Realistic Vichy France Rules

When playing optional Vichy rules in Global 1940 games, I found that although the general idea was quite exciting, the implementation could be improved in terms of historical realism and playability. I reviewed several Vichy rule sets online, and developed an improved version which I tested using regular (out of box) and modified rule systems (e.g., Bloodbath) with some satisfying results. I also give the historical justification for each rule (see numbered footnotes below). Feedback or questions are appreciated, here or via email:

Activation: upon occupying France and Normandy-Bourdeaux territories, Germany player can declare the Franco-German Armistice with Southern France (if no other Allied units are present in this territory). The French Republic therefore becomes Vichy France (officially known as the French State based in the “Free Zone” of mainland France). This change happens during Germany’s income collection phase. Vichy is friendly to the Axis but under some neutral conditions. Yet, a few French territories will join the Allies instead. (1)

Territorial Setup: French units and markers are substituted as follows: Southern France, SZ93, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, and French Indochina become Vichy, including all French units located in these territories. All other French territories and units remain Free France (Allied units in any French territory also keep the territory Free). This arrangement ideally requires different color schemes (you can buy or paint), for example: light blue units and markers for Vichy France, and regular dark blue units and roundels for Free France. (2)

Movement: Vichy units cannot move. Axis units can move into Vichy territories but do not occupy them (the only exception is French Indochina which can be taken over by Japan). These rules are abolished if Vichy France collapses (more later). Free French units can move normally (but are enemies of Vichy, resulting in combat).

Combat: Vichy units can never attack, only defend. Vichy infantries in colonies are weak and defend like militias (roll for 1), but Vichy infantries in Southern France defend at the regular rate (roll for 2 or less). All other Vichy units defend at regular rates. Axis units in Vichy territories also roll at regular rates, such as in multi-national defenses. (3)

Income: Vichy collects no IPCs. Neither does Free France (until Paris is liberated). Germany loots all IPCs when it first occupies Paris. Germany also gets 3 IPC bonus per turn (4).

National Objectives: Southern France counts for Italy’s “Roman Empire”, but Vichy African territories do not count for Italy’s “North Africa” objective (regardless of the presence of Axis units). Japan’s occupation of French Indochina negates “Trade with America” objective. (5)

End of Vichy France: There are two ways by which the French State collapses:

Occupation: Germany occupies Southern France during its combat move phase, and declares it to be German occupied. No combat happens between Germany and Vichy units. Vichy units in Southern France and SZ93 are removed from the game. Other Vichy territories and units become either Free French (if no Axis units are present) or Axis (if Axis units were already present). As normal, Germany can build units in Southern France’s operational factory next round.

Liberation: Allies occupy Southern France. Any remaining Vichy territories and units become Free French. Any Vichy territories hosting Axis units become Axis occupied (markers and IPC table are changed accordingly). France starts collecting IPCs in its turn.

General Discussion: Vichy rules alter the game in the Mediterranean significantly. Germany seems to benefit the most: it earns 3 IPCs per turn without occupying Southern France (4), it creates a defense buffer, and it can move units into any Vichy territory (consider, for example, the benefits of using Syria…). In contrast, Italy seems to lose the most: it cannot capture any Vichy territories (5), thus missing out on easy IPC targets and on the “North Africa” national objective (Southern France still counts for the “Roman Empire” objective). Allies also get it a bit harder by having Vichy as an obstacle, while German units are freed to be used elsewhere.

Historical footnotes:
(1) Hitler wanted to neutralize France in the fight against Britain, particularly concerned with its fleet and bases in North Africa. In its turn, France was happy to not be destroyed by Germany, while maintaining its rich colonies in North Africa.

(2) French officials were quite ambivalent about cooperating with Vichy and Germany. Most colonial authorities had weak ties with Vichy and flip flopped according to the circumstances.

(3) Axis and Vichy troops agreed to coordinate military operations but rarely fought together. Vichy France refused to forge a military alliance with Germany, which was satisfied to keep France neutral for as long as possible.

(4) Germany exploited Vichy economically, imposing a logistical and financial support for over 300,000 German troops stationed in Northern France, in addition to forced labor imposed on French soldiers captured before the armistice. Likewise, Germany didn’t have to burden itself with the administration of the Free Zone.

(5) Hitler forbade Mussolini from occupying any French colonies in North Africa. But French Indochina stood precariously for Japan, interested in blocking supplies to Nationalist China, and launching attacks into Dutch-owned oilfields.

Chicago, 2020