Tags

, , , ,

I took a step back in time from my Vietnam scenarios and played a British action whereby they involved themselves in a Middle East crisis in the late 50s. While the U.S. may have inherited the Vietnam mess from the French, it was the British that had long experience in intervening in internal disputes within the third world.

From its foundation as a British protectorate in 1892, the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman had experienced conflict between the coastal and inland tribes. Inland Oman practices a form of Islam unique to the region that, actually, predates the Shia and Sunni denominations of that religion. In 1920, in order to quell the conflict within the Sultanate, the Imam of Oman was granted substantial autonomy from the coastal government. For 34 years, this resulted in relative peace.

Starting in 1954, a complex conflict caused the Imamate of Oman to rebel against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, instigated by disputes over oil drilling rights. The Imam was backed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt while Britain supported the Sultanate. From late 1957 through all of 1958, rebel forces were isolated on the mountain Jebel Akhar, unable to extend their reach but also unable to be dislodged.  A Steel Panthers scenario, The Height of Battle, depicts the final assault by British SAS forces against the mountaintop fortifications.

oman1

The British sense of humor attempts to capture Objective Beercan.

This scenario has some unique features. Of course the antagonists are forces we haven’t played before, with British Special Forces taking on Arab tribal rebels. The nature of the fight is also reminiscent of the Hill 43 fight in Squad Battles. At least I think so. I failed pretty miserably in my assault which, in real life, involved very minor losses from the British side. The scenario scored me with a minor defeat but, given that I was unable to take control of the stronghold or destroy the Omani weapons cache, I would consider it a complete failure. The way I interpret this scenario is that a head-on fight is not going to be feasible. The British player must find a way to use the quirks of the terrain and smoke shells to turn this battle to his advantage.

oman2

Despite suffering losses, I retained hope that I might eke out a victory. That is, until the Camel Patrol made its appearance.

I think success, as in The Battle for Hill 43 would involved finding protected approaches up the up the hill (can you tell that’s a mountaintop in the screenshots?) to allow closing with the enemy while avoiding fire during the approach. The shabby UI of Steel Panthers prevents easy navigation of protected paths up the hills. By way of contrast, Squad Battles allows a shaded UI effect to easily see lines-of-sight for both friendly and enemy forces, just by clicking. It didn’t seem worth figuring this out in Steel Panthers.