Unlike my previous guides on the Soviet Union and German Reich, France is one of the more difficult (but still enjoyable) nations to play as. Their initial traits mean it is much harder to modernise your army and sees your political power gain remain at a pathetic level. Although it is fun to go Communist or Fascist France, in order to obtain the best bonuses, staying Democratic is the best way to go. Moreover, you’re going to be dealing with the Axis forces, which includes major nations like Germany, Italy and potentially Spain (dependent on who wins the Spanish Civil War, which 90% of the time is the nationalists). This guide should provide you with the basic knowledge of how to succeed as France and easily tackle the Axis threat.
Like my other HOI4 guides, this section is where I provide some general rules that you should follow, even if you decide that my military tactics are not for you. If you follow these key principles, the chances of restoring France to its former glory will come ever closer.
- Prioritise building up your industry, as France has a pathetic number of military factories (try and get at least 30-40 by the time Hitler invades). Building up your infrastructure in Southern France also can help.
- Less focus can be required on your air force as you will have the help of Britain (do not go to war until 1939).
- Make a compromise on with the communists (to ensure your industry is not completely crippled) and then leave the agreements in place to get a boost to stability.
- Go down the democratic part of the focus tree as you will gain more stability making your factories more efficient.
- Do not go down the ‘Aggressive Focus’ tree (albeit better sounding), as you get the much better bonuses on forts going defensive.
- Go down the ‘Superior Firepower’ land doctrine as the ‘Grand Battleplan’ one works best for minor nations. Moreover, the ‘Superior Firepower’ doctrine works well against the ‘Mobile Warfare’ one – which the German’s use.
- Delete all of your colonial (apart from the ones in Indochina and Africa – in case Siam join the Axis and deal with the Italians in Libya) to free up manpower and equipment (something in which France struggle with, hence the major focus on building up your industry).
National Focus and Political Power:
Like I said previously, keep democratic as France due to the bonuses you get towards stability and being to ally with Britain and America. The last part of the focus tree you should do is the right-side which places attention on your navy and air force. Find below my recommended list of the order you should do your national focuses:
- Government Reform
- Metropolitan France
- Industrial Expansion
- Military Factories
- Extra Research Slot
- Support the status quo
- Go with Britain
- Strengthen Government
- Defensive Focus
- Levee en Masse
- Fortification Focus
- Alpine Forts (build these up to level three)
- Extend the Maginot Line (build these up to level three)
- Grand Batterie
- Char de Bataille
- Defensive Stratagems (can go this after strengthen government expires)
- Army Reform (requires above focus to complete)
- Nuclear Effort (because who doesn't want nukes?)
- Extra Research Slot II
- Navy Focus (do Capital Ship Focus side)
- Air Focus (do Fighter Focus side)
Admittedly, France does not have the best focus tree in comparison to likes of Germany and Japan, but some useful bonuses come out of it such as the boosts to fort production and lesser cost of infantry equipment which is very useful when building up your military.
In respect to political power, it takes a while before France begins to earn much due to the annoying Disjointed Government trait (which is removed by Defensive Stratagems). Therefore, you have to choose wisely on how to spend your political points. Here is a list of the people in government you should prioritise:
- Gaston Henry-Haye – Silent Workhorse
- Félix Gouin – Captain of Industry
- FAMH – Industrial Concern
- Free Trade
- Zivony Peshkov – War industrialist
- Henri Giraud – Military Theorist
- War Economy (do this as soon as it becomes available)
Research in Brief:
As per usual, having an advanced military and industry will make your odds of achieving ever more likely. As France, you will get the chance to have five research slots which will give you a significant advantage over Germany who are only able to get four. Furthermore, by adopting the free trade law you will get greater deductions to your research time. However, it must be noted less attention must be placed on the land doctrines in the early game as the Victors of the Great War slaps a painful +75% time on your land doctrine research time. Find the list below:
- Electronic Mechanical Engineering (go down this part of the research tree for even more research reduction time bonuses)
- Industry (dispersed industry to make it more bomb-proof)
- Naval Doctrine (Fleet in Being as this will help deal with the Italian and potentially Spanish navy – Britain will easily handle the Germans)
- Artillery (improves your divisions effectiveness)
- Land Doctrine (Superior Firepower – see my recommended military tactics below)
- Infantry equipment and support companies (engineer and recon companies very useful)
This is a new feature I’ve added to my HOI4 nation guides, which will be updated onto my previous guides on the Soviet Union and German Reich. For major nations such as France, my recommendations towards your division templates will stay the same (especially nations in which I recommend the Superior Firepower Doctrine – focus on increasing hard and soft attack). You need to have a least 64 divisions (a mix of tanks and infantry – but more infantry) in Europe with 24 on the German border, 24 on the Italian border and 16 on the border with Belgium. See my list below:
- Infantry: 7 infantry, 2 artillery, recon company, engineer company and anti-tank. This template has a combat width of 20 (which is ideal for European conflict), high organisation and soft attack and is great with any land doctrine.
- Colonial (for Indochina and Africa): keep the most basic division that you start with in the game – this will ensure you do not waste valuable equipment that should prioritised in the European theatre.
- Tanks: 2 mechanised, 3 medium tanks, recon company, engineer company and maintenance company. This is a great mix of speed, reliability and firepower.
Dealing with the Axis:
Ensure you have got level three forts (not any higher, or the AI will not attack) on the Italian and Belgian border by the time Germany invade, as you will just have to sit and be patient while the Axis attack and drain their manpower. Keep an eye on the conscription policies of both Germany and Italy to ensure they are at the highest one with zero manpower. This will effectively mean that they will be unable to reinforce their divisions effectively seeing them disappear once you attack. When you attack into Germany, it may be worth using the 'Force Attack' option. Although, this will see a minor drop in war support, it will make your offensive more effective. I appreciate that this may not be the most exciting of tactics within the game, but it proves to be effective, especially when Hitler invades the Soviet Union. And, of course, some music to conquer to:
Furthermore, the recommended division templates should be able to withstand attacks from the Axis and prove effective when the time comes to attack and crush the fascist dogs. Additionally, be wary of Spain if they go nationalist as they may eventually join the Axis. Bearing this in mind, build some level two forts and have fourteen to sixteen cheap colonial divisions (the ones that you will use in Indochina and Africa) to defend the border.
Unlike the Soviet Union and German Reich, France is one of the harder nations to play due to her poor industry, weak national focus tree and god-awful traits that she starts with. However, with some modernisation and industrial growth, France can easily become on the most powerful nations in the game to rival the Germans and Italians.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a different playstyle for France going communist and joining the Comintern can be quite fun, but your industry will suffer due to lower stability. If you haven't already, be sure to check out our HOI4 guides on the Soviet Union and German Reich.