I will start by saying I have no connection to the French, apart from eating some French fries for lunch, but have a real interest in playing early war French forces in Bolt Action. It may well of been that I was sick and tired of hearing “Cheese eating surrender monkeys” or “on a roll of 2, 3, 4 or 5 they surrender” etc etc. As a sucker of all things with the underdog status I decided to go hard and purchase a French army to play, basically to prove that they can be competitive and fun to field in Bolt Action.
When I looked at the French I had a theme in mind based around the Battle of France, clearly the campaign was a disaster for the French but what is overlooked is the many hard fought battles and the men who fought them. In my theme I wanted to base it around a core group of Veteran French Foreign Legion squads who had been rushed to France during the Phoney War and had been subsequently forced on fighting retreats since the opening phases of the Battle for France. This core unit would have met up with four squads of local inexperienced Militia and rallied them to defend the line to allow other French forces time to regroup.
Supporting the infantry would be a battery of artillery being a medium and light howitzer along with an MMG squad and a Char 2C that had broken down and rather than be destroyed by its crew they fixed it and are determined to fight the German invaders. My plans were realised and I created this army however I soon came to the conclusion that the French have so much more to offer so back to the keyboard to order more goodies. To make my forces more complete I grabbed a few squads of Senegalese, some Cavalry and even more armoured units.
In the lead up to a tournament here in Australia (CANCON), I had to come up with a force which would be competitive based on the restriction being a single reinforced platoon. Now being that the French National rule is a free artillery piece up to medium howitzer I was already ahead of the game in my mind as not many others would be able to field two units of artillery. During my play testing I decided that the inexperienced units were not enough bang for my buck, basically with only five infantry squads to choose from I would have to dedicate three slots to them and that would leave me with only two reliable squads for offensive actions.
I ended up with the following list at 1000 points:
Vet Lt + 1
2 x Vet 8 man squads of FFL with LMG (Stubborn)
2 x Reg 8 man squads of Senegalese (Tough Fighter)
1 x Vet 6 man Cavalry squad
Reg sniper team
Reg Light Howitzer
Reg Medium Howitzer
Reg Char 2C
The list synergised really well and surprised many people, having a core group of stubborn veterans meant that my centre really held up under fire and was hard to budge from objectives once they claimed them. The Senegalese tough fighters were a big threat, seeing them on the table (many for the first time) made people wary and throwing one squad in a truck for flanking caught more than one opponent off guard. The hammer to the FFL anvil was the cavalry, using them on a flank to smash infantry units or back line support troops worked well and often would tie up an entire side of the table. The dual artillery made a big impact, placed well they could cover most of the table and taking the light meant that most opponents ignored it in preference of the medium leaving it to wreak havoc unmolested.
Special mention must also go to the Char 2C, at 190 points it could fire five weapons systems per turn on a medium tank chassis and was the size of a house brick. It really did not do huge amounts in the tournament but never failed to make an impact, even if it was “holy crap, that thing is massive” (yes I know you have all heard that before).
Out of the tournament my French force came in at 6th out of 40, a very respectable position for an army that many had not even thought about fielding in preference of the major powers.
I have played many games since and with so much versatility I can change the force each time to create a different feel and style. If you’re thinking about a new force look at the French, they have so much to offer and consider such themes as Colonials, Vichy French, Veteran Phoney War style French forces and of course bumbling inexperienced militia.