THE RAMBLINGS OF A FRENCH CANADIAN WARGAMER

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Crimson Guards (80s Pulp)

File name : Top Secret
Primary military specialty : Undercover espionnage
Secondary military specialty : Accounting, Law

More Cobra baddies today, as we move on to my childhood's favourites (ok, they still are my favourites), the Crimson Guards, the elite shock troops of the Cobra legions.


They are usually depicted as Cobra Commander bodyguards, and also act as deep-cover or sleeper agents, conducting operations in civilian guises. It makes me laugh that they are also lawyers (obviously the elite bad guys are lawyers), a fact I had to share with my my wife Laurie (who's a Lawyer).

They have a really smart uniform, for the military uniform buffs, complete with shoulder straps and silver cords. While the action figures had a black helmet with a silver visor, I went with the cartoon and card art with the silver helmet and dark visor, which I find looks much better.


Completely clad in red, they were somewhat of a challenge to paint but I'm really happy how they came out. I went with a gloss finish on their visors and it came out great!  The silver Cobra symbol on their chest are actually custom made decals from Company B. It was a bit of a pain to slide such tiny transfers, especially since the torsos of the figures are not totally flat, but after a lot of swearing I managed to do a good job of it! It really adds to the figures.

I believe it shows that I really like them, as they are some of my favourite work I've done recently, even though the red highlights are a little lost in the pictures.

The figures themselves are really great, too. They also have a lot less straps than their blue brothers (yeah)!



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Enemy, part II (80s Pulp)

File name, unknown. 
Primary military specialty: Infantry
Secondary military specialty : Sabotage

Five of the nameless, faceless legions of Cobra command. Each Cobra is highly skilled in the use of explosives, all NATO and Warsaw pact small arms, sabotage and the martial arts. 

Cobras swear absolute loyalty to their fanatical leader, Cobra Commander...their goal, to conquer the world for their own evil purpose. 

Five more Cobra troopers this week. 

The Cobra troopers are the "cannon fodder" of the Cobra organization, i.e. think of the classic James Bond villain henchmen. So they will be quite useful in the games I intend to play with this project. They were mostly inept in the cartoons, but I loved them nonetheless, as once again I had a soft spot for all masked evil grunts! Doing all the work with oh so little recognition! 

 Cobraaaaaaaaaaa!

When I first started on these guys, I thought they would be super easy to paint, what with them all blue, but I quickly realized the bastards have so much leg straps (and suspenders) they'd make a Napoleonic soldier proud! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Enemy (80s Pulp)

I was always a lot more into the evil guys, especially with GI Joe, and I loved all the masked soldiers and leaders from the evil Cobra organization. They looked so cool. My favourites action figures were often the ordinary grunts, from the Stormtroopers and the Snowtroopers to the Cobra blue shirts and Crimson Guards. So I decided to paint Cobra troopers first, the minions of the Cobra terrorist organization.


We start the project with 5 Cobra troopers, in their well known blue uniforms. The Cobra Troopers serve as the basic foot soldiers of the Cobra Organization, they are the nameless, faceless legions of the Cobra organization, loyal to Cobra Commander in his goal to conquer the world! (They also have an annoying amount of leg straps and suspenders!) Lovely figures, really, armed with Ak-47 and M-16, to give them a more realistic look, while still being true to the lore.

I went with a lighter blue than the cartoons and action figure art, mostly at first by accident but I liked the results so kept them that way. So the recipe (so that I remember in the future) is GW macragge blue as a base, then GW Altdorf Guard blue, with highlights of Foundry Bavarian Blue B and then C.

And I went for black for the straps and suspenders, white just looks silly!


Loads of fun painting these, this is a very fun and relaxed project. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

80s Military and Sci-Fi Pulp...aka American Hero

Hello, my name is Iannick Martin, and I'm a nostalgia junkie. 

I was born in 1979, and I'm really into everything from the 80s: cartoons, movies, comics, action figures, RPGs, and everything Oldhammer. The 1980s were the heydays of action figures, before the dark days, before the advent of Playstations and other Xboxes. I was obviously a big fan. Star Wars, Gi Joes, Master of the Universe...so many others. My father would often surprise me on friday nights with a new figure, especially a new GI Joe or Star Wars, which were smaller figures and very affordable. The packaging art was awesome, and each figure came with a "File Card" explaining the background of the trooper, his specialty, etc. Great fun for any young boy! GI Joe went on to become a very successful Marvel Comic, and a license franchise spanning movies, lunchboxes, and pretty much anything and everything. I still collect the action figures, yes I'm a geek and proud of it!




GI Joe's action figures from the early 80s
For those who don't know anything about the franchise, it was mainly about the covert war between GI Joe, an elite USA squad force, and Cobra, a terrorist organization bent on world domination with an obsession for snake emblems. It was very much a product of it's time, and you can smell the Reagan era a mile away. Not that my 7 year old self noticed, or cared about that anyways...

So not surprisingly, I was recently attracted by a small privately funded project by a friend of mine, recreating the GI Joe world in miniatures. It may seem silly at first, but the GI Joe world actually works extremely well as a wargaming setting, and offers tons of possibilities. It's a great setting for modern skirmishes, and lends itself well with the Pulp genre and rulesets. The black and white, i.e. the good guys and the bad guys, also makes for great fun in this bleak grey 21st century of ours.

This blog has been very quiet for some time, as I've been really involved with Sci-Fi and Fantasy (Oldhammer). But I've also been working on this "80s Military & Sci-fi Pulp" project for many months now, and I've yet to show pictures of it in my blog(s). I figure the project is a great excuse to make this blog more active! So apologies to the historical only crowd, but you're about to get a heavy dose of Pulp, with a most 80s of flavour. The 80s kids however should love what's coming next!

Here, let's finish this post with some 80s cheesy nostalgia goodness. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We don't have enough ammunition to shoot them all in the head. The time to have done that would have been in the beginning. No, we let them overrun us. We are in the minority now, something like 400,000 to one by my calculation.

An entry coming out of left field today, with 6 figures from the original Zombicide board game. Zombicide is the only miniature board or wargame that my girlfriend actually enjoys. I think the cooperative nature of the game appeals to her more than the competition style of traditional wargames. It's also much simple. It's quite funny as she really gets into it and becomes a nervous wreck when the Zombies approach us from all sides! So she's been bugging me to paint the miniatures for the game, and I figured I'd give it a go in between batches of other miniatures. They are really nice figures, it's just that I have so many projects to do! 

Anyways, I painted these during the last Analogue painting challenge, but didn't post them on here.

For board game game pieces they are lovely figures, even though the face details are a bit soft. I'm also not a huge fan of the semi-soft plastic used, but having said that I'm quite pleased with how they came out.




You will notice none of them follow the art from the game. I just don't like being told what colours to use, unless it's historical or accepted canon! 




While obviously their main use is Zombicide, I based them the same as my Pulp project (more on this soon), and I can certainly use some of them, the police officer especially, in my Pulp games.

Now, I just have to paint all the Zombies from the game...next challenge, maybe?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hail to the King, baby

Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This... is my BOOMSTICK! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart's top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That's right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?

When I was maybe 11, I saw late at night a horror movie called Evil dead. It terrified me. So of course I watched Evil Dead II not long after and was also terrified, again. The "humour" in the movie escaped me, and the fact the main hero, Ash, spends a good half of the movie alone, tormented by evil demonic forces really made a number on me. But the worst part was the movie's ending, in which our hero gets propelled back in medieval times, not the happy ending you want for your horror movie.

Lady, I'm afraid I'm gonna have to ask you to leave the store.
And who the hell are you?
Name's Ash. [cocks rifle] 
Housewares.


Two years later, I saw a commercial for Army of Darkness, and I realized it was the sequel to Evil Dead! Finally I would knew what happened to Ash! As I was 13, and the movie was PG-13, I went to see it in the theater. I quickly realized that the sequel was much more lighthearted than the original, and while for a moment it disappointed me I rapidly fell for it's humour, and laughed for 90 minutes straight. 

You found me beautiful once...
Honey, you got reeeal ugly!

To this day, Army of Darkness is one of the movies I've seen the most often, and I can recite most of the movie lines by heart. And they're so many classic quotes in that movie! 

It's a trick. Get an axe.

Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun.
I got this Hasslefree miniatures a while back, because obviously as a die hard fan of the serie I needed it, and obviously when I saw the last bonus round theme (TV or movie character) I knew what I had to do! At first I wanted to do a diorama, but after painting the figure the wargamer in me whispered to my ear "you'll want to play with him, are you sure a diorama is a good idea?" That combined with lack of time as I've been working really hard on that Pulp duel with Sander made me decide he would be enough. And who am I kidding? Of course, Ash is enough! 

I intend to use him in Pulp games, and also of course Zombicide! It's a great figure, and I'm really happy with my painting.

Sure, I could have stayed in the past. I could have even been king. But in my own way, I *am* king.
Hail to the king, baby.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Chicago Mobsters (West theme entry for the Analogue Challenge)

So I had to improvise a little (a lot) for the West entry, submitted for the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. I had what I thought was a very good concept for the Challenge (the Wicked Witch of the West), but unfortunately the world's posts and/or Canada customs conspired to ruin my plans! Indeed, the order I made specifically for this bonus theme round apparently got lost in the mail somewhere, and I was left with nothing! I actually waited until yesterday, hoping it might miraculously show up at the last minute but alas it was not meant to be. I woke up this morning a bit frustrated at the whole situation resigned that I would miss this bonus theme round. But then by mid-afternoon I shook myself up, and since I always join the bonus round (terrain excepted), I figured I had to come with something!

So I frantically went digging into my lead pile. Now, I remembered I had a lone Far West Cowboy figure left, but that didn't excite me, as it seemed an easy way out. I figure a few of the entries would be Far West (nothing wrong with that) and I wanted to do something different than a single Cowboy.

And then by pure luck I stumbled unto two Gangsters figures. They were the remnants of a pack of Copplestone Miniatures gangsters I bought many years ago to paint as a gift to Laurie (she's into everything 1930s, especially the cinema and Film Noir). And my brain started working a little and making associations...gangsters, mobsters, 1920s Chicago, Chicago the Midwest city, often referred as the Jewel of the Midwest...ha! Got it! I'm pretty sure no one does Midwest for this theme! 

It was a bit of a hectic day after that; they needed to be cleaned, primed, based and painted by midnight. 

And success!! 

So my entry is Dean O'Banion and Bugs Moran, the famous leaders of the North Side Gang, the Chicago Irish Mobsters and main rivals of Al Capone's Chicago outfit who fought in the 1920s and 1930s in what is now known as “The Bootleg Battle of the Marne.” 

Dean O'Banion and Bugs Moran

I went with classic Mobsters suits colours of Navy blue and "shiny" grey, and really i'm just happy I managed to not only finish them but making them look decent with very limited time. I won't win this challenge but I'm really proud I managed to sneak in this entry! They will be added to Laurie's Gangsters collection as I really have no gaming use for them.

60 extra points for the challenge (10 for the two figures, 50 for the Bonus round entry)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

1st Duchy of Warsaw skirmishers

Au menu today we have five Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw skimishers, from Murawski Miniatures. The figures are from the Voltigeurs in Full dress, campaign dress set as well as the new "extra" scruffy Campaign dress figures. And boy are they scruffy! Roger has a real problem and just keeps producing more and more Poles! The sheer variety is one of my favourite thing about the range, and oh if all Napoleonic armies could get this level of completeness and love (other than the French and British, the boring and annoying favourites, of course).

The figures are fusiliers and voltigeurs skirmishers from the Duchy of Warsaw 1st infantry regiment, presumably in the middle of an exhausting campaign! I'll probably end up using them for skirmishes set in the 1809 campaign between the Poles and the Austrians (and maybe Brunswickers 'cause they look cool).


They are meant for a small Napoleonic skirmish project I'm just starting, the goal to play really small scale skirmishes and maybe eventually bigger ones like Sharpe's Practice. But mostly, it's an excuse to give extra love to my favourite Napoleonic ranges: it seems I always paint Naps in batches of 16 or 24, and I wanted to work on small batches and individuals for a change. I must say it was a very different experience from batch painting Napoleonic battalions!



The Murawski figures are as usual lovely (I'm biased), and I'm always surprised I don't see more Duchy of Warsaw in blogs and on the battlefield, as it is really a lovely army with their distinctive Czapka and colourful facings.

So, for this entry that's 5 28mm figures, 25 pts.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rhino Miyamoto, Samurai of the Cinnamon Clan

Every year in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, I find a way to paint one of Dark Sword's amazing Anthropomorphic Animals, usually in a Bonus Round challenge. It started with Sir Kermit the Frog Paladin many moons ago for the "Hero" bonus round, then a Frog Jester for the "Comedy" round, a Frog Prince and Princess for last year's "Amour" theme (which won the round) and Kitty Bonny, Cat pirate! As someone who's attached to traditions, I obviously couldn't let this year challenge go by without a nice Anthropomorphic Animal...So I made my choice pretty quickly for this bonus round, "East". It was especially easy as the figure I was thinking of using was a free figure sent by Dark Sword as part of an order (Yes, they usually give you a random figure, another reason to love the small outfit). The only difficult part was finding him in my lead pile, as it had been stored during last year's house move! 

So no frog this year, as we go into the house pet category, with the exotic and oh so vicious North American Guinea Pig! So I present to you Rhino Miyamoto, Samurai of the Cinnamon Clan. 


I must say the armour was a bit of pain to paint, but in the end it's well worth it. I'm especially happy the black came out well, even in photography.


The black armour was painted black and then delicately and lightly drybrushed with grey; I wanted to pick the details but still wanted it to look very black and not grey. The yellow is my traditionnal Ochre/yellow recipe, and the yellow details on the armour were picked up manually (that was the painful part). 


I had to google to find out what Guinea Pigs eyes looks like, and I think I've a good job replicating their big black shiny eyes. 


And there you have it, one more critter in the display cabinet! These guys are Laurie's favourites so they have a place of honour in the living room cabinet! 

And as for his name, well his last name is pretty obvious I'd think, but his first name is a wink to the most famous guinea pig of them, and a favourite of mine...


And that's 55 pts for the challenge (50 pts for the bonus round, and 5 for the 28mm figures).

This was entered as my submission in the East Bonus Theme Round . If you like him please go vote for me!! Rewards includes bragging rights, hobby goodies and extra points for the challenge. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Photographing Miniatures : Part II, setting up your camera

So last time we discussed how I got my perfect set-up. You can imagine my frustration when I took some pictures and still they were dark and out of focus. After reading a few tutorials and some trial and error, I came up with settings which work very well for me.

So, everything needed was inside my camera, with the essential help of a tri-pod. To follow this Tutorial you need a good digital camera (mine is a Canon IOS Rebel T3) that you can put in "manual setting" and one which lets you play with Aperture, Iso and Shutter speed (exposure).

First and most important advice : DO NOT put your camera on "Macro" or "Auto" mode. I did this for years. It doesn't work for miniatures photography. What you want to do is control the settings of your camera manually. (BTW I'm no expert, what you are about to read has been picked up from the web and many tutorials. I'm a self made man ;-) ).

Aperture is ‘the opening in the lens.’

When you hit the shutter release button of your camera a hole opens up that allows your cameras image sensor to catch a glimpse of the scene you’re wanting to capture. The aperture that you set impacts the size of that hole. The larger the hole the more light that gets in – the smaller the hole the less light. Aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’. In our case, we want a  a smaller hole (high number) so that everything is in focus. I go with f22.



In very basic terms, ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light, while a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera. The ISO setting changes the sensitivity of the sensor. A low number like 100 will be crisp but will require a lot of light to expose the picture correctly. An ISO of 3000 will not require that much light but will be very grainy. I often read 400 is a good number, but I went with 200 and the results were remarkably better.

Shutter speed, also known as “exposure time”, stands for the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor. If the shutter speed is fast, it can help to freeze action completely. If the shutter speed is slow, it can create an effect called “motion blur”, where moving objects appear blurred along the direction of the motion. In our case, you want to play with the exposure meter (-2..1..0..1..+2). This is where I had so much difficulty. I kept changing the shutter speed setting until the cursor was on 0, but that always gave me too dark of a picture. Took me a while to figure that one out! Now I over exposure on the exposure metre about two clicks to get a brighter picture and a whiter background (so +2 instead of 0).

However, the long shutter speed means that, if you are holding the camera the picture will be blurry because of all the camera shake. This is where the Tri-pod comes into play, because we are going to use a long timer; with a long shutter speed just pressing the button can move the camera. The timer eliminates that. I use a full 10 seconds timer. You might say it's annoyingly too long, but honestly with all of the settings described above I rarely take more than 2-3 pictures of any subject to find my perfect picture. So basically 20-30 seconds per good picture is something I can live with!

Officially, I'm still missing two things; a better background (I like blue gradiant, although my current white works just fine) which I ordered from a recent kickstarter, and something to work on my white balance. But I'm a little lazy at times, so I let my Mac's IPhoto deal with my white balance, usually by "lightening" the picture just a tad.

So here you go! In recap, ISO of 200, Aperture of F22, +2 on the exposure meter, 10 seconds timer and a good tripod. Works for me! Of course, you might have to do your own tests so that you find what works best with your camera, set-up, lighting available, etc.

My camera sitting on the Tri-Pod, with the proper settings

I'm very, very happy I finally managed to get it right, it is really such a relief. After figuring everything out, I spent a couple days smiling, and annoying the girlfriend by answering every problems with a "don't care, figured out my miniature photography".

So now not only are all the settings good, but everything is set-up just the way I want; fast, quick and quality pictures at the roll of a chair! Some recent examples of photography from the new set-up :






Sunday, January 15, 2017

Photographing miniatures, Part I; tools and set-up

Since I started blogging, my bane has always been Photographing miniatures. I hate it because it takes forever to set-up, and that means spare time not used to painting; I hate it because it always end costing money, from tri-pod to cameras to light-box, etc. (and again that means money not spent towards my hobby), and mostly I hate it because I'm not very good at it, and my pictures always end up too dark and I have to take 50 pictures to get two "good enough" picture. It has, in the past, played a role in irregular blogging posting habits. I would often wait until I had enough figures painted to spend an entire afternoon taking pics. But this way of doing thing really didn't work well with regular blog posts, and it's especially problematic during the Analogue Hobby Challenge, as I find it important to try to get a good rhythm and post every week or at least every two weeks.

So when I moved this Spring to a new house, I decided I needed to fix this issue once and for all, especially since I had the room needed; i'm indeed lucky enough to have an office (which also serves as my toys/comics collection room) upstairs to myself, as does Laurie. There were a number of things I wanted to adress, and it took me a long time to all put it together, mostly because I had to wait a few months because I was broke after the house move! So I wanted the following :
  • Permanent photography set-up. In the past I tried everything, from taking my pictures outside (not so good when summer is basically 3 months a year in Montréal), to setting up a table corner with terrain, to try to take pictures in front of a simple white paper sheet. All these would take time to install; bringing the terrain needed, getting the tri-pod, etc. I wanted something which would always be easily accessible, no set-up required.
  • A lightbox or something similar. I like to use my terrain for gaming, not taking pics, so I decided to go for a lightbox, with a permanent backgroup. Now, I like my house and my office to look nice, so not only did I wanted the box to be efficient and if possible cheap, I also wanted it to look smart in my office. So no home-made cheap looking cardboard box! 
  • A set-up right next to my computer; when taking pics outside or in the basement, you always have to go up and down the stairs to download your pics, and to double-check they are ok, etc. It's a lot of time wasted, and moreover not the best idea for my knees. 
So now lets look at the solution, which is fairly simple really. I already had a tri-pod (which I think is a must to take proper pics of minis) and a good camera. I needed a lightbox!

While perusing an Oldhammer blog, I found a review for the Foldio lightbox; it's a cheap lightbox, incredibly easy to assemble, small enough to fit on an office desk. And it was available through Amazon! And finally, it looks quite good and fits very well with the aesthetics of my Mac computer and office in general. I actually bought the Foldio 2, which is bigger and has more light than the Foldio 1, two problems mentioned by Matthew in his blog

However, lighting was still an issue, and indeed you don't have enough. I fixed this by buying two desk lamps and equipped them with daylight bulbs; faster and easier than buying more lights of the Foldio guys in Korea!

Here's a picture of the (permanent) set-up. 



To take pictures, I just roll my chair a bit to the left, get in front of the tri-pod, open all the lights and I'm done. 30 seconds and I'm in photography mode.



And then, to download the pics, I move the tri-pod with the camera still attached to it a few centimeters, and connect the USB cable straight from my usb multiple port adapter to the camera.



20 seconds later pics are uploaded, and I know if they are good. Yes, the whole point of this is to minimize as much as humanly possible all time devoted to photographing miniatures, while still getting great results. Toyota would call it "the lean method".

Of course, nothing is easy about Photographing miniatures, so I quickly realized that, while the set-up was great, my pictures still weren't...so stay tune for Part II!