Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Battle of Hannut, 1940

The massive battlefield

The Battle of Hannut (not to be confused with the Battle of Gembloux Gap)[9] was a Second World War battle fought during the Battle of Belgium which took place between 12 and 14 May 1940 at Hannut, Belgium. At the time, it was the largest tank battle of the war,[10] only to be surpassed later by other engagements during the North African Campaign and on the German-Soviet front.

The primary purpose of the engagement at Hannut was to tie down strongest elements of the 1st French Army and remove it from Army Group A's main thrust through the Ardennes, as laid out in the German operational plan Fall Gelb, or "Case Yellow", by General Erich von Manstein. The German breakout of the Ardennes was scheduled for 15 May, five days after the German invasions of the Netherlands and Belgium. The delay was to entice the Allies into believing the main thrust would, like the Schlieffen Plan in World War I, come through Belgium and into France. When the Allied armies advanced into Belgium, they would be tied down by diversionary German offensive operations in eastern Belgium, at Hannut and Gembloux. With the Ardennes flank exposed, the German thrust to the English Channel would encircle and destroy the Allied forces.

The Germans reached the Hannut area just two days after the invasion of Belgium. The French and their Allies did win a series of delaying tactical engagements early in the battle, but failed to prevent the collapse of the Belgian front. The German battle plan succeeded in tying down substantial Allied forces that were removed from the path of the decisive blow through the Ardennes. However, the Germans failed to neutralise the French 1st Army completely, which once again scored tactical successes at the battle of Gembloux, during the 14—15 May. Although seriously damaged it was able retreat to Lille, where it delayed the Wehrmacht and assisted in the British Expeditionary Force' escape from Dunkirk. -WikiPedia

There have been talks for some time of the historical group I game with to start doing some early war in France using the Piquet-based Field of Battle rules. This was the first of hopefully many to come, and is the game we kicked BrianCon off with.

As usual, the tabletop is an incredibly detailed battlefield

The German tank columns line up at the river's edge

German air support came storming overhead

French infantry defend a hamlet by the river

The main town of Hannut itself

Brian's awesome French command stand, check out those wine bottles!

More French forces defending another riverside village

I absolutely love Field of Battle as a rules set. I was excited to jump into some WWII gaming, and I'm sure I'll be playing a bunch of Flames of War, but I'd like to get in just as much gaming with these rules as well. As you can see, you use decks of cards per side, each one tailored towards that particular army. The cards allow you to do actions on your turn, but only then, it's entirely possible that your army doesn't get a 'move' card for a few turns in a row. The same thing goes for reloading, off-table support, and the like. By using the random decks, the 'fog of war' is simulated nicely on the tabletop. Remember, each deck may be random, but they still favor the particular nature of whatever army you've got, or can be tailored to reflect a particular scenario. I'm not doing the system justice here, pasted below is the blurb from the Piquet Store.

Field of Battle: WW2 covers the World War 2 era from 1939 through 1945. Field of Battle: WW2 is a stand alone game - no additional supplements are necessary for play. Field of Battle: WW2 includes ratings and organizational charts for the British, French, German, Polish, Italian, Japanese, Soviet, and United States armies.

Field of Battle: WW2 is designed to give players the feel for commanding battalions, regiments, divisions, and more in a miniature WW2 environment. Games with a division per side can easily be resolved in 2 to 4 hours. Field of Battle: WW2 is designed using game processes used in the popular Field of Battle rules that gives all players an equal opportunity to act during the game.

Field of Battle: WW2 is not a game of skirmishes or low level actions, but rather one of battles of up to Division size or larger.

Field of Battle: WW2 uses companies as the combat element, and battalions as the maneuver element.

The only troops represented as units on the tabletop are maneuver and combat elements - infantry companies, armor companies, and anti-tank gun/artillery companies. There are no Heavy Weapon companies – no separate machine gun or mortar units. The effects of supporting machine gun and mortar companies are abstracted in the game mechanics and card system.


  1. Beautiful setup, Mik, it looks like BrianCon was done with a lot of style. And that French command stand is awesome, thanks for pointing it out. I've been curious about the Piquet-based games for a long time but never knew anyone who'd actually used them. Thank you for explaining about the decks of cards as that does sound like a really interesting way of controlling the game. Did you feel like things ran smoothly?

  2. Thanks Papa JJ, the game was indeed a blast. It had been a couple of years since my last game of Piquet, but I jumped right back in on familiar ground with very little 'catch up'.

    Things ran very smoothly, and not only did the card system move things along at a good clip, it added a great element overall that you just can't find in a standard turn-based game.

  3. We definitely had some nice looking games at BrianCon

    I agree with Mik that the game ran really smoothly. And it could have been even smoother if we had had all of our ducks in a row. E.g. we ended up with only one roster sheet for each side with the combat and defense values of the various units, so that card had to be passed back and forth. I had read Andy's copy of the rules some time ago, but had not re-read it recently, but that one reading and one game of the Napoleonic version were enough to have me clicking along right away.

    The minis are based for FOW and then simply placed on sabot bases to represent the Field of Battle: WWII company stands. The effect worked great. I am planning to buy a copy myself as soon as I get my move completed.

    That French command team (the battery staff team for my French 75mm artillery for FOW) turned out great. What doesn't show up in that photo is the round of cheese on the other corner of the map... to complement the wine.