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Monday, January 5, 2015

Rafah Junction - 20,000 point Fate of a Nation Throw Down

By Tom Burgess
I am truly fortunate to part of a great group of gamers who can come together to play huge scenarios like the Rafah Junction game. In the past we have run a large Kursk battle and a large Hannut  battle as well as several campaigns where we have been able to employ Flames of War as our common rule set.

With the release of the new “Fate of a Nation” Arab-Israeli War book from Battlefront, we thought it might be fun to get out all of our Six Day war forces and run a “Tanksgiving” mega battle. However scheduling precluded us from being able to run a mega game until  a few weeks after Thanksgiving. The good news was this delay allowed our group member Greg to design a scenario for a big multi-player battle that would allow us to use our full current Six Day War collections (and then some) in a mostly historical situation with relatively representative orders of battle.

Greg settled on the Jun 5th 1967 Battle for Rafah Junction where the Israeli 7th and 60th Armored Brigades had to breach the defenses of the United Arab Republic’s 7th Infantry Division near Rafah Junction and then withstand a counter attack by the UAR’s 4th Armored Division and after defeating that, drive on to El Arish.

Greg not only designed the scenario, he also hosted the game in excellent game room using his 6’ x 10’ desert terrain board. To that our group brought 8 players, over 20,000pts total of forces, and over 200 tank models!
The game board looking west from the Israeli deployment areas (inside the blue markers) .
The board looking east from the UAR reinforcement edge with the 7th UAR Infantry Divisions deployment zone ahead in between the read markers.
The Israeli deployment zones and objectives laid on top of a real world map. 

The Israeli OOB made with some historical license, most notable being the addition of the Israeli Paratroopers as we knew we would need some solid infantry to break the UAR obstacle belt.

The UAR map and deployment areas.  The North and South edge reserves were normal reserves while the 4th UAR Armored division would counter attack as Delayed Reserves from the West edge of the board (and even then would still have some distance to go before getting in the fight).

The UAR forces were pretty straight forward, but we had to proxy in some Soviet WW2 and PAVN Tour of Duty models to help fill out all the support items in the UAR 7th Infantry Division.

Deployment zone of the Israeli 60th Armored Brigade looking west toward Objective 1, Rafah Junction.

The Israeli 7th Armored Brigade in its deployment zone with the Israeli Paratrooper Brigade deployed to the left tying in with the 60th Brigade even further to the south.

Set back off the main UAR obstacle belt the UAR deployed two "Battalions" (6 models each) of SU-110M's in tank pits.

Just behind the main defensive line the UAR deployed support assets like these WW2 Soviets proxying for UAR BS-3 100mm ATG and mortars.

Objective 1 - Rafah Junction.

The 60th Armored Brigade approaches the UAR Obstacle belt. The initial Israeli plan had the "heavy" tanks leading the assault where their priority targets were the BS-3 100mm ATGs and the SU-100M's. Once these were dealt with the lighter M1, M50, M51's and AMX-13 tanks could advance and start attritting and suppressing the UAR infantry while Israeli infantry would start reducing obstacles.

The 7th Israeli Armored  advances in the North (right).  The 7th Brigade commander chose to dismount his mechanized infantry and have them advance with the lead tanks to start their own breaches rather than relying on the Paratroopers to make a big breach in the center of the UAR defensive belt.
Israeli Paratroopers  tied in with the 60th Armored Brigade.
Passing other burning Israeli tanks, the 60th Brigade's lead Sho't crosses the first line of UAR obstacles.
Concealed for a couple of turns by smoke, the Paratroopers clear a path through the mines and the lead Sho't unit from the 60th Brigade assaults though the gap destroying what little UAR infantry is left in first trench line. Beyond can be seen the southern most elements (Magachs) of the 7th Armored Brigade who opted to just risk crossing the mine fields rather than waiting on supporting infantry to come up and clear the mines.

7th Brigade Sho'ts provide fire over watch as their Magach brothers risk the minefields.

The 216th Separate Tank battalion enters from reserves to try to help stem the advance of the 7th Israeli Armored Brigade.

The UAR Air forces are able to sneak in a sortie. The Israeli Air support had been entirely committed to trying to interdict or destroy the "off board" UAR Artillery and Rockets. Fortunately for the Israelis their AAA assets were well positioned and the effects of this sortie, the only one the UAR was able to get in, were minimized.

The mechanized Infantry of the 60th Brigade moves towards the center breach.

The 21 T-34/85s of the 215th Separate Tank Battalion arrive.

The 215th's T-34/85s, not wanting to tangle with Israeli Sho't head on move at the double to the protected area on the far side of Rafah Junction.

UAR Infantry cling to the second line of trenches as they try to stem the assault of the 7th Israeli Armored Brigade.

UAR massed artillery starts to take a toll on then packed Israeli tank formations.

The center company of the UAR Infantry Battalion breaks and Sho'ts of the 60th Brigade exploit into the eastern suburbs of Rafah Junction.

Lighter Israeli armor and mechanized infantry moves toward the center  breaches in the UAR obstacle belt.
The northern company of the UAR Infantry Battalion breaks and with it the rest of the UAR forward defensive forces. This allows the 7th Israeli Armored Brigade's infantry to take some shelter in the abandoned UAR trenches.

Just as the Israeli forces start to push into Rafah Junction,  the 4th UAR Armored Division starts to arrive. The 204th Tank Battalion's T-54's use the roads to speed to the front.

In a desperate bid to buy time for the 4th UAR Armored Division units to arrive, the 215th Tank Battalions T-34/85s make a "suicide run" into the center of Rafah to tie down the lead Israeli elements. Though all 21 T-34/85s would be burning at the end, they did cost the Israelis two turns and actually managed to knock out a Sho't with a flank shot!

With T-54's from the 206th Tank Battalion now entering the fray, the Israeli air support had to shift from it's off-board artillery suppressing mission and now try to take advantage of UAR tanks still in march columns. Fortunately for the UAR they had a rather robust AAA umbrella established and this "three plane" strike was reduced to just a "single plane" strike. This was only able to cause one kill and one bailed out T-54 even with eight tanks in the impact area.

The 206th Tank Battalion forms a new line west of Rafah Junction to block the Israeli 7th Armored Brigade.  The center of Rafah Junction is now unpassable to all but infantry, the Israelis will have to skirt the town to the north or south. Here we had to end the game after seven turns and just four hours of play. The Israeli assault had shattered the UAR defensive line, but the "main event" the clash with the UAR 4th Armored Division was just getting started. In the end we were a bit too ambitious in our planning for what we thought we could get done in a single gaming session. We decided that the climax would have to follow in another game. So stay tuned for this AAR's sequel "Counter Attack at Rafah" coming soon in 2015!

Tom has been playing wargames since the late 70’s, and Flames of War since 2007. He maintains a gaming website for the BattleVault Gamers of Kentuckiana and posts and moderates WWPD as Iron-Tom.

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