Some of the strategic options for the French are;
1- There is an English edge in "real" warfare but none in Dirty Deeds. French kidnappers and assassins are as skilled as the English ones. The English can cross the Channel northward with murderers as well as they can cross southward (unlike the difficulty France has getting troops to England). The English have only 6 family members at game start I believe (Edward, the Black Prince, Lionel and the 3 wives if they marry ASAP). The French can make a concerted attempt to kill out the Plantagenets on the free weekend that the game begins on. Then go after each remaining English family in turn. The French outnumber the English, which makes their yeomen and seamanship irrelevant.
2- The French can go to a "du Guesclin" strategy" of small forces, avoiding battle, never going offline with an army. The French recruit, try to grab back just enough to keep the English from wining 60% in parlement each turn. Difficulties here will be to keep up player morale and interest in a game where we always avoid battle, and having enough ducats to scrape together a force sufficient to siege. This will likely fail though. The "fun" side snowballs in players, activity, and ducats. The English will eventually turn the corner and while the French continue to take 2-4 fiefs/season the English eventually take 10-15. This, it should be pointed out, was the most effective French strategy in past games when it was coupled with the advantage of off-and-on incompetent English Kings and worked when Henry V and Edward III were NOT on the throne only.
3- Get help from non-French. The German, Arlesian, Spanish and Italian players can be a big help. Good diplomacy is essential. English helpers will be essential too. The French really will need a good English traitor. An occasional raid (troops passed to us by an Englishman) will disrupt their timing and planning. It is recommended that the French always raid-then-run. Staying in England likely suicide. (to easy for them to recruit and they have an edge even when both sides have yeomen).
4- There is another angle to foreign relations. If the English are incompetent, the French can and should blitz the Holy Roman Empire. In the game there are lots of disputed fief in the HRE, making this approach even more viable.
5- France must do whatever is necessary to please the Pope. If the Pope is offering you a terrific deal at 85% (keeping that much of the church taxes and kicking back the rest.) Even better if you can up the French kings stature by getting the pope to bless him regularly.
6- Stature. The French should not strip Edward III's Gascon fiefs from him! Pillage them every season, especially the high population ones. This lowers Edwards stature. Ideally you can draw the English into defensive operations in Acquitaine hunting your pillaging armies. Forget French Quick Win at this point in the game. However, if you are confident you can win a Parliament vote, strip Edward of his titles. The French king should hang onto his overlordships and get Blessed by the Pope as often as possible, price no object! If not, or if his stature starts to slip (depends if the English run a conquest campaign or a pillage campaign), dole out overlordships early and often, especially if the nobles have high stature and can be trusted either to remit overlord taxes to Crown or use them directly in military ops. Obviously, these guys cannot be used for pillaging and, ideally, they should not be in combat at all. Even better if they have few fiefs of their own to get pillaged. Look for small nobles to help out here.
7- Chivalry. Don't hire away NPCs as a matter of policy. If you must (which you must not early in the game, anyway), have a dirty deeds man available for shock duty when called for. If the other side goes for no ransom for captured NPCs, fine. It hurts France but swallow it. If any are executed, yell to the Pope.
8- Tactics. France has many fiefs which are simply too strong to reclaim by simply recruiting troops and there are many French players who do not have the siegers required to effectively attack a strong fief. The French must strive for efficiency to put their limited amount of funds to best use. As in any war effort, for France to succeed, there is a need to have superior intelligence, clearly defined and effective plans, support from the ranking officers in executing those plans, and the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities. Thus, the following tactics and methods should be used. Intelligence - France needs one or two scouts to determine the strength levels of the keeps as well as reporting the location and strength of the enemy. The function of the scouts is to do the following.
A- Investigate the strength level of fiefs captured by the English and disputed fiefs. Report the strength level in the Private French Court of the BBS. The strength level is determined by adding the keep value to the population of the fief times .14. For example: Keep level = 5.2 and the fief's population is 8.6. Thus, 5.2+(8.6x.14)= 5.2 + 1.2 = 6.4. Round up to the next whole number which is 7. That is the fief's strength level. If the fief is in rebellion, only report the keep level of the fief and that the fief is in rebellion. Also, state if the fief has a bailiff. You will know this if the fief has a negative additional expense. Please report the negative addition expense as a percentage of the total expense. An example of an report would look something like this.
FCA01 - Strength = 1 and is in rebellion with no bailiff.
FCA01 - Strength = 3 with no bailiff
FCA01 - Strength = 3 with a -27% bailiff
B- Should you find an enemy army, investigate the army and report your findings on the BB in the same area as you report the fief strengths. For example:
De Stafford with 1800 yeomen army set on defend inside the keep at FCA01.
The key elements are who, how many, type of army, standing orders, location in the fief( outside or inside the keep ) and which fief. We need all of this information to know if it is viable to attack him or not.
There is a considerable variation of the strength levels of the fiefs. Basically, there are three different groups,
1) Weak fiefs( ones whose strength level is 8 or less) - These fiefs should be retaken with armies recruited from the field and on the move.
2) Ancestral strong fiefs (Fiefs that have an active ancestral owner with a stature 5 or above and whose strength level is greater than 8) - These fiefs should be retaken by causing a rebellion by the ancestral owner and quelling the rebellion. If the ancestral owner's stature is not sufficient to cause a rebellion, then the fief should be taken in a coordinated offensive.
3) Non - Ancestral strong fiefs (Fiefs that do not have an active ancestral owner or an active ancestral owner whose stature is less than five and has a defensive strength greater than 8.)
These fiefs should be taken using a coordinated offensive. The king will call the Feudal Levy to assemble at Paris in the Summer. This should be used against at least four targets. If necessary, the king will issue a Call to Arms for the Fall in order to continue the offensive into Fall. Four to Six nobles will participate in the coordinated attack. Each of these will be assigned a fief. The season of the CTA arrival and planned attack, the four to six nobles will come on line at 10:00 or 11:00pm EST, recruit 300 troops, and negotiate their targeted fief for at least 30 days. He will hold the siege until the main army arrives, pick up the main army, and storm the keep. After the noble takes the keep, he will move the army to the next target and transfer the troops to the noble sieging that fief. Should an enemy army be on the way or within a few days of the line march and there is a clear chance that the enemy will be defeated, the main army will attack the enemy. This will only work for the weak (keep level 8 or lower) fiefs. Stronger fiefs will require a more elaborate plan, for the English may attempt to lift the siege.
9- Quick Win is the preferred route to French victory. But it is good even as a way to force the English to commit forces to France earlier than they would wish to do so. It is not likely that France can bump off Edward III's French fiefs in one season. Remember that Bordeaux starts with a keep of 32 or so. If France can spare a commander to base out of it once taken (a garrison army will be needed to forestall ancestral rebellions), but it should be a minor one like (for example, 126). And taking Bordeaux will require an army of 2600 or so about 2 seasons itself, including a feed-in second commander. A bit expensive.
10- England can be taken by French commanders, even as late as the 1360s. You need 3-4000 men armies, good siegers, good players, but it can be done--with a traitor. However, the new rules allow fast keep buildups, which the English may use to build their home fiefs higher. Thus the French should use any resources in England to raid and drive fiefs into rebellion.