Thund-arrrrrr Bolt Formations – #AFateOfFourGamers

Today, Duncan looks at his Thunderbolt Company for the #FateOfFourGamers Challenge and compares it against the other options available to the Egyptians in Fate of a Nation.

Who are the Thunderbolt Battalions?

Thunderbolt Force or Sa‘ka Forces are the Egyptian military commando force established by Major General Galal Haredi. Founded in the 1950’s the Sa’ka were conceived as a Special Operations, not Special Forces, units and still serve the Egyptian army today. The Sa’ka also differ slightly in their recruitment boasting an experienced, professional core of NCOs and Officers and taking the best conscripts into specialised training facilities.

Egyptian forces cross the Suez on Day 2 of the Yom Kippur War, 1973

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1973 there were 38 battalions of these elite troops and they were deployed across all the Egyptian infantry divisions that crossed the Suez as the very tip of the spear in Operation Badr. The opening stages of Operation Badr on the 6th October 1973, were the result of more than 2 years of operational preparation and more than 5 years training with initial goals of crossing the Suez and seizing the Bar-Lev Line of Israeli fortifications.

The information on the Sa’ka Forces deployed is not fully released, even today, but generally it is accepted that the following Sa’ka forces took part in Operation Badr at up to a Brigade level.

  • 127th Sa’ka Group – Col Fuad Basyuni
  • 129th Sa’ka Group- Col Ali Heykal
  • 136th Sa’ka Group – Col Kamal Atiyah
  • 139th Sa’ka Group – Col Osama Ibrahim
  • 145th Sa’ka Group – Col El-Sayid Sharqawy

Thunderbolt Battalions in Fate of a Nation

There are five infantry options in the Fate of a Nation available to Egyptian players; Thunderbolt Battalion, BMP-1 Mech Battalion, BTR Mech Battalion, BTR-152 and the Infantry Battalion.

Out of all of those options, only the Thunderbolt Battalion and Infantry Battalion are non-mechanised troops which definitely makes them stand out from their peers. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each selection in the list:

Unit Pros Cons
Thunderbolt Battalion
  • High Skill and Courage
  • Better than average Assault
  • Decently sized unitS
  • Can take Sagger and Grail Teams
  • No transport options
  • Reasonably expensive in points
  • Still hit on 3+
BMP-1 Mech Battalion
  • BMP-1 Saggers a-go-go
  • Extra LMGs
  • Can still take a Grail
  •  Mobile
  • BMP-1s can be used as light tanks
  • Super expensive
  • No ground mounted Saggers
  • Grail is more expensive to include
  • Obvious target
BTR-60 Battalion
  • Cheap
  • Mobile
  • Ground mount Sagger/Grail available
  • 82mm Recoilless Rifle available
  • Big Company size
  • Blindicide less range than an RPG
  • More expensive to include Sagger/Grail
  • Unwieldy
  • Low Skill
  • Transport must stay with infantry
  • Less man packed AT assets
BTR-152 Battalion
  • Cheapest mobile option
  • Ground mount Sagger/Grail available
  • 82mm Recoilless Rifle available
  • Big Company size

 

  • Transport is lightly armed
  • Blindicide less range than an RPG
  • Less man packed AT assets
  • Transport must stay with infantry
  • Unwieldy
  • Low Skill
  • More expensive to include Sagger/Grail
Infantry Battalion
  • Big Company size
  • 82mm Recoilless Rifle available
  • DSHK AA MG available
  • Gain additional Minefield and Wire obstacles
  • Basically static
  • Expensive
  • No Sagger or Grail option
  • Low Skill
  • Unwieldy
  • Less man packed AT assets

 

I’m not convinced that I see a real role for the Infantry – the largest Company is twice the cost of the largest BTR-152 Company and really only gets minefields and wire obstructions so you’re really are setting out your stall early on to maximise that bonus.

The mobile BMP and BTR companies you need to either maximise the Sagger density and invest heavily in that or compromise on cheaper units that will use their transports to get to where they need to go quickly before the footslogging begins.

You may have guessed already that my preference is the rounded Thunderbolt troops. For me, the additional courage means that you will often be able to Follow Me and gain that additional 4” of movement making them essentially as mobile as the mobile units. The ability to include 2 ground mounted Saggers is massive, combined with 6 RPG stands you have some decent man packed AT that will be tough to dig out.

For me the Thunderbolts inhabit a sweet spot in the Egyptian forces. Without the overheads in the cost of transports, they are cost-effective enough to include, like I have in my Fate of Four Gamers list, as a Support choice without breaking the bank whilst bringing the flexibility to either Dig In and defend or Follow Me and support a tank thrust is amazing. Yes, you pay for this flexibility but I don’t feel like it’s over-costed or too great an investment that it compromises the rest of your list.

You have to love integral artillery – especially rocket artillery!

I also like the Thunderbolt Battalion as a primary, or additional formation, with the inclusion of the BM-21 Hail Battery as a Core Platoon. This means if you take the two compulsory Thunderbolt Company’s as well as the Hails if you are savvy and hid your Battalion HQ and the Hails sufficiently it means your opponent will have to try and kill 35 odd stands of highly motivated, armed to the teeth Sa’ka Troops! Sounds expensive right? Wrong for around 40pts you get a Battalion HQ, 18 x AK47 stands, 12 x RPG-7 stands, 4 x AT-3 Saggers and 3 x BM-21 Hails… Now personally I think that is a bargain and means that you have the points to include another, complimentary, formation to back up these elite warriors.

Wrap Up

Sa’ka ready to go

In game terms, as in the 1973 conflict, Sa’ka troops remain the cutting edge of the Egyptian infantry arm. They were the troops that helped the Egyptians create bridgeheads across the Suez up to five miles deep into Israeli held territory. They are elite, well equipped and flexible enough to do whatever you need them to turn their hand to. They lack the raw hitting power of the full BMP-1 Battalion but they are able to combine effectively with other Egyptian forces to make less obvious and more interesting lists.

Next time I’ll look at painting up your Thunderbolt troops and getting them tabletop ready to take the fight, once again, across the Suez.

Category: A Fate of Four GamersArab-Israeli WarFate of a NationRambling

3 comments

  1. You forgot THE biggest disadvantage that they have and that’s no long range fire as they’ve no LMGs only AK47s at 8”. The saggers are good AT but no use against moving infantry.
    They also suffer the same as all other Arab forces with the very poor skill rating for artillery (5+ for Egypt).
    I do like them and think that for FIBUA they’d be great, but on a sparsely filled table they get mown down before they can be brought to bear.

    1. Hi Simon,

      You are 100% correct the lack of meaningful long range from the AK47s is an issue. I feel like you have to be aggressive with the Egyptians so I was more thinking along the lines of them supporting my IS-3s or T-62s but you are right defensively they are lacking.

      The Skill Rating is problematic across the Egyptian and Syrians so I’m not convinced that it’s a specific Sa’ka issue.

      Also, we play on tables which are quite dense in terrain generally. That can be stuff in the desert even stuff like broken ground and brush which all helps.

      -Dunc

  2. Hi Dunc,
    I totally agree if you stand any chance of of getting anywhere with them you have to be aggressive and as a support they can really shine, but in attack they stand the risk of getting shot before they get into range themselves.

    The 2 other points are well worth pointing out as well, I’ve tried a thunderbolt list against a Nam NVA list and was really hoping for a tall elephant grass (which didn’t happen :() the terrain plays an important part in any game and most games have way too much terrain which I’ll admit helps the the thunderbolt.

    The skill rating is another matter and is linked to BFs effort to improve artillery unfortunately all they’ve done is improve the damage part not the to hit (this improvement does look better), but there is no way anyone is so bad to be a 7+ to hit just because there’s terrain behind target

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Article by: Duncan Gosling