France

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File:Fra-topbar.JPG

Background

During the war, France planned to advance into Belgium to create a static, defensive front not unlike their experience in WWI. The plan failed when Germany attacked from the Ardennes forest and the French lacked the mobility and time to respond. You have the chance to avoid the mistake by making fortresses in northern France or build sufficient troops to invade Germany when it declares war. Before continuing on, let’s examine France’s weaknesses:

  • Bad starting technology
  • Low manpower
  • Low IC
  • Exposed northern front
  • Weak starting army
  • A navy that probably saw service with Napoleon

Technology

France will always be able to research more than it can effectively build with its limited IC. Navy can be entirely ignored. All research should be primarily poured into Industrial, Infantry, Land Doctrine, and Armor/Artillery. Air power is useful only for TAC, INT, and possibly CAS. For this reason, by around 1939 France can be significantly ahead of all the Allies, including even the USA, in technology research.

  • Industrial: get industry research as high as possible (especially the ones which increase manpower, IC, IC efficiency, quicken production time and increase research efficiency)
  • Infantry: focus on completing 1941 infantry by May, 1940.
  • Armor: ART, SP-ART, and ARM are useful areas to research.
  • Fighter/interceptor: Research the Interceptor tree, since France begins the game with several.

Diplomacy

Alliances

France begins the game in the Allies, with the UK as the Alliance leader. As such, France cannot do anything to alter the alliance save for leaving it. An ahistorical alternative would be to create a Fascist France by allying with Germany.

Sliders

France will receive "free" interventionism moves to 9, just one short of full interventionism. France is best moving to Hawk in 1936, 1937, and 1938. Afterwards, moving to Standing Army is best. Alternatively, a France that elects a right wing government should make two moves to Free market in order to gain those excellent bonuses.

Ministers

France begins with some decent ministers, with Social Liberal and Social Democrat ministers providing the best bonuses throughout the early years. Generally, IC bonuses are important for France, especially for a Leftist France. Chief of Staff Lattre de Tassigny (Manpower +25%; Infantry Construction Bonus -5%) is a good choice. Chief of the Army Victor Bourgeois is worth considering with his -15% supply consumption for players who intend to build a large army. As an alternative, Gamelin provides an -5% infantry construction bonus, in addition to a -10% fort construction bonus for players who intend to play defensive. Head of Intelligence Salengro provides +5% IC and +5% steal blueprint.

Intelligence

France can gain limited benefit through the intelligence system by stealing blueprints from Germany. Generally, however, it is not particularly valuable.

Economy

Trading

France has good resources, and for what it lacks, its Allies will readily address. For these reasons, France can stockpile all major materials with no real effort. The UK is a good source for Supplies, while the USA is a good source for money.

Industrial Production

Early French IC production is not practical, since France begins with large IC penalties, and requires a large army in order to defend against Germany. For players who intend a defensive strategy, IC production can begin as early as around June, 1940, assuming France has established safe defensive lines. Troop production will always be important in a defensive war in order to keep pace with Germany, however, so only limited IC production would be possible. Achieving this balance is important, since a long defensive war will eventually stretch France's limited TC, thus TC expansion is important.

Military

France requires complete focus on building a large Army in order to defend against Germany.

Army

France must focus considerable effort into building a land force of infantry and militia capable of defending France's borders against the coming German blitzkrieg. On May 1st, 1940, an Army of around 100 infantry with around 50 militia is about the minimum necessary for a sound defense. France has a number of underused troops in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Djibouti. Transport all of them to the border with Belgium to help the defence. Move all other troops to the border but leave a limited number of troops on the Italian border since Italy will likely join Axis. France also requires a mobile and preferably hard force. ARM with MOT or MEC are useful in creating holes in defensive German lines, while CAV can be useful for holes and grabbing territory. Self-propelled Artillery, and to a limited extent Artillery brigades, will be useful for the limited French forces.

Navy

France cannot afford and does not need Naval distractions until Germany has been successfully repulsed. The Navy is only useful for war with Italy, and the starting Navy is surprisingly sufficient to this task, thanks largely to France's sole CV.

Air Force

France cannot afford any serious Air Force production until a defensive posture against Germany has solidified. As a result, France's existing air force should be better utilized with research focused on TAC and INT. TAC and possibly CAS can act as very effective force multipliers, however, and are worthy of consideration especially since France will inevitably encounter TC overload with over emphasis on ground forces. TAC is especially useful in an African campaign against Italy, and in operations behind German defensive lines to clean-up straggler units.

Events

Elections

  • 1936: In June, 1936, France will have elections. This provides a negative 3 dissent, and thus is a good time for changing ministers before the event fires. The ministers of the Left are generally the best option. A move to the right makes France social conservative.
  • 1938: In June elections recur. The Left remains a good option, retaining Social Democracy. The Social Liberal minister Auriol (+10% IC) should be reappointed to Armaments, while the Social Democrat Salengro (+5% IC) should be reappointed to Intelligence. A move to the right would make France "Paternal Autocrat" with limited minister choices. When AI France is Paternal Autocrat it's very likely to declare war on Germany before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Spanish Civil War

A few days after the Spanish Civil War begins on July 18, 1936, France will be asked for intervention. Naturally, sending volunteers is the best option:

  • Why support anarchists: +10 dissent; +1 isolationism; +1 right
  • Send volunteers: +5 dissent; -200 money; -10 manpower; +2 interventionism.

War

France has three major strategic postures that can lead to victory:

  • Maginot Defense: Extend Maginot line such that it will extend to the border with Belgium and wait.
  • Infantry Defense: Build enough infantry to defend Belgium, and by extension, France.
  • Polish Gambit: Invade Germany when it declares war on Poland.

Maginot Defense

This strategy is the easiest, and probably the most boring. Building and garrisoning level-10 forts across the division will stop the Germans in their tracks. Then, one can easily invade and annex Italy, bringing France's IC to a competitive level with Germany's. If a breakthrough cannot be achieved, it's simply a matter of waiting until the Soviet Union declares war on Germany. From that point on, the game is basically just a race to grab as much territory as possible.

[ It is entirely possible that the game will become bugged as the war drags on and all Germany will do is garrison more and more troops along the Line, and only attack you in Italy. In this case, it may be necessary to either force the USSR or Germany to declare war on their respective rivals to get the ball rolling. ]

Infantry Defense

Example of extended French line

As an Allied nation with a peacetime modifier penalty, France will not enter into the war until Danzig on August 30, 1939. Assuming a reasonably defended Maignot line, however, France will not see actual combat until May 1, 1940, when Germany invades the low countries. Generally, France can create a defensive line by rushing north into Belgium when the war begins. A line can be formed from Ghent to Antwerp to Namur to Reims. The weakest point of this line is Antwerp owing to a land border with Eindhoven. Therefore, extending the line to Eindhoven can be ideal, since France will then be completely protected by rivers. However, Eindhoven is quite exposed to German envelopment, and thus requires an army large enough to sufficiently hold both an extended front and repulse massive attacks against Eindhoven. These tactics also have the effect of saving both the Netherlands and Belgium.

Stalemate: Not surprisingly, a successful defense of Belgium and the Netherlands will considerably stymy Germany. They will never progress to an invasion of Yugoslavia or Greece, nor will they ever amass troops on the Soviet border. As a result, Germany will never launch Operation Barbarrossa, and Italy will very likely never join the Axis. This can potentially result in a stalemate that lasts for several years, with Germany becoming progressively stronger over time due to its much higher IC. Players seeking this strategy should DOW Italy. Capturing the Italian peninsula won't take longer than a few months, and Northern Italy/Southern Germany offer strong defensive positions in the Alps. This will have the effect of creating a static defensive front once again with Germany. This time, however, France is a bit more powerful owing to Italian IC.

Breakthrough: Alternatively, France can attempt to bust through German lines. This must be done immediately after France has successfully created a defensive line, preferably by June, 1940. A Breakthrough will focus on a region with a relatively small German force, punching through with an ARM, MOT, and CAV force, with INF staggering behind in order to shore up captured province defenses. Once a breakthrough is completed, immediate exploitation of German rear areas is critical, including a swift drive to Berlin.

Polish Gambit

From the beginning of 1936, begin researching 1939 Infantry. Research should finish around 1938: before that time churn out any non-infantry units needed. Ignore building up an air force or a navy: your allies should provide you with air cover, and the starting French navy is good enough for its limited uses. Avoid development into expensive fields like tanks, as these will chew up France's limited IC. Instead, concentrate production in IC creation. By the time research into 1939 infantry finishes, you should have around 100 base IC. Once research into 1939 infantry is complete, immediately begin production of at least 12 serial runs of infantry. Group these infantry divisions into the two provinces on the German border, Strasbourg and Mulhouse. When the war rolls around with the German invasion of Poland you should have around 100 infantry divisions concentrated in those provinces. Attack immediately while the German army is preoccupied in Poland. You should be able to steamroll through the country with little resistance, and Berlin should fall by 1940.

Gaming the System

The most prominent use of gamey tactics for France is to remove the peacetime IC penalty through an early war. Attacking Nationalist Spain, as an example, would be one method to do this.

Japanese Ally

In a single player game, the main drawback of France is low IC. There is a way to gain a lot of IC in the beginning of the game: ally with Japan and use its war against China to conquer a lot of Chinese territory, then leave the alliance and fight along the Allies.

In order to do that, France needs to:

  • get really friendly with Japan: use you fairly large amout of cash to influence it up to 200.
  • move the entire French army to Indochina... it takes a lot of time but around 1937 it should be done. Yes mainland France is unprotected, but it is still a peaceful time in old Europe.
  • move your slider toward the "interventionism" policy... it's important beacause the starting level does NOT allow you to leave alliances or to join new ones...
  • when the war breaks in China, leave the alliance with the British and ask to join the Japanese aliiance. If you have a 200 relationship they will accept.
  • attack from the South and, as fast as you can, move North to get the interesting provinces (your 3 cavalery division and you 2 light armored divisions are very useful for this. The Chinese army shouldn't be a real problem (use encirclement and destroy their armies).

If the things go well, by 1938 French IC could be as high as 120. In addition, wartime allows you to divert IC from consumers' good to unit building. Then a good idea is to stay in war the longer you can. But don't forget to transport your troops back home! Also it may be preferable to leave the alliance with Japan before they attack the USA (but a war against the british is what the french await since Waterloo... so why not?). If you are at war with Germany the British will propose you to join the Allied, but if it is not the case they will refuse. So if Germany never declared war at you you may have to do it in order to join the Allied (the main purpose is to get their blueprints and to get wartime bonus).

Don't forget that in the Far East you have a nearly undefended border with Japan. Sooner or later they will enter in a war with the USA (and therefore with you), and march to the south. The main weak point of the japanese is that their armies are slow (mainly infantery divisions). With relatively few motorized, armored and mechanized divisions you can beat them in China by encircling and destroying them. A few divisions in the north indochina's jungle will stop the japanese, allowing you to counter-attack when the motorized renforts arrive. But you need a decent navy to transport them there : start to build carriers early, and chose Saigon as a port to unload the troops (southern, then less vunerable than Hanoi to japanese attack). Naval bomber are also a good idea. Take every continental province of Japan : you IC should reach 200. It may be time to attack Germany with a little more chances of success...