Monday, December 24, 2018

The Christmas Offensive: The Battle for Tassa Junction October 14, 1973

The usual suspects were over yesterday for my annual CHRISTMAS OFFENSIVE Mega Game.  The last 4 years this has been an Eastern-Front themed game [click], usually played with the Battlegroup series of rules. 

This year we pulled out all the stops and played an EPIC 200+ point Arab Israeli War battle from the 1973 October war using Battlefront's FATE OF A NATION [click] rules!

Ken's reserve platoons move up through the Sinai
I've been posting the lead-up to this battle over the last few days, but the truth is preparations for this game started over a year ago with a bunch of GHQ online purchases.  I've always loved gaming the 1973 October War due to the high stakes, tension, and excitement of the engagements.

from the Egyptian side looking towards the Tassa junction
 I've already reviewed the OOBs in previous posts so let's get right to the action!  The Egyptians are attacking to seize the Tassa road junction on October 14th with the crack 15th Armored Brigade.  What's noteworthy I suppose is that I'm using historical organizations to the greatest extent possible so the Egyptians have 2 full battalions of tanks along with supporting elements including 2 companies of PT76 and 2 companies of SU100s from higher headquarters (2nd Tank Army).

They're fighting against the battle-hardened Israeli "Steel" Division!

treeline along the Tassa road
 The Egyptians step off onto the attack with the Tassa junction and the hills around it in sight!  It's a long distance to travel, however, and the Israelis are expected to be there in force with lots of tanks.
empty, lonely desert.  or is it?
The Israelis are starting with all of their on-table forces in ambush.  2 full platoons of M48 "Magach-3" tanks and the HQs platoon (CO and XO) and the artillery spotter from battalion, the Fire Support Officer in his M113 APC.

the full Egyptian force - not nearly enough tanks on the table for a Christmas Offensive!  1st Battalion/15th Armored left of the road along with their accompanying infantry, and 2nd Battalion/15th Armored on the right.  The SU100s and recce PT76 will go "up the middle"

hordes of tanks!
 The Israelis move into position in their ambush sites and prepare to spring their trap.


Ken's observer calls in the big, 120mm Mortars right atop the infantry in their carriers (BTR152s).  They destroy one and some of the teams in it!  The Israeli Air Force makes a showing as well and screams in at low level to bomb the formations.  The Egyptians have removed the tracers from their ammo load!  It's an ambush of the A-4s!  Both are shot down before being able to drop their ordnance!

What's the wargamers rule about new, nicely painted gear?  Ken's A4s never fire a shot in anger!

A-4s scream in for a bombing run only to be shot down by ZSU-57-s fire

Israelis weight their right flank and spring their ambushes - excellent shooting takes out almost an entire company of T-55s on the first turn!  It's going to be a long, tough slog to get to the objective for the Egyptians!

Note the flaming wrecks at almost the other end of the table!


Egyptian 2nd Battalion creeps up the right flank
 Ken literally knocks out almost an entire T-55 company on the first turn of shooting and the Egyptians cannot reply.  He successfully passes a "blitz" move and moves back 4"

allocating hits from the Egyptian shooting.  We missed the "slow firing" rule and the Egyptians probably shouldn't have made 1/3 of the hits they scored.  Ugh!  

3 x Magachs burn!  This one is from "second" platoon as denoted by the II on the stand

tank battle rages.  Ken is not making the reserve rolls he needs, though and it's starting to feel lonely down at this end of the table!
 We discussed the pros and cons of using microarmor for games like FOW/FOAN/TY and what changes should be made when doing so.  In order to make the command distance scaled with the minis, the Egyptians stacked their companies in 2 x rows which Alex and Dave called "checkerboards".

Egyptian MIGs show up and bomb the Magachs but don't hit anything yet.

epic action!

Dave eyeing up his shots

The Egyptian generals

acceptable casualties!

KO'd T-55!

2nd Battalion charges forward.  Reminder the Egyptians cannot dash towards the Israelis to represent the apprehensive nature of their attacks on the 14th of October.

Egyptian hits taking their toll now but Ken is KO'ing T55s at a rate of 4 to 1!

2nd Battalion starting to take casualties

all that remains of the 1st Battalion, 1st Company

Egyptian infantry tucked in beside cover - the plan is to use them to assault the objective

the tank battle rages!
 Ken finally starts to see reinforcements and the Ishermans and the other Magach-3 platoon arrives on the scene.  The Ishermans are wiped out almost as quickly as they arrive!  Reminder-  Ken cannot put his infantry in until all armored reserves have arrived on the table to reflect the Israeli problem from the 73 war of committing tanks without proper infantry support!

Ishermans move into position

Reinforcements are too little, too late?
Magach-3s moving up to the battle while units forward are hotly engaged!

The Egyptians start to get bold and move in their companies on the left and right.  Ken doesn't have much more room to trade and moves his tanks back to trade shots against single companies, instead of multiple ones.

2nd Battalion kicks out into line to advance and flank the objective - the Israeli Magach commander is screaming into the radio for his reinforcements!

The Isherman platoon burns

Ken maneuvers his platoons skillfully to stay in the fight a little longer

Magach command team XO and CO would die in savage, close range fighting against a company of T-55s.  They gave better than they got.

end of tanks 5 and 6.  (note the XO and CO on the stands)

Endgame.  Ken conceded at this point.  The infantry, luck b**tards, never made it to the field.

Casualty pile.  The Egyptian tanks are on the right.  Israeli on the left.
 Here is a quick shot taken by my wife of the game and the team!  Even though there were some "issues" with the scenario, I'm hoping everyone had a blast.  I sure did watching the action!  It was great to see the fruits of all this work over the last year!

The "usual suspects" Ken, me, Alex, and Dave from L to R.  Heroes of the battle!
Speaking of "fruits" (you will see none here), Darren specifically asked for a shot of all the treats.  Ken brought donuts, Dave brought Cadbury chocolates and my wife made berry scones and also brownies!  No one should have left hungry! 

No HE rounds, Darren, but good stuff none-the-less!

Post Game Analysis
So the Egyptians actually had 70 MORE points than their Israeli counterparts, which may have tipped the scales in favor of the Israelis.  I unfortunately didn't realize this until the morning of the battle and went with it to see what would have happened.  I think the scenario specific rules were good and I also think both sides made the best decisions they could with their circumstances (Egyptian maneuvering and targeting, as well as Israeli targeting decisions).

It's a serious shame the fast-air was shot down so fast!  Equally sad that the infantry never were able to come to grips.

The guys debated the merits of 6mm vrs 15mm and we discussed at length the changes to the game that result including:

  • Using the model or the base for shooting and calculating gaps (this is very important in FOW).
  • Command distance and template sizes for 6mm games.
  • Metric or Customary.
  • Scenario design taking into account turn limits to have an endgame and make a defense viable.

I still contend that FOW/FOAN/TY are perfect microarmor games but definitely need some things ironed out to get the most out of them.

All in all though, considering there were over 100 tanks on the table, we started the game around 12:30pm and finished at 5:00.  So a huge, historical battle was played to completion in 4.5 hours.  I'm not sure how much better you can get than that! 

It was a great day spent with friends with lots of excitement playing with toy soldiers.  Thanks to all the guys for participating, and thanks to the reader for stopping by!  Another Christmas Offensive MEGA GAME under the belt!


  1. Steven! That was a great battle and a triumph for the Egyptians.
    In your game photos your table looked huge. Imagine my surprise when I see in the next to last photo that all of that action was on a smaller table. A lot of exciting action packed into a small area.

    Great stuff!

    1. Thanks for commenting Jonathan! Glad you enjoyed the batrep. Yes i took the pictures at an angle so the table looked longer! Tricks of the blogging trade. Bring on 2019!

  2. Loved this Steve. What an epic clash!

    I could hear screams of 'where are my reinforcements!' while reading. Great shots of Red Air and pity about those skyhawks.
    I can see how the rules work well for armour from your commentary. I'm considering trying to get to grips with 'Fistful of Tows' next year, so will be good to see how they compare.

    I think the 1/285 stuff is much better than 15mm for something of this scale.

    I also have a bunch of AIW scenarios from the old Clash of Armour module. Let me know, and I'll see if I can send.

    (thanks for pics of the treats - I need to get to New Jersey soon - feeling hungry now, I'm off for a biscuit ;) )

    1. Cheers, Darren. I may have over indulged this holiday season so far. Yes this system was clearly made for the big tank battles. We tried to break it and it handled the multitudes of armor quite well.

      Be sure to let me know when youre stateside! We will have a game and snacks waiting for you!

  3. 6mm played to its strength. Quality time gaming with friends, all good.

    1. Definitely, Norm. Thanks for commenting! We had a good time.

  4. fantastic Battle report. Very interesting read. We play FoaN with 3mm. I have put my thoughts on my blog:

    We tried inches and cm and we are definitely coming back to cm. It gave us a lot more possibility for manoeuvering and positioning the units where as using inches ended up as a shooting gallery and who shoots first. Extremely boring dynamics.

    In regards of the planes being shot down, the AA fire is overpowered in my opinion. It is not that easy to shoot down a fast jet without proper guided canons and missiles. Even so, planes still have a good possibility to escape. A rough guess would be that in a very heavy AA environment, planes should have a loss rate of 20%. Here it felt more like 75%.

    Shooting from behind a row of tanks (gaps): the battlefield is pretty dynamic and distance have to be adjusted a bit so we only consider that there is a hindrance factor for shooting from behind the first row of tanks, like +1.

    We also activate tanks by platoons, they all do the same action (which at the scale you play makes sense rather than having a tactical granularity of tank B moves while tank B shoots). It speeds up the game a lot for us.

    For shooting, we use the base so there is no ambiguity and it speeds things up. It is only a convention and at that scale 6mm or 3mm, it should not make a difference.

    We played extensively FOW V3 and just a bit V4 in 15mm. Going down to 3mm, making small adjustments has totally renewed the interest of the game for us, in particular for V4 / FoaN.
    We use:
    -platoon bases
    -distances are converted to cm
    + a few minor points.
    total blast!
    We have been playing 7 games so far of FoaN and can't get enough of them. We will switch to WWII and epic East Front battle soon, just to change flavor.

    1. Wow thanks for your comments, Braxen. We had considered some of those points while playing yesterday. I need to check out your blog and see how you handle the 3mm games. Personally i want to play FoW, TY, and FoaN in 6mm as i feel it's a great and less expensive scale for the amounts of forces needed. I also feel like it "looks right" on the table.

      Going to check out your blog now!

  5. It looks pretty good, but there's definitely not enough tanks on table.

    Great stuff, and FoW v.4 is definitely a "game-game" that is good for mass battles. I knew someone had done this and altho 3mm is too small for my old eyes I'm sure that en masse it looks great, especially with a huge desert tank force!

    For the platoon bases how do you handle bails and destroyed tanks?

    1. Not nearly enough tanks. Should have been 2 BRIGADES, 1 on on each side of the road!! I plan on giving my WW2 microarmor the same treatment. Next year's Christmas Offensive who knows... Prokhorovka?!?!?