By Guy Rheuark
Expeditionary Forces are military groups European powers would gather and send to other countries. Often a mix of professional soldiers, militia, and mercenaries, the practice of forming these groups by the French carried on into the 20th century.
In Blood & Plunder, the French Expeditionary Forces faction is the closest thing the French Nationality has to a Royal Army (so far). Even if you are mainly collecting towards other French factions, this is a good faction to look at because it lets you play a wide range of models.
This faction also gets +2 to the Attacker roll. Expeditionary forces were formed to invade, not bolster local defenses, so this modest boost makes sense.
This faction is also not allowed to take 2+ deck ships. I’ll discuss this further in Theaters and Tactics.
The last faction ability allows you to take one support unit for every core unit, instead of one support unit for every two core units. This ability is the main reason to play the French Expeditionary Forces as it lets you customize your army to your liking with eleven different support units to choose from.
The French Expeditionary Forces have three core units to choose from. Milices Des Caraïbes and Milice Canadienne can not be in the same force, so you really have two to choose from. Of the three choices, Milice Canadienne is the cheapest, at only 4 points for Trained, giving you more room for support units, but all three choices have their strong points.
Milices Des Caraïbes
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. 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 that can’t make a defensive attack and has already activated, especially if you outnumber them. You can use Bayonets for the initial charge, and save pistols for defensive attacks or dedicated fight actions. Most of the time when I affix bayonets, I don’t take them off for the rest of the game.
Infanterie is a great model to have as a core unit and as a command unit. They have a solid 6 Shoot score and come with Expertly Drilled. Infanterie also has a Shoot Save of 6, giving extra survivability on the move. Like Marins, this unit has a melee score of 5 and Hard Chargers, making them very deadly on a charge. The only real weakness is their melee save of 7, but that’s only if any enemies survive the Infanterie charge!
If you are only running one unit of Infanterie as the command unit, it is often worth it to upgrade the unit to veteran. Using three actions for a drilled shot on a Spade or Heart (2+1 command point) will drop the base shoot score to 4 and make the opponent roll an extra Resolve die as long as you hit at least once. All the French Expeditionary Forces commanders can have a musket as well, letting them join in.
Like all the nationality “professional” 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.
The Milice Canadienne is an exciting unit to field. This unit comes trained, with three synergistic special rules, and a 6 Shoot score. All for only 4 points. This unit’s weakness is melee with a 7 Fight score and Save. It’s Shoot Save is 7 as well, but most of the time will be 6 if in cover thanks to Elusive and Scouts. It also has the typical militia resolve of 6.
Marksmen is a standout special rule to have on a 4 point trained model. While it looks bad to trade one action for -1 to a shoot action, that bonus is equivalent to moving forward 4”, without the downside of giving your opponent the same bonus. At 16”-20” this isn’t useful, as moving or reloading is better. Marksmen is at its most useful when attacking a unit has already activated and moved less than 12” or 16” away, letting you inflict hits on 7’s or 8’s.
I don’t think Thrown Weapons are useful on this unit for three points. Thrown Weapons let you reroll your failed melee attacks on a charge, and is about equivalent to having a fight score of 5 on this unit. This does make Milice Canadienne OK at initiating melee, but 3 points is almost the cost of another model.
The real heart of any Expeditionary Force is it’s support units. This faction has eleven different units to choose between.
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 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.
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. It takes 4 actions every turn to do that and reload, and is usually accomplished on a Spade with Fast Reload, two actions and a command point.
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 ball & shot?
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 unit for the French Expeditionary Forces. They can help make up for the weakness in melee most units in the faction have.
At 6 points each, though, they do not come cheap. I don’t usually make them veterans unless they are on a ship (in another faction) because I would usually rather have more.
The option to add bayonets is mostly useless on this unit, since they have a brace of pistols, and you will usually be using it for charges and defensive attacks.
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 Expeditionary Force lists, I like having a unit of Marins, usually without pistols, to act as an expendable brute squad near any cannons you may have.
Coureur des Bois
This unit is really an upgraded Milice Canadienne. Each unit has the same three special rules, namely Elusive, Scouts, and Marksmen. Each is armed with a melee weapon and a Firelock musket. For one point you get a fight score of 6 instead of 7, a shoot save of 6 instead of 7, and a resolve of 5 instead of 6. These lower numbers make the Coureur des Bois much more reliable, even though they will fill much the same niche as Milice Canadienne.
If you are running a single, small unit of Coureur des Bois, it might be worthwhile to upgrade them to veteran. At 6 points a model this unit is quite cheap compared to other units that have been upgraded to veteran, and that can let you get extra actions out of Spades and Diamonds.
Because of the slightly lower fight score, thrown weapons are a little better on this unit. For 3 points they are equivalent to having a fight score of 3 when charging, and the lower resolve will make a failed charge from defensive fire less likely.
Milice à Cheval
Since my last article on the French Caribbean Militia I have painted up a large number of Firelock Cavalry and gotten to try them out on the table.
Milice à Cheval stands out from other national cavalry militias by being accurate with their carbines. Taking Milice à Cheval without carbines limits the unit to only attacking when you create an opportunity, usually by piling 2 Fatigue on a unit within their charge range. Giving them carbines, and upgrading them to trained, lets the unit harry the opponent. This is good because an opponent that has played with or against cavalry will keep their units close to each other to punish any cavalry that pushes too far forward for a charge.
The main weaknesses of Milice à Cheval is the Shoot Save of 8 and Resolve of 6. These two things mean that after a single volley of shots your Milice à Cheval will most likely take casualties and break. When playing this unit, make Fatigue management a priority.
There are not very many reasons to take Piquiers Miliciens. They compare terribly to the other 3 point model, Miliciens, gaining a single point in melee at the cost of two points in their Shoot Save. Unlike the pikemen of other factions, this unit cannot be upgraded to trained, or even take pikes (they are equipped with lances).
If you want a unit for melee, Marins without pistols are the same price, has a much better fight score of 5 (or 4 on a charge thanks to Hard Chargers) and comes trained.
While not flashy, this is the unit that you need to buy if you’re 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 is only 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 points (23 with grapeshot) and a medium cannon with 5 trained crew is 29 points (30 with grape shot). This unit is also very useful for crewing sweeps, as 2 points a model is quite cheap.
￼Native American Support Units
The Native American support units are a natural fit with the French play style of accurate ranged attacks from defensive positions. The standout Native American special rule, Hidden, can allow you to hide entire units of Milice Canadienne behind your native allies in cover until they emerge for a deadly musket volley.
I personally have not used any of the native units with this faction, so these comments are based on watching other people play Natives, and experience with Black Caribs.
Warriors (Native American)
Without any upgrades, Warriors are a fast moving brute squad that keeps itself safe until it can close the distance to charge.
The plentiful upgrades this unit can be given let you define what support role you want it to fill. I think Heavy Weapons should always be switched out for Thrown Weapons, because this unit already has a terrible melee Save of 7, and rerolling misses is sometimes better than giving your opponent a save penalty. Upgrading this unit to veteran is also a good tactic, as it lets you charge 12” on a Spade, but bows are probably the better upgrade.
Young Warriors (Native American)
If you already have a unit of Warriors you have given bows to, and you want a slightly different flavor of Native American, Young Warriors can fit into French Expeditionary Forces quite well. At 4 points a model, they compare well to Milice Canadienne, but are hurt by only coming inexperienced.
Warrior Musketeers (Native American)
Sadly, Warrior Musketeers are a poor fit in the French Expeditionary Forces. Both Milice Canadienne and Milices Des Caraïbes have the same shoot score and also cost 4 points a model, but without the heavy tax of Slow Reload. This unit does have Hidden and Evade, to help keep this unit alive, but Warriors with Bows are a better support unit.
The Commander is a unique part of Blood & Plunder. You can use the same French commander in every game you play, no matter what units you surround them with. The French Expeditionary Forces get the usual three generic commanders, at 0, 15, and 25 points. This faction also has two historic commanders, Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville and Jean Bernard Desjeans, each with three command points.
It is important to remember that every one of these five commanders may be given a firelock musket instead of a brace of pistols, making them essentially a Milices des Caraïbes, Infanterie, or Milice Canadienne in your command group.
The three generic commanders and Jean Bernard DesJeans can also be given a horse for 1 point. There are no reasons to do this, as this faction does not have any core units that are mounted. I suspect that at some point in No Peace Beyond the Line’s development, a different French cavalry unit existed that was a core unit for the French Expeditionary Forces.
Untested French Army Commander
As with most free generic commanders, the Untested French Army Commander has no special rules and is little more than a model that can give a single command. Like Untested militia commanders, this model has a 8” command range.
I’ve taken this commander often when I intend to split my forces between different battle groups, or when loading up on multiple characters. It generally is not a good idea to use a musician and standard bearer with this or any other generic commander, because all the core units cost 4 points or more and have a shoot score of 6.
Experienced French Army Commander
This is the default commander for most French Expeditionary Forces games, and should be considered first. This commander costs 15 points and gives you two command points, a 12” command range, and Inspiring. This is a good package, especially because so many of the units in the French Expeditionary Forces have a Resolve of 6. Stick with this commander if you are going to have two to three units close together through most of the game.
Seasoned French Army Commander
This commander suffers from the presence of Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville, Jean Bernard Desjeans, and the Experienced French Army Commander. For 25 points, 10 points more than the Experienced version, the only upgrade you get above the Experienced version is 4” more command range and the special rule Elan.
Jean Bernard Desjeans
This historical commander with a colorful history lets you take support units as core units, while limiting your selection a smidge by taking away Milice Canadienne, Milice à Cheval and Coureur de Bois, and strongly discouraging you from taking Boucaniers and Flibustiers by not allowing you to use command points on them.
I started experimenting with his lists when I found he lets you take an army that’s all cannons. One of my firsts lists was him with three light cannon units and some miliciens.
Even without an excess of field guns, Jean Bernard has three command points at a 16” command range for only 27 points, and is an easy fit in larger games.
His special rule, Careful Planning, can force your opponent to deploy half their units before you deploy any of yours. This is a natural fit with a cannon heavy list, as it lets you deploy your cannons with enemy units in their firing range. The other option for Careful Planning, to look at your opponents first hand, is less useful, as the first hand is often a race to activate last.
Jean Bernard Desjeans is hurt by not having Inspiring. Giving him a musician in 200 point or larger games, at the cost of a musket, is a good trade off.
Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville
This commander has an amazing 6 special rules and three command points for 30 points. While it might be hard to use some special rules in every game, Scouts and Cold Blooded are natural fits for the French play style. Even commanding 200 point games, as long as you have three units, Pierre can be a surprising asset.
Strengths and Weaknesses
This faction’s key ability, that you can add a support unit for every core unit, can be a double edged sword when choosing your force. The three core units; Milices Des Caraïbes, Infanterie, and Milices Canadienne, are arguably better in their individual factions. This is because all of the French Expeditionary Forces faction abilities stop after you draw your first hand. So if you are going to only use Infanterie and Milices Des Caraïbes, you are better off using the French Royal Navy Landing Force.
This doesn’t make the French Expeditionary Force a bad faction though. More than any other faction it allows you to tailor the game to your own interests, and no two lists will look that much alike.
This is also one of the few factions that can buy fortifications. I have even used watch towers with swivel guns crewed by Marins, and field guns crewed by Miliciens Artilleurs in the same game, led by Bernard Desjeans.
Like most Militia factions it is also important to have ways to manage your fatigue with this faction, since most of the units have resolve 6.
Using a commander with inspiring (or a musician) at the center of your force goes a long way towards this goal.
This faction can be tailored for any land game you might need to fight. If you choose the core units of Milices Des Caraïbes or Milice Canadienne, you will want to stick them in area terrain. Make sure you choose support units that are good in melee, like Marins or Milice à Cheval, to take advantage of your musketry. If your land game is going to have a lot of buildings, Infanterie are a good choice, supported by Miliciens or Warriors to hold any ground you gain.
Now, about field guns. The way they work right now, after the No Peace Beyond the Line errata, makes field guns good at automatically killing a single model not in a building. This makes them feel like large slow sniper rifles. The average light field gun will fire three times in 6 rounds. Killing three models over the course of a game isn’t splendid, so it’s usually worth it to add grapeshot.
Field guns can fire more often if the opponent brought fortifications, hides in buildings, if you can pin them down to one spot, or you are playing an amphibious game. The less you have to move them the better. They will have less opportunities to shoot if the opponent is hiding behind buildings, or most of the terrain blocks sight lines.
Because this faction can not use size 2 ships, this is not the faction you want to take to sea. I feel that boats are a poor choice against cannons. As the Attacker in an amphibious game, load up canoas, long boats or piraguas and use them as mobile musket platforms. Letting the boat do the moving while your unit fires and reloads makes for a deadly threat.
Here are several builds that I have come up with for the French Expeditionary Forces.
While it isn’t the best force, as the units are a little small, this list uses only models from the French Nationality starter box.
Here is a list I played that uses Desjeans to arm four watchtowers and two light cannons with grape shot.
Here’s a list with him and 8 swivel guns on field carriages. I don’t think this list would be fun to play, or play against, but it is an example. Also Desjeans is on a horse.
The triple threat of muskets, cavalry, and artillery. Keep your units close together so they can support each other.
This is an alternative list that I was considering playing for this Amphibious Battle. All three Piraguas throw 24 dice at a shoot score of 6 each turn.
One of the great things about this faction it that it lets you play a wide range of your French models. Even if you have mainly collected towards French Buccaneers or French Militia, it’s worth it to look at this faction as a way to do something different, especially for land games.
This faction also benefits from the French Nationality Starter Set. The eight Milices Des Caraïbes and eight Flibustiers can be played together in this faction, with an Experienced French Army Commander, for 95 points. This is an easy way to get started quickly.
This faction also lets you start with the European Colonial Militia Starter Set. The points don’t work out quite as nicely as the French Starter Set, but it’s also a good place to start if you like Infanterie instead of Milices Des Caraïbes.
Even bolstering your collection with Milice Canadienne once you buy a starter set is a great way to start this collection. Milice Canadienne are a surprisingly well rounded unit, and the best to collect if you want to focus on bringing cannons, cavalry, Buccaneers, or natives.
No matter what you choose, this faction is also a lot of fun to play. Thanks for reading!