Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Decision Games Modern Battles: Golan--The Syrian Offensive

Just over 45 years ago, the Yom Kippur War broke out.

I was in junior high at the time and was already reading about the tank battles of North Africa during World War II.  So in addition to reading history, the October War sparked my interest into keeping up with world affairs.  This of course all led to wargaming.

Fast forward to the early part of this year:  My friend Joe and I managed to get-together and play a few turns of Golan: The Last Syrian Offensive.  (Although my copy, printed in 2010, is titled--Golan: The Syrian Offensive).

This is one in Decision GamesFolio Series.

Within Golan's folio is a map (12" x 22"), one 8-page Folio Standard Rule Book, one 4-page Exclusive Rule Book, and 100 die-cut counters.

Golan is a two-player game representing the initial Syrian attack during the Yom Kippur War to be played within 1-2 hours.  The Complexity Rating is considered low, but has a high solitaire suitability.  Unit counters represent battalion, regiment or brigade forces while each hex on the map represents 2 kilometers (1.25 miles).

The After Action Review of the Initial Phases of the Syrian Offensive

Four Syrian Divisions, the 3rd, 7th, and 9th Mechanized, along with the 1st Armored Division, mass in assembly areas just beyond the DMZ.  

Meanwhile, elements of the Israeli 11th and 19th Mechanized Brigades occupy outposts along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) centered around the towns of Ahmediye and Boutmiya.

On 6 October 1973, the Syrian 7th and 9th Mechanized Divisions pour across the DMZ border near Ahmediye, and engage two Israeli battalions (one from the 11th and 19th Brigade), who are supported by the 71st Tank Battalion.

While near Boutmiya, elements of the Syrian 3rd Division engage the three Israeli battalions picketed there (two from the 11th and one from the 19th Brigade).

Both sides quickly call for fire support.  In the opening engagement, 10 kilometers (kms) west of Ahmediye, the Syrian 7th Infantry Brigade and the Israeli 71st Tank Battalion sustain heavy casualties.

As the battle around Ahmediye rages, the Israeli 21st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the Syrian 5th Infantry Brigade inflict heavy casualties on each other.  Fire support continues for both sides.

As the Syrian forces to the west of Ahmediye regroup to renew their advance, the focus shifts on dislodging the Israeli 10th Mechanized Infantry Battalion hunkered-down in the village itself.  The Syrians call-in heavy artillery and rocket batteries, while two flights of Israeli F-4 Phantoms attempt to provide close air support for the beleaguered defenders. 

Unfortunately, the Israeli aircraft draw attention from three Syrian SA-2 batteries.

The volley of Surface-to-air missiles surprise the Israeli pilots and two F-4s are shot down.

Despite the loss of vital aircraft, the Israeli defense inflicts heavy casualties on the Syrian 8th Brigade/9th Infantry Division.

Meanwhile, back near Boutmiya, the Syrian 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division attempts to envelope the Israelis by attacking the 12th Battalion/11th Armored Brigade northwest of Jukhadar.  Both sided call-in artillery support.

The Syrians press-home their attack, and the Israelis call-in another artillery fire-mission.

The intense artillery fire forces the 2nd Brigade/3rd Mechanized Infantry to fall back.

Despite the Syrians' set-back at Jukhadar, they continue their attack on the Israeli positions around Boutmiya.  The Syrian attack is supported by two batteries of heavy artillery, while the Israeli defense is supported by two flights of F-4s.

The F-4s brave three salvos of SAM fire and engage ground targets.

Despite the intensity of the surface-to-air fire, this time all of the missiles missed.  The Israeli air strikes and ground defense forces the Syrian 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade to fall back and inflicts heavy casualties on the Syrian 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

Syrian reinforcements approach the DMZ border on the weak Israeli western flank.

Israeli artillery fire attempts to neutralize a Syrian SA-6 battery.

Both sides pour-in massive fire support for the battle still raging around the fort at Ahmediye.

Masada is captured by the Syrian 11th Armored Brigade/7th Mechanized Division, as the entire Syrian 1st Armored Division crosses the DMZ, while the Syrian 1st Paratroop Brigade captures another Israeli hilltop fort.

The Israeli 71st Armored Battalion is wiped out, leaving the 21st Mechanized Battalion to hold the collapsing western flank.

The last stand of the Israeli 21st Mechanized Battalion is short-lived, despite a fire-mission from heavy artillery, and an airstrike which is shot down by a salvo of SAMs. 

Israeli reinforcements finally arrive and occupy key secondary positions...

...but will it be enough to stem The Syrian Offensive

Concluding Notes 

Joe and I didn't have enough time to run through the entire game and only played a few turns.

As the Israeli player, I committed two major mistakes.  

The first was leaving my six battalions strung-out in forward positions along the DMZ.  I should have retreated, or attempted to break contact with the Syrian forces right from the get-go, trading space for time.

The second error I committed was under estimating the effectiveness of the Syrian SAM umbrella.  The fact that historically, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) made the same mistake provided me with little comfort.  In game terms, a SAM battery isn't all that effective in-and of itself, needing a "6" on a six-sided die (1d6) to hit.  But each IAF flight ended up being targeted by several SAM batteries simultaneously, which greatly improved Joe's odds of rolling a 6.

I lost half my aircraft within these first few turns.  If I lost one more flight of aircraft, it would have degraded my ability to win if we played the entire game.

And while we're on the subject of supporting firepower:  Howitzers, rocket launchers, mortars and air strikes are represented in an abstract manner.  That is, there are no actual artillery batteries to move around on the map.

Joe didn't particularly care for this mechanic, because he had played an earlier version of this game that utilized specific artillery units.  (Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any links to this on-line).  

I thought it was a bit too abstract myself.

However, despite the need to get use to a healthy dose of abstraction, Golan:  The (Last) Syrian Offensive is an inexpensive and quick way to spend time wargaming a modern military campaign.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Seasonal Conditions for Works-in-Progress

(Image from "ThursonTalk" taken by Douglas Scott

It's been unseasonably warm throughout this week.  Despite the nights getting cold, the daily temperatures are near 70 degrees.

So I took advantage of the mild weather to do some projects in my "outside workshop."

On the table are some barricades for Warhammer 40K, some metal bases and a plastic office desk tray that I'll be converting into a futuristic building.

I don't have any place indoors to do any spray painting or priming.  This is a "seasonal" job for me.  From what I've observed, paint doesn't adhere well if the temperature is below 65 degrees.  While during the summer it's too hot for me to paint outside in the first place.

Flocking (adding terrain material to a figure's base) can also be a seasonal job.  I do this on my garage desk/workbench.  (This was part of a larger desk my second ex-wife gave me, but is too large to fit in the house).  The reason I do my flocking in the garage is because no matter how neat I try to be, I end up getting bits of stuff scattered everywhere, as you can see here:

Seen in the picture are some Warhammer Epic-scale Imperial Guard infantry figures, a couple of Chimer armored personnel carriers, two Planetary Empires terrain pieces, some World War II micro armor figures, along with some buildings made for Battletech.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Fix Bayonets 2018, Napoleonic Black Powder Game AAR

(Somewhere near the border of Spain's Provincia de Steilacoom)


The first game I played during Fix Bayonets 2018, was a Napoleonic battle run by my friend Dean, and using the rules Black Powder. While I wrote a review over two years ago, I spent the days prior to Fix Bayonets re-reading the rules.

In the meantime, Dean readied his miniatures and terrain:

(Picture by Dean:  Britian's Steilacoom Province Expeditionary Force)

(Picture by Dean:  France's l'Armee du Province de Steilacoom)

The Tabletop Situation:

The French currently hold Spain's Steilacoom Province.  The British assemble a force to retake the region, but shortly after crossing the province, bordered by the Rio de la Steilacoom, a French force advances to intercept the British.

The Players:

Game Master--
--Dean M.

The French Players--
--Left Flank Brigade Commander--Scott A.
--Center Brigade Commander--Tim M.
--Right Flank Brigade Commander--Bruce M. (also overall commander)

The British Players--
--Right Flank Brigade Commander--Yours Truly
--Center Brigade Commander--James S. (also overall commander)
--Left Flank Brigade Commander--James M.

(Dean, the Gamemaster in the flannel shirt)

(The French Players)
(A couple of my British teammates at the far end of the table, with Dean and another friend)

Order of Battle:

Each force consisted of three brigades, containing at least one line infantry unit, one or more light infantry units, one or two cavalry regiments, and possibly one or two artillery batteries.

My command consisted of one infantry regiment, a cavalry regiment, and an artillery battery, and was positioned on the British right flank.

The Objectives:

Both sides were to seize and hold the church, the bridge, and the tavern, identified in the picture below:

(The objectives identified in "Google Spanish")

The Course of the Battle:

In general, both sides attempted to advance and engage each other somewhere in the middle of the battlefield.

Note:  Black Powder requires players to "activate" their units through die roll and comparing it with the leader's Staff Rating.  So it's more than likely your units will spend some time during a game unable to do anything, but react to your opponent's actions.

The details of the battle are illustrated in the following photos:

(The British General issues his orders for the entire expeditionary force to advance)

(My brigade commander urges his men of the Right Flank Brigade forward)

(The British Left Flank Brigade advances towards the woods)

(The French Center Brigade advances)
(The British Right Flank Brigade, forms a defensive line along the Rio de la Steilacoom)

(The French advance stalls)

(An overall view of the battlefield)
(The British Right Flank Brigade battery opens fire)

(The French Brigade commander urges his men forward through shot and shell)

(British cavalry mass in the center)

(The French Center Brigade opens fire on the massed British cavalry)

(Empty saddles among the British cavalry)

(The French Right, and British Left Flank Brigades advance towards each other
(French cavalry charge British light infantry near the tavern)

(Surprisingly, the light infantry hold their ground for a bit...)

(...but are driven from the field)

(The French Center Brigade advances toward the church)

(British cavalry counter charge their French counterparts near the tavern)

(The line battalions exchange fire near the tavern)

(The cavalry melee near the tavern ends, causing both sides to retreat)

(An overall view from the center of the battlefield looking towards the tavern)

(The British battalion near the tavern receives enfilade fire from another French battalion...)

(...and routs)

(Meanwhile, the French finally advance on the bridge)

(The French charge the British guns!)

(And are wiped out by a "whiff of grapeshot," while British heavy cavalry engage French light cavalry)

(The British heavy cavalry scatter the French light horsemen and charge the center gun battery)
(After dispatching the gunners, the British heavy cavalry charges into another French cavalry regiment)
(As horsemen exchange sword strokes, a Royal Horse Battery unlimbers and fires into a French infantry battalion)

(Another French battalion gets a whiff of grapeshot)

(French and British horsemen continue their duels)
(But eventually tire and retreat from each other)

By the time the last cavalry duel in the center ended, both commanders had their buglers sound the general retreat.


We finished the game shortly before the period ended.

Objective-wise, The British controlled the church, and the French held the tavern.  However, since I didn't have any of my troops physically on the bridge, the game was considered a draw.

Dean always runs a good game, and I had an enjoyable time participating in this one.

Note on the rules:  While Black Powder is a fairly easy game to learn, it does play fast & loose with Napoleonic tactics.  It is definitely a "game" as opposed to a "simulation."