FOW Blitzkrieg – Action around Hannut
Soon after I arrived here in Winchester I picked up the new Flames of War book “Blitzkrieg”, which covers the invasions of Poland and France in 1939-1940. I have been gathering minis for France 1940 for several years, focusing on elements of the French 3rd Light Mechanized Division and 4th Panzer Division that clashed near Hannut, Belgium. This battle was the first great tank clash of the war and the French more than held their own against the vaunted Panzer Divisions.
I sent out some notices to the forum at Your Hobby Place and the local gaming yahoogroup and scared up another gamer interested in trying out the new book, so we organized a scenario based on the actions around Hannut. I would field a French infantry company from the 11th Regiment of Dragoons de Portes with a company of SOMUA S-35 Cavalry tanks in reserve. Art would attack with two companies from the 4th Panzer – a Leichte Panzer company and a Kradschutzen motorcycle infantry company.
I set up my two platoons Dragoons infantry company in the town, with HMGs and a 25mm AT Gun attached from HQ. The left flank was covered by a platoon of Panhard 178 armored cars while the more wooded left flank was covered only by a couple of ambush platoons. The 75mm artillery battery was set up behind a hill in the back right with their supporting 105mm howitzers off-table.
The Germans started with their Kradshutzen company in the center and their tanks on the flanks. The motorcycles rolled forward and opened up on the infantry in the center, managing to score a couple of kills despite the bulletproof cover shielding my infantry. However, this might have been a bad thing for Art as it encouraged him to park his horde of motorcycles in front of the town and blaze away. Unfortunately for him, my return fire of HMGs and two batteries of artillery wreaked havoc on them. They got a couple of more stands of mine, but over the course of the game I gutted three platoons of Kradshutzen. We did forget to force the recon bike platoons to disengage, which might have convinced Art that redeploying them was more fruitful than standing around trading MG fire.
On the flanks the German attack made greater headway. On my left, the Panhards were pushed back and eventually destroyed. That cleared a path toward my rear edge and Dave began to make a push to get some tank platoons off table and gain some VPs. On the right the Germans were slowed down crossing some woods and when they emerged were attacked by a 25mm AT gun platoon in ambush. The guns knocked out a couple of tanks but were rapidly blasted away after that. My reserves had by this time started to arrive, beginning with the Hotchkiss H-39 platoon. The French one-man turrets proved to be a bit of a bother as I could not move and shoot, making it difficult to use the tanks in the counterattack role.
As the game wound down, I popped out an ambushing platoon of 47mm guns on the left flank, but they were only able to destroy a single Pz Kw III before being overrun. Some armored cars and tanks did make it off table on that side before some SOMUA S-35s arrived to seal off the penetration. On the right the surviving PzKw IV and a couple of light panzer platoons (a mix of PzKw I and PzKw II) moved up to threaten the French battery. However, before they could get into position, a French artillery bombardment destroyed the remaining PzKw IV. With that threat removed, the reinforcing platoon of SOMUA tanks moved to the crest of the hill and began to take on the remaining German light armor. Art tried to swarm around the French armor, but the well protected SOMUAs shrugged off the 20mm rounds of the PzKw IIs and methodically destroyed the German armor. A few Germans had leaked through, but the French cavalry had won this engagement.
The game was a hoot and definitely had a different flavor than the later war with it’s big guns. The biggest difference is that there is no sure thing. Just about any vehicle has a chance to kill another one (albeit some better than others) and even the best matchup can leave the enemy standing as the light rounds in these vehicles often merely damage the enemy.
As you can see from the pictures above, we had a nice looking table and the distinctive early war minis made for a great spectacle. unfortunately, my camera batteries gave up the ghost after 3 shots and I had no back up batteries in the case. My cell phone also ran out of batteries, so even that camera was of no use. To make matters worse, my brother’s wife went in for a C-section right as the game started and with my phone dead I was left in the dark as to how it turned out until I could get home.
Hopefully we’ll have some more early war FOW games soon.