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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Preview :Battlefront's Great War Additions: Part 1 The French and British

 By Mitch Reed

It is no secret to many that the Great War is a subject I am fascinated with.  I have written a few articles in the past not only about gaming the Great War in general, but also about Battlefront’s summer 2014 release of their new Great War line.  In the months since this release I was able to get on Battlefront’s development team for the next wave that that will expand the Great War line. I was excited to work on this project with Wayne Turner and feel the final product will appeal to not only Great War fans, but other Flames of War players who have yet to discover how great this period is play.

I want to first explain that the upcoming release is not so much of an expansion as much it is a re-boot of the game.  The new booklet which is about 77 pages not only introduces the French and Americans into the fight; it also contains all of the rules and lists that came out in 2014.  The new book also has a full painting guide for all the forces found in the game as well as a new mission and adaptations of current missions used in the WWII version of the game.  So this one volume will cover all of the Great War line that has been released by Battlefront.

What is new?
The two new nations that are being introduced is something I am sure most people are excited about.  The French and the Americans make their appearance in the game and complete the list of the major combatants found in France during 1918.  Both of these nations, much like the British and Germans before, has a distinctive flair that makes playing them a unique experience.

The Schneider CA.1

The French
Having hosted much of the war on their soil for the last 4 years the inclusion of French forces was a logical step in expanding this new period.  The French Poilu in 1918 suffered through the costly campaigns of 1914, Verdun, and a mutiny, and the new French list accurately reflects the type of French units one could find in 1918.

The Fusilier Company lists looks very similar to the previously released British and German lists and a player has a choice of fielding two different types of troops on this list.  Representing the core of the French army in 1918 you may field a Reluctant Veteran Metropolitan company, which consists of troops raised in France itself.  The weariness of these troops at this late stage in the war is reflected in their Reluctant motivation rating, while they will defend French soil with bravery, they are tired of their leadership throwing away lives is costly attacks without any clear objective.

 Senegalese Troops in France 

During the war France called upon manpower from its far flung empire to help in the cause and this is represented in game by the choice of fielding the Fusilier Company as a Colonial unit which is rated as Fearless Veteran.  These troops hail from places such as North Africa, Senegal and Indo-China and are imbued with martial spirt which makes them well worthy of their Fearless motivation rating.  Much like other lists in Flames of War, you cannot mix the Colonial and Metropolitan troops with each other.  Picking the Colonial troops does come with a hefty price tag as many of the forces in the list cost 50-60% more than their reluctant counterparts.  No matter the motivation rating of your force, they all get the “They Shall Not Pass” national rule, which allows you to re-roll failed motivation rolls when counterattacking in assaults (same as British Bulldog).  So even with the reluctant Metropolitan troops you get a second chance to get that 5+ result you need.

Colonial troops from French Indo-China (Vietnam) 

Let's break down the company: you must field two platoons of Fusiliers platoons and each can be a single (9 stand) or double (18 stand) half platoon which is an option the British and German lists do not have.  Each 9 stand half platoon has a command pistol team, two VB teams, two MG teams, and 4 rifle teams and, much like the British, your rifle and pistol teams get the “Trench Fighter” special rule which allows you to hit on a 2+ during assaults.  The last national rule your French Fusilier’s get is the “Trench Warfare” rule which allows rifle and gun teams to shoot Defensive Fire over each other during when they are dug in or in entrenchments.  This expands the current “Fields of Fire’ available to all forces in the game where they can do the same when in a trench.

Very Nice support options in the French HQ

For support, you can have trench mortar, heavy machine gun, artillery and tank platoons to back up your fusiliers. Before I detail those, I will say that the Company HQ can also provide some support for your forces, and you may field up to three flamethrower and two 37mm MLE 1916 gun teams much like the German list does.

While the HMG platoon is identical to their British and German counterparts, the trench mortar platoon has some options where you can pick either the 76mm Stokes or 58mm Type 2 mortars.  The Stokes is the same as the British mortar; however the 58mm has a firepower rating of 2+ and share the same stats as the German Minenwerfer. 

Artillery comes in either a battery of up to four guns or the two gun detachment and features the famous 75mm mle 1897 gun.  This gun uses the French National rule 'Quick Fire", where if you field the four gun battery you get to re-roll your failed To-Hit rolls.  All of the artillery available to the French is rated as Reluctant Veteran so you do not have to play the premium for having a motivation rating of Fearless as you do with Colonial troops.

French Tanks
What makes the French really interesting is the tanks, and you have three types to choose from, as well as the ability to take British armor.  All French tanks are rated as Confident Trained, so if you want Veteran tanks taking a British tank platoon is the only option for you.

The Char D’Assault Platoon is your heavy tank unit that can have either Schneider CA.1 or Char Saint Chammond  tanks.  The CA.1 was the first tank developed by the French and features two side mounted MGs and a side mounted 75mm Blockhouse gun.  The St Chammond, which replaced the CA.1 has two more MGs and a hull mounted 75mm mle 1897 gun, which has a greater range and killing power than the one mounted in the CA.1.   Both tanks use the Landships special rule, move as a Very Slow Tank ( 4”) and are Overloaded.  Much like the other tanks previously released, they have an armor rating of 1 all around.  The price between these two tanks is significant, with each St Chammond costing 315 points per tank while the CA.1 is more of a bargain at 200 points each.  A player can take up to two platoons of heavy tanks, and each can have up to four of each type, however the cost would be through the ceiling unless you and your opponent wanted to play 2,000 plus point games.

The FT-17

If heavy tanks are not your thing the Light Char D’Assault platoon may be a good option.   Featuring the Renault FT-17, these turreted tanks will cost you around 110 points apiece and come in two different variants.  You can either have a MG or a 37mm gun mounted on your FT-17, and the smallest platoon you can purchase is one of each type for 220 points.  You can buy up to 5 of these tanks per platoon with the extra odd tank having the 37mm gun which is better to have if you have to deal with enemy tanks or entrenched troops.  The FT-17 is a speedster moving up to 6” per turn, however they are rated as Overloaded and the 37mm version has the "One-man Turret" special rule.  They also lose the Landships special rule so they may not stick around on the able as much as the huge beast tanks.

From the moment I started working on the French lists I knew there was something special about them.  You have one of the cheapest infantry options in the game since the Reluctant Veteran half squad is 10 points cheaper than the Confident Trained British platoon.  I also like how you can field some huge platoons for little cost and then spend the bulk of your points on tanks that will bear the brunt of any attack you make.  Add to this the fact they get some neat HQ attachments, makes the French an Allied force I would like to play over the British.

The British
While on the subject of the British I will go over some of the new additions they have in the new booklet, which only deals with armor.  As you can see below, you can now get French tanks on the British list which was not something I saw until the final draft of the booklet was provided to me.  As someone who has read a lot about the Great War I was left scratching my head thinking if at any time the British used French tanks or vice versa.  While this may not be historically accurate, I do know that this is a game and not a lesson in history, so this inclusion of Allied platoons is not a huge deal to me.

The Mark V and Mark V*
The biggest change is the introduction of the British Mark V tank, which was the successor to the Mark IV we saw in the initial release. The Mark V tank had a much better engine and was not as prone to breakdowns as the Mark IV.  This is reflected by the Reliable special rule where the Mark V can re-roll a failed skill test when you apply the Push-it (cue Salt n’ Pepper) rule to move your tank an additional 2” during the movement phase.  The Mark V can be either the Male (6-pdr gun) or Female (all MG) versions, however you can now field a mixture of both called the Hermaphrodite, which had a 6-pdr gun in one sponson and two MGs in the other. This tank was also known as a
Mark V Composite tank, perhaps to avoid explaining to the rank and file what hermaphrodite means.

Along with the Mark V, you can also field the Mark V* tank, which was longer than the Mark V.  The idea was to have a tank that could counter the fact that the Germans made their trenches wider in 1918 so that the Mark IV and V could not cross their trench line (the first anti-tank ditch?).  Being about 9’ longer, the Mark V* was now able to cross any trench in the German Hindenburg line.  It was also thought that the longer tank could also carry infantry troops forward in battle, so the Mark V* can carry 3 passengers.  To facilitate this new tank the British pick up two new rules, Very Wide Tracks which gives a re-roll when you fail a bog check in rough terrain and Rough Ride, which when your passengers dismount the Mark V* they immediately become Pinned Down.   The Mark V* comes with the same Male, Female, and Composite configurations as the Mark V, and statistics wise the Mark V and V* are the same as the Mark IV.

Note the size difference in the Mark V* 

In the new booklet the Mark V/V* are only available as Confident Veteran, and each Mark V costs about 30 points more than the Mark IV. All you are playing for with this is the Reliable special rule which may not be worth it to most.  Upgrading your 290-point Female Mark V/V* to Male will cost you an additional 85 points and to go with the hermaphrodite is 65 points more than the Female version of the tank.  There is no cost to change your Mark V tanks into the Mark V* version, so not all special rules cost the same.

 I would move if I was that guy!

I did some research on instances where the Mark V* actually carried troops into battle.  I could not find any and it seems that the idea was tested, but the troops inside became so ill that it was scrapped and never used in battle.

While I think the Mark V Composite is a neat thing to have, I do not see any major changes to the British to get excited over.  Maybe a little thrilled with using the RT-17 instead of the Whippet, but as I have said in the past I like this game without using tanks.

In Part II I will go over the new Americans list and the German Stoss Company list.

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