Saturday, February 10, 2018

Oil Cheaper than Water - Arab Israeli War - Playtest

Well everyone in my house is sick with the flu except me.  (Daughter has recovered from her bout).  That means no social gaming this weekend, but once I was done with operational decon of the house, I had a little bit of time to retire to the gaming bunker and knock out a quick game.

For the rules du jour, I thought I'd break out the Arab Israeli Wars micro armor that I prepped for Alex's MEGA GAME (which I sadly missed) to play a game of Alex's latest creation "Oil Cheaper than Water."

These are a modern take on his UP THE BLUE World War II rules (with those outstanding rules inspired by legendary hermit game designer and author Mr Neil Thomas) and while there is the same engine under the hood to UP THE BLUE, there are a bunch of new features that make "Oil Cheaper than Water" a very different and much more textured game than their predecessor.

2 Israeli Magach-3 tank platoons start on the table, awaiting the Egyptian onslaught
I chose Scenario #12 from the ONE HOUR WARGAMES book, "Late Arrivals." This postulates an understrength IDF scratch force from the Israeli's second defensive belt, trying to stem the tide of Egyptian forces shortly after their breakthrough of the Bar Lev line during the October War.

The Israelis start with only 2 platoons, with their reinforcements arriving piece-meal on turn 5 and 10, respectively.   The Egyptians will start with all of their forces, 7 units in all including 3 platoons of T-55s, 2 infantry platoons in APCs, a PT-76 light tank platoon, and a platoon of antiquated T-34s. 

The Israelis have 3 total platoons of Magach-3s, 2 mechanized infantry mounted in M113 APCs, and an off-board unit of self propelled 120mm mortars.  The Israelis are veterans.  The Egyptians are regulars because of their high morale following the Suez crossing and to reflect the high level of training they received prior to the assault.

Small nameless town in the Sinai

Israeli Magach-3's awaiting the enemy - the stands were slathered with Vallejo Sand Paste in preparation for Alex's MEGA GAME, Sand Paste is my new best friend for desert basing!

Egyptian hordes moving out!  T-55s up front.
 The fighting between the units is unbelievably fast as the Israelis shoot with 4 dice.  That will almost guarantee a permanent hit.  The Egyptians mass their fires against a single Israeli platoon and it's knocked out on turn 2, but not before giving out a permanent hit on a T-55 platoon.  Brutal. 

Now you see them...Now you dont.  

Facing down the Egyptians with only a single platoon

 The Egyptians send their lighter forces, including the PT-76 scout tanks and the T-34s on an end-run around the big impassible hill. 
One of my all-time favorite vehicles, the PT-76 was a heavily used reconnaissance tank that is amphibious.

BTR-152 APCs and BTR-50 APCs carrying the infantry forward.

The T-55s doing the best they can, but they have to stay within 15 inches of the Israelis to get a shot off, which means they must constantly advance.
 The Israelis have hte ability to shoot and displace 1D6 which they start doing to good effect when the hits start piling up.

 Turn 4 initiative something interesting happens - the initiative roll is tied.  I check Alex's rules because in OCtW something interesting happens.  This is a "lull" which is really a cool concept.  Both sides can rally or dig-in if they are able to.  The other thing I like is the time clock fast forwards to Turn 5 - IDF tanks and APCs show up from the south.  The new initiative roll sees the IDF take the initiative as new Magach-3s open fire at range against the Egyptians.  And just in time, too.

IDF reinforcements show up and shoot right from the march while the APCs move into the village and dismount the infantry.

Shooting and displacing goes wrong as the Magach's only roll 1 to displace.  They're easy prey for the T-55s next turn and are promptly wiped out.

Still a dearth of painted infantry so I use AIW's counters!  

The PT-76s take punishment from the Israeli reinforcements.  

Target rich environment.
 I'm not sure i've read Alex's target priority rules correctly so I'll have to talk to him about them sometime.  either way, the Magachs exact a toll on the advancing armor.

T-34s move up to shield the rallying PT-76s

And the Israeli infantry digs in.

with the MBTs at 6 hits, the Egyptian armor goes for broke and races for the town before the IDF can get their last bout of reinforcements.  It's a losing race.

Dismounting the infantry soon!

 Israeli reinforcements show up, including the off-table mortars with 4 x fire missions.  The 120mm's arrive on a 4+ roll and I have 4 x fire missions of them.  If the mortars were on-table I'd probably have skipped the arrival/priority roll but since they're off-table, I'm allowing it due to comms, jamming, etc. 

I love the fixed fire missions, especially with the bigger calibers.  It makes you think about where you're using the rounds.  In this instance, the Israelis used them exclusively against the advancing Egyptian infantry.

2 x platoons in the village now.  Going to be really difficult for the Egyptians to pull this one off.  Especially considering they dont have artillery (representing the lightning fast advance into the Sinai).

Dismount and proceed on foot!
 Lots of shooting later, including "close fires" in the close fire phase, the Egyptians knock out a dug-in Israeli platoon.  No small feat considering they're in a town and dug in.  Still though, there's another one to deal with that has zero hits.  The Egyptians try anyways but don't score the hits, and now the tanks advancing from the northwest are suffering from CSS* and dont have targets to shoot at.

And now for some gratuitous pictures of my microarmor with its single coat of tan paint!  Still looks good enough for gaming.  Post-battle analysis follows below.

*Cant See Sh*t

THOUGHTS on Oil Cheaper than Water:

So while this was very similar in mechanics to Alex's UP THE BLUE rules, there are so many new features that the units have been significantly revved up in terms of lethality and mobility.

I love the "lull" in fighting, and also the "close firing" ability as part of the turn sequence.  I also love the fixed number of fire missions available for artillery use.  This makes you think a little harder about where and when you use it. 

I did find myself missing alot of things in the rules, and having to go back and re-read things.

Alex has taken a number of very complex issues surrounding modern warfare, and boiled them down in basic terms and mechanics allowing his rules to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of the forces in this period, but also not making the "stuff" the main part of the game. 

This isn't a game about T-55s and Magach-3s, it's a game of Post-WWII battles, the men who fight them, and the decisions that the commander must make.  You will have to use doctrinal tactics to win. 
If you're a Soviet styled force, you have to press your troops to move in and stay close to the enemy.  If you're a western styled force, (IE the Israelis) you have to shoot and move, not presenting a static target wherever possible. 

In short, use the tactics your forces are built to execute.  If that's not the gold standard in wargaming I dont know what is.  Can't wait to play again.



  1. those T-34/85s look nasty! almost as big as M48-M60 series. They may still be a bit dangerous at close ranges, but I don't know if the gun measured up anymore, unless they had new rounds for it.

    I'm perusing Fistful of Tows 3 technical manual, hopefully that will be at least a bit helpful with these questions. Great set of rules, but I can't handle a 21-phase turn sequence in my declining years.

    Thanks for report - I'm sure in the next couple of plays you'll find some more of the stuff that is impacting this edition...and is now back-designed into the WWII rules. I MUST get my British infantry painted up for the Desert Rats! And their 25pdrs, and the "British drinking tea" vignette, aka brewing up [how can anyone NOT fight with that one in their force??].

    Good day for gaming - multiple posts in and cleaned the office / gaming room, also.

    1. By the '73 war, the Egyptians were using the T34's and the SU-100s as infantry support tanks and not frontline main battle tanks. I could have used more T-55s but thought the T-34s would look really cool on the battlefield.

      FFT3 is a great set of rules and plays pretty quickly. If you take a look at their free modern and free WWII introductory rules, the turn sequence is only 4 steps, vrs 19 but I know what you mean. TBH, when I used to play FFT, I would play using the introductory rules, with the equipment stats from the actual rules. The result was always a very satisfying game.

      Yes you need to get your infantry painted up soon. I painted all those DAK guys and they need opponents to fight. I literally have to complete basing on 1 more platoon and literally all of my DAK infantry will have been painted. Can you believe it? An actual finished wargaming project and I have UP THE BLUE to thank.

  2. A very plausible outcome, and it sounds like a sensible ruleset.

    1. Cheers, Barks. Very sensible and rewards sound tactics at the level of command represented. I'm enjoying them so far.

  3. I like the bases. What made you decide to multibases?

    1. Thanks Ken. To be honest, I have a ton of them from various trips to the conventions (buying the Battlefront GF9 "Chinese Food Boxes" of them. Lots of them. They're 4 x 2. I basically basecoated them tan, and layered on the Vallejo Desert Sand basing gunk and presto.

      I did these for Alex's "mega game" but wasn't able to partake. They're 4 x 2.

      Going to make more but for non-desert (Central Europe!). I will be able to use them as sabots for other games as well like CnC Naps/CnC Tricorne, etc.