Monday, July 21, 2014

The Korean War - Advanced Game: Part 4

After four hard months of bitter winter fighting in the barren hills and frozen rivers of Korea, so much had happened yet so little had changed.  Much to the UN commanders' chagrin, a limited Chinese intervention in November of 1950 led shortly afterwards to a full intervention in December.  At first, the UN units just north of the 38th parallel had barely managed to stem the flow of eight Chinese divisions hellbent on a drive towards Seoul.  With the arrival of 16 more divisions in the following month, all bets were off and the Americans were forced to pull back towards the south in a doomed bid to preserve Seoul from the onslaught of angry Chinese who were funneling down the west coast of the peninsula straight towards them.  It was all just fingers in the dike as the Chinese flicked aside regiments on the road running from Pyongyang towards the Han River.

UN commanders escalated their intervention level in January and the first trickle of UN reinforcements arrived in the form of small contingents from the Philippines, Thailand, and Great Britain.  What the Americans really needed right now were lots of small divisions to prevent the country from being completely overrun and maybe a few heavy divisions to start with counterattacks against the main body of Chinese pressing further and further south with each passing day.  By February of 1951, Seoul fell to the Chinese as predicted but the area south of the Han River was barely being held by small groups of American troops.  The Chinese had become brazen from their earlier successes and were now throwing troops across the river to attack at the Americans but they had limited success thus far.  Three Chinese divisions had managed to skirt around the American defenses in an attempt to cut off the supplies coming up from Taejon to the Han River defenders - but an ROK division and a Marine regiment had been able to eliminate the intruders.

As the ice thawed and winter slowly gave way to spring, nearly three divisions of UN troops (two American and one Commonwealth) had deployed to Pusan in a final bid to halt the Chinese, who were poised to push hard past the meager Han River defenses and overrun the entire peninsula.  Only a miracle would save the Koreans now.

As an aside, I'll freely admit to messing up the Chinese intervention rules.   The Chinese don't need to place depots for a limited time after they intervene and I totally missed this in the rulebook until turn 9, when it was already too late.  I think it slowed down the Chinese a bit but it still doesn't fundamentally change the fact that the UN got completely stomped.

On the other hand, I am beginning to learn that a lot of this game is thinking of creative ways to put your opponent off balance enough that you can try and jump in and extend (or even better, cut off) their supply lines.  I would have to say that the way I played this game strategy-wise in turn 4 or 5 is completely different than the way I have been playing in turn 8 and 9.

Currently at Turn 10
UN Escalation Level 5
UN Victory Points 118
Global Tension Level 1
US Mobilization 3

Game Turn 7 - Chinese push towards Seoul as UN defenders try to desperately hold on

Game Turn 10 - Start:  Seoul is overrun and the Americans hold out at the south bank of the Han River

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Korean War - Advanced Game: Part 3

Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here

At the beginning of turn 6, the map of Korea resembled something like a UN commander's dream.  A pitiful North Korean division sat huddled up towards the south bank of the Han Estuary near Incheon.  Out of supply range and with only a garrison in the city to the south, there was little hope it could last out much longer against the massive UN forces arriving near Seoul just to the east. The road north from Seoul to Pyongyang lay nearly wide open with only a single lonely division to prepare a desperate defense against the vengeful American, ROK, and Nationalist Chinese that were surely on the way in short order.

The UN player, now on the offense, loosened the rules of engagement for UN aircraft from level 1 to 2.  This allowed the American B26 Invaders to ruthlesssly pound the provinces just north of the 38th parallel.  Although the Soviets complained loudly about the ongoing "American aggression" in its state media organs, diplomatic channels were still open with the Americans and the Global Tension Level remained at zero.

With the bite of winter setting in during November of 1950, the Americans had some trouble keeping all of their planes in the air and cloud cover made it much more difficult to find targets.  It was a troubling contrast to the clear beautiful skies of July and August, which helped the US bombers find North Korean supply trains and routes with relative ease.  Nevertheless, the pilots did a remarkable job and a level "5" interdiction level was achieved for the month.  The North Korean supply situation would suffer greatly as a result.

But the North Koreans were not finished yet.  After months of talking to the Communist Chinese, help had finally come in the form of limited intervention.  The involvement of Nationalist Chinese on the UN side eased the task of the NK diplomats considerably and no doubt they secretly hoped that they could wrangle a full Chinese intervention sooner rather than later.

With limited commitment levels and no reinforcements coming from overseas, the UN generals were unhappily surprised by the turn of events.  What looked like an easy victory only a few short weeks ago had turned into a potential nightmare.  Intelligence intercepts about potential Communist Chinese involvement had been circulating for some time and the rumors had caught the attention of the American commanders and the Pentagon had been closely monitoring the situation.  Now the rumors had given way to firm reports that 12 Chinese divisions were preparing to move across the border to help their North Korean "brothers".

Having learned the lesson the hard way in previous months, the North Korean generals placed their supply depots more carefully this time.  As a division of reinforcements arrived in Pyongyang, they were ordered to build and defend a depot in the city.  The plan was for the North Korean combat units to sit and defend while the Chinese moved across the Yalu and took up attack positions to strike at the oncoming UN forces.  With luck, the Chinese would be able to push back against the Americans and perhaps recapture Seoul.

The UN began the month by cleaning up the area around Seoul and taking Incheon back from the nearby North Korean division and garrison.  The task was considerably eased by the fact that the defenders were out of supplies.  The minesweepers went to work in the waters off Incheon with the hope that the port could soon be used to bring in reinforcements and supplies instead of relying on Pusan (too far from the action) or Kunsan (closer to Seoul but much too small).

An American heavy division pushed north of Seoul and completely wiped out the only North Korean division defending the road to Pyongyang while two US regiments moved towards Wonsan on the east coast and took up positions to attack the North Korean garrison there in the next turn.  Further south of Wonsan, a US division sat nervously along the road skirting the east coast of the peninsula.  Having taken a beating from a poorly coordinated attack last month, it licked its wounds and hoped a nearby North Korean division wouldn't attack before replacements and fresh supplies arrived.

The Chinese arrived in force.  Six full divisions crossed the Yalu River along the western fringes of the border with North Korea.  They moved quickly, marching down the road from Sinuju, passing through Pyongyang and stopping within only a short distance north of Seoul.  The Americans responded by sending a division and two regiments to set up ambushes along the road while moving in a Commonwealth regiment to protect the city.  Suddenly, the emphasis on defense began.  There was a real possibility that Seoul might exchange hands a third time if the Chinese had their way.  The other remaining Chinese divisions arrived far to the east, hoping to reinforce the vulnerable ports along the coast.

By the middle of November, the character of the war had irrevocably changed.  The principal actors in the affair were no longer two small nations in a localized conflict.  Instead, it had quickly grown into a battle of giants and the only certainty was that there would be no easy way out for anyone.

End Action Phase 1:  Turn 6
Same thing:  Different Angle - Chinese approach towards Seoul en masse

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Korean War - Advanced Game: Part 2

Well, crazy stuff happened in turn 5.  Things started off with four NK divisions on the southwest side of the peninsula.  Two NK divisions were skulking around the outskirts of Kumchon, which was held by an ROK division and reinforced by a nearby US Army regiment.  Northwest along that road lay Taejon with another NK division.  Two US Marine divisions newly landed in Hannae were further to the west.

The NK player placed their depot along the road, midway between Taejon and Kumchon, hoping this would help keep the units defending Taejon from being overrun by Marines while simultaneously supporting the attack on Kumchon.

Sorry, map is rotated.  North is to the right, etc.

The UN threw a 2 point depot in Kunsan, a fortified and strongly held position along the west coast near where the Marines had landed in the previous turn.  Another 1 point depot was placed in Pusan to support the considerable numbers of US troops that had just broken out of the perimeter.  

The supply rolls were terrible for both sides and each depot was placed on a restricted commitment level, which meant that attacks in the primary range (10 MP hexes or less from unit to depot) were halved.  So it seemed at first that this might stall the UN push towards the north this turn as it would require considerable force to hit out at the North Koreans as they tried to delay and defend against the American units on the counterattack.

Unfortunately, the North Korean player's stupid placement of its 3 point supply depot along the road between Kumchon and Taejon left it completely vulnerable to the Marines, who quickly moved in and attacked the undefended depot with the help of armor and air support.  The depot was destroyed and now the North Koreans were now defending at 1/4 strength.  Oh boy did the UN go to town.

The North Koreans managed to pull back many of their units, completely withdrawing from the outskirts of Kumchon and abandoning their attack.  They also gave up the newly captured city of Taejon (quickly occupied and held by a division of  UN-friendly Nationalist Chinese that had just arrived in turn 4) as they raced units back towards Seoul.  It was too late, however, and the UN player quickly moved up an army regiment into Seoul proper while another regiment of Marines from around Kunsan took off north and tried to reinforce the gain.  On the east side of the coast, the UN player moved up a division of Americans just south of the 38th parallel and completely eliminated a North Korean division.

End of Turn 5, Action Phase 1

By the end of action phase 1 of Game Turn 5, the UN had made some major gains in the south, even managing to capture Seoul while getting one division right up near the border with North Korea.  

Seoul recaptured by Americans!

Taejon recaptured as North Koreans flee north towards Seoul.

A single US division moving along the east coast pushes up against the border with North Korea
Next up!  The attempted liberation of North Korea!  Let's see if we can't save this place from 60 years worth of overfed leaders with bad haircuts!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Korean War - Advanced Campaign: A Brief Snapshot

Here we are after the end of turn 3 in the full campaign game of Victory Games' The Korean War.  I just started this game today and it will be on the dining table either until the bitter end or until my wife gets fed up with it.  Apologies if my updates cut short.

Campaign Game - End of turn 3

So far the game has been extremely close.  Bad luck for the UN started on turn 2 when the North Koreans captured Seoul in the first action phase and then took Taegu unopposed in the second.   This was due to some real poor UN planning for the defense around Pusan.  Also, the UN player had decided to try and hang on to the cities in the west rather than pull ROK forces back further towards the southern end of the peninsula and help defend the roads.  By the end of turn 2, the North Korean player had a choice:  try and make a run for Pusan and win an immediate victory if captured OR try to take the cities on the west and grab everything but Pusan and win a military victory.

ROK regiments are entrenched and holding firm in the west.

Turn 3 began and the North Korean player, facing some stiff defenses in the west of the country (Taejon with 3 ROK regiments in improved positions and Chonju with two ROK regiments and fortifications), decided to go for the throat and grab Pusan for a quick win.  The road south from Taegu lay dangerously open and undefended.  It would only be a matter of applying enough pressure and Pusan would surely crack like an egg.

The first action phase of turn 3 started with the North Koreans getting enough supplies for a limited commitment but the UN player rolled disastrously low for the supply check in the Pusan depot and this kept all the units in and around Pusan on a restricted commitment (defense values halved).   Marines swept into Masan to the west of Pusan while the 1st Cavalry Division landed just east of the port and prepared for the worst.  The North Koreans had brushed aside a token US regiment rushed up the road towards Taegu to stall the North Korean advance.  By the end of the action phase, One NK division was adjacent to Pusan while two others were only one hex away from it.

The second action phase began and the NK player found himself quickly in trouble as the depot in Taegu suddenly found itself out of supplies (restricted commitment).  The UN player managed a limited commitment from the depot in Pusan and now the tide had turned.  With fresh reinforcements (two regiments with armor assets) to reinforce the US regiment already there, the UN counterattacked three successive times using armor and air support.  Two of the attacks resulted in a roll of "9" with a modified die roll of 14.  This completely devastated the NK divisions near the port.  Only a single reduced North Korean division (RPL2) managed a successful retreat from the fighting as the UN took the opportunity to bolster its defense around Pusan.  The US Marines in Masan were committed to chasing the retreating NK division back north towards Taegu and yet another roll of "9" on the combat dice resulted in a complete elimination of the North Koreans.  The Marines took back Taegu and a defense around this city was planned for the next turn.  Having fought at the gates of Pusan for nearly a month, the end of August 1950 saw the tattered UN defenders at last gain some desperately needed breathing space.

UN defenders have eliminated or pushed back the attacking NK forces by the end of turn 3.
Couple of interesting things so far:  I've kept the UN Mobilization level at 2 and the Rules of Engagement very strict at 1 (this means bombing north of the 38th parallel is a no-no for the UN planes).  Initial Commitment level was 3, which means that I've got a pretty decent level of reinforcements coming in but probably nowhere near enough to start taking the war into North Korea.  I'll probably have to escalate, which will likely cause an increase on the Global Tension Level.  The current Global Tension Level is safely at 0 right now and this is a very good thing because if it gets to 7(as a result of the UN player's commitment, mobilization, and ROE) then WW3 starts and it's game over.

Update:  The UN player spent turn 4 clearing away the remnants of the NK forces around Pusan while Taejon fell to the North Koreans over on the west side of the peninsula. Now that the American forces are freed up in the east around Pusan, they can advance up the coast towards the border.

I decided to make a couple of amphibious landings this turn.  A North Korean division was hanging around Incheon so a Marine landing there was out of the question.  Instead, I sent two USMC regiments to land in Hannae, which is located along the west coast sort of south of Seoul and north of Chonju.  The Marines should be able to mop up in the west with the help of some ROK regiments and a Commonwealth regiment.

So far the UN has only 38 victory points.  I have no idea if that's good or bad at this point since it's my first game but less than 99 points is an NK decisive victory so I might not be moving fast enough.  To help speed things up, I've called in help from Nationalist Chinese forces (3 divisions arrived in the second action phase of turn 4), which may up the global tension in the next turn.  It was either that or an increase in mobilization level and a three turn wait for my next set of reinforcements.  The Communist Chinese are going to be really angry at that...