Sinai: The Arab-Israeli Wars, ’56, ’67 and ’73 (SPI, 1973)
1967 Scenario Report (Base Scenario; no optionals)
The 1967 scenario for SPI’s Sinai tasks the Israeli player with three objectives, which seem at first rather daunting:
- Occupy/Control all Suez Canal crossing hexes (15 VP plus 5 per turn before T12)
- Clear all Arab forces from the West Bank (10 VP plus 2 per turn before T12)
- Clear all Arab forces from Syria (5 VP plus 1 per turn before T12)
However, given the forces at their disposal and the severe restrictions placed on the Arab nations in terms of mobility and supply, as outlined in my review of Sinai, the Israeli player will be able to accomplish all three tasks; the question is how long it all takes. The highest level of victory (Decisive) comes in at 75 points, which corresponds to completing the first objective by Turn 6 (15 + 30) and the other two by Turn 7 at the latest (10+10 and 5+5).
All this presumes that the Arab player is prevented from his/her own objectives of destroying Israeli cities and fortified settlements (10 and 2 VP, respectively), and units (1 VP per point of combat strength). Though they’re fairly well de-fanged by the rules, the Arab nations can still strike painfully if they choose their moments.
Should Jordan not enter the conflict, the West Bank victory condition cannot be fulfilled and the VP levels are dropped by 16 points. A late Jordanian entry is not accounted for in the victory conditions, but should they come in after Turn 1, the Israeli player will have a more difficult time reaching the Decisive level owing to fewer turns to clear the West Bank.
On the Israeli side, efficiency is key. Not only does the possibility for a Decisive victory dwindle after Turn 6, but also automatic supply runs out. Once the automatic supply falters, any Israeli offensive will perforce be channeled along roads in the Sinai, meaning a lone Egyptian unit passed by can cause havoc if it can throw even a Zone of Control onto the supply path. Some units will have to stay back to guard against this possiblity.
The single Israeli airmobile battalion starts near the Sinai, but I think it will do much better up in Jordan, should they enter the war—Arab nations have to trace supply to the map edge, and there are only two bridges across the River Jordan and only a few paths to the fort line in Syrian. Shutting down one of those supply lines will make clearing the forces dug in much simpler. Besides, the Israeli mechanized units can move eight hexes a turn on roads—who needs air-mobility when you have treads!
For the Arab nations, it’s a matter of playing spoiler while trying to avoid encirclement (and thus elimination). A unit surviving one turn longer than it rightly should can throw off the entire Israeli timetable. There are a few fortified settlements that appear vulnerable to at-start forces, but attacking them allows Israeli units into Trans-Jordan. The VP trade-off might not be worth it if that allows for Israeli forces to sweep at the West Bank from behind.
Israeli forces jump off and conduct a number of overruns in the Sinai, clearing the Gaza Strip and freeing armored forces to race down the Mediterranean Coast. The airmobile unit promptly uses its 15-hex movement ability to transfer to near the Syrian front, while the forces there push around the Sea of Galilee to try to flank the Syrian forts. Even though they’re occupied only by 1-1 strength Syrian Infantry units, the defensive bonuses from terrain and forts make them hard to clear. On the Jordanian border, a second unit moves to West Jerusalem to fortify the unit already there. With automatic supply, there’s no need to worry about lines of communication being cut quite yet.
The initial onslaught causes enough combat losses that Egyptian forces suffer the full brunt of the Arab Command Control Table—over half their units run towards the Suez Canal. Most of them would have anyway, because the column of Israeli armor pushing down the coast road can’t be intercepted. There are simply no roads from their positions to the coast road, as their mobility restrictions keep them on roads and clear terrain. For a desert, there’s not a lot of clear terrain in the Sinai.
Worse still, the two best units of the Syrian Army, a pair of mechanized brigades, fail their command roll and speed off map, not to return. They would have stiffened the fortified line as well as provided some flank protection, but for this scenario, it’s not to be.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian raiding force of two mechanized units pushes into the lightly defended Negev Desert, hoping to reach the fortified settlements there. Only a lone Israeli infantry brigade stands in their way, but it sits on the only clear/road path available and cannot be bypassed.
Jordan enters the war at the very first opportunity, a bright spot for the Arab nations.
Even though Jordan has entered the war, the Israeli forces committed to the Sinai campaign continue to push at great speed. The lack of blocking forces due to the massive command control failure last turn allows considerable pressure to bear on the central road to the Suez. Combat sees no additional Arab losses, and the Israeli Air Force makes its appearance, focusing mostly on the Jordanian front to keep pressure off of Jerusalem.
Command control doesn’t affect the Egyptians quite as badly this turn, and they’re able to form up a bit of a blockade along the trunk road. To try to force Israeli attention away from Syrian and the Jerusalem area, the Jordanians strike across the border, destroying a settlement and netting the first VP of the scenario.
Looking at the forces now arrayed on the Jordanian front, the Israelis begin to worry about overcommitment to the Sinai campaign. One infantry brigade entrucks, preparing to head to the south end of the West Bank, which has no Israeli forces guarding it. Several brigades have begun screening pesky Egyptian forces just off a road that could become crucial to supply, and the lone infantry brigade defending the Negev can only give ground, not having the needed strength to attack the stacked Egyptian forces.
Good progress continues to be made against the Syrians, but there are not enough units to deal with all of the opposing units, which retreat and then move back—the bloodless CRT requires encirclements. At one hex per turn, the Infantry can only act as the anvil; there are not enough mechanized hammers to swing.
Command control continues to be cruel to the Egyptians: one defensive line sets up, only to be set to flight the next turn. The southern-most Suez Canal crossings have been secured, though, so at least the Israelis will have to fight for them, command control table willing…
Israeli air power and zones of control have continued to hold major Jordanian forces immobile, allowing the airmobile battalion to drop in on the main supply line leading to East Jerusalem, a coup de main that will break this front wide open shortly. With a cut in supply, the serious force in East Jerusalem is halved in defensive strength, allowing Israeli forces to take the city. There are still quite a few units milling about the West Bank, but the cordon is closing, bringing with it unit eliminations for failure to retreat.
On the Suez Canal, the Israeli armor’s ability to go off-road allows for encirclements of the forces guarding the crossings, and by the end of the combat phase, only two (of five) remain in Egyptian hands. The need to garrison these crossings could slow down the Israeli push for the final two.
The Negev raiders remain the sole offensive push by the Arab nations, as they continue to force back the Israeli infantry that stubbornly remains on the road between the rough hexes leading to the belt of settlements.
The mop-up begins. Because of the Jordanian attack on a settlement, Israeli forces can (and do) enter Trans-Jordan, cutting the last of supply to the Jordanian defenders in the West Bank and, more importantly, cutting off retreat paths. The Syrians continue to bounce back and fort, and clearing the last of their units could be a close run thing.
Egyptian forces that could have pressured the canal crossings from the other side are stymied by, yes, command control, freeing the garrison forces to join the effort to take the final crossings. One remains, though, a lifeline that allows the Negev raiders to finally reach, and destroy, a settlement for an additional 2 VP.
Israeli forces secure all three Victory Conditions this turn, with the last Syrians units eliminated, the West Bank cleared, and the final Suez crossing secured. With no casualties suffered by the Israeli forces on any of the three fronts, a successful sally indeed.
Israel scored 78 VP for accomplishing all three objectives (15+10+5) six turns (Turns 6-11) prior to Turn 12 (30+12+6). The Arab nations, however, plucked back 4 VP for destroying a pair of settlements, dropping the Israeli victory from Decisive (75+) to Substantive (74-70).
With different Arab Command Control Table rolls, the Israeli campaign in the Sinai could have been slowed down just long enough to see their automatic supply run out; if that happens, factor in at least another turn or two to accomplish the objectives. And a few key combat rolls at less than the strength required for an auto-retreat (+4 strength differential or better) went the Israeli way, causing a cluster of Jordanian units to collapse in turn towards the end.
In retrospect, the Israeli air force should have been interdicting the Negev raiders. Even one strong mission against them would have kept them from the settlement belt in Turn 5.
On the Arab side, allowing the Israeli airmobile forces to drop on the bridge should have been avoided—even a ZoC would have sufficed. Constant IAF interdiction prevented any hope of moving forces back to cover, though, once the vulnerability became clear. In any event, there were not sufficient forces to keep all the supply lines protected while also fending off the Israeli forces on the front lines. The fifteen hex radius of the airmobile battalion offers quite a few options for ruining some quartermaster’s day.
Not surprisingly, all the optional variants for the 1967 scenario either turn off the various handicaps placed on the Arab nations (no Command Control rolls, non-doubled retreat results for Egyptian/Syrian units) or bring Israeli forces into play on a staggered mobilization schedule. Even with those changes, though, the real stumbling point for the Arab forces has to be their inability to operate off of roads in non-clear terrain. Though undoubtedly an attempt to portray some technological failing on the part of their equipment or training, even giving them a minimum move into non-clear hexes would have opened up the map for them while still showing the qualitative difference in Israeli equipment and training.
Six turns, at twelve hours each, equates to 72 hours, which makes this scenario’s outcome the Three Day War. While the real-world battle also proved a steamroller, the near-invincibility of the Israeli forces seems a tad overstated. There was never a realistic chance of getting a combat result against them. Errata/Q&A from Moves Issue 14 suggests (but never mandates) that the airpower should have been on a day/night schedule. Call the turns days instead of half-days and perhaps Sinai comes closer to reality. As it stands, this particular scenario feels pointillistic—a reasonable approximation at a distance, but the closer you look, the fuzzier the picture becomes.