Sunday, February 17, 2013

Guest Post AAR - Battle At Customs House - Yom Kippur War

IDF on the Golan in 1973 - nowhere to fall back to now...
Greetings again to the visitors at Analogue Hobbies.  I'm sorry to interrupt the steady stream of entries to the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge (well, not sorry if it interrupts Ray), but I'm sure many of you have noticed your recent entries to the competition have been slow to appear on the Blog.  That's because I have rocketed out to Regina for a wonderful visit with Curt and Sarah, and we have been gaming our faces off!  Here is the first of a few AARs from the trip - a tank battle set in on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. 
View of the table - the Syrian entry is at the top of the photo, and the river section in the bottom is meant to represent the Jordan river
Those of you who visit the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts pages will have seen the Golan Heights in 1973 appear as one of my not-infrequent "new insane projects" back in the summer of 2012. I have painted a good sized pile of 15mm Syrian and IDF tanks and infantry since then, and it was fun to kick off the gaming here in the centre of God's prairies with a Yom Kippur game.  We used the Bolt Action rules engine for the game, with the platoon-activation modifications our Fawcett group has used previously for 15mm WW2 games

Syrian T-62s advance - these particular models are from Old Glory
IDF Centurions hold the line - the one on the right has taken damage already
In the 1973 surprise attack on the Golan Heights a small number of IDF tank battalions, spread thin along the "purple line" at the frontier, held out heroically - and at very high cost - against several Syrian divisions.  Many Syrian units broke through holes in the IDF lines during the first two days and tried to find their way to the bridges over  the Jordan River. If they had succeeded, it would have been game over in the north for the IDF. This scenario imagined an action involving of one of those units - a company of Syrian T-62s approaching the "customs house", a very old bridge and collection of buildings that straddled the previous border with Palestine. 

The effects of IDF gunnery - one T-62 out, a second immobilized
Historically the Syrian spearheads approached this location, met some resistance, and turned back - night was approaching and they were not sure what defences were in place.  If only they had known at the time there was practically none, the 1973 war might have turned out differently.  So this scenario is a "what-if" of sorts - what if the Syrians were more aggressive?

Syrian reinforcements arrive - these are QRF models 
Centurion Sh'ot arrives to bolster the defence - model by Peter Pig
The table was 6'x4', with the Syrian force - a company of 13 T-62 MBTs - entering at one edge, and having ten turns to get at least two tanks across the old bridge representing the crossing of the Jordan river (I think the actual bridge was a Bailey bridge, but I found the stone piece evocative of the age of the place in question).  

Pin markers accumulate on a Centurion
Syrian mass builds - but it just doesn't move fast enough
Opposing this tide of armour was a small force of IDF tankers composed of reservists coming up into the fighting - two Centurion Sh'ots behind some improvised defences, and three more arriving from off the table during the game.  The old buildings represented an orchard and farm area near the "customs house". The IDF mission was to stop the Syrians at all costs - if they could knock out or disable eight of the Syrian tanks, it would halt the attack.  But would they last?

Syrians detour around the wreck on the road
Centurion Sh'ot knocked out of action
Curt took the IDF side and I plated the Syrians. The Syrians started with one 3-tank platoon already coming down the road, and would arrive in platoon-sized batches over the first three turns, while Curt would receive another Centurion on each turn starting with the first until all five were on the table. 

Curt positions a last defence on the bridge, just in case
I tried to split the difference between moving and firing, thinking I could put enough fire on the IDF to to knock them out AND overrun them. I mean, I had a 13 to 5 advantage, right? No such luck! Soon T-62s were burning on the road, causing a traffic jam and causing the tanks to detour. The Bolt Action rules model the movement of tracked vehicles very well, limiting the turns of the vehicles.  You need to think ahead a bit - sure you can turn and move, but will your flank be exposed? Will you be able to move again from where you end up? When you are trying to get 13 tanks moving, this is a challenge.   
Syrians struggle to advance
As more T-62s arrived the battle heated up.  The Syrians managed to knock out one of the Sh'ots.  For good measure Curt parked one reinforcing Sh'ot on the bridge over the river, and moved the other Centurions forward aggressively.  Tank shells criss-crossed the battlefield as both sides blazed away. 

One gutsy Syrian crew makes a charge - but is taken out 
I had one platoon which managed to stay relatively pin-free, and they cause some trouble for the IDF - immobilizing a second Sh'ot and putting some heavy pins on a third. It was the opening I had hoped for.  But I was not able to get the other tanks moving consistently - I had one fellow zipping down the flank, but he got tagged by the Sh'ot on the bridge. 

 The table is filled with wrecked tanks - my kind of game!
Ultimately the IDF knocked out the eight T-62s needed in order to halt the attack by the ninth turn, but it was a close-run engagement, with the IDF having lost two MBTs themselves.  My early decision to try and engage hurt me in the end - we should have been running up that road for all we were worth, losses be dammed! 

The game was a blast - I love a table filled with burning tanks, and the Golan Heights in 1973 is a setting that obliges that preference for sure!

Following the battle we sortied for lunch in Regina and then re-set the table for our second game - the Sudan in 1884. Now let me see if I can find all of those entries from Ray here on Curt's computer and delete them...


  1. Good looking game guys.
    Interesting you used Bolt Action at this scale... I wonder how it would have played if you had used the FoW mechanic?

    1. Thanks Scott. We don't play the FoW engine very much. There are some mechanics in FoW that are really not our cup of tea. We find the Bolt Action engine runs in a much smoother fashion, and it has done well with our group representing this period and scale.

  2. Looks and sounds like a great game.

    Looking onward to the Sudan!

  3. That was a great change of pace and excellent AAR. Glad to see Curt getting to play


    1. I not only got to play, Greg even let me win!

  4. Interesting option for the "Bolt Action". I like a lot this conflict, and your idea is very interesting for me...

    No, another one, no!!!

    1. I think Greg is going to publish his Bolt Action mods to this blog in the next little while so keep an eye open for them.

    2. Give in Juan - it's a great setting for gaming.


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