Golan is a board game simulating operational level ground combat between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The game is an introductory level product with an emphasis on playability over simulation value.
Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1975 issued Golan as one of four games included in the Modern Battles Quad box and individually in a folio format as part of its Modern Battles Series. SPI also issued a Collector's Edition in a 2" accordion box with a mounted mapboard.
The Syrian player attempts to overwhelm a thin Israeli defensive line in the Golan Heights while the Israeli player fights a desperate delaying action until reinforcements begin to arrive. Games are usually concluded in 1–2 hours.
Golan contains three scenarios. Scenario one is historical and focuses on the Syrian attack into the Golan Heights and Israel's efforts to stem and reverse the Syrian player's advances. Scenario two is ahistorical and examines the impact of an earlier Israeli mobilization than what actually occurred. Scenario three is also ahistorical and looks at the effect of improved Syrian command and control and logistics. Each scenario is subject to the standard rules developed for Modern Battle Folio Series games but also contains scenario-specific rules and victory conditions.
Play is divided into thirty-two 12-hour turns governed by the standard move-shoot sequence, zones of control, a terrain effects chart, and two differential combat results tables (CRT) reflecting differing levels of aggressiveness and risk of unit elimination. Air power is abstract and naval power is not simulated. Both sides are equipped with armor and artillery units, and the Syrian player also receives foot infantry and air defense units. Units begin the game at set locations and both sides later receive reinforcements.
Victory is achieved by receiving the most points based on a combination of territorial objectives, enemy units destroyed, and (for the Syrian player) SAM hits on Israeli aircraft.
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Golan offers rather limited value in simulating Syria's attack on the Golan Heights and Israeli counter efforts. The map and scenarios are sufficient to develop a general operational understanding of the simulated events. Order of battle data is problematic, however, and most brigade and lower units have generic unit designations and some counters include unexplained letter designators. (The letter designations on the units of the "G1" IDF brigade identify the 'Golani' Mechanised Infantry Brigade. The Barak armoured brigade is not identified, but two 'independent' armoured battalions which are deployed on the Southern Heights represent this unit. The 'Syrian' "M" unit is most probably a Moroccan infantry brigade which should be present in the order of battle, and the para [troop] and Com [mando] units are self-explanatory.) Unit designators are irrelevant to unit positioning, and the accompanying materials do not describe how the opposing forces were arrayed historically. The order of battle also excludes the Syrian 5th Mechanized Division, the unit responsible for breaking through Israeli defenses in the southern Golan Heights. Information on Syrian and Israeli doctrine, tactics, and equipment is largely absent. The Designer's Notes and Player's Notes are sparse in adding context and do not include references or recommended further reading.
The game overstates the role of airpower in Israel's defense of the Golan Heights. Although close air support and battlefield interdiction did contribute to halting the Syrian ground offensive, Israeli armored units were primarily responsible for this. By contrast, air power in Golan is often the key to winning a given engagement. Moreover, Israel's ability to counter Syrian air defenses, in particular the then new SA-6, improved rapidly with combat experience, a trend not reflected in Golan.
In contrast, Golan under represents the defensive value of the Israeli anti-tank ditch along the demilitarized zone, which is portrayed as little more than speed bump during the first two turns (24 hours in game time) and ignored thereafter. Historically, however, the Israelis defended the northern portion of the anti-tank ditch for three days, exacting enormous Syrian casualties before the Syrians retreated.
100 die-cut counters (7 are blank) representing Israeli and Syrian units; a 17" by 22" hexagon-patterned paper map, one six-sided die (boxed format) or two sets of random number chits (folio format), a plastic storage tray (boxed format only), one standard rulebook for Modern Battle Folio Series games, and one exclusive rulebook for Golan. The Collector's Edition also included a mounted map.
Game Design: Irad B. Hardy
Physical Systems Design and Graphics: Redmond A. Simonsen
Systems Design and Game Development: Irad. B. Hardy, Edward Curran, Jay Nelson
Research: Col. T. N. Dupuy
Production: Manfred F. Milkuhn, Larry Catalano, Linda Mosca, Kevin Zucker
- Close Up: SPI's Chinese Farm and Golan, by Warren G. Williams, Fire & Movement #2, 1976
- Spotlight: Games of the Arab Israeli Wars, by Keith Poulter, Wargamer Vol.1 #2, 1977
- Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947-1974, by Trevor N. Dupuy, Harper and Row, New York, 1978
- SPI's Modern Battles, by Donald Mack, in Wargamer Vol.1 #13, date needed
- A Survey of Arab-Israeli War Games, by Ian Chadwick, in Moves #55, February-March 1981
- Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-1991, by Kenneth M. Pollack, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2002
- The Yom Kippur War 1973: The Golan Heights, by Simon Dunstan, Osprey Publishing, New York, 2003
- Games of the Golan, by John D. Burtt in Paper Wars #62, July 2006