1967: Sword of Israel
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
When we first released 1967: Sword of Israel, I was excited that the game had so many fine features:
• A new rules set (progenitor of Panzer Grenadier’s Fourth Edition) that very cleanly brought new elements into Panzer Grenadier for a new time period, yet still played in a very similar manner. Panzer Grenadier players can adapt to the Modern rules very easily.
• Fifty scenarios, covering all three fronts of the Six-Day War. The Arabs have numbers, the Israelis have morale – unbelievable morale, that if anything we understated in the game.
• A fine set of eight new maps.
• A huge set of playing pieces with great new artwork. We’ve replaced the laser-cut version the game originally included with a set of silky-smooth, die-cut pieces like those we’ve been using in boxed games for a while now. Gold Club members have a chance to pick these up separately.
We’ve made an adjustment to the playing pieces from the early edition: the Egyptian Army’s 21st “Palestinian” infantry division that fought to defend Gaza was not part of the Palestinian Liberation Army, but rather belonged to the Egyptian regular forces. So those troops are now represented by Egyptian pieces, which allows us to do away with the tiny partial sheet of pieces initially included in the game and go with four full-sized ones, enormously streamlining production.
The design of the pieces follows that of Panzer Grenadier: as with Infantry Attacks, our World War One sister series, I wanted all of the information to be in the same place so players can easily transition between one series and another.
There are some new features, but the pieces in Panzer Grenadier (Modern) are very similar to those of Panzer Grenadier. The Egyptians have their Eagle of Saladin, the Syrians the Hawk of Qureish, and the Israelis of course the Star of David. There’s some additional information: anti-aircraft ratings (like indirect fire, these can also be used for direct fire), a missile indicator for some units (the ones that have missiles), a designation for amphibious vehicles and another one for open-topped armored vehicles. The pieces retain their simple design, with just some tiny tweaks to how the information is presented – we haven’t larded them with additional stuff.
But the coolest aspect of the new counters is the counters themselves. They’re die-cut, but unlike the die-cut pieces of the previous century, they’re pretty much smooth on both sides – they lack the massive damage from getting hit with a die seen on traditional game pieces. Since they’re smooth on both sides, we’ve added a little colored line across the back so you can tell the front from the back.
There are a lot of pieces: 672 combat units and leaders, and 197 markers. I think that’s right. Anyway, it’s a lot of cardboard. You get the full array for Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
And then we have maps. Eight of them, by Guy Riessen, who’s actually pretty famous in the video game and movie special effects communities, but is known around here for his work on South Flank, Horn of Africa, Saipan and other games.
The maps are fully compatible with Panzer Grenadier: they’re numbered in the same sequence (64 through 71 in this case) and have all the usual things in the usual places. They depict the sort of terrain you’d expect, with a new twist for Panzer Grenadier: a two-map hill (necessary for the Golan Heights battles). There’s another cool new map feature (and of course special rules to go with it): the steep hill. It’s just what it sounds like, a hill that jumps more than one height increment at a time (say, 40 meters to 80 meters). Again, that feature’s going to be needed on the Golan Heights.
The Panzer Grenadier (Modern) series rules are very similar to Panzer Grenadier’s Fourth Edition rules. They add a slew of new concepts: missiles, supply, helicopters, jamming, NBC defense and much more. There’s a summary of the changes here.
And of course there are the scenarios. Would it be an Avalanche Press game without a thick book of fun scenarios? Fifty of them this time, covering all the major battles of the Six Day War. There are fierce infantry fights and massive tank battles, and scenarios both large and small.
The Israelis are good. Not just good, but awesome: morale is incredibly high, leadership is plentiful and extremely competent. Their weapons are a mixed bag: on the one hand, some excellent modern weapons like the modified M48A2 tank bearing the deadly British-made L7 105mm rifled cannon, and on the other, World War II leftovers like the M3 halftrack.
The Jordanians are the best of the Arabs. They have modern equipment, much of it American-made, like the M113 armored personnel carrier and the M48 tank. Man for man, their troops aren’t much below the Israelis and would hold up very well against anyone else. Unfortunately for King Hussein’s men, they aren’t fighting anyone else. And in common with the other Arab armies, their leaders just aren’t very good.
And when you get to the other Arab armies, leadership gets even worse. Arab societies certainly produce brave and skilled fighting men, but the Arab regimes of 1967 did not want those men anywhere near the levers of power. The cowardly and incompetent were often intentionally promoted to make sure that the units they commanded would never pose a threat to the ruling class. And so Arab leadership in 1967: Sword of Israel plunges to depths never before seen in Panzer Grenadier games.
Egypt has some very good units, and a fair amount of modern equipment (T55 and Centurion tanks). They also field some troops that are not very good, and some older gear. Syria’s soldiers are not as good as the Egyptians, and rely mostly on weapons of the Great Patriotic War like the T34/85 (and even some immobile PzKw IV tanks bought from France and Spain in the early 1960’s).
Sword of Israel is currently the largest game in our catalog, though as the company recovers its former glory that might not always be the case. It’s packed with fun stuff, and we’ll be returning to the Panzer Grenadier (Modern) series for more.
Don’t wait to put 1967: Sword of Israel on your game table! Join the Gold Club and find out how to get it before anyone else!
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.