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25Apr/190

Bolt Action Campaign Battle of France

The supplement Campaign Battle of France goes more into detail into a part that was already covered by a previous supplement, but in a broader, more generalized way with Germany Strikes! back in 2015. This is nothing new, Warlord Games treated some of the other supplements with a more detailled coverage, like Western Desert did for Duel in the Sun, or Market Garden did for Battleground Europe.

Bolt Action - Campaign Battle of France Bolt Action - Campaign Battle of France

Battle of France covers primarely Fall Gelb / the Manstein Plan (Case Yellow) and Fall Rot (Case Red), on 128 pages. That is upper centre-field in thickness. The price tag stands at the usual 19.99 GBP or 30 USD and as we are already used from the teasers by Osprey in their product catalogues, there is an early cover (right) with an early war German soldier and the final cover (left) with the French soldier. This happens quite often, to promote an upcoming book, before the final decision on the artwork is done.

Mark Barber, who already wrote Battle of the Bulge and Campaign New Guinea covers with this campaign supplement his third book for Bolt Action. And as with his prior books, he worked closely with the community to prepare and test this book.

As always, direct customers of this book are rewarded by Warlord Games with an exclusive miniature. For Battle of France that is Pierre Billotte.

Bolt Action - Campaign Battle of France

What is it about?
If you ask somebody about the Battle of France, the most likely will think of the Blitzkrieg (Lightning War) and the rapid advance of the German army through the Lowlands and Belgium into France, and how the whole operation lasted merely weeks. But that is not entirely correct and the introduction of the book and first chapters cover these topics in more detail, with the phoney war and Case Red. France and Great Britain declared war on Germany as a reaction to the invasion of Poland. You would expect a large offensive on the Western Front, but between the declaration of war in September 1939 and the begin of the Manstein Plan in May 1940, not much happened beside some smaller skirmishes along the Franco-German border and the Saar Offensive. The smaller skirmishes are covered as the first scenario in this book as well. The evacuation of Dunkirk, most recently composed in a movie of the same name by Christopher Nolan, is covered as well.
So focus of this book is of course on the early war German units and selectors, as well as for the French and Belgians. As supporting nation on side of the Allies the Brits (as the BEF had troops on continental Europe) see a bit of love and the Italians as part of the Axis for the battles of June 10th onwards.
These 46 days of the Battle of France, along with the prelude and peak at the Battle of Saumur, are covered in 12 scenarios on roughly 70 pages, which is pretty similar to the set up of New Guinea. Those scenarios cover a lot of special setups or victory conditions, to capture the "oddities" of crossing a river or taking a city. The scenarios are followed by a closed section of new  units for the Belgians, British, French and Germans (as well as generic units for every nation) on about 20 pages, and another 10 pages on theatre selectors, with a lot of armoured / mobile platoons as well as defence / anti-tank platoons. The remaining pages cover special rules, that were partially already covered in other campaign supplements. But bring two new sections of air battles as well as company battles with them.

Bolt Action - Campaign Battle of France

First Impression
The Bolt Action supplements are well made. They are clean cut, properly bound soft cover books, that feature a lot of battle scenes and artwork from the shared ressources of Osprey Games and Warlord Games. The pages are well laid out and they continued with a new assorting of the pages, as the new units are now bundled up in a chapter of their own instead of spread across the book, which makes it so much easier to find and keep track.
Early war of World War 2 is a topic for itself, as you have to abstain from a lot of the popular gear, that was introduced later in the war, so this book makes up for "the lack" (it is hard to describe without sound to harsh or negative) with interesting composed scenarios. As a player, at least if you're not playing Germans, you do not have access to the newer parts of the range with plastic infantry or vehicles, so that makes this book and the participating forces a bit of special interest. For example the French and Belgians do only have metal miniatures and mostly resin vehicles, if you exclude the Char B1 plastic kit for the French, the British would have access to their Matilda plastic kit and the rather old infantry kit and would have to rely otherwise on metal and resin as well.

Due to the nature of this being part of the Blitzkrieg, and German troops moving fast across and through the terrain, the theatre selectors and units catch that as well. For example you receive a 1940 Panzer Division and Kraftradschützenkompanie as theatre selectors, supported by new units like the Kraftradschützen as an AC choice or transports like inflatable boats and assault boats. An interesting choice for the Germans are the Feldgendarmerie, who provide a boni on bringing support units into the game. These mobile units are added to the British in form of the British Motorcycle Battalions and to the French as Dragons Portés. All factions receive access to Intelligence and War Correspondance units, with the British and Germans receiving special treatment because of for their national rules. It is a bit irritating that the monstrous Char 2C is shown on page 89 and again on page 90, but the rules "only" cover the rather light AMR 35, AMR 35 ZT2 and ZT3. The counter attacks of the Allies are supported with matching selectors as well, so the British have their Grenadier Guards and Frankforce, as well as the French their DLM Armoured platoon. For the late participation of the Italians in the Battle of France at the Alps, both sides are covered with the Italian army group west and the French chasseurs alpin reinforced platoon.

As you would expect, there are multiple new Legends covered in this book. Among them Cpt. Pierre Billotte, who is the special miniature as well, in his Char B1, a young General Erwin Rommel, Ltn. Jean Bulle, Lance Corporal Harry Nicholls VC, Caporal Chef Louis Brindejonc and Leutnant der Reserve Georg Michael (not George Michael, nor the Singer, nor the one from Arrested Development).

The 12 scenarios are covered in a chapter each, with "The Allies Counter-Attack" being the only exception from this. Most of these battles are asymmetrical, as you mostly have a attacker and defender, landing missions and with Dunkirk a very special mission, as the Germans are entire Luftwaffe units and are played as a special air battle (rules covered in the supplements appendix).

  • Scenario 1: Reconnaissance Patrol Clash (The Phoney War)
  • Scenario 2: The First Day (Fall Gelb - scenario 1 + 2 can be tied together as a mini campaign)
  • Scenario 3: Crossing the Meuse (Two Days from the Meuse)
  • Scenario 4: The Battle of Hannut (The Great Feint)
  • Scenario 5: The Arras Counter-Attack (The Allies Counter-attack)
  • Scenario 6: The Defence of the Escaut (The Allies Counter-attack)
  • Scenario 7: The Battle of Bolougne (The Retreat)
  • Scenario 8: The Last Defenders of Calais (The Calais Sacrifice)
  • Scenario 9: Dunkirk (Only Course Open)
  • Scenario 10: The Maginot Line (The Final Defence)
  • Scenario 11: The Battle of the Alps (Irrendentismo Italiano)
  • Scenario 12: The Battle of Saumur (Birth of the Resistance)

Bolt Action - Campaign Battle of France

The special rules cover, as you'd expect from an invasion (or fending one off), dug-in, fox holes and minefields, as well as frostbite and amphibious assault. The rules for air battles are meant for the scenario 9 of Dunkirk, and that is explained again in the introduction of these rules, that they are not meant for regular open battles. But let's say for a large campaign game or with D-Day coming up, an event like that, a very welcoming special extra to the game. Some of the special rules for digging in etc. were already covered in other supplement, but are repeated in here, so you do not need to buy another book just for paragraph or two of additional rules.

An interesting and new approch is the last chapter, covering rules for Company Commander. Setting up a framework for campaigns with multiple platoons per army/force, incl. experience, logistics and boosting up the game from platoon to company level. If you have a campaign or play a league in a store or club, this might be quite interesting for you. The rules are generic and can be used with forces beyond this supplement. It is very appealing to see, that they have some recommandation for a proper outline of such a campaign, for example setting it fix to 5 games and give advice on victory conditions. As campaigns that are not set up as a self contained weekend event, have the tendency to either run out of fuel or are dragged on beyond their life-cycle.

How plays Battle of France?
As mentioned above, early war is a special topic, as you have to abstain from the larger, heavier gear of late war. But this supplement works quite well around this. The scenarios are very colourful and varied. Far beyond a simple clash in the open field, but not overloaded with special rules that slow down the actual game play.

With a lot of these missions covering motorized or mobile platoons, but using light vehicles and early war tanks, there are no moving fortresses on the battle field and everything can be destroyed. And you don't have these point tar-pits, where a single unit or vehicle is worth like 20-25% of your total army. So I see a lot of fluent battles, with losses of units during the battle that you can get over with. The main bottle neck for playing this campaign or missions might be the availability of French army players. Having British or German armies with early war units won't be the problem, neither will be the terrain as were talking about Western Front, with basic wargaming terrain features of hills, forests and rivers, along with a couple of buildings that could be used from napoleonic games as well. Especially for early war German armies you have a great choice of plastic kit, with the Blitzkrieg infantry, Panzer 38t and Panzer III kits.

If you were to combine this supplement, with the earlier Germany Strikes! supplement and use the scenarios of Fall Gelb and Fall Rot with this one, you would have a very rich pool to choose from.

Bolt Action - Campaign Battle of France

What's next?
The campaign supplement following on Battle of France was already published, it is Fortress Budapest and I am already working on that review, so expect that one to be covered here in the next few weeks. With D-Day having another anniversary this year, it is scheduled for June and it will be accompanied with a huge battle box. Expect something like Battle of Berlin or Pegasus Bridge. I guess, there will be a "regular" 150 GBP box and a larger collectors edition set, both including resin and mdf terrain, along with a lot of plastic sprues. As we had more detailling campaign supplements, it is going to be interesting how much more D-Day: Overlord goes into detail compared to the supplement Battleground Europe from the first edition.

And Bolt Action receives a Spin-Off, we've seen some pictures of Korean soldiers and post-WW2 tanks at Salute this year. I'm looking forward to the Centurion tank kit, as it is one of my favorites.

Bolt Action - Campaign Fortress Budapest Bolt Action - Campaign D-Day: Overlord Bolt Action - Korea

Conclusion
A supplement well done. We have a proper selection of scenarios, a good amount of new content and ideas to add to the existing range. From what I have noticed so far, the quality of the editorial got besser, as I found less typos and / or mix up in foreign languages, compared to for example New Guinea. I think the were able to create a pretty good mix with this book. If you're missing a larger battle or something similar, you have to bear in mind, that they are somewhat limited to the book and to the platoon sized nature of this game. Some battles will work great with Bolt Action, others will better be played using Battlegroup or Flames of War, while Commando operations might use Black Ops or something similar.

If you are a collector and want a complete set of books, go for it. The book is more than properly done, covers interesting scenarios, that could be used with other forces of course (for example alternate Operation Sealion or late battles of the Spanish Civil War). If you're playing the French or Belgians in Bolt Action, I'd recommend the book, as it covers new options for your army list. Further than that, I would like to point out the possible bottle neck, finding someone to play the French, as this is really the only argument holding you back from adding the supplement to your collection / wargaming library, as it is with 20 GBP reasonably priced and the effort they put into this book, including the special missions and the new approach with the company command rules are a novelty and appealing.

Mark Barber recommends a couple of books, that they used as ressources for this supplement, among them are several by Osprey Publishing. I addition I'd recommend these for further reading Combat #14 - German Infantryman vs British Infantryman, Men-at-Arms #315 the French Army 1939 - 1945 (I), Campaign #264 - Fall Gelb (1) and Campaign 3 - France 1940. And these two websites were recommended as well: ATF40.fr (french) and quartermastersection.com.

Bolt Action is a brand of Warlord Games.

The reviewed product item was provided by the manufacturer.

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