Last night I had a game of Dystopian Wars with Ian of The Chaps. It gave us the opportunity to take a look at the Republique of France and put them through their paces.
When the Frenchies were first announced I, like many, were drawn to the flying cruisers curvaceous design and the curious looking turret mounted on the front of the battleship.
One of the things I like about the French ships is that whereas the Britannian ships were basic and crude, wrapped in an ugly hull designed for form and the necessities of war; the French ships are basic and crude, wrapped in elegance. It’s as if the ships were designed first and the practicalities were an after thought, which is exactly how it should be. In a way the French vessels remind me of the women of the age, or at least how they were depicted. Curvy with a full backside.
In game turns it didn’t take me long to figure out where the strengths of the French lay. Their Ack Ack is absolutely bonkers. The Magenta Class battleship (above) has 8. 8 shots it can fling into the sky. Combined with hefty broadsides and it’s clear that the French are designed for passing volleys, very much like the galleons of the 18th Century. But the added advantage of turrets. The position and lack of turrets rather points towards a mass volley approach rather, concentrating all the ships fire power on a single target rather than being able to divide their fire amongst multiple targets. It’s a very blinkered way of waging war as even the bomber have just fixed channel torpedoes which means their use has to be carefully planned out.
However, what the French lack in number of guns, they make up for in weight of fire. Combined with the high auxiliary values, the French, if used correctly, can effect kill zones, encircling the enemy and effecting a no fly zone. French frigates throw out a huge number of shots for their size. They only have broadsides but, again, as a unit there is a hefty amount of fire power being chucked out. A unit is a viable threat to a battleship.
But they are flimsy, as are all of the French ships. They will quickly take damage and because they have so few weapon systems their combat effectiveness drops through the floor especially as they will take critical hits. The French are at their best mobbing their opponents, passing on both sides and using their broadsides and limited turrets to full effect. This also allows them to move off to limit the return fire.
The French get the rather horrid addition of thermal lances. Basically microwave cannons. They roll as many attack dice as the target vessel has damage rating multiplied by two. So against my Covenant battleship it would roll 12 dice. So intent was Ian to make use of this weapon of mass reheating that he opted for sailing his battleship directly towards mine. However, its only range band 2 and the aforementioned flimsiness of the hull meant that by the time it closed to range I’d inflicted 6 damage points on it and it was halving attack dice rendering it less than scary even with the redoubtable rule. A ship with only fore and aft turrets, the former of which given over to a short-range weapon severely impacts on its strategic viability. It can certainly make the kill shot but rather forces players to hold their battleships back out of harms way which is a waste of points.
I’ve not made much comment about the fact that the French cruisers are on flying stands. That’s because they can’t fly, they just skim the water which makes it harder for torpedoes to hit. It’s a useful addition but not game changing. The retardant armour that allows you to ignore the first exploding 6, however, is damn handy. And very frustrating for your opponent. Believe me.
They’re a tricky fleet to use but just as and tricky to fight. Although they will take a pummeling they can certainly dish it out and between carriers, swarms of tiny flyers, more Ack Ack than you can safely shake a stick at, and some shrewd manoeuvring they’re an interesting challenge. But at least you get to look at their curvy beauty whilst you figure it out.