Review – Days of Battle: Golan from Victory Point Games

Golan Slipcover (Front) v0-4

Review – Days of Battle: Golan  from Victory Point Games

Design – Frank Chadwick

Art – Tim Allen, Alan Emrich, Barry Pike III

I remember being at Uni at the time of what became known as The October War. I remember that the western nations held their breath as the Israeli’s faced the attack on 2 fronts. As the USA was a strong ally of Israel, we were glued to the news, hoping beyond hope that Israel would survive the onslaught. There are very few games covering the 1973 attacks on Israel so I was very interested to see a treatment of the 1973 Syrian offensive through the Golan Heights covered in their Days of Battle system. And, what’s more, Days of Battle: Golan is designed by the legendary Frank Chadwick.

From the rulebook –

The Syrian Army’s attack against Israel on the Golan Heights, in October of 1973, caught the Israeli Defense Force by surprise. From the afternoon of 6 October through the morning of 10 October, the
issue hung in the balance. Several times it seemed as if nothing could stop the Syrians from sweeping down into the Jordan River valley and placing all of Northern Israel in artillery range again. Then arriving Israeli reservists gained the upper hand and in a powerful counteroffensive broke the Syrian
Army and sent it streaming back across the pre-war ceasefire line. The first several critical days of that struggle are the subject of Days of Battle: Golan Heights.

This is one of those knife-edge historical situations where the survival of a nation was in the balance. A very interesting scenario for a war game.

Unboxing

•    One 12-page, full color Rulebook

•    One exclusive 16-page, full color Campaign Manual by Frank Chadwick (This is a really nice bonus)
•    One 11” x 17” map
•    75 thick, two-sided, multi-shaped game pieces
•    24 Event cards
•    One Player Aid
•    One Turn Record / Reinforcement Track sheet
•    One 6-sided 12mm die
•    One 11” x 17” mounted, jigsaw-cut game map
•    One bright red, 9″ x 11 7/8″ Deluxe cardboard VPG game box
•    One beautiful box cover sleeve
The game map is nicely done and really portrays the difficult terrain in the Golan Heights. Not ideal tank country, yet the Israeli’s needed to rely on their armoured units for survival. The most defensible terrain is at the front with the Israeli bunkers very useful in clogging the movement of the Syrians. If the Syrians break through though, they can flex their muscles a bit more to make things very difficult for Israel. As you might guess, this is not a game of sweeping manoeuvre but a desperate slugfest, with the Syrians trying to weaken and destroy the Israelis early before they can call-up their reserves to stabilise the situation.

Golan map v1-0

The Event cards are a good size and quality. The events are historical and very interesting, bringing a lot a flavour for what went on during the battle and certainly giving you a good idea of the variables that impacted the ebb and flow. Both sides will need to play these cards wisely.

Golan_cardsample_1

The die-cut coounters are very nicely done. The units are very clear and easily read. There are different sized information counters which are easily identifiable and the suppressed counters have combat photos on them which is a really nice touch.

Golan - Counters (front) v0-3

All in all, Victory Point Games have done an excellent job in their graphic design choices and are setting a high standard which I hope continues. Visual appeal is a factor in enjoying war games and also helps to bring the game to life. Bravo!

A bonus included with the game is a a nicely done and interesting Campaign Manual written by Frank Chadwick.

Top marks to VPG for the standard and quality of the components.

Now onto the gameplay…

Gameplay

Daylight Player Turn
1. Build-Up Phase: The active player draws a card and either plays it at once or holds it for later play. He then declares which of his divisions will conduct operations (be “Operational”) and which will be Resting. The player then receives Reinforcements and Replacements.

The Event cards provide a variety of historical events that occurred or could have occurred and allows for elements that just aren’t predictable once battle is underway which to me adds to the historical feel and replayability of Golan. I also like the idea that you have to declare which units will be conducting operations and which are resting as it feels to me like you are making judgements for the immediate turn and for the future turns as you try and keep refreshing units to sustain the fight. No mean feat.

2. Movement Phase

Zones of control impact movement, combat and lines of communication and I really like the Israeli bunker rules which really give the Syrians problems in getting their offensive started and shows the stalling impact the small units holding the bunkers had on the battle.
3. Combat Phase

The game turn process that Frank Chadwick has come up with is a bit different as his intention is to demonstrate the differences in effects between Light (Paratroopers, Infantry) Mixed (Mechanised) and Heavy (Armor) units and so each has its own combat phase. In addition, defending units may only fire defensively if they are being fired upon which is an interesting twist from the usual in war games.

3A. All non-active player units can conduct a Defensive First Fire

3B. Heavy units of both sides fire.

3C. Mixed units of both sides fire 

3C. Mixed units of both sides fire
3D. Light units of both sides fire

Terrain effects combat which is calculated as a firepower ratio. Also, there are differences in how effective units are in combat in daytime or night. Light units, flourish at night. Very interesting and reflects the historical situation. Very nice. Losses are in steps so units become weaker as they take damage.

4. Advance the Turn marker and conduct

Next Player Turn 

Night Player Turn
1. Build-Up Phase
2. Movement Phase
3. Combat Phase
3A. Light Units of both sides fire
3B. Mixed Units of both sides fire
3C. Heavy units of both sides fire
4. Advance the Turn Marker and conduct next Player Turn

Unlike other games where you can just send in and attack with any old units, you need to think about which units you are using to get the best effect. The weakness of armor and advantage of Infantry at night is interesting.

Administrative Phase

There is a reasonable amount of meat here for seasoned war gamers and yet, the rules are concise and not very complex so less experienced gamers can come to grips relatively easily.

HOW TO WIN
The Syrian player wins if, in the Administrative Phase of any Game Turn, Syrian units occupy any three of the Victory hexes and there is a line of communication stretching from the unit back to a Syrian map edge. This results in an Immediate Victory for the Syrian player. Failing this, victory is determined by the number of Town hexes (not Villages) and/or Victory star hexes controlled by the Syrian player at the end of the last Game Turn.
The Syrian player wins by controlling two or more Towns or star hexes. If the Syrian player Controls one Town or star hex, the game ends in a draw, and if the Syrians Control no Towns or star hexes, the game ends as an Israeli victory.

So victory is about taking objectives, not about destroying units although of course you need to damage the enemy enough to render them ineffective so you can grab the victory objectives.

Overall, it took me a little getting used to but I quickly found the process easy to follow. It worked very well and plays relatively quickly. The combat effects chart works well and after a few battles, will work comfortably.

Did I enjoy Days of Battle: Golan?

I love operational games in the ww2 and post ww2 eras as there is a step up in technology and weaponry and Golan fits the bill for me. It is such an interesting battle and Frank Chadwick has taken an interesting situation in its own right and turned it into an interesting reflection of the historical situation. It is very playable without too much granular depth. Golan gives you a real appreciation of just how close Israel came to disaster as well as how the Syrians could punch their weight although there were doctrinal restrictions which hampered them such as not being able to fight with other units than their own where Israeli military doctrine allowed more flexibility.

There is a real ebb and flow to the battle and victory hangs on a knife edge. the Syrian player need to make things happen early or the inevitable Israeli build up will catch up with them. The Israelis are nimble and tough, even with less units and have to make the Syrians pay for every piece of territory gained until they can bring on strong reinforcements. No guarantees for either side, thats for sure.

This is a tough, nailbiter of a dog fight with breakthroughs, bottlenecks, heroic defence and attacks throwing caution to the winds. The tension and choices are just right. The Event cards add some interesting twists and surprises and can really frustrate or thrill you. Most of all this is a really fun war game and I highly recommend it as one of the best I’ve played in a while.

If you have an interest in the Arab Israeli conflict, I would say that Days of Battle: Golan is a must buy.

My final comment is – Mr. Chadwick, how about a game on the Egyptian assault in the Sinai during the same war?

For more information go to –

http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=251

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