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This is a series of posts on the Suez Crisis. See here for the first regular post in the series, here for the previous post, and here to go back to the master index.

Before heading into the 1956 Arab Israeli War, I’ll return to the scenario I looked at earlier. As I mentioned a subsequent post, there are two games that have redone the old Avalon Hill Arab Israeli Wars scenarios as computer scenarios.

The Kalkiliah scenario, which I recently fiddled with on the board, has been recreated both for Divided Ground and for WinSPMBT.

Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust

First to the Divided Ground scenario. Player Alan R. Arvold recreated The Arab Israeli Wars board game scenarios in the computer version. Even more valuable, his work is accompanied by extensive design notes discussing the conversion.

Divided Ground scenario

Looking very different.

While I haven’t done a hex-by-hex myself, based on his notes it would seem the designer made a significant effort to recreate the board designs from the original game. Nevertheless, my first thought on loading the Divided Ground scenario is how different the map looks represented shown as a 3D view as opposed to the abstract symbols upon a flat map from the original game.

Arab Israeli Wars

Pretty much the same situation. Arab disposition is speculative, as the computer version has units hidden by fog-of-war.

The other major difference is described in the design notes for this scenario. As I stated in my notes on the board game, the key to this scenario is the complexity of the victory condition rules. In a nutshell, the scenario depicts an Israeli raid which initially attacks the town in superior numbers. The attackers are facing a company of regular infantry and police (represented in Arab Israeli Wars by commando units and in Divided Ground by militia). They must quickly take the police fort near the village, and preferably do so before the Jordanians bring the remainder of their infantry, transported on vehicles, into the fray. Once the police fort is captured, the Israelis must withdraw without suffering losses. Should they fail to do so, a rescue force with armor is added to the board and the game length is extended.

The Divided Ground engine does not support the capture-and-withdraw victory condition, so (as is apparent in the first screenshot) the town and fortress hexes are simply designated as standard victory point locations. Second, the conditional availability of the Israeli reinforcements cannot be programmed, so the scenario was created just to last for the longer number of turns, with the Israeli armor always being available.

The final big change from the board game is that the “Fort” counter in Arab Israeli Wars does not have an equivalent in Divided Ground. The scenario was created with a “trench” representing the defensive position. As said about the board game, it is the fort and its particularly powerful defensive capabilities that makes this scenario what it is. Downgrading to just a minor defensive improvement leaves the capture of the fort, in my opinion, so easy as to negate the intent of the scenario.

Assuming you are playing this scenario to replicate the board game feel, one might imagine enforcing the withdrawal condition voluntarily, and then ignoring the computer’s tally of victory points. Likewise, you would have to ignore the arrival of your reinforcements in any case where the prerequisites for the extended game were not met.

In contrast, I played the scenario straight through by the computer rules, ignoring what I knew from the board scenario. As expected, it is weighted overwhelmingly towards Israeli victory (whereas I think the original leans heavily towards the Arabs). I was able to capture the victory locations before the Jordanian reinforcements arrived, and then deployed my halftracks to defend the town from recapture. When my own reinforcements arrived, I used them to mop up the Jordanian forces almost to the man. Which was fun in its own way.

Without the super-defensive value of the fort, I’m not sure I see the point in trying to play by the other board scenario rules.

Just a Nod

Scale

The Arab-Israeli Wars

Hex side: 250 meters
Turn length: 6 minutes

Steel Panthers: Main Battle Tank

Hex side: 50 meters
Turn length: 3 minutes

Recreating the toughness of the police fort is one thing that Steel Panthers was able to get right. Recreating the board game experience using this engine may is probably not a realistic goal,  given the difference in scale. The turn length is roughly 2-3 times and the map board at least double* when going from Steel Panthers to Arab Israeli Wars. It may have been feasible to, for example, model only the first half of the original scenario: A reduced unit count would have to take the police fort within the first half-hour or so, eliminating much of the reinforcements and the withdrawal condition. However, that’s not what was done.

Steel Panthers

Israeli paratroopers converging on the town. That fort will be one tough nut to crack.

A quick glance at the Steel Panther‘s scenario map indicates that, unlike the Divided Ground version, this was not an attempt to faithfully reproduce the Arab Israeli Wars map layout. More likely, it was based on the actual layout of the town and the surrounding terrain and roads.

1938 Qalqilya

Approximate size and location of the Steel Panthers game map, shown on a U.S. World War II -era map, with the bit that’s in the screenshot shown in black.

The construction of the scenario is that the full range of combatants are involved, but in the smaller time and space scale of Steel Panthers. The scenario starts with the Israeli paratroopers moving towards the town, but the Jordanian motorized units and then the Israeli armor are fairly quickly added to the mix.

Another interesting addition is that the Jordanians have a PzKpfw IV near the town (as an early reinforcement). Historically, the Jordanians did have some of these German WWII tanks, although not necessarily within 20 minutes of this particular fight.

The condensing of the scenario makes it another knife fight. As with the original board game version, the Israelis have superiority once they get all their equipment into the fight. For what it’s worth, I ended clearing the town completely, but gained only a marginal victory. I made some clearly stupid moves; exposing some halftracks to enemy anti-armor fire in one case and moving into artillery fire in two others.

As I’ve said in many of previous comparisons, the Steel Panthers version tends to be the most “fun” of the options. For this battle, moving individual units and trying to seize an actual building representing the police fortress gives me the best experience playing this battle. The interpretation of the battle is probably the least realistic of the three options, but I’m not sure that any of these simulations is entirely accurate.

Return to the master post or go on to the next article.

*While the hex scale is actually a factor of 5, the Steel Panthers scenarios often have a lot more hexes.

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