OIL WAR – WWIII in the Middle East, an overview

Lee launches our Oil War coverage with an overview of the new book.

Oil War brings a new dimension to Team Yankee as we leave the Great European Plain and Fulda Gap and take our first look at the wider conflict in the world.  Let us start by looking at how Battlefront has placed Team Yankee’s conflict into the Middle East.

The Background

The background picks up on the two hot points of 1980’s middle east; the Israeli-Syrian tensions and the Iran-Iraq war.
The latter is the real focus of the book. Already in almost in its fifth year by the time of Team Yankee, Oil War sees both the USSR and USA try to exploit it in the run-up to the opening shots of WWIII. The USA looks to secure Iraq against an anticipated Soviet thrust whilst the USSR intends to seize the Iraqi oil fields. Iran, having been provided material support and advisers by the Soviet Union, suddenly finds that the Soviet Union has an ulterior motive for this new found friendship and is forced to go along with the Soviets “co-operating” in invading Iraq.

The USSR/Iran alliance is a little tough to swallow, though BF do exploit known points of co-operation and adopt a carrot and stick approach to why Iran would go along with it. I still would have preferred BF to adopt another Harold Coyle book “Swordpoint” and have Iran as a belligerent third party to the two superpowers fighting over its home turf, but it’s not a deal killer.

Additionally, the actual events of the Iran-Iraq war are covered in a two-page section to provide a starting point for those who wish to wargame the historical scenario. It’s a welcome touch.

Over on the Med, Syria is forewarned of the coming Soviet campaign and intends to use the US distracted state to regain the Golan Heights, at a minimum. It’s a more plausible, limited scenario, and provides a satisfactory reason for Syria and Israel to be in the book.

As a final touch on background, there is a section to cover likely US and French forces that could have been airlifted or pre-positioned to support the Iraqis. This includes some desert camo’d Humvee and a desert MERDC M1.

Say it with me: “Everything looks better in desert camo”

Forces

We will be going over the forces in detail in future articles, and a lot of the units are re-skins of existing NATO or Warpac forces. As such, the next section summarises the forces introduced.

Israel

Whilst the Israelis are new to Team Yankee, they have been covered in Flames of War in “Fate of a Nation”. The recent addition of the 1973 Yom Kippur to that has set the Israeli up well for the 1980 game. TOW jeeps, M113 APC and Magach 6 tanks all make a return. But joining them we have recce and anti-tank versions of the M113, VADS and Chapperel anti-aircraft systems and M109 self-propelled guns

Israel has the following formations

  • Merkava 1 Tank Company
  • Merkava 2 Tank Company
  • Magach 6 Tank Company
  • M113 Mech Infantry Company
Combined arms, Israeli style.

The biggest addition is the Merkava tank, Israel’s first indigenous MBT. Much like the UK’s chieftain, it prioritises armour over mobility, having similar stats in both regards. However, it “only” sports a 105mm main gun. This has gained APDS-FS ammo bumping it to AT19 over its 73 equivalent, and it has a stabilizer and decent FCS giving it a moving RoF 2. This is also backed up by an over barrel .50 and three 7.62mm MG giving an impressive six MG shots.

The Merkava is available in two variants, the original Mk.1 and the post-Lebanon Mk.2, segregated by formation. The latter is a bit more expensive but gains front armour to an IPM1 equalling 19 and replaces its bazooka skirts with BDD armour (AT13 vs HEAT side shots). With so many RPG wielding troops to deal with, it may be a worthwhile upgrade!

The Magach 6 is pretty much as per FoaN, lacking both stabiliser and Blazer ERA armour (adopted in the early ’80s), presumably because at that point its performance become Merkava like anyway!  In this way, it is differentiated as a low-end tank option.

Those who follow my Fate of a Nation battle reports will know that my 1973 era infantry are often the star of the show. The 1980 version only improves this, replacing slow firing but long ranged FN FAL with Gali assault rifles, adding more FN MAG teams to keep the ranged fire up, and bolstering AT fire by adding RPG and an M47 Dragon ATGW. The M113 “passenger 3” capacity gets pushed to the limit!
The M113 itself gets an upgrade with the addition of a pair of FN MAG pintle guns bolstering fire support. The infantry also receive a small increase in morale so will hopefully rally, unlike their ’73 versions!

The new addition in support is, perhaps, the most interesting; the Pereh missile launcher.

Reach out and touch…well, anyone.

I’ll cover its murky background in the main Israeli review, but in game terms, we get a new type of missile rule – Non-Line of Sight (NLOS). The Pereh can sit out of sight at the back of the board and deliver an AT21 HEAT payload with no need to see the target. The only downside is the target always counts as concealed, but that will still mean hitting Syrian targets on a 4+ generally.
This makes the Pereh perfect for dealing with any anti-air assets, artillery or helping to thin out the armoured horde.

All in all, there’s a lot to like.  The only real disappointment is the absence, other than a brief mention, of Israel’s Paratroops and Naval Commandos as a light/airmobile elite infantry option.  I was also hoping to see an F-4 Phantom II model for both Israel and Iran but air support is entirely focused on A-4 Skyhawk for Israel, and the SU-25 for Iran.

Iraq

The Iraqis don’t bring many new models to the game; the only new addition to the range is a Mephisto like HOT launcher on a six-wheeled Panhard chassis that packs a hard “Hammerhead“ed AT23 punch but probably isn’t winning awards for looks.

The French have made many beautiful instruments of war.  This sin’t one of them

What the Iraqis bring are combinations. Crazy, crazy, combinations.  They have the following formations:

  • T-72M Tank Battalion
  • T-62 Tank Battalion
  • T-55 Tank Battalion 
  • BMP-1 Mech Infantry Battalion
  • BTR Mech Battalion

Each Tank type is segregated in its own formation but the infantry formations can have a tank company in support, so a two formation force can have some mixing of types.

Being supplied by both the East and the French, and backed directly by the US in the game universe, the Iraqi army can draw from a large pool of toys. Gazelles and Hinds provide direct support, T-72M receive fire support from AMX SP Howitzers (hmmm….autoloaders), AK-47 and RPG wielding infantry ride around in AMX-10P IFV and have a Milan missile team in place of the Sagger. 

The tank formations are a bit like cut down Warsaw Pact ones.  HQ, Two to three companies of tanks, an infantry company (BMP or BTR) and an AA platoon.  There is no organic artillery, SAM or recce, though the force tree provides all of that.

The infantry formations are somewhat more well-equipped.  The BMP formation has the normal two to three companies of BMP-1 mounted infantry (sporting PKM, AK-47 – no UGL, RPG, and an optional SA-7 team, all in the typical Warsaw Pact model), plus a tank company and AA platoon but also gains a Carnation battery.

The BTR battalion takes this one step further, adding a BRDM Spandrel AT platoon to make up for the lack of saggers.  The BTR infantry themselves have some neat options.  For a start, they can have an optional AT-3 Sagger platoon (AT19 like all the ’80’s version of it), or, reflecting the French assistance, a Milan team.  This has all the stats of any other Milan team, but ROF3 to reflect the Soviet-style large bases.

The BTR company can also swap out BTR for the similar OT-64 or it can field AMX-10P IFV.  These can also mount the Milan missiles, exchanging one large base for equipping three IFV with the missiles.  These options certainly make the BTR company a bit more appealing than the norm.

Combine all that with a NATO ally slot and you can have all of that backed up a USMC rifle company or French AMX-10RC squadron, all whilst the USAF and USMC provide CAS.
There’s almost too many options; I don’t know where even to start with list creation!

Syria

The Syrians basically use the Iraqi lists but without the French kit or NATO support. This does mean that they keep access to all the normal Warsaw Pact second tier kit, and also keep the Iraqi force diagrams two Hind boxes which may make for some air dominated lists!  The Syrians thus feel much like a normal tier two Warsaw pact force, right down to the potential for having a T-64 company in support. 

Russians fighting in Syria, on the ground and in the air?  Preposterous…

Iran

Iran started the war with a mix of Western kit courtesy of the Shah of Iran’s western-friendly regime. However, withdrawal of western support and five years of war have seen Iran acquire some war booty from Iraq and some Chinese and North Korean copies of the T-55 and T-62 respectively.
The Iranian lists, much like the Iraqi ones, allow for some eccentric combinations of equipment, although, like the Iraqis, the tank types are segregated by formation to stop too much silliness.

Still, it’s entirely possible to have M60 tanks supported by BMP mounted infantry, M109 artillery and AH-1J cobras, all whilst Scorpion tracked recce vehicles lead the way! Interestingly the formations follow the NATO style format of being companies, not battalions.

The Iranians get access to the following formations:

  • Chieftain Tank Company
  • M60 Tank Company
  • T-62 Tank Company (though one of the three slots can be T-55)
  • Mechanised Infantry Company
  • Basij Infantry Battalion

Stat wise, the Iranians don’t do too badly.  Given the purges and a tendency to rely on fanaticism, I expected skill of 6 but instead, they get 5+ (including assaults), giving them a little flexibility to do orders.  They do get “Fearless” stats of 3+ across the board so they can be relied on to stick around or “follow me!”.

The M60 and Chieftain are not the state of the art versions of the US and UK respectively, lacking laser range finders and, in the case of the M60, stabilizers.  The ammo is also decidedly old fashioned; both tanks only have APDS so have reduced AT compared to the western models.  The Chieftain’s 120mm still sports Brutal, Accurate and an AT of 20 so it’s still more than adequate against the tanks the Iraqi can field, though!

All three tank formations can take two to three three-tank platoons, plus a one-two tank HQ platoon, plus a Mechanised Infantry platoon.  Additionally, the T-62 formation can have the option of taking the Basij militia platoon in place of the mech group.

The Mech Infantry are seven strong platoons of MG3 and RPG-7, mounted in M113 transports, with optional two-man ATGW (M47 Dragon) and MANPAD (SA-7 Grail) teams.  They can also swap the M113 for BTR-60 or BMP-1 courtesy of those careless Iraqis…

The Mech formation can take two to three infantry platoons, an AT platoon with either M113 106mm or M150 (TOW), a mortar platoon (M125) and a tank platoon.  The latter can be useful to get around the mono-tank formations, allowing a platoon of Chieftains to support the M60 or T-62 formations, for example.

The Basij represent the first “foot” light infantry formation in the game (The US, UK and Soviet ones being helicopter mounted). Fearless Conscript stats and AK rifles may not seem like they will set the meta alight, but when you consider a full-size unit is 25 AK Teams and 12 RPG-7 Teams, they can assault 6” and can also do a “spearhead” like infiltration (at the cost of not being able to dig in or exploit bulletproof cover), then things suddenly get interesting. That can put a big mound of infantry a bit closer to the enemy and able to tactical move, follow me (on a 3+), and assault very early one.  Its almost certainly the most interesting part of the Oil wars book in terms of bringing something new to the (wargaming) table.

So long as you like painting units of 124 figures, of course…

The formation can field two to four company of infantry, plus a Jeep mounted Recoilless AT platoon.

The Iranians can be supported by an allied Warsaw Pact formation, and have fixed wing air cover courtesy of the Soviet air force.  This is my minor peeve of the book as I was hoping we may see a Maverick armed F-4 model for the Iranians and Israelis!  It’s true that neither the Iranians or Iraqis really did Close Air Support as the west (or even the Soviets) would understand it, but when has Team Yankee ever let something like that get in the way of a cool model?

Soviets

Soviets?  You weren’t expecting that, right?  

Oil War doesn’t have a Soviet force but it does have the missile-armed and up-armoured T-62M formation that was previously a web freebie.  As the kind of force that would have been allocated to support a push on the Southern front, it’s not an out of place inclusion, but you will need Red Thunder to fully utilise it as only the T-62M HQ and Company are detailed.

Scenarios

We get two secnarios, one for each theatre of operations.

The Iran Iraq one reflects a Iranian assault on an Iraqi fortified position, complete with militia having to deal with MG bunkers!  The scenario has rules for MG bunkers (much like we have seen in the ‘Nam and Fate of a Nation rules  but is pretty much “No Reteat” so easy to grasp.

The second scenario has Israeli Merkava holding the Golan Heights from a Syrian T-62/T-72 force in another “No Retreat” re-run.

The scenarios provide some interesting ideas on how to build and use the respective forces but they are not as novel as some of the others we have seen in TY.  They probably do reflect the expected scenarios for the region though!

Painting 

We get a one-page painting guide for each of the three major players, Syria not getting a look in.  Interestingly the paints used are Vallejo, not Colours of War, reflecting the coming shift in the manufacturer.

Catalogue

The catalogue wouldn’t normally get much of a mention but it is worth pointing out that the Israeli get a full boxed release whilst the other nations get Starter Sets, Unit Cards and a few dedicated model releases.  The catalogue has a section to help Iranian and Iraqi/Syrian players work out what existing boxes to buy to get models, then they use the unit card packs for the relevant cards, should you so wish.

Conclusion

So, that’s an overview of Oil Wars.  It’s interesting to see Battlefront branch out the story somewhat to cover other “hotspots”.  Previously Battlefront has talked about wanting to do “Bush Wars” and it’s not beyond impossible to meld the South Africa/Angola war (with Cubans!) into the narrative.  There’s also always Korea.  It will be interesting to see what comes next.

The only real complaint is that when Battlefront explores these new regions, they do need to find a way to make these armies play differently.  The Basij may be the most interesting part of the book in terms of opening up a unique playstyle (albeit still horde based); the rest of the forces feel like they won’t vary terribly from the British (in Israel’s case) or any other Warsaw Pact force.

For a new starter, or a NATO player looking to cross over to the Pact style of play, or vice versa, the crazy combinations available, or the cool kit the Israelis have, will be more attractive no doubt!
As someone with a number of Team Yankee forces already, its only the modelling opportunities that are really drawing me to these lists. 

Remember; everything looks better in desert camo!

Oil War gets released April 13th so head to your LFGS and reserve a copy!

Category: Arab-Israeli WarDesertIsraelRed ThunderSovietsTeam Yankee

2 comments

  1. I was merrily reading through this think oh yes that sounds nice, I could be tempted by one of these at some point and then I came across this sentence in the Iranian section ” Interestingly the formations follow the NATO style format of being companies, not battalions.”
    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

    I’m Thinking T-62 Companies and some mechanised infantry backed up with Chieftains

    Is it April yet

    Although technically I do have a Czech horde i need to finish painting first

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.