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Subject: S3: Irbid... the best solitaire scenario? rss

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Tom Jensen
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In September of 1970, Palestinian guerrillas four times attempt to assassinate King Hussein of Jordan. Rising in rebellion, they take Jordan's second largest city, Irbid; the King reacts and drives the guerrillas from the city. Meanwhile, Syria sends a tank brigade across the border in support of the movement that would later be called Black September. The battle for the city begins:

I set the game up last night and laid my preliminary plans; this is where the game will be won. The large city in the map's center I'm calling Irbid (even though the actual battle took place north of that city) and the smaller southern town I'm calling Salt, located just north of the Dead Sea. I've divided the Jordanian tanks into two groups, one defending in Irbid and the other in the hills overlooking the approaches to that city. I'm doing 4 Turns of 4 airstrikes each; in this way I'm hoping to disperse the Syrian tanks with the airstrikes and then finish them off with Direct Fire from the tanks using the Double Dispersal results from the CRT.

The terrain south of Irbid looks too open to allow a withdrawal; I think that Syrian Opportunity Fire would destroy anything trying to escape. So I'm defending forward with everything except two infantry platoons and the howitzer in Salt. IIRC the Syrians can't fire on unspotted units in Irbid so the infantry are separate from the tanks, playing possum until the Syrian infantry make their assault.

Initially, I contemplated attacking the Syrian tanks coming down the main road, blocking it, and slowing their advance. But it's probably better to use them for the DD results. Fearing the airstrikes, everything is spread out with no more than two units per hex.

The Syrian BTRs have entered and unloaded their infantry platoons behind the hills which screen them from Irbid and it'll take them about 4 turns to get into the city. Meanwhile, that damned howitzer will be knocking the hell outta them... so I'm detaching a Syrian tank force to deal with it as soon as possible. Now, for me, this is the interesting question: How to use the Syrian infantry. If I leave them in the BTRs, the airstrikes will finish them off immediately... but this will leave the Syrian tanks untouched. If I debark them in the open, the howitzer kicks hell outta them for several turns.

Day Two of the game:

The howitzer unit in Salt is not nearly as powerful as I believed. I thought it would be doubled or tripled against an infantry target; instead, it has only normal firepower. In this case, a measly 9 attack strength against the Syrian infantry defense of 8. However, the howitzer in Salt has a clear direct LOF almost the entire length of the mapboard! and I've already used it to destroy a commando unit.

By the end of Turn 2, the Syrian infantry continues its advance against Irbid and their carrier units, the BTRs, have withdrawn north into relative safety. The three Jordanian tank units on the hill west of Irbid destroyed three Syrian tanks... but then were dispersed and will probably be destroyed within the next two turns without doing further damaged. Their deployment so far forward was probably a mistake. I've fired the Jordanian tanks in Irbid so they are now spotted. So far, no Jordanian loses and the Syrian has lost 7 tank units and the commando unit and have another five units dispersed.

Right now, I'm thinking that the best initial deployment for Jordan is to put all the infantry into Irbid and have the tanks further back and hull down... but still within 6 hexes of Irbid and with clear LOS/LOF to defend it. I like the way the airstrikes are spread out (4444) but would like to have something for turn 5. Perhaps (43333) is better.

So far, this is a fun scenario. It sorta reminds me of the tsumani: a brown wave of Syrian debris overwhelming everything in its path. The Syrian units are spread out from one side of the board to another.

Third day of the game:

Finished up S3 this morning with some surprising results. Here's the scenario wrap-up:


The initial Syrian plan was to assault Irbid with dismounted infantry and the majority of the tanks. A smaller tank force was to be detached to take the southern town of Salt and silence that pesky howitzer. [2 VPs/destroyed unit and 1 VP for each unit withdrawing off the southern edge of the map.]

I think deploying the tanks on the western hills was a mistake. They fired once, were dispersed, and were eventually overrun. [The weakness of the Syrian force is that they have less of a chance of the one-two punch of Double Dispersal. Without airstrikes and Indirect fire (their mortar [4] is nearly worthless) they have only direct fire and overrun to accomplish this. On the other hand, the Jordanians will have little chance to use an Overrun, so their one-two punch will come from airstrikes, the IF howitzer in Salt, and DF/OF.] One thing the western tanks DID accomplish was to draw fire, allowing me to fire the tanks in Irbid during the airstrike turns, becoming temporarily Spotted... but without suffering return fire. I soon found that with tanks brewing up and with dispersal from airstrikes, the Syrians had only enough firepower to strike at one of the two tank groups. The Syrian tanks that were targeted on Salt were needed to destroy the western tanks and were eventually diverted to Irbid. As a result, an assault was never mounted against Salt during the entire game!


The jeeps have only a range of 4 and I believe I fired them only twice before they reached Salt. They are probably better deployed in Irbid. However, this 4-hex range DID allow them to fire on the Syrian units attempting to withdraw from the southern edge along the road.

The Battle for Irbid:

With the western tanks destroyed, Syria turned their attention toward reducing Irbid. IIRC this is the first time I've played a scenario that involved taking a city, so I probably didn't use the Syrians as efficiently as possible. Still, they appeared to have a lot of firepower at hand so I wasn't too worried. City hexes add +1 to the die roll and also add +5 to the defense per attack. The two forward city hexes had two infantry each plus two tanks (north) and one tank and the anti-tank gun (south). The rear hex contained the Jordanian M-113s, looking for an overrun opportunity (didn't happen). Possession of Irbid by Syria is essential because each city hex is worth 10 VPs.

I placed the Syrian tanks adjacent to the city so all Jordanian units were spotted. Since they were stacked 4 high, CAT attacks on these hexes by the infantry would be at very low odds. The howitzer in Salt kept dispersing the advancing Syrian infantry and I'd finish them off with direct fire by the Jordanian infantry. The opposing tanks were doubled, muzzle to muzzle. Morale played a key role here. Since Jordanian units were at Morale A, they nearly always regrouped, but the Syrians (Morale C) regrouped only half the time. I was surprised at how difficult it was to take the city. It wasn't until Turn 9 that I felt I could break some units away to travel south toward Salt. In the final assault, the BTRs moved forward and added their "I" weapons to the mix firing on Irbid.

One by one, the Jordanians in the city died until only one tank and one M-113 were left. But these two were real John McKanes... because they DIEd HARD! They were always dispersed, always regrouped, and the Syrians kept rolling sixes... allowing them to live yet another turn. FINALLY, on Turn 10 the tank unit died and the Syrians occupied two hexes of Irbid... but the M-113 STILL lived and denied the rear hex to the Syrians for 10 VPs! Meanwhile, Syrian infantry reloaded on the BTRs and hurried south to try to get off the board. By the end of the game, 13 Syrians were still on the map. Salt was fired on but there just wasn't enough time left to take the town.

Final score:

Jordan: 20 for city hexes and 52 for destroyed units = 72 VPs

Syria: 30 for destroyed units and 21 for units exited = 52 VPs

Jordan wins a Major Victory with +20 VPs!

What a surprise! Final observations:


Main lesson: the Jordanians should, ideally, fight every unit from a city hex making Irbid a Stalingrad and reinforcing the city from the adjacent woods hexes.


The main function of the Jordanian trucks is to hide in the rear and not to die.


The jeep unit is probably best used in Irbid where it's 4 hex range won't limit its use.


Keep the howitzer in Salt using it's DF on stupid Syrian infantry blundering about in the open and it's IF on the infantry assaulting Irbid.


The only use I can see for the Syrian mortar is against the howitzer in Salt, attempting to keep it disrupted. Since the howitzer will fire nearly every turn, it will always be spotted if it is within LOS of a Syrian unit.


The Syrians have a 1:1 ratio of infantry to carrier units so if you destroy a BTR, a halftrack, or the truck, you will also strand an infantry on the map. If infantry is loaded on a BTR try to destroy it because, with exit points, it's worth a potential 6 VPs! For this reason alone, it would be nice to hold back a couple airstrikes for turns 11 and 12, just waiting for loaded BTRs to rumble down the highway. Also, playing a human opponent, he would always have to worry when an airstrike was due so there's a psychological advantage with holding back. Then again, perhaps Irbid would fall much sooner without the early destruction of the Syrian tanks.


All in all, I had fun. The hexes around Irbid became extremely crowded and perhaps a separate display with enlarged hexes for the city should be kept off to one side, keeping onboard counter shuffling to a minimum. As units died, the pace of the scenario picked up enhancing the entertainment value. So far, this is the best scenario I've played. AND... it may be balanced!

 
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Tom Jensen
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One year later:

Every year about this time my neighbor goes on vacation for a month and I have to take care of her dumb bird. Now birds need a lot of "people presence" at all times and without it they go nuts and wind up at the bottom of the cage with their feet in the air. So I need a small game board that fits next to the cage where I can while away the hours... and Arab-Israeli Wars is perfect. So once again I'll try my hand at beating S-3, the battle for Irbid.

This is the perfect game for solitaire play; the Jordanian units are best kept in the towns of Irbid (the three hex major town in the north) and Salt (the one hex town in the south). He gets 2 points for every Syrian unit destroyed and 10 points for each town hex controlled at the end of the game. Meanwhile, the Syrian player gets 2 points for each Jordanian unit and 1 VP for each unit exited off the south end of the board. So the towns are key and I usually stack them four-high. There are so many Syrian tanks around that any movement is just begging for wipe-out by Opportunity Fire; so I'll try NOT to move any Jordanian units. So, as you can see, once the set-up is done, the solo player just has to worry about the Syrian units and fight both sides realistically. This makes for the best of the scenarios.

The Set-up: In the two northern hexes of Irbid I put three tanks and 1 infantry each. I've decided to use the Smoke optional rule - it's the only raison d'etre for the mortar. The infantry is in the city to lay Smoke in the hex every other turn. In the south hex I put 3 infantry and the AT gun. In Salt I place the (H), the jeep AT guns, 1 inf. and 1 M113. The two trucks are just cannon fodder that I hide in the SW corner in the woods.

The Plan: Since the Syrian T-34s are so weak, I will form a separate group, take them south and attack Salt. All the rest will assault Irbid from the north. The Jordanian airstrikes will attack: 7 on T2, 6 on T3, and one each on Turns 10, 11, and 12. (I will discover that the T12 airstrike is wasted; since the Jordanian player moves after the Syrian, the interdiction value is lost and I can only use it to destroy a unit on the board.)

The Game:

Turn 1 the Syrian BTRs unload their infantry behind the northern hill before the airstrikes can arrive. The tanks form a fire arc NW of the city. In Irbid, the Jordanian inf lays smoke and the (H) fires smoke between the tanks and the city, blocking LOS?LOF. 2 tanks are destroyed.

Turn 2 Syrian tanks move adjacent to the city. The mortar lays smoke between the city and the marching Syrian inf. The T-34s continue on toward Salt. Airstrikes destroy 2 tanks and disperse 4 more. Then DF destroys 3 more! [I kept rolling "1s" and this early loss of Syrian firepower will decide the game!]

Turn 3 Airstrikes destroy the four BTR152s at 7:1 odds. [2 VPs for destruction plus 1 VP because the Syrian now doesn't have enough carrier units to take the inf off the board.] More airstrikes disperse tanks and DF then destroys 2 more.

Turn 4 The T34s are now in position at Salt. Syrian inf move adjacent to the city of Irbid. The fire from the (H) drifts and doesn't hit any of them! The Irbid inf CAT attack outta the city, destroying 1 tank and dispersing 2 inf. Units in Salt "hide" while the inf lays smoke in hex.

Turn 5 The t34 fire at Salt is ineffectual. DF from Salt destroys one tank. DF from Irbid destroys 2 more Syrian tanks at Irbid. [With continued tank loss, the Syrian player now doesn't have enough firepower to kill Jordanian tanks outright; plus, with Morale A the Jordanian units rally before follow-up fire can kill.]

Turns 6-12 The game plays out with the Jordanian player getting even more "lucky" as the CAT attacks into Irbid are repeatedly turned back! The T34s fail to destroy ANY unit in Salt!! while return fire from the jeep guns knock out one tank after another!!! It turns into a complete rout! By the end of the game, the Syrians have taken only the NE hex of Irbid, destroyed the two trucks and most of the tanks and the M113s.

Final Score: Jordan 78, Syria 36

So this was the most one-sided game yet of S-3. What I've learned... the Syrian tanks should NOT be divided; you need everything you can get at Irbid. Next time, perhaps I'll leave out Smoke; it helps the Jordanian play a lot... and Syria needs help --especially with the accurate airstrikes from the Hawker Hunters.

Still, the bird was happy, I was happy and we both had a good time. I didn't think a beak could smile.
 
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Tom Jensen
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Two years later...

...my neighbor is once again off vacationing; so I get stuck with the dumb bird. It's once again time to do battle for possession of Irbid!

The Set-up: I put four Centurian tanks in NW Irbid, two Centurions and two Infantry in NE Irbid, the 17-pdr AT gun with two Inf. in south Irbid. The three M113s are hidden in the woods east of the city, hoping to dash out at some point to overrun the Syrian infantry assault. The one-hex southern city I call Salt and in it I put the 25 pdr (H), the mobile Jeep gun, and two Infantry. The Jordanian airstrikes are 12 on T2, one on T3 and T4, then one on T10 and T11. I'll not use the smoke rule this time in hopes of bettering Syria's chances.

The Plan: Being 1970, the Jordanian tanks are doubled out to six hexes so I'll fire the Syrian tanks at a two-hex range (also doubled) but still out of potential CAT attacks by the Jordanian infantry. The weak T-34s don't stand a chance against the Centurions so I'll shield them behind the western hills and use them to assault Salt. The Syrian infantry will again unload behind the northern hill and make their standard assault against Irbid.

Victory Points: Each side gets 2 VPs for each opposing unit destroyed. Jordan gets 10 VPs for occupation of each city hex at the end of the game. Syria gets 1 point for each unit exited from the southern edge.

The Game: The Syrian infantry march over the crest of their hill while the howitzer in Salt drops rounds among them. Since they're at morale C, there's only a one in three chance to undisperse. The Jordanians undisperse with any roll except a 6. The Syrian tanks take their position and concentrate fire on the four Centurions in NW Irbid.

The T-34s along with the truck and 82mm mortar head south for Salt. But the Hawker Hunter airstrike on T2 decimate them with their Hellfire missiles and only a few remain, too few in fact to mount any kind of assault on the city of Salt!

The middle game is one, long bloodfest with very little movement of units. The tanks blaze away at each other, the infantry hide unspotted, and the Syrian infantry make their assault. It's a war of attrition as one by one the tanks are picked off. The M113s make their overrun to little effect, then hide in the city. That pesky (H) in Salt keeps disrupting the Syrian attack the whole game. At last the four Centurions in NW Irbid are destroyed leaving the hex with four wrecks. This denies a hex from which the Syrians can attack and gain the city bonus. Then the NE corner of Irbid falls into the hands of the Syrian infantry on T9.

The endgame arrives which means that the surviving Syrian infantry must get into their BTRs in an attempt to get off the map. They dash down the highway and are hit by the last few Hawker Hunters, then run the gauntlet of the AT gun and Jeep gun in Salt. One Jordanian infantry unit manages to hold out in southern Irbid and wins that hex for their King.

Final Result: Syria KIAs 15 Jordanian units and exits 22 units for 52 VPs. Jordan KIAs 30 Syrians and holds two city hexes for 80 VPs; another Major Victory for Jordan.

My Thoughts: The problem with playing solitaire is the airstrikes. Ordinarily, the target hex is recorded the turn before... but I've always let the fighters launch their Hellfires with total accuracy. The next time I play (a year from now) I think I'll roll a die for each airstrike with a 1/3rd chance of a miss. Also, I might rethink the infantry assault on Irbid. The infantry were sooo disrupted by the Salt howitzer that they might be better off just dismounting to avoid the main airstrike, then remounting for their dash off the southern edge. Keeping them safe and giving them time to work their way safely past the guns of Salt.

OR it might be best for the Syrian infantry to head for Salt and take that city. From there, even if their carrier units are destroyed, they can still crawl off the map for VPs.

So I've once again managed to keep the bird alive and happy for another year. He overlooked my wargaming prowess with awe and I'd occassionally feed him a seed or two as the game progressed. A good time was had by all.
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