The Great War: The French Army Expansion: A Review

In Britain it is often forgotten for a lot of the First World War the French army bore the brunt of the fighting. The great battles of Verdun are the usual starting point for most people when asked about the French efforts, but they fought from the opening days until the last hour and suffered 1.3m military deaths in doing so. Richard Borg's new French Army expansion for The Great War boardgame from The Plastic Soldier Company enables players to re-fight the battles of the French Army.

The Great War French Expansion Box Art
I backed this expansion on Kickstarter when it was first announced in November of 2017 and it has taken almost a year for the game to get published and arrive, thankfully before the centenary of the war's end! Mine actually arrived on Wednesday, but I was away in Scotland, so couldn't get hold of it for a few more days. However, I was not disappointed when I did and here is a quick review of the box contents.

Do remember that this is an expansion and NOT a full game, you will need the original game to use this.

From the striking artwork on the box to the well produced components this expansion has the usual high production standards of PSC. There is a full colour 38 page rule book, with extra rules for the new range of specialists (see below), reference sheets and extra terrain and fortification tokens, along with gaming components such as the new mortar aiming tokens. As with the previous Tank Expansion, the French Army Expansion has new scenarios, this time for the French Army specifically. There are 18 in total and many are set during the struggles at Verdun along with the 1917 offensives meaning you can re-fight them chronologically almost like a campaign. I was surprised to not see any of the 1915 or 1918 battles included, but we may get some of those in future expansions.

Components from the The Great War French Expansion

But you can't fight a battle without soldiers and The French Army Expansion includes 125 plastic figures! Unlike the previous The Great War releases these are in bendy plastic rather than the hard plastic that caused a lot of problems when people (including me) snapped brittle bayonets. They are also pre-cut so no fiddling about with sprues if you want to get straight into the action.

The figures from The Great War French Expansion

There are 50+ French infantry, mortars and machine gunners all in similar poses to the Germans and British of the original box. The basic figures are mounted on circular bases so they can be easily identified from the specialists.

The French Soldiers from the Great War French Expansion

Speaking of which, the new expansion adds new specialists to the previous bombers. we now have elite figures, engineers, flame-throwers, Heavy Machine Guns, heavy mortars, LMG figures, marksmen, officers and spotters for both mortars and artillery (FOO). These come with new rules adding to the existing game giving it another layer of complexity and choice, should you choose to. These figures are all mounted on square bases to set them apart from the non-specialists.

french specialists from The Great War French Expansion

Along with the French specialists, PSC have helpfully added in the German specialists (not the bombers, as they come with the original release).

German Specialist figures from The Great War French Expansion

And of course, the British specialists. Both of which are in their national colours.

British specialist figures from The Great War French Expansion

I mentioned that I backed the Kickstarter for this project and as a backer I got a few extra goodies, including two extra scenarios, another set of dice, 1/100th scale tank decals, French tank tokens and a French tank reference card.

Extras included for Kickstarter backers of The Great War French Expansion

I also bought a box of the new French tanks and they were included in my package. The two tanks are the Schneider CA-1 and the heavy Saint Chamond. Both of these are excellent models, really full of detail and crisp moulding. They are unpainted, but they should paint nicely and it's something I'm looking forward to doing. The models are weighty little pieces thanks to their construction of plastic and metal parts.

French tank models for the Great War boardgame

First impressions are of a box full of delights. However, I am not so sure about the bendy plastic figures as they seem a little cheaper than the sprues of hard plastic figures, but they should take more punishment. PSC got a lot of stick about the broken bayonets, so I guess this is the best compromise and you'll always find someone who is unhappy about things. I am not sure whether to base the new French figures for Square Bashing (four to a base, still works for The Great War) and make them into the core for a new SB French army or just use them for The Great War games. I am going to see how I get on with painting them and if the paint is too flaky on bendy figures, I might have to base them anyway.

All in all, I am happy with the new expansion, I am now looking forward to getting a game in to test the mettle of the French!

Comments

  1. I got my box the other week. Only had the chance to play the first scenario so far.

    I really like the specialists- they add another level to the game. I like the softer figures too as I think they'll stand up better then the hard plastic ones for the game (as I have no inclination to paint them). I am considering getting the British and German figures in soft plastic and using the hard plastic ones for regular gaming... I will probably look at Square Bashing as you've spoken highly of it.

    I did bother with the tanks though- they seemed to be less of a deal than last time.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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    Replies
    1. Nice one, thanks Pete. Yes, I agree about the specialists, I read more about them last night and I think they will add more to overall experience. That's a good idea about getting the softer plastic Germans and Brits, I'd not thought of it before and it will make it more like a proper board game.

      I am happy to have some new French tanks, but you need a few for the scenarios though...

      Do look into SB, it's a great game and we always have fun playing it.

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