Monday, July 28, 2014

The Korean War: Advanced Game - Part 5 (The Final Cut)

Well, here we are at the final posting about my long playthrough of "The Korean War".  It took exactly two weeks for me to play due to time constraints and my own scatterbrained method of playing on again and off again but I finally made it to the end.  If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you'll probably notice that I usually play a lot of shorter games that can be completed in a single day or an evening so the fact that I stuck to this to the bitter end says a lot about how much I enjoyed it.

Last we left off, it was turn 10 and the Chinese had been pushing down south every turn and the UN was making a desperate bid to slow them down long enough to bring in reinforcements and secure what was left of the UN-held cities.  The UN landed a division of Marines in Incheon and they retook Seoul from the Chinese.  It was a temporary setback for the enemy.  With an advantage in numbers, the Chinese flanked the UN defenders on the south side of the Han River and savaged the UN supply lines.  It took less than two weeks for the UN defense to completely collapse.  That Marines in Seoul were whittled away by a combination of North Korean and Chinese attacks while the American units to the east were forced to withdraw south while one or two US Army regiments were sacrificed to make time for them to pull back. The Chinese were completely unleashed at this point.  They ran south in droves.

End Turn 10 / Start Turn 11

Determined to try and hold the southern-most provinces, the UN hurried to set up a defense line running the width of the peninsula.  The supply depot in Pusan patiently stockpiled supplies while Taegu was used as a main supply point for the Americans.  Unfortunately, the defenders were already in tatters from their losses at the Han River.  Supplies were in abundance. But there were simply not enough men at the front.  12 full Chinese divisions approached the remnants of the American army and three of them slipped through the UN defenses and cut the supplies running from Taegu over to the west near Taejon.  The UN supply lines were so extended that the defenders held out against a North Korean onslaught only through luck.  In the next turn, the cities would fall and the North Koreans would resume their advance, capturing the UN cities in the western provinces as they went.

Turn 11: End of Action Phase 1  - Disaster for the UN!

By the end of turn 11, the Americans were forced once again to construct a Pusan Perimeter.  The only difference was that this time, it was to keep the port out of the hands of the Chinese rather than the North Koreans.  The Chinese approached in force and two full ROK divisions rushed north of Taegu to stop them while smaller American regiments worked alongside them.  This time they massed along the road running perpendicular to the north south road running from Pusan up past Taegu.  This act barely saved the UN defenders as it kept the supplies from Taegu running smoothly.

End of Turn 12 - Pusan is secure

One or two Chinese divisions made a dash through UN lines before the defenders could completely close all the gaps.  By turn 12, the US Marines and the Army had cleaned up the problem and the supply lines to the front were once again secure. By the end of the game, the Chinese were stymied on their right flank due to supply problems but had managed to eliminate several small American units on their left flank (only to face more US defenders waiting directly in front of them). The Pusan perimeter held but it looked like the UN would have to concede the peninsula to the communists.

Final Result:  118 VPs - NK Substantial Victory
Global Tension Level: 3
UN Rules of Engagement: 2
US Mobilization: 3
UN Commitment Level:  5

What a ride!  I really enjoyed this game although I felt like I only really started to learn how to play it well near the end.  It's really a matter of finding ways to cut off or extend your opponent's supply lines to his main force and then eliminate them with your attacks.  At first, I basically threw units at each other and hoped for a good die roll but as I gradually learned the more subtle route to victory, I gained a better appreciation of the game.  I've also learned that depot placement is so totally important and that placing it even one hex distant or closer to your forces can make a huge difference in terms of ensuring successful attack outcomes.   This is why smaller units are actually more preferable than larger ones in many ways.  You can send a couple of small units around your opponents' flank, cut off their main body of resistance and then slice it to pieces with your own forces.  The UN ability to break down their divisions into smaller regiments is a big advantage in this regard.

Calling in the Nationalist Chinese was a big mistake.  This only helped the North Koreans to secure Communist Chinese intervention in return for almost no gains.  I had barely crossed the 38th parallel with my UN forces when full Chinese intervention was declared and the UN had little room to maneuver into a good defensive position and no time to call up reinforcements to help out in time.  It was the first major misstep that led to a disastrous result at the end of the game.

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!