Lawrence of Arabia

Playings; 2 (1 Turkish, 1 British win), 9 hours.


This old Wargamer game has been re-released by 3W spouting new counter art and the new "Osprey" style box art. Nevertheless, this review is based on playing the old boxed edition with Peter O' Toole on the cover. The map appear remarkably similar so keep an eye out for the difference between rough and mountain, hard to tell apart under poor light. One obvious change is that cavalry counters have lost a factor, cavalry was rated for combat/move/recce, recce being a longer move which prohibited use of the unit in attacks. The movement rate is probably doubled for recce movement in the new game, if not you might as well start doing so.


If you want a game about Palestine in WW1 there is not a lot of choice on the shelves. Despite the lack of competition 3W picked an uneven part of the conflict to simulate. Lawrence of Arabia does have a counter for the man but is basically about the final British push in September 1918 that broke the Turks. The British are bound to win in strategic terms but are looking to win the game by beating history, keeping losses down and capturing rather than killing Turks. Considering the mess in what was to be Turkey after WW1 shipping lots of trained but unemployed soldiers back at the end of the war may not have been a sound move. Certain interesting events in Palestine cannot be simulated by Lawrence of Arabia because of the map scale and time frame (1 or 2 day turns) chosen. The initial Turkish invasion of Sinai (a fine feat of supply with no lorries) is out as is the close fighting around Gaza in 1917, even Jerusalem has already been captured by the British. On the desert side of the board Lawrence and his chums cut the odd railway line and stroll Damascus way, the initial sounding out of tribes for loyalty has already taken place and most of Arabia has been cleared, the Turks will automatically evacuate the Hejaz towards the end of the game. Anyone having read Seven Pillars of Wisdom will find little to remember here.


The 1st 2 game turns prevent most units from moving, action is restricted to the East half of the map. Here a small Arab force must avoid the local Turks, cut the odd rail line and hopefully capture a few towns by the game end. Arabs are faster than Turks but are constrained by the desert along the Eastern map edge and are in danger of being trounced by the local Turks. Most units sit inactive until game turn 3 when the British line sidles up to the Turkish and pounds away. Units can retreat into friendly hexes even becoming overstacked so the result is to force the Turkish lines back a few hexes. Turkish units need to be near a HQ or Leader for maximum combat effectiveness, most do not set up in command which over-rides the effect of the Turkish trenches and ensures some British breakthroughs on turn 3. The Turks will pull back each turn, counter-attacking the odd bulge wher'as the British try to punch a hole big enough to flood cavalry through. Cavalry can move before or after infantry combat but not both, they can attack after movement either with other units or after their bonus move. A good piece of chrome forces cavalry that do not begin adjacent to a town or river to roll with a chance of reduced movement. Cavalry then tend to huddle in reserve, shoot into gaps and hopefully end up near water for next turn, the Turk gets bonus victory points for eliminating British cavalry.


Turkish troops can be hard to handle aside from the command rules and rather standard follow-the-train supply rules Turkish units have a tendency to run away. Any Turk with a British unit in any of its Northern 3 hexes has a 50% chance of panicking. Panicked units move as far as they can North, it pays for the British to leave an escape route allowing these units to run away faster. Panicked units are also halved in combat and will continue to run until rallied by a HQ or Leader. HQs and Leaders become prime targets for British attacks and air strikes, cutting down the total of these will seriously weaken Turkish defences (historically HQs dug in pretty deep and should not be easy targets). Although the game is won by the occupation of territory and capturing Turks it makes sense to pursue a policy of killing Turks although no points are paid for same. Fewer Turks on the map means less to hold a front line and easier breakthroughs plus space to surround and capture those Turks which are left behind. Turks can get out of surrounded positions with a 50% chance of surrender even if they are not attacked, with that sort of risk its often better taking the medicine. With friendly units blocking enemy ZOCs for retreat plus units being allowed to overstack during retreats it takes some positioning and careful ordering of attacks during a turn to produce mass surrenders.


All of the above has hinged on what the British should do, the British has options available and despite rolling over the Turks has to romp home to win. This is fine for solo play but restricts an active Turkish player to re-jigging lines and playing for time, at best he can wipe Lawrence and his buddies. The situation of initial front lines gradually collapsing into fluid advances does not help the counter density. Many units begin stacked 3 or 4 high and will be lucky to move 3 hexes, front line losses and the eventual breakthrough will thin down the density however, what is acceptable for the late game is a pain to begin, set up is also a chore. Those not too bothered about who is where could make up some build-up counters for the initial line representing 3 British or 2 Turks. Use would be optional and any losses handled by drawing 3 units from the pool and reducing 1, give these units a -1 on defence to allow for machine gun units in the pool. Such new counters would be easy to make up for the old version but more than hard in the new, best bet would be to photocopy the counter sheet and write in some new values on the new counters.


In short Lawrence of Arabia is not a bad counter-pusher and odds-counter for those who like that sort of thing. The subject chosen could not throw up any surprises no matter how it was treated, Allenby's hard work in wearing down the Turks in the last 2 years has already been played out before the game starts.