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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

If you have an excellent memory, the simulation already does this for you to some degree. As your air units pass over and fire upon the enemy position (and are, presumably, also fired upon), the enemy units appear on the screen for a moment. However, they usually disappear immediately after the air mission is complete and the planes head for their home base. If you can remember the exact position where you saw the icons or unit symbols pop-up, you can create supplementary fire missions with your artillery to further soften them up. You can, of course, waste a lot of ammo if your targeting is slightly off because of your poor analog memory tied to your biological processor (i.e. your brain).

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SPY IN THE SKY When players send air units to provide ground support, they also get a few moments of valuable intelligence. Units under the planes show up as exactly what they are rather than the neutral yellow unidentified vehicle platoons. Doing a screen cap and printing it out allows pinpoint targeting for follow-up artillery action.

Of course, through the magic of Windows, it is possible to use your PC as a virtual gun camera. No, you will not get a first-person view, but you can use the Print Screen command to take a snapshot of the moment when the air units are passing over the enemy position. Stop "Time" and minimize the game. If you paste the screen image into MS Paint or your preferred paint program, you can then save it or print it out so that even when you go back into The Star and the Crescent, you will be able to see precisely where the enemy is located. Naturally, this wouldn’t be as useful with an enemy on the move, but when they are in an entrenched position, this can be very useful.

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Tactical Considerations for Bir Gifgafa (October, 1956)

The good news for every player is that the scenario reflects reality. In the actual conflict, the Israeli Air Force had already softened up the incursion of Egyptian tanks (the 1st Armored Division) that had pushed forward from Bir Gifgafa, a village in the Sinai, and headed to relieve the "hedgehog" (type of fortification used by the Germans in World War II) area near Abu Ageila. In the real battle, the Israeli armor chased the remnants of the Egyptian tanks all the way back to the Suez (J. N. Westwood, The History of the Middle East Wars (New York: Exeter Books, 1984), p. 44) so that the Israeli infantry could take the strongpoint known as the Rueffa Dam. In the scenario, players only need to destroy the tanks or rout them to the east of the map before accomplishing their objective.

This was a deceptively easy scenario. We could feasibly claim acceptable losses, but the blue crosses pictured below were unnecessary deaths. When we initiated the scenario, we split our tanks into three operational units. One went to the extreme north of the map, the largest went through the center of the map, and a third went to the south of the map. In hindsight, we should have realized that the Egyptians would have been coming in force from the south and east of us. Most assuredly, we would have had time to divert to the north if necessary, but radical flanking would not have made sense for what the Egyptians were trying to do.

Ironically, the best advice to give to someone playing Bir Gifgafa for the first time is equivalent to the sage advice used by D&D players: "Don’t split the party!" In this scenario, it is okay to split the party somewhat-but it is only useful to bifurcate, not to trifurcate. Bir Gifgafa is a straightforward scenario and should be easy to win.

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BLUE CROSS, LOW SHIELD The blue crosses represent dead Israeli tanks-largely the fault of a commander who split his forces into three operational units instead of focusing on the center and south of the map.

Tactical Considerations for Chinese Farm Scenario (The Star and the Crescent)

ROADS OF SHARON (Tactical Considerations vs. Computer Opponent)

In the Chinese Farm scenario, the player assumes the role of consolidating the rear behind Ariel Sharon’s breakthrough over the Suez Canal. If the player is successful in protecting the existing bridgehead and keeping the Egyptians out of the 68 Northing area, more bridgeheads can be formed. Initially, the default paths set by the scenario are quite adequate. All armored vehicles under the player’s command will make it into defensible positions that can keep the Egyptians out of the 68 Northing zone. Unfortunately, the scenario goal also involves reducing the Egyptian force to five vehicles or less and that will require a little more effort.

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EX-CELLENT Here, all spots marked by a red "X" represent the demise of Egyptian units. The green "X" spots represent an allied Israeli tank platoon that was ambushed. Blue "X" spots would indicate the losses of units under the Israeli player’s command.

If the player waits patiently in the early portion of the scenario, the Egyptians will drive on their position en masse. The Israeli force can pretty much annihilate the Egyptian vanguard because of its aggregated concentration of firepower. Unfortunately, this massed firepower will eat up most of the Israeli supplies in a short period of time. So, the task is accomplished at a high price in munitions, though not usually in tanks and men.

Should the player use this "sitting and waiting" scenario, the rest of the mission won’t be a great deal of fun. Late in the scenario, the remaining Egyptian vehicles will hide north of the player’s position. It usually takes a judicious use of artillery and Phantom F4 overflights to flush them out. Since the munitions are so low for the armored units by this point, however, one can expect much less in terms of losses by using artillery and fighter missions to stir up the Egyptian hornets. Remember, the goal is to reduce the enemy to five vehicles or less while keeping them out of the Israeli fortified area.

Author’s Information

Johnny L. Wilson is the former editorial director of Computer Gaming World and publisher of Dragon, Dungeon, Star Wars Gamer, Star Wars Insider, TopDeck and Undefeated magazines. He is the author of The Sim City Planning Commission Handbook and co-author of Sid Meier’s Civilization or Rome on 640K a Day. His most recent game-related book is High Score: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games, written with Rusel Demaria. Today, he balances his game playing with his work as a freelance novelist and author of multimedia study guides for the books of the Bible. His passion is any game that causes him to study more history. Not the strongest player, he is nonetheless an avid player. Johnny and his wife live on the shore of Castle Lake in Tyrone, Georgia.

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