Monday, June 13, 2016

Botzer, 1973

After a bit of a hiatus on the 3mm gaming front lately, I finally had an opportunity last night to get some minis on the table for a game with my buddy John. This time I got out my Desert terrain for some Arab-Israeli War action. I consulted my AIW scenario book From Golan to Sinai from Clash of Arms Games and found a scenario that would fit the bill.

The Scenario is "Botzer" from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, pitting an Egyptian Armoured Brigade trying to make a breakthrough along the shores of the Great Bitter Lake against two Israeli Armoured Battalions. Nothing too complex - lots of tanks, a little bit of infantry on the Egyptian side and pretty much no artillery or air (the Egyptians had their Infantry battalion's mortars, but they hardly count...). An old fashioned tank punch-up!!

Although the scenario was written for the Clash of Armour rules, John and I would be using our go-to rules system Fistful of TOWs. We played the scenario basically as written with only minor translations across to fit our preferred rules system.

The Scenario map (turned on its side to align with the direction I took all the photos from).
The deployment edges for the various Israeli and Egytian units are shown on the map:

And here is my version using Kallistra Hexon terrain in Desert flock.
The Great Bitter Lake is in the W, with the road skirting around it.
A number of ridgelines in the E provide good defensive terrain
and ambush positions for the Israelis.
The Israelis had:

Giora Battalion:
Company of 3x M-48A5
Company of 3x M-48A5
Company of 2x M-48A5

Ze'Evik Battalion:
Company of 2x M-48A5
Company of 2x M-48A5
Company of 3x M-113 w/TOW (ie. M-150)

The Egyptians had:

25th Armoured Brigade:
1st Battalion of 10x T-62
2ndBattalion of 10x T-62
3rd Battalion of 10x T-62
Mechanised Battalion of 9x Infantry in BMP-1, 1x 82mm Mortar in Truck

The Egyptian mission was to breakthrough along the road and exit units (battalions) to the north. The Egyptians earned 3 VPs per Israeli Battalion destroyed, and 3 VPs per Egyptian unit exited off the N table edge.

The Israeli mission was to prevent the Egyptian victory conditions above. The Israelis got 2 VPs per Egyptian battalion destroyed, and 2 VPs per Egyptian unit still on table at game end. The game length was 9 turns. The scenario map is drawn at 1" = 50m scale, therefore to maintain its balance and distances, we played using that scale. The 1"=50m scale is actually an option in the FFT rules (the usual scale for FFT is 1" = 100m, but the rules allow you to play at 1" = 50m by doubling range and move measurements, or at 1cm = 100m for large games).

The game went like this.

The battlefield after the first turn moves:
The Egyptians advance along the axis of the road from S to N.
The Egyptians were required (by the scenario special rules) to stay
within 12" of the road until they had spotted any Israelis.
The Israelis move in from the N and E, to take up hull-down positions on high ground.

The Egyptian advance astride the road. From L to R:
2nd Battalion, 1st Battalion, 3rd Battalion, and MR Battalion following.
'Guarding the gates' - a company of Israeli M48s
takes up hull-down positions on the low ridgelines either side of the road. 

First blood to the Israelis - the lead T-62s of the 1st Battalion are engaged and destroyed.  

The Egyptian Brigade's Motor Rifle battalion dismount
to attack the Ze'Evik Tank Battalion's TOW Company.

Egyptian T-62s of the 1st Battalion lead the column.
The lead elements come under fire, but also destroy several Israeli tank platoons.

Egyptian T-62s of the 1st Battalion advance up the road past a farm.

M-48 company of the Ze'Evik Battalion are destroyed by the Egyptian 3rd Battalion.

Having revealed themselves on the Egyptian flank, the Israelis are
subject to a storm of Egyptian return fire. Hull-down positions helped the Israelis,
but they still suffered quite a few casualties from massed volley fire.
The only artillery in the game was a company of Egyptian mortars,
which fired smoke in the centre, to obscure some of the Israeli tank shooting.

Egyptian infantry from the Mech Battalion
move forward dismounted to assault the TOW company.

Israeli M-48s on the high ground.

A company of M-48s of the Giora Battalion take up
hull-down positions on a ridgeline in the centre. 

The (largely intact) 2nd Battalion of T-62s closes the gap on the Giora Battalion
M-48 Company in the centre. Despite the Egyptian's poor gunnery ('Fair' qualtity),
volley fire from a full battalion at close range takes out several platoons of M-48s.

The Egyptian BMP-1s of the Mech Battalion roll up onto the flank of Ze'Evik battalion,
pinning the TOW launchers (which had withdrawn previous turn), and
destroying the remaining M48 platoon with a volley of 73mm shots into their flank. Ouch!

M48s of the Giora Battalion redeploy to plug the holes.

The remaining Israeli M48s of the Giora Battalion move up onto the ridgeline.
(destroyed tanks in the rear were actually previously destroyed on the same position,
but have been placed aside to make space).

The Israelis take out half the remaining T-62s of the Egyptian 1st Battalion.
This tips the battalion over the threshold requiring a 2/3 Quality Check.
The QC is promptly failed and the remainder of the battalion withdraws from the field in haste. 

The scenario ended up being quite well balanced, even using a different rules system. At the end of the Egyptian's turn two it looked like the mass of Egyptian troops would simply have sufficient weight of numbers to smash through. But by the end of Israeli turn two, the game swung back their way. Then in turn three the game swung first to the Egyptians and then the Israelis in their 'last throw of the dice', put all their remaining forces on the line for a final push, and in an all out effort they did just enough to clinch victory for the Israelis. If this final Israeli volley had not succeeded in breaking one of the remaining Egyptian battalions, then the Egyptians probably would have been able to finish off the remaining exposed Israelis. So it was a good game that swung back and forth.

As it turned out, the Israelis had broken all three of the Egyptian tank battalions, which meant 3/4 of the Egyptians' battalions were broken (over 2/3 of their total force), forcing a formation Quality Check. The Egyptians subsequently passed their formation QC, and the Mech battalion fought on, but to no avail. They destroyed the Israeli TOW company, completing the destruction of the Ze'Evik battalion. However, they were then subsequently destroyed by the remaining Israeli tanks of the Giora Battalion.

In a very bloody battle, the final result was 6 VPs to the Israelis (for 3 Egyptian battalions destroyed), and 3 VPs to the Egyptians (for 1 Israeli battalion destroyed). No Egyptian battalions were able to break through.

The T-62s and M48A5s (Magach 3s) were pretty closely matched. It was only the superior quality of the Israeli crews, their slightly better range and rate of fire that gave the Israeli tanks the edge. This was coupled with favourable defensive terrain allowing hull-down positions, allowing the Israelis to negate the Egyptian quantative advantage.

The Israelis almost clutched defeat from the jaws of victory by deploying immediately and committing their units piecemeal to the fight. By moving into firing positions in turn one, they became visible to the advancing Egyptians, allowing them to react and manouever early, as well as return fire. Perhaps the Israelis would have been better off moving all of their forces into position in dead-ground behind the ridgelines in turn one, then moving up en-masse to deliver a devestating round of coordinated fire in turn two? They stopped the Egyptians and won the game anyway, but could probably have avoided a lot of casualties this way. Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say!

The post-battle aerial shot - carnage!!


  1. Nice report and great photos - as always! Thanks for sharing Bish & it's good to see a scenario working well for a different ruleset, shows it's been designed well

  2. Good report, was there an option for the IDF to have waited and taken the Egyptians in the flank and rear.

    1. Hey Jon, yep definitely. I think it would have worked better (for the IDF) if they'd hidden in dead ground, waited for a turn or two until the Egyptians were well and truly strung out right along the road, then moved up onto the high ground and let the Egyptians have it in the flank!!

  3. thanks for sharing, very inspiring. I have just put up on my blog a battalion of Israelis.