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Subject: Session report + brief game overview rss

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Andrea Garello
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Yom Kippur is probably the best game ever made by International Team, the Italian company that brought many people all over Europe to wargaming in the late seventies, early eighties.
I own a copy of the reprint made by Eurogames in 1989; while the beautiful map is slightly inferior to the first IT release, the rules, significantly updated, are much more consistent, making the game not only playable (not the case with too many IT titles), but also quite enjoyable.

The game can be played in a couple of sessions (around six hours more or less, set up included). In our case it took three sessions, with quite a long time in between. We lost some time debating on rule ambiguities (the rulebook is clearly translated from another language, maybe English, in an Italian fluid like the one you get from Google translator) and some spent reading again rules forgotten in the meantime.

What makes this game interesting is having both fronts, Sinai and Golan, and the fact the Israeli player has to choose where to commit his reinforcements and, turn by turn, the dreaded IAF. There is a nice, historical, rule stating that if the Israeli have at least a (supplied) unit projecting its ZOC on a Damascus’s hex at the end of the Arab turn, the game on that map is over. The next turn the Israeli can take half of their units from the map, these units will be transferred on the Sinai map the turn after.
The Arab and Israeli armies, including air forces, are treated very differently as they should. While historically inaccurate under many aspects, the game manages to give a good flavor of the October War though. And, above all, is fun to play.


In our game my buddy Valerio took the Israeli, while I took the Arab coalition. Even in the opening stage of the invasion the Arabs have a hard time in gaining ground, especially on the Golan front. My priorities on the Sinai front were the destruction of as many forts as possible and, with few Israeli units on map at the start, to pose a threat (but realistically nothing more) on the Gidi and Mitia hills, worth ten VPs each (if you hold them at end game, not very likely). In the Golan heights I tried to push the Israeli back as far as possible before the expected counterattack, taking and trying to hold Kuneitra if possible.

To make it short, my buddy initially hesitated in committing his reinforcements, and more important his air force, employed piecemeal on the two fronts. By turn three my armies reached their deepest penetration, taking Kuneitra, stepping one hex down the heights, heading (with the very best of intentions) to Israel. The noise of my tanks awakened my buddy and his air force. The first front-concentrated air attack left my surviving units shocked and homesick. In the static Sinai front an Israeli raid on Port Said, left unguarded, was going to be repelled by an ad hoc group.

Kuneitra held just one turn, the fourth. Massed airstrikes and the bulk of the Israeli reinforcements turned the tide on the Golan front. By turn seven Tsahl was in control of the heights and two armored brigades, unopposed, were on the way to Damascus. Too late anyway to transfer half of their units to the other front.

On the Sinai front the Israeli probed the Egyptian defenses, but it was too late to seriously threaten the three armies, with the risk of being surrounded by a numerically far superior force. At this point we called the game.

While playing, we didn’t look too much at the victory conditions. Taking a look at the maps we both were thinking the game ended in a draw, if not a marginal Arab victory, given the situation in the Sinai, where the channel was firmly in Egyptian hands. We were wrong.

Both sides get VPs for taking territorial objectives, read cities, for destroying enemy units (ground units, forts, SAM sites and air units) and for units out of supply at the game’s end. The Arabs can also get an automatic victory if at the end of an Israeli turn they have a supplied unit on a road hex on the Israeli board edge. Victory is calculated on the difference between Israeli and Arab VPs at the end of the game.

Victory levels are:
+30 decisive Arab victory, + 20 substantial, +10 marginal
+20 Israeli marginal victory, +30 substantial, +40 decisive

Since none of us could claim any city, we went to the body count. The Arabs accrued 40 VPs, while the Israeli 65, the + 25 difference gave the Israeli a marginal victory.

Since, being the first game, the Israeli performed quite poorly compared to their historical counterpart and still won the game, we agreed the victory levels should be adjusted. An Arab victory starting from 0 and an Israeli starting from + 30 would make the game more challenging for both players, with the Israeli still sensibly favored.

Anyway the game is pretty fun to play as it is, with rooms for different strategies and interesting choices. It’s easy to learn, can be played in a long sitting, say an afternoon, or two evenings and has a wonderful 3D map: what could you ask for more? If you have this game taking dust on a shelf, give it a try, this is not a game for collectors only, this is a gamers game.


Edit: wrong city name
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