With Chris Potter, BF UK Office
Speak of The Great War (more commonly referred to as World War One, or the First World War in the UK) and most people will be able to tell you that Germany, France, and Britain were involved on the Western Front. Toward the end of the War the USA joined the fighting, sending the American Expeditionary force to fight in France, which again most of the general public tend to know.
Little did I know and I’d wager, the vast majority of people, that there was a fifth Major Nation, on the allied side, that fought throughout the entirety of the Great War: Belgium.
In fact, it was my colleague Sebastien who is himself Belgian, who told me: even though the Belgians had lost the majority of their territory in the initial invasion by Germany in 1914, they held out in a small corner next to the sea for the entire conflict. However, not only did they hold out, but the brave nation even continued to send troops to fight in the trenches against the Germans, led by their king Albert 1st as field commander, and supplied fighting know-how to their own specific sector on the Western Front.
All it took was getting my hands on the new Great War book, and reading the background for the Belgians. Then I knew my army choice had been made. They are seriously cool.
In Great War, Belgians are generally clothed as French Colonial troops. This includes the distinctive M15 Adrian Helmet, greatcoat, backpack and webbing, as well as the gaiters and green/brown colours introduced around 1915. This means that you can readily use French units as Belgians. The Belgians even used French rifles such as the Lebel 1886 and man-portable machine guns such as the Chauchat 1915 later in the war.
In game terms, this means they have access to some very nice kit (the Chauchat being a rather nice choice as I absolutely adore the look and sound of the gun…) but aren’t as pricey in points as pure French. Plus, you don’t have to paint them with all that blue! So there is a nice mix of green/brown on the uniform, but with a contrasting Adrian Helmet of a darker hue than the colonial French.
The other key feature that drew me to the Belgians, is the quirk whereby their formations have access to British and French tanks. This means I can have St Chamond and FT-17 tanks painted in the crazy French camouflage of yellows, blues, greens and browns, but also Mark IV tanks with their distinctive tracks that went all the way around their outer hull.
And the access to varied options doesn’t stop there. French mle 1897 artillery field guns, Hotchkiss Machine Gun platoons and also Stokes 3” Mortars. All in all, some nice kit to take to the field toward victory.
This presents some interesting painting opportunities for me on the French tanks, as well as in gaming terms, being able to field large armies of troops which have access to some quite tasty kit. And the plus side is I have already got a pile of French troops sat in my to-do pile from the first time Battlefront released Great War before this current version. So hurrah! All I need is to pick up some extra weapons platoons and a Unit Card Pack, and I will be good to go.
Now to plan out the paint schemes, getting the queue cleared ready to paint troops en masse and lead the charge to retake the homeland!