Ahhh, the French. An oft-underappreciated army that actually sees a surprising amount of love in the cut-and-thrust of tournament play. With the new plastic infantry boxed set on the way, we anticipate plenty more of you picking up a French force, and naturally some of you will want to get some tournament gaming in – but where to start? Fear not! I’m here to chat through some of your powerful options, and show how I’d take the French to a no-holds-barred tournament. En Avant!

Before we begin, we’ll establish some ground rules for our hypothetical tournament. I’m using the ruleset from the recent World Open War International Team Tournament, so it’ll be a Generic Reinforced Platoon at 1,100 points, with a maximum of 24 Order Dice – plenty to play with there! Let’s look at how the list shakes out, talk through how it works, and then examine some other options – after all, this is by no means an exhaustive guide!

Armies of France – Generic Reinforced Platoon:  

Unit TypeUnit NameOptionsCost
Infantry (Headquarters)Inexperienced 2nd LieutenantExtra Man; SMGs42
Infantry (Headquarters)Inexperienced ChaplainPistol21
Infantry (Squad)Inexperienced Infantry Section5 Extra Men with rifles; 1 Extra Man with Pistol74
Infantry (Squad)Inexperienced Infantry Section5 Extra Men with rifles; 1 Extra Man with Pistol74
Infantry (Squad)Inexperienced Infantry Section5 Extra Men with rifles; 1 Extra Man with Pistol74
Infantry (Squad)Inexperienced Infantry Section – Hurriedly Conscripted Reserves5 Extra Men with rifles; 1 Extra Man with Pistol0
Infantry (Squad)Regular Cavalry Section7 Extra Men156
Infantry (Squad)Engineer Section3 Extra Men, Flamethrower97
Infantry (Team)Regular Medium Mortar TeamSpotter60
Infantry (Team)Regular Boys Anti-Tank Rifle Team30
Infantry (Team)Regular Sniper Team50
Infantry (Team)Officer Cadet Machine Gun Team28
Vehicle (Armoured Car)Regular Early War Motorcycle and Sidecar35
Vehicle (Armoured Car)Regular Early War Motorcycle and Sidecar35
Vehicle (Armoured Car)Regular Early War Motorcycle and Sidecar35
Vehicle (Tank Destroyer)Veteran Laffly W15 TCC Tank Hunter102
ArtilleryRegular Medium HowitzerSpotter85
ArtilleryRegular Medium Howitzer – Forward Artillery DoctrineSpotter10
TowInexperienced Horse-Drawn Limber8
TowInexperienced Horse-Drawn Limber8
TransportRegular Car21
TransportRegular Car21
TransportInexperienced Car17
TransportInexperienced Car17

1,100pts, 24 Order Dice

So that is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of Frenchmen! This is a pretty classic French ‘horde’ army, built to both maximise ‘bag control’ (simply having so many more order dice than your opponent that you minimise the randomness of the dice draw and thus can impose your will on them with greater ease!), and get the most out of the French national special rules. With the free Medium Howitzer and Inexperienced Infantry Squad, there’s functionally an extra 149 points of troops on the table and two free Order Dice, making this in actuality a 1,249 point army – isn’t free stuff great?!

French artillerymen make ready.

While this is quite a ‘standard’ French competitive list (loads of units, a pair of medium howitzers, all that good stuff), I’ve added a few personal ‘wrinkles’ in here which may seem a little unusual. Allow me to explain! The TCC Tank Hunter is an interesting beast, essentially a rear-facing medium AT gun on the back of a soft-skin truck. It’s certainly not the most efficient AT in the world, but I was really keen to ensure that I managed to get both the brace of medium howitzers and some form of dedicated anti-tank gun in the list, rather than having to rely on the solitary flamethrower to do my tank busting. As a soft-skin, I know it can expect to see a lot of small arms fire chucked its way, so I opted to use some spare points to bump it up to Veteran to ensure that (assuming it can stay alive), it should activate when I really need it!

There’s also something of a vogue at the moment to run Medium Mortars as Inexperienced with no Spotter, and just try to chuck a six at a different unit you can see each turn – I don’t personally buy into this, and actually like to have as many forward deploying units as possible in order to control where my opponent can put their own forward deployers, so in it goes at Regular. The big Cavalry section is also something of a risk, but I really like them for their ability to hit hard and fast when needed, and they give me some much-needed stiffening (along with the Engineers) to what is otherwise quite a fragile (if very, very numerous!) infantry core.

French cavalrymen flank their armoured advance.

Overall, this is an army that dominates primarily using bag and table control, combined with a reasonable amount of mid-range machine-gun shooting, and plenty of useful HE. If I can use the massive number of order dice to help ensure the first four or five dice out of the bag are mine, I can start putting down pins or dealing with enemy threats before my opponent can react, and with so many units, wherever my opponent tries to go, I’ll be there! In missions like Sectors or Envelopment/Double Envelopment the sheer number of units makes this an absolute nightmare to deal with, although it is quite vulnerable in missions decided on kill points as there are plenty of units that are quite easy to deal with. Overall, I’d say this list favours a ‘swarming’, attacking playstyle, overwhelming the enemy in individual areas with weight of numbers and attacks – while individual units may not be particularly threatening, there are simply so many of them that eventually the dice will even out in my favour – at least, that’s the theory!

French snipers go to work amongst burning armour.

Building this list is actually relatively simple – you just need loads of Frenchmen! Thankfully, the new plastic boxed set makes this easier than ever to achieve (including the Engineers!), providing loads of bodies for a great value.

We’ve also got two standout ways of beginning a new Bolt Action French Army collection:

Contains 36 of the new plastic French Infantry (which can be assembled in a variety of ways) plus support options in the form of weapons and HQ teams and the Char B1 bis medium tank.
Kickstart a French Army with our all-in bundle, containing a wide variety of troop types, including weapons teams, cavalry and artillery (plus the rules to use them!) at a bargain price against buying the items individually!

What’s your recipe for competitive French? Sound off with your own devilish nastiness in the comments!

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