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Subject: A Review of The Battle for Jerusalem 1967 rss

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Swamp Hamster
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Title: The Battle for Jerusalem 1967

Basic information:
Designed by Mark Herman, SPI, 1977. The game was in the Modern Battles II system. My copy was purchased as an independent folio game upon release. Since this time period, Herman has been associated with designing many highly respected games including Churchill (GMT), Fire in the Lake (GMT), Empire of the Sun (GMT), Washington’s War (GMT), We the People (Avalon Hill), SPQR (GMT)...and a host of others. I must take a quick time out and offer praise for another of his 1977 SPI games -- Red Sun Rising. I admired the combined ground and naval warfare rules of this game. Good fun and it earned me brownie points with my girlfriend’s father in 1980.

Overall Evaluation: This was one of my favorite games in high school when it was released. While it is still a good game, hindsight permits a more critical examination. Despite the last statement, I still find it a good, fun, relatively quick-playing game although with caveats.

Why Review a game from 1977?: Because used copies are still available and every game deserves at least one, and preferably multiple reviews. That is what makes BGG a complete database of games. The purpose of my review is to add a few comments from my perspective as someone who played it multiple times upon release after 1977 and then ‘off and on’ across the years. Does it stand the test of time?

Background Theme: The game represents the Israeli offensive into the West Bank during the Six Day War in June 1967. After the opening of hostilities between Israel and Egypt, Jordan initiated air raids and an artillery barrage against Israel after being prompted by the Egyptian government. On June 5th, the Israelis launched a series of airstrikes that destroyed the Jordanian air force as well as Iraqi aircraft in the western region of that state. Israeli ground forces overcame stubborn Jordanian resistance to seize eastern Jerusalem. Initially, they did not plan to overrun the entire West Bank but did so over the next two days. The game covers the short but sharp campaign that resulted in the Israeli capture of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Format and Components: The game consists of a 17” x 22” map that covers the West Bank from a line just south of Bethlehem and running to the northern border with Israel. Jordanian and Israeli territory lying adjacent to the West Bank is also included on the map. The map is oriented with the Mediterranean Sea at the bottom and Jordan at the top of the page. Thus, it is turned 90 degrees to the left from geographical reality. The main Israeli offensives originate from the north and south so this map orientation aids game play. It is a standard thick paper map with fairly bland colors. The style is typical of SPI in the mid-to late 1970s. Despite the blandness, the map is functional and consists of the basic terrain of the area, roads, tracks, bridges, and towns. The counter sheet holds 100 counters which included NATO standard icons for unit types. Egyptian and Iraqi commando units in the conflict are included in the game with Jordanian units. The game was one of four included in the Modern Battles II Quad or available separately as a folio. All four of the Modern Battles II games could be played by the same standard four-page rules with added special rules. Thus, once a player learned the standard rules, he/she could play any of the four games after adding the game-specific exclusive rules. The exclusive rules for The Battle of Jerusalem were only 3 pages long. The fourth page included designer notes and outlines for two non-historical scenarios. Thus, these games were easy to learn; easy to play. The game also included a standard two page collection of charts and tables.

Abbreviated Play and Rules: The Battle of Jerusalem is a standard two-player hex-based SPI combat game of the mid-70s. Rules were simple and standardized with other games in a system as discussed above. The Standard Rules covered the basic counters, sequence of play, movement, zones of control, combat, artillery, and air power. The Exclusive Rules for The Battle of Jerusalem included movement issues associated with the Jordan River as well as mountain hexes, Israeli home defenses, garrison units and special rules for Jerusalem City hexes, Jordanian command and control, and the relief of Mount Scopus. The standard Modern Battles II sequence of play included a first player movement and then combat phase. During the combat phase, the second player may deliver protective fire in support of his/her units under attack. Then the cycle reverts to the second player.

Replay Value: Fair to good. Once having played a scenario two or three times, I found that I had seen nearly all it had to offer. However, the game did include three separate scenarios for experimentation (the historical and two non-historical). This does add to replayability along with House Rules...I like House Rules. A player can have fun changing history such as playing the game without the Israeli reinforcements or altering victory conditions. My favorite House Rule for this game is to make the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of all four bridges across the Jordan River a requirement for any level of Israeli victory.

Solo Play: Good. The game is designed to be two-player but is easily soloable if a player does not mind playing both sides.

Evaluation: Overall, I found the Battle for Jerusalem to be a good game. Here are a few items I like about this game:

a. The game is easy to learn and easy to play. I like the concept of a standardized game system which Decision Games continues in its Folio and Mini-Games series today. However, they can lead to over-simplification of a game compared to actual historical combat. But one size does not fit all in gaming and there is plenty of room in the hobby for highly detailed ‘monster’ games down to more simplified folio style games.

b. Very interesting topic. Games on the conflicts in the Sinai and Golan Heights are fairly common. One just does not find games focused exclusively on the Israeli conflict with Jordan in 1967.

c. A good player on the Jordanian side can put up a tough fight. The key to a Jordanian victory is to ensure Jerusalem does not fall and at least one of the four bridges across the Jordan River is not destroyed. My House Rule about the requirement to destroy all four bridges and capture Jerusalem for any level of Israeli victory...combined with a keen player on the Jordanian side...can make this game quite a good battle experience. Plus, a good player on the Jordanian side can threaten to break out a unit or two for dash against the Israeli population centers.

d. Yes, I still occasionally play this game. I like games of all complexities and this is a simple one of the 1967 Six Day War. It’s easy and plays quickly. Sometimes it’s just fun to sit down for 60-90 minutes and push units across a map. There are other games that provide a richer and deeper experience but simple can be good. Every complexity has its day and time depending on how you feel.

e. This may sound odd but I like blowing bridges and there are four that need to be destroyed to secure a victory in the game.

f. I like the special Jordanian victory conditions related to entering a Tel Aviv hex or holding a coastal hex for two consecutive game turns. This provides the Jordanian player with the chance, however slim, of breaking a unit or two free for a dash westward into Israel. At the least, such a move can throw off the Israeli player who will need to divert forces from his/her offensive to counter the threat to the civilian population.

There are a few items about this game that some may not like:

a. I find it odd that there is not a turn record track on the map...especially when there is abundant extra space at the bottom of the map for one.

b. The map is functional but a bit bland.

c. The game is light and many gamers might prefer a deeper, more detailed battle experience. That’s OK as I’m a firm believer that ‘one size does not fit all’ in gaming. I support games of different complexities on the same battle or campaign.

d. It is difficult for the Jordanian player to win under the established rules (of course they lost in the actual conflict). As long as the Israeli player captures either Jerusalem or blows the four bridges, he/she wins a marginal victory. As mentioned, requiring the Israeli player to accomplish both objectives does help balance the game a bit.

Bang for the Buck: Good. Obviously, the true ‘bang for the buck’ will be determined on how much someone pays for a used copy...or can trade for one.

c The Swamp Hamster
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
Why Review a game from 1977?


As a veteran conflict simulation player and a frequent reviewer of vintage wargames I'd like to offer the following comments:

#1 reason... We can understand where we are as a hobby today by studying games published 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. This allows us to trace the development of "conflict simulation theory and technique" to use the language of SPI.

#2 reason... We can study the art of wargame design by tracking the career development of legendary craftsmen like Mark Herman. Please allow me to compare Mr. Herman to the great film director John Ford. Watching an early Ford movie like Stagecoach and comparing that film to later projects like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon we can see how concepts and ideas evolved as the artist matured. Analyzing an early effort by Mark Herman, David C. Isby, or one of the other giants from the Golden Age gives us insight into modern works.

Thanks for the review. I've enjoyed your series of articles on vintage games.
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Swamp Hamster
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pete belli wrote:
Quote:
Why Review a game from 1977?


As a veteran conflict simulation player and a frequent reviewer of vintage wargames I'd like to offer the following comments:

#1 reason... We can understand where we are as a hobby today by studying games published 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. This allows us to trace the development of "conflict simulation theory and technique" to use the language of SPI.

#2 reason... We can study the art of wargame design by tracking the career development of legendary craftsmen like Mark Herman. Please allow me to compare Mr. Herman to the great film director John Ford. Watching an early Ford movie like Stagecoach and comparing that film to later projects like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon we can see how concepts and ideas evolved as the artist matured. Analyzing an early effort by Mark Herman, David C. Isby, or one of the other giants from the Golden Age gives us insight into modern works.

Thanks for the review. I've enjoyed your series of articles on vintage games.


Excellent points
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Wendell
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Agree with Pete (as usual). Also, the FIRST review of an old game is far more useful than the 34th review of a new one.
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Mark Herman
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Thanks for posting this review of my first design. I am glad it has held up after all these years.

Fun fact: The one time I went to Israel was when I was designing this game, so the ZOC rules and impact of terrain on the battle was based on direct observation.

Again thanks for taking the time to write up your thoughts.

Mark
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Swamp Hamster
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MarkHerman wrote:
Thanks for posting this review of my first design. I am glad it has held up after all these years.

Fun fact: The one time I went to Israel was when I was designing this game, so the ZOC rules and impact of terrain on the battle was based on direct observation.

Again thanks for taking the time to write up your thoughts.

Mark


Mark: My pleasure. I've enjoyed this game over the years as evidenced by still owning it. Interesting point about the development of the ZOC and impact of terrain.

I'd write a review of Red Sun Rising but somehow lost it (not tossed it... ) years ago. Great game (naturally offering credit to your co-designer Frank Davis). First game I ever owned with a type of multiple battle system -- in this case land warfare and naval combat, of course. Congratulations on the recent phenomenal "sell out" upon the release of Churchill which is obviously on the fast track.

As Pete Belli wrote above, we can see so much about game development by reviewing the growth and changes in the field through the eyes of longtime designers like yourself. Strategy gaming has come a long way from my first gaming days in the 1960s with Milton Bradley's American Heritage Series (Battle Cry and Dog Fight among others) through the Avalon Hill and SPI years, the survival of the board game hobby as computers exploded, and up to today.

A toast to you
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Cliff Churgin
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Sounds like it's time for another visit!
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Jason Doyle
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I really enjoy reviews of older games. I always have an eye on ebay and a few secondhand places and it's handy to have some idea of what might be worth picking up.

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