I probably have spent too much time on the Hugos and Hugos-related content this week. So much so that not only did I manage to possibly make myself sick (though really pollen probably had more to do with it than anything), I’ve neglected to discuss the A-to-Z Challenge, still need to post my Shadow Over Alfheim update and I’m just now getting around to talking about Bar-Lev.
As I may have said before, it’s interesting that in most of my gaming groups, stuff that takes 2 or more hours tends to be referred to as “foreverlong games”. In our first session of actually playing Bar-Lev (not the hour+ long setup), we have averaged one turn every 45 minutes.
The game starts on October 6th with the Egyptian & Syrian attacks across the Suez and into the Golan Heights respectively. We managed to get to the end of October 9th, I think.
Despite the turns taking quite awhile to run and adjudicate, once you get the order down, yes, those 20 phases are not too terribly difficult. Just time consuming.
The Air Module is a fascinating game in and of itself; the Arabs CAN manage to eke out air superiority (or something like it) out of numbers alone, but because the Israelis are flying so much better planes, they can whittle away those numbers quickly if they’re lucky. Fortunately, my dad has only managed to pick off a few planes per turn. I’ve shot down far fewer in the air superiority missions, but have managed to keep enough birds in the air to run interference for my bombers and prevent Israeli heli-strikes from slowing down my advance. On one day, the shift of all Israeli air power to the Syrian front even allowed me to send in paratroopers to bolster the northern portion of the Egyptian strike forces.
Though my first day’s ground attack suffered some minor setbacks with bad rolls, my luck shifted with the second day. After some successful artillery shelling and lucky rolls, my Egyptian armor managed to break through the Bar-Lev and were eventually able to completely drive them off the fortified lines. I’ve taken some casualties, but the Israeli forces in the Suez front are reduced to a few small pockets on the central Sinai (south end of the map) and some retreating forces along the mediteranean coast.
Despite being generally less competant than the Egyptian forces and despite the Jordanians sending only a token detachment of armor, the Syrians have overrun most of the northern Golan Heights, blocking off one of the reinforcement routes, and breaking through the center (southern end of the map, but middle of the Golan Heights) to surround and isolate the last few troops holding on the remaining Kibbutzes that have not been overrun.
This next turn, a wave of Israeli forces will be showing up out of the reserve movement boxes and may have a chance to break out, but I’ve got a pretty good foothold in the heights, my heavy artillery is moving across the Canal back into range and the Egyptian Armored Reserve forces are making their way to the front lines.
So, one of the things that I like most about the combat system in Bar-Lev is that units in combat attack independently of one another; one roll does not adjudicate an entire battle. In a lot of games, a larger force may show up and simply eliminate a smaller force; roll anything but a 1 and the opponent dies. Attempting to attack at anything less than overwhelming odds is suicide. In Bar-lev, each unit in combat gets a chance to roll on the firing table; overwhelming odds does usually lead to elimination of units, but even units at a huge disadvantage have a small chance of being able to inflict some casualties.
When combat occurs, certain situations allow you to have first-fire; something like shooting at troops attacking up a hill. The advantage is that if a unit is eliminated by first-fire, it can’t get its attack off against the defending unit. The disadvantage is that units engaging in first-fire can’t combine their attack value with non-first-firing units in adjacent hexes to get better odds against an attacker. Because any opposing units adjacent to one another get opportunities to fire on one another in BOTH player’s combat phases, things can turn into a blood-bath if units get left surrounded or a front emerges. It’s always going to be in your best interest to not let the super-heavy tanks get multiple attacks per turn.
With the Israeli reinforcements arriving next turn, I probably won’t be able to press for a quick victory (Arab player wins if the Israelis are completely driven off either map), but I’m doing pretty well in both theatres and just need to knock out 200 more strength points to break their morale. The only thing I can see turning the tables against me is a few very unlucky turns on the Syrian front; the Syrians have a very low starting morale, and if the Israelis are able to move more forces into Sinai, my Egyptians might be in trouble. The Egyptian forces have lost some of their momentum, mostly because the game’s scope will put them moderately on the defensive once they’ve taken the Suez but haven’t completely eliminated the fleeing opposition. It’s going to be incumbent on them to play whack-a-mole with reinforcements from a semi-defensive position until they can either deal a crushing blow, the Israelis lose 350 morale points or the 1st World intervenes.
Later this week (or maybe Next):
SOA Pt 15: the 2nd Death of Nuromen
J’Rhazha (maybe, but more likely thoughts on the 15 minute workday myth)
What is Terrible about Dead of Winter and Maybe How to Fix It