is against the “two wild cards per team” rule, but who really gives a shit? In this case the turtles would lose the Scrapper power (which is one of the best major powers in the game, IMHO), but would gain powers that would represent their personalities; in other words, make them different from each other in tangible ways. All of them are turtles who can kick ass, but they fill certain roles within the group: Leonardo is the leader, Donatello is the brain, Michelangelo is the clown, and Raphael is the hothead.

Leonardo: (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Enhance

Donatello: (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Savant

Michelangelo: (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Clever

Raphael:  (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Rage

(I couldn’t really think of a fourth minor power that would “define” Michelangelo, so I chose the “Clever” Boost purely for the team initiative bonus, since the turtles are rarely caught flat-footed). Mike has a tendency to ride around on a skateboard, so I guess you could substitute the “Fast” Boost instead, which would increase his movement by 4″.)

This little rush of nostalgia was so much fun I reread the first three issues of TMNT last night. And….well…let’s just say some things are better left in the past.

“Yesterday’s Lead”

It seems I took the month of January off from blogging, quite accidentally. For Christmas I was gifted with Mass Effect: Andromeda for PS4. It was released back in March of last year, but I’m not the kind of (video) gamer that needs to get a game as soon as it’s released. Thus I tend to spend less money on video games overall, as I can wait until the price drops. I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and although this latest game was (unfairly, IMO) derided,  at least in comparison to the previous trilogy, it has accounted for my free time throughout January.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back.

I rarely pick up Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine these days. Although it’s a fine publication, it’s not for me, as it is primarily geared towards the historical wargamer, and even casual visitors to this site will know I don’t fall into that category. The other day I found myself at my newsagent (see what I did there? I used a British term) by complete happenstance ( I was purchasing coffee and donuts for a work meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts next door), and, since the latest issue of Miniature Wargames magazine hadn’t arrived yet, I gave in to whimsy and purchased WS&S #92. As expected, it had little to interest me as far as gaming goes. I am unfamiliar with most of the historical periods and battles covered throughout the issue. But what issue #92 did have was a worthy article by the great Rick Priestly, entitled “Time, Tide and Yesterday’s Lead.”

You might think Mr. Priestly waxes nostalgic for the early days of Citadel and Warhammer miniatures, but he quickly sets the record straight. Despite his involvement in Warhammer’s development, his particular enthusiasm is the Minifigs line of the 70’s, as those are what led him down the garden path to wargaming.

I must confess that since I live in the United States and I was born a good decade or so after Mr. Priestly, I am unfamiliar with Minifigs. Like so many others, I started gaming through Dungeons & Dragons, circa 1983 or so. I’m pretty sure I got the red box for my 10th birthday and it took me a year or two to start running “The Keep on the Borderlands.” I never played a miniature wargame until I was in college in the early 90’s. Predictably, my first introduction came through Warhammer 40K, then quickly moved to WFB. But I had already been collecting and painting miniatures before then. Despite all my failed attempts to introduce them into my roleplaying games, I found them really cool (an obviously still do). I certainly share nostalgic feelings for the miniatures that got me started down my own path, some 35 years ago. And those miniatures, primarily, are Grenadier and Ral Partha fantasy figures.

The first set of miniatures I ever bought was the often-reissued Grenadier Tomb of Spells set. It’s the second one down in the left column. Starting from the top left and continuing clockwise, we have Specialists, Hobgoblins, a Dragon Lords set that once included paints, Thieves, Denizens of the Swamp, Orc’s Lair, and Wizards. The Wizards set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, and I repainted the set a couple of years ago. You can see the results here, if so inclined.

With the arrival of AD&D 2nd Edition, TSR started packaging miniatures under their own name. The above sets are examples of this era. I bought the Marvel Super Heroes and Dragonlance sets when they came out, and a friend gave me the Magic-Users set long ago. The remaining sets were all recent eBay acquisitions.

I probably paid too much for the Indiana Jones set (it’s rare). I paid less than I thought I would for the Star Frontiers and other AD&D sets, but again, probably more than I should have considering the quality. I’ve said this elsewhere: this era of miniature manufacture leaves a lot to be desired. The sculpting is pretty sub-par across the board. Scale is pretty much an afterthought, even between models within the same set (Star Frontiers is by far the WORST for this). I have been painting some of the Marvel miniatures for use in my supers gaming alongside Heroclix models, which should give you a idea of how random the scale is. Some are compatible with Clix models while some are on the small side of 25mm. To top it off, I have no idea what metal was used to cast this line of miniatures, but for some reason, they do not take paint well. Prior to sealing them, even casual handling can cause the paint to rub off, which is kind of a pain during the painting process.

The last of my old sets are above. The Grenadier Secret Agents set is really good, containing lots of mercs and soldiers for use with Top Secret or any other skirmish wargame. Grenadier released two sets of these. I know I had both at one time, but I can’t remember what happened to the other set. (As an aside, the box art above was painted by famous Grimjack artist Flint Henry!) Below them is an exceptional set of ninja by Ral Partha. I recently bought a second set, because as everyone knows, you can never have enough ninja. The bottom row contains dragon models; a Ral Partha T’Char (one of the best dragons produced, IMO) and a couple of Julie Guthrie Grenadier Dragons. I painted up her Red Dragon a while back. You can see it here.

Nostalgia, as Mr. Priestly aptly observes, exerts a powerful force that drives one from affection for times gone by to collector’s obsession. All of the above boxed sets were purchased either on eBay or at a flea market over the last couple of years. With the exception of the Skeleton King’s chariot (top right), all these sets are complete and pristine. (I even managed to replace the 54mm Batman set with one that included a Joker this time.) The DC Heroes sets were a real find at $10 apiece, all bare metal! I painted up the 54mm Batman a few years ago, and recently painted the Grenadier Halfling set above. Batman is here; the Halflings are here.

Which brings me to painting, or rather, repainting. In his article, Mr. Priestly mentions that most Minifigs of the time were likely “favored with a hefty coat of Humbrol Enamel…and then gloss varnished to within an inch of their little metal lives.” Again, I can relate. Here in the States, Testors enamels were the model paints of choice, and I laquered many a miniature in them before “discovering” acrylics right around the time I started playing 40K. Prior to that, every miniature I painted, including many from the sets above, were done with Testors enamels and gloss coat. I shudder to look at them now, but if you’d like to see some before and after shots, look no further than here.

The question then becomes “To strip and repaint, or not to strip and repaint? I am a big advocate of repainting. I’m not the best painter in the world (not even close), but I am exponentially better than I was 35 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the old miniatures I have repainted recently, and I think they are the better for it. But, if even if I were to strip and repaint one miniature every day for the rest of my life, I would likely never finish what I already own, never mind any future tempting purchases. A somewhat sobering and morbid thought, but true nonetheless.

What do you think? Do you get dewey-eyed for a certain manufacturer or era of miniatures? Do you advocate repainting, or are you content with (and perhaps comforted by) viewing your early efforts for what they are?

 

Terror of the Toyman! Conclusion

Quick synopsis: The Toyman is attempting to detonate a bomb during the Christmas celebration in the town square. Superman is attempting to thwart his nefarious scheme and protect the civilians that have been drawn to the square by the big stacks of presents Toyman dropped to lure them there. For more detailed scenario information and special rules, please refer to my last post.

At the start of the game, here is the board setup:

There are 7 possible locations for the bomb.  Clockwise from the top right corner, they are: stack of presents 1, the fountain/Christmas tree, stack 2, the house, stack 3, stack 4, and the church.

Superman sets up in the middle of the board, while 6 civilians are scattered around the board.

ROUND 1

Toyman won’t arrive until the end of round 3, so no initiative roll is necessary. Superman has a few rounds to get a jump on finding the bomb’s location. First, though, the civilians randomly meander around.  Then, I draw from the location and hazard decks. I get stack of presents #3 as the location, but draw a “nothing happens” as an event. An early lucky break for the Man of Steel!

Superman moves to the closest possible location, which is the fountain and Christmas tree. He takes a Special Action to scan for the bomb. The secret counter underneath the tree reveals there is no bomb here (good thing, or this would have been a short game indeed). Superman uses the remainder of his Move action to fly to stack #1. Although he can easily reach it, he can’t take any further actions this turn, so the round ends!

Score: 0-0

ROUND 2

Once again, the civilians move around randomly. My deck draws indicate that the Santa Bot appears at stack #1, which just so happens to be where Superman is at the moment. And it’s a good thing, too, considering that 2 civilians are within range of the Santa Bot’s machine gun (Power Blasts) and would have certainly been easy targets if the Man of Steel wasn’t around to draw the Bot’s fire.

Since Toyman isn’t around to direct his toys yet, Superman automatically has initiative. Superman now has to decide whether to fight the robot or scan the stack of presents for the bomb; he can’t take both a Special Action and a Combat Action in the same turn! Being Superman, he decides the most immediate threat to the civilians is the Santa Bot, so he charges the Bot and attacks! He does a measly one net goal’s worth of damage, not enough to drop the Santa Bot. The Bot fights back, but fails to hurt Superman at all. The round ends!

Score: 0-0

ROUND 3

“Great Caesar’s Ghost!”

Once again, the civilians wander without purpose. My deck draws indicate that at stack #2, Teddy appears! Teddy is a big robotic teddy bear that isn’t very friendly. Unfortunately there is a civilian who looks an awful lot like Daily Planet editor Perry White standing right next to present stack #2. Perry White threatens the bear with a rolled-up copy of the Planet, but Teddy doesn’t seem too impressed.

Now Superman has a real dilemma: protect the civilians nearest him, protect Perry White on the other side of the board, or scan for the bomb??

Superman attacks the Santa Bot with a haymaker, flooring the robot with a net 7 goals of damage! That takes care of the civilians nearest to him, but should he scan stack #1 for the bomb next turn, or leave to protect Perry White from Teddy?

It’s no choice at all. Superman uses his Move action to fly across the board into base contact with Teddy, thus ensuring the big robotic bear has his full attention.  Teddy attacks Superman (leaving Perry White alone for now), but fails to do any damage.

At the end of round 3, the Toyman arrives in spectacular fashion by parachuting onto the middle of the square inside a huge Christmas present!

Score: 0-0

ROUND 4

The civilians move randomly, as usual. One of them takes the opportunity to get the hell out of the square and moves off the board, thus ensuring he lives to celebrate Christmas at all! Perry White’s random movement actually moves him closer to Teddy, but I decide that Mr. White is probably a lot smarter than that and move him in the opposite direction. The deck draws indicate that the house is the location for this round’s event, which is that the clockwork soldiers regenerate or that nothing happens. Since the soldiers aren’t in need of regeneration, nothing happens!

This is the first turn Toyman is on the board, and so initiative has to be determined. Toyman beats Superman’s roll. The huge present opens, and Toyman and his clockwork henchmen emerge!

Superman attacks Teddy, inflicting 2 net goals of damage and knocking Teddy back 8″.  Teddy is knocked down and can’t reach Superman to fight back on his turn.

Score: 0-1, Superman

ROUND 5

The civilians move randomly. The deck draws indicate that the 2 rock’em, sock’em robots burst out the front door of the church! Unfortunately, there are 2 civilians directly in the path of these clanking, metallic pugilists, and the Man of Steel is all the way across the board! What can he do?

Well, nothing yet, because Toyman keeps initiative this turn. He moves himself and his clockwork henchmen within firing range and open fire on Superman! They manage to inflict 2 net goals of damage. Ouch!

Superman is once again faced with a dilemma. Two civilians are in danger from the robots at the church, and Perry White is stuck between Teddy and the Toyman. Plus, there’s that pesky bomb to find…

Superman does the best he can. He flies over to Perry White and grabs him up, continuing to the nearest board edge and moving his boss to safety. Since this doesn’t count as an action, Superman returns to stack # 2 and uses his Special Action to scan it for the bomb, ignoring both Toyman and Teddy for now. Unfortunately, his gamble fails. Stack #2 doesn’t contain the bomb, either!

Teddy charges Superman, but Superman shrugs him off, and can only watch helplessly…

…as the robots move to attack the closest civilian and quickly pummel him into unconsciousness. Poor guy! Where’s Superman when you need him?

Score 1-2, Superman

ROUND 6

It’s halfway into the game, and Superman has only been able to scan 2 of the possible 7 bomb locations. That bomb could go off at any moment! He better get moving!

Of course, the civilians move randomly first. Another moves off the board to safety. The deck draws indicate that stack #4 is the location, and the event is once again that the clockwork soldiers regenerate or nothing happens. The soldiers have not been damaged, so nothing happens.

Superman gains initiative. A quick look at the board shows that there are only 2 civilians left to protect. One is all the way over by stack #1 and is in no immediate danger from anything, and the other is right next to the rock’em, sock’em robots. Superman leaves combat with Teddy to race across the board to the civilian near the robots. (Teddy gets a free attack on Superman as he flies away, but does no damage.) He flies the civilian off the board to safety and then lands next to the church, where he uses his Special Action to scan the church for the bomb.  Once again, there is no bomb.

Toyman marshals his henchmen and moves towards Superman. The robots move towards him, too; and Teddy moves as fast as he can in Superman’s general direction. That’s about all they can do.

Score: 1-4, Superman

ROUND 7

Civilians move. The Toyman’s deadly squadron of toy planes activates near stack #3.

Toyman gains initiative. He sends his planes over to attack Superman. They open fire, but fail to harm the Last Son of Krypton! Superman returns fire with his heat vision, destroying all but one of the planes. The robots charge into combat with Superman and mange to inflict one net goal of damage. (I probably should have moved Superman somewhere else and scanned another location, but instead I attacked the planes and forgot to move him at all! Dumb!) Toyman, his henchmen and Teddy all move towards Superman, but none of them can do anything else.

Score: 1-4, Superman

ROUND 8

The one remaining civilian on the board moves around, but she’s so far away she’s in no danger unless something activates at stack #1 this turn. Instead, nothing happens at the fountain and Christmas tree this round. That bomb is still out there, and there are not many turns left. There are still 4 possible locations that bomb could be: stack #1, stack #3, stack #4 and the house!

Superman keeps initiative and leaves combat with the robots,taking 1 goal of damage in the process. He moves to stack #4, directly in front of him, and scans the stack for the bomb. No luck! he still has plenty of movement left, so he speeds over to stack #3. He can’t do anything else on his turn, but at least he’s in position for next round…if it’s not too late!

Toyman’s group and the one remaining plane move into firing range and open fire, but Superman takes no damage. The robots and Teddy both chase after Superman, but they pose little threat to Superman at this point. There’s only one civilian left and she’s safely out of harm’s way. The main concern is the bomb!!!

Score 1-4, Superman

ROUND 9

The civilian wanders around stack #1. Holding my breath, I draw from both decks. Stack #2 is the location…and nothing happens!!!! Whew!

Superman keeps initiative. Superman immediately scans stack #3, hoping to find the bomb, but there is no bomb! There are only 3 rounds left in the game, and the bomb could go off on any one of them! Since one civilian has already fallen, if the bomb goes off, there is no way Superman can win this scenario.There are only 2 places it could be: stack #1, or the house. The house is closest…

Superman makes another calculated risk and flies across the board to stack #1., where he will scan for the bomb next turn. Even though the house is closer, he could get bogged down in combat with the Toyman’s toys, as they will all be in the same table quarter as the house by the end of this turn. It’s a gamble to be sure…

Toyman and all his toys consolidate near the house.

Score: 1-4, Superman

ROUND 10

The remaining civilian moves. Convinced I’m about to draw the Joker, I pull from both decks. The location is the church…the event is…the presents shuffle positions! Lucky for Superman, the stacks that switch positions are stack #3 and stack #4, so he doesn’t have to worry about chasing stack #1 around the board…

Superman keeps initiative. He scans stack #1, and discovers the bomb. And not a moment too soon! Victory for Superman!

Score: 1-9, Superman.

Analysis

Well, this game was the most fun I’ve had playing with myself since…well, never mind.

Despite going for 10 rounds, this game played very fast (about 30 minutes). The ending score was not as much of a runaway victory for Superman as it appears. If the bomb had gone off, there was no way Superman could have won the game, as he had already lost a point for the wounded civilian in round 5.  Even if Superman saved all the other civilians, had the bomb exploded, the final score would have been 5-6, Toyman.

The game went down to the final 3 turns. The last 3 cards were the 10, Jack and Joker; the two “present shuffle” events and the bomb going off. I really did shuffle the cards pretty well, or so I thought. In any event, despite all hazards being activated, Superman got really lucky by drawing all the “nothing happens” events during the game. This gave him the breathing room he needed to try to be everywhere at once.

Well, almost everywhere. This guy will be spending Christmas in the hospital.

I think the scenario works well. The random position of the bomb, and the randomness of the locations and hazards really makes the game difficult to predict, which is what I was going for. After all, what else can Toyman really do to Superman but keep him occupied and distracted? Superman has to do his best to balance getting the civilians to safety with finding the bomb before time runs out. The hazards work to delay him, as Superman really only has to engage them if they threaten civilians. If no civilians are threatened, he’s free to fly around the board and search for the bomb.

Ironically, the bomb was in the second location Superman visited, but he had to leave it to go protect Perry White from Teddy back in round 3! He didn’t have time to scan the location after destroying the Santa Bot, because if he did, that would have allowed Teddy to attack Perry White if the bomb wasn’t there. He never made it back to stack #1 until the very end of the game.

Here are my Super Mission Force builds for the characters:

Superman (Powerhouse) Major: Speed, Super Strength, Minor: Armor, Enhanced Senses, Flight, Power Blasts, Resistance, Tough

Toyman (Mastermind) Major: Enhance, Minor: Gadgets, Savant

Note: Toyman DID make use of his Gadgets power to gain re-rolls each round, but either he failed to do so or they were used without any real effect on the overall game.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Terror of the Toyman! Part 2

The Scenario: Just in time for Christmas, The Toyman has planted a bomb somewhere in the town square! He scattered piles of Christmas presents around, which naturally attracted the attention of the locals. The bomb will go off soon, making this a Christmas to remember…unless Superman can stop it!

Superman’s goal is to find and defuse the bomb before it goes off, and to protect as many civilians as possible. The Toyman’s goal is to make sure the bomb goes off by delaying Superman long enough for it to detonate.

Game length: The game lasts a maximum of 12 rounds, or as long as it takes for the bomb to detonate or be discovered.

Setup: The play area is a 4′ x 4′ section of  a park or town square. There are several piles of Christmas presents scattered around the area, as well as a few structures, monuments and buildings. Each of these is a possible location for the bomb. Randomly place a face-down counter under each possible location. All of these counters should be blank except for one, which should represent the bomb. (Obviously, if you’re playing this game solo, as I did, make sure you don’t know the location of the bomb.)

Scatter 6 civilian models or counters around the board. Each one represents a hapless civilian who has wandered into harm’s way and who must be protected!

Superman deploys in the middle of the board. The Toyman and the clockwork soldiers don’t deploy at the start of the game. Keep them off the board for now.

Special Rules:

The Super Mission Force turn sequence is slightly altered for this scenario. It is as follows:

  1. Move civilians.
  2. Draw one card each from the location and event decks.
  3. Place hazards or resolve effects of cards.
  4. Determine initiative.
  5. Activate normally.

Civilians: Per the SMF rules, civilians move 4″ in a random direction at the start of the turn. If a civilian wanders off the table edge, he or she has made it to safety. Civilians can also be escorted off the table edge if Superman moves into base contact with them and then moves to any table edge. Civilians have a Body of 2 and are quite vulnerable to attack.

Card decks: This game uses a special card activation mechanic to randomly determine when and where hazards (usually malicious toys) appear. Using a standard deck of cards, make two separate decks (red and black). The red deck should contain as many cards as you have locations (in my case, 7). Assign each location a corresponding card (i.e. Ace = fountain, 2 = Church, etc.) The black deck needs to contain 12 cards, including a Joker. (Ace-Jack, plus the Joker). These cards represent events or hazards that will take place. Feel free to make up whatever events you want based on the Toyman’s hazards (see below). You can use hazards similar to mine or make your own.  The Joker card represents the bomb’s detonation, and you should be sure that at least 4 cards are “no event” to give Superman some breathing room.

My black deck event list looked like this:

A-3: nothing happens.

4: Teddy appears.

5: Santa bot appears.

6: Robots appear.

7: Planes appear.

8-9: Clockwork soldiers (Toyman’s henchmen) regenerate (if they are on the board and damaged), or nothing happens

10-J: Presents shuffle!  The Toyman has made use of tricky teleportation technology! Randomly swap the places of two stacks of presents, being sure to move the counters underneath with them. This may mean that Superman may have to revisit a section of the board he has already scanned. Depending on the location of the bomb, this may also mean the bomb has moved!

Joker: The bomb explodes! If this card is drawn before Turn 4, ignore the result and shuffle it back into the deck. Also, when this card is drawn, ignore the corresponding red location card. The bomb explodes wherever it is on the board.

Hazards: Hazards deploy at whatever location is drawn that round. Hazards are there to delay Superman and to cause mayhem. Hazards do not get an initiative roll of their own, which means that until Toyman arrives, Superman automatically will act before any deployed Hazards. A hazard will always attack Superman if he is within range of its attacks or within its charging distance, as appropriate. If not, it will attack any civilian it can reach instead. If neither Superman or any civilian is a viable target, the hazard will move towards Superman at the fastest speed possible. Generally speaking, hazards pose little threat to Superman other than forcing him to spend valuable time dealing with them when he should be looking for the bomb. But hazards are very dangerous to civilians!

Toyman: Toyman deploys at the end of Turn 3. He can appear wherever you want, but I deployed him via a huge present that parachuted into the center of the board. He rolls for initiative as normal starting on Turn 4. Prior to this, Superman automatically has initiative over any Hazards that may have activated.

Toyman also has some special characteristics for this scenario. First, he functions as both a character and a henchman group. When he activates, his clockwork soldier bodyguards activate with him. They move as a unit and can make use of concentrated fire. In addition, the clockwork soldiers function as a type of armor. All damaging attacks on Toyman must target the clockwork henchmen first, removing them as casualties before the Toyman loses any Body. Once all henchmen are destroyed, Toyman takes damage as normal.

Lastly, Toyman can fix any damaged toy (other than his clockwork soldiers) on a successful Chance roll if he moves into base contact with it. Return the toy to full capacity. It can activate as normal on the following round.

Superman: Until the Toyman deploys at the end of Turn 3, Superman automatically has initiative. It should be noted that with Superman’s Speed and Flight powers, he has a Move of 60″, which means he can reach any point on the board from any other point on the board in 1 round. This is good, because he’s going to need it. He has a lot of ground to cover and not much time.

Usually, Perception checks are opposed Free Actions, but not in this scenario. The Toyman has encased his bomb in lead, which means Superman can’t simply use his x-ray vision to spot it. In order to scan for the bomb, Superman must get in base contact with a possible location. Then he must use a Special Action to scan for the bomb. This is automatically successful; if Superman scans for the bomb, reveal the counter at the location. If it’s blank, the bomb is somewhere else. If it’s the bomb, Superman automatically destroys it by whatever method you feel is appropriate (heat vision, freezing it with his super-breath, hurling it into space, etc.)

Scoring: Superman gains 1 point for every civilian he rescues or who exits off the board, and get 5 points if he finds and destroys the bomb. Toyman gets 1 point for every civilian injured, and 5 points if the bomb explodes. Thus it is possible for Superman to still win the scenario if he saves all the civilians before the bomb goes off.

Next post: the After Action Report!!!

Terror of the Toyman! Part 1

When it comes to superheroes, Superman isn’t one of my personal favorites. Of course, if I could be any superhero, I’d definitely pick Superman for x-ray vision alone (but having super-strength, invulnerability and flight wouldn’t suck either).  Despite this I never really found him all that interesting on his own.

That’s because it seems there are only three main ways to challenge Superman’s obvious superiority. Take away his powers (à la kryptonite), hit him with magic or mental manipulation (à la Mr. Mxyzptlk), or just be tougher and stronger than him (à la Doomsday).

The Toyman doesn’t really fit any of these criteria, and yet, he’s primarily considered a “Superman” villain.

For those not all that familiar with the Toyman, I could write a brief description of the character here. Or, I could just block quote and attribute a perfectly good description that needs no editing or embellishment. So, from DAMN Good Coffee, the blog of  Mr. Charles Skaggs, I present his description of the Toyman:

Created in 1943 by Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka, The Toyman first appeared in Action Comics (vol.1) #64 as Winslow Percival Schott, a criminal who used various toy-themed devices and gimmicks when committing crimes. After Superman’s continuity was relaunched following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event miniseries and John Byrne’s The Man of Steel miniseries, The Toyman was reimagined in Superman (vol.2) #13 as an unemployed British toymaker who blames Lex Luthor for being fired from a toy company.

Years later, The Toyman became a darker, more sinister character who abducted and murdered Adam Morgan, the son of Cat Grant.  The character was reimagined once again in Action Comics (vol.1) #865 as a toymaker who lived with his wife Mary and agrees to sell his shop after Mary is killed in a car accident.  After learning that the buyer lied to him, Schott proceeds to bomb the business with an explosive teddy bear and Mary is revealed as one of his first robotic creations.

I can add nothing of substance to Mr. Skaggs’s words. That’s pretty much the history of the Toyman.

However, my favorite version of the Toyman is this one from the DC animated universe. This version is the unnamed son of Winslow Schott, and is obsessed with revenge against mob boss Bruno Mannheim, who he blames for his father’s imprisonment and eventual death, and his own miserable foster home upbringing as a result. He wears this creepy doll head and you never see his real face.

Anyway, about a year ago, I got an idea for a Supersystem 3 scenario featuring the Toyman. But, now I play Super Mission Force pretty much exclusively, and SMF being predominantly a game of Supers combat, I was in a quandary as to how to effectively use Toyman against Superman. After all, he has no super powers, and Superman could pretty easily wipe the floor with him in a straight-up fight. Toyman could, of course, have some super-tough toys for Superman to brawl with, but that just seemed kind of boring and not very imaginative.

I decided that Toyman isn’t really a threat to Superman, but he could easily be a threat to normal people. Protecting normal folks is what Superman is all about, so what if, for the purposes of the scenario, Superman had to protect as many civilians as possible? An idea took shape…

But first, if I was going to use the Toyman, I would need some toys. Behold what I found at the local dollar store:

For a grand total of $3.oo, I purchased these cool rock’em, sock’em robot finger puppets and some cars I could cannibalize. Some nippy cutters and superglue later, here is the result:

Instant toy-themed robot menace!

I did a quick search for a Heroclix version of Toyman. Sadly, it seems Wizkids don’t have the rights to the DC animated universe (Knight Models does, I think…) so I couldn’t get a version of the doll-head wearing Toyman that I like. I had to settle for this guy:

Not a bad start, and it naturally got me thinking about Christmas, which would be an ideal time of year for Toyman to start some trouble. With that in mind, I did a quick repaint and scoured my miniatures for other things that could be used as deadly toys.

My repaint is in the center. I purchased some (sadly OOP) Parroom Station clockwork soldiers (in the back) from Matt Beauchamp of Hydra Miniatures, and I took advantage of Armorcast’s 20% off Christmas sale to pick up the Santa bot. I already owned Wyrd’s Teddy from the Malifaux line.  I just needed to paint him, and I did.

Turns out these Hydra War Rocket Galacteer fighters are just the right scale to double as deadly toy planes. So I planned on using them, too.

If Christmas was to be the backdrop for the scenario, I would need some thematic scenery, like piles of presents! I thought a ring box would make a good giant present (from which something deadly could emerge). I bought some wood cubes from an art store and glued them together in random formations. A little red, white and green craft paint and I’d be good to go.

I figure once I’m done with this scenario, I can repaint the blocks to use as crates and boxes for warehouse scatter terrain.

Stay tuned! Scenario to follow next post!

Gotham Girls

 

It’s funny how sometimes projects get completed without any clear plan whatsoever. From the crime-filled alleys of Gotham City: three of Batman’s most notorious femme fatales: Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Lady Shiva!

These miniatures were in the freezer bin wherein all the Heroclix models I intend to repaint and rebase currently reside. A couple of months back I was painting up some Hasslefree martial artists, and I thought a Heroclix Lady Shiva might make a good addition to the theme. I fetched her from the freezer and rebased her, intending on repainting her whenever I got the chance. No rush, you understand. Just a miniature to add to when I had some extra paint I needed to use.

Then I picked up some miniatures in a Craigslist lot that included these AD&D hyenas. I immediately thought of Harley Quinn, and into the freezer I went yet again. A quick rebasing and she joined Lady Shiva in the side pile.

Then, while playing Arkham Knight on the PS4, I thought about the Heroclix Catwoman figure who was cooling her heels in the freezer. I took her out and rebased her with this Reaper cat familiar, and off to the side pile she went.

As fate would have it, these miniatures got painted at pretty much the same pace: a dab here and there while I did other things. Then one afternoon I took them out of the side pile and finished all of them off. I added some highlights and shading to the pre-painted hyenas and the Gotham Girls were done! I’m not wild about how Lady Shiva’s raccoon eyes look, but she’s ok for tabletop gaming. Maybe I’ll touch her up a bit. I’m also thinking of adding some gloss varnish to Catwoman’s costume and whip, but I’m not sure yet.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the conspicuous absence of a certain red-headed botanist-turned-arch criminal, all I can say is stay tuned. She’ll be here soon!

 

Tick, Tock…Time to Feed the Croc!

I find the Knight Models 32mm Batman miniatures to be terrific sculpts, but they’re generally too pricey for me to justify their purchase, except in rare cases.  I caved and bought the Frank Miller Batman, for example, because I just had to have it. Same thing with Killer Croc, here.

This version of Croc is based on the Batman: Arkham series of video games by Rockstar. In total, there are four games. Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins (a prequel), and Arkham Knight, which closes out the series. Croc appears in every game as a boss except for Arkham City, where he is mentioned, but doesn’t actually appear. (Technically, he doesn’t appear in Arkham Knight unless you purchase the DLC Season of Infamy, which is so good and so worth it I don’t know why you wouldn’t.) In the comics, Croc started out as a big ex-wrestler with a skin condition. He has since devolved through a half-man/half-reptile all the way to a full blown human/dinosaur hybrid complete with a tail!

This version most accurately reflects Croc’s appearance in Arkham Asylum (no tail yet), the first game in the series. Much like the game, I love the miniature, too. I posed him with a couple of reptilian friends. The one on the left is a child’s toy I got at a flea market somewhere. I’m pretty sure I got two, but I can only find one.  The other one is a large Dungeons and Dragons Dire Crocodile. I bought it for use as a Pulp monster, but when I decided to paint Killer Croc I thought it was a good excuse to paint the Dire Crocodile as well.

The Dire Crocodile is quite large. Here he is next to a 28mm Reaper Inkeeper. I built a lip of green stuff around his base and applied scenic water with an eyedropper (sayonara, eyedropper). Three days later, the water still hasn’t cured and it sticks to everything it touches. Hugely annoying. Looks ok, though. It will look better when I can add some flock/leaves to the rim of the base, whenever the “water” dries.

Speaking of huge, even scaled at the 32mm range, this Killer Croc is gigantic. Here he is posed with a Heroclix version of himself. (I’m a big fan of Heroclix for many reasons, but I think everyone seeing this picture can understand why I splurged on the Knight  version of Croc.)

And here he is with a Reaper Ogre, a Heroclix Hulk, and a Heroclix Question. (Incidentally, here are my repaints of Hulk and The Question.) The Question model should give a good indication of how a “normal” 28mm model looks next to Croc.

This is somewhat problematic. Croc is big, but he’s nowhere near the size and mass of the Hulk. From a scale perspective, I find this irksome. Doubtful I would ever use them in the same scenario, but still…

I tried to repaint a Heroclix Solomon Grundy recently, but standing him next to Croc was laughable. In the comics, they’re about the same size; so too in the Knight Models range. But mixing and matching Knight Models with Heroclix may work fine with normal sized figures, but not so well with big guys like this.

Which means I’m probably going to have to buy the Knight Models version of Grundy. And while I’m at it, their version of the Hulk. But at $35 apiece, that’s a lot of cheddar for only two miniatures.

Luckily, ’tis the season. Black Friday is in two days….who knows?

We Are the Champions

Here’s my latest team for Super Mission Force: The Champions of Los Angeles! L-R: Darkstar, Ghost Rider, Angel, Hercules, Iceman, and Black Widow!

The original Champions debuted in the mid-70’s, and to call them a lackluster team would be an understatement. Despite some interesting roster choices, the Champions never really gelled as a title or as a team. Nonetheless, I figured I’d give them a little repainting love. (Actually, that kind of happened by accident. I had painted up Black Widow and Darkstar for unrelated projects and realized I had one-third of the team. I decided to paint the others up when I could.)

Angel isn’t completely faithful to the Champions version, which is a good thing. Angel’s costume back then was one of the most hideous costumes ever to grace a superhero (look it up). This one is much better, and I am a big fan of this particular sculpt of Angel. Keen-eyed visitors to Dead Dick’s Tavern may recognize some superhero overlap: Darkstar was painted some time ago along with the rest of the Soviet Super Soldiers for my Breeder Bombs campaign, while Iceman was also done a while back. Last post he made an appearance as one-third of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

Both Iceman and Ghost Rider contained that translucent plastic I loathe so much on Heroclix models. With Iceman, it’s his whole body and the ice slide he rode in on. It wasn’t much of a big deal to just dry-brush him with white and build a base out of frosted sea-glass, the same technique I used on the Penguin and Mr. Freeze. The base took longer than the model itself. (As a side note, I’m particularly happy with the way Hercules looks. His original clix paint job was underwhelming, to say the least.)

Ghost Rider had that translucent yellow plastic everywhere on the model where there is flame. I painted proper flames on his head and bike and this is the result. Originally, I thought this model was a tad too small to be in scale with the rest, but it’s not so bad after all. (The whole time I was painting him I was humming the Rollins Band’s version of “Ghost Rider Motorcycle Hero”.) I contemplated adding a chain, but then remembered this is the original Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, so no chain needed…which turned out to be good, since I was considering buying some spiked chains from Reaper, only to find a pack of them costs 10 bucks! A bit steep for bits I will probably only use once. I also thought about making the flame trail go all the way to the end of the base by sculpting extra flames out of green stuff, but I lack the confidence and skill to do so. Oh well.

I’m much more likely to use the individual models in games rather than basing a scenario around this particular team, but you never know what could happen!

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends!

 

I was born a bit too late for the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, although I watched it in syndication faithfully. When I was a young lad, this is what we had for a Spider-Man cartoon: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends! The problem, of course, is that that’s a terrible title for what turned out to be a terrible cartoon, and Spider-Man’s friends were not all that amazing.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends aired on Saturday mornings here in the USA, back when they played cartoons on Saturday mornings. It starred the voice talents of June Foray as Aunt May and the great Frank Welker as Iceman. It also featured narration courtesy of smilin’ Stan Lee. And yet, it still sucked.

The series ran for 24 episodes, and is technically the first appearance of Firestar (whoopee!).  I say it ran for 24 episodes, but I’m pretty sure my local network affiliate only had access to two of those episodes, because it seemed like they chose to alternate between these two episodes every week. I speak of season 1, episode 5: SWARM!, and season 1, episode 7: Videoman. I’ve seen both of these godawful episodes more times than I care to remember. Until recently, they were available on Netflix, but that seems to no longer be the case here in the USA.

The series had a couple of ok episodes, one featuring Captain America, Sub-Mariner and Dr. Strange and one featuring the Uncanny X-Men (in which Wolverine was inexplicably Australian). But all in all, it was mostly about Iceman and Spidey fighting over Firestar’s attentions. Kinda like if Firestar was Archie, and Spidey and Iceman were Betty and Veronica. Oh, and they had a cocker spaniel who was even more annoying than they were.

Anyway, I have had a painted Spider-Man for a while, and I recently painted up Iceman for another project. So I figured I’d paint Firestar for the hell of it. And here they are.

 

Watch out, true believers! It’s Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends!

 

The Invaders!

A few months ago, my fellow supers-enthusiast Carrion Crow hosted the Forgotten Heroes challenge. I submitted the Liberty Legion, which got me thinking about all those great WWII-era comics: Sgt. Rock, Our Army at War, GI Combat, and of course, the Invaders! I have always loved the Invaders; in fact, I love almost anything where Nazis are the main bad guys (they’re just so suited for it).

I dug this old photograph out of my grandfather’s trunk in the attic…

From the battlefields of WWII, America’s first super-team: The Invaders!!!  From left-right, Toro, the (original) Human Torch, Bucky, Captain America, and Namor, the Sub-Mariner; with special guest Sgt. Nick Fury (sans the rest of the Howling Commandos)!

The Human Torch is a Heroclix Fantastic Four Human Torch. Since there’s very little difference in their appearance, I decided he could pass for his WWII predecessor. Toro is yet another Human Torch miniature, this time from TSR’s old Marvel Super Heroes line. I’ve used some of these old TSR miniatures before in my X-Men team. The TSR Torch miniature is noticeably smaller than the Clix version, which makes him ideally suited to represent the original Torch’s sidekick, Toro.

You may remember Bucky from the Liberty Legion post. Captain America is a “unique” Heroclix version of Cap from the first ever Infinity Challenge set. It’s essentially the same sculpt as the regular Cap, but with a kite shield instead of the round one. I painted him a brighter blue than my other Cap to distinguish the two.

Side note: to make the flame and water effects on the bases, I used a pretty simple trick. I applied some Elmer’s wood filler to the base (wear gloves unless you enjoy having it on your fingers for days) and teased it into shape. Let it dry overnight. When painted, it looks pretty good!

I actually painted “Nick Fury” a few years ago, but I couldn’t resist including him with the rest of the Invaders. This is Sgt. Mack Torrey (50120) a Reaper miniature from their Chronoscope line. He just looks so battle-weary and badass that I knew he had to be my Sgt. Fury.

Now I need to get some cheap 28mm Germans and play some skirmishes!

 

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