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Monday, February 10, 2014

French Armor

The assembled support.
By Tom De Mayo

 Back in the ancient days when Blitzkreig! was new, Steve and I played a lot of French vs. German matchups.  We each worked on both armies, but it ended up that he finished out most of the French, and I completed most of the German options.  I painted up the French infantry boxed set, and purchased some armored support, but I never got around to painting the vehicles.

The Paint Job

Fast forward to now. I've started to get interested in Early War again. Over Christmas, I dug out my French armor, still in their yellowing blisters, assembled and painted them.

The paint job you see here is pretty basic.  First, I sprayed them black.  Then I gave them an undercoat of chocolate brown.  Over this, I dry-brushed a heavy layer of Gunship Green, leaving just a little brown showing on the lines and in the shadows.  Over this, I painted the two camouflage colors: a light tan color and medium brown. The Gunship Green is a beautiful, distinct blue-green color, and I wanted to leave a lot of it visible. I put the tan on just about every model, as I liked the way it looked on the Green.  I used the brown on fewer models, as I don't like it as much.  Each color got a lighter highlight.  Then I put a metallic layer on the tracks.

I added only a small amount of weathering.  If a tank is a single solid color, like a US or Soviet green or a German grey, then I will slop mud all over it.  For a more complex scheme, like a three-color camo, I find that adding mud just renders the whole model too busy. So no mud on these vehicles.

The Roundel is hand-painted.  I hate decals. I eschewed all other vehicle markings.  I hate having to read numbers off the side of tanks, to figure out who goes where. 
Review from the side.

The Char 1-Bs

The Somua S-35s
The Panhards.  Can you spot Steve's clearly inferior paint job?

The AT trucks from the front.
The end the Germans don't want pointing at them.

The Vehicles

These tanks are for infantry support.  At some point in the future, they may constitute the core of an armored force, but not now.

As you can see, I painted 5x Laffly AT trucks, 5x Somua S-35 tanks, 3x Char 1-B tanks and 4x Panhards.  (Steve gave me an extra painted Panhard years ago, so I can field 5.)  My intention is to use the AT trucks and the Panhards in just about every list.  I will take either the Somuas or the Chars too, depending on how I feel.

I'm looking forward to fielding French armor again. Back in the olden days of v2, the One Man Turret rule really sucked rancid chèvre. You couldn't move and shoot with it at all.  So French armor had to try to predict where the enemy would be and move there a turn in advance.  Either that, or spend a turn taking fire in the face before being able to exact vengeance.  Nowadays, though, One Man Turret merely enacts a -1 penalty to hit.  So French tanks with One Man Turret are now fully as awesome as Russian ones with Hen and Chicks!  Woo hoo, baby!  Break out the champagne!

The Char 1-B

This is the true French monster.  It's basically invulnerable to any German tank to the front.  It also sports two AT 6 guns: one in the turret and one in the hull.  Despite these considerable advantages, I don't like the Char much in Flames of War.  It's just too expensive.  Plus, it's slow and its AT 6 gun is only on the high end of average.

The Somua S-35

I love this tank.  For a long time, it was the bane of my EW 38(t)s.  Its FA of 4 just shrugged off AT 6 fire at range.  I had to mix in some Pz IVs to deal with Steve's Somuas, and even then, they were tough customers.  I intend these to be my main armored support.

The Lafflys

I haven't played much either with or against these.  Their AT 9 gun is just amazing, of course, but they are terribly vulnerable to return fire.

The Panhards

The Panhards are a terror.  They have an excellent gun, and are quite speedy on roads.  They don't suffer from One Man Turret, either.  Their main failing lies in their spotty 5+ FP.  Very often, I've found they fail to kill their target, get caught in the open, and die.  Steve ran a company of like 15 or 20 of these things, that would just mangle my German infantry.

The Hotchkiss

Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film

You'll notice I have none of these.  Back in the initial Blitzkreig! days, they failed to impress me much.  After numerous games,  I've come to the conclusion that I was mistaken.  Their gun is indeed truly underwhelming, especially the short-barreled version, but they are extremely tough for their points.  FA 3 doesn't sound like much, but it is as good as most of the best German armor of the time.  Put some Hotchkiss into cover, and they will take a long time to eliminate.  A French armored player can field them in significant numbers to bulk out their list, or zip around machine-gunning infantry.  Very nice.  I think they have a place in any French armored force.  In an infantry force, I'm less impressed.  An infantry force needs support that can kill enemy vehicles, and here the Hotchkiss just doesn't measure up.

How are my pants like French literature? Full of Balzac! (Ed: BOOOO HISSSS!)
Tom de Mayo is the author of and an associate professor of history at J Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA. Since the foundation of WWPD, his crotch has loomed over innumerable battles and brought terror and war to the fair fields of 15mm France.

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