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Why I Play the French

So that is the image that inspired me to write this. Last night I posted an inventory of my Bolt Action French and asked for thoughts on what I had and what I should add. It was a good discussion for awhile and then someone popped in and started bagging on France. I wanted to share why I chose to play the French on the tabletop.

I appreciate the martial history of the country.

They have been fighting for about 2000 years but for more recent history:
According to historian Niall Ferguson: “of the 125 major European wars fought since 1495, the French have participated in 50 – more than Austria (47) and England (43). Out of 168 battles fought since 387 BC, they have won 109, lost 49 and drawn 10.” 

They have a rich history with Knights. Landless French knights made up a large amount of Christian forces in the crusades. The English were unable to handle them in the Norman invasion.

France during the Renaissance period fought everyone on the European Continent at some point.

The Italian Wars and the Thirty Years war are ones that are often gamed in this period.

They were the dominant power in the 18th century and even helped the US in the revolutionary war.

Some stuff happened then…

Memba when France conquered like half the world? Most historical gamers do. Even though they were led by a Corsican, they brought glory to the nation of France.

and now the modern era..

WWI was the most horrific conflict in history at the time. It probably still is. France suffered 1, 397, 000 casualties. The second highest of a combatant in the war. I kind of think of this conflict as the high water mark of France as a major world power. However one particular battle stands out.


I would urge you to read Alistair Hornes excellent book on the battle, failing that, read the Wikipedia article at least. The battle lasted almost 10 months, the longest of the war. The French suffered 379,000 casualties, about a quarter of their total war losses. In comparison, the US claims 58,318 casualties in the Vietnam War. The German plan was to break the French just as they did with the Russians. It basically worked.

Verdun has become for the French the representative memory of World War I. Antoine Prost wrote, “Like Auschwitz, Verdun marks a transgression of the limits of the human condition”

I believe that this battle directly influenced France’s behavior in WWII and effectively broke the martial spirit of the country.


France got hit in 1940, after Germany overan Poland They tried the best they could, but yeah, they surrendered. And Yeah, Vichy France was a whole thing. However the Free French forces fought all the way to the end of the war. Yet, still to this day you have people quoting Groundskeeper Willy..

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu is another battle I suggest you read up on. Also its one that gets seen on the tabletop in one form or another.

The Other Reason

A lot of white kids in the states seem to think they are from Ireland, or they at least thinks its cool to be.

Not going to argue with that…

It is important to know where you do come from though. My family did the research and…

So, I have a lot of respect for the French given their history. I’m also proud to know where I am from. Oftentimes in tabletop games French are the underdogs and I like that too. All of that combines to me playing them. I have a French force for SAGA, Flames of War, Bolt Action, Team Yankee, Napoleonics and I am about to order a 15mm Norman force for Art De La Guerre

I think in 2019 we should know better than Groundskeeper Willy.

Disclaimer: I am not a historian (though I have a BA in History) so I’m sure I got something wrong. Also, I’m a bit prejudiced because I have some great friends from France…

Published inAncientsBolt ActionEditorialFoWLADGMMPSAGAtabletopTeam YankeeWarlord

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