CHEVAUX DE FRISE (Old Glory Miniatures)

While I have been collecting many different fantasy miniatures this year, I have really wanted more terrain and obstacles for the tabletop.  I was happy to come across this out of print (OOP) chevaux de fries collection from Old Glory Miniatures.  This was acquired from Noble Knight Games which has a lot of OOP stuff.  As a former Combat Engineer, I looked forward to installing real obstacles on the battlefield!  Yes, “installing” is the word we Engineers would use – but I digress.

We have had the use of chevaux de fries in the fantasy miniatures rules for a while.  However, I was never happy with my ad hoc representations.  I have also known what chevaux de fries actually were physically in medieval days, but I was less familiar with their origin. I did some research, and I thought it would be useful to give a general historical background on them for the curious.

The term is of course French with the singular being cheval de fries and the plural being chevaux de fries.  Typically these were mainly anti-cavalry defensive obstacles, but they could slow up infantry as well on land, and there were naval versions as well.

They were often constructed using logs with iron or metal spikes or spears jutting through drilled holes.  The spikes could also be mounted on wooden frames.  They were used from medieval times up to and including modern times.

Fellow USMA graduates will remember the stories of the Great Chain at West Point during the Revolutionary War.  This was a massive iron chain with sharpened logs that was designed to deny the British Navy the ability to use the Hudson River from New York City to Canada in either direction as a means of communications.  This employment denied the British the ability to isolate New England from the other colonies.

1777 map detail showing the chevaux-de-frise between Fort Lee and Fort Washington
1777 map detail showing the chevaux-de-frise between Fort Lee and Fort Washington

Many early Civil War photographs exist depicting the uses of chevaux de fries such as the examples here from Atlanta and Petersburg during the Civil War.

Chevaux de Frise in Atlanta during the Civil War
Chevaux de Frise in Atlanta during the Civil War
Chevaux de frise at the Confederate Fort Mahone defenses at Siege of Petersburg
Chevaux de frise at the Confederate Fort Mahone defenses at Siege of Petersburg

In WWI and WWII they were used to plug gaps in barbed wire defenses.  Engineers devised the knife rest as a way to plug gaps in wire obstacles that could allow for passage through those gaps by friendly forces.  They are even used today as a way to block roads and the like.

Knife rest
Knife rest

With horse cavalry scarce as a threat, in WWII Europe, chevaux de fries morphed into “hedgehogs” that were employed as anti-landing craft defenses on beaches and anti-tank defenses on fortified lines.  I am sure that most would remember  from movies and war footage the welded steel I-beam structures such as were used by the Germans on the Normandy Beaches or the Siegfried Line.

Beach obstacles at Pas de Calais, 18 April 1944
Beach obstacles at Pas de Calais, 18 April 1944

The advent of barbed wire and the demise of horse cavalry has led to the obsolescence of this trusty defensive tool.  However, chevaux de fries have recently showed up in popular culture as well recently.  I do remember their uses against Walkers in two episodes of The Walking Dead – one to reinforce the prison gate and a second by Morgan when he was in Rick’s home town.  They were effective against the Walkers, as the walkers would impale themselves and get stuck.

Michonne got her second set of
In The Walking Dead, Michonne got her second set of “pets” off the chevaux de fries at the prison

The term chevaux de fries has its origins in medieval times.  Frisia is an area from roughly medieval coastal Holland and northern Belgium to Denmark.

frisian-map

Chevaux de fries means, literally, “Frisian Horse”.  Apparently the Frisians had little cavalry and first used chevaux de fries to defend against cavalry attacks.  Whether this was derisive or not on the part of the French or whomever no one knows – but the term stuck.

Let me get back now to the miniatures!  I found these on Noble Knight Games and got them for $14.95.  Note the misspelling on the label on the bag!

Chevaux de Frise in the Package - not sure of what date these were made
Chevaux de Frise in the Package – not sure of what date these were made

The misspelled label on the package said 8 figures, but really it was a set of 6 pairs of chevaux de fries.  Each set consisted of a log with spear-like wooden iron-tipped spikes and a wooden saw horse structure with screw-shaped iron spikes.  I got them out of the package, cleaned all the pieces with a brush and dishwashing soap, and was surprised to see how many tiny pieces there were that needed assembly!  There were also extra pieces that could have been flash or the bottom of the spikes.

I picked the best ones for stave pieces and moved on to assembling them with E6000 epoxy.  Thankfully, I was able to effectively use my pin vise to make available some of the holes in the saw horses that were not well molded.  My goal was to put these together to look as field expedient as possible – as if they were hastily made.  These would have been made on-demand as needed for a battle, and I did not want them to look too polished.

Chevaux de frise out of package unassembled
Chevaux de frise out of package unassembled

After putting them together I realized that basing them first for painting was the best option.  This would lead to some crazy angles in getting paint on the the undersides of the miniatures.  However, the models were just not sturdy enough without bases.  I decided the I would use my scroll saw to cut 1.5″ square bases from 1/8″ balsa.  I affixed the models to the bases with my strong wood glue and that proved to be a good call.

Chevaux de frise assembled on balsa bases
Chevaux de frise assembled on balsa bases

I then primed the six with black Krylon primer spray paint.  I then base-coated the miniatures and the bases.  With some nostalgia, I used up the last of my vintage 1984 Polly-S Jungle Green on the bases.  I must have used this paint on many figures over the years.  I painted the logs with a combination of Americana Raw Umber and Americana Raw Sienna.  I envisioned the sawhorses as being made from fresh lumber, so I base-coated them with a combination of Americana Raw Sienna and Americana Desert Sand, lightening and highlighting them with more of the latter on subsequent coats.  The iron rods in the saw horses and the iron tips of the staves were painted with Citadel Mechanized Gray.  The stave shafts in the logs were painted with Musket Brown from Armory (still some left over from 1996).

Chevaux de frise base coated and dry brushed before washing
Chevaux de frise base coated and dry brushed before washing

I then dry brushed the logs with Apple Barrel Pewter Gray which gave nice detail to the bark.  I the used a couple of wash applications with Secret Weapons Washes to add a a bit more realism – Red-Black on the wood logs and the saw horse frames and Heavy Body Black on the iron parts.

Chevaux de frise base coated and dry brushed after wash application
Chevaux de frise base coated and dry brushed after wash application

I then had the task of flocking and detailing the bases – on which I used three Army Painter’s products.  I used a slurry of water and Elmer’s White Glue to affix two coats of Grass Green flocking.  I then used Krylon Clear Matte spray varnish to protect the paint and stabilize the flocking before adding the final touches.  These were the addition of a combination of both 4mm Wilderness Tuft and 6mm Wasteland Tuft.  I found easier to attach these grasses with wood glue than with the Elmer’s.  I like the finished products, andeagerly await the chance to deploy some archers behind them!

Chevaux de frise base finished in circle
Chevaux de frise base finished in circle
Back of a Single Cheval de Frise  - Defender's Side
Back of a Single Chevaux de Frise – Defender’s Side
Front of Chevaux de Frise - Attacker's Side
Front of Chevaux de Frise – Attacker’s Side
Chevaux de Frise in Line
Chevaux de Frise in Line

This is how to celebrate a Birthday!

This post is a little late!  Lynn and I celebrated her birthday on June 12th by heading up to Hampton Beach, NH.  This was our first trip back up there in several years, but it was a lot of fun.

We hung out at the beach for several hours, taking advantage of Lynn’s new beach umbrella.  This kept us from roasting.  I did hit the water briefly, but it was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit so when I could not feel anything in my legs I went back.  We walked around the area – and it was pretty amazing that so much has been improved in terms of parking, signage, bath houses, etc.  The old casino was the same with its many arcades, shops, etc.  But again, it seemed less worn down than the last time we were there.

On the way home, had to hit Brown’s in Seabrook, NH.  Had a couple of 2.5 lb. lobsters and a quart of steamers each.

Now that's a lobster!
Now that’s a lobster!

On the way in we were surprised to run into Jim Herndon’s mother and his sister who were up from Leominster, MA.  Small world!

Need to get back up there again soon – or so Lynn tells me!

Congratulations to Chaplain (MG) Paul K. Hurley as the 24th Chief of Chaplains, US Army!

It was a rare privilege to attend the Promotion and Installation Ceremony for my fellow F-4 ’84 Classmate Fr. Paul K. Hurley as he was promoted to Major General and installed as the 24th Chief of Chaplains of the US Army.

The ceremony was fantastic, and it was great to be in attendance with nearly 200 fellow USMA 1984 grads, dozens of Army personnel and Fr. Paul’s family & friends.  The chapel was packed!

The outgoing Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (MG) Donald Rutherford spoke, and ribbed Fr. Paul of the Red Sox/Yankees etc. rivalries (he of course is from NY).  The history of the Chaplain Corps was read, to include the recent losses of Chaplains in the War on Terror.  There was a scripture reading from Ephesians.

LTG H.R. McMaster (another ’84 classmate!) was the senior officer, and presented inspiring remarks and performed the swearing in ceremony.  His passion and love for Our Army was on display, as was his immense respect for Fr. Paul.  It was great to see Fr. Paul’s parents and family take part in the promotion as well.

LTG H.R. McMaster and Chaplain Hurley at the beginning of the ceremony
LTG H.R. McMaster and Chaplain Hurley at the beginning of the ceremony
LTG McMaster making his remarks
LTG McMaster making his remarks
Chaplain Hurley's parents help him put on his General's Stars
Chaplain Hurley’s parents help him put on his General’s Stars
Chaplain Hurley is Sworn In
Chaplain Hurley is Sworn In

I had not seen Fr. Paul since graduation, although we spoke once when he had a parish near Boston.   He was the only other Massachusetts native around F-4, and it was great to have someone there besides myself with a proper accent!

He looked great, and gave a tremendous speech.  I will always remember that he said the Chaplain needs to go “where it sucks most”.  He has been living this mantra for 20 years, most of which while we have been at war.  I am proud that such an inspiring man of God will be in a place of leadership where he can do so much good for so many.  I PROMISE, I will be praying for Fr. Paul to succeed!  The Chaplain Corps motto is “Pro Deo Et Patria” – for God and Country, and Fr. Paul has been a wonderful exemplar of this.

Here is the beautiful program from the ceremony: (in order of pages)

Page 1Page 2Page 3a

Page 3Page 4Page 5

There was a reception at the Chapel at Ft. Myer, and I got to see many, many classmates whom I had not seen in 31 years (our graduation anniversary was the next day, May 23rd).  I had many great conversations and along with Dave Wood (who was gracious to help me get there and to the party in Arlington afterwards – THANKS DAVE YOU ARE AWESOME) we had a great time.  There is a photo of all from USMA ’84 who attended, and I will add it to this blog when available.  From F-4, we had Fr. Paul, Dave Wood, Larry Carroll and his wife, and Jim Kelly and his wife.

The conversations and the celebration continued at Ireland’s Four Corners pub in Arlington.  (fitting for a son of Hibernia!).  The celebration and the night was great.  Fr. Paul’s mother asked for us to sing the “Alma Mater” and I think that it was heard all the way to Annapolis! (BEAT NAVY!)

Here is the awesome cake that says it all:

THIS SAYS IT ALL!
THIS SAYS IT ALL!

Much credit goes to Steve Epling for organizing this after party and more – and Mike Kwinn too.  I have only recently been made aware of all the class activities through Steve’s efforts and I appreciate them greatly.

God Bless you Fr. Paul and I will keep you in my prayers!

Old West Point ’84 Classmates Get in First Miniatures Battle in Decades in Arlington, VA

As I write this it is Memorial Day, and this weekend was spectacular in it’s breadth and depth of experience.  I traveled from Albany, NY on the evening of Thursday the 21st after working at Albany Medical Center.  I drove to Arlington, VA for the promotion of my fellow F-4 classmate Chaplain (COL) Paul Hurley, to Major General as the new Chief of Chaplains of the US Army (more to blog on that later as Fr. Paul’s ceremony and after party were indeed epic!).

The drive was going well until I hit an accident-induced traffic jam at the Baltimore tolls that lasted over two hours with ZERO movement.  Finally, it cleared, and after five aggravated lanes of traffic merged into two, I made my way to our class hotel in Arlington, arriving at 2 AM.  Got a key, went to the room, only to find that someone was in there.  I felt badly that I woke whoever it was up at 2:15 AM – and made a hasty exit back to the front desk for a new key to an unoccupied room.  This is why I ALWAYS bolt the doors at hotels.  At least I knew what was going on – the poor guy in the first room only knew someone opened his door and said “sorry!”.  I then crashed and slept until 7.

As backstory, the previous Saturday, Dave Wood, my classmate and old roommate from USMA swung through East Brookfield, MA on his way back from the Huzzah historical miniatures convention in Portland, ME with his wife Brenda.  Lynn and I were happy to see then and really enjoyed spending some time with them and had a great lunch (thanks to Lynn and not me!).

Lynn Morin, Dave Wood, Mark Morin, Brenda Wood
Lynn Morin, Dave Wood, Mark Morin, Brenda Wood
Dave & Mark get together for the first time in 16 years!
Dave & Mark get together for the first time in 16 years!

While in East Brookfield, Dave and I made final plans to go to Fr. Paul’s promotion (at Ft. Meyer by the Pentagon) on Friday afternoon, which left us some time to plan to have a quick miniatures game using the Buck Surdu “Look Sarge No Charts”/Bear Yourself Valiantly system.  Flash forward to Friday the 22nd – so Dave drove down to Arlington and met me at the hotel.  After we grabbed a quick breakfast, it was on to the battle!

Dave set up everything and did a great job.  He brought a drop cloth and that went right on the king-sized bed for a nice battlefield.  The battle was between an attacking force of Elves (me) and a defending group of Ratlings (Dave).  He also had a few orc/goblin ballistae, and I had an Ent.  I do believe that Dave gave me plenty of forces and did a nice job teaching me the game mechanics as we went along.

The Battle Set Up, Elves attacking from Right to Left
The Battle Set Up, Elves attacking from Right to Left
Elven Left Flank
Elven Left Flank
Better Detail of Elven Left Flank and Center
Better Detail of Elven Left Flank and Center

I focused on maneuver and less on frontal assault.  This allowed me time to marshal forces for multiple attacks on units.  Dave of course accommodated by advancing his forces into woods that I could hit on three sides.

Elves attack into Woods and go after Wounded Ratling Leader
Elves attack into Woods and go after Wounded Ratling Leader
The Woods become a Rat Trap!
The Woods become a Rat Trap!

The Ratling defensive position on the Elven left flank became untenable, and they quickly scurried away to the next wood line.  On the Elven right flank, casualties were higher, and progress was slower.

Despite Greater Casualties, the Elves push forward on the Right Flank
Despite Suffering Higher Casualties, the Elves Push Forward on the Right Flank

Ratling morale began to falter and their leaders faced multiple morale checks as shown by the red gaming stones.  Dave’s Morale Check rolls led to retreats.

Ratling Leader Losing His Nerve
Ratling Leader Losing His Nerve
At the Second Wood Line, Fleeing Ratlings Crowd the Forest
At the Second Wood Line, Fleeing Ratlings Crowd the Forest

At this point, the end was near, and we called it over.  Dave was gracious – really he set me up for a win.  Back in the day, we kept records of all the games we played, and he held a commanding lead over me in victories.  He did concede that now I am ahead in the 21st Century!

The End is Near
The End is Near
Elven Casualties at Top (1 Unit), Ratling Casualties at Bottom
Elven Casualties at Top (1 Unit), Ratling Casualties at Bottom

I was impressed with Buck’s system (no surprise).  I was also impressed with Dave’s ability to teach me the system.  I will be incorporating some of the mechanics and concepts into the version of fantasy rules that I am updating.  I was also able to catch up with Buck on the way home to discuss them (again much thanks to Dave & Buck)!

And after the game, the promotion ceremony for Fr. Paul and the After Party! (my next post!)

SUNDAY SWEEPS ARE BACK AT BAY PATH GOLF COURSE!

The Sunday Sweeps are back at Bay Path Golf Course! Great news!!

There was a little snow behind 3 that is now GONE!

This was a last week (April 26th) on 6 – no, my ball really did not end up here.

Bunker on 6th Hole
Bunker on 6th Hole

My game is rusty but I have spring, summer, and part of fall ahead to fix, or at least try to do so.  Then this white stuff comes again.  As the Starks say, WINTER IS COMING.

Jeff did a great job with all the tree removal!  Thanks Jeff!

Iron Wind Metals Bringing Back Ral Partha’s Chaos Wars with a Great Kickstarter Campaign

Great Goblins!
Great Goblins!

This is some great news – Iron Wind Metals has a really interesting Kickstarter Campaign going for bringing back the Ral Partha Chaos Wars and figures.   I really like the Goblin/Orc Battalion and will get that.  Go to:

It looks like my re-entry into the hobby was timely!

The World of Greyhawk 9, Cavemen, Cairn Hills (Minifigs) Circa 1980

My latest reclamation project was a unit of 18 Cavemen that I purchased from Buck Surdu or Dave Wood back in 1983 or 1984 (not sure who).  These were from a line that Minifigs made around 1980 that was quite extensive.  Like my other projects, these have been sitting around for quite a long period – 30+ years since I acquired them and 35 years since their manufacture!  I thought that it would be interesting to have a large unit of Cavemen armed with Neolithic weapons.

The Cavemen Await Freedom from their Packages!
The Cavemen Await Freedom from their Packages!
Close up of Single Package - a bargain at $3.98 in 1980!
Close up of Single Package – a bargain at $3.98 in 1980!
Back of Package Detail
Back of Package Detail

The individual figures did not look very special at first glance.  There were three types of cavemen in each package of six.  One was armed with a large bone and a shield, a second had a stone dagger and a Neolithic spear, and a third had a shield and a Neolithic spear.  There was much less detail than what you would find in later miniatures.  I found that there was a lot of flash which I cleaned off, filed down, and saved for future miniature molding.  The spears were very soft, and removing the flash felt like I was performing surgery to save the spears.  I straightened them out with needle nose pliers.  This was also true of the shields.  There were 12 shields.  I then used dishwashing liquid and a toothbrush to remove oxides and any other residue from everything.  Buck had suggested fender washers, so I bought a package of 1” fender washer at Home Depot, which I used as initial bases.  These washers were the smallest that Home Depot had, although later on I did find a source for ¾“ fender washers on eBay for future uses.  I mounted two figures each on numbered popsicle sticks.  Surprisingly, they cleaned up fairly well.  I then used Krylon white matte spray paint to prime them.

Caveman Prepped for Basecoat
Caveman and Shields Primed

As you can see above, the rectangular bases really stood out and I was not happy with this.  I thought that before I base coated the figures, I needed to address this and my final basing plan.  I used simple home vinyl spackle on the washers.  By simply putting small amounts of spackle in water and using clay modeling tools I was able to hide the sharp linear edges.  I let these dry overnight.

Now Ready for Base Coat - Note Figures Rough Detail
Now Ready for Base Coat – Note Figures Rough Detail

The other issue I had was how they were going to be based.  I saw that the spears were soft, so I did not want to see them bent or broken easily.  I additionally knew that this unit would fight in a mass formation.  In my quest to determine how best to take care of these two issues, I arrived at hexes.  I used my Skil scroll saw to cut ⅛” plywood into the shapes for the hex bases.  To get the hexes correct, I traced one from my Settlers of Catan game.  I then used other 1” fender washers to determine spacing – and ended up with six figures per base.

Plywood Hex Bases Primed
Plywood Hex Bases Primed

The painting went well as these figures were obviously mostly unclothed.  To get the skin looking swarthy, I used a combination of Raw Umber from Americana and Ryn Flesh from P3.  I then used Brown Ink from P3 as a dark shade on all the muscle recesses, darker areas, and where skin touched non-skin areas.  I also added definition to the figures’ chest areas and faces.  I lightened and highlighted high areas by making the base coat combination with more Ryn Flesh from P3.  The cavemen’s hair, loincloths, boots, and stone weapons were painted with Americana Ebony.  This was also the color for the eyes and eyebrows. Lastly, I used P3 flesh wash to add even more definition.  The shields were painted with a combination of Armory Musket Brown and Armory Leather Brown from 1996.  The shield edges were painted with Americana Ebony, and then darkened with Sewer Water wash from Secret Weapons Washes  I then affixed the shields with E6000 epoxy and applied a spray varnish with Krylon Matte varnish.

Cavemen and Shields Pre-varnish
Cavemen and Shields Pre-varnish

I glued a series of six additional 1” fender washers to each hex base.  Sequentially, I then glued each figure to the washer that was affixed to the base.  I worked in Polyform Air Dry modeling clay around each figure to hide the washers and to make each base look like a continuous landscape.  This required that I glue a few figures, and then work in the clay, and then let the clay cure before moving to more figures being added.  This took a few days.

Cavemen Based and Ready for Final Flocking
Cavemen Based and Ready for Final Flocking

The final base work was done with flocking by Army Painter.  I used three different types in random patterns – Ash, Green Grass, and Brown Battlefield.  I then used Army Painter Battlefield Rocks painted with Apple Barrel Pewter Gray and Americana Ebony in conjunction with Wilderness Tuft (also Army Painter).

Cavemen on the Move!
Cavemen on the Move!
A Frontal View
A Frontal View
Class Picture with Packages
Class Picture with Packages

Overall, I am thrilled with how these came out.  They were a lot more work than I anticipated, but the bases are solid, heavy, and look great.  The figures speak for themselves and I look forward to the first game with them!  Basically, I learned that you can do a lot with any figures if you take the time to plan and execute on the details.