Sunday, November 30, 2014

French Wargaming

"Morning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25th October 1415", painted by Sir John Gilbert


If you follow the excellent website,  BoardGameGeek, you may have come across the French Wargames magazine Vae Victis. I have often seen it at Brookhurst Hobby but I had never purchased it, fearing my French not good enough to deal with this all-French publication. However as a string of interesting titles has been published recently, I couldn't help but notice and finally investigate the magazine itself and thence the wargames hobby as it it is experienced in France.

The fact is, there is a very strong wargaming hobby in France, with board games well represented. Vae Victis is published by Histoire & Collections. This book publisher has released many interesting titles in French and in English on uniforms, campaigns and battles. I already owned many of their books. Vae Victis magazine has reached its 119th edition as of November 2014. Issue 98 and all issues starting with issue 100 are sold with games with professional, die-cut, counters. The earlier counter sheets have always been beautiful, but have required some work to turn the printed sheets into double-sided counters.






You will quickly find that one designer dominates the "space": Frédéric Bey. A listing of his personal credits follows:



1. Bellum Gallicum / Casus Belli n°68 et 69 / 1992 (a)
2. Rivoli 1797 / Vae Victis n°18 / 1997 (a)
3. Denain 1712 / Vae Victis n°20 / 1998 (b)
4. Alésia 52 av. J.-C. / Vae Victis n°21 / 1998
5. Les Pyramides 1798 / Vae Victis n°23 / 1998 (a)
6. Poitiers 1356 and Formigny 1450 / Vae Victis n°26 / 1999 
7. Zurich 1799 / Vae Victis n°29 / 1999
8. Suffren aux Indes / Vae Victis n°34 / 2000
9. Marengo 1800 / Vae Victis n°35 / 2000 (a)
10. Jours de Gloire Campagne I : Le Danube (Hohenlinden 1800, Austerlitz 1805, Wagram 1809) / Vae Victis n°41 / 2001
11. Canope 1801 / Canons en Cartons / 2001
12. Imperator 161-217 A.D. / Vae Victis n°42 / 2001
13. Au fil de l'épée (Bouvines 1214 and Benevento 1266) / Vae Victis n°45 / 2002
14. Montebello 1800 / Canons en Cartons / 2002
15. Jours de Gloire Campagne II : La Pologne (Pultusk 1806, Eylau and Friedland 1807, Pologne 1812-1813) / Vae Victis n°47 / 2002
16. Lonato 1796 / T&G module / C3i n°14 2002
17. Plutôt mort que Perse (Persians Wars, 492-479 B.C.) / Vae Victis n°49 / 2003 (c)
18. Jours de Gloire Campagne III : La France (Valmy 1792, France 1814) / Vae Victis n°52 / 2003
19. Epées de France (Auray and Cocherel 1364, Patay 1429, Castillon 1453) / Canons en Carton / 2003
20. Semper Victor 305-374 A.D. / Vae Victis n°56 / 2004
21. Austerlitz 1805 (sud) / Vae Victis n°58 / 2004
22. Haslach and Elchingen 1805 / Canons en Carton / 2004
23. La croix et l'épée (Las Navas de Tolosa 1212) / Vae Victis n°62 / 2005
24. Austerlitz 1805 (nord) / Vae Victis n°64 / 2005
25. Alesia 52 B.C., the Jurassian Hypothesis / Canons en Carton / 2005
26. Dürrenstein and Schöngraben 1805 / Canons en Carton / 2005
27. La guerre de Troie / Vae Victis n°66 / 2006
28. Epées Royales (Brémule 1119, Taillebourg 1242, Mons-en-Pévèle 1304, Cassel 1328) / Canons en Carton / 2006
29. Iéna 1806 / Vae Victis n°65 / 2006
30. Maïda and Castel Nuovo 1806 / Canons en Carton / 2006
31. Schleiz, Saalfeld and Auerstaedt 1806 / Canons en Carton / 2006
32. Ultimus Romanorum / Vae Victis n°74 / 2007 (d)
33. Epées et Couronne (Varey 1325, Baugé 1421, Verneuil 1424, Monthléry 1465) / Canons en Carton / 2007
34. Eylau 1807 / Vae Victis n°77 / 2007
35. Friedland 1807 / Canons en Carton / 2007
36. Epées et hallebardes (Morgarten 1315, Sempach 1386, Grandson 1476) / Vae Victis n°81 / 2008
37. Borkowo 1806 / Vae Victis Hors-série n°10 / 2008
38. Epées et croisade (Dorylaeum 1097, Ascalon 1099) / Canons en Carton / 2008
39. Medina et Rioseco et Somosierra 1808 / Vae Victis n°83 / 2008
40. Roliça et Vimeiro 1808 / Canons en Carton / 2008
41. Epées Normandes (Val ès dunes 1047, Gué de Varaville 1057 and Hastings 1066) / Canons en Carton / 2009
42. Aspern-Essling 1809 / Vae Victis Collection Jeux d'Histoire / 2009
43. Gospitch et Ocaña 1809 / Canons en Carton / 2010
44. Le Lion et l'Epée (Trémithoussia and Arsouf 1191) / Vae Victis Collection Jeux d'Histoire / 2010
45. Sphactérie 425 B.C. / Vae Victis n°95 / 2010
46. Almeida et Bussaco 1810 / Hexasim - Canons en Carton / 2010
47. Allemagne 1813 : de Lützen à Leipzig / Hexasim - Canons en Carton / 2011
48. Fuentes de Oñoro 1811 / Vae Victis Collection Jeux d'Histoire / 2011
49. Syracuse, 415-413 B.C. / Vae Victis n°103 (Special Wargame Edition) / 2012
50. Swords of Sovereignty (Bouvines 1214 and Worringen 1288) / Ludifolie Editions - Canons en Carton / 2012
51. The Berezina 1812 / Ludifolie Editions - Canons en Carton / 2012
52. Bellum Gallicum II / Vae Victis Collection Jeux d'Histoire / 2012
Not only is he prolific, Fred also caters very well to his English speaking customers, providing on his website articles, counters and most importantly, English translations of the rules of all of his games. His website is found at:
When I realized I could download the English language rules for his Au Fil de L'Epee series of games, some published by Canons et Carton, some by Ludifolie Editions  and many contained in issues of Vae Victis, I knew I had to get many of them for my own collection. Likewise Fred has many interesting Classical Greek titles to his credit. 







So far, from Fred alone I have purchased all of the highlighted titles above. I have also ordered other editions of Vae Victis with games covering the French Wars of Religion, using the same game system as GMT Games's Musket & Pike series.

I will write reviews on the games as I play them. However Marcogamer has already reviewed several of them on YouTube and through BoardGameGeek, most very favorably.

Bottom line: French board wargaming is alive and vibrant with many unique titles. The Rules and Scenarios are available in perfect English translation. Designers like Frédéric Bey have professionalized the game business with well-founded Rules and interesting topics not covered by the English/American publishers. Fred and others provide a high level of service and make the games very approachable. Agincourt will always captivate the Anglo audience and Richard Berg has covered the subject along with much of the middle ages very well in GMT's Men of Iron and  Blood and Roses series.

However, if you are interested in what happened at Patay, Formigny or Castillon, then take a look at the work of Frédéric Bey.  Highly recommended!

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