Thursday, 29 September 2016

October War....

Why it is brilliant!

October War (OW) is one of those SPI games that has lurked in my memory for nearly 40 years. It appeared in a 1977 issue of Strategy and Tactics magazine. It currently resides in an SPI flat plastic box with three other significant S&T games from the same era (Cobra, Kharkov and Ney vs. Wellington). All of these games were played in my youth with friends, all of them were real classic player's games. 

40 years seems a lifetime ago. In historical terms, OW was a description of current events. The Yom Kippur War had taken place only in 1973. Data was derived largely from open source reporting. In warfare terms we see Shermans and Centurions vs T55s and Saggers. The first war featuring massive use of anti-tank missiles. In game terms this is the descendent of Panzer Blitz via Panzer 44 and Mech War 77. 

So why do I think this is game is so great?

  • All units are platoons (see above) and linked very much to their real world prototypes. It feels like you are playing with real units. This is reinforced by the use of step reduction rather than an abstract disruption status caused by combat. When a unit has taken casualties you know it is down to one tank!
  • It has multiple scenarios based on the Sinai and Golan Front battles. These are historical rather than abstract. There are also two multi-scenario campaign games, one for each front.  
  • The sequence of play is integrated: The turn starts with a direct fire phase, each side takes it in turn to fire one unit. Who goes first is a 50:50 die roll. This is followed by a similar movement phase for units that have not already fired. This includes opportunity fire. Each player makes choices all the time.
  • Any unit attempting to move or fire has to roll for "panic". An SPI fetish with very random panic results. In this game it makes every decision fraught with uncertainty, despite issues with the concept (its a bit gamey!), it works.
  • Overruns can be attempted. Who goes first in an overrun depends on a die roll 1-5 Israeli and 6 Arab. A massive incentive for the Israelis to use overruns and disincentive for the Arabs. Every now and again the Arabs get to shoot first, much to the surprise of the Israelis.  
  • Indirect fire is pre-plotted in advance.
  • Combat effects include step losses and suppression
  • There is no melee, all combat is fire combat.
The fact that this game has remained so firmly fixed in my mind after all these years is due simply to the fact that it is unpredictable and very very realistic. You can feel the heat and smell the smoke.

The Golan 73 game has set me off down this road again. I can't see why this approach was not retrofitted to Panzer Blitz/Leader. Compared to OW, Arab Israeli Wars by AH was a developmental dead end. I wonder if we can use OW in a miniatures game? Hmmmmh!

There are more details about the game, including the rules, on BGG. One very nice thing is some great scenario cards......

Fantastic stuff!


Duc de Gobin said...

I was a kid when I played (and lost) this. It did leave its impression too.

You make a good point about using with miniatures. I must check this out, it's a nice scale and was way ahead of its time.

Conrad Kinch said...

Interesting. I think you'd have to use 1/300 if you wanted to use miniatures?

Norm said...

A pleasant blast from the past ..... Cobra was my introduction to board gaming. I just happened as a teenager to find a shop that had wonderful things on its shelves and the rest as they say is history!

Disgruntled Fusilier said...

This is good stuff, Trousers.
My own thoughts on the PB/PL/AIW games, and also the SPI games as miniatures games are they would make a splendid set of rules for minis. (I attempted this with Mechwar '77).

I would urge you to check out 2 potential resources:

GHQ's WW2 Microarmor and Modern Microarmor rules which are, in my humble opinion, the manifestation of both of those sets of above-mentioned rules in miniatures rules form. The influence of Jim Dunnigan is easily grasped while you're reading them, especially in the weapons performance vrs defensive value CRT. You can actually download them for free in color on GHQ's website now.

Also, there is a guy out there named Dan Fraser (his link is on my blog) who made a PB/PL/AIW for Miniatures variant that is quite good as wargames go.

Peter said...

Based upon some of the rule mechanism mentioned they do appear to be an interesting set to take and use the rules on the table top. 6mm would appear to be the likely scale based upon the scenario page shown and the number of units (printed in red I think - I could be wrong). It makes one think there could be one or two other SPI game rules which could be used for table top gaming. Regards, Peter

Old Trousers said...

Hi all,

Thanks everyone for your comments. I think it is interesting that this game resonates with so many people. I will apply some deep thought to this. There is a unique combination here of unit numbers/density, scale of battle field and game effects. I'd like to replicate the feeling rather than replicate the game. A project for the autumn I think!