Gulf Strike: Scenario 1 - A Jaunt Down the Road

If you've been keeping up with my latest blog posts about Gulf Strike then you'll know that I've been playing scenario 1 and trying to learn the system as best as I can. The first scenario from Mark Herman's sprawling 1983 epic pits the forces of Iran and the Soviet Union against the Americans and the Gulf Council nations. In the first two turns of the game, Iran barged down through Kuwait, hoping to use air power to destroy the Kuwaiti forces while the bulk of the army kept moving south into Saudi Arabia. It was a gamble that didn't really work. Airpower in Gulf Strike can be a finicky thing and even if your air strategy is golden, you might find yourself without any real gains despite spending lots of supply points to send your planes out on missions.

In this article, I'm going to look at the events of turn 3 and 4 with an eye on what I have learned so far. I'm always thumbing through the rules and gaining a better understanding of how the small things in this game work. I'm guessing that, like most games, the real challenge to mastering Gulf Strike is knowing how to bring all of these small details together to create a really special experience. Before you get to the point where you can unleash a coordinated and beautiful symphony of destruction on your opponent, however, you're going to suck very badly at even getting your guys moving from A to B in a timely manner. This is where I am right now with Gulf Strike.

During my first two turns, I felt pretty comfortable with the Gulf Strike rules as I had set out scenario 1 and played the first turn many times before getting distracted and putting it away early. Now that I had conquered Kuwait and was still playing, I had no good clues about what I should be doing next. All I knew was that I needed to get the Iranian army moving and that I was doing a fairly bad job of it. Here's how it went:

Turn 3:

The Situation -

The Kuwaiti army is nearly destroyed as all of its supply points are gone after Iran's capture of Kuwait City. Several Iranian armored divisions are still sitting in Kuwait while the rest of the army is slowly but surely making its way south on the highways of northern Saudi Arabia. Panic spreads among the Gulf Council nations as Iranian troops and tanks pour down the Arabian peninsula unopposed.

The Americans begin to get serious with deploying troops in the region to counter the Iranian threat. C-5 Galaxies airlift all the components for an airbase in Somalia with an AWACS and a pair of F-15 squadrons for protection. 1/82nd Airborne lands in Somalia with a C-130 to help them get around. The rest of the US reinforcements (7MAB, 7th ADA battalion, and a truck unit) are placed in Diego Garcia and will be transported into theater at some other point in time. DC airbase now has an extra F-15 squadron to help shoulder the CAP duties.

In the Unit Assignment Stage, I break down both Iranian infantry divisions into regiments. Now I can transport them via truck and they don't have to march down towards Riyadh on foot.

During the first action stage, the Iranian player puts the 2nd Armored Division with an artillery brigade into Deliberate Assault formation and declares combat against the adjacent reduced Kuwaiti armored brigade. This will be a slaughter.

Turn 3 begins!
I'm trying to get my guys as far south as they can without running them out of supply. I'm also worried about pushing them too hard and having the Saudis use their meager but potent air force to perform interdiction missions and push my guys beyond the 20 MP limit between supply sources/depot and the units I'm moving. On the other hand, I feel the urgent need to get my guys down there as fast as possible before the Americans turn up and rain on my death parade.

I load up the 9th and 10th infantry brigades and get them into 0552, 17 MP away from the supply depot in 0644. The 3rd Mechanized and 4th and 5th Armored Divisions roll into 0950, 0951, and 1051 respectively. One of my trucks heads all the way back to Basra because I will need to buy a supply depot at the end of the turn and transport it down south to extend my supply lines next turn.

I have several units sitting in Kuwait City. The 1st Armored Division with the 11th Armored Brigade and an HQ unit are waiting for the 4th Armored Division to clear the highway of enemy opposition to the south before moving on later in the turn (the 1st Armored has been placed in Reserve mode at the start of the turn).

The Iranian air force and navy tries and badly fails at sinking three Saudi ships (an FF, CO, and DD). An Iranian destroyer takes two SSM hits and a frigate takes the other in combat just north of Bahrain. Throwing a P-3 Orion in there did very little beyond the initial detection of the enemy naval units.

Finally, I use a C-130 to move one of the airbases from Tehran into the Kuwait City hex. Now my airpower extends just a bit farther south to cover my advance. It's not much but it's good to have.

The Qataris attempt to bomb the Iranian navy with their Mirage jets but fail. Another Mirage from the UAE earns a hit on one of the Iranian trucks transporting an infantry brigade in 0552.

Some observations this turn:

  • Wow, you can move entire airbases. Just up and move 'em to wherever there's a friendly airfield. Neat.
  • I don't think the Iranians have anything at all to fear from the enemy air forces except for interdiction missions cutting off ground unit supply. They aren't numerous or high quality enough to cause a great deal of damage against Iranian ground units or airbases. I pretty much just keep Iranian air on offensive missions and let the air defense deal with the occasional ineffective enemy air raid.
  • Still amazed at how vital trucks are in this game. I have a perpetual shortage of trucks and a continual surplus of things that I need them to do for me. At this point if my trucks were gone, I would almost certainly lose the game.
  • Things that look easy are not. Getting my guys down near Riyadh in a timely fashion is difficult. The fact that I've got armor trailing infantry seems really wrong but that's the price I'm paying for going in heavy with armor against Kuwait in the early turns.
  • Where is the best place to put this F-14 EW unit? It can only detect stuff that's 4 operational hexes away. I suppose it would work best over a friendly airbase that's vulnerable to enemy bombardment but I'm feeling pretty secure against attack anyways.
  • None of the units in the game so far are what you would call amazing or even pretty good. Iran has a shortage of support units and its planes can only take 2 hits before they are destroyed. Compared to the other enemy nations like UAE or Saudi Arabia, however, it is a steamroller.
  • I realized way too late that the Saudi base in Al Hufuh needs a supply depot to keep it hooked into the Saudi supply network. I fib a bit with supply points and place the depot just east of Riyadh.
  • Using a deliberate assault by the 2nd Armored Division on the remnants of the Kuwaiti army was a huge waste of supply. A Hasty Assault or even an MC formation attack would have achieved the same results.


Turn 4:

For the Iranians, turn 4 is all about getting set up for the big push on Riyadh. That means trying to get my supply depots in place and putting the troops in the right spot to jump off into an offensive. The Saudi army will likely start moving units around in anticipation of the coming flood of troops and tanks. They have not budged from their original position since the start of the game, waiting to see how the Iranians will line up their forces. The Saudis have also refused to come north to fight the Iranians, wary of long vulnerable supply lines and less hospitable terrain for the defender.

Iranian trucks drop off two infantry brigades in 0358. These are the first troops to arrive near the enemy. The 3rd and 4th Armored Divisions are just behind them and to the east with the 3rd Mechanized leading their way. Much farther east towards the coastline, the port of Al Jubayl is seized by the 1st Armored Division. The 2nd Armored Division is trundling straight down south towards Al Hufuh airbase.

The trucks are busy again this turn. One of them has transported a brigade from the 7th Infantry Division into Kuwait City to protect it from any kind of amphibious or airborne invasion. A truck from Basra drops off a Supply Depot in 0947 while a second supply depot is set up in 0755, just to the rear of my vanguard units.

I keep my air units grounded for the turn, hoping to save up enough Supply Points for the next turn's offensive against the Saudi army. The Saudi airforce hasn't really shown up to do much although they manage to get a lucky hit against one of my truck units coming back up north after dropping off the 9th and 10th Brigades.

I briefly debate with myself whether to spend the supply for air strikes to interdict the supply line between Al Hufuh airbase and its supply depot. I could easily knock it out of commission but it doesn't seem to be worth it for what little harm their air force can do to me right now.

Can you spot the great big rookie mistake in this picture?


Oops! I see that the Saudi capital is empty right now. A very poor decision indeed. I take a mulligan and throw in the Saudi HQ unit.

The Saudis start to move their army to meet the Iranian threat. The 2nd Armored Brigade takes up hasty defense formation in 0659. Since the Iranian commander has been so kind as to send some of his forces piecemeal towards Riyadh, the Saudis oblige him by having their elite G (I'm guessing this means "Guard") Mech Brigade drive up to hex 0359, switching to hasty assault formation, and attack the Iranian infantry brigades.

A whole bunch of modifiers come into effect here in the ensuing combat.

The mech brigade has an attack value of 3 and in hasty assault formation doubled to 6. The Iranians have a combined combat value of 4 but the rough terrain offers a double defensive multiplier to 8. 6:8 odds put as rolling on the -2 column on the CRT  - but wait - the Saudi elite unit gets a 3 column shift right versus the Iranian line unit as well as another 2 column shift right for being a mechanized force against infantry. We are now at 2:1 odds and we roll a 9, modified by 2 (to a maximum of 10) for the Saudi artillery.

The result is 1/4 on the CRT. The Iranians retreat two hexes north and shake off the hits while the Saudis pursue one hex and the mech brigade takes its one hit. The battle went amazingly well for the Saudis but it is still not nearly enough to stop the Iranians.

End of Turn 4

Stuff I learned this turn:


  • Doing well in the ground game is mainly a matter of knowing how to gain favorable column shifts through the use of formations, troop quality, terrain, and support. Amazing how one elite Saudi mech brigade beat the crap right out of a force that was twice its size and in good defensive terrain.
  • The Saudis are probably doing the right thing by forcing the Iranians to fight on Saudi terms. There's no question they will lose but they may be able to significantly delay the Iranian forces in a way that tilts the game against Iran from here on out.
  • I should have used the 9th or 10th infantry brigade to cover Kuwait City instead of using a battalion out of a broken-down 7th division. Now I won't be able to build up the 7th division because the individual units are too far away from each other.
  • There's an ebb and flow of supply points that you have to master in this game. There are times when you need to push everything and then right after, you need to do everything you can to just conserve those precious SPs for the next big battle. I spent the Iranian SPs like a drunken sailor in the first two or three turns and now I'm starting to wonder a bit if I'll be hurting when it comes to the big push on Riyadh. 

Conclusion:

While turns 1 and 2 were the wargame equivalent of punk rock with tanks and planes going everywhere and attacking everything, turns 3 and 4 was more like a quiet concerto of trying to understand the intricacies of supply lines, movement, transport, and appropriate use of force. As you can probably see, I am just scratching the surface here with what I have learned so far and although I don't think the quality of play can be described as "good", I feel pretty proud that I have gotten this far in scenario 1 and my Iranian units are mostly achieving their objectives. As I read over the lessons I have learned, I realize that most of them can be applied to other games too, which I think is the mark of an extremely well done game.

Comments

  1. Enjoying these articles on Gulf Strike. Keep them coming. Can't wait to see how the operation progresses against the other Gulf states.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Working on turn 5 right now and it's amazing how many strategic mistakes I've made so far. Still enjoying learning this excellent game.

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