Monday 25 November 2019

The Exciting World of Cryptobiology and Pseudoscience

Welcome to our series of Open University lectures introducing the layman to two exciting, and often life-threatening, areas of avant-garde scientific research.

In this series, filmed recently at the Darley Dale centre for nuclear exploration and cake redistribution, we, the Lost Faculty of Cryptobiology and Pseudoscience from University of Salem, intend to exemplify, mystify, and horrify you in equal measure.

So sit back, tighten up those restraints and brace yourself as we take you to places you didn't know that you didn't know didn't exist...except they do!

Lecture 1 - Cryptobiology 101 (or 'How to Kill Monsters'), featuring test subject 'Phil'.

In this lecture we shall illustrate the dos and don'ts of destroying scientific test subjects that have got out of hand and need obliterating before the authorities find out and revoke your research grant.

We shall be ably assisted in this endeavour by the Red Shadiws display team, featuring the Guru and Destro.

Here you can see our team getting into position for the beginning of the demonstration. It's important to take every precaution to avoid accidental (or deiberate) deaths amongst the faculty.

And here you see the Red Shadows moving cautiously through terrain. This caution is wise as scientific aberrations can often breathe fire, spit venom or be fitted with heavy machine guns by over-enthusiatic undergraduates.

Another wise choice is the use of heavy weaponry, such as this laser-bazooka. Ironically, the best method of controlling destructive biological monstrosities created by scientists that think little of the consequences of their work can be unleashing destructive technological monstrosities created by scientists that think little of the consequences of their work.

In this case, the laser-bazooka's efficacy is shown by it's immediate demolition of a mutant fly (not shown on screen to avoid the inevitable PETA letters).

Here's another fairly basic principle demonstrated by Destro: never approach a monstrosity alone. Faceless minions should always accompany you so that they can be eaten first.

Try, if at all possible to approach from the rear of the beast, and stay away, as much as possible, from any sharp edges or prehensile appendages.

During your approach, a liberal application of ballistic weaponry can be effective. Although this can seem ineffectual, over time you have the potential to wear down your target.

However, you must always be conscious that despite taking all sensible precautions, monstrosities often show preciously unobserved abilities that allow them to slip through your carefully constructed trap and slip away to a nearby roof, sewer system or elevator.

Also, if a monstrosity is this close to your laser-bazooka operative, mistakes have been made.

In fact, proximity should be avoided when dealing with anything with claws, scales, tentacles or potentially contagious skin conditions.

Be aware that not all threats are horrifically ugly or easily identified visually. Here, the bright pink slime creature is an obvious threat, however the Red Shadows operative has been momentarily distracted by our appealing foreign exchange student, Ivana Benderova.

This distractingly sexy, yet strangely cold and emotionless Russian twentysomething catching his eye is enough to allow the slime creature to close with him.

Remember the earlier point about proximity?

Also, you must hold your nerve, even when a monstrosity appears where you least expect it. Keep up your fire, as some shots will penetrate the creature's hide.

Here we see the consequences of careless proximity as Destro and his minion are eviscerated and dissected.

It is important when facing scientific aberrations to keep a cool, rational mind and remain dispassionate; avoid recklessly fleeing for your life, as this will achieve nothing. Here you can see the Guru and his Lieutenant keeping calm despite the dismemberment of their associates.

This scientific detachment will allow you to achieve your goals in stressful situations, as seen here. The Guru calmly extracts himself from combat and opens fire on the creature, inflicting a killing blow thanks to the damage inflicted earlier in the process.

This represents successful outcome as now the clean up can commence and plausible deniability can be maintained.

When seeking to remove evidence of your work, just remember this formula:

Success = (Tenacity - Proximity)Bazooka

Lecture 2 - The Application of Force, featuring test subject 'David'.

Obviously, being able to maintain a respectable front and clean up after ourselves is important, but what most aspiring pseudoscientists want to know, is how to unleash their work upon an unsuspecting world that hates and fears them.

For this demonstration we shall be unwillingly 'assisted' by a group of religious zealots, of the sort that often hinder our work. These were transported from the 1800s through a prototype temporal portal which has been commissioned by the Conservative Party to allow them to send Jacob Rees Mogg back.

One important lesson to learn is that zealous mobs love to get close to our creations in order to tear them down with pitchforks and poorly constructed theological arguments.

We should encourage this, as it allows us to use the advice about proximity in the previous lecture to our advantage.

However, be careful to ensure that proximity is only achieved with the fascinatingly deadly fruits of our labour, and not the research team.

Be aware that not all mobs come armed only with farm implements, therefore take steps to protect your creations until proximity is achieved.

It can be beneficial to allow ethical opponents to feel like they are getting the upper hand before you strike. However, be careful that you don't give too much ground in the early stages.

Also be conscious that after you've unleashed your beast to devastating effect upon a fanatic mob, they may seek out less dangerous targets, such as yourself, and avoid further confrontation with your creations.

In these circumstances you should deploy fast moving servitors to track them down and continue to discuss vigorously.

You may need to divide your team and set them different objectives. Trust that independence encourages competence. Don't seek to micromanage.

However, there comes a time when concentration of force allows you to apply the greatest pressure on a crucial nexus of resistance.

If you don't do this, you could find loopholes in your methodology exploited.

Also, bunkers work best if you stand inside them, not behind them.

Ultimately, remember that your work is the result of your academic superiority, and that the more you can keep sceptics focused on it and not you, the more successful you will be.

Because logical argument combined with lethally sentient aberrations will eventually win any debate convincingly.

Lecture 3 - The Struggle to Secure Funding, featuring test subject 'Shaun'.

Although both exhilarating and newsworthy, the cutting edge study of Cryptobiology somehow fails to attract corporate sponsors, and so when the opportunity to fund new research arises, it should be firmly grabbed with both tentacles (along with any vestigial mandible you might possess).

Government Quangos, for example Department X, can often beat genuinely adventurous scientists who want to push the boundaries of society to grants and bursaries.

First example, this bunch of pedestrian labrats are seeking support for 'Spectrum R&D'. Honestly! What's to research and develop, they're just colours!

It's important, when seeking funding, to not be to open about your greatest achievements so far. This allows them to be unveiled as early successes that can make an investor feel like they are getting an immediate return.

It's important to get to an investor before your competitors, and so Ms Benderova gets to the money first.

You should seek to frustrate a rival's advances whilst making your own persuasive points, as demonstrated by the team obstructing Dr Hugo Solomon, whilst Professor von Schteppyonde discusses risks and opportunities.

Be aware that your competitors may seek different angles of approach and you should take steps to obstruct these so that you can make your case. Self-replicating slime creatures are excellent in this respect.

Strong argument, delivered with forceful passion can be quite overwhelming. A sudden stunning strike by Dr Kurtz, followed up by unleashing the worm was very persuasive.

This secures the trust of the potential investor.

Be aware that any parts of your bid that go out on a limb can be exploited by rivals. Here Dr Kurtz is exposed by the Spectrum researchers.

However, even at this point you should be aware of late bids being snuck in.

Here you can see slime creatures duplicating to secure the route of advance.

All you need to do is prevent any arguments being made to you investor that can sway him from supporting you. The slime creatures do not need to survive as you can make more.

Ultimately, you must remember when to show your hand and when to conceal it, as sponsors do not want to be associated with the less savoury aspects of our work. Here, the worm attacks the Spectrum operatives and then is cleverly disguised as an inflatable outside of a car showroom.

Finally, planting operatives in your opponent's operation can be used to frustrate their bids. Here, Colonel White reveals his true allegiance by shooting Corporal Black in the back of the head.

At the end of this series we should stress that if you are able to secure funding, cover your tracks and use your creations with brutal efficiency, then a brilliant career in Cryptobiology and Pseudoscience awaits.

I'm aware that this is one of my more bizarre event reports, but it was the 'Open University' 7TV Day held by the Dale's Wargames Club. A really fun day where the aim was having fun and teaching new players. Big thanks to my opponents, Phil, David and Shaun, and especially to James and the other club members for organising it.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Rage Against The Machines

Matt and I have decided to start playing games with the purpose of providing motivation to get more things painted. Therefore thoughts turned to Terminator: Genisys for the first time in a while and I took the opportunity to bring out the big guns. Quite literally.

This is a really cheap and nasty Abrams tank that I picked up with the intent of adding some weight to my Resistance force. I'd got to the point of assembling, undercoating and dry brushing it before my interest waned, and it's been sat on my windowsill for several months until this latest game was arranged.

The model was £3, and it shows. The turret doesn't turn, the aerials are like broom handles, the tracks have no tread, and the guns were little more than plastic tubes. Perhaps most bizarrely, the stowage cage, which is attached to the turret, was actually pegged into the hull on the original model.

This needed trimming and filling, and attaching to the turret. The worst of the pintle guns was replaced with a 40k bolter as it looks more realistic (think about that for a moment) and I spruced up the drab colour scheme with some transfers lifted from my WW2 kits.

I also freehanded a DNA symbol as an identifier for aerial support (I'm not sure how relevant this would be in the grim near future, but the model needed something to live it up. My shaky painting neatly reflects the idea of it being scrawled by Resistance fighters not really focused on neatness.

All in all, I'm really happy with how its turned out, given it's cheap and nasty nature. All that was left was to roll it out against a shocked and unsuspecting Matt.

Unfortunately, Matt had a trick or two up his own mechanical sleeve...

I knew about the Hunter Killer VTOL, and I'd faced it before with only a smattering of rocket launchers to protect me.

However, this was a complete shock...

A Hunter Killer tank he'd bought of Amazon at short notice with exactly the same intentions as I'd had for the Abrams.

As it happened, in the game neither the Hunter Killers or the Abrams were the star of the show. My humble Resistance fighters, some armed only with assault rifles (which can't even kill terminators) were able to suppress and destroy enough machines to allow weight of numbers to win out.

We were both reminded that we really enjoy this game. It's simple to play and very cinematic (Kyke Reese bursting out of a warehouse to ambush some endoskeketons was a high point). Well definitely be getting some more games in soon.

Also, despite its size, the Abrams still only counts as one. However, it puts me back into the black again:

Painted: 205
Acquired: 204

Sunday 10 November 2019

The Infested Trees

From the chronicles of Brother Rendall...

My examination of the bodies, along with the tracks Wormtail discovered and other clues from the village, left little doubt. The village had been attacked by some horrific species of giant spider, whose venom reanimated the dead. 

Our duty was clear. We vowed to find the creatures, destroy them and any nests they might have made.

Taking just enough time to patch up our wounds, and make a quick pyre for the dead, we set off after the spiders, Lady Shevarith skillfully following their faint, but unique tracks. 

After nearly a day’s pursuit, the tracks lead into a small forest. With Master Venkh leading the way, we chanced upon one the spiders before we were too deep in the woods. It seemed to be tending a cocoon, which raised a faint hope that we might possibly be able to rescue survivors from the village.

True to his direct and valiant character, Venkh leapt forward to engage the foul creature. Garvin let fly with an arrow that missed its mark and 

Wormtail spotted another cocoon and rushed forward to cut it open in the hope of finding someone alive. He seemed driven, as if what he had witnessed in the village had helped him to find his courage and a desire to find some sign of hope.

Sadly all he found was the poor victim reanimated by the noxious venom of the spiders. It was quickly dispatched by a magical dart from Shevarith.

All this commotion stirred something in the trees. I could see several trees shrouded in webbing that myst have been the vermin's nests. However, the movement in the branches told me that we would soon have more of the creatures to contend with.

Master Venkh was surprisingly hard pressed by the spider and recieved a bite on his leg that seemed to slow him. I ran to his aid, chanting one of the healing incarnations I had learned in the monastery. With renewed strength and my aid, he struck the creature down.

But yet more spiders appeared from the undergrowth, although they were momentarily slowed by a bright ray of sunlight that shone through the clouds overhead.

Whilst Shevarith and Troughton dealt with the spiders, Wormtail darted off towards another cocoon.

This time he was rewarded. A desperately wounded man, who we later learned was named Nardol, was wrapped in sticky strands but had not yet succumbed to the toxin. Quick as a flash, Wormtail cut him free and helped him to his feet before darting off again.

Meanwhile, Troughton cut through the spiders with ease. I had blessed his blade earlier and it found its mark with every stroke.

However, Master Venkh, Garvin and I were sorely beset by the scuttling creatures. As soon as one was cut down, more would appear.

I took advantage of a brief lull to cut open a cocoon, but found nought but a desiccated corpse, whilst Venkh continued to hack and slash.

I caught a brief glimpse of Wormtail through the trees slicing open yet another cocoon, he was like a man possessed.

Once again, however, the poor unfortunate had been transformed and lurched towards Wormtail. However, before it could grab him, Garvin dropped it with a well placed arrow.

A sudden shout from Master Venkh drew my attention to a tree right beside us. We had missed the fact that it was wreathed in webs. We had carelessly walked almost right beneath a nest tree, and its inhabitant was dropping down a sticky thread towards us.

In our plight, we didn't see Shevarith, Troughton and the injured Nardol, disappear through the undergrowth in pursuit of a driven Wormtail, and we were not to see them for some time.

However, we had other concerns. Venkh leapt forwards and crushed the spider with a single blow from Aventine's sword.

And I followed up quickly to light a fire at the base of the tree. As the cleansing flames licked upwards I could hear the squeals of spiders as they were destroyed.

With one nest destroyed, we pressed on through the woods to find more. I was momentarily slowed by something glinting in the fire light. I discovered a pair of gauntlets caught within the webbing. Some power had put these in my path and I resolved to present them to my master to aid him in his crusade against the Shadow Deep.

We were told later that Wormtail had miraculously found yet another survivor wrapped in webbing, a man named Kahlo. The gods were surely working through Wormtail this day.

It must have been at around this time that Shevarith and her companions approached the first of the nest trees we had seen in the distance.

Although I believe Wormtail and Kahlo were faced by yet more spiders.

However, Troughton was able to set light to one of the trees...

...whilst Shevarith rushed to Wormtail's aid.

And yet, help was not required as Wormtail, filled with divine purpose and aided by the injured Kahlo cut down to foul creature. 

They then followed Troughton's example by burning the nest and destroying the swarm.

With the trees gripped by fire, Shevarith and her company made their way back to find us.

Locating us must not have been difficult as Venkh had set a great conflagration amongst the nest trees.

I joined him in this righteous task, destroying the last of the nest trees that we could find.

We had done what we could. Aventine was avenged, the spiders and their foul reanimated creations were destroyed, and two men had even been rescued from oblivion. Although weary and soot stained from our exertions, we had shown to ourselves that although the Shadow Deep was foul and its creatures numerous, stout hearted folk could turn back the tide.

At least for a time...