By Joseph Forster
It’s time for another look at one of the upcoming new factions we will be getting in the upcoming Raise the Black (and French & Indian War I) expansion. Firelock Games has given me the details on the upcoming French Raiders faction which will be a centerpiece of some of the early French and Indian war conflicts in the early 18th century.
The French are already known to be sneaky and deadly in Blood & Plunder and this new faction looks pretty nasty! As the 17th century drew to a close and the 18th century began, colonial forces began vying for alliances with the Native populations who were becoming more dependent on European resources and technology. The French were particularly successful at enlisting the aid of these native tribes and mobilizing to them against their enemies, most specifically the British who were competing for much of the same territory as the French.
This faction represents the new style of warfare where the French imitated the Natives’ tactics and fought alongside them (or “used them” might be more accurate).
Functionally, this faction appears to mix some of the good elements of both the French and the Native factions.
All units in this force gain both Hidden and War Cry. These rules boost effectiveness in both ranged and melee combat. Hidden is excellent on a faction with such good musketry and its very unusual on non-Native troops. It also combos really well with the solid saves and the Elusive trait on some of their units.
The War Cry ability helps the French with some extra melee punch which makes this faction well balanced or at least gives it the option of making a very aggressive melee force.
The French Raider faction will also have a +2 bonus on the Attacker roll before a game starts. This is unusual but makes sense being a Raider faction and all…
With 5 core units ranging from 4-6 cost, there’s plenty of variety here to work with! First let’s look at a brand new unit!
Campagnies Franches de la Marine
I’m excited about this unit. The short unit description below describes these troops as well trained troops of the “real” French military that have adapted to the tactics of North American woodland warfare.
For 6 cost we get some excellent stats with strong aggressive melee attack and a good Shoot Skill and Save. While sharing the exact same stats as the Infantrie, this unit has traded Expertly Drilled for either Drilled or Elusive. They also come with free plug bayonets or free thrown weapons with a unit discount (which is kind of crazy). They also lack the Hard Chargers from the Infantrie but in most cases I’d much rather use Thrown Weapons with a 5 Fight than no re-rolls on 4’s. War Cry on top of a re-rolled 5 Fight sounds pretty punishing to me. They’re clearly great at melee!
They also have Scouts which helps them make charges through terrain and move efficiently while making use of Hidden, Elusive and their good Shoot Save.
I’m not sure if the mentioned “18th Century Reforms” are going to end up in the rules or not but if so, I believe that would give them Socket Bayonets (very strong) and Fast Reload.
Coureur de Bois
As a 5 point unit, these guys are excellent value and it’s nice to actually have models for them now. A 5 point unit with a 6 Shoot unit and 5 Resolve is pretty much always worth it and the 6 Shoot Save and extra abilities on the Bois make them a solid unit. Making them Veteran for 6 points is very tempting as well to get full use out Spades and Diamonds. You can boost their melee with thrown weapons as well.
I’ve found it hard to decide between taking Veteran Coureur de Bois for 6 points and Campagnies Franches de la Marine for 6 points as a command unit.
Another bargain unit! These guys are poor at melee but they are great trained muskets for 4 points. They have a single option to upgrade their melee with thrown weapons but with poor melee stats, I think they are great without any upgrades as sneaky, cheap and accurate muskets. They have the same set of Elusive, Marksmen and Scouts from the Coureur de Bois but their Resolve and a couple stats are just worse.
Looking at these 3 core units so far, you have Trained options at 4, 5 and 6 points which makes list building and balancing easy and flexible.
In addition to the 3 French core units, the French Raiders will have unlimited access to both the Braves and Young Braves units. These Native units don’t have some of the speed tricks their earlier Caribbean Natives have in No Peace Beyond the Line, but their a little tougher in melee and their musketry is much more advanced.
These models have already been released and there’s a faction that can use them on the Force Builder and we should be seeing a lot more of them in the coming expansions. With firelock muskets, Scouts, Hard Chargers, Hidden and Ball & Shot they feel significantly different the earlier natives. Their 6 Resolve and lack of Elusive push me to favor the Coureur de Bois at the same point level but these guys are a little better on a charge and they have some interesting upgrade options.
Similar to the Young Warriors, the Young Braves have the foolhardy 5 Resolve coupled with a bad Fight Save. They come with bows and a 6 Shoot but can be given a musket sidearm as well and they can be upgraded to Trained (which is different than the Young Warriors). I like to have some fast shooting bows around and these guys seem decent for 4 points but their lack of Quick or Skirmishers makes me a little sad.
I’ve heard this unit is also on the short list of units up for new metal models but for now the a mix of the current Natives with bows work.
That’s an awesome set of Core units! Having 5 core units unusually high which should make list building interesting and always fresh in this faction.
The support unit column contains an elite Native unit and a cheap French militia unit. But those two units complete the “long straight” combo of units ranging from 3 straight up to 7 points each in this faction!
These are poor quality Inexperience French militia but they do have a solid Save for a 3 point unit. Useful for filling out your model count but they’re going to have a hard time keeping up with the professional raiders.
This is your aggressive storming party! At 7 points each they’re not cheap but they are very well rounded and sturdy. With a 5/6/6/6/5 stat line and a Veteran training level, they have the best combination of numbers in the faction. With the same Hard Chargers, Hidden, Scouts and Ball & Shot abilities as the Braves, they have boosts in both melee and ranged warfare. They can add Thrown Weapons (ouch), sidearm pistols or even Brace of Pistols. I hear rumors of getting some new North American Native models for this unit and I can’t wait to see them!
The sneak peak I have access to doesn’t list any historical commanders available to the faction. but gives the French Militia commander as options as well as the new generic commander which are customizable. The French list of options beyond the standard Inspiring, Broadside etc. My favorite besides the every popular Inspiring is Cold Blooded (grants Ruthless to the command unit and all units attacking using a Command Point). Guerilla Commander (all friendly units within command range gain Skirmishers) is also also very tempting for a force like this.
I pretty sure these abilities and stats aren’t entirely settled but it’s already a nice list. I would be happy to pay 20 for a commander with good weapons, a 12″ range and Cold Blooded and Inspiring or Guerilla Commander.
The abilities available to the Militia and Army Commander from No Peace Beyond the Line center around Inspiring with some Elan and Elusive thrown in on the Seasoned Commanders.
This faction can go in a variety of ways, depending on how elite you want to go.
Here’s a 200 point list I used in a recent play test game:
- Seasoned Generic French Commander with Inspiring and Cold Blooded
- 8 Veteran Coureur de Bois with Thrown Weapons
- 8 Milicians Canadien
- 8 Milicians Canadien
- 6 Braves
- 8 Young Braves with a Grizzled Veteran
That’s 31 Trained muskets with a Shoot of 6 and the Bois and both units of Braves are good in a charge. The 6 Resolve on three of the units was the weak point in the list but it still played very well.
Here’s a theoretical 100 point list:
- Experienced Commander with Cold Blooded – 10
- 6 Campaignes Franches de la Marines with Elusive (instead of Drilled) and Thrown Weapons (instead of Bayonets) – 32
- 6 Braves – 30
- 7 Young Braves – 28
That’s not a bad little list for 100 points. You have a decent commander with 2 Command Points, 20 models, 5 Resolve on most of you men, some bows for Fatigue output, good Shoot Saves and solid aggressive melee ability.
I’m looking forward to this faction. It looks pretty potent and the play style it encourages looks really fun. It doesn’t have the mobility that the earlier French boast, but the consistent marksmanship of all the units, the nearly unmatched ability to exploit cover through Hidden, Elusive and strong Saves, and the flexible set of core units make this faction look really exciting!
I’ve played one game with this force and I focused on musketry and it was pretty deadly. If pushed, the poor melee ability of the weaker units becomes apparent.
All this is subject to change at this point but it sounds like things are getting close to finished on many of the Raise the Black and French & Indian Wars Volume 1 factions. This French & Indian War (formerly Queen Anne’s War) supplement was scheduled for release a long while back but it sounds like everything is still moving a bit slower than usual at Firelock with all the extra COVID protocols to observe. All I can say is that I hope we get these fun new factions soon!