Gulf Strike: How do you solve a problem like Saudi Arabia?

In this article, I’m referring to Scenario 1 of Gulf Strike where the Iranians are thundering down through the Saudi Peninsula with the help of their Soviet buddies, trying to close off American access to the Persian Gulf before the US can rush in carrier groups and Marines and air and endless amounts of supplies for their beleaguered buddies of the Gulf Council States.

So you’re playing Iran and turn one has gone fairly smoothly. You’ve had Kuwait all to yourself to beat the hell out of and now it’s conquered and turn two starts. The Gulf Council States immediately declare war on you. With budding optimism, you push your first armored unit south from Kuwait City on its long march towards Riyadh.

If this next step of the takeover plan of the Middle East is not thought through carefully enough, you’ll be thinking to yourself by turn 3 or 4: “Wow, this is going to be tougher than I thought!”

By turn 6 or 7, that will change to: “You stupid stupid idiot. Why did you decide to invade Saudi Arabia? This is not at all worth it.”

And you’d be right. Because Saudi Arabia is mostly just desert and there is nothing – absolutely nothing to conquer for the first zillion miles south of Kuwait. That means that you’ll have to rely on long supply lines to feed and gas up your army. Not only will you have to worry about where to place the supply depots, you’ll have to worry about protecting them.

It’s a long way to Riyadh! It’s a long way to go! – Basra to Riyadh with very little in between

It only takes a vintage enemy fighter bomber with a Bombardment value of “1” to run an interdiction mission on your supply lines, thereby either knocking your units out of supply or delaying your ground forces’ arrival until you plug the gaps in air defenses to deal with those pesky incoming planes.

A smart ally player will know how to frustrate your drive south again and again with this. If he’s really lucky, he’ll be able to throw a unit in behind your front lines to really tear things up.

After only a single play of this scenario, you’ll understand why Saddam stopped at Kuwait in 1990. A drive down the peninsula probably sounded cool but the logistics would have been a huge challenge for a modern army.

So the first thing you need to heed here is the air war. You need to knock the hell out of the enemy’s air capabilities from the start. Your ground forces can handle themselves without the need for close air support. Let your AH-1 Cobra helicopters handle that job. From the very start of the game, you need to aggressively obtain control the skies. Every F-4 and F-5 has to be committed to this single task because even one plane can ruin your plans for a swift victory in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi AWACS should be the first thing to take down. It’s the most potent unit in the game for the US player’s side this early on. Airbases in Kuwait can be used to strike at Riyadh while Khark Island and Bushehr hit at the airbases on the east coast and in Qatar. and Bahrain. F-5 air escorts with F-4 bombing missions would probably work best here in the early stages. Once the interceptors are either shot down or have run out of sorties, send whatever you can in to hit those airbases.

The second thing is that you have to be really comfortable with the supply rules. In case it’s been a while since you played this beast, supply depots work as relay stations between supply sources (cities in the case of Iran) and units. To be considered in supply, a unit must be within a certain distance of it (for the sake of supply determination, this means the unit is treated as a hypothetical armor unit in Movement to Contact formation with an MPA of 20).

Across clear terrain, which dominates most of northern Saudi Arabia, that’s 3 MP per hex so that’s a measly 6 hexes you can advance. If you’re lucky enough to have a road to travel on, it’s only 2 MP per hex, giving you a marginally better 10 hex supply radius. Oh boy. Riyadh is 22 hexes away from Kuwait City.

If you have managed to plunk down a supply depot in Kuwait City after taking over its airbase and placing an interceptor in there to protect your supply depot, your armor unit can only get a bit down the road into SA before it runs out of supply. As you can see, our example tank unit runs out of supply before it reaches anywhere near any airbases.

The Saudis can – and should, if they are capable – put up a measly Lightning aircraft with a “1” bombardment rating, hit the hex to the north of the armor division and boom – we are now 22 MPs from our supply source and out of supply.

The effects of this out of supply state for the unit are as follows:

1. combat strength halved
2. cannot declare combat
3. cannot be repaired
4. it suffers a hit during the End Stage

Not good!

So even if you decide to just plunk down three quick supply depots and try to push on anyways, you’ll face a problem. Those rough hexes near Riyadh are prime defensive real estate and it won’t be easy to push those Saudi defenders back without hitting their flank!

With three supply depots stretched to the limit of their 20 MP allowance, you could manage a single front against Riyadh but it will probably cost you time – something the Iranian player doesn’t have in this scenario.

Do you attack Riyadh from two prongs –  the north and the east? Well, guess what? You’re going to need more supply depots to do that. That means more planning and more precise coordination of truck movement. You’ll need to get your transport aircraft in on the act too. But then with more supply depots comes the need to further spread your defenses around to protect them.

To make matters even worse, you’ll have the US Special Forces conducting raids on your supply depots by turn seven. I typically use my SF guys exclusively for supply depot raids and destroying valuable truck units. With only three anti-air units, the Iranians can’t protect everywhere at once from paradrops. I think this is the time limit for Iran at this point. If Riyadh is still in the Allied possession at this time, it’s basically game over for the Iranians.

The only solution I’ve been able to come up with is basically a.) ruthlessly committing my air force to achieving air supremacy early on in the first turns of the game and b.) setting up redundant supply depots in the chain so that if one depot is destroyed or interdicted, another can take care of it. Four supply depots are probably the minimum. Six are likely the ideal – but it takes a lot of planning to shuttle your trucks back and forth to the right places. C-130 transport aircraft help in this matter a little too – they can land in a clear hex and unload without needing a friendly airfield.

If your air supremacy bid fails or you want to remain cautious during your drive down the peninsula, you could also set your depots 18 MP apart and keep your units tethered at 18 MP from the nearest supply depot. It’s enough to make one interdiction mission useless though it will cost about one extra turn of delay for your units.

Invading Saudi Arabia is a huge risk and requires a lot of thoughtful planning for how to deal with the small details of a task that appears deceptively simple. I find that these crucial few turns after Kuwait’s defeat is usually where this first scenario is won or lost.

Gulf Strike: Scenario 1 – The Bear and The Eagle

Turn 10 has begun now in my current Gulf Strike game. I have been playing both sides and doing a poor job overall with everyone. The Iranians are having a terrible time trying to conquer Saudi Arabia and have met all sorts of problems as their army approaches the capital. Supply lines have been cut and sabotaged while US Special Forces have set up ambushes on the roads to Riyadh. It seems at every step, the Iranians have been stymied. The Soviets, however, have introduced massive amounts of air power to assist Iran in its ambitions. Will the Americans be able to stop the steamroller in time?

Soviet Frogfoots on the attack!


Strategic Stage:

Global Political Phase: 

Nothing happens here.

Global Military Phase:

Neither side moves reinforcements into theater.

Unit Assignment Stage:

The Iranians place the 5th Armored Division near Riyadh in reserve hoping to get an attack with it early in the turn.The 11th Armored Brigade near Al Hufuh is also placed in reserve. These will be advance units as we sweep east in UAE.

The other Gulf Council states keep their units out of reserves and in frontline mode.

I jostled some air power around for everyone but no major changes happened here.

Initiative Determination Stage:

Despite taking losses in the previous turn, the Americans and Gulf Council states still retain the initiative.

First Action Stage:

First Naval Movement Determination Phase:

Both sides roll a 1 on the die, and are given 0 naval movement points this stage.

First Movement Phase:

  • First Initiative Segment:  

The US player dispatches his B-52s to strike at Soviet bases in Afghanistan housing Tu-26 aircraft. Although the incoming American bombers are detected and Mig-23s are sent out to intercept them, the B-52s successfully penetrate the base defenses and launch their cruise missiles, scoring two hits on the airbase. The Tu-26 aircraft are each assigned one hit and the B-52s leave off the eastern map edge, returning home.

The Saudis attempt to withdraw their last remaining combat units into Riyadh. The Saudi Guards Mechanized Brigade automatically withdraws from the locking ZOC of the Iranian 5th Armored Division. The artillery brigade supporting the Saudi unit must attempt a withdrawal so it suffers an automatic hit and must roll equal to or greater than the combat strength difference between the Iranian armored unit (5) and its own combat strength (1). We roll a “3” and the artillery unit fails to withdraw.
Saudi Mechanized Guards withdraw into Riyadh. The artillery unit to the north of the city fails to withdraw.
It is time to start mobilizing the armies in Qatar and UAE. The Qataris send their infantry brigade to the border with Saudi Arabia/UAE and place it in Hasty Defense formation. The UAE shuffles its units around, putting its two infantry brigades in the capital with an artillery brigade as support. 
The two mech/armored car brigades are sent east of Tarif and a supply depot arrives there by truck, waiting to be sent east with the HQ and the 1st Mechanized Brigade to help support the defense of the border area.
The UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar disband their joint naval fleet operating (uselessly) along the Saudi coast. They will be destroyed by the Soviet Air Force if they stay where they are much longer. All ships return to their respective country’s ports.
  • First Reaction Segment:
There are no declared combat situations for my ground units in reserve to enter. I could send in my Soviet aircraft to try and bomb Riyadh back to the stone age but with an air defense unit sitting in the city and with the Saudi ground forces near collapse, it’s just not worth the risk nor the supply point expenditure.
We move to the –
  • First Assault Segment:
Time to see if our luck will hold up. I gamble a raid on the Iranian supply depot in hex 0755. I roll for air defense and get an “8” for the ADA unit and a “1” for the HQ. The US detachment is destroyed as it attempts to paradrop on the hex. The other detachments abort and withdraw. The raid is concluded.
Second Action Stage:
Second Naval Movement Determination Phase:

Both sides get 4 NMPs this stage.
Second Movement Phase:
  • Second Initiative Segment:
No ground units are in reserve mode. I don’t feel safe yet moving my carriers up while the Russians have long range bombers still sitting in Afghanistan. The US sub in H-15 sinks the Russian DDG in the same hex. The sub is marked SSM depleted.
  • Second Reaction Segment:
Again, there are no units eligible to move or declare combat at this point. Air units are kept on the ground. The Russians CVH south of Yemen sends its helo out to find the US sub and locates it, scoring a hit on it.
  • Second Assault Segment:
Another raid attempt on the Iranian supply depot in 0755 and another detachment of US Special Forces is destroyed as the ADA unit in the hex opens fire and destroys the incoming C-130s attempting to paradrop them into the hex.

The start to a really bad day for any pilot…

Third Action Stage:

Third Naval Movement Determination Phase:

The US player gets 0 NMPs and the USSR player gets 3.
Third Movement Phase:
  • Third Reaction Segment:
The Iranian 5th Armored Division goes into Hasty Assault formation and attacks into Riyadh. The 4th Armored Division moves into hex 0361 and is ambushed by elements of the 82nd Airborne. It stays where it is and licks its wounds.
I start shuffling units down the east coast of Saudi and the airbase in 1758 now has a supply depot in it to help move things along nicely. It’s been a very slow process but I’m starting to figure out how to set up supply nodes and keep the army fed, equipped, and on the move.
  • Third Initiative Segment:
No ground units move or attack this turn. We are waiting for the hammer to fall on Riyadh.
We pass all the way to the…
  • Third Reaction Close Air Support Segment:
The Qataris come from out of nowhere with their Mirage planes and actually manage to score a hit against the Iranian 5th Armored Division with the aid of LRRP by a detachment of Rangers! Wow…could the Saudis actually manage to hold on for another turn? The smart money is still on “NO”.

The intrepid leader of the Saudi Mechanized Guard brigade gives a thumbs up.

  • Third Assault Segment:
5th Iranian Armored Division (w/ artillery brigade) vs. Saudi Guards Mechanized Brigade
Attacker Combat Strength: 5
Formation Multiplier (HA): x2 = 10
Artillery support: +2 DRM
Unit Quality: Line

Defender Combat Strength: 1
Formation Multiplier (HD): x2 = 2
Terrain Multiplier: x3 = 6
Close Air Support: 2 shift columns left on CRT
Unit Quality: Elite 3 columns left on CRT
Odds: 10: 6- -> +2 column -> 0 column-> 1-2 column
Roll: 10 + 2 = 12
Result: 1/1
The Iranian Armored Division takes 1 hit while the Saudi Mechanized Guards unit is destroyed after absorbing one hit.

The Saudi support units (ADA, HQ, and Truck unit) remain in Riyadh and the capital is held but only barely.

End Stage

The Saudis suffer the loss of 4 supply points as per the Random Political Events Table. Democratic Yemen guerrillas conduct cross-border raids, disrupting Saudi logistics.

The Iranians spend 6 supply points repairing three truck units. The Iranians and Soviets both purchase a supply depot and place it on a supply source at a cost of 4 SP each.

Gulf Strike: Scenario 1: Cataclysm

It’s late in the game now for the Soviets and the US as the Iranians try to salvage what’s left of their attempt to dominate the Middle East by taking the Straits of Hormuz. Last I left off, the Soviets had just intervened on their behalf, pumping men and equipment and aircraft towards their conquest of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been managing to hold off the Iranians from Riyadh thanks to a small but tough defensive effort in rough terrain.

However, things aren’t going to be going so well for long. The Saudis lost a major airbase near Al Hufuh last turn. They also suffered the loss of an armored brigade protecting the shortest route into the Saudi capital. Can the Americans and their allies manage to fend off the Iranians for another turn?

Global Political Phase:

Nothing happens. The war continues into its fourth week. What initially looked like a quick jaunt down the peninsula looks more like the western front in 1917 every passing day.

Global Military Phase:

I move the 101st airborne into Dijbouti with its new base and a C-130. I get an AH-1 in there too but I’m not sure what to do with it. I probably should be doing better with this stuff but at some point, you need to just make mistakes so you can learn with them.

I really would like to get an airbase somewhere in Saudi Arabia for the Soviets right now but I haven’t planned properly for it. I use the IL-76 to fly in a couple of truck units and a supply depot into the Soviet airbase sitting in southern Kuwait. I’ll need to start building a supply network for the Soviets to use.

Unit Assignment Stage:

Not much to do here. The Iranian units near Riyadh should be put into reserve but they are too far from an HQ unit. The 5th Iranian armored division sitting in Al Hufuh gets put into reserve just to see what will happen.

Supply Points:

Our current supply levels are:
Bahrain: 5 (and staying there forever)
Qatar: 23
Iran: 27
USA: 130
Sauid Arabia: 41
UAE: 45
Oman: 58

First Action Stage:

First Naval Movement Determination Phase:

US roll: 1
USSR roll: 2

The US gets no Naval Movement Points and the Soviets get only one. That’s a nice break for the Russkies, who got their navy in the Indian Ocean absolutely crushed last turn.

First Movement Phase:

First Initiative Segment:

The US and its Allies still go first here. The Russian base in Afghanistan is full of Tu-26 bombers that will be in easy reach of the US carrier group as it approaches the Persian Gulf. I decide to send my B-52s over for a visit. The bombers are detected almost over target and intercepted. The MiG-23 interceptors scramble and manage a very lucky two hits, which aborts the mission and sends the B-52s home.

The 4th Saudi Mech. Brigade pulls back towards Riyadh, reaching hex 0562. The elite Saudi Gaurds Mech Brigade pulls back to 0461. This looks like the last stand before the Iranian tanks roll into the city. The units are in Hasty Defense formation. No combat is declared.

First Reaction Segment:

The Saudi navy still hasn’t been cleaned up properly and although it hasn’t caused any real problems so far, the Iranian navy is bottled up and can’t do much of anything. The Iranians send a P-3 over on an anti-ship mission but no luck there.

First Combat Phase:

First Assault Segment:

US Special Forces conduct a hit-and-run on an Iranian truck unit transporting an Iranian airbase south of Kuwait. The mission goes well and one hit is assigned to the truck.

Fun Fun in the Sun! – Rangers lead the way


Second Action Stage:

Second NMDP:

US and allies get 2 Naval Movement Points. USSR and Iran get a whopping 5 NMP.

Second Movement Phase:

Second Initiative Segment:

The US SSN sneaks up on a Soviet CVH off the coast of Yemen and unleashes its SSMs from two hexes away, inflicting a hit on the carrier group. One of the hits is assigned to the Yak squadrons on Intercept mode.

Harpoon away!

Second Reaction Segment:

Not much going on here. I send over a supply depot from Tehran over to the Iranian airbase in Kuwait. From there, the truck transports will move them south. The Soviets send down their carrier group and DDG towards the US submarine and go hunting. Unfortunately for them, they can’t detect it.

No declared combat so we go to the third action stage.

Third Action Stage:

Third NMDP:

US gets 2 NMP. USSR gets 4 NMP.

Third Movement Phase:

Third Reaction Segment:

The Soviets get a supply depot set up in 1352. This will hook into their new airbase that will be planted in eastern Saudi Arabia next turn. Just for good measure, I send an air defense brigade together with it.

The Iranian 3rd Mechanized Division has been sitting on its keister in hex 0860 way too long. I get it out of Hasty Assault formation and move it along the road towards Riyadh. As soon as the lead elements enter hex 0661, a US Ranger detachment greets it with an ambush. The Iranian unit is forced to retreat and once again sits uselessly in hex 0761.

The Iranian 4th Armored Division (with a brigade from the 7th Infantry Division) attempts to sneak around the Saudi left flank and it too gets nailed by another detachment of US Rangers. It incurs 4 additional movement points attempting to enter the hex and will go no further this turn.

The 5th Iranian Division goes into Hasty Assault mode and declares combat against the Saudi 4th Mech Brigade.

The Iranians get a truck unit down to 1352, planting their supply depot in the same hex as the Soviet one. Seems like a fairly safe place since we have air defense units set up. On the other hand, I get a bad feeling when I see such a tempting target sitting there on the map like that.

Hurting for an HQ to come down and coordinate the action better, the Iranians send down an HQ sitting in 0755 towards 0457. Miraculously, it is not ambushed, raided, or bombed to hell before it gets there.

Iran gets an airbase set up in 1758 after transporting it down there by truck. An F-4 and F-5 are ferried over. Humble beginnings but it’s a far sight better than having the nearest airbase way up in Kuwait.

Third Combat Phase:

Third Reaction Close Air Support Segment:

The Soviets send down their Su-24s from their base in southern Kuwait to strike at the Saudi ground forces near Riyadh. The defenders manage to inflict a hit on one Su-24 while the other one has no luck hitting the Saudi enemy.

Third Assault Segment:


Iran 5th Armored Division vs. Saudi 4th Mechanized Brigade (reduced)
Initial Odds: 5:1
Terrain Defense Multiplier: x2
Formation Effects: x2 (Iran) / x2 (Saudi)
Troop Quality Effects: Line – Iran / Line – Saudis
Final Odds: 10: 4
Adjusted Odds: 2:1
Die Modifiers: +2 for Iran

Die Roll: 5 (+2) = 7

CRT Result: 1/2

The 4th Mechanized Brigade is eliminated after 1 hit. The 5th Armored Division goes Movement to Combat formation and advances into the defender’s hex.

End Stage: 

The Saudis lose 4 supply points to Yemeni guerrillas, which just seems harsh now that Riyadh is almost captured.  Everyone’s units are amazingly in supply at the end of this turn.

Final Thoughts:

Well, the Saudis have pretty much had it. That’s not bragging. They should have been destroyed a long time ago but thanks to some pretty bad planning on the part of the Iranian player, they are still alive and kicking as we go into turn 10. The Soviets have done very little so far in the game except had their navy destroyed. The Americans have done a great job of using special forces to thwart the Iranians at every move. I think the special forces options are my favorite part of the game because it adds so much unpredictability. For such a small price, you get to needle and harass your opponent with glee.

Gulf Strike – Scenario 1: The Russians are Coming!

It is turn 8 and this is the big enchilada now. WW3 starts this turn as both the Soviets and US are now activated. They have 100 supply points allotted to them. Nothing happens in terms of random political events.

The Soviets get a bunch of reinforcements and I’m left scratching my head as to where exactly these guys should go.

The Soviets get: 7 x Airbases, 6 x Su-24, 15 x MiG-21, and a Tu-126. They also get 6 x trucks, 6 x air defense units, and 9 x airborne regiments, all delivered by IL-76. This is way more than can be delivered by IL-76 in a single turn, even though, as the scenario special rules state, the IL-76 can fly twice per turn for the first 3 turns of Soviet activation. I’m not sure where to put all this new stuff.

The Iranians’ main problem right now is re-establishing a secure supply network for its army down in Saudi Arabia. Establishing a supply depot in hex 1046 with a Soviet airbase protecting it, will probably do the trick. As a bonus, the hex can be used to launch some nice shiny Su-24s to deliver their ordnance on Saudi troops. MiG-23s can also be scrambled from here to stop missions aimed at the Iranian supply node.

The next problem will be bringing my supply depots in Saudi Arabia back up north a little bit because they’ll be stretched to their maximum 20 MP distance from the new supply depot in Kuwait, leaving them vulnerable to interdiction missions. This shouldn’t be too hard as the supply depot on the right flank nearest Riyadh is probably a little too close to the front anyways. Near Al Hufuh on the coast, I will likely end up with a tank division that’s stretched to its maximum MP distance from the nearest supply depot, but hey, it’s better than having your whole army out of supply.

Since the IL-76 can land in any clear terrain hex, I can immediately fly in an airbase, an air defense unit, and an airborne regiment into 1046. Done! Boom – that’s what’s it like to be a superpower, I guess.

We slap two Mig-23s and two Su-24s on the airbase. The rest of the MiGs and Su-24s get put in a Soviet border airbase near the border with Turkey just to keep them secure for the time being.

Supply points get added and we end up with:

Bahrain: 5
Qatar: 21
USA: 124
Iran: 26
USSR: 130
UAE: 40
Oman: 53

Unit Assignment Stage:

Since the Americans are involved, I need to assign those F-5s to Intercept mode throughout most of my Iranian airbases. The Soviets place Mig-23s on Intercept on their airbases while keeping ground attack units on Offense. The plan is to use the new Soviet base south of Kuwait City to launch attacks on the Saudis.

The Americans decide to send a Special Forced detachment to attack a truck unit in Saudi Arabia. It’s carrying a supply depot and it would be so nice to have it taken out and cause even more logistical headaches for the Iranian army.

Initiative Determination Stage:

Since the Iranians suffered a whopping 27 hits last turn, the Initiative changes to Player B.

First Action Stage:

Both sides roll a 5 and get 2 Naval Movement Points each for this stage.

First Movement Phase:

Now that I have a little breathing room, I decide to reorganize the Saudi defenses around Riyadh. I pull back all the ground units a little bit and try my best to protect the main roads into the capital. This pulls my guys into favorable defensive terrain and encourages the Iranians to move their forces forward to attack and hopefully extend their supply lines further so I can cut them off again. Then I just wait and hope that the Americans can ride to my rescue.

Battle for Riyadh: The Situation Near the Capital City

The US starts to clean up the ocean, starting with the launch of a P-3 Orion from Diego Garcia airbase. It detects a Soviet SS sitting in K-19 and hits it for one damage point. A follow up attack by an S-3 Viking from the USS Kitty Hawk sends it to the ocean floor.

ASW near Diego Garcia. The Soviet SS is sunk shortly after this screengrab.

The Kitty Hawk launches a strike package to hit the Soviet CG in the same hex. Taking four hits of damage, the Soviet ship is sunk. This ship could have done some major damage to my carrier since it gets a +3 attack bonus if it manages first Soviet combat in this scenario. Lucky for the US player, he got initiative this turn and nipped the problem in the bud.

With the danger in hex Q-21 cleared away, the USS Enterprise and the Marine Amphibious ship move north to the hex to join up with the Kitty Hawk. This uses up both naval movement points. The Enterprise launches an S-3 Viking that detects the Soviet SS in N-18 but it fails to score any hits on it.

Now it’s time to start whittling down the Soviet bases outside of the USSR. The B-52s are unleashed on base 805 sitting in Yemen. They are detected by a Tu-126 AWACS unit and intercepted by MiG-23s once they reach the same strategic hex. One MiG manages a single hit causing one bomber to abort. The other drops its payload and inflicts 2 damage on the Soviet airbase, which is assigned to two MiG-23s. A Special Forces detachment helps out by “lasing” the target and guiding the bombers in, gaining a +3 to the unit’s bombardment strength (bringing the B-52s bombardment rating up to a mind-numbing 13). This basically ensures that I’ll score 2 hits with each B-52 strike. At 2 damage, however, the base is still operational. The other base in the same strategic hex is also left untouched. Not what I was hoping for but I’ll take it.

During the First Reaction Segment, the Iranians start off with sending their C-130 from Iran loaded up with a supply depot and transported to the Soviet airbase in hex 1046. I have learned my lesson from last turn and I have decent protection for the depot with an AWACS, air defense, and two Mig-23 squadrons ready to defend it). This puts the guys near Riyadh back into supply but the Iranian divisions near the coast are still out of supply. I’ll need to either pull them back or let them soak up more hits. The Soviets don’t do much except move a couple of subs towards the south.

There is no declared combat but there is the matter of the US Special Forces raid on the Iranian truck in hex 1354. We roll a 6 with a modified plus 3 because the target is a truck. The result is a 9 and three hits are inflicted, destroying the truck. Since this has a supply depot on board, it is also destroyed. It looks like those Iranian guys along the east coast are going to be out of supply for the rest of the turn.

Second Action Stage

The US only gets 1 NMP this stage while the USSR gets 4.

Second Initiative Movement

US player sends out a P3 Orion from Diego Garcia and it detects a Soviet SSGN in H-17, just off the coast of Somalia. It makes a successful detection attempt and attacks the sub for 3 damage. An American SSN in E-22 moves up and finishes it off.

Next we get two S-3 Viking squadrons launched from both carriers. They take on the Soviet SS in K-19 but both attempts fail.

That’s all for that. Time for the Second Reaction Segment.

The Soviets launch their Su-24s from their airbase in southern Kuwait. Both attack planes hit the Saudi ground forces defending near Riyadh. The Saudi Mechanized Guards Brigade takes a hit and is flipped over to its reduced side. The 4th Mechanized Saudi Brigade is also hit and reduced. Nice work, Russkies! Two hits are allocated to Player B on the game track.

Soviet Su-24 Fencer

I see that Player B’s victory conditions involve either controlling or disputing the Straits of Hormuz. The strait can be disputed by dropping mines in strategic hex J-09 but I can’t find a way to do that without being shot down by the Omani Air Force. I decide to use an NMP to activate a Soviet SSN and move it to M-10 so hopefully it will survive long enough to enter J-09 and lay some mines.

There is no ground combat this stage so we move to the:

Third Action Stage:

Naval Movement Determination;
Player A (Iran/Soviets); 4
Player B (USA/Gulf Council states): 1

Third Reaction Segment allows the reaction player (Player A at the moment) to finally move his ground units assigned to Frontline mode so things are going to get interesting.

The Iranian 1st Armored Division nearest the Saudi port of Damay is pulled back to 1553 and put back into supply.

Iranian 11th Armored Brigade w/ HQ is pulled west along the roads to  1658, which brings it into supply. A truck unit with an infantry brigade is pushed east into the same hex just to give it some kind of protection from the onslaught of airborne special forces raids. Not a good sign. As with any game, you know that when you’re making decisions based on fear that things are not going well.

I get all the Iranian 8th Infantry brigades into the same hex (0456) and decide to recombine them in the next turn’s Unit Assignment Stage.

The 2nd Armored Division near Al Hufuh airbase changes to Movement to Contact formation to save on supply costs and declares the Saudi airbase as its target for ground combat.

Now to get to Riyadh:

The 5th Armored Division moves down the road to hex 0560 and changes to Hasty Assault. Combat is declared against the remnants of the shattered Saudi 2nd Mechanized Brigade in 0561.

The 4th Armored Division switches from Hasty Assault to Movement to Contact formation and trundles southwest into 0459 to face down the elite Saudi Mechanized Guards brigade – a shadow of its former self with only 1 hit left before destruction.

My guess is the 2nd Brigade is about to get whalloped while the Mechanized Guard might just make it out of this one more time. At this point, it has more lives than an entire herd of cats.

With only a meager 25 supply points for the Iranians, I’ll be depending on my Soviet comrades to provide some Close Air Support in the Combat Phase.

In the Initiative Segment, the US player licks his lips at the sole Soviet SS sitting on the Strategic Map and blows the hell out of it with an S-3 Viking launched from USS Kitty Hawk. The Indian Ocean is now clear of Soviet subs. Now we just need to get rid of those Soviet client-state bases and we’re on our way with the Marines.

During the CAS segment, the Soviets launch the same Su-24s from last stage and assign the combat units based near Riyadh as targets to each of them. Both planes hit their target for CAS.

Ground Assault resolves as follows:

1.) Iranian 2nd Armored Division vs. truck unit at Al Hufuh airbase: 6 – 1
Attacker Combat Strength; 6
Defender Combat Strength; 1
Armor vs. Non-Armor: 2 column shift right
Supply Cost: Iran – 3 / Saudi – 1
Roll; 2
Result: 0/3
A support unit not stacked with an assault unit is forbidden to retreat so the truck takes two hits and is gone. As for the airbase, it should take a hit here. I also realize that the airbase has probably been out of supply for at least two turns so I’m going to give the Iranians a mulligan (boy do they need one) and eliminate the airbase too. The 2nd Iranian Armored Division captures Al Hufuh.

2.) Iranian 5th Armored Division vs. Saudi 2nd Armored Brigade: 3 – 1
Attacker Combat Strength: 5
Attacker Formation Hasty Attack; x 2
Attacker has CAS; +2 DRM
Attacker has Artillery: +2 DRM
Defender Combat Strength; 1
Terrain Defense Multiplier – Armor: 1.5
Supply Cost: Iran – 7 / Saudi – 1
Roll; 8
Result: 0/2
The Iranian 5th Armored Division eliminates the Saudi brigade and advances into hex 0561. Riyadh is in sight but there seems to be always one more headache to contend with. In this case, it’s the Saudi 4th Mechanized Division in 0661.

3.) Iranian 4th Armored Division + Infantry Brigade vs Saudi Mech Guards: 1-2
Attacker Combat Strength: 6
Defender Combat Strength: 1
Defender Formation; Hasty Defense -> x2
Terrain Defense Multiplier – Other: 2
Troop Quality: Defender: Elite -> 3 column shifts left
Defender has Artillery: 2 column shifts left
Attacker has CAS; +2 DRM
Supply Cost: Iran – 4 / Saudi – 3
Roll; 6
Result: 1/0
The 4th Armored Division absorbs a hit and the divisional commander shakes his head as memories of trench warfare against the Iraqis start to dance in his head.

I’ve learned a couple of important lessons this turn. The most important is that of having a reserve force. If I had an HQ close enough to Iran 3rd Mech Division, I could have put it into reserve at the start of the turn and then let it follow up these third action stage attacks at the start of the next turn. Now because I haven’t done that, the Saudis will get a chance to regroup and form another line of defense. I’m guessing the Mechanized Guard unit will pull back and present another problem for the Iranians.

The other thing I’ve learned is the importance of air supremacy. Having control of the air over Saudi Arabia allowed Iran to stretch their supply lines to the limit without fear of interdiction. Clearly, taking out the airbase in Riyadh last turn was a bigger deal than I actually thought. If the enemy can get even one airplane up, it presents a potentially serious hazard to supply lines and must be taken account of. This is the difference between air superiority and air supremacy.

It’s incredible that such small forces can use rough terrain to their advantage to keep the Iranians off-balance and reacting to their moves. Obviously, if I had better supply systems, the Iranians could outflank them but with the terrain and the limited number of roads, it’s difficult to get the logistics to work right.

During the End Stage, the Iranian 2nd Armored Division in Al Hufuh is marked out of supply and takes a hit. That’s okay because this hex gives us an airfield for the Soviets to work out of next turn. The Iranians purchase a Supply Depot and place it in Tehran where I have my trusty C-130 sitting on the airfield waiting to take it somewhere. I also purchase a supply depot for the Soviets.

Gulf Strike – Scenario 1: America – Heck Yeah!

Hello down there!

It’s turn 7 of my latest game of Gulf Strike scenario 1 and Iran is doing terribly. It has taken us seven horrible turns of mucking around with supply problems to get down to the capital of Saudi Arabia and do battle with the Saudi forces protecting the capital. Along the east coast, a handful of Iranian units attempt to break the back of the lonesome small group of elite defenders protecting the Al Hufuh airbase from attack. Without supply or reinforcement, it seems they won’t last much longer.

On the other hand, the United States is now activated this turn and can start to get some serious units on to the table.

At the beginning of the turn, we roll for a Random Political Event and get nothing at all. So we go ahead to the Global Military Stage and the US units start showing up at the bottom of the Strategic Map.

I put a US SSN in the waters between Madagascar and the African coastline. Meanwhile, the USS Enterprise CVN-65 is placed to the east with a Marine amphibious ship with some of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children aboard. Now the US has a toehold on the way to achieving naval and air parity with the USSR in the region.

The Saudis keep their elite Mechanized Brigade northwest of the capital in reserve. I put the Iranian 11th Armored Brigade in reserve near Al Hufuh airbase just in case I need to chase down the Saudi paratroopers later in the turn. Two of my truck units dump off two brigades from the 8th infantry division just north of another brigade from the mighty 8th sitting adjacent to the Saudi 1st Mech Brigade. I really want to recombine these brigades into a single infantry division but I would have to perform a withdrawal of the brigade sitting next to the Saudis and that would result in a hit. I might do it anyways later in the turn.

One of the trucks rushes over to hex 0755 to pick up an air defense unit to transport up to the big weak link in our supply chain in 0947.

Supplies are a huge problem for the Iranians this turn. I started off with 10 supply points this turn after spending with abandon last turn. After gaining 20 supply points to reach 30, I realize that I will have to pick my fights carefully this turn and then go for a bigger push next turn with more supplies. I choose my key objectives carefully. I really want Al Hufuh this turn, so I will spend the 7 SPs needed for a hasty attack (armored division and artillery brigade) on the airbase.

I would like to push at the center of the Saudi lines near Riyadh. This is their weakest point and my strongest spot. They have an armored brigade with a strength of 3 in hasty defense and rough terrain for 10 total combat value. I have two Iranian armored divisions (strength 5 each) with an artillery brigade in hasty assault formation adjacent to them for a strength of 20 and a die roll modifier of +2.

Since the Americans have activated this turn, they get to do some stuff. The Enterprise and the Marine amphibious landing ship at the bottom of the strategic map move up towards Diego Garcia, expending both Naval Activations allotted for the First Action Stage.

We have a pair of B-52 bombers and it would be a shame not to use them this turn. They pound the Iranian base in Basra for 1 hit and an F-5 Tiger is assigned a damage point. The Iranians got off pretty light, all things considered.

The First Action Stage Assault Segment comes around and the Iranians decline to put air support up to help their troops. Not only would the air strikes themselves drain supplies but the Saudis have poured all their own air into Intercept mode so going this route would entail clearing the air of Saudi fighters beforehand.

As promised, the Iranian 4th and 5th Armored Divisions deliver a beating against the Saudi 2nd Armored Brigade. Facing total annihilation, the brigade takes one hit and shakes off the other with a one-hex retreat south into 0660. Iranian 5th Armored pursues into 0659 and prepares a coup de grace in the next Action Stage. The road to Riyadh is now cleared for the 4th Armored Division.

The Battle for Riyadh – Saudi 2nd Arm. retreats. The road lay open to Riyadh.

In a classic case of overkill, the Iranians attack Al Hufuh airbase with an armored division and an artillery brigade. Rolling on the 3-1 column with a +2 die roll modifier against a reduced elite brigade of Saudi paratroopers, the die roll comes up 8 modified to 10. Wow! It isn’t even close. 4 hits get assigned to the Saudis.

The elite paratroopers are eliminated with the first hit. Three hits left to assign. The air defense unit in the Saudi base hex takes them and is eliminated. The base itself is just barely hanging on. A truck unit in the same hex. It doesn’t matter – support units can’t combine their defense strengths so things are looking real bad for the Saudis here soon, especially with an Iranian armored brigade just to the north sitting in reserve mode.

Things look dire for the Saudis. The way to Riyadh is open and one of their airbases is just about to fall. However, in this assault segment, the Americans can try to do something. They gather three detachments from the 5th Special Forces Group and drop them into hex 0947, where the Iranians have foolishly left a supply depot unguarded!

We roll for the raid on the depot and get an “8”, modified to 13 for attacking a Supply Depot on its own. The result is 3 hits and the depot is utterly destroyed. Unfortunately, this was the main node for the Iranian army down in Saudi Arabia so the whole invasion force is now out of supply! Oh man.

Let’s file all this under lessons learned:

1.) Have redundant supply paths for your units if possible so that if one depot is taken out, at least some of your guys will remain in supply and functioning.

2.) Don’t leave supply depots alone in a hex. Ever. Always have a unit with them, even if it’s a lowly infantry brigade.

3.) I probably could have avoided this headache from the start by putting an airbase in 1046 instead of in Kuwait City. Then put a supply depot there with an infantry brigade and air defense (and an F-14 Tomcat) to firm it up a bit. Suddenly you have a pretty defensible supply depot serving as your main supply mode from Basra down into northern Saudi Arabia.

In the Second Action Stage, the Iranians get 3 NMPs while the US/Gulf Council gets zero.

In the Movement Phase, the Iranian player can pretty much only look helplessly on the map and try to figure out how to rebuild the whole affair from scratch next turn. The first order of business is trying to secure an airfield where a supply depot can be safely stored and used as a relay to help the Iranian army down south in Saudi Arabia. The C-130 in Tehran is loaded up with Iranian Spec. Forces troops from the 55th Brigade and they are unloaded in hex 1046 in Kuwait. We’ll use a CH-47 to transport the airbase from Khark Island next turn into 1046 and get a supply depot set up there as quickly as possible.

During the End Stage, 20 hits total are assigned to the out of supply Iranian army sitting down in Saudi Arabia. Initiative will go over to the US player next turn. Wow. This is pretty embarassing but it’s the kind of experience you never forget that starts to teach you how to play the game properly. Ignore the importance of supply at your own peril and watch your enemy have a field day.

Iran purchases a supply depot and places it in Tehran for transport next turn. The Saudis lose 4 supply points to Yemeni guerillas operating on the border. What a mess!

Gulf Strike: Scenario 1 – Battle for Riyadh

In the first five turns of Gulf Strike‘s first scenario, I’ve led the Iranian military on a bumbling mess of a military adventure through Kuwait and down into Saudi Arabia. As the major powers gear up to join the war, I’ve got to admit that the Iranians have probably already lost it. Lack of planning has led to supply shortages and almost no air cover for my advancing troops. It’s only because the Gulf Council states are poorly-armed that I have been able to get this far. This turn we see if things can come together again for Iran as it tries to take on the Saudi military for control of Riyadh.

F-1 Mirage of Qatar’s Air Force

Turn 6:

We start off the turn with no political events. The Global Military Phase begins and the US military uses a C-5 to transport in an airbase, 5th Special Forces Group, and the RDF HQ. The Americans also get 3 x F-4 Phantom units.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with all this new stuff. If I put the airbase up in Oman, it’s very vulnerable to Soviet air strikes from their surrounding bases in the region. Seems like I should be putting this base in Somalia with the other US airbase I placed there in turn 3. Since that base already has a pair of F-15s on Intercept, I can just have the three F-4 Phantoms on Offensive mode. I can use these guys as offense to hit at the Soviet navy surface ships if they get near the coast of Africa. They can also hit out at any foolish attempts by the Soviet player to plunk down a base or two in Yemen.

Time to update our Supply Points:

Iran: 53
Saudi Arabia: 43
Qatar: 19
Bahrain: 5
UAE: 32
Oman: 43
US: 100

As the Iranian player, I absolutely positively need to do the following this turn:

1. Get a supply depot down into Saudi Arabia to support my left flank.
2. Capture an airfield so I can get an airbase down there and get some attack choppers in range of enemy units
3. Break the back of the Saudi defense around Riyadh.

So let’s go through this step-by-step then shall we?

Objective One: Get a supply depot down into Saudi Arabia. 1354 seems like the best spot for this. The weakest link in my supply chain right now is the 18 or a 20 MP distance between the supply depot in 0947 and the one down south in 0755. It is literally two interdiction missions away from cutting off the entire Iranian army sitting in Saudi Arabia (hitting 0754 and 0753 would do it).

By the way, this is what I find to be the biggest challenge of Gulf Strike. The easy part is the fighting. The most difficult part is establishing supply lines that are long enough to keep your forces on the offense but short enough so they aren’t vulnerable. Trying to protect your supply lines without adequate air basing is a fool’s errand.

If I had a second supply source sitting in 1354, I would be able to push my units near the coast down towards the Saudi airbase at Al Hufuh. I would also have a backup supply source just in case I lose the supply depot at 0755. I would even be able to maintain some sort of offensive with the majority of my units near Riyadh.

18 MPs from the supply depot near the Kuwait border, a supply depot in 1354 would have decent range (in blue).

Now as luck would have it, there’s a CH-47 all fueled up in Ahvaz with a supply depot loaded on. The only problem is that it’s bound to get detected on the way down by Saudi AWACS aircraft and if it’s intercepted, I could lose the plane and the depot, which would be a very serious setback for the Iranians. You may say that I should just send an escort with it and you would be right — except that I’ve got no planes on Offensive mode assigned to that base.

So it looks like I’ll need to clear the air of Saudi interceptors or AWACS before I can send my bird down. Here we go:

The Iranians send down an F-4 Phantom from Basra. Miraculously, it gets within six hexes of the Saudi AWACS before it is detected. The F-15 from Riyadh scrambles and intercepts, scoring one hit on the Phantom, which RTBs.

Al Hufuh scrambles an F-15 with 2 hits to intercept a second F-4 unit from Basra. This time, no one scores a hit.

Now the Saudis have a single plane left in Riyadh on Offensive mode. It’s a measly little Lightning (anti-air strength of 3) so it probably couldn’t even manage a shootdown of a CH-47. But there is no sense taking chances.

I send an F-5 down from Kuwait and the Lightning gets sent up to attack the incoming enemy plane. Wow, the Lightning scores 2 hits on the Iranian F-5 and takes no hits in return! The F-5 unit is destroyed.

However, the way is now clear for the CH-47 to make it down to its destination hex with exactly two MPs to spare. It’s just enough to unload the supply depot. The one drawback to this is that the helo must stay there until next turn.

The 11th Armored Brigade captures the airfield at 1758. The base at An Nas Riyan is packed up and moved south by transport truck.  The 1st Armored Division goes into Reconstitution formation. I’m hoping to freshen it up by the time I roll east towards the UAE.

Around Riyadh, the 4th and 5th Armored Divisions go for an attack on 2nd Saudi Armored Brigade. It’s probably overkill but hey, it should punch a nice hole right in the middle of the Saudi lines. I shift a couple of infantry brigades over on the right flank just to protect my supply lines in case the Saudis use their Mechanized Guards Brigade to do anything sneaky.

End of First Action Stage Initiative Player Movement Segment

Iranian supply lines are still vulnerable at this point but nowhere near as badly as last turn. Having the Al Hufuh airbase in my ZOC means that neither of the two F-5s stationed there can launch. However, Riyadh airbase has a single F-5 unit and Qatar has a Mirage on Offense mode that could ruin my day by conducting deep strike interdiction missions near Kuwait to put large sections of my army out of supply. I throw several F-4s at Riyadh and manage one very successful mission that ends up destroying the airbase (it already had a single hit from last turn).

Just for the heck of it, I try for the Qatari airbase and end up scoring a hit but the rest of air missions return without having had any luck. Oh well. I’ll take it.

That bit of excess with the Qataris has cost me my close air support.

In the assault phase, the Saudi 2nd Armored Brigade takes 1 hit but doesn’t opt to retreat because this would leave the door wide open to Riyadh.

Over near Al Hufuh, the paratroopers at the base are out of supply, halving their combat strength to 1. Luckily, they are defending in a town so their strength is doubled to 2. The Iranian armored division would normally be attacking at 6 to 1 (combat strength six doubled to twelve due to hasty assault). However, these are elite paratroopers that we are facing so we’re looking at the 3 to 1 column instead. The Iranians score a single hit and, like their brethren to the west, the Saudis refuse to budge an inch backwards so they bravely suffer the combat hit.

In the Second Action Stage, the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division is brought out of reserve by the Iranian player. It marches directly south and goes to Hasty Assault formation to attack the Saudi 4th Mechanized Brigade. Both units take a hit in the ensuing combat.

The rest of the turn continues without much fanfare. The Qataris and UAE send their Mirage jets to try and hit my supply depot at 0947. The Qatari jet manages a nice bombing run, scoring two hits but the UAE Mirage fails to score any hits. It is probably time for the Iranians to get an air defense unit back up there.

The Saudis move their truck unit to the Supply Depot in 0964 but it will probably be too late to do much to help Al Hufuh next turn. The Saudis get nailed for another 4 Supply Points loss in the End Turn Stage because of the border conflict with the Yemenis. The elite Saudi paratroopers protecting Al Hufuh are out of supply, suffer a hit and are flipped to their reduced side.

Lessons learned:

  • For goodness sake, have an escort aircraft ready to fly when you need to send a C-130 anywhere.
  • Put an air defense unit on any supply depots in vulnerable terrain such as clear hexes. That’s a good place for the Iranian F-14 too, incidentally.
  • Using the Iranian air force in the early turns to destroy Qatar or UAE or Saudi Air Force instead of sending them on close air support would have made my job here much much easier. 
  • It may have been worth it to put a unit out of supply intentionally just to capture an airbase and get some air units down there to protect my ground units and supply lines.

Next turn is turn 7 and the Americans activate. Hoo boy!

Gulf Strike – Scenario 1: Operation Sharp Stick

The first four turns of Gulf Strike scenario 1 were marked by poor planning, bad luck, and lots of hard lessons learned. Using the few remaining brain cells in my head, I had barely managed to get the Iranian army close enough to within striking distance of Riyadh. Turn 5 would be the time for the Iranian Air Force to serve as a beacon of light – the mighty protector of the army as it trundled down the peninsula fueled by dreams of fanatics. This would be the turn for:

At this point, my guys were already looking worn out just from the effort required to travel south in any semblance of organized fashion and within reach of my supply depots. Thankfully, the Gulf Council states were generous enough not to pound the heck out of the Saudi highways with interdiction missions so the supply chain managed to stay intact.  On the other hand, the Iranians were unable to pull off any dazzling air victories of note. Even the navy was having trouble hitting enemy ships.

Turn 5:

We roll a “10” at the start of the turn and we get a random political event. A “4” is rolled on the table. “Democratic Yemen guerrillas become active on the Saudi border.” Oh no! That is absolutely the worst thing that could happen for the Saudis right now.

The fallout of this is that the Saudis need to send a brigade assault unit to the border for the remainder of the game turn or they lose 4 supply points per turn that they don’t do it.

Looking over my options, I don’t think the Saudis could send any of the defenders from around Riyadh. They are stretched thin enough as it is. I could send the elite paratroopers based at Al Hufuh airbase and try to transport the remains of the airbase towards Riyadh. However, I would be leaving the road completely open to UAE and Qatar by doing so. I think I need those paratroopers to be a speed bump so I’ll leave them there. With 42 SP for the Saudis this turn, I’ll probably be okay with losing the 4 extra SP for a turn or two.

Al Hufuh paratroops guard the east coast area

Supply Points are added and we get:

  • Iran: 52
  • Saudi Arabia: 42
  • Qatar: 17
  • Bahrain: 5
  • UAE: 29
  • Oman: 38
  • USA: 88
During the Unit Assignment Stage, it all comes crashing down on me. I should have foreseen the problem with Iranian air not being able to effectively arrive over Saudi targets so far south.  All of those ground combats will be out of range of everything except my F-4 Phantoms. I should have been shuffling my bases around earlier in anticipation of all this. I can see three airfields where I could have plunked down an airbase and kept my AH-1s sitting there ready to help out in the coming battle. I should also be hitting the hell out of the Saudi airbases because those F-15s are really nasty when they want to intercept my air cover.
I can get a couple of armored and mech divisions in movement to contact formation to near a couple of Saudi ground units this turn. I just can’t support them in any way whatsoever. I’ll have to spend turn 5 shuffling guys as best as I can to get them prepared to fight at their full capability next turn. My divisions trundling along on the east coast highway can pretty much steamroll over whatever they want and they should be able to capture the airfield near Al Kubar this turn, which should help.

Or maybe not. As it turns out, lack of airbases is not my only problem. I simply don’t have the supply range available to push my units that far down the coast. Not only that but I have failed to purchase a supply depot that could be transported down into Saudi Arabia and connected into the network. It looks like my sweeping vision for Iranian supremacy of the Middle East is turning into a great big joke. I’m can almost hear those guys over at the Pentagon laughing.  I send my C-130 up to Ahvaz where I’ll spend 4 SP at the end of the turn creating a supply depot. In the meantime, I’ve tried to sort out the airbase range problem by sending up a truck from Kuwait City to An Nas Riyan. Next turn, it will be loaded up and sent down south.

The 1st Armored Division on the coast will have to move to 1755, switch to MC and prepare to take Al Kubar next turn after plunking down a Supply Depot in 1452. Having an airbase there would be very helpful in taking on Qatar, Bahrain, and UAE after Riyadh falls. The only problem is that the airbase would be right on the coast and the navies of three countries are within easy access of bombarding it.

By the middle of the First Action Stage Initiative Movement Phase, I have moved my divisions quickly down towards their jumping off points for the coming attack next turn. The only problem is that my left flank on the Saudi coast is stretching its supply lines to the maximum 20 MPs and this will no doubt become a liability, a prime target for the enemy airplanes.

Here’s a look at the supply situation after moving Iranian ground forces in the First Action Stage. The distance from supply depot to target units is marked. Note how thinly stretched the Iranian units are near the coast. Any more than 20 MP from a supply depot and my units are out of supply. Simply interdicting 0955 and 0855, for example, will take two Iranian combat units (11th Armored Brigade in 1557 and 1st Armored Division in 1755) out of the supply network. Interdicting 0856 on top of this will put the 2nd Iranian Armored Division in 1457 out of supply as well.

Since the Gulf Council states have four aircraft on Offensive standby that could launch interdiction missions, this threat is very real and cannot be ignored. Three of these aircraft are Saudi F-5s (two at Al Hufuh and one at Riyadh airbase) and one UAE Mirage.

In order to keep my ground units safe and in supply, I’ll need to conduct air operations this turn with the goal of grounding as many enemy strike aircraft as possible.

To that end, the Iranians begin Operation Sharp Stick. The Iranian air force will launch planes in an attempt to:

1) lure out the Saudi interceptors (clears the way for interdiction missions in objective 2)
2) use interdiction to knock Al Hufuh out of supply (halves the number of enemy strike aircraft that can fly this turn)
3) destroy Riyadh airbase (doing so would remove another interdiction mission that the GC could fly and thereby secure my supply lines)

Supply network from depot to Al Hufuh airbase

I decide to send out a pair of fighters on Air Superiority missions from the airbase at Basra.They head straight south and are almost immediately detected by the Saudi AWACS after takeoff. An F-15 from Al Hufuh is scrambled to intercept. There is a short but remarkable air battle over 0554 where the F-15 takes two hits while the Iranian F-5 and F-4 are unscathed.

Another air mission is sent out on air superiority to lure the Saudi planes at Riyadh. This time another F-4 from Basra gets to within 6 operational hexes of the Saudi AWACS plane before it is detected. An F-15 from Riyadh intercepts. Neither plane manages a hit in the ensuing air melee. The Saudis still have a Lightning on Intercept at Riyadh.

I spend 4 SP to conduct two interdiction missions on the highway between Al Hufuh airbase and its supply depot. Neither of the F-5s on Offensive mode at the airbase may launch their missions. I need to take care of one more enemy plane to keep my guys secure from enemy interdiction missions. I decide to try and hit Riyadh airbase with my 3 remaining Phantoms. One flight leaves from Bushehr airbase and is intercepted by a Lightning, which fails to score any hits. The Phantom arrives over Riyadh airbase but the bombing mission fails. The second bombing mission from Ganeveh also fails to hits the base.  The third run scores a hit and damages the F-5 fighter in Offensive mode based in Riyadh. It won’t be enough.

During the First Reaction Segment, the Saudis tuck in the 4th Mech Infantry Brigade so it will have the advantage of defending in rough terrain instead of desert terrain. The Gulf Council states launch their air against the Iranian supply lines. 0855 and 0955 are interdicted, knocking the 1st Iranian Armored Division and 11th Armored Brigade out of supply.

The end of the turn sees the Iranian 4th Armored Division use its Reserve movement to sweep southwest to link up with an infantry brigade in 0558. The Iranian right flank near Riyadh should now be powerful enough to take on the Saudi Mechanized Guards Brigade or the Saudi 2nd Armored Brigade in 0659. Despite the Iranian setbacks this turn, the Saudis are in real trouble right now and facing a very dangerous situation.

A look at the situation near Riyadh. Saudi Mech Guards in 0358. Saudi 2nd Mech Brig in 0659 and 4th Mech Brig in 0761.

The end of the turn rolls around and the Iranian division and brigade both suffer a hit from being out of supply. The Saudis lose four supply points for their failure to squelch the border violence with Yemen. We now look ahead to turn 6 where the Iranians will have hopefully learned enough lessons to be able to bring its force to bear on the Saudis. Meanwhile, the Americans gear up to intervene in the conflict. Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, a Soviet cruiser trails an American carrier group…

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.

Gulf Strike: Scenario 1 – Operational Thinking & Lessons Learned

Leaving off from my last post about Iran’s strategy in the first scenario of Gulf Strike, I’d like to take a deeper look at how decisions about operations can have a knock-on effect in subsequent turns. In this case, the Iranian player starts off the game by invading Kuwait with the aim of quickly subjugating it before heading down south to face the rest of the Gulf Council states (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman).

Iranian F-5 Freedom Fighters 

In the first turn of the game, the Iranian player sends a few core units of his army to conquer Kuwait while the rest of his units move on down towards Saudi Arabia. By committing minimal ground forces for the battle of Kuwait, Iran’s reliance on air support plays a central role in the battle. Not only does the Iranian Air Force have the thankless job of neutralizing the Kuwaiti Air Force, it must also make up for the lack of attacking ground units by conducting risky and often futile close air support missions.

The errors start to compound in turn 2 as the bulk of the Iranian army heads south in a disorganized mess that leaves it open to air attack from the Gulf Council states. Having failed to deliver a killing blow in the first turn, the Iranian army is forced to spend another turn fighting it out with the Kuwaitis and they are provided with a dilemma that forces the Iranian commander to make a difficult choice between finishing off the Kuwaitis or broadening the air offensive against the other Gulf Council states.

A number of other poor decisions by both players comes to light in turn 2. Undoubtedly these will also alter the course of the subsequent turns and potentially the outcome of the entire game. I go into further detail and analysis below so you can gain a better understanding of the decisions I made and the lessons I learned while playing the early game in scenario one. The narration of the first turn shows why I made certain decisions and how they worked out. At this point, I was still thinking in terms of “broad strokes” and general strategy. By turn 2, my thinking patterns had radically shifted towards operational planning and execution, so my description becomes more verbose and methodical in game terms.

Turn 1:

I am trying to take Kuwait on the cheap here. I want to conquer it swiftly and keep my units moving so I advance the Iranian 1st and 2nd Armored and 3rd Mechanized Divisions into Kuwait and get them into a Hasty Assault formation. I could have tripled their firepower by putting them into Deliberate Assault formation but it costs a ton of supplies and lots of MPs to switch out of the formation afterward to move your guys around. The last thing I want to do is to hang out in Kuwait.

I can’t very well just let the Kuwaiti Air Force slaughter my attack helicopters on Close Air Support missions so it’s time to deal with their planes. Pairs of F-4/F-5s are sent out on air missions to lure the Kuwaiti Air Force out to play. Since I’m playing solitaire, I just roll to see if the Iranians are flying Air Superiority or Strike/Escort missions when the Kuwaitis intercept while I’m flying over their base. As it turned out, all of the Iranian missions were Strike/Escort.

I manage to draw out the Kuwaiti Mirage and A-4 fighters out. The Mirage hits one of my F-5 escorts early on. Airbase defenses are remarkably good and actually destroy the F-4 on a bombing run over the airfield. The Kuwaiti luck runs out quickly though. Two more strike missions manage to get through and one scores a hit on the airbase, which is assigned to the A-4 in Offensive mode. Although there is no knock-out blow, the Kuwaiti Air Force has been taken care of for this turn. Time to get my CAS working.

Only one of my AH-1s actually scores a hit on the defending Kuwaiti brigades. The 1st Armored Brigade is hit while the other AH-1s fail to score anything on the other units. Everyone returns to base safely though so there’s always that.

Ground combat is bloody and one-sided with the Kuwait 3rd Mechanized Brigade taking 2 hits but managing to cling on to life despite being out of supply. Kuwait’s 1st Armored Brigade is annihilated by Iran’s 1st Armored Division. The Kuwaiti 2nd Armored takes 2 hits but shakes them off with a retreat towards Kuwait City.  The Iranian 2nd Armored happily pursues them to the gates of the capital.

At this point, I was looking at the possibility of going into turn 2 with three Kuwait units still active and their capital still far out of my grasp. To pare the problem down a bit, I decide to activate my reserves and the 4th Iranian Armored Division heads east to mop up the remnants of the Kuwaiti 3rd Mechanized Brigade. At 5-1 odds, I decide against giving it any support and manage to roll a 1. Both defender and attacker take a hit. The Kuwaiti Mechanized unit is eliminated.

End of turn 1

I have 44 SPs going into next turn after spending 4 SP on a supply depot in Basra. I doubt I’ll need four divisions to take over Kuwait next turn, so I’ll pull out half my forces and send them down south with the rest of my units while the other two divisions will mop up next turn.

Turn 2:

Here’s where some of those decisions in the first turn start to catch up with me. As I said above, I’ve broken down my thinking from broad strategic strokes to immediate operational aims. Because of this, I’ve kept a detailed log of what I was doing throughout the turn and my thought process.

Strategic Stage:

As per the Special Rules, the rest of the Gulf Council states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, UAE) activate and declare war on Iran.

Global Political Phase: We roll a “1” and nothing happens.

Global Military Phase: The 1/75 Rangers are landed in Somalia by C-5 Galaxy transport. Each country gets supply points.  Here are the current tallies after adding them in:

  • USSR: 100 (+0)
  • Iran: 64 (+ 20)
  • Kuwait: 14 (+0)
  • Saudi Arabia: 30 (+10)
  • Qatar: 12 (+2)
  • UAE: 20 (+5)
  • Oman: 25 (+5)
  • US: 52 (+12)

Unit Assignment Stage: 

Air:

  • The Kuwaitis put their A-4 and Mirage back on intercept. Shouldn’t really matter anyways since the Kuwaiti airbase is in Iran 1st Armored Division’s ZOC. 
  • Iran’s F-5 unit in An Nas Riyan airbase takes a break this turn in an effort to get repaired.
  • Iran assigns the rest of its entire air force to offensive missions, hoping to break the back of the Gulf Council’s air forces this turn.
  • The Saudis pair up F-15s and F-5s on intercept missions over the Riyadh and Al Hufuh airbases.
  • The Saudi AWACS is kept just south of Riyadh.
  • The rest of the Gulf Council states manage their air forces as best as they can. Most air units are kept on intercept while a few meager air-to-ground attack aircraft are on offense.

Ground:

Iran already has two full armored divisions knocking around near Kuwait City. I would hate to have to commit a third one. However, it’s better safe than sorry and I put the 4th Armored Division in reserve just in case we run into problems.

The Iranian Situation:

We have a bit of a dilemma here when it comes to taking on Kuwait. Here are my options:

1,) Attack Kuwait City directly

Use Iran’s 1st Armored Division (with attached 11th Armored Brigade) in a Hasty Assault (combat strength of 9 doubled to 18) vs. Kuwait City.  The Kuwaiti MP brigade’s combat strength of 2 is tripled to 6 as per the terrain effects chart. In its Deliberate Defense formation, the MP combat strength is again tripled to 18.  This puts the combat at 18: 18 [or 1:1] odds. I could bring in a ton of air to bombard and inflict 2 hits on the unit so that a modified roll of 5 or more would eliminate it.

Pros: This could quickly and effectively end the battle for Kuwait.

Cons: Ground and Air Losses could be high not to mentio SP costs for strike missions.

2.) Dismantle the Kuwaiti Army outside of Kuwait City

Use Iran’s 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions (with supporting armored and artillery brigades) to attack Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Division west of Kuwait City. With both attacking divisions in a Hasty Assault, we would be attacking with a total combat strength of 30. The Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade is in Movement to Contact Formation (since it retreated last turn to avoid hits) so this would put its combat strength at 3. At 10:1 odds, I could easily reduce or eliminate it without using much, if any air power. Given that the Kuwaiti unit can easily retreat south from where it is, it could shake off 2 hits of damage. This mean that I would need a roll of 7 or more to inflict the 5 hits necessary to ensure its destruction.

Pros: Relatively risk-free attack. Almost no chance of failure. Very little supply expenditure required. Can focus air assets against rest of Gulf Council airbases.

Cons: Ties up the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions for another turn as they fight the Kuwaiti MP brigade for control of Kuwait City. Delays invasion of Saudi Arabia for at least one more turn.

The way I see it, the issue right now is one of supply versus time. The other Gulf Council countries are not really a credible threat to Iran at the moment though they may be able to get a few lucky hits against Iranian airbases here or there. The bigger problem is that of getting the bulk of the Iranian army moving towards its objectives further south. The Saudi player has generously placed his forces in a defensive posture around Riyadh, which means that Iran can afford to keep its focus on knocking Kuwait out of the war right now.

Add to this, the fact that even if Iran’s armored divisions completely wipe out the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade this turn,they will still be facing a 30: 18 odds fight when it comes to Kuwait. This is not all that much better than the 1:1 odds I would be facing this turn with a direct attack by Iran’s 1st Armored Division against Kuwait City. It would be under the +2 differential column instead of the 0 column of the CRT, which is probably not worth waiting an entire turn for.

Although the second option is more cautious and sure to succeed, I don’t think the Iranian player can afford to play this way and win the scenario. I think this calls for boldness so here we go.

Initiative Determination Stage

Obviously, Iran retains the initiative for this turn. Since the Gulf Council states have activated, now is a good time to start tracking hits.

First Action Stage

Naval Movement Determination Phase:

Iran/Soviets gets 4 NMP and the Gulf Council/US gets 1 NMP.

First Movement Phase:

I start off by putting the 1st Armored Division into Hasty Assault mode and declaring combat against the MP units holed up in Kuwait City. Meanwhile the 2nd Armored Division, in Deliberate Assault formation, will hit the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Iranian army gets sent south into Saudi Arabia.

  • The 3rd Mechanized goes from Hasty Assault to Travel mode and moves to 0947.
  • The 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions use MC to travel south. One is in 0546 and the other is in 0645. I should really break these divisions down and get some trucks to transport them. This is ridiculous.
  • The 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades are transported by trucks down to 0549.
  • A truck unit in Basra loads up the Supply Depot and transports it down to 0644 where it unloads it.
  • Another truck unit in Basra loads on the 1st Air Defense Brigade and carried it down to 0644 and unloads it.
  • To help out the poor infantry divisions sitting in 0549, I send over a truck from Abadan into 0645. Next turn, they’ll load them up and start transporting them south.
  • The 5th Armored Division in 0640 switches from MC to Travel mode and travels south along the highways to 0945 until I realize that it is dangerously close to the Kuwait 2nd Armored Brigade and place it in hex 0744 instead. The roads are getting really jammed up with men and tanks! 
  • The 3rd Artillery Brigade and 1st HQ go into the same hex as the 5th Armored Division. 

Some things to think about:

  • It’s now pretty clear to me that having the 4th Armored Division in reserve mode where it is accomplishes pretty much nothing. It can’t help out with any battles or follow up on any retreats by enemy forces where it is. 
  • Iran’s troop movement down south into Saudi Arabia was/is a great big mess. It will take some time to get that sorted out. I think I had the right idea with the supply depot and the ADA. It’s too bad I clued in too late with the trucks and the infantry divisions.
  • The Saudi AWACS is too far south to help the Kuwaitis. 
  • The Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade is going to get hit and it won’t be pretty but it will probably survive the turn. If will have to move east into 1245 to maintain its supply line so it will only be able to shake off 1 hit. It might be worth a close air mission to help seal its fate.
  • If the Kuwaitis had put the 2nd Armored Brigade into Reserve during the Unit Assignment Stage, would they have just been able to slip the unit into Kuwait City during the First Reaction Phase? That would have left the attacking Iranian 1st Armored Division facing odds of 18: 24 [1:2] against both the MPs and the Armored Brigade in Kuwait City while the Iranian 2nd Armored Division would have no one to attack! I am pretty sure they could have done this too if I had thought more carefully about Kuwaiti strategy in the Unit Assignment Stage.

I sent my three ships (FF, CO, and DD) from 1640 into the hex adjacent to Kuwait City and bombarded the city without success.

The Iranians would love to hurt the Saudi Air Force here but we can’t go all out because I need to conserve some forces for close air support against the Kuwaiti MP brigade. We’ll see what happens.

Saudi F-15s and F-5s scramble from Al Hufuh after the Saudi AWACS detects an Iranian air mission coming from the east.  The dogfight happens in the skies over Bahrain. The Iranian F-4 and F-5 take 1 hit each while the Saudi F-15 gets hit once and their F-5 is hit twice.

An Air Strike on the Al Hufuh base fails. Another strike on the base in Oman fails but the intercepting enemy aircraft takes a hit.  I want to conserve the rest of my air force and supply points so I stop here. However, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not being aggressive enough.

First Reaction Segment

The Saudis send up an F-5 from Al Hufuh to strike the truck transports in 0549. The F-5 gets a +4 bonus to its bombardment roll (Travel formation and Clear terrain) so the roll of 7 is a hit. One of the truck units takes a hit. I’m guessing the units being transported in the trucks don’t get a roll to hit the offending aircraft so the F-5 escapes back to Al Hufuh unharmed.

A UAE Mirage tries for a bombardment strike on the Iranian ships adjacent to Kuwait City but it is detected and hit by ship anti-air weapons. The Mirage aborts its attack and returns to base.

First Initiative CAS Segment:

After 10 SP spent on CAS missions, I manage two hits on the MP unit (one with an AH-1 and the other with an F-4 Phantom), flipping it over to its 1-1-4 side. Amazingly, the Iranian air force has taken no hits.  Now the Iranian 1st Armored will be attacking at 2-1.

First Assault Segment:

Iranian 1st Armored vs. Kuwaiti MP Brigade: 

Roll: 8
Modified Roll: 10
Result: 1/4

The Kuwaiti MP unit is destroyed. The 1st Armored Division rolls into Kuwait City. Kuwait’s sole supply source is occupied and all of its Supply Points are lost.

Iranian 2nd Armored Division vs. Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.

Roll: 4
Modified Roll: 6
Result: 0/4

The Kuwait Armored Brigade retreats 2 hexes to 1147. It absorbs two hits and is flipped over to its reduced side.

Second Action Stage

Second NMP

Iran: 4
Gulf Council: 3

Second Movement Phase:

Iran converts the 4th Armored Division in reserves from Hasty Assault to Travel mode and sends it across the border into Saudi Arabia at hex 0946.

Second Reaction Segment:

A Jaguar unit from Oman bombs the Iranian airbase on Qeys Island successfully. A Chinook helicopter units is assigned the hit.

Second Combat Phase: 

No declared combats.

Third Action Stage

Third NMP:
Iran: 4
Gulf Council: 3

Third Reaction Segment:

I could get the Saudi army into defensive position but it seems a bit premature. Everyone stays put. Let the Iranians extend their supply lines as far as possible.

Third Initiative Segment:

No Iranian units in reserve mode.

Third Combat Phase:

No declared combat.

End Stage

Saudi, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman ships in port are changed to underway status.

End of Turn 2

Final Thoughts

The Iranian player is now a bit deeper into trouble even though Kuwait has been successfully taken at this point. The Gulf Council navies and air forces are largely untouched and are actually conducting limited but somewhat effective operations against Iranian ground forces in turn 2. The Iranian Air Force has suffered quite a few losses at this point, all for the sake of getting a few extra infantry units into Saudi Arabia. This probably isn’t a complete disaster for Iran and could be recovered in the subsequent turn by getting the Iranian army moving effectively towards Riyadh and carrying out aggressive air and naval campaigns against enemy air and naval assets.

I think it’s pretty clear though that going into Kuwait on the cheap with ground forces is not really feasible because it places too much reliance on air power to make up for it. This is airpower that should instead be tightly focused on eliminating Gulf Council air and naval power before it becomes any sort of threat to Iran.

The good bits here were deciding to go for Kuwait’s throat instead of slowly but surely dismantling its army. Now the real powerhouses of the Iranian military (1st and 2nd Armored Divisions) can get down to the real fight. As I said before, I think scenario one goes to whomever takes the smartest gambles with a bit of luck thrown in here and there. In this case, it’s obvious that attacking into Kuwait City was the right decision after all.

Gulf Strike – Scenario 1: Iran Strategy & Thinking

In an alternate 1984, Iran emerges victorious from the bloody conflict with Iraq begun only three years earlier. After consolidating its gains and finally harnessing its professional army to the whims the Revolutionary Council, Iran is ready to strike again. This time, the stakes are the future of the entire Middle East. In a bold plan to destroy its enemies in the Gulf Council states and spread the fervor of the revolution beyond its borders, Iran will seize the Straits of Hormuz and come to its rightful place as a world power with control over the production and transport of oil from the region.

After the Soviets perform a number of brilliant political maneuvers accompanied by a series of American foreign policy missteps, relations between the Soviet Union and Iran have grown closer. In the Iranian plan, the Soviets see their chance to become the dominant superpower in the Middle East by supporting Iranian military adventure in the Gulf. The Iranians are currently the strongest military power in the entire Middle East. The American allies have grown soft and complacent over the years. If the Americans can be delayed from interfering in the conflict, the Iranian plan might just stand a chance in succeeding.

Trying to take over the Gulf Council states is not an easy thing to do. As a novice Gulf Strike player, making the plan work is even harder because stuff you never thought about suddenly crops up after you think things are finally nailed down in your favor. In my previous plays of GS, I learned these doozies after several turns:

1. Truck units are super-duper important in this game. They do everything from carry supply depots to carry troops. If you don’t have your trucks in the right spot, your infantry is going to have to march through Saudi Arabia on foot like in those old Cecil B. DeMille Bible epics. That’s cool if you’re living in the 3rd century…not so cool if you’re fighting a war in the 1980s.

2. There is no such thing as overplanning in Gulf Strike. Time is of the essence for both sides so there isn’t a turn to lose by shuffling your units around or mopping up in a country that should have already been taken. On the other hand, you should use just enough force to achieve your immediate objectives while getting the rest of your forces in position and ready for the next big fight.

3. Supply lines are crucial and the most vulnerable part of any army in the field. Putting your defense away from the capital is smart but victory can mean a one or two hex difference when you’ve got a lonely mechanized division sitting on a crucial highway north of Riyadh. All it takes is a successful interdiction mission or two and the unit is completely useless.

So here we are again sitting at the border of Kuwait and ready to invade. What am I thinking here?

Well, I should be thinking about how I can decisively defeat the Kuwaitis in the minimum amount of time. As soon as the first Iranian tank tread crosses the border, the clock is ticking down until the Americans intervene and there is only so much the Soviets are going to be able to do before the Marines are ashore and suddenly we’re another lyric in the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It will be much better for the Iranians to have all the hard fighting finished and simply hand the US a fait accompli when the first CVN pops up off the Straits of Hormuz.

So my plan is basically to overwhelm Kuwait with three big divisions on turn 1 and send the rest of my guys south towards Saudi Arabia. I don’t actually want to enter SA on the first turn as that would trigger their activation immediately. I just want to get my guys on the roads. I’m guessing that I’ll need to keep an armored division in Kuwait just to mop up the MP battalion in Kuwait City on turn 2. That’s fine. By that time the rest of my guys will be knee-deep in the sand down in Saudi Arabia.

There are basically two ways to go through Saudi Arabia – the coastal route and the interior route. Having to split my forces up between the routes will make for some supply headaches but luckily, the Saudis have set up too conservatively. They have put all their ground troops near Riyadh to defend the capital. This means that I’ll be able to march through the interior and simply move down towards the capital without having to worry about my flank on the coast. The extra defenders around Riyadh might make the fight for the Saudi capital a bit tougher but I should be able to easily overwhelm them if I send enough tanks to take them on and unleash enough Iranian airpower to help with the job.

The two-pronged approach down through Saudi Arabia

The eastern coastal route will be used for the rest of my army so they can keep the advance going into the UAE and Oman. Qatar and Bahrain can be taken at some later point by amphibious forces and airmobile/paratroop assets if I need them. The real prize here is the tip of the Strait of Hormuz (control of the Strait depends partially on controlling hexes 4555, 3557, 4458, 4062, and 3664). With control of the Strait, the Iranians have some kind of shot at a Decisive Victory.

Hexes required for control of the Strait

That’s about it for the Iran plan. I know this is not even a skeleton of a plan but I haven’t played this game enough to really see the big obstacles waiting for me down the road. I’ll update later and let you know how it’s going.