Sunday, February 11, 2018

Oil Cheaper than Water: 1973 October War Delayed Arrivals REDUX

Played Alex's "Oil Cheaper than Water" again this morning with roughly the same forces from yesterday evening's Sinai clash, minus 1 Egyptian infantry platoon.  I wanted to correct some mistakes I made as the Egyptians yesterday, and try out a different course of action.

  The OOB now roughly looked like this:

3 x T-55 platoons
1 x PT-76 platoon
1 x T-34/85 platoon
1 x Infantry platoon mounted in BTR-50 APCs

2 x Magach-3 platoons in fighting positions on-table
1 x Magach-3 platoon in reserve arrive on turn 5
2 x Infantry platoons mounted in M113 APCs in reserve, 1 arrives on turn 5, 1 arrives on turn 10
1 x M3 HT mounted heavy mortar platoon in reserve arrives on turn 10
Israeli Armor starting positions further back, out of shooting range

As the Egyptians I tried a different approach today and instead of a flanking move around the impassible hill, I sent all of them down the middle, straight at the Israelis, as aggressively and quickly as I could with the results paying off (sort of).

The Egyptian cant shoot the first turn but the Israelis inflict a permanent hit on an advancing tank platoon.  The next turn they fail their "activation check" to attempt to do something, but their rally roll is successful.  The Egyptians are able to close the distance and get a volley off at the IDF tanks.

The Egyptian platoons keep coming even though one of their sister platoons has a permanent hit.
 Turn 1 the Egyptian armor races down the road, with the T-55s in the lead.  They go as far as they can and shoot, minus 1 die.  The T-55s cannot shoot at long range (I think?) so it's vital for them to close the distance.  The Israelis started out much further back to enable them to fire without the fear of return fire from the Egyptians.  This ends up with 1 Egyptian platoon suffering a permanent hit from massed tank gun fire.

The Magachs are in good shape and treating the Egyptians roughly, until the distance is closed.  The problem with the Israelis starting so far back is that, eventually, the distance will be closed and there's no more room to maneuver.  The Egyptians raced to close the distance, keeping their mech infantry behind the armor so as to protect them in order to assault the town.

The Egyptians are suffering at the hands of the Israelis but are still able to inflict suppressing (4 or more) hits upon the Magach-3s.

Turn 4 sees another lull and fast forwards to turn 5 where more Israeli armor shows up, and infantry, who promptly dig in in the town, but this time within the town itself.

Israeli Reinforcements
 Turn 6 the Egyptians steal the initiative away from the Israelis and surge forward with everything they have.  At this close range, they'll get a fire bonus which they need since they'll lose a d6 for the permanent hit and they'll lose a d6 for the moving and shooting.

Massed fires eliminates 1 IDF tank platoon and places another at 6 hits with a PH.

The Egyptians are playing a numbers game now and not doing too shabby.  Time is their main enemy because they'll need to get a toe hold in the town before Israeli reinforcements get there.  No easy task.  Israeli infantry come out of the march, dismount and enter the town.  They have a turn to dig in and the Egyptians are literally right on their doorstep.

Turn 9 the Egyptian dismounts move towards the town.

The Israelis and Egyptians trade fire but neither passes their close assault test and the action breaks down into a firefight.  Just as the Egyptians gain the upper hand, the clock strikes turn 10 and IDF infantry enter the town as well.  Their 120mm mortars pretty much seal the deal.  Egyptian armor races to the village to provide fire support against an Israeli platoon on the outskirts, but by now it's too late.  Down to the wire.  If the Egyptians had their other infantry platoon, and possibly mortars or artillery, they may have grabbed a win here as they reached the village at turn 8.

The IDF has this wrapped up by turn 12.

Remaining Egyptian armor holds the field but not the town.

My second game of Oil Cheaper than Water and I was able to integrate the newer features better this time after a more careful re-read of the rules.  For instance, units at 4 hits are "Suppressed" and must pass a quality check to conduct an action.  If they fail, they may take a rally attempt.  Also, units at close range get an extra firing D6 (I really ought to have known that).

The tactic of sending all of the massed armor "up the middle" worked much better than splitting up the forces but without being rash (by rash I mean sending the APCs forward when there are hungry IDF tanks to their front), the Egyptians will have a very difficult time capturing the town with only a single infantry platoon, especially if the Israelis get 2 infantry platoons.   The best bet for the Egyptians is to advance on a broad front with their tank company (3 x platoons) abreast so they can maximize firepower and wipe out the Magach's quickly, possibly even using the infantry ATGMs dismounted.  This will clear the way and allow the Egyptians to get in close to the town and dismount before any IDF infantry shows up.

Stopping as the attacking force is death when you're outgunned so badly.  You have to get into close range as the Arabs/Soviets.

Starting much further back was a great tactic for the Israelis, and they were able to capitalize on their better gunnery from the start.  The arrival of the Magach platoon on the Egyptian flanks didn't seem to have too much of an effect on the Egyptians.  

I did run into some questions going through the game this time that I tried to capture.

  • Can the Soviet styled tanks shoot at long range?  (beyond 15") I think not but doesn't hurt to ask.
  • Is "4" dice the max you can shoot with?  The Israelis are a higher quality in the scenario I played, and when shooting at close range could get up to 5 dice.  (I think this is addressed already in the rules but again, doesn't hurt to ask).
  • When using the "Soviet offense" is my movement set strictly at 1D6 or is my movement limited to 1D6 +4?
  • For an evade move, is this authorized immediately following the launch of an ATGM?  Or is it just a move that enables better protection from ATGMs if you're fired on?  Does it cancel out an ATGM attack?  Clearly, I did not have any ATGMs on the table (although arguably if the Egyptians dismounted and used them against the 2 x Magach platoons this could have been a much quicker game) 
I had a few other questions but cant remember.  I enjoyed this game so much I ended up purchasing some el cheapo 1/300 aircraft off ebay (MiG-17s and A-4 Skyhawks!) so I can get some planes on the table.  They'll come in handy for some Fate of a Nation gaming as well as Sabre Squadron!  Not bad for less than an hour of gaming.

I'd like to get another game in this weekend if possible.  Time will tell!  Hoping to be able to play next weekend for sure.


  1. Hey Steve, looks like you're having fun! I'm basing Welsh spearmen this weekend, mostly. One quick thought - the least-developed part of the rules is the nationality quirks, which are really more like "force quirks" and may not even apply across the entire army, much less apply to both Syria and Egypt. So some work there, but it is fun to look for that historical balance, IMHO. Some answers:
    - No. Apparently the Soviet training for Egyptians and Syrians seems to have discouraged long-range fire. It may have been ammo limits, as the T-series only carried 40-45 rounds, and half were AT. Interestingly, the IDF had the opposite approach - carry 60+ rounds and get lots of resupply, and shoot as much as you can at long range. So on a Hill, the IDF will be shooting at 40", and advancing Arab/Soviet forces will be shooting at 15". Interesting clash.
    - No. There's no max to the dice, and no minimum either. If you're priority target is a zero dice target, "you fired with no effect". Heavy Artillery v. Target lower quality light tanks on Flat Terrain which is I think the max - 8 dice. Sounds like a lot but the average roll would only be 2-3 Hits on Tanks, anyway.
    - Russian Offense [which is just something to try out] gives you 1d6 and then a Fire at -1d6 [this would be instead of the UP 1.] It's an old rule that I'm dropping for making the Russians SLOW and SHORT RANGED.
    - the Evade Move is just a good move choice if you are in LoS of ATGMs. If you are in Range you have to fire at them, however. The goal is to both be harder to hit and disrupt the ATGM gunner's aim. If at Long Range, it takes the ATGM up UP 1 twice, and their Hit Number goes from 2+ to 4+, which is a huge difference.

    I think it would be a great idea to dismount the ATGM infantry - they have a long reach, like an 88 Up the Blue!, and are a huge menace. I almost lost an MBT platoon to them because I destroyed an Egyptian tank platoon that was blocking their FoF, and then on their turn they hit 3/3 and gave me a PH. I didn't forget again, needless to say...
    Cheers, a.

    1. Thanks for your prompt replies, Alex. It's not always you have this level of support from a rules author! :)
      As far as your answers are concerned, I figured as much but thought best to ask. Really excellent rules that capture the more "modern" flavor. IE it's not just WWII with better gear. It really captures the tempo and lethality of modern warfare. I love them!
      The national rules are excellent as well and give the forces some character. I dont mind them.
      Next time I play, the ATGMs will get used as well! If the Magachs can be cleared out of the way before turn 4 the Egyptians have a chance.

  2. Oh, and another subtle change...On-table Mortars are now just like any unit - they fire in the Action Phase. Only off-board Indirect Fire happens in the ARtillery phase. This means you can make Mortars "Ready" when they are on table. In essence, I went with BOTH what you said and I was thinking. a.

    1. I think that's awesome! I played with the priority roll with off-table heavy mortars and it definitely adds an element of tension to the game that you would not ordinarily have had. The other thing I noticed is the heavy calibers are game-changers as you already know. Once the Israeli heavies were dialed-in on the Egyptian infantry, the game's outcome was pretty much decided.

  3. Are the rules available someplace to look at? I googled the title, but nothing came back.

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson

    1. Hey Chris as far as I know you have to reach out directly to the author, Alex, but you’re in luck as he frequents this page from time to time. See his comments above yours as “ECW 40mm Project.” His blog is linked on the right hand side of mine and is called “UP THE BLUE!”

  4. Great report and the rules look very interesting indeed