Having proven their mettle in the heat of World War 1, the French infantrymen stood proud as an example of martial prowess. It would take less than 30 years for that pride to be tarnished and crushed underfoot as the Blitzkrieg swept through France and her countryside. Despite this, the French fought bravely for their homeland – and not just the French people, many people from their colonies had been forced into service and would fight a bitter and thankless battle as so many of the colonial troops did during these wars. [Disclaimer: Warlord Games provided a free box of Infantry for this review]
Many nations did battle in World War 2, – some more unnoticed than others. While the French are an iconic force of the early Blitzkrieg, they take a backseat after the fall of France and are mostly really famous for their Résistance. Thus, similar to the Italians, they had been relegated to the small nations section of Bolt Action for the longest time. .
Lately Warlord seems to have taken their focus away from the big boys and given more attention to the smaller nations – Italy has been getting an entire range refresh the past couple years. And now the French, who have been serviced by the iconic Richard Ansell sculpts ever since Bolt Action existed, are finally getting their own plastic infantry. Aside from the obvious, such as lower price per miniatures and more diversity in poses, we also see the inclusion of specialized units in this kit.
What’s in the Box
Like all of the plastic infantry boxes, this one comes with all the sprues to build 30 infantry. Inside the box are five identical sprues (with 6 bodies each), a sprue with enough bases for all 30 men, the instruction manual, a painting guide (sort of), and the transfer sheet, along with the little card indicating who packed the kit. Mine was packed by Maria.
As previously mentioned, there’s enough bitz in here to assemble 30 miniatures with plenty of customization options: a variety of unhelmeted heads, backpacks, holstered bayonets, and loose Adrian helmets. A normal French infantry squad can be 5 to 12 men strong, with one of them having either a pistol or a submachine gun.
As with most units, they have access to a light machine gun and unique to the French is the option to take one VB launcher (a rifle grenade that makes the rifle somewhat like a short range light mortar) per squad. Each sprue comes with four MAS Modèle 36 carbines, six Lebel Berthier M1907/15 rifle, one Châtellerault FM 24/29 LMG, one MAS-38 SMG, one VB launcher, and one Ruby pistol.
Alongside the firearms, you also have:
- Six heads in Adrian helmets for engineers
- Six regular infantrymen heads
- Six colonial troops heads
- Six heads with berets for both fortress troops and chasseurs à pied
- Six heads with headgear often seen on colonial dress uniforms for the colonial troops
- Six head with field caps, head bandages and such for officers and wounded soldiers
Chasseurs à Pied
The Chasseurs à Pied, founded in 1837, have had a long tradition in the many militaries of the French republics since 1743, where they began as a militia under the name Chasseurs de Fischer. Since then, they have undergone many different roles in the military, eventually becoming a much more formalised force in 1837, designated as an elite light infantry class. They distinguish themselves by their blue pants and their peculiar headwear. In actual battle their uniform was much less colorful but to distinguish them on the field, you should probably build them in their more flashy parade uniform.
These troops were part of the forces that manned the infamous Maginot Line. Being trained to both operate in and outside the fortification and accompanied by Artillery crews and Engineers to maintain and operate the defence’s batteries, these men were the first line of defense. Despite all preparations however, they would see themselves outflanked and eventually encircled by the German’s Blitzkrieg.
Unlike the other three units featured on this kit, the Fortress troops haven’t yet received their own unit rules. To use them in Bolt Action you will have to draw from either the regular infantry section, or the inexperienced counterpart, to represent those elements of local reserves which would have been called to arms rather hurriedly. To distinguish them from other troops, you can give them the Chasseur’s headwear and paint it in a beige tone. Other options include the more relaxed pieces of the sprue, such as a hand with a cigarette, making them look more like sentries at ease.
The French Sapeurs-Mineurs are the natural evolution of the French sappers, serving roles such as destruction, fortification, sabotage, and trench digging. While you may only add one of these sections to any army, their flamethrower (unless taken out prematurely) should prove sufficient to take down enemy fortifications and flush enemies out of bunkers.
The Engineer squads can range from 5 to 11 men and come in all three experience levels. Unlike regular infantry, they don’t have access to pistols, SMGs and LMGs. Like previously mentioned, their special armament is a flamethrower team. They also have access to anti-tank grenades and motorcycles, making them a speedy destruction group on the field. Their unit rules can be found in Campaign: Battle of France.
Colonial troops in game can be represented with the Moroccan Goumiers (Les Goumiers Marocains), Senegalese Tirailleurs (Tirailleurs Sénégalais), French Foreign Legion, or even the inexperienced squad ruleswise. While the box gives you a kind of headwear reminiscent of the dress uniforms of the Senegalese Tirailleurs and and Tirailleurs Algerien, almost all of the colonial troops wore normal Adrian helmets to battle. With this information, you can assemble colonial troops from virtually any of France’s colonies.
If you do choose to assemble a Colonial infantry section, I would advise you do some research – these kinds of miniatures give one the push to learn more about the lesser known aspects of World War 2 – colonial troops being one of them. It also helps you gain a better understanding of a history that sadly too often focuses on the achievements of white men, while brushing over their colonial counterparts who bore the heavy brunt.
The new French infantry, in my opinion, is a real breakthrough in Warlord Game Plastics. The biggest improvement compared to most plastic kits is the facial sculpts – while the really old kits have some issues – even the new Italians are kind of weird to paint for me. These French minis have much tighter packed and sharp facial features. Another problem plaguing me on the new Italians was the fatigues. Maybe I am not good enough, but they feel very difficult to shade and highlight properly. On the new French, they felt much less cluttered and as a result of that so much better to paint.
I don’t really have any major gripes with this kit, but there were three things of varying seriousness that bothered me. As with the Italian and most other plastic infantry, the equipment pieces like the backpacks and gun holsters are really difficult to fit on flush, you will need to do quite a bit of shaving with a hobby knife to get them to fit. On the Ruby gun specifically, there are some mold lines, that obscure the detail on the gun, which was unfortunate. Lastly the straps on the rifles are weird – sometimes they vary in thickness, the mold lines are placed inconveniently on some, and just feel a little out of shape sometimes. It’s probably something that irks me more than anyone.
But aside from these three small issues, this is an absolutely amazing kit. If this is the first step in giving the French a range refresh à la Italy, then the future looks bright for France players. If you have grown a little tired of your major nations, then maybe the French are for you and the infantry box is absolutely perfect for starting an army – all the pieces are here to make your two squads and officer. If you don’t mind a little metal and want a tank and some weapon teams then you might be better off buying yourself the French Starter Army from Warlord Games. Thank you for reading!