Gulf Strike: Scenario 1 - Operational Thinking & Lessons Learned

Leaving off from my last post about Iran's strategy in the first scenario of Gulf Strike, I'd like to take a deeper look at how decisions about operations can have a knock-on effect in subsequent turns. In this case, the Iranian player starts off the game by invading Kuwait with the aim of quickly subjugating it before heading down south to face the rest of the Gulf Council states (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman).

Iranian F-5 Freedom Fighters 

In the first turn of the game, the Iranian player sends a few core units of his army to conquer Kuwait while the rest of his units move on down towards Saudi Arabia. By committing minimal ground forces for the battle of Kuwait, Iran's reliance on air support plays a central role in the battle. Not only does the Iranian Air Force have the thankless job of neutralizing the Kuwaiti Air Force, it must also make up for the lack of attacking ground units by conducting risky and often futile close air support missions.

The errors start to compound in turn 2 as the bulk of the Iranian army heads south in a disorganized mess that leaves it open to air attack from the Gulf Council states. Having failed to deliver a killing blow in the first turn, the Iranian army is forced to spend another turn fighting it out with the Kuwaitis and they are provided with a dilemma that forces the Iranian commander to make a difficult choice between finishing off the Kuwaitis or broadening the air offensive against the other Gulf Council states.

A number of other poor decisions by both players comes to light in turn 2. Undoubtedly these will also alter the course of the subsequent turns and potentially the outcome of the entire game. I go into further detail and analysis below so you can gain a better understanding of the decisions I made and the lessons I learned while playing the early game in scenario one. The narration of the first turn shows why I made certain decisions and how they worked out. At this point, I was still thinking in terms of "broad strokes" and general strategy. By turn 2, my thinking patterns had radically shifted towards operational planning and execution, so my description becomes more verbose and methodical in game terms.

Turn 1:

I am trying to take Kuwait on the cheap here. I want to conquer it swiftly and keep my units moving so I advance the Iranian 1st and 2nd Armored and 3rd Mechanized Divisions into Kuwait and get them into a Hasty Assault formation. I could have tripled their firepower by putting them into Deliberate Assault formation but it costs a ton of supplies and lots of MPs to switch out of the formation afterward to move your guys around. The last thing I want to do is to hang out in Kuwait.

I can't very well just let the Kuwaiti Air Force slaughter my attack helicopters on Close Air Support missions so it's time to deal with their planes. Pairs of F-4/F-5s are sent out on air missions to lure the Kuwaiti Air Force out to play. Since I'm playing solitaire, I just roll to see if the Iranians are flying Air Superiority or Strike/Escort missions when the Kuwaitis intercept while I'm flying over their base. As it turned out, all of the Iranian missions were Strike/Escort.

I manage to draw out the Kuwaiti Mirage and A-4 fighters out. The Mirage hits one of my F-5 escorts early on. Airbase defenses are remarkably good and actually destroy the F-4 on a bombing run over the airfield. The Kuwaiti luck runs out quickly though. Two more strike missions manage to get through and one scores a hit on the airbase, which is assigned to the A-4 in Offensive mode. Although there is no knock-out blow, the Kuwaiti Air Force has been taken care of for this turn. Time to get my CAS working.

Only one of my AH-1s actually scores a hit on the defending Kuwaiti brigades. The 1st Armored Brigade is hit while the other AH-1s fail to score anything on the other units. Everyone returns to base safely though so there's always that.

Ground combat is bloody and one-sided with the Kuwait 3rd Mechanized Brigade taking 2 hits but managing to cling on to life despite being out of supply. Kuwait's 1st Armored Brigade is annihilated by Iran's 1st Armored Division. The Kuwaiti 2nd Armored takes 2 hits but shakes them off with a retreat towards Kuwait City.  The Iranian 2nd Armored happily pursues them to the gates of the capital.

At this point, I was looking at the possibility of going into turn 2 with three Kuwait units still active and their capital still far out of my grasp. To pare the problem down a bit, I decide to activate my reserves and the 4th Iranian Armored Division heads east to mop up the remnants of the Kuwaiti 3rd Mechanized Brigade. At 5-1 odds, I decide against giving it any support and manage to roll a 1. Both defender and attacker take a hit. The Kuwaiti Mechanized unit is eliminated.

End of turn 1

I have 44 SPs going into next turn after spending 4 SP on a supply depot in Basra. I doubt I'll need four divisions to take over Kuwait next turn, so I'll pull out half my forces and send them down south with the rest of my units while the other two divisions will mop up next turn.

Turn 2:

Here's where some of those decisions in the first turn start to catch up with me. As I said above, I've broken down my thinking from broad strategic strokes to immediate operational aims. Because of this, I've kept a detailed log of what I was doing throughout the turn and my thought process.

Strategic Stage:

As per the Special Rules, the rest of the Gulf Council states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, UAE) activate and declare war on Iran.

Global Political Phase: We roll a "1" and nothing happens.

Global Military Phase: The 1/75 Rangers are landed in Somalia by C-5 Galaxy transport. Each country gets supply points.  Here are the current tallies after adding them in:

  • USSR: 100 (+0)
  • Iran: 64 (+ 20)
  • Kuwait: 14 (+0)
  • Saudi Arabia: 30 (+10)
  • Qatar: 12 (+2)
  • UAE: 20 (+5)
  • Oman: 25 (+5)
  • US: 52 (+12)
Unit Assignment Stage: 

  • The Kuwaitis put their A-4 and Mirage back on intercept. Shouldn't really matter anyways since the Kuwaiti airbase is in Iran 1st Armored Division's ZOC. 
  • Iran's F-5 unit in An Nas Riyan airbase takes a break this turn in an effort to get repaired.
  • Iran assigns the rest of its entire air force to offensive missions, hoping to break the back of the Gulf Council's air forces this turn.
  • The Saudis pair up F-15s and F-5s on intercept missions over the Riyadh and Al Hufuh airbases.
  • The Saudi AWACS is kept just south of Riyadh.
  • The rest of the Gulf Council states manage their air forces as best as they can. Most air units are kept on intercept while a few meager air-to-ground attack aircraft are on offense.


Iran already has two full armored divisions knocking around near Kuwait City. I would hate to have to commit a third one. However, it's better safe than sorry and I put the 4th Armored Division in reserve just in case we run into problems.

The Iranian Situation:

We have a bit of a dilemma here when it comes to taking on Kuwait. Here are my options:

1,) Attack Kuwait City directly

Use Iran's 1st Armored Division (with attached 11th Armored Brigade) in a Hasty Assault (combat strength of 9 doubled to 18) vs. Kuwait City.  The Kuwaiti MP brigade's combat strength of 2 is tripled to 6 as per the terrain effects chart. In its Deliberate Defense formation, the MP combat strength is again tripled to 18.  This puts the combat at 18: 18 [or 1:1] odds. I could bring in a ton of air to bombard and inflict 2 hits on the unit so that a modified roll of 5 or more would eliminate it.

Pros: This could quickly and effectively end the battle for Kuwait.

Cons: Ground and Air Losses could be high not to mentio SP costs for strike missions.

2.) Dismantle the Kuwaiti Army outside of Kuwait City

Use Iran's 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions (with supporting armored and artillery brigades) to attack Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Division west of Kuwait City. With both attacking divisions in a Hasty Assault, we would be attacking with a total combat strength of 30. The Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade is in Movement to Contact Formation (since it retreated last turn to avoid hits) so this would put its combat strength at 3. At 10:1 odds, I could easily reduce or eliminate it without using much, if any air power. Given that the Kuwaiti unit can easily retreat south from where it is, it could shake off 2 hits of damage. This mean that I would need a roll of 7 or more to inflict the 5 hits necessary to ensure its destruction.

Pros: Relatively risk-free attack. Almost no chance of failure. Very little supply expenditure required. Can focus air assets against rest of Gulf Council airbases.

Cons: Ties up the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions for another turn as they fight the Kuwaiti MP brigade for control of Kuwait City. Delays invasion of Saudi Arabia for at least one more turn.

The way I see it, the issue right now is one of supply versus time. The other Gulf Council countries are not really a credible threat to Iran at the moment though they may be able to get a few lucky hits against Iranian airbases here or there. The bigger problem is that of getting the bulk of the Iranian army moving towards its objectives further south. The Saudi player has generously placed his forces in a defensive posture around Riyadh, which means that Iran can afford to keep its focus on knocking Kuwait out of the war right now.

Add to this, the fact that even if Iran's armored divisions completely wipe out the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade this turn,they will still be facing a 30: 18 odds fight when it comes to Kuwait. This is not all that much better than the 1:1 odds I would be facing this turn with a direct attack by Iran's 1st Armored Division against Kuwait City. It would be under the +2 differential column instead of the 0 column of the CRT, which is probably not worth waiting an entire turn for.

Although the second option is more cautious and sure to succeed, I don't think the Iranian player can afford to play this way and win the scenario. I think this calls for boldness so here we go.

Initiative Determination Stage

Obviously, Iran retains the initiative for this turn. Since the Gulf Council states have activated, now is a good time to start tracking hits.

First Action Stage

Naval Movement Determination Phase:

Iran/Soviets gets 4 NMP and the Gulf Council/US gets 1 NMP.

First Movement Phase:

I start off by putting the 1st Armored Division into Hasty Assault mode and declaring combat against the MP units holed up in Kuwait City. Meanwhile the 2nd Armored Division, in Deliberate Assault formation, will hit the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Iranian army gets sent south into Saudi Arabia.

  • The 3rd Mechanized goes from Hasty Assault to Travel mode and moves to 0947.
  • The 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions use MC to travel south. One is in 0546 and the other is in 0645. I should really break these divisions down and get some trucks to transport them. This is ridiculous.
  • The 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades are transported by trucks down to 0549.
  • A truck unit in Basra loads up the Supply Depot and transports it down to 0644 where it unloads it.
  • Another truck unit in Basra loads on the 1st Air Defense Brigade and carried it down to 0644 and unloads it.
  • To help out the poor infantry divisions sitting in 0549, I send over a truck from Abadan into 0645. Next turn, they'll load them up and start transporting them south.
  • The 5th Armored Division in 0640 switches from MC to Travel mode and travels south along the highways to 0945 until I realize that it is dangerously close to the Kuwait 2nd Armored Brigade and place it in hex 0744 instead. The roads are getting really jammed up with men and tanks! 
  • The 3rd Artillery Brigade and 1st HQ go into the same hex as the 5th Armored Division. 

Some things to think about:
  • It's now pretty clear to me that having the 4th Armored Division in reserve mode where it is accomplishes pretty much nothing. It can't help out with any battles or follow up on any retreats by enemy forces where it is. 
  • Iran's troop movement down south into Saudi Arabia was/is a great big mess. It will take some time to get that sorted out. I think I had the right idea with the supply depot and the ADA. It's too bad I clued in too late with the trucks and the infantry divisions.
  • The Saudi AWACS is too far south to help the Kuwaitis. 
  • The Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade is going to get hit and it won't be pretty but it will probably survive the turn. If will have to move east into 1245 to maintain its supply line so it will only be able to shake off 1 hit. It might be worth a close air mission to help seal its fate.
  • If the Kuwaitis had put the 2nd Armored Brigade into Reserve during the Unit Assignment Stage, would they have just been able to slip the unit into Kuwait City during the First Reaction Phase? That would have left the attacking Iranian 1st Armored Division facing odds of 18: 24 [1:2] against both the MPs and the Armored Brigade in Kuwait City while the Iranian 2nd Armored Division would have no one to attack! I am pretty sure they could have done this too if I had thought more carefully about Kuwaiti strategy in the Unit Assignment Stage.

I sent my three ships (FF, CO, and DD) from 1640 into the hex adjacent to Kuwait City and bombarded the city without success.

The Iranians would love to hurt the Saudi Air Force here but we can't go all out because I need to conserve some forces for close air support against the Kuwaiti MP brigade. We'll see what happens.

Saudi F-15s and F-5s scramble from Al Hufuh after the Saudi AWACS detects an Iranian air mission coming from the east.  The dogfight happens in the skies over Bahrain. The Iranian F-4 and F-5 take 1 hit each while the Saudi F-15 gets hit once and their F-5 is hit twice.

An Air Strike on the Al Hufuh base fails. Another strike on the base in Oman fails but the intercepting enemy aircraft takes a hit.  I want to conserve the rest of my air force and supply points so I stop here. However, I can't shake the feeling that I'm not being aggressive enough.

First Reaction Segment

The Saudis send up an F-5 from Al Hufuh to strike the truck transports in 0549. The F-5 gets a +4 bonus to its bombardment roll (Travel formation and Clear terrain) so the roll of 7 is a hit. One of the truck units takes a hit. I'm guessing the units being transported in the trucks don't get a roll to hit the offending aircraft so the F-5 escapes back to Al Hufuh unharmed.

A UAE Mirage tries for a bombardment strike on the Iranian ships adjacent to Kuwait City but it is detected and hit by ship anti-air weapons. The Mirage aborts its attack and returns to base.

First Initiative CAS Segment:

After 10 SP spent on CAS missions, I manage two hits on the MP unit (one with an AH-1 and the other with an F-4 Phantom), flipping it over to its 1-1-4 side. Amazingly, the Iranian air force has taken no hits.  Now the Iranian 1st Armored will be attacking at 2-1.

First Assault Segment:

Iranian 1st Armored vs. Kuwaiti MP Brigade: 

Roll: 8
Modified Roll: 10
Result: 1/4

The Kuwaiti MP unit is destroyed. The 1st Armored Division rolls into Kuwait City. Kuwait's sole supply source is occupied and all of its Supply Points are lost.

Iranian 2nd Armored Division vs. Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.

Roll: 4
Modified Roll: 6
Result: 0/4

The Kuwait Armored Brigade retreats 2 hexes to 1147. It absorbs two hits and is flipped over to its reduced side.

Second Action Stage

Second NMP

Iran: 4
Gulf Council: 3

Second Movement Phase:

Iran converts the 4th Armored Division in reserves from Hasty Assault to Travel mode and sends it across the border into Saudi Arabia at hex 0946.

Second Reaction Segment:

A Jaguar unit from Oman bombs the Iranian airbase on Qeys Island successfully. A Chinook helicopter units is assigned the hit.

Second Combat Phase: 

No declared combats.

Third Action Stage

Third NMP:
Iran: 4
Gulf Council: 3

Third Reaction Segment:

I could get the Saudi army into defensive position but it seems a bit premature. Everyone stays put. Let the Iranians extend their supply lines as far as possible.

Third Initiative Segment:

No Iranian units in reserve mode.

Third Combat Phase:

No declared combat.

End Stage

Saudi, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman ships in port are changed to underway status.

End of Turn 2

Final Thoughts

The Iranian player is now a bit deeper into trouble even though Kuwait has been successfully taken at this point. The Gulf Council navies and air forces are largely untouched and are actually conducting limited but somewhat effective operations against Iranian ground forces in turn 2. The Iranian Air Force has suffered quite a few losses at this point, all for the sake of getting a few extra infantry units into Saudi Arabia. This probably isn't a complete disaster for Iran and could be recovered in the subsequent turn by getting the Iranian army moving effectively towards Riyadh and carrying out aggressive air and naval campaigns against enemy air and naval assets.

I think it's pretty clear though that going into Kuwait on the cheap with ground forces is not really feasible because it places too much reliance on air power to make up for it. This is airpower that should instead be tightly focused on eliminating Gulf Council air and naval power before it becomes any sort of threat to Iran.

The good bits here were deciding to go for Kuwait's throat instead of slowly but surely dismantling its army. Now the real powerhouses of the Iranian military (1st and 2nd Armored Divisions) can get down to the real fight. As I said before, I think scenario one goes to whomever takes the smartest gambles with a bit of luck thrown in here and there. In this case, it's obvious that attacking into Kuwait City was the right decision after all.


  1. Excellent report! I am punching out the counters for this game tonight.

    1. How I wish I were in your shoes - at the start of your long journey into this game. Have fun!


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