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!

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...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Korean War: Pusan Perimeter Defense

The first truly huge battle of the Korean War took place in both August and September of 1950 as UN troops were rushed to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula near the port of Pusan.  They fought a narrowly won battle to keep the last vestiges of South Korea from being completely overrun by the invading North Korean troops, who had been winning a series of easy victories against the poorly equipped and undermanned Republic of Korea (ROK) defenses.  As the Americans began to commit to the war in earnest by mid-summer, troops, men, and supplies from the US Far East Command began to make their presence known through several pitched engagements that went poorly for them at first.  By early August, the UN made what could have been its final stand as roughly 100,000 North Koreans faced off against nearly 140,000 American and ROK troops to decide the fate of the Korean peninsula.

In my most recent playthrough of Victory Games' The Korean War, the UN found itself in a very similar situation as in real life.  The ROK had dug in its troops during the turns after Seoul fell and even with some help from American units, the North Koreans pushed into the cities in the west of the peninsula as Taejon and Chonju fell.  By turn 4, the Americans had manged to put nearly a division's worth of men into the city of Taegu, just to the north of Pusan and they centered their defenses around the town.  

Turn 4:  Start of Action Phase 1

Three regiments had just landed in the port of Pusan and the UN player would send two of them slightly to the north to defend against a KPA division that had already run the gauntlet of the defenders. Stuck behind enemy lines and out of supply, it was faced with the choice of either pressing ahead or pulling back and attacking the UN's front lines from the rear.  The KPA generals left their fate to the winds and attacked a regiment of Americans just to the south.  They paid dearly, losing two-thirds of their men in the attempt. 

Meanwhile, the KPA pushed three divisions of its men and tanks at Taegu but with restricted supplies, they found themselves shredded while attacking the entrenched US regiments in the town.  The hope was to combine their attacks together and use the momentum to keep moving south together.  However, the Americans used air support to help the defenders and the KPA was again and again rebuffed in its attempts.

Two KPA divisions were sent southwards to hit at the two ROK regiments and the US regiment to the east of Taegu.  In order to get the general advance moving south and take Pusan, either Taegu or this nearby defense line would need to fall. Both KPA divisions rested just before the attack, which would happen next action phase.  This allowed the Americans to maneuver one of their units around on the east flank to make an attack a KPA division.  The terrain happened to provide the KPA with an advantage, however, and the engagement ended without result.

Turn 4:  End of Action Phase 1
Action Phase 2 could not have started off any worse for the UN.  Despite a level 4 air interdiction on supplies, the North Korean player rolled a 9 and was able to place an accelerated commitment marker on the depot just behind their main lines.  The UN player, on the other hand, rolled a paltry 2 and got only one supply level marker.  This meant a restricted supply commitment and the UN would need to be doing more defending than attacking this turn.  

With initiative for the turn and 3 operation points right off the bat, the North Korean player decided to push back as much as it could.  The two KPA divisions to the east of Taegu slammed into the two ROK regiments defending the east-west rail line between the city and the east coast.  Both regiments were totally eliminated and the KPA moved south after having forced a gaping hole in the UN line.  One of the KPA divisions decided to follow up this success by clearing out the rest of the nearby American/ROK defenders but failed to make any progress.  The KPA was meeting with mixed success with conservative attacks rather than all-out commitment. 

To the west of the perimeter, a KPA division met with ineffective American attacks.  Sitting just six hexes away from the port of Pusan, it was frustrated on all sides from its attempts to break out.  The KPA commander pulled the division back slightly and then sent it down towards the Americans on the right flank, hoping for some kind of success in its attack.  The Americans called in air support, however, and with the failure of the North Korean armor to gain any kind of traction, the unit was fatigued.  The Americans poured everything they had into a counterattack and completely eliminated the division.

Earlier in the game on turn 3, the US Marines had been landed far to the southwest and managed to retake several captured cities along the west coast.  Although the Marines had been eliminated by two KPA divisions, this served the purpose of delaying their progress towards Pusan.  Both units crept towards Pusan along the roads of Kyongsang-Namdo but found the advance too slow as American interdiction flights impeded them.  They arrived at the west end of the perimeter at the end of turn 4, too late to make any real contribution to the battle.

To the east, a KPA division was attacked by American armor and infantry as it neared Pusan but the attack was completely ineffective and the Americans lost a regiment.  By the end of the turn, the US was forced to place further reinforcements in Pusan and delay future plans for an amphibious landing elsewhere.  This one particular North Korean division threatened the port by the end of the turn.  

End of Turn 4:  Action Phase 2 - The Pusan Perimeter holds - just barely.

The Pusan perimeter was held - for now.  The brunt of the KPA attacks had been blunted and US counterattacks had managed to substantially weaken the North Koreans.  Key to the defense had been the defenders at Taegu, who managed to hold on to the center of the line after suffering repeated heavy attacks by KPA divisions during both action phases. Their position had also been incredibly inconvenient for the KPA attackers further east during both action phases as their zone of control had prevented key supplies from being delivered.  With the roads to the north of Pusan blocked, the supply routes for the KPA were lengthened considerably, depriving the KPA of using the 1.5x attack factor benefit for being within primary range of supply depots.