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Posted on Mar 24, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Strategy: The Star and the Crescent

By Johnny L. Wilson

Part I. The Star and the Crescent Game Review

This two-part article was originally published on Johnny L. Wilson’s Blog, but with his kind permission we are proud to bring it to our readers at Armchair General. Part I. is Johnny’s quick review of The Star and the Crescent (ProSIM) and Part II. will investigate some strategy for select scenarios.

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The Star and the Crescent
Genre: Military Command Simulation (War Game)
Developer: ProSIM
Publisher: Shrapnel Games
Price: $44.95
System Requirements:
" Pentium II 300 MHz
" 32 MB RAM
" Windows 95+
" 350 MB HDD
" 6X CD ROM
" Windows Compatible Sound Card

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Multiplayer: Up to 9 players
Scenario Designer: Yes
Manifesto Scenarios: Yes
Manifesto Strategies: Yes (Very short starcresstrat.doc)
Manifesto Playing Aids: Yes (situation map-Chinese Farm)

From the time the metal monsters made their initial appearance at Cambrai in World War I until the present day, armored vehicles have been a vital part of any combined arms doctrine of land combat. The bloodiest tank battles of WWII were likely those associated with the fighting around Kursk and the largest number of tanks engaged in a single battle since that time took place on October 17, 1973 on the east bank of the Suez Canal. The war was the famous Yom Kippur War. The battle came to be known as Chinese Farm. The significance was vital for protecting the pontoon bridges across the Suez, allowing more bridges to be built, and keeping the supply lines open.

It was the apex of Ariel Sharon’s military career and, to some degree, the nadir of Anwar Sadat’s military career. Who would have realized at that point that both officers would grow into statesmen, not mere politicians, who would change the world? In the fierce and fast series of battles known as the Yom Kippur War, armor combined with artillery, infantry, and air power would win the day. In THE STAR AND THE CRESCENT: ARAB/ISRAELI ARMORED COMBAT FROM 1956-2009 (TSATC), Shrapnel Games’ and ProSIM’s latest entry in their ATF (Armored Task Force) series of military simulations, it is possible to assume command of Arab or Israeli forces and relive history as though one is scribing one’s own map for a military atlas that would chronicle heroic deeds and missed opportunities. Not only does TSATC offer the Chinese Farm scenario from the Operation Gazelle portion of the Yom Kippur War, but it provides scenarios based on earlier Arab-Israeli conflicts and hypothetical future conflicts, as well. Even better, the game offers a built-in scenario editor for those who want to build more obscure historical scenarios or their own hypothetical future battles. From the inception of the state of Israel to a possible Armageddon, TSATC is a robust experience in military simulation.

NATO SITUATION ROOM (Look and Feel)

TSATC has a marvelous look for students of military history. As observed earlier, much of the game feels like one is working with an interactive military atlas, updating events on the fly. Military aficionados will gravitate to this look and savor the authentic, operational feel of the visual presentation. Gamers who rejoiced in the 3d models of the PANZER GENERAL or STEEL PANTHERS series will be somewhat disappointed in the rudimentary NATO symbols used to mark vehicles, platoons and companies on the map.

ATLAS SHRUGS Gamers have two basic map views in TSATC: one featuring colored unit depictions and grid lines on a largely gray map… …or one using the contours as seen in military atlases.

While the presentation of the units may seem Spartan in comparison to other war games, the scheme works well in allowing gamers to drill down through the hierarchies to the vehicle level (if desired) or focus on company level command. One can easily imagine pouring over the incoming reports at a command post or in a situation room. Also, the relatively simple presentation also makes zooming in and out easy. This can be very important when planning flight paths for your Phantom F4 fighter missions or using your artillery at maximum range.

Gamers looking for a true command perspective will enjoy the TSATC approach more than that of a game like STEEL PANTHERS because it functions as more of a simulation than as a game. Using such terminology can be misconstrued, but we mean that TSATC forces one to make basic command decisions (deployment, tactical doctrine, and path-designation) before engaging the timer and then, to piece together a response when the battle plan encounters the actual enemy. One cannot simply order each vehicle individually to go hull down in a defensive position, for example. Rather, one has the option of ordering an entire company to "hide."

Further, once one has made the initial deployment, path-planning and doctrinal decision, the result is to watch in real or compressed time as events occur to force command intervention. The experience is different from the accelerated time games that the industry erroneously calls "real-time strategy." RTS games have no real time scale. Military simulations such as TSATC, however, allow one to plod through a full day’s battle in a "scaled" version of actual time or an upscale, accelerated version of a full day’s battle. Once a player gets used to the system and available commands, it is most interesting to play at a compressed 4:1 or 8:1 ratio.

Finally, few traditional war games have used the limited intelligence in the way it is used in TSATC. When one first becomes aware of units outside your command structure, a yellow rectangle is depicted on the map. Scrolling over the rectangle, one gets a pop-up message stating that this is an unidentified unit. It is truly unidentified. In the Chinese Farm scenario, the first unit(s) to pop up would likely be friendly Israeli tank platoons. So, if you tend to follow the typical standard for wargaming (anything I don’t know is against me) and immediately open fire on unidentified units, you are very likely to destroy some of your allies via friendly fire. On the other hand, when your pre-battle briefing tells you to expect hostile units from a particular vector, it could be suicide to wait until the unit is resolved into hostile or friendly.

Frankly, gamers who need pretty tank models and burning carcasses to mark the demise of armored vehicles, will not be interested in the stark, utilitarian view of TSATC. Those interested in challenge and results, however, will find TSATC to be extremely satisfying from the perspective of true military simulation.

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TANK FARM The vehicle profile view for TSATC is more utilitarian than seen in the average war game.

Reviewer’s Snapshot: 7 (on scale of 10)

Historicity — 10
Replayability — 7
Graphics — 6
Software AI — 6
Flexibility — 8 (Construction Kit)
Price/Performance — 7

The Star and the Crescent at Shrapnel Games.

Discuss The Star and the Crescent on Armchair General’s forums.

Part II. Windows as Military Intel in The Star and the Crescent

Tactical Considerations for all Scenarios (The Star and the Crescent)

When softening up an entrenched position held by a foe, it is rarely solid doctrine to bulldoze your way in without softening up their position somewhat. Is that a big "Duh!" I hear from the experienced wargamers? As in real life, the risk/reward ratio simply doesn’t support such action unless one has overwhelming force and time is of the essence. Yet, it is possible that the enemy will not show up on the map until you are moving on it. In such cases, it is possible to use the air resources in The Star and the Crescent in much the same way as one would in real life, as simultaneously providing reconnaissance and ground support.

[continued on next page]

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