Tuesday 11 April 2023

Golan Heights tank battle: Nafah (1973) (oh, and Ramillies again)

The long Easter weekend provided a rare opportunity for a game with Bob Mackenzie. As I'm getting plenty of BBB horse and musket action at OWS these days, I put in a bid for a tank battle and Bob kindly obliged. (Earlier in the week I also got another go at Ramillies - see brief report at foot of this post.)

The setting was the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Bob's scenario can be found along with many other good things on his website. The scenario depicts the action around the Israeli base at Nafah on the Golan Heights on the second day of the war. The Syrians have broken through on this southern sector of the Golan and are hooking right to cut off the Israeli defenders on the northern sector. The Israelis are responding by frantically scrambling troops from all directions to fill the gap.

It's a classic contest of quantity versus quality: roughly four big Syrian brigades vs three small Israeli ones. Especially in the early moves, the Syrians have a big numerical advantage which they can exploit to envelop the few defenders who start on the pitch and to race towards undefended objectives on the far side of the table. However, it doesn't take much for the poor quality Syrian units to become spent and therefore much less useful in attack and very vulnerable in defence.

The 17 photos below tell the story of the game. They're followed as usual by my reflections arising from it. (And then by a brief Ramillies photo-AAR and more reflections on that too.)

View looking NW. All Syrians enter from SE (bottom table edge). They will find a couple of Israeli units in the middle of the table and a tiny garrison in Nafah (the buildings). Syrian objectives are Nafah, the three road exits at top, and the top right hill (Tel Avital).

Not sure which is more fearsome: Israeli Centurions, or Israeli artillery (in this case, M7 Priests). All the models in this game are from Bob's collection - mostly Heroics & Ros, I believe.

More Centurions, this time supported by M50 155mm - oh, and some recce jeeps (who will wisely enter the table last after the serious fighting is over)

Had to give these exotic creatures a pic of their own: T-34/122, a Syrian conversion.

The meat and potatoes: Syrian T-62s (there were also a lot of T-55s).

On Turn 1 my 51st Brigade tried to bully the isolated Israeli delaying force. Sukhoi Su-7B joins the fun. Unfortunately the Centurions have us outnumbered more than one to two ...

Same episode seen from the other side of the table.

Turn 3. The only Israeli units are the now damaged 266th Bn, 188 Bde HQ, and the Nafah garrison. The small 2-model 82nd Bde has been wiped out. However, most of my units are Disrupted (marked by craters) and the two at right and bottom of pic are Spent and Low on Ammo (marked by hospital tents and ammo crates). The poor quality Syrian units can't take nearly as much punishment as the Israelis.

Turn 4 and Israeli counter-attacks arrive from two directions, NW and SW, hitting my front and left). Here comes the frontal hit - I think my mech bde miraculously survived this time but still had to fall back.

The hit from the left was brutal and soon put paid to any ideas I might have had about storming Nafah. The quality difference gave the Israelis a +2 advantage in every assault and fire combat. This is huge on 2D6. Oh, and my Sukhois are done for the day and it is time for Israeli Skyhawks to arrive.

The metaphorical and literal high point of the Syrian attack: 43 Bde's Mech Bn ensconces itself on the top of the Tel Avital objective and sets up its Sagger missile launchers. 

Turn 6, the halfway mark. Most of my force mills around in the middle of the table. The Syrians are all rated Passive, a -1 penalty on all their activation rolls when in good order. That doesn't half slow your blitzkrieg down. No such problems on the Israeli side as their 96th Tank Bn ploughs on through my left flank. 

By now, the Israelis have got four artillery units into action. Here we see those M50s close up. All that firepower was devastating.

Turn 7. Not so many Syrian green unit labels visible now, and more white Israeli ones are pushing forward from the left of pic and in the centre. Two arty bns park on the road exits at top edge. One joins the Skyhawks in obliterating my hilltop battalion, top right. So much for that objective.

It was one-way traffic for the next three turns as the Centurions steamrollered my disorganised, outflanked, rubbish formations. Turn 10 sees me commit my last intact unengaged tank battalion - unengaged because it failed to move for four successive turns despite the bde HQ being next to it ... every artillery piece and aircraft in Israel opens up to make sure it's not going anywhere. Holding zero objectives meant I was one short of a draw. I can console myself with the fact that it's still a pretty historical result. Bob said I'd done better than he did when he played the Syrians.

In fairness, I had inflicted a dreadful toll in white metal alloy on Bob's force - no fewer than 8 strength points. That's a lot of damaged Centurions.

Against the Israelis' 8 SP lost, I think I count a mere 43 Syrian casualties. Clearly a Pyrrhic victory for the Israelis, then.


I do like tank games. As with C19 horse and musket, the mix of the three different major arms (infantry, armour, artillery) makes the tactics interesting and produces battles with depth and scope for manoeuvre - a good recipe for fast-moving games with changing situations.

Nice scenario. It's almost as though Bob follows his own advice - see his great essay on scenario design. Room for manoeuvre, grand tactical options for different plans, both sides having to move a lot, action across most of the table ...

Victory conditions: Bob did say he felt the victory conditions were too difficult for the Syrians. He has now adopted modified conditions based on my suggestion. The Syrians no longer have to hold objectives, they get victory points just for reaching/taking some 'high water mark' locations. The Israelis for their part get VPs by reaching locations along the Syrian baseline, representing the degree to which they cut off or crush the Syrian force. (And giving those Israeli jeeps something useful to do.)

Quality vs quantity: always a nice contrast. The game demonstrated very well how the quality difference produced the actual historical result. It prompted a long post-game discussion between us about the importance of leadership, right down to NCO level, as illustrated in many a conflict down the ages.

Knowing the rules helps. We were using Bob's WWII/Moderns adaptation of "Bloody Big Battles!", BBWW2B. On previous occasions I've enjoyed Bob's WWII and modern games but had to rely on Bob a lot because I found the rules a bit fiddly, I guess because of the wide variety of armour and anti-tank ratings and resulting complex interactions. This time, almost all the tanks were effectively the same, it was crew quality that made the difference, so I found it easier. Even so, ignorance cost me at times: eg, if I had known my Saggers were so useless and my infantry so vulnerable, I might have had 43 Mech Bn hide behind the objective rather than on top of it.

Beautiful models. Bob is a craftsman and it is a pleasure to play his games and use his armies.


Now let us step back nearly 300 years to the War of the Spanish Succession. Matt reran the scenario we played last August (AAR here). This time I commanded the French left wing. AAR in the photo captions, followed by further reflections.

Initial French set-up before the allies deploy. Essentially: beefy garrisons in each of the three main objectives (fortified villages) and also in the village on the river on the right flank. Massed cavalry on the heights guard the open ground on our right. More cavalry in reserve behind our left wing.

The bourbon fleur-de-lys flutters gaily over Autre-Eglise, whose gallant defenders will soon become gallant attackers to threaten English-held Foulz.

Marshal Villeroi himself stands ready to hurl his cavalry reserve forward to support the attack on Foulz.

The allied dispositions are revealed, presaging determined and repeated assaults on Ramillies itself (lower left), with cavalry in support to push back our right wing.

How it ended up. Red labels are allies, pale labels are Franco-Bavarian. Left of pic, early high dice for my defenders' fire soon stymied any thought Matt had of taking Autre-Eglise. This encouraged Mark and me to commit reserves and push towards Foulz. However, the marshy valley and some deadly British volleys in return stalled us. Top left can be seen two British cavalry units who must have been commanded by the Duke of York, as all they did all battle was march slowly and with frequent halts to and fro along the Foulz ridge. Right centre: Ramillies fell to the fourth British assault, I think. Mark mounted a couple of counter-attacks but couldn't retake it. However, he did hang onto Taviers, and although his cavalry were pushed back they prevented the allied horse from breaking through to the road exit objective in our rear. Thus, the allies barely scraped a draw.


Linear warfare! With Matt's rule mods, this is a very different game. It becomes crucially important to plan a couple of moves ahead and ensure your troops are pointing in the right direction from the start. It definitely feels as though it captures the essence of 18th-century warfare. It certainly had us all pretending to have powdered our wigs and starched our lace so we could bow and flourish appropriately before inviting our opponents to fire first.

What to do with cavalry? I demonstrated again that I am a light infantryman at heart and should not be trusted with horse. (Just self-deprecating for effect - maybe I could have done better with them but I didn't do anything disastrous either.)

The fun factor of special units. In amongst all the regular field and light artillery, Matt mixed in a couple of units of siege guns and mortars with special capabilities. Siege guns rated Devastating but had to reload (miss a shot) after every shot; mortars negated one column shift for cover. Players had fun firing with these and trying to nullify them.

Beautiful models (again) - just a feast for the eyes.


  1. Hi. Are the ratings for the AFV’s in this scenario available? The BBBWW2 seems only to have WW2 kit.


    1. Follow the link in the scenario to the Order of Battle. There's a full data table there. https://bobmack3d.com/bob/Golan%20Nafah%20OB.htm

  2. Interesting battles. I have to give the Marlburian variant a try. The miniature basing of the Golan game looks interesting. Are they thin cardboard with miniatures put on top instead of glued on? And if so, how fiddly is it to move them around?

    1. Robust 3"x3" card bases (smaller for HQs or units <3 SP), easy to move, not fiddly. The models act as strength points and sit loose so they can be removed as casualties are incurred.


Comments welcome!