I pulled it out against the Arabs last night! With the Syrian air force virtually eliminated, I was able to focus my planes on taking out the last handful of heavy tanks with the help of my artillery. My remaining ground forces have been able to break out, punching through the weakened Syrian lines now that their morale has broken and all of the T-62s, T-55s and Saggers have been taken out. The Syrian center still exists, though mostly as APCs, infantry and non-self-propelled artillery. The Jordanians have finally showed up, but it may be too little too late to reverse the Syrian fortunes in the Golan Heights. Especially now that I’ve got mechanized infantry sitting in Fort Hebron.
The Egyptians still have a lot of troops, but judicious use of artillery has also helped me thin out the armor that is coming down from the north and threatening my little southern bastion. By keeping my artillery so well screened and having so much of it, I’m now able to destroy up to half a dozen units a turns without having to worry about direct return fire. Once the T-55s and T-62s are out of the picture, I have a lot less to worry about; Saggers will still be annoying, as they match my best Centurion tanks (mostly because of the difference in troop scale between the two sides), but I no longer have to worry about situations where the Arabs can amass over 40 strength points of armor and pick off my troops in various hexes one at a time (While in theory, the stacking rules allow both sides to have a maximum potential of 24 strength in a hex, if the Israelis have 3 of their very limited supply of 8 strength tanks in a single hex, they’ve done something wrong with their troop deployment and are liable to be all wiped out by bombers and concentrated artillery fire, inflicting an in-affordable loss).
Being able to keep El Shatt fortified is really what has kept me in the game; if the Egyptians had managed to get overwhelming odds early on and dislodged the infantry still holed up there, I’d be forced to literally run for the hills. I still have some potential problems in that on both fronts I have maybe half a dozen front-line combat units trying to screen for more than twice that many artillery units. The biggest difference between my previous game and this one is that while playing as the Arabs, I made a conscious effort to break through at any point I could to disrupt artillery and leave any front-line troops for later. No sooner than the Israeli artillery would arrive on the board, I’d throw everything I could against them. And now that I’m playing as the Israelis, i’m really seeing just how good that idea was; the Israeli artillery is OP. The Israelis really CAN’T get odds against the Arab armor, but artillery ignores combat strength; it either kills what’s being shelled or it doesn’t, and the Israeli artillery is much better at seeing that it is the former that happens.
Right now, I think the best my Dad can do is fight for a tie in both theaters, which would still count as an Arab win. To do that, though, he’ll need to take back Fort Hebron and keep me from breaking through past El Rashid. He can still beat me, though. If he can punch through areas that are being screened by WW2 surplus recon cars and get into my artillery, he’ll be able to seriously mess me up. And still, I’m not doing as well in Egypt as the Israelis did historically, largely because the Egyptian Air Force is still buzzing around and keeping me from sending in air-mobile infantry to take ground on the west bank.
I’ve got to say, I’ve really been enjoying this game a lot, and it really is probably one of the best war games I’ve ever played. Anyone interested in serious old-school war gaming should definitely check this one out. And yeah, I haven’t played any other games that did a better job of integrating Air Power. Expect pretty long turns; once we’ve gotten our gameplay moving like a well-tuned machine, turns have gone from about 45-50 minutes down to mere half hours. It’s VERY complex and will take a bit of dedication to piecing out the rules, but the rules are well organized and well written, so some careful study will put you well on your way. Most of the only rules consultation we’ve had to do has been for weird things like Israelis attacking Egyptian mobile bridges, special rules for Egyptian paratroopers, and a few other things. Just about everything else you’ll need is in the combat charts. I haven’t and likely won’t have the opportunity to play this game with more than 2 players, but it’s an exciting prospect that there is a game this well made that can accommodate 3 players and even offers a variant for up to 5 (Egypt, Syria, Israeli West, Israeli East, and Israeli Air Command + Logistics). Bar-Lev is an excellent game, even more impressive in the fact that Conflict Games managed to crank out something this good just half a year after the war ended, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has someone willing to play it with them.