By Guy Rheuark
Based on Saint-Domingue and a smattering of other islands, France controlled some of the most wealthy sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The people who lived in these towns were well acquainted with defending themselves from the Spanish. It is in these towns the Boucaniers retired and thrived, lured by the French crown into taking a wife and becoming wealthy planters. These same towns were built and defended by slaves. In Blood & Plunder the French Caribbean Militia is represented by collecting boucaniers and one of the best armed militia units along with lots of variety to represent the French people who would want to defend their homes.
French Militia have only one special rule, but it’s powerful. Once per turn, a unit may make a free move at the end of its activation. While you can’t use this move to charge or escape combat, and can’t use it with artillery or cavalry, you can use it in a variety of ways.
At its most basic use it allows a unit that’s already moving to move further, hopefully into cover. it can also be used to duplicate skirmish, allowing a unit to move up, fire, then retreat to cover. I like using this to put a unit where my opponent doesn’t want them to be, at the end of a turn so they can’t be reacted to, and Ican race for the high card at the start of the next round.
That all said, this ability is useless on a boat, and seldom useful on a ship.
French Caribbean Militia also get two force options. The first one, representing the militia at the pirate strongholds of Tortuga and Petit Goave, allows you to use as many Flibustiers as you want, at the cost of making boucaniers (and Miliciens) support units. This is a fun option, mainly because Flibustiers are a solid unit, and excellent at melee, something no other core unit is.
The other option, Troupe a Cheval, allows you to run a cavalry or mostly cavalry list. I haven’t done this myself, but it is a nice option and can lead to some unique lists.
The French Caribbean Militia get three core units and seven support units. The core three units all have different roles they can fill, but mainly specialize in shooting. Your support units give you great options to cover weaknesses. All core units and most support units all have a resolve of 6. While not ideal, this is what you get for playing militia. Most troops are also armed with buccaneer guns, giving you astounding reach.
A note about my pronunciation guide: I don’t know French, and this was just copied from quick google searches. Adding an ‘s’ to a word in French does make it plural, but I didn’t find any French speakers on YouTube pronouncing it at the end of these words. Two of the French units (Miliciens and Boucanière) I didn’t find any written English pronunciation, for two very different reasons, and had to infer. If you have some knowledge of this, let me know.
Boucaniers (pronounced bou·ka·nyé)
This is the premier French unit, Boucaniers are among the best shots in the game, with a shoot score of 5. To further add to their shooting expertise they have Ball & Shot, Fast Reload, and Marksmen, along with a shoot save of 6 and Elusive. This unit has a melee score and save of 7, so avoid melee as much as possible and try to keep some shot in the barrel.
Boucaniers are some of the best units to upgrade to veterans, as marksmen is very good on this unit, allowing you to hit on 8’s at 16-20” when most units would need 10’s, but it takes 4 actions to do that and reload. I’m convinced the Plug Bayonets option is a trap, as no one would buy Boucaniers and kit them out for melee. Are they going to run out of musket balls?
Milices Des Caraïbes (pronounced mi·lis dé ka·ra·ib)
Most French players should be acquainted with this unit because you get eight of them in the French starter box. Though I didn’t like them at first, these amazingly well armed militia have quickly become my favorite unit. This unit has a shoot score of 6 and a save of 7, which are typical musket unit scores. Its fight score is 7 and its save is 7 as well, making melee not an ideal most of the time.
This unit has Drilled, with the option of exchanging it for Elusive. Unless this unit is going to spend its time on a table in structures, elusive is the way to go.
After extensive testing, I always upgrade this unit to trained. Miliciens are better for horde tactics, and cheaper. Milices Des Caraïbes operate better with more actions to reload and shoot.
With a sidearm pistol and bayonets, it can be quite rewarding to close and charge a unit, especially if you outnumber them. Most of the time when I affix bayonets, I don’t take them off for the rest of the game.
Miliciens (pronounced mi·li·syin)
This is the cheap militia unit for the French. Only really effective in large groups, Miliciens have a shoot score of 7 and Poorly Equipped. They do have a great shoot save of 6, and Elusive, making the unit quite sturdy at range. Like the other core units, Miliciens have abyssal melee scores and saves, this time 7 / 8. The only reason you would ever play these is that they are 3 points each, and 40+ of them can be trouble for most opponents to deal with. Because of this, I don’t recommend upgrading them to trained.
Engages (pronounced an·ga·jé)
A historically important unit, Engages occupy a strange place in the French Militia. With the same point cost and shoot score as Milices des Caraïbes, they seem to want to fill the same roles. The only problem is that this units two negative special rules, timid and support, and they cannot be upgraded to trained, limiting the impact this unit can have on a game. If you want an accurate musket unit, Milices des Caraïbes can be taken as core. If you want lots of cannon fodder, Milices are cheaper. This unit is better in French Buccaneer lists, or others that can take them and don’t have access to cheaper units, but I’ve only had poor results in the militia.
Flibustiers (pronounced fli·bus·tyé)
What hasn’t been said about this amazingly well rounded unit? They fight well, they shoot well, and they can sail your ship. Armed with a buccaneer gun and a brace of pistols, and with Fast Reload and Ball & Shot, this is a great support (or core) unit for the French Militia. They can help make up for the faction’s weakness in melee. At 6 points each, though, they do not come cheap. I don’t usually make them veterans unless they are on a ship, because I would usually rather have more. Bayonets are mostly useless on this unit, since they have a Brace of Pistols, and you will usually be using it for charges and defensive attacks.
Marins (pronounced ma·rin)
While at first blush Marins look like the French flavor of the generic “sailor” most factions get, they have a couple traits that can make them amazing on land. To start with they have a fight score of 5 and Hard Chargers, making them melee specialists. Marins have the usual “sailor” upgrades, but instead of muskets they can get superior buccaneer guns for 4 points a unit, even though their shoot score is only 7. Personally, in French Militia lists, I like having a unit of Marins, usually without pistols, to act as an expendable brute squad. As a special note, when list building you have to decide to run Marins or Miliciens Artillerie. This isn’t usually a hard choice because both are support units.
Milice à Cheval (pronounced mi·lis à she·val)
Admittedly, I haven’t spent any time painting up or playing cavalry, so this is all theory craft. French cavalry get a shoot score of 6, but cost 5 points and are inexperienced. From what I’ve seen of cavalry, you don’t have to upgrade them to trained, as most of the time you will want to activate them on a spade, as long as you plan to use them mainly for charges. Milice à Cheval also seem like a good choice for carbines, as the combination of a shoot score of 6 and quick skirmisher gives you the ability to get close enough to shoot before backing off and letting your opponent take advance of their terrible shoot save of 8. Armor always seems good, but only if you have two spare points. If anyone has more experience with French cavalry, let me know.
Miliciens Artilleurs (pronounced mi·li·syin ar·ti·yeur)
While not flashy, this is the unit that you need to buy if your going to be using cannons outside of ships and fortifications. Field guns are a lot of fun, and are really cheap for what they do. Four Miliciens Artilleurs and a swivel field gun only cost 16 points. They will not win the game for you, but can operate as an effective weapon platform. If running light or medium cannons, it’s better to upgrade this unit to trained. A light cannon with 4 trained crew is 22 (23 with grapeshot) and a medium cannon with 5 trained crew is 29 (30 with grape shot). This unit is also very useful for crewing sweeps, or in hordes, as 2 points a model is quite cheap.
Infanterie (pronounced in·fan·te·ri)
This is one of the best alternatives to Flibustiers, and fill much of the same roll on land. Like Marins, this unit has a melee score of 5 and Hard Chargers, making them very deadly on a charge. Infanterie also have a shoot save of 6, giving extra survivability on an approach. Like all the nationality “soldier” units that share this model, this unit has a wide range of upgrades available outside of the option to increase or decrease the experience. If this unit is a centerpiece of your force, it is effective to add grenadoes or bayonets (or both), but I consider these options to be gilding the lily.
Boucanière (pronounced bou·ka·nyé·a?)
Essentially these ladies are discount Boucaniers. They have the save stat line, but lose Marksmen, Fast Reload, and Ball & Shot. I also have not used this unit at all, mainly because I don’t own any models I could use for them, but they seem fair for the cost. Like before, upgrading to trained is almost necessary for a musket line.
Every force needs a commander and the French Caribbean Militia are no different. This faction gets three generic commanders, like all factions get, along with two historic commanders. It is important to remember that everyone of these five commanders may be given a firelock musket or a buccaneer gun instead of a brace of pistols, making them essentially an extra Boucanier or Milices des Caraïbes in your command group.
Untested French Militia Commander
This is the basic militia commander that you can get for free, and as free commanders go, he isn’t bad. No special rules here, and only 1 command point. He has a 8” command range, a slight upgrade from other 4” ranges. I don’t run this commander, unless I’m playing under 100 points or piloting a bunch of boats. If your plan on using a Miliciens horde, it can be OK to use this commander with a standard bearer and a musician, making him almost as good as the experienced commander for only 5 points.
Experienced French Militia Commander
The 15 point commander is the sweet spot for most factions. This commander gets 2 command points, a 12” command range, and Inspiring. That and a musket is all this commander really needs to bring you victory.
Seasoned French Militia Commander
This commander has everything the experienced commander has, but gains elusive and +4” command range for 10 points. This really isn’t a fair trade, as every core unit has or can have elusive.
Jean is one of the best ways to bring the French Militia on a ship, specifically the La Volante. His three special rules, other than his unique ship, are Lead by Example, Brawlers, and Broadside. With his assortment of tepid special rules, and only getting 2 command points at 12”, Jean is really not that much better than the generic experienced commander. The only reason to use Jean Pinel and his amazing ship in a French Caribbean Militia list rather than French Buccaneers is that you would want to fill up the Brigantine with cheap muskets from Miliciens or Milices des Caribes.
Julien is probably the best French Militia commander for 300+ games, and some 200 point games. Julien makes Flibustiers a core unit without having to give up Miliciens or Boucaniers (though the Tortuga Militia). He also has a 16” command range, Very Inspiring, and Lead by Example, all for 25 points. This is a great mix of abilities for running Flibustier units supported my cheap Milicien. Just keep the units large to maximize his command points.
The main advantage to running a French Caribbean Militia list is the excellent musketry of the Milices des Caraïbes and Boucaniers. The faction ability lets you focus on shooting and less on getting your units in range, and opening up gaps in your opponent’s defenses. When building a musketry list, I like having one or two larger center units and 2 or more smaller units for my flanks.
I’ve played some games with only Milicens, and it was surprisingly effective. Sometimes you can just win games through by a press of bodies. While I think that other factions have a better cheap core unit, the 6 shoot save with Elusive on Miliciens at least makes them interesting.
The variety of support units is also a huge bonus, especially because a core unit of four Milicens in only 12 points. You can easily build a list with muskets, cannons, and cavalry. While it might not be as effective as a line of Boucanier, it’s nice to play something different occasionally.
If French Caribbean Militia have one weakness, it is that none of the core units are any good at melee. One good cavalry charge into your flank can cascade into losing more and more units, and the game. While this isn’t true for all French Militia lists, it’s important to remember that several of the units are specialized in either shooting or melee.
The other problem you can have is that most of the units start inexperienced. While it doesn’t seem like a real problem, I played several games with the militia before I learned the perils of inexperienced musketry.
The high cost of some units can also be a problem. It can really hurt to to buy a unit of veteran Flibustiers, Boucaniers, or Infanterie only to lose have your models in a lucky early volley.
Theaters and Tactics
This faction is best in land battles, or defending against an amphibious assault. Not only does the faction ability not really work on a ship, but the only way to have a core unit with Sailors is by making a Tortuga/ Petit Goave Militia for Flibustiers, and you would have to rely on support Marins to man your cannons.
In small sea battles, this faction can do OK with longboats or piragua. Milicien are very survivable on sweeps. You can even use this to make amphibious landing forces, with longboats, canoa, and piragua filled with Milicens.
You can develop a variety of strategies depending on your list. Because of the specialist nature of most of the units, I like to keep them close to each other. When running small 4-6 man units, try to keep them with overlapping 3” control zones to help counter charges.
With Boucanier and Milices des Caraïbes, focus on accurate volleys toward the nearest enemy unit and plan out your turn between rounds. And where you want to use your free move. When I first started playing the faction, I forgot to use the free move for entire games.
If your playing a militia horde tactic, congratulations! That is a lot of painting! When fielding them, try to keep your sight lines open, and don’t march them too close behind each other. Milicien accuracy is the same at 24”-12.1” so try to move your closest units to the enemy only after the enemy units have been activated.
I hope you give the French Caribbean Militia a try. If you do have experience with them, it might be worth it to revisit them and try new strategies out. Finally, if you do not play the French, I hope this gave you some insight into what the faction does well and how to counter them.