Black Powder – Compagnies Franches de la Marine

The box of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine was published years ago by Warlord Games, but came into focus again with the publication of the black powder supplement "A Dark And Bloody Ground" for the French and Indian War. Various special offers from Warlord Games included this box, so it's worth a look.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

The Colonial Compagnies Franches de la Marine were a peculiarity of the French military in the era of absolutism. It was not - as the name suggests - marine infantry. This was called Compagnies Franches de la Marine (without the reference "Colonial") or Compagnies Franches de la Galères. The uniforms differed only slightly, but the colonial companies were not intended for service on ships. The Ministry of the Navy was responsible for long-distance trade and consequently the protection of long-distance trade, which is why the soldiers were subordinate to the Navy. The Colonial Compagnies Franches de la Marine operated in independent companies, so they were basically not stationed in battalions or regiments, even if there was a corresponding superior administrative size. The soldiers were recruited in France and then stationed in New France or other colonies. The uniforms were unofficially adapted to the climatic conditions by slight modifications, but were otherwise the same everywhere. That was at least true of the regular uniform worn on parades or in garrison duty in larger cities. The field uniform, however, could deviate significantly from the actual regulations. France was just far away. Officers and crews quickly took over clothing and equipment for local relief forces and Indian allies. As an approximately rule of thumb, we could say that the clothes above the belt came from local militias, below the belt from Indians. The soldiers also often carried a knife on a strap around their necks, as the Canadians did, but they also adopted the Tomahawk as a general-purpose tool for the Indians.

If we open the box, we get a somewhat idiosyncratic second packaging. Why Warlord Games packs the models again in two blisters does not immediately open to me. There would certainly also be solutions with less packaging.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

The box presented here covers the Colonial Compagnies Franches de la Marine in the 18th century. The box with 20 miniatures made of white metal is available at Warlord Games for GBP 27.50. In Germany you can get them in relevant shops for prices between approx. 28.00 and 34.00 EUR. This corresponds to a maximum price of EUR 1.70 per miniature. The content of the box is given with a captain and 19 soldiers armed with muskets. However, this is not entirely correct, but more on that later, first we come to the obvious. The models are kept on a 28mm scale and tend towards a solid true scale. The cast is sharp, the many details on the uniforms can be clearly seen. The fact that there is no model twice is very pleasant. With 20 metal figures, this is quite impressive and, fairly, I would never expect to see it in this form.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

Like so many miniatures, the series for the French and Indian War was not created by Warlord Games itself, it was bought up. It originally came from the small manufacturer Conquest Miniatures (not to be confused with Conquest Games!) from the USA. Here the models were sold in blisters with 6 models each, until Warlord took over the series and packed some of the models in boxes. The Plains Wars series from Warlord Games also originally came from Conquest Miniatures. I cannot say whether the later releases, such as the Colonial Provincials also came from Conquest Miniatures or were produced by Warlord itself, I will compare new and old models and let you know.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

The models do not wear extremely specialized clothing and are therefore suitable for all American areas under French control, even if they are generally equipped for temperate or colder areas. Some models would not be suitable for New Orleans, but also for the severe Canadian winter, although some models are equipped with knee-length hooded coats and would therefore be suitable for a winter battle at least as a makeshift. Other soldiers only wear loose shirts, some of which have their sleeves turned up so that their forearms are free. All 20 models are equipped with muskets. Many soldiers also carry a tomahawk, some are equipped with one or more knives. It is nice that some soldiers have the characteristic knife on their neck strap, which, as I said, was a common practice.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

The officer is easy to recognize because, as was common practice at the time, he wears a tricorn. For better identification, the officers also kept their gorgets (these are metal plates that were worn on a chain around their necks), while non-commissioned officers removed their polearms, which were completely impractical for the forest, and exchanged them for muskets, as did the officers. As a result, they no longer differed from ordinary soldiers, which is why, logically, there is no NCO among the models.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

With the box we get a mixture of different poses that go very well with skirmishing soldiers. The models can be roughly divided into two groups: 9 advancing and attacking soldiers, and 8 shooting and landing soldiers. In addition, there is the officer, who in principle can be installed quite well in both groups. The other two models cannot be assigned to a group. They are both in rather casual attitudes. One model wears a so-called hunting shirt, a kind of short coat that is fringed at the ends. The luggage is also rather unusual for a soldier of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, only his forage cap indicates his troop membership, but this was also worn by other fighters. I would rather assume a Coureur des Bois for the model. Originally they were fur traders who traded with the Indians on their own. Often, this also gave birth to communities when a fur trader married into a tribe. After the fur trade was increasingly centralized by trading companies at the beginning of the 18th century, the Coureur des Bois increasingly took on transport tasks or mediated between Indians and Europeans. In the French and Indian War, they fought in irregular units with Indians and raided remote farms in the borderland or worked as guides or scouts for the military. So it makes perfect sense to use the model. His rather relaxed attitude qualifies him for the back row. Let the soldiers take care of the dirty work!The other model wears the same short coat and a forage cap as all other soldiers. Also a musket that is propped up the floor. However, in contrast to the other soldiers, you can see a sash here. After a thorough examination, you will find a saber close to the leg and a gorget on the neck. We are dealing with another officer here.

Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine Black Powder - Compagnies Franches de la Marine

So to make a whole regiment of systems like black powder out of the box, you have to be a bit willing to compromise here. Personally, I prefer it when all soldiers in a regiment do the same, but it can be argued that in a confusing hand-to-hand combat in the thick forest, soldiers can also fire their muskets at very short range, while comrades are already taking action with their Tomahawk drawn. So you can confidently mix the models and then get a pretty wild bunch that can be conveniently distributed over 5 multibases. Incidentally, there is no ensign and musician. The Compagnies Franches de la Marine simply did not take such impractical frills into the bush, so that is not a problem for our regiment.

But now Black Powder may not be the first system we can think of for the French and Indian War. Of course there were some remarkably large battles in North America with several thousand involved, but I think most players tend to think of small raids. So how is the box suitable for systems like Muskets & Tomahawks from Studio Tomahawk? Absolutely, I can say there. The content of the box is enough for 169 rules-compliant points, one officer and two soldiers remain as the rest. With a blister Indians from Perry Miniatures, Warlord Games or Crusader Miniatures you have already filled the 200 points and spent about 40 euros on them. Alternatively, you could also buy Frontiersmen from Warlord Games and set up a squad Coureur des Bois with the two surplus soldiers, which brings us very close to the 300-point mark with the surplus officer.

The box is priced fairly at around EUR 1.70 per metal miniature. The multiple purchase is of course only worthwhile if you want to play a larger mass battle system like Black Powder. For most Skirmisher or Mass Skirmisher a box is usually sufficient. The cast of the models is handsome, the variety of poses impressive, since no model is repeated. This is particularly interesting if you want to set up several regiments of this type. The poses are also credible and coherent overall, even if they cannot be completely combined into one unit. The models capture the time and the look of the conflict very well, since the modeler has managed to capture the iconic appearance of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine in all its facets. The only interesting question would be whether the additional officer was simply not recognized as such by the lady responsible for packing the box, or whether another officer was always included in the box. Furthermore, it would not be uninteresting whether there are fundamentally different combinations of miniatures in different boxes. I know that there are at least two more poses, even if that may be surprising, since there were already 20 different ones. I can't promise anything about that, but if the opportunity arises and we should get another box, we will of course check it out.

Black Powder is a brand by Warlord Games.

The reviewed product item was provided by the manufacturer.

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