Back to the Golan

golan

I introduced Roy to the joys of Frank Chadwick’s Days of Battle: Golan Heights, from Victory Point Games. (For an overview of the system, see here.)

Roy played the part of the Syrians, and I was the Israelis. The Syrians blew away the initial defense, but then ran into something of a blue brick wall.  Looking back on it, it was close to a perfect storm in the sense of everything going right for the Israelis and everything going wrong for the Syrians.

For example, the card events were great for me: I quickly snagged an early reinforcement, and an enforced rest for the Syrians. As another example, Roy’s die rolling was woeful, every time it counted. On the other hand, mine was great.

The other aspect was that I had played the game before. Therefore, I was more able to master the tricky play sequence, and get much more out of my double turns than Roy could. And the troublesome Israeli strongpoint zones of control caused him some grief.

Regrettably, for Roy, as the game went on the Israelis were getting stronger and were able to claw back all of their strategic terrain losses, except for Mount Hermon. And that was next. Although Roy might have squeezed out a draw, we called it with a couple of turns to go.

Despite the defeat, Roy was quite taken with it and we may well play it again. However, he may want revenge first by playing something he knows and I don’t… The hunt is on.

Memo to Victory Point Games

Roy gets credit for this: the backs of the Syrian cards are printed with the Egyptian flag. And the Arabic script on those cards spells out Syria – backwards.

Consimworld 2014 – Bulletin 5

Shabbat

The last day of Consimworld, and I finished it off with the game which is surely a candidate for the wargame with the clunkiest title: Frank Chadwick’s Days of Battle: Golan Heights. It’s produced by Victory Point Games and features, unsurprisingly, the crucial Golan Heights battle in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Game scales are 8 hours per turn, hexes of 3 kilometers, and brigade and battalion sized units.

My boxed copy came with an 11″ x 17″ paper map, and the same map as a three piece jigsaw cut, hard board version. Nice. There are about 75 counters – laser cut, thick, and clear – card game turn track, and two copies of the card with all game tables. As well as the rulebook (of 12 pages) there is a 16 page booklet of historical material by Frank which, apparently, is taken from a forthcoming book by him on the October War. Finally – apart from a die and some small ziplock bags – there are 24 good quality cards.

OK, I said finally, but truly the final item is a paper serviette provided to help you deal with the soot fallout from the laser cutting. It even has a joke printed on it. Well, the joke is funny, but the soot is a minor annoyance. Apart from the difficulty of getting some of the two piece standup markers together, the soot is the only real criticism I would make of the components. The map is clear, muted, and very playable. The rules have an excellent display of all the terrain types. Yes, the player aid cards have been designed when the art director was away on holiday by the looks of them, but at least all the information is there. (Even if you might have to squint through your Oakley sunglasses to see it…) The counters are clear and crisp, and the rules are fine with very little by way of troublesome gaps. We did spot one mistake on a card – about playing a card when an opponent “draws a card” that should be “plays a card”, but you will easily figure that out.

How does it play? Glad you asked.

In essence, this is a turbo-charged “I go, you go.” game, but done by a terrific designer showing he has not lost his talent for solid design and cracking innovation. There are some simple and clever ideas that are well worth copying.

Here goes:

  • There are three turns per complete day. The first two are daytime in which the turn sequence is Israeli/Syrian. The third turn is night in which the sequence is Syrian/Israeli. So, this gives the Syrian back-to-back turns, followed by Israeli back-to-back turns.
  • As well as unit types – such as tank, mechanized, leg infantry, commando, and so on – each unit has a color coded rating for its combat power (reliance on tanks) being one of heavy, medium or light.
  • There are different orders of combat resolution in daytime than at night. In daytime the order is heavy, mixed, light. At night the order is light, mixed, heavy. Different units in different terrain get a defensive first fire bonus.
  • You only get one fire per cpmbat, so if you have different units – like a heavy and a light – you have to decide whether to fire only one unit at the first opportunity, or both at the later opportunity. Of course, if the other guy fires first and succeeds…
  • At night, terrain is less helpful to the defender.
  • In daytime, light units are penalized when firing on heavy units. In daytime this is reversed.
  • Combat is odds based, but there is no effect on the attacking unit if it does badly. This is because the target units get their own fire in, sometimes before the attacker. Results are mostly losses or retreats or losses plus retreats. Since ZOC are not negated by friendly units, it can be suicide not to have a retreat path.
  • Stacking is in force throughout movement, but not when retreating. This is crucial to master.
  • The attacking player must predesignate all his attacks in detail, including the use of any cards.
  • The Israeli outpost hexes project a ZOC until occupied and the Israeli forces are driven back. These ZOC can reappear if the Israelis get close enough, again.
  • Each turn you can rest a division. This gives it a replacement, but halves the units’ movement points and prevents them entering a ZOC.
  • Each side has 12 cards, but each side also randomly discards 3 at the start of the game. Each side draws 1 card per turn (apart from the first) and while none of the events are too powerful, they can give you a much needed boost.
  • The Syrian gets a sudden death win if he occupies 3 victory point hexes. If not, a combination of victory point and town hexes of 2 or more at game end is a Syrian win, 1 is a draw, and 0 is an Israeli win.

I played with Rob Bottos, By random draw I got the Israelis. Rob’s opening attacks blew open the defensive line and his exploiting forces grabbed the essential victory point hexes. Unfortunately for him, my counterattack cleared all but Mount Hermon, and so I staved off the automatic loss.

We then engaged in a cat and mouse game, with Rob’s forces feinting left and right, and mine trying to not get trapped, while not losing too many of the victory hexes.

The game came down to the final combat with me needing to roll 1-4 (on a d6) to clear a town and get a draw. I blew the roll and Rob claimed a win.

Summary: this is a fine game, with lots of subtle touches that add to the gaming challenge. It’s fun, accessible, and gives a very good impression of what the actual campaign was like. (However, don’t take the suggested 2.5 hour playing time too seriously. If there is no instant win, expect it to take at least another hour.) Despite the cards, it is highly playable solitaire. This is ,based on my limited experience, because it will be easy to see when the cards should be used and for what. And some of them are ‘must play when drawn’ anyway, which is a big help. In fact, that gives me a hint of a better summary for the game – it’s a thinking man’s wargame. If you don’t pay attention, this system will bite you.

On the down side, I dislike the damn soot from the laser cut counters. I also think it was unnecessary to have the standup pieces for certain game markers. Flats would have done fine, especially as the slots are too narrow for the tabbed pieces to fit in cleanly. (Or at least that is what happened to me.)

I will certainly be playing this again. And I’ll be keeping my eye out for further games in the series.

Thanks to Frank and Victory Point Games.

Euro finish

Just for fun (ahem) Rob and I joined a Terry Coleman hosted game of Goa. The short version is that Terry won. The long version is that I played badly, Rob was playing for the first time – as was another player – but Terry won. Not bad.