Suez ’56 Review
Review by David Lent
Suez ’56 is a solitaire board game about the Suez Fiasco by Decision Games. This is a standalone game using the Cold War Blitz rules that are also used in Khe Sanh ’68. In this game you control British, French and Israeli forces and to win you must occupy 4 or more victory spaces before you run out of turns. Historically, the purpose of this operation was to retake the canal and possibly overthrow Nasser. You can win this game without controlling any of the canal which doesn’t feel right. There are limited turns in this game and the turn track can go down up to 5 levels per turn so you have to win before time runs out.
This game includes an 11″ x 17″ map, 40 die-cut counters, 18 campaign cards, Cold War Blitz rules and Suez ’56 scenario rules.
The map is not hex based and is instead a point to point map. The terrain represented is open terrain, towns, airbases, passes, cities, forts, ports and crossing points. There is also the important turn track on the map, air available box, used air box, allied reinforcement box, allied unit eliminated box, OPFOR units eliminated box, Egyptian random location placement table and an airborne insertion table. The map works really well for this game and it has the random location placement table which is an improvement over the game map from Khe Sanh ’68.
Decision Games has made a significant improvement in counter quality for this game compared to some of their older mini games. On some of the older games, it was hard to punch out the counters. They punched out easily and neatly for this game. The 40 counters represent ground units, air units and a turn marker. The first number on a ground unit is it’s combat strength and the second is movement. Divisions are two steps and everything else is one step. Air units have only combat strength because their movement is unlimited. Combat strength represents the number of dice rolled for the unit in combat. One of the Israeli ground units is mechanized infantry and the rules do not state whether or not mechanized infantry (who have armored personnel carriers) get to use the pursuit rule like classic armor or not. I made a house rule letting them do so.
There are 9 campaign cards for the allies and 9 for the Egyptians. On the top right is a number that says how many turns you move the turn marker up or down the turn record track. The game ends when you have finished turn 1. The text of the cards do things like replace eliminated Egyptian units, add or remove turns from the turn track, bring in allied ground or air reinforcements, overthrow Nasser, move Egyptian units toward allied units, destroy allied units or destroy Egyptian units. All of the allied cards are in your hand and one is played every turn. The Egyptian cards are in a deck and one is drawn every turn. Most cards take turns away, so it’s impossible to win unless either an Egyptian or Allied card is successfully played that gives you extra turns. There is one card that appears to be a misprint. The Anglo-French Amphibious Assault card says to put the allied fleet in the available box. There are no fleet counters in this game. I assume they are referring to the naval bombardment counter, so I keep that as a reinforcement until this card is played.
The base rules included in the game are called Cold War Blitz and are also used in Khe Sanh ’68. If you already know them, you only have to read the Suez ’56 scenario rules. Both rules combined have a total of 6 pages and take less than 20 minutes to read. The rules are very clear and can be easily learned by both beginners and experienced gamers. These rules listed all the unit types, except for mechanized infantry as pointed out earlier.
Setting up the game is easy and straight forward. First, the turn marker is placed in the “9” position. Next, 100% of the allied units are placed in the reinforcement box. The Egyptian units are turned upside down and put in their assigned starting locations according to the rule book. The Egyptian units are not revealed until they are in combat with an Allied ground unit, air unit or naval gunfire.
There are 12 phases in each turn, but don’t let that intimidate you. These are very simple to follow. The ground combat phases will be explained in detail below this table. They are:
1) Friendly Action Card Phase – Choose one card and play it
2) Friendly Reinforcement Phase – Place any reinforcements your card says to place into the staging area. Air reinforcements go in the air available box
3) Friendly Ground Movement Phase – Move ground units on the map applying terrain effects from the terrain effects chart
4) Friendly Air Movement Phase – Place air strikes, move airborne units into parachuting position and move a unit by helicopter if it is available.
5) Anti-Aircraft Phase – Egyptian AA fires at airstrikes and parachuting infantry. A parachuting infantry unit can be eliminated by AA before it reaches the ground. If the parachuting unit survives AA, it rolls on the airborne insertion table to see if it lands successfully.
6) Friendly Air Attack Phase – Roll dice equal to the total combat strength of all your attacking aircraft and consult the air to ground section of the combat results table. Enemy losses are assigned to the unit with the least combat strength.
7) Friendly Ground Combat Phase – Explained in detail below
8) OPFOR Action Card Phase – The top card of the OPFOR deck is played
9) OPFOR Reinforcement Phase – Any reinforcements called for by the card are played.
10) OPFOR Movement Phase – Move any units specified by the card
11) OPFOR Combat Phase – The same as friendly combat phase.
12) Admin Phase – Roll to try and bring back used air units and move the turn marker down by 1.
Ground combat is done by first determining tactical superiority (fancy name for initiative). You roll one dice for the allies and one for the OPFOR. If either has a special forces unit add +1 to the roll. The winner will fire first. Line up the OPFOR units from strongest to weakest and then line up the allies in any order you wish. The side with tactical superiority goes first. You roll the number of dice equal to the first firing unit’s combat strength and consult the combat results table. Terrain may prevent some retreats or add 1 to Egyptian combat strength if it is a fort. You alternate back and forth from one sides’ surviving units to the other. If both sides still have units after one round, the procedure repeats until only one side has units left. If an armor unit is on the winning side it may move one space in a pursuit move. If that move puts it on a space with an enemy unit, combat ensues.
The game play for Suez ’56 is much different than in Khe Sanh ’68. This game is a race against time. You need to figure out how to get the minimum amount of units needed onto the battlefield as fast as possible. The usual method I use is to bring all the Israeli forces onto the battlefield on the first turn and take Gaza City which is a victory space. In addition to that, I parachute the Israeli airborne unit on to the Mitla Pass. There is a card that gives you extra turns if Israel controls it. The next turn I play that card in order to gain D6/2 turns. For turn 3, I do an airborne assault onto Alexandria and Suez City in order to attempt to take these two victory spaces. Usually, at least one has a bad landing and goes back to the reinforcement box. On turn 4, I land two marine units on Port Said and attempt to take it. If all has gone perfectly, I win at this point. Otherwise, I usually only have one turn left and if I don’t pull it together I lose. It is extremely rare for this game to last more than 5 turns. I’ve run out of turns on the turn track by the end of the third turn before and lost. I win about 60% of the time, because this is a challenging game with some rough random events. There is a really deadly Egyptian card called guerrilla warfare that causes all of your units in Egypt to roll a D6. On a 6 your unit is destroyed.
Overall, I like this game but it’s not a relaxing game. It’s very tense, because you only have a limited amount of time to win and some of the cards can cause you to lose before you even get enough forces on the board to stand a chance. I’ve never been able to get all the allied forces on the board with the limited amount of turns. Some games turn into a total fiasco, but that’s to be expected when you are simulating a military operation that was opposed by the United States, Russia and the UN. I’m glad there is finally a board game about this military operation. This is well worth the $12.95 it costs.
Buy your own copy here.