AK-74 Sunrise: A Zona Alfa Battle Report!

Mysterious Foes from within the Zone!

To the Director of CIA Field Operations, Kiev, Ukraine. Some important events have transpired in the Zone in the last month. I have directed one of the field officers in the Zone to compile this document.

The following report regards the events of September 30th, 2020, Exclusion Zone, Pripyat. Compiled from multiple sources, this report details the action at the Lisove, a village near the Red Forest.

On or about 0630 local time, a group of scientists from the Ukrainian Government task force found themselves under attack by an unknown group of hostiles. Said hostiles are the first non-zombified human contact coming from the Duga Array since 2003. They put out a distress call, which attracted the attention of two teams of Stalkers.

Group known locally as the “Zone Rats”. Experienced Stalkers, on their second expedition into the zone. Their Leader, Lebedev, is known for his obession with salvage….
Bandit group calling themselves the ‘Cheeki Breeki Boys”. Known for their callsigns, all based off Russian politicians. Cutthroat but fair, but always with an eye for undercutting the ‘other guy’

The two teams descended upon the zone to find it under heavy fire. The hostiles were described later by the scientists as ‘wearing western equipment and firing western weapons, with distinctive blue helmets’ The UN has disavowed any knowledge of this group, and we are inclined to believe them…no group UN funded is this well equipped.

Long range photography of known group now called the ‘Blue Helmets’

The following timeline has been established from local interviews, drone photography, and sources on the ground who witnessed the event. By breaking the events into distinct parts, ‘Turns’, if you will, we can now go over what transpired.

‘Turn One’: Both teams arrived around 0730 local time, with the ‘Zone Rats’ arriving first to the scene. As they arrived, Lebedev, the leader of this team of Stalkers, took down a Blue Helmet with his rifle from range.

Firing on the move, Lebedev gets first blood.

Meanwhile, as the ‘Cheeki Breeki Boys’ arrived, one of their number, ‘Gorbachev’, likewise fired upon the hostiles, taking down one of their number, while the other took it in the kevlar and was still combat effective.

The Blue Helmets take rifle fire from the CB Boys, and return fire in turn

The hostiles return fire from an elevated position. Lebedev avoids the fire, while ‘Putin’ from the CB Boys takes a flesh wound, treating it with a medical stim.

Meanwhile, another Blue Helmet fired an M72 LAW(where such weapons were acquired is a mystery, and will be an additional report) into the bunker containing the science team, killing one of their security detail.

The report of such heavy ordinance draws attention, even in the Zone.

Machine gun fire from both teams of Stalkers killed one Blue Helmet, and forced the ‘leader’ into cover. Vorobev(Zone Rats), fired at the LAW-wielding BH, and here we have our first verbal communication from these mysterious foes. “Try again, loser!” in perfect English!

Other members of the teams moved into cover, prepared for the next phase of combat.

Shpatsky(Zone Rats) puts armor between him and incoming 5.56mm

At this point, driven by an unknown compelling force, several Blue Helmets got up despite apparent fatal injuries. They would usually proceed to fire one last shot at their attackers before expiring.

This Blue Helmet was observed taking heavy fire, and yet surviving what should be a fatal wound to fire again!

‘Turn Two’ began with Lebedev, who moved forward toward a Hot Spot, throwing(and missing) with a bolt, a common thing in the zone to trigger such anomalies. Apparently infuriated by his lack of luck, he fired a wild burst into the LAW gunner, killing that Blue Helmet. Driven by some base compulsion, he ran to loot the Hot Spot, tripping into a pile of Rad Ghouls hiding in the rocks. (Lebedev has an obsession with salvage, leading to such incidents like this. I will go over this in another report).

It is said among witnesses that despite the gasmask, a loud BYLAT was heard.

‘Lenin’ from the CB Boys fires at the hostile leader, downing him, however in the last few shots his antique DPM machine gun jams, forcing him to take time clearing it.

‘How many times have I told that cyka to replace that old piece of pizdec!’-Putin, interviewed 2 weeks from this incident

One Blue Helmet, struggling with blood loss but compelled by some force, fired two bursts of M16A1 fire into the scrum of Ghouls surrounding Lebedev, killing three, Lebedev shrugging off the incoming fire but throughly pinned down. The Blue Helmet then expired.

In any other circumstance, this would be a heroic moment.

The Rad Ghouls attacked, their numbers weakened but their claws sharp. Lebedev fought off his attackers, and killing one with his knife. His comrades were reported as saying “This is why we follow the man, he may be a salvage monger but he knows how to fight!”

Bayonets with some guts behind it!

‘Stalin'(I think you can see how the names in the Cheeki Breeki Boys work now) takes fire, however his body armor takes the hit and protects the meat.

A comment from the Youtube video uploaded of the incident reports a famous influencer saying “Boris Appoves” over ‘Trotskys’ yellow tracksuit.

Shpatsky attempted to extract Lededev from the mess he had gotten himself into, not wanting to chance the flamethrower shot.

The flamethrower not useful unless he wanted to roast his leader, Shpatsky dives into melee.

This attempt was unsuccessful, and the would be rescuer had to apply first aid to himself.

Zakharov, the shotgun wielder of the Zone Rats, managed to aim and splatter a ghoul, rescuing Lebedev from himself finally.

Zakharov earned a pay raise for his actions. In the words if this CIA agent, it was one hell of a shot!

‘Gagarin’, the most recent and psychopathic addition to the Cheeki Breeki Boys, ran up to a hot spot, and awakened a nest of Zombies. However, he was prepared for such a situation..

“And…” Asked Putin as he set down the gun he was cleaning and regarded his compatriot with a raised eyebrow. “Did you ask this new cyka about that gigantic thing he carries strapped to his back?”
“I did indeed comrade” responded Yeltsin, who was stoking the coals to a camp fire.
“Well, I’m all ears.”
“He said that it is a chemical weapon.”
“A chemical weapon?”
“Indeed, a chemical weapon.” Affirmed Yeltsin “Apparently it sprays the area with acid, which then reacts with oxygen in the air and catches on fire.”
“Did you not suggest to him that might be an inappropriate choice of weapon, since we hired him to help us kidnap some scientists comrade?” Questioned Putin, visibly irritated beneath his ushanka.
“I did indeed suggest that” Responded Yeltsin, unfazed, opening a can of borsht to heat on the fire.
“And..” Growled Putin “What did our new comrade say, when you made that suggestion.”
“He said that by making that suggestion, I betrayed my ignorance of the zone, and suggested he might be a better leader for the team. Now do you want some borsht?”
“Well…” sighed Putin, eyeing the can of soup “The man may be walking pizdec, but he has a point.”- Conversation overheard by Field Agent.
Gagarin’s chemical thrower made short work of the Zombie swarm.

‘Turn Three’ began with yet more Blue Helmets emerging from the Red Forest, and the leader getting up from his horrific wounds.

‘Putin’ jammed his AK47 trying to kill the BH leader, however the effect was the same, as the Opfor was downed due to bleeding out.

The Blue Helmet pitches into the forest earth, his wounds too heavy to sustain anymore.

Lebedev, obsessed with needing to know what lay in the anomaly field, triggered an Inker anomaly, covering the area in thick clouds of black living smoke.

Lebedev can’t catch a break.

‘Gagarin’ on the other hand has much greater luck, finding a valuable artifact in the centre of the hot spot.

Gagarin clears the anomaly field, and leaves a richer man.

Zakharov decides to spare Lebedev his obsession, and tried to clear the hot-spot in the BTR convoy. However he instead awoke a sleeping Zone Bear!

“Oh pizdec”
The common Zone Bear, a mutated and ruined form of the common Black Bear. Scary, and behind the deaths of many rookie stalkers.
“Three times I have seen those radiated Cykas, and three times I have seen this madman shoot them down like vermin. This man has khabrosht!-Lebedev, leader of the Zone Rats, in a recorded conversation 3 hours after the incident.

Two more Blue Helmets arrive, and take up positions, and several ‘dead’ ones get back up to fight again! However, ‘Yeltsin’ fired a rocket into the tree-line, using an old Panzerfaust tube with an improvised explosive warhead, taking out one and the other was saved by the tree.

‘Gagarin’ and Koralev both took fire from Blue Helmet positions, and were forced to take cover and tend their wounds, using valuable medkits to do so!

The Cheeki Breeki Boys, in effective cover of the dense bushes.

Zakharov tried to investigate the now Bear-clear hotspot, and instead triggered a magnetic anomaly, sticking his gun to the spot. He eventually cleared it, taking a great deal of time.

Putin downs another Opfor.

‘Putin’ advanced to the ‘ever burning tank’ anomaly and gunned down another Blue Helmet.

It is at this point, ‘Turn Five’ that things get more heated.

More Blue Helmets arrive, however the incoming fire from the Cheeki Breeki Boys is effective and downed one.

Shpatsky advanced to the bunker, and yelled for the trapped scientists to leave. However, none respond to the massive man with a flamethrower!

Lebedev is more successful, and convinces one to leave safety, only to be cold cocked by ‘Putin’, eager to kidnap the scientist for ransom!

one rescued scientist(actually a member of the security detail)…
Only to be taken by ‘Putin’ at Obrez-point. These Cheeki Breeki Boys are not to be trusted. It is of note that no casualties were sustained in the scuffles for the scientists between the teams, as both did not want to actually kill one another…

‘Lenin’ manages to further suppress the Blue Helmets, killing another. However, as ‘Turn Six’ begins more hostiles arrive. One armed with a LAW attempted to rocket a large pocket of rescued(or kidnapped!) scientists!

A melee ensues between the two teams, as they punch, bite, and grab each other for control of the Science team. They avoided lethal weapons but many ice-packs were used afterwards!

Control of the lead scientist was crucial to both teams payday!

Two Blue Helmets fire M16’s into the scrum, but land no effective hits. The LAW is efficiently suppressed by incoming fire. Vorobev is unsuccessful trying to wrestle away the lead scientist, however Shpatsky is not, and leads the scientist away from the ‘Crazy Gopniks’

Incoming fire prevents the Blue Helmets from completing their objective.
Another rescued scientist!
‘Gagarin’ leads, at gunpoint, another scientist away.

Leading into ‘Turn Seven”, more hostiles arrive, and the LAW gunner manages to collect his wits enough to fire at Shpatsky, but not enough to aim well, instead ruining a jersey barrier.

A lucky miss! And a good look at ‘Trotsky’, who attempted to wrestle control of the other scientist.

‘Lenin’ returns fire, and both his and the return fire is ineffective. Both teams eventually collectively end the threat from the Blue Helmets(for now), and having moved away from each other, choose to break away with their hostages/rescued scientists.

The Cheeki Breeki Boys make for the hills, their hostages secure.
Discretion is the better part of valour, and having secured the lead scientist, The Zone Rats allow the security detail to get taken by the Cheeki Breeki Boys.

At this point I must report the action breaks off. Both teams managed to secure a few scientists, but the Zone Rats having gotten the Lead Scientist away are the ones making a bigger payday. The interesting angle for us at the CIA is what followed…

Once the Scientists were returned to their protected bunker, they made a radio broadcast over open channels.

Fellow Stalkers, we have made a most excellent discovery. The Duga Array need not hold us back any longer. Due to our research, which lead to an unprecedented attack from inside the Zone, we have discovered a way to ‘block’ the signals emanating from the inside of the Field. We are working on prototypes, and need a team of willing Stalkers to wield such devices. If the Duga Array, the Scorcher, could be turned off, the centre of the Zone will become open to all of us. Report to our bunker. You will be paid well.”

I recommend dispatching a team, or funding one, immediately to make use of this discovery.

Yours, Agent Blackwell.

AUTHORS NOTES:

This battle report was an experiment in writing narratively, and may have succeeded in some ways, and failed in others. The impetus behind this was the STALKER 7 Battle Report contest, a contest I can’t see myself winning, however I hope it remains entertaining!

This was a custom scenario devised by a friend and I, to recover scientists from the field while under attack from hostile, Monolith, like forces. This is greatly inspired by the events of the STALKER video game, and may work in some ways and not in others. We had some custom rules I will go over now.

There were 5 Scientists in a bunker on the other side of the field, and the winner was the player controlling the most of them by the end of Turn 7. You could escort the scientists by moving into base contact, wrestle control away by doing a melee fight(lethal or not) or try to convince them to follow you with a Will-check.

There were two opposing squads of hostiles on the board, controlled as if they were a player. Due to Zone influence, they had 7 Will, and could get up on a 5+ for one final action before dying.

Each Turn, d3, minus what was already on the board, hostiles would arrive from the Red Forest. This ensured there was at least one hostile on the table on each side at all times.

The last hostile activated each turn had to shoot at the bunker and the scientists within, to act as an incentive to move up the table and act as a timer.

We used three Hot-Spots, using the expanded Anomaly table and any results of Bandits was rerolled when hostiles showed up.

We are not sure how well this worked, but it was a great deal of fun to play regardless. I hope you guys reading enjoy it as much as we enjoyed playing it. As always, Happy War-gaming where-ever you are, and beware, for Such is Life in the Zone!

Zona Alfa: Crossing the Cordon!

“No one said anything about bears!”

Welcome to the Zone, Stalkers. Enjoy your stay. Your going to be here a while.

After several weeks of waiting for models, printing more models and terrain, and the little distraction that is Warhammer 40k 9th Edition, we actually started out campaign!

It was nothing too crazy, and actually was fairly uneventful. I went quite wide of the regular mission requirements, but as the author says to use the rules as a toolbox, I did so!

First, a little bit of a briefing. I do swear in here, and if you are not a fan of that, I apologize. I don’t use it outside of a narrative context when I blog, but I felt the need here!

The Crossing was easy. The Ukrainians must have been napping, as we have enountered no military patrols as of yet, since we slipped into the Zone. Stupid debils. We were near another group, and in fact, had went to the same bar the night before. Heavy Irish accents, and singing songs about rebellion. I remember watching the television as a kid, and hearing about the Irish Republican Army. Seeing these older, hardened men sing songs about fighting the British gave me pause. What were a bunch of Ex-IRA men doing all the way in the Ukraine?

We kept our distance, wary of these foreigners. We had heard from a drunk Cordon officer about an armed convoy carrying rare goods out of the Zone when it had gotten hit, and our route took us right past it. Unfortunately, the Irish had the same idea, as did a group of local trash. Fucking gopniks.

The map was a typical 4×4 square, with us starting in the corners. The Irish and my Zone Runners started Cordon side, making for the other table edge. The Bandit player had his jumpy thugs on a corner edge on the other side, and got to pick which one. Three regular hotspots, at low threat levels dotted the table, and one in the BTR, rated at the very highest threat.

The prize, if one was daring enough to risk it, was in the centre BTR.
My squad of Zone-Rats move to cover, wary of both the Bandits and the Irish on the other side.
The Irish (represented here with Bolt Action minis as Lucas works on getting his guys together) are hardened vets of the IRA, and are here to get rich. Or so they say…
The table layout; The Bandits started in the top left, as we figured they live in the Zone. They didn’t need to get off the table for the scenario.
The Gopniks fan out, eager for loot, but not eager to get shot or bunch up.

Everyone played this game far, far more cautiously then our trial, one-off games. Gear is expensive, med-kits are pricey, and reloads are not cheap. Lucas(playing the IRA vets), moved cautiously up his end, wary of eating fire from my side. Equally cautious, I leapfrogged up to the cover available…but my eye was on the prize.

Throwing a bolt, Lucas hits the helmets of a passing Ukrainian Army patrol! They take cover behind the sign….

We had decided upon some pre-game rules, and one was that since this is the Cordon, any ‘bandits’ rolled would actually be threat level 2, and represent the Ukrainian Military presence. Lucas got unlucky, and triggered four of them!

However, after surviving some incoming AK fire, he tossed a valuable Satchel Charge…

BOOM! Ah, a bullet may have your name on it, but a satchel charge is addressed to whom it may concern…

Lucas got lucky, and killed his problem squad of Cordon defense force in one go!

Meanwhile, on my end of the table, I also managed to roll for ‘bandits’, and four more Ukrainian troopers emerged from a bush. Bad place for a nap, suka! They made for cover, and I brought up my flamethrower…

“Dude, did someone just throw a friggin bolt at my head?”
Fire. It solves a great many things.

Leaving one Ukrainian trooper alive, he decided to take his chances with the actual Bandits.

“Man, it is not my day!”

The bandits made a cautious move into the building near the BTRs, and I shuffled up to attempt to secure both the leftmost salvage and the centre goodies.

“Wonder whats in here, too bad I forgot my can-opener, ha!”
“Uh oh!”

Nesting inside the hulk of the wrecked BTR were two grotesquely mutated bears! We had custom stated these, tough hide(armor) or simply immune to pain makes this beasts tough to down. But they only have a low combat ability: They have lost some speed and their claws are falling out.

My Shotgun-equipped Stalker managed to survive, and even kill, both bears! I rolled fantastically well! He certainly has a blessed life ahead of him if he keeps this up!

“I will give a Buckshot sandwich, you poor creature!”
Having killed one bear, and surviving a bandits attempt to intervene with an RPG, the Stalker kills the last bear!

Of course, after doing the hard-work, the bandits make their play! However, the Gopnik assigned to loot-stealing fails to open the door!

One of the Gopniks rushes forwards, and attempts to open the back hatch. Failing to do so, my Stalker clambers in the top hatch and secures….old military gear. Wherever the real treasure was, it is gone now…

Unfortunately, the BTR failed to pay off, even with the threat level 3 table, all that was secured was a fair amount of rubles, a scope, and a chest rig.

The Bandits had secured their loot, and now a stand-off threatened to ensue. We all had gotten decent loot, and with my Stalkers and the Irish needing to get off the far board edge, the Bandits formed up in such a way that I had to go through them…

But, the art of the good old bribe was in effect. One of my Stalkers waves the chest rig around in the air, and says “Stupid debils, let us through, and this is all yours. If not, we will fire and you get nothing but bullets!”

The Bandits accepted the trade, and no player vs player combat ensued…this time.

The Bandits, having been mauled by zombies, and now staring down the barrel of a flamethrower with shots left, accept my bribe. The game ends on a whimper, not a bang.

This first outing, with not fully painted forces or terrain, was more to finally get things going; no more waiting! We decided to paint as we go, and while the two other players must make their Cordon crossing, and also get an attempt at the loot, for now, the crews return to their new homes.

The Irish and my Stalkers retire to a rookie village, a safe location. Sharing a drink, they forget that tomorrow they may try to kill each other. For now, singing songs they don’t quite understand, my Stalkers celebrate life, and another day. The Irish ask a few questions…

Tell, me, ‘Comrades’, how does one get to the CNPP? We are in search of certain…things.

Ha! You silly Britisher, the Scorcher will get you first! No one gets past the Array with their mind intact. Those who survive get zombiefied…or worse.

You call me a Britisher one more time, Ruskie, and your going to have a fuckin problem. You got me? What in the fuck is a Scorcher?”

You people call it the Russian Woodpecker, but its known simply here as the Array. The Duga Array. The Soviets claim it was for nuclear weapon warning, but we know better. No one can get to Pripyat now. Its an invisible field, and no-one really wants to test it, you know what I mean.”

We’ve gotten past British blockades in the past, mate. This is just a more…esoteric version. Who do we talk to about a solution, instead of this commie quitter talk you lot keep jabbing on about?”

Your gonna want to talk to the Scientists. But they are a elusive bunch. A few are holed up in another village nearby. Check with them, you stupid Micks.”

Everyone playing is fairly excited now. It is hard to get momentum up when your not playing and a new edition of 40k rears its head. But it won’t take much for my to paint my squad, Kurt(the Bandit player) to paint up his, and for Lucas to get models he feels represents the IRA veterans he wants to play as. But we are now locked in; the shashlik is on the grill!

For myself, I have to knuckle down and get the MDF Russian village I got assembled. We all have to work on monsters! We have purchased Bunker 16 from Black-site Studios, and Kurt is printing it for our escapades underground. 3D printing has opened many doors for us!

But, that is all I have for today. I have some more Royalists, and a neat Armoured Car on the agenda, and will make a post shortly on that! As always, happy war-gaming, where-ever you are. And stay alert…for such is life in the Zone!

Zona Alfa: Preparing for a Zone Excursion!

ss_turner_06-16-20_00-08-48_(l07_military)
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.

 

A Good Day for a Roadside Picnic: Getting started with Zona Alfa!

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Oh no, not another game. I swear these things just keep showing up.

As usual, it all started with the same question: “hey, you ever heard of Zona Alfa?” I hadn’t, so I did a bit of digging, and found a game that can be summed up fairly easily as ‘Frostgrave with Kalashnikov’s’. This was, in fact, a major selling point, and after spending my hard earned rubles on a PDF copy from Osprey, I purchased a physical copy from Amazon. It took a long time to get to me, given current circumstances, but that was okay, I could wait.

A browse of the PDF copy and the Facebook page Stalker7 by the author of the game showed a game I could very much enjoy, and even play solo if so desired. So I did what I usually do, jumped in with both feet.

Before I go any further, I’d like to express my delight at how lovely this book is. It is well laid out, like all the Osprey Blue Book games. But the artwork is phenomenal, the lore snippets interesting and mysterious, and the overall ‘tone’ matches very well with the video games, movie, and novel that inspired it. It can’t reach out and flat out tell you, outside of the introduction at the beginning, but it wears it’s inspirations on its sleeve, and is all the better for it.

The game takes a lot from S.T.A.L.K.E.R, the popular game series by GSC Game World in the Ukraine, which in turn took a lot of inspiration from Roadside Picnic and the movie Stalker which came after. Zona Alfa is more of a homage, but it isn’t shy about making it known where its ideas came from.

An interesting point to make here; There has been many Post-Apocalypse tabletop games in recent history. To name them all would take time, and to save you that hassle, I can say this; Those games wear their inspirations on their sleeves as well, but they are based off Western Post-Apocalypse ‘tropes’, and this comes across in how they play and how they depict the world they are trying to show. Zona Alfa, despite being a western production, by the simple fact it is delving into the Eastern European take on the topic, takes an entirely different approach.

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Stalker, the movie that is, is a great example of what I’m about to go into.

The Post-Soviet bloc tends to have a much bleaker approach to the whole topic, combined with a mystical angle. One could argue it is more ‘realistic’, but I’d say it is more of a ‘dog eat dog’, post-Soviet existentialist take on the topic, and a more bitter, brutal and unhappy world. There are no grand victories in Roadside Picnic, STALKER, or Metro, just small ones that let you live another day. Fallout in it’s current depiction is more optimistic, a totally different feel. Mad Max is bleak, but also leans into the ‘weird’, leather and football pad aesthetic. Media from the post-soviet bloc just doesn’t seem to do that, instead it is more rooted in what we know, specifically the soviet experience.

Weirder still, is that Zona Alfa isn’t truly post-apocalyptic! The world, in general, is absolutely fine out side of the titular ‘Zone’ this all takes place in. Outside of criminals forced to hide in the Zone, locals who never left, and the poor Military grunts guarding it, everyone involved is here out of their own volition. They have chosen, for whatever reason, to make a name for themselves running artifacts and mutant parts out of the Zone for profit, science, or whatever reason.

Then there is the giant, reactor 4 sized ‘elephants foot’ in the room. Roadside Picnic takes place in a undefined location (widely assumed, and I believe as well, to be Canada), and Stalker (the movie) moved it to the Soviet Union. Then Chernobyl, the actual real life event, happened in 1986, after both of these pieces of media came out. The Zone was suddenly real.

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The remains of Reactor Building 4.

Let me be perfectly clear here; the actual event was horrid. We should look at it with a certain amount of reverence, and anything I mention after this should take that into account.

The Zone, being called what is was, was almost immediate fuel for conspiracy nuts and fiction authors alike. Chernobyl was the buzz-word to use in your fiction to be serious about nuclear-power. But for the Kiev based GSC Game World staff, many who had been alive when it happened, it was a personal thing, and they used that. When they made Shadow of Chernobyl in 2007, it was an buggy, messy, masterpiece. The tale it told balanced the pieces needed to tell a compelling, terrifying story of Soviet science going horribly wrong. It became in short order a cult-classic, and in writing this post I made sure to go and actually play it, despite my absolute terror at playing any survival horror game. Don’t say I don’t do anything for my craft! Anomalies from Roadside Picnic and dangerous mutants were added to a ‘second disaster’ exclusion zone around Chernobyl, and it is a terrifying, compelling experience that doesn’t easily leave you.

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This is a heavily modded version of Stalker. But the atmosphere has never changed. This is the aftermath of an Emission, a blowout from Reactor 4 of some sort of weird psychic energy.

Zona Alfa was born from this fandom, as many of us on the tabletop front have waited for years for a game to ‘nail’ that feel. The game doesn’t tell us directly where the ‘Zone’ is, but the references to the Sarcophagus and stuff in the lore snippets make it very clear where the game takes place. Patrick Todoroff, the author, does however encourage you to relocate the zone to wherever you want. And in time, I will, which I will get into later.

The game features anomalies, throwing bolts at said hotspots, mutants, bandits, radiation as a background element that shortens the amount of time in certain scenarios. Your crew of Stalkers can be outfitted with gear not too dissimilar to that from the video game, and while there are no ‘official’ miniatures, Lead Adventures in Germany makes probably the coolest looking ones. As of time of writing, they are not shipping to Canada, so I’ve got an order heading to family in the UK to eventually come here. Good things come to those who wait.

I haven’t had a chance to play; Covid and current events in the United States have understandably slowed shipping, so not everything I need to play is here yet, even in solo. But I can show off what miniatures I am using. Eureka Miniatures does an excellent, spooky but realistic line of 1980’s Soviets in NBC gear, and I have more then I can possibly use right off the bat now that my order of twenty models has arrived.

 

These guys look really, really cool. The tank crew are based off a movie called ‘The Beast’, and look really neat. The rest are in full NBC kit, and wouldn’t look out of place as Chernobyl liquidators. My favorite model is the guy carrying the dosimeter/geiger counter. Of course, they need something to fight, and luckily the market for cheap monsters has never been more varied with plastic, pre-primed models from a variety of sources.

 

The humanoid creature, called a doppelgänger, is a particularly terrifying model, and I’m going to stat it as having mimetic camouflage. The two-headed dog is pretty western post-apocalypse in look, but they look neat.  The rat swarms will make for excellent vermin swarms, and I like that they aren’t just large rats, just a lot of angry regular sized ones.

The zombies and ghouls I’ve sourced from Zombicide, as it was pointed out to me that the size works. I went for the ‘Angry’ zombies wearing prison jumpsuits, as I think I can get away with painting them in Soviet/Russian/Ukrainian prison uniforms and they would work, unlike the regular zombies which are very, very western.

Going forward, I have primed the Soviet Tank Crew to get back into the painting grove, and because I had tan Vallejo spray primer. I have a backstory planned for them, and while they are outrageously well equipped, I want to get the rest undercoated so I have less well equipped guys to throw into anomalies. I’m hoping to get a spray in grey or light greenish blue to do the rest of the NBC troops, based off Osprey reference books about the Soviet chemical troops.

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Might need a respray to get coverage to survive handling until I hit it with varnish when I’m done.

Now my plans going forward with this game? Obviously, as with many others, I really want to do the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. It is famous, well researched, and the Stalker games have made it too cool to ignore. I have purchased a 28mm Russian Village from Sarissa Precision to start off the less dangerous parts of the zone. I’m planning on getting some ruined vehicles and BTRs to throw into maps for ambience.

But Roadside Picnic….as a Canadian, I want to bring the Zone ‘home’. And after watching Chernobyl from HBO, I got curious about nuclear power. And, while I knew the Nuclear Plant near me was big, I didn’t realize just how big…

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Bruce Power, in Kincardine Ontario, Canada. About 45 km away from me. 8 reactors, and was until very recently the biggest in the world in output.

Now I’m actually a nuclear power advocate, and the scenario I have in mind is almost impossible, and only in our darkest dreams could it ever happen. But for fiction purposes, it is a fun mind exercise.

I’m talking a Canadian Zone, a level 7 nuclear accident combined with the weird psychic angle from the STALKER games. In the campaign I want to run with one group (I’m in two potentially, and one is staying in Chernobyl only), the events of the player group in the original Chernobyl Zone would cause a global event, a ‘blip’. During this blip, people don’t remember 10 minutes of their lives, a collective memory gap. Some reactors around the world suffer massive, intentional, internally caused damage. Bruce Power would be among them, and a massive, 50km exclusion zone in my own backyard is both a terrifying and compelling idea. Roadside Picnic will have come home. How would Canadian ‘Stalkers’ differ from their Russian/Ukrainian counter-parts? I have no idea, but I intend to explore that.

But all in good time! For now, I hope you all enjoyed my ramblings into Zona Alfa, and hope you stick around to see where this goes. In the mean time, Happy War-gaming, wherever you are, for such is life in the Zone. Cheers!