Zona Alfa: Preparing for a Zone Excursion!

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Ah, another radiation fueled sunrise.

I said come in! Don’t stand there!

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, welcome back! In my last post, I expressed frustration that I didn’t have much to write about since, well, nothing had arrived for my current passion project, Zona Alfa. Well, as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait, and I got the rest of my needed models to play Zona Alfa in two days of package delivery goodness. A village from Sarissa Precision, their Russian one to be specific. I had also ordered a bunch of Lead Adventure miniatures, and this had turned out to be quite a laborious task.

You see, Lead Adventures, because of Deutsche Post having issues shipping to North America and elsewhere, currently only ship to the UK and the EU. Luckily, I have family in the United Kingdom, and I had an order ship to them, and them to me. This combined with a prior order from Magister Militum in the UK, would give me the bulk of my Pripyat Stalkers. The latter order was split in half, since they didn’t have all of what I ordered…

All three orders shipped weeks apart. They all arrived almost together, in a span of two days. Honestly, it was kind of awesome.

This first batch is particularly ragtag. They would not be out of place in Metro 2033, a distinctly post-apocalyptic experience. As I’ve said before, STALKER, and in turn, Zona Alfa, is not inherently post-apocalyptic, since it is both localized and people come of their own free will to the Zone.

However, these models still fit in perfectly; They look like a bunch of unaffiliated individuals, perfect for an Independent team. I will focus on painting these as individuals, with no real unifying theme other then being very, very grubby. I’ll point out my favorite of the bunch, and talk about why I like this one so much.

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“They say the Zone is a harsh mistress. That implies that you had any control in the first place, tovarishch. The Zone simply is.”

This model is simply perfect, at least in my very personal definition of what that is. A rugged, veteran Stalker who has clearly been around the block (or Reactor, as it were), and I can see him leading teams of Cordon-fresh rookies to their demise. The model itself tells a story quite well, and is full of character. The trench-coat and well-maintained rifle, a sturdy gas-mask and pouches full of goodies. This guy is simply cool, and probably why I bought the whole set.

On the other hand, these guys are far more equipped. I would hesitate to call them military, but that in-game distinction for Zona Alfa probably fits them the best. To use a faction from the STALKER games, they look a lot like Duty, the paramilitary group dedicated to eradicating the Zone and its various dangers.

With not quite uniform equipment, but with a heavy Russian/Ukrainian military influence, these guys feel like trained soldiers. I particularly like the the two Stalkers with AS VAL assault rifles, larger-bore integrally suppressed weapons that pack a mean punch over short distances.

I really like these guys, and I’m looking forward to using them as a more elite team.

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“Deadly anomalies, dangerous mutants, anarchists and bandits… None of them will stop Duty on its triumphant march towards saving the planet!” –Duty Propaganda

Of course, these are some very “old school” models. Chunky, with large weapons, hands, feet, etc. I actually love models like these, as I find they take washes well, and look great once painted. But they are definitely not for everyone; Anyone looking for more “realistic” models will probably be happy with other miniatures.

I believe these are hand-sculpted, which also is a very traditional style. Modern models are quite often designed in CAD and 3D-printed to produce a master, from which are made either resin models or plastic sprues. Models of this type are getting more and more rare, with most being older lines or in this case, specifically made to fill this niche.

I do in fact like both styles, and I only care about consistency for models within a team, not across the collection, so there is a little bit of room across the board for any style of models in my Zone.

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Scale Comparison! From Left to Right: Spectre Miniatures, Lead Adventures, Eureka Miniatures. Even with the base on the Spectre guy being shorter, he is still quite tall! This Eureka miniature is one of their newer ones, and as such holds up pretty well scale wise, their older line up of NBC suited soldiers are quite a bit smaller.

Like you can see in the above picture, my collection is quite eclectic! But none of these guys will rub shoulders in the same camp, only venturing to fight the Zone or each other, and in that case, it won’t matter overly match if they don’t match.

Now I do have a marked preference for metal miniatures; I like their heft, and the fact that they remain stupidly easy to strip of paint if I mess up. Playing a 2000 point metal Imperial Guard army in 40k has set me up for working with this materiel quite well. But it does require a bit of work.

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Going for a swim! Unfortunately, Dawn Dish Detergent will not remove horrible radiation burns.

I soak all the models for a few minutes in soapy water, then scrub them with a toothbrush. Then I rinse them in a new source of soap-free water, then take them out to air-dry. It doesn’t take long, and on some manufacturers it isn’t essential, but I find it greatly increases the strength of the base-coat’s adhesion to the model. If your going to paint them, you might as well give them the best possible start!

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Looking clean, and ready for some paint!

Now, I’ve got a lot of work to do, getting crews painted, terrain assembled and painted, and various other tasks. However, this won’t prevent me from getting my first game of Zona Alfa in tomorrow! After all this build-up, I’m really excited to get an idea of what the game plays like.

We have a lot of terrain at our communal clubhouse, and with local conditions being favorable to cautious social-distancing gaming, it should give me a good idea of what else I need play a full-scale campaign. I’ll be using a basic, low threat first mission, and I can start tweaking things to my preference as I go. There is a bit of local interest in the game, and I’m hoping to have it take off a bit!

Now the rest of this article has substantially less pictures…so bear with me, or tune it if you’d like, I won’t hold it against you!

My last post about Zona Alfa on this blog, was, frankly, an outrageous success. I got a really warm welcome over on the official Facebook group, so if any of you are coming from there, thanks gents! You guys rock!

Now in terms of my eventual Canadian Zone expansion, I’m still waiting on a company here in Canada to ship me my 28mm Canadian Military models. They are a small, one man operation, so they tend to take a bit of time. But to fill that specific niche is worth it. As well, while most of the monsters will carry over, I do want some local, specific nastiness. Some guys had some great ideas over on the Facebook page, and I’m going to use some for sure!

Mutated Raccoons may be a thing…(side note, I hate the damn things. I used to work behind the scenes removing them from places they shouldn’t be at an amusement park, and that cute factor is a lie!), as well as some bears, coyotes, and the occasional Listowel redneck who had a bit too much radioactive moonshine. It is kinda fun to do local research for a game, and my friends here like the idea, despite how dark a subject matter it can be.

I’m leaning toward a more “free” zone, with the Canadian government selling licenses to harvest materiel from the Zone, and a healthy black-market in weapons cropping up around it. We do share a border with the United States after all! The “hook” as it were, in this case, is the fact that Cobalt-60, a rare resource, is actually produced quite a bit in the reactors near me, and the “medical gold rush” of cancer-defeating artefacts produced by this Zone draw a wide array of Stalkers. Your average Canadian Stalker is a far-cry from a dour, sombre Stalker from Pripyat though! Medically aligned Stalkers from major pharmaceutical companies will be my specific neat thing for this Zone.

Finally, while it may be a while before I get to Canada in the campaign, quite conveniently from a recent history stand-point, is the deployment of the Canadian Army in a training capacity to the Ukraine. It won’t take much of a jump in logic for a few, special operations trained soldiers, to venture into the original Zone for some training of their own, with the backing of the local Government. Perhaps paving the way for a future Canadian Army Stalker detachment?

Now, today’s article was focused on old school, metal models. But the way of the future is far different, and I am now the proud owner of a resin 3D Printer! (Or will be, once it arrives…) I am going to use it for producing a lot of cool monsters, smaller terrain, and yep, Stalkers! And that is just for this specific game. But not even that will truly diminish my love of the older style, hand-sculpted models of yesteryear. Raise a glass, if you will, to the old breed! But I will be featuring some 3D printed stuff in the very near future, since a friend of mine has printed some stuff for me to use in this game, that will add a certain Post-Soviet feel to my Exclusion Zone.

But, until next time, Happy War-gaming, wherever you are! For such is life in the Zone.

 

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