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Friday, February 20, 2015

Bolt Action - French army project: 1250 point list

It's was some 6 months ago that I posted the last update on my French colonial army project. Since then this fledgling force has grown into a 1250pt army, with many added units. The heart of the army is based around the infamous French Foreign Legion, but includes many other units from France's colonies to create a really fun and exotic force to chuck dice with. I'll take you on a quick tour and give a few insights into how it has been playing in recent games.

Laffly 80AM armoured cars support a platoon of Senegalese Tirailleurs

What you are looking at here is a 1250pt two platoon force taken from Armies of France and the Allies. I have specifically chosen to make my collection from units that served in France's many overseas colonies at the time of WW2. This army did not fight in France itself.

First a little bit of history...

Once the Blitzkrieg had forced France itself into surrender, her isolated colonies had to make a choice between staying loyal to the new German puppet government in Vichy, or joining Charles de Gaulle's Free French forces. At first ,most colonies stayed with Vichy, but more and more joined the allies as the war progressed. Because of this complicated politics, my army can represent either an allied force of Free French fighting in the western desert or even East Africa against the Italians, or an Axis Vichy garrison of the Levant (Syria) or Morrocco, and can fight against the Allies.

French Foreign Legion Veterans
The Foreign Legion was not immune to this division of loyalties. Essentially the various Legion regiments remained loyal to whatever colony they were stationed in at the time. The 13th Demi-Brigade, having just fought in the Norway campaign against the Germans was the first to declare itself for the Free French forces and ended up having to fight it's brother Legionnaires in Vichy Syria less than a year later.

Even within the Legion there was a potentially disastrous mixture of communists fleeing their lose of the Spanish Civil war and German NCO's who had been deliberately infiltrated by agents of the Nazi regime to undermine the Legion as a fighting force in the coming war.

Despite this the Legion fought bravely and maintained it's honour. Most famously at the battle of Bir Hakeim in 1942. Holding the southern flank of the Allied Gazala line in the Libyan desert, it fought off Rommels flanking force and held up the DAK and Italians for 10 crucial days, giving the rest of the allied forces time to fall back and re-group at El Alamein. The Legion, holding out in it's trenches and dugouts under the scorching Saharan sun gave the French a much needed victory, leaving Rommel to remark "nowhere in Africa was I given a stiffer fight".

Obsolete FT-17 tanks still have there uses on the Bolt Action battlefield

Ok, back to the Bolt Action...

Backing up the infantry are some obsolete armoured support in the form of two Renault FT-17 tanks. Dating back to the first world war, these venerable but now hopelessly outclassed tanks are still useful in Bolt Action games. Are are ridiculously cheap for a tank (42 pts at Veteran!) and can be a right pain in the butt for your opponent, being an armour 7, closed topped, MMG armed and mobile (well sorta!)

Laffly 80AM armoured cars help the Legionnaires secure a village

Two of my favorite miniatures in the army are the armoured cars. The Laffly 80AM was deployed in the North African colonies and I really love how it looks and plays. It's very useful to have these two highly mobile recce vehicles in an otherwise slow infantry army.

The squad Sergeant orders his men to assault
Alongside the Foreign Legion my collection has some other infantry units that made up France's colonial armies. One of the most exotic is the Senegalese Tirailleurs. These are infantry recruited from the west African colonies and were famous for their ferociousness in hand to hand fighting, many wielding traditional machetes.

Senegalese Anti-Tank rifle team
Trained and equipped the same as the Legionnaires I have painted a full platoon of 3 sections, command HQ and an ATR team. On my painting desk is a converted Senegalese medium mortar and some LMG'S. I have a step by step painting guide for the Senegalese here in a previous article.

Foreign Legion sniper team
The Foreign Legion part of the force also features some supporting elements, with a converted sniper team, HQ and Anti Tank rifle. I'll be adding their own mortar and MMG very soon.

Legion platoon commander and an objective marker

I like to have variety in my painting, so when collecting an army I am always keen to include at least two different looking types of infantry in my forces. In this case with the Legion and Senegalese, it is even more pleasing because I found while researching the army that htis kind of formation actually existed in what was commonly called a 'Mixed Colonial Regiment". Infantry task groups made up of Senegalese and "stiffened" with Legion companies were deployed as garrisons throughout the Vichy colonies, and a similar formation existed in the Free French expedition to aid the allies fight in Italian East Africa and then Vichy Syria. So there is plenty of history to satisfy my table top force.

Senegalese section supports the FT-17's advance. Everything in this photo is only 158pts!

Big guns and transport

The biggest additions to my army since last time is the artillery battery and a really unique French truck. One of the French army's special rules in Bolt Action is they get a free regular Howitzer or AT gun. You can choose either light or Medium in both cases...but let's face it...who wouldn't want the bigger gun? Although the 75mm light howitzer was much more common I chose to make a pair of 105mm Medium Howitzers, representing a half battery of the Foreign Legion Divisional artillery.

Foreign Legion Medium Howitzer battery and spotter
Currently, the only company making French Medium guns is Mad Bob Miniatures. So these two guns are resin kits from here. Like all the range, they are great miniatures and are super easy to assemble. The Foreign Legion crew had to be converted using the Italian gun crew from Warlord Game's howitzer set. With heads swapped for suitable French ones by the Woodbine Design Co's WW1 in the East range, were separate French head sets are available through Gripping Beast. The Senegalese infantry are available from the same range.

I based the guns on large oval shaped plastic bases from Renedra and used their plastic sandbag set to give it a 'dug in' look, common for guns in the desert war.

This historical photo was used for inspiration

I converted a Foreign Legion spotter for the guns based off this guy at the battle of  Bir Hakeim

Another very unique looking French miniature added to the army was this Laffly truck, also by Mad Bob Miniatures. I just love the look of this 6 wheeled beast, so had to include one. It adds a much needed bit of mobility for at least one squad to go out and take an objective. It also can be equipped with two pintle mounted MMG's! Adding some more mobile, but fragile, firepower if needed.

Legionnaires dismount from their Laffly S20TL six wheeled truck 

Metal crew and MMG's where added to the resin truck
The resin truck kit does not come with crew or the MMG's, I had to add these myself. The crew are converted WW1 French artillery crew from the 'Great War Miniatures' range. Their Kepi hats can be painted white to make them look like Legionnaires. The French MMG's are actually Japanese, which were almost direct copies of the French Hochkiss anyway. You can pick these up in packs of 5 from 'The Assault Group'. I made the pintles from some plasticard tubeing from a model railway store.

Army list and first games

I've managed to get a few games in with this army recently, even chucking dice at a one day tournament as well. I am really happy with how it plays overall and can see there are a few different ways to use it, so it's no one trick pony, and it's long term re-playablity is looking very good.

My 1000 pt list runs 2 platoons and 16 order dice;

Foreign Legion 
Regular 2nd Lt
8 Veteran Foreign Legion (7 rifles, 1 SMG) Stubborn
8 Veteran Foreign Legion (7 rifles, 1 SMG) Stubborn
Regular Sniper team
Regular ATR team
Regular FT-17 tank
Regular Laffly 80AM amroured car Recce

Senegalese TirailleursRegular 2nd Lt
8 Regular Senegalese (7 rifles, 1 pistol) Tough Fighters
8 Regular Senegalese (7 rifles, 1 pistol) Tough Fighters
7 Regular Senegalese (7 rifles) Tough Fighters
Regular ATR team
Regular FT-17 tank
Regular Laffly 80AM amroured car Recce
Regular Medium Howitzer
Regular Medium Howitzer 

I have found the army to be fairly flexible, with the tools in there for most missions. The basic battle plan is everything is a threat. My opponent should find it difficult to work out what to concentrate his/her fire on because all my armies units are a threat. At long range my two Medium Howiters are either hitting and taking off units (if I am lucky with rolling my 6's bro) or at least forcing enemy units to go Down and waste a turn. They are also great at dictating the opponents movements. At long range my ATR teams are also getting shots at vehicles or adding a pin here of there. The pair of FT-17 tanks are rolling forward also, putting out MMG fire.

In the middle my infantry are moving into play. This is the heart of the army, all the other units are there to support the Legionaries and Senegalese. The Senegalese are Tough fighters, and so are heading to wherever I need to assault and take objectives. They are regulars so I need to use cover or buildings to keep them alive under enemy fire.

This works well with the Foreign Legion, who are Veteran and also Stubborn. I can stick these guys out on a flank, almost unsupported and expect them to hold until the last man. I mostly employ these guys in a defensive role.

And lastly in front of all this are my two armoured cars, getting up right into the enemies face. I try and use roads or open terrain to move deep into the enemies rear and attack those small support teams. Or, if the terrain isn't providing much cover I can even use them to screen my Senegalese assault troops with hard cover. Because I have 16 order dice in the army, I find that I often get to use these Recce vehicles early in the turn, not losing their turn to being shot at and having to use their escape move.

Obviously each mission, opponents army and terrain alters how I use the army each game, but the fact remains that the opponent is under pressure to take out threats from as soon as the first order dice is pulled. I am having loads of fun with this army so far and have some big plans to expand it into a very mobile force soon. More on that later.

For now, if you have any questions on playing or painting French armies, hit me up on the forum:

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