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"British vs French Unit and Army characteristics" Topic

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18th Century

824 hits since 20 Apr 2018
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MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 9:13 a.m. PST

For wargaming purposes, are the British and French and their auxiliaries merely mirror armies in different uniforms or are there unique troop types and advantages/disadvantages between the two forces that should be reflected in skirmish or regimental level games?

22ndFoot20 Apr 2018 10:09 a.m. PST

If you're interested in the unique characteristics of the British Army in North America during the Seven Year War, you can't go wrong with Redcoats by Stephen Brumwell.

Wherabouts in New York are you?

MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 10:40 a.m. PST

I'm in NYC, where are you?

I will check that book out but I was primarily interested in force balance within a miniatures game. Do the French have more Indians, less regulars, more artillery? Things of that nature.

22ndFoot20 Apr 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

Understood. What rules do you plan on using? I haven't used Muskets & Tomahawks, which seems popular, but I did some games of Sharpe Practice with the La Longue Carbine supplement.

I would suggest, depending on the location and period, that the French would have more Indian allies and fewer regulars. Neither side would have much, if any, artillery in the field.

I'm in Katonah in northern Westchester.

MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 11:07 a.m. PST


I plan to use a set of rules that my old wargames group reduced from the CLS Bible down to about 12 pages and which are fast and bloody. I am thinking of mostly solo play for my own amusement.

I haven't even decided between the Sash and Saber or Trident FIW Minis. Although, I did just buy a load of flags from GMB.

Katonah, I know it well. I grew up in Scarsdale.

22ndFoot20 Apr 2018 11:29 a.m. PST

Are you looking at proper battles or skirmishes?

I've always found 40mm a bit intimidating. I bought a lot of Galloping Major in 28mm plus bits and pieces of Crusader but my FIW project has fallen well behind the AWI in my endeavours.

MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 11:42 a.m. PST

40mm, intimidating? How so, sir? Painting-wise?

It was always 15mm that drove me crazy. I like the larger size because it's all about my personal enjoyment.

Interesting aside, if you want to talk about intimidating, when I started painting again, I had fears that the results would be a catastrophe. I've almost finished painting a unit of 40mm British Napoleonic after a long, long time of not painting at all and, surprisingly, my painting is exactly in the same place as it was when I left off.

22ndFoot20 Apr 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

They just seem a bit big for me and so would show up the shortcomings in my painting. That and doing yet another set of terrain.

I dropped you a PM.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2018 12:00 p.m. PST

In 28mm, I buy all the figures and mix and match most of them even in the same units for skirmish gaming and they all look fine and I have a huge amount of pose variety!

If you're going with 40mm, I couldn't see why you would have to limit yourself to just one make.

I don't know about the southern front as much, but for New York and northern affairs, presence of Indians is dicey for both sides. Tends to be an all or nothing affair for the French.

About 1800 showed up for the first siege at Wm. Henry, and good promise of plunder. And that was a major command and control headache for the French. By the first siege of Ti, they had come to loathe Montcalm and all had pressing engagements organising their moccasin drawers rather than going to join the army about 15 showed up.

My general sense is that the French are for the mostpart better seasoned troops, except for raw replacements and reinforcements fresh off the boat. Compagnies de la Marine are crack troops with lots of experience in country; and the elitest of the Marines joined the Cannoniers-Bombardiers who were often sent on field missions as Grenadiers without any cannons in tow.

It was not unusual for British Provincials to have some Indians and blacks in the rank and file.

The Osprey Campaign books are good reading. and relatively useful.

I've found the Kronoskaf website to be the best first stop for painting info. It's not always the most reliable, but it is by far the most comprehensive:

I've been enjoying using the Donnybrook skirmish rules and tweaking the faction lists to taste. The lists are definitely more suggestions that rules!

MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 12:02 p.m. PST

Well, I am lucky I suppose that I was taught how to paint miniatures by two very good painters at an early age who took me under their wings(I was winning 1/35th Scale Armor dioramas at 9!)

Still, my style tends more to wargaming style vs the "museum" style I see figure manufacturers display all over the Internet now.

I think the key to painting well is both organizing the steps and visualizing the results in your head before you apply any paint.
Also, you need to cover up all surfaces of a figure with paint to give it color integrity; never fear the "touch up". Too many painters try to paint everything perfectly and that leaves unpainted border areas on the miniature.

I had never painted 40mm before…but I like it!

Glengarry520 Apr 2018 12:06 p.m. PST

I would rate the Quebec militia as superior to their Anglo counterparts. The English militia tended to come from more settled societies and tended to adopt close order European drill, while the Quebec militia had more experience fighting against and beside native warriors. I would give the Quebecers skirmish ability, superior field craft (no movement penaltys in forests for example) and marksmanship. The English frontiersmen went into the Rangers. The Company De Marines were French regulars who's long experience in small units in the frontier raids and wars gave them similar abilities with the Quebec milita but with the stiffening of being regulars.

MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 1:14 p.m. PST

I've heard good things about those Donnybrook rules; that they are not only fun but highly modifiable to most other periods.

I see trident just came out with some 40mm compagnies franches de la marine, Quebec Militia and coureur des bois with an array of other troop types to follow!

No sign of mounted colonels.

Did regular field officers fight mounted in America?

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2018 1:19 p.m. PST

The British Provincials were also handicapped by lack of time for any drill. The regulars continuously used them for fatigue work, and so prevented them from training.

Second the Milice having an edge over Provincials

One Mass. Regiment for example: from the time they joined in the field on 29 May 1759 and 21 July when they helped besiege Ti recorded a total of 8 days of training. This may have been above average. They did fatigue duty for at least 20 days, 12 days in marching and recovering therefrom, and 3 days on guard duty. All on very short rations and severe malnourishment.

MiniPigs20 Apr 2018 1:45 p.m. PST

While we are on the subject, what are relative unit sizes?

If one were to make the regular British and French regiments/battalions about 24 figures each what would be the guideline for the size of a Quebec militia, Ranger, Marine, Colonial militia, Indian or separate grenadier unit?

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2018 1:57 p.m. PST

Field officers most likely dismounted. For skirmish games, I keep mine mounted so they can move around!

I've found Donnybrook to be a great black powder skirmish rules kit ^,^

Organisation wise, Kronsokaf is your friend of first resort. The 'Generalities' links give a generic overview, specific regiments have notes on their service. For fanatical research, you would want to double check their info if you can, for gaming entertainment, it's just fine until a better comprehensive resource comes along.

British: link

French: link

Indians don't have org charts.

Doug MSC Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2018 2:05 p.m. PST

I have done armies in 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, 28mm, 30mm,and 54MM but have finally settled on 40MM. I love painting them and viewing them on the table and playing with them. I do have 40mm buildings but also use 28mm terrain such as roads bridges woods, walls, rivers and even 28mm buildings, all which work fine. I enjoyed all the other sizes of figures that I had but I really love this side. Maybe it's because I own Trident Design figures! Ha,ha,ha. If I can help you out in any way, feel free to e-mail me at We also have a set of home grown rules I can send you if you like to look them over and use.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2018 2:25 p.m. PST

I've picked up a number of useful reference books through
Top of the list are:

Osprey Campaign books on Fort William Henry and Fort TIconderoga, and an (OOP) Order of Battle, Quebec 1759.

And one that is tantalisingly short of some details a gamer would love to know: Siege 1759 The Campaign Against Niagara by Brian Leigh Dunnigan

Doug MSC Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2018 2:45 p.m. PST

For painting & uniform purposes, Osprey has a book out on Wolfe's army and one on Montcalm's army.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 6:53 a.m. PST

Sigh. More fantasy thoughts than reality.

"I would rate the Quebec militia as superior to their Anglo counterparts."

And just what is that based upon? How well they performed during the siege of Quebec when the shot into each other, panicked, then fled?

The original question is about as broad as can be. Mixes regulars, provincials, militia, and Indians. Not one standard for any one of these and they all fluctuated wildly from year to year.

Here is an example of how weird this discussion can get:

"The British Provincials were also handicapped by lack of time for any drill."

Aaaaah, really? So what Provincials are you talking about, as the VA Regiment was about as experienced and as good as they came by 1758, even prior. The "Royal" Maryland Forces were looked at on par by some with British Regulars.

French militia mainly contributed manpower by moving stuff to the war, not much combat value. If you disagree, cite a primary source and prove me wrong. I'm not talking about the handful of Colonial Marine officers sent out to try to guide the Indians to meet French military objectives – which they often failed at.

French militia ran at Braddock's Defeat.

Not saying all Crown Provincial units were any good. They weren't. But I've yet to see anyone post anything (other than opinion) about the combat effectiveness of Canadian militia.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 7:06 a.m. PST

Or, let me put it another way – who stood longer and fought better at Braddock's Defeat – the Canadian militia or the VA independent companies?

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 9:02 a.m. PST

I was talking about the Provincials at Ticonderoga. Mileage for other instances may vary. For Massachusetts regiments, a fair number of soldiers and a lesser number of officers would volunteer on multiple years, but as regiments were formed from scratch each year, soldiers would typically serve under different officers each time, and with largely different rank and file within each company.

Detailed analysis drawn from a wealth of diaries and other documentation in A People's Army by Fred Anderson.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 9:44 a.m. PST

Likely correct about most Provincial regiments, though there were some exceptions. Still, I'm not sure I'd rate them lower than French/Canadian militia. At worst, perhaps the same.

Can you provide any examples where the militia performed well, as none are coming to me.

Have you read the Preston book on the Braddock campaign? He mentions the Canadian militia in there and noted that many of the ones at Fort Duquesne were from more settled farm areas while the more western militia were left back at other French outposts.

It should also be noted that the Colonial Marines garrisoning Fort Duquesne were to few in numbers to send out on raids, etc. Most were engaged in continuing to build the fort, perform other necessary duties in garrison, etc. Point being, they weren't exactly expert woodsmen either.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 11:06 a.m. PST

I haven't read Preston [yet], to date I've been concentrating my reading on New York and the northern front.

My impression to date is that the Milice are very good skirmishers. But that may also be campaign dependent as whether the troops involved were selected more for their fighting, boating, or construction skills. Skill-type selection was an executive decision at the start of the campaign.

Lake George '55, my take is the Milice comported themselves quite well. The morning ambush, while triggered prematurely by an unknown gunshot, hit the Mass and NY Provincials quite hard. The Provincials had been out scouting and failed to spot the French scouts. When the French Regulars pressed in the attack, the remaining Provincials had to retire to the camp. The French Regulars couldn't force an assault past the defending artillery on the British camp, so the Milice fell back into the woods, but stayed engaged and kept up active sniping throughout the day, shifting positions to where they could be most effective, until the French withdrawal.

2nd siege at William Henry '57 the Milice exchanged about equal, relatively small, casualties with an outpost of Mass and NY Provincials that ended with forcing the Provincials to abandon the outpost and retire into the fort.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 11:26 a.m. PST

Lake George is a weird battle as none of the troops were veterans. The French held an edge with 200 some regulars, though poorly used by their commander. 600 French Canadian Militia may have been their hay-day. They were able to lay in ambush, likely using cover. It's hard to say their effectiveness vs the 700 or so Indians there as well. And an ambush is an ambush.

The colonial troops (not what we would late call uniformed provincial troops more on par with militia) weren't exactly veterans either. The defense, laying in ambush in cover, had a huge edge here, which flipped when the Americans retreated to cover of their own. At that point the French/Canadian militia and Indians were nothing special.

The later action at Bloody Pond would tend to further that idea when the American colonials in turn, ambushed the French/Canadian/Indians and gave them a pretty good beating, capturing all the French baggage. Where was the French Canadian militia prowess then?

This is a battle of militia and natives, which the advantage going to those in ambush and those in cover. Hard to say one side was more effective than the other since both performed in a similar fashion at the end of the day. And who won?

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

I'd also point out that in the early French ambush – the Crown forces consisted of about 200 Indians and 1000 colonial (militia) – but waiting in ambush were 600 Canadians and 700 Indians. As effective as the ambush might have been, it did not annihilate the British forces. In fact, they were able to fall back and make a rather stout defense, along with their artillery of course.

At Bloody Pond:

Meanwhile, Col. Joseph Blanchard, commander of Fort Edward, saw the smoke from the battle in the distance and sent out Nathaniel Folsom's 80-strong company of the New Hampshire Provincial Regiment and 40 New York Provincials under Capt. McGennis to investigate.

Hearing the report of guns in the direction of the Lake, they pressed forward, and when within about two miles of it, fell in with the baggage of the French army protected by a guard, which they immediately attacked and dispersed. About four o'clock in the afternoon, some 300 of the French army appeared in sight. They had rallied, and retreating in tolerable order. Capt. Folsom posted his men among the trees, and as the enemy approached, they poured in upon them a well directed and galling fire. He continued the attack in this manner till prevented by darkness, killing many of the enemy, taking some of them prisoners, and finally driving them from the field. He then collected his own wounded, and securing them with many of the enemy's packs, he brought his prisoners and booty safe into camp. The next day the rest of the baggage was brought in, thus securing the entire baggage and ammunition of the French army. In this brilliant affair, Folsom lost only six men, but McGennis was mortally wounded, and died soon after. The loss of the French was very considerable.

(from link

Point being, the British colonials – 120 of them, virtually destroyed a force twice their size, and took their baggage and prisoners. You tell me who had the more effective force.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2018 12:11 p.m. PST

So, back to the original question of:

"For wargaming purposes, are the British and French and their auxiliaries merely mirror armies in different uniforms or are there unique troop types and advantages/disadvantages between the two forces that should be reflected in skirmish or regimental level games?"

So early in the war it would seem that the advantage laid with the French troops and their allies, but as the war progressed the British troops and their allies got a lot better, in many cases surpassing the French and their allied units.

I would argue that the British Lights of 1759 with Wolfe had no peers.

Kimber VanRy27 Apr 2018 10:26 p.m. PST

If you're in NYC, we run semi regular FIW era battles in 28mm at Metroplitan Wargamers in Brooklyn. A couple of us have founded a games publishing company Campaign Games that will be releasing a book of period wargaming scenarios in 28mm and suitable for conversion to other scales. We're always looking for players to test and will be hopefully running some play tests at the club in May ahead of NJ Con in June.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP28 Apr 2018 12:22 p.m. PST

Oooh, looking forward to the book Kimber!

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