1967: Sword of Israel
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
We brought out the first, very limited edition of Panzer Grenadier (Modern): 1967 Sword of Israel soon after the revival of the new Avalanche Press, initially using the first generation of laser-cut pieces. It was a very large game, probably too large for us to handle at the time, but it was ready for production and somehow we made it happen.
Five years later I still haven’t fully recovered from the head-smacking frustrations. Management at the firm that made the playing pieces was very eager for our business; the guys actually doing the work, much less so. The laser-cut was a torturously slow process, about two minutes per sheet (which sounds fast until you do the math on 500 sets of five sheets each) so I of course wanted the pieces cut in sets: Sheet 1, then Sheet 2 until you have a full set, then ship us a box full of full sets. Oh no. They cut every copy of Sheet 1 first and shipped them. Then they started on Sheet 2. Having endured the exact same passive-aggressive rebellion at the old Avalanche Press I knew what was happening; that knowledge only made the frustration run deeper. And I knew that if I shared the actual reason for the delays with our own customers, it would only get worse.
So I think that production trauma kept me from really appreciating what a fine game we had in Sword of Israel. And now that we’re bringing it back into print with the fine silky-smooth, die-cut pieces it always deserved, I can finally enjoy this achievement.
The new edition of Sword of Israel is pretty similar to the old one, which we sold only direct from our website (the laser-cut pieces came with such an extreme price tag that we couldn’t afford to sell the game through retail). It does have beautiful silky-smooth pieces. We call them that because first, the material takes ink really well – we’ve had to improve some of our older artwork because the sharp reproduction exposes flaws once invisible to the eye.
The silkiness comes from a coating applied to them that feels like silk (it isn’t actual silk).
The smoothness comes from the method by which they are cut: ultra-sharp blades that require far less force than traditional die-cutting, which smashes its blades into the cardboard with enormous power that cuts through but also leaves deep indentations on the front of the sheet (the side that gamers and game artists treat as the back, a source of confusion between printer and publisher since the dawn of hex-and-counter games).
Both sides of these pieces are smooth, or nearly so. Enough that we have to place a little stripe across the back, else it would be hard to tell just by feel.
The number of pieces has dropped by 40 from the first edition, with the reduction coming from the removal of the “Palestinian” pieces. The 20th Infantry Division was a unit of the Egyptian National Army, not the Palestine Liberation Army (which did not field military units in the 1967 war, as all of the Arab frontline regimes preferred to keep armed units under their own control). It was recruited in the Gaza Strip and its rank-and-file were Palestinian, and always had an unusual semi-autonomous existence in the Egyptian command structure. But it had Egyptian officers for the most part, and those Palestinians serving as officers held Egyptian commissions.
The “Palestinian” division is better represented in the two scenarios in which it appears by Egyptian National Army pieces. Swapping out Palestinian for Egyptian pieces also required some minor adjustments to those two scenarios, so the new edition does not have the same scenario book as the first version.
There are still a lot of pieces: 869 of them, including markers. You get lots of Israelis and lots of Egyptians, plus smaller numbers of Jordanians and Syrians. The pieces are designed like those of Panzer Grenadier, with the same values in the same places, but since this is Panzer Grenadier (Modern) there are a few new values (like anti-aircraft fire, or amphibious capability) and many more units have anti-tank strengths including almost all infantry-type units.
Otherwise, the game is the same fine product we brought out in 2012. It’s a big game; the challenges of bringing it through production have convinced me that I should have split it into at least two smaller games when we originally issued it.
At the center of the game, as in any of our tactical series, is the set of 50 scenarios. Forty-nine of them cover the battles waged on the Sinai, West Bank and Gola Heights fronts in 1967; the last is devoted to the planned Israeli airborne assault on Sharm el-Sheikh on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula (it has its own song, so it couldn’t very well have been left out).
The remainder of the scenarios are larger than the typical Panzer Grenadier battle: Israeli success in 1967 in large part depended on getting there first with the most. They crammed a lot of tanks into a little area, and the Arabs tried (unsuccessfully, for the most part) to counter them the same way. That makes for battle with dozens of tank platoons on each side – in other words, exactly what you’ve always wanted.
The Israelis are tough: they often have numbers, artillery and air power on their side and their morale is about that of Imperial Guard Grenadier Parachute Marines. The Arabs are doing pretty well when they can just hang on; only the Jordanians are relatively competent. But the Israelis face a very short deadline to win their war, knowing that the superpowers will impose a ceasefire very quickly.
Panzer Grenadier (Modern) plays very much like Panzer Grenadier, with some more modern stuff added. You can read a comparison of the series rules here. The tank battles are massive, eclipsing those of our two Kursk games and likely only to be rivalled by those in the upcoming games on the 1973 War of Atonement.
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.