1967: Sword of Israel
Scenario Preview, Part 2
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
When I started to revise the scenarios of Panzer Grenadier (Modern): 1967: Sword of Israel, I had this vision that it would be a fairly simple task. I often forget that in wargame publishing, nothing is ever simple. Nothing.
The Playbook edition of 1967 Sword of Israel now follows the chapter structure of our more recent Panzer Grenadier games, with the scenarios helping to move the narrative forward and then a battle game at the end of the scenario to tie them together. You don’t have to play all of the scenarios, but if you do, you have a set of operational victory conditions to measure overall performance.
The battle games work best when all of the scenarios within the chapter have the same type of victory conditions; at the very least, they need Major and Minor victory levels for each side. In the first edition most of them didn’t, and since I had to change that for those, I did so for all of them. And once you’ve decided to alter the victory conditions, that means developing the scenario all over again.
That wasn’t a bad thing; the scenario set is vastly improved by that treatment. It probably wasn’t the best investment of my working hours, but it bothered me to reprint a game that wasn’t as good as it could be.
So let’s delve into Chapter Two’s scenarios.
Sinai: Phase One
Israeli Centurion tanks on exercises, just before the Six-Day War.
The initial Israeli attack on the Egyptian Sinai Field Army depended on overwhelming force at the key points of attack, which the IDF delivered. The Egyptians, despite days of rising political tension, were for the most part caught unprepared for actual hostilities. While individual Egyptian units rallied and fought back, army commander Field Marshal Abd el Hakim Amir had decided to visit the front lines and was caught at Bir Thamada air base along with most of the Field Army’s senior commanders. Temporarily cut off from secure communications, with key subordinates away from their units, Amir could only watch as his army faced disaster.
5-6 June 1967
The Jiradi Pass, a 14-kilometer-long defile along the coastal road, leads northwest into the south side of El Arish. A reinforced Egyptian infantry brigade dug in with three lines supported by barbed wire emplacements, minefields, and fortified pillboxes. At 1430, elements of Israeli Tank Battalion 82 rolled down the center of the defile, past unaware or unbelieving Egyptians. Only at the last minute did the defenders open fire on the tail end of the Israeli column as it raced past, inflicting few casualties despite the overwhelming Egyptian numbers. At 1630 elements of Tank Battalion 77 rolled up and got a different sort of welcome; the Israelis tried twice to forge ahead through a hail of fire and failed, falling back to cover until nightfall and reinforcements arrived. At midnight they tried again.
Despite the darkness, the Israeli forces charged in boldly, while IAF aircraft bombed and strafed marked targets. They met solid resistance, as for once the Egyptians did not have to contend with Israeli tactical mobility they could not hope to match. Finally outflanked, the Egyptians still would not yield until the next day when Israeli paratroopers cleared every defensive post in hand-to-hand combat.
While Egyptian numbers are strong, they’re constricted by a very limited setup that will allow the Israelis to defeat them in detail. The Israelis come at them from two sides, with one force much stronger than the other. This is going to be tough for the Egyptians, but the Israelis have to achieve a great deal in order to win.
5 June 1967
Aluf Mishne Shadmi of General (Tat Aluf) Yoffe’s Ugdah (31st Armored Division) led his 200th Armored Brigade down the twisting and boulder-strewn Wadi Haridin toward Bir Lahfan. Egyptian staff officers believed the area impassable to vehicles, and neither 7th Infantry Division to the north of the wadi nor 2nd Infantry Division to its south spread their front to cover the gap. Israeli scouting reports from the 1956 war claimed that the area could be penetrated, though only with great difficulty, and just before the war began Israeli Gen. Ariel Sharon found (or at least later claimed to have found) the sketches buried in the IDF’s archives. Shadmi expected to encounter no defenders, but to the Israelis’ surprise they found some Egyptians waiting at the end of the wadi.
The wadi might as well have been left undefended: the Israeli Centurions drove straight at the Egyptians, shrugging off their fire. In fairly short order, the Israeli column was rolling onward toward Bir Lahfan to form the southern arm of a devastating pincer attack.
It’s just a small scenario, with limited forces on one board. The Israeli Centurions come bursting onto one end of the board against a tiny force of Egyptian National Guardsmen. The Egyptians merely have to hold on to win this one, but that’s not going to be easy.
5 June 1967
In the late afternoon of June 5th, Sgan Aluf “Natke” Nir’s Centurion 226th Tank Battalion of Aluf Mishne Zippori’s 14th Armored Brigade sighted the critical road junction at Abu Agheila. It did not look heavily defended, so he requested and received permission to press the attack, though he was ordered not to sacrifice his unit in the attempt. Zippori was wise to include that cautionary order.
Natke was surprised by the stiff resistance, though he should not have been. Abu Agheila had been the site of fierce fighting in 1956, and the Egyptians had spent the past 11 years fortifying the area. The Israelis had spent the same period studying the crossroads and wargaming how to capture it – never assuming the Egyptians would leave it undefended. Natke’s battalion fell back into the dunes for cover, to await nightfall and try again.
Once again there’s just one board, but one with a great many troops and tanks crammed onto it. The Egyptians are much better here, with good tank support and morale, but those Israeli Centurions are just waddling fortresses. Once again the Egyptians are going to need to separate them from their infantry and try to destroy them in close combat. The Israelis are very short of foot soldiers, so that’s not an impossible task.
5-6 June 1967
While part of Aluf Mishne Shadmi’s 200th Armored Brigade maneuvered to engage a radar station on a fortified hill, the rest of the force rolled another three kilometers north and attacked the main defensive force at Bir Lahfan. Control of the crossroads would split the Egyptian defense of Sinai into three parts and block reinforcements from reaching the front lines.
The Israelis fought until a little after dark, but realized that the enemy force could not be easily routed. Aluf Mishne Shadmi’s men then maneuvered around the Egyptian National Guard brigade, set up a blocking position to guard their rear, and moved on to the west.
The Egyptian force isn’t the most enthusiastic – they’re National Guards inexplicably deployed into the front lines – and there are waves of Israelis to be repelled. Once again we cram a lot of troops onto the battlefield, the key to Israeli success in 1967. The IDF had a serious edge in numbers and fighting power in the Six-Day War, but multiplied that many times through concentration at the point of attack. This one’s a short-range bloodbath of a scenario.
6 June 1967
After maneuvering around the Egyptian force at Bir Lahfan, an Israeli Centurion company set out down the road toward Jebel Ligni to establish a delaying position and prevent or slow Egyptian reinforcements. Late that night the Sinai Field Army’s “Sword,” a greater portion of the 4th Tank Division, came rolling north blissfully unaware of the Israeli ambush.
The Israeli ambush disconcerted the Egyptians, and though they outnumbered the Israelis, they pulled back and waited until dawn. The Egyptians then formed up and charged, but were immediately attacked by IAF fighters. About an hour later, the lead elements of the Israeli 520th Armored Brigade hit the Egyptians in the flank. The combined pressure eventually led the remainder of the Egyptian brigades to withdraw to the south, but they did so in good order.
It’s another scenario with lots of tanks brawling on a small piece of ground, but Egyptian morale is more fragile than it looks – the baseline morale is pretty good, but every time a loss is suffered everyone nearby must take a morale check. Lose enough men and tanks, and those dice rolls will add up. On the other hand, the Israeli force is made up solely of tanks (Centurions, no less, with the awesome L7 cannon) while the Egyptians have a balanced force that can do some damage if they get close enough to assault.
You can order 1967: Sword of Israel (Playbook edition) right here.
Please allow an extra three weeks for delivery.
1967: Sword of Israel (Playbook)
IDF: Israel Defense Forces
Retail Price: $134.98
Package Price: $110
Gold Club Price: $88
You can experience the 1967 Package right here.
Please allow an extra three weeks for delivery.
Sign up for our newsletter right here. Your info will never be sold or transferred; we'll just use it to update you on new games and new offers.
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and his new puppy. He misses his Iron Dog, Leopold.
Want to keep Daily Content free of third-party ads? You can send us some love (and cash) through this link right here.