Friday, 13 July 2012

Korean War AAR, part 4!

Ok we are back, sadly for the delay. I had problem with posting images. It took me around one hour to play the entire first turn, but weeks to figure how too post more than a couple of picture at time… in the meantime I have been at home and Managed to play the entire forst phase of the wat, June to October 1950 in a morning!

But back to the sunny summer of 1950…

 It is the UN turn to activate. First thing we will do is to roll the die to see how many operations we can  do...

8. It is turn 1... and according to the activation table we a have 1 operations.

Looking at the map we do not have so many alternatives. I will move the 25th Infantry Regiment from its position to the Seoul area via road movement. Another alternative would be to build up the three regiments near Seoul in a full division, but I will take some chance and start to move more troops north to put some road blocks in front of the KPA advance.

I will spend two points for operational movement.

ROK infantry spend one half movement point on roads. It is sufficient to have the 25th at Uijongbu.

Back to the KPA.

4 on the die...

2 Operations.

Now we really want to push hard toward Seoul. The 1st division and the 203 Tank regiment will be activated. Normal attack with air support, our last air support point.

We start again with the Armor table. Result 1, ratio 8 to 1 (the maximum ratio on the table is 4 to 1 anyway). Our attack will thus benefits of  +1 for the tank modifier, +1 for air. Combat ration 6 in clear terrain.

6 modified to 8.

D3... no chance to survive for the ROK regiment.

we now use the last activation point of the stack to advance toward Seoul.

As second consecutive operations we will order the 6 division to attack Kaesong.  IT will be an intensive attack for 2 AP, giving us a +2 to the die.

6 to 1 in clear terrain

2 modified to 4 for a D1. Again sufficient to crush the ROKA defenders. Because we did not have more AP the attack and the one hex advance made the 6th Division Fatigued. This also end this KPA operation sequence, passing the initiative to the ROK. Again we have been show a trade off. Intensive attacks cost more AP and provide you a bonus representing more time spent in preparing your plan and more support (artillery fires, engineers, supplies) increasing the chances of success. But on the other hand it also cost you time. In this case there was no pressing need to move fast, the advanced unit having already reached the edge of Seoul on this assault road so the trade off was not so difficult.

Sadly 0 is rolled by the UN player, meaning no operations for the ROK army. The KPA is still on the move.

Rolling a 6 means 3 more operation for the North Koreans. It is time to go back to the central area. 

The 2nd infantry division will be activated and will perform a 2 AP intensive attack on the ROK 7th Infantry Regiment. This time the defender occupies rough ground. 

It will be still a 6 to 1 attack, but we will use the appropriate terrain column that effectively reduces the ratio to 5 to 1. I got an 8 modified to 10.

The table tell us DR3, another ROK regiment destroyed.

The 2nd KPA division has ripped another hole in the ROK frontline but is unable to exploit. It is the trade off  we have discussed earlier. 

This situation opens up some interesting trade off.  Our initial plan for the 2nd division was to proceed south to the Han River. While the neighboring 7th Division was to engage ROK forces in support of the eastern coast drive. What we want to do now? Stick to the plan or shift the 7th in the hole made by the 2nd?  What of the follow on 15th Division?

I will change plan for once. Now the 15th will reinforce the eastern drive while the 7th will exploit the attack of the 2nd. 

It is now ROK operation phase and a result of 2 means no ROK operations.

While a KPA roll of 5 give the North Korean 2 more operations. These operations will be used to move The reserves near Pyongyang south.

At this point all KPA units have been activated. The situation looks quite good for the North. Except the 10th Regiment all frontline ROK units have been destroyed. Seoul is threatened by two directions the South Korean army is still scattered.

And to add injury and insult the operation die is again 0, forcing the ROK to do nothing.

The KPA has now 2 operations (roll of 4) but cannot perform anything because everything has been activate. So it will pass. This action is potentially threatening for the South Korean. Operation phase ends usually when both player passes. But on turn one and two there will be some special result on the UN initiative table forcing the UN player to end the phase even if he wants to continue reflecting the collapse of the ROK command and control system in the first days of the invasion.

Let's see what happen now.


 That is not good because it is one of those results. The Operation phase now ends. All fatigued units will recover and then the turn will end.

We have played the full first turn of The Korean War, but what we have really done? And what we have done has any relevance with history, reality and conflict studies? Those are all interesting questions that deserve an answer. More or less we had a sort of window over history. We had the same units deployed on the same terrain and with the same capabilities as in history yet it was for us, the players, to decide what to do. If you are interested to look at history, reading the first volume of the official history of the Korean War done by the Korean Institute for Military History or the more accessible  “Their War for Korea: They came from the North” by Allan Millet you will find a very similar unfolding of the first days of the invasion. The KPA had all the cards and the South Korean troops were barely reacting. That is what is happening in the game. The initiatives system perfectly capture the surprise effect of the KPA attack. It also shows why the initial use of tanks was so critical. If we look at this first turn actions the KPA tanks allowed the breakthrough. Where tanks were not employed odds were less extreme. This simple first turn also allowed us t experience the chaotic nature of the Republc of Korea Army deployment. Regiments were scattered all around the peninsula and the border was not well garrisoned. Once the fighting started the ROKA command had to concentrate its forces and respond to KPA movements. These actions required time, time that the KPA was exploiting also. As you have seen there was a trade off between moving troops north or doing something with the troops already deployed. While some can raise the claim that these trade offs are artificial I would argue that they are not. In real term you have the choice to order your units to do something or to stay in position and wait for reinforcements. Operations are indeed sequential, how effectively you organize this sequence depends from the effectiveness of your command system and the speed of enemy actions. In this case, as it was in history, the KPA was able to operate at a much faster speed than the ROKA. 

What the game is not showing is the suffering of the population or the long column of refugees leaving Seoul and clinging to the bridges over the Han River.  It is not gal of this simulation. It is a tool to understand strategic and tactical decisions and it is very good at it. Several elements are obviously left over, but for the purpose of the study they are not essential. While a lot of people tend to put human sufferance at the centre of conflicts this is not an effective way of study conflicts. I am not arguing that these elements are not important, but I am arguing that they are spurious to the understanding of conflicts and in the end only allow people to conveniently sidestepping the need to understand how conflict starts and evolves in a strikingly rational manner. Ignorance of conflict mechanics is not bless and certainly is not help in understanding conflicts. And even the most committed pacifist (opposed to the most committed ideological crony deprived of the ability to use rational judgement instead of simply hiding behind ideology and pronouncements) will agree that knowledge is important for prevention. 

What conflict simulations does is to present an effective way to understand conflict dynamic from start to finish and assess historical decision in context rather than with pure and biased hindsight. What this simple one turn replay teach us about the Korean war is not inconsequential. It teaches us the importance of terrain and the reason why the invasion unfolded alone specific geographical lines. It teaches us why the ROKA was unable to stem the initial invasion. It also tell us why the invasion started in June 1950. It was feasible and victory over the ROKA was assured by combination of force ration, technology, training and geography. Without external intervention South Korea was indeed doomed. With United States having seemingly declared their lack of interest in Korea just weeks before, the invasion was thus a logical consequence. You can replay the scenario countless times, but without altering the historical starting position the results will always be the same. If the US does not intervene South Korea is indeed destined to disappear quickly.

The Korean War has also the merit to teach use these lessons in an interactive way. You can learn from games, and even if you are indeed sending troops to combat you can do it in a challenging way that stimulates interest. You do not make fun of war, but certainly you make fun of learning history and probably learn it in a less boring way that simply pouring over books. The Korean War also delivers a surprisingly hefty dose of hindsight  on the topic in a very visual way. You are not pouring over dense text and bland maps. You are experiencing decisions. And for today I am done!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

End of June early July acquisitions

While I am struggling to post the pictures of the rest of my little AAR for the Korean War I managed to put another little post...

In the last month (more or less) as far wargaming is concerned I had made three acquisitions. One is the excellent The Everlasting Glory

I will not dwell too much on it because I intend to produce a proper review, but the game is a very interesting and well thought production by a relatively new entry on the market, Formosa force games hailing us from one of my favourite countries (as far girls and food is concerned), Taiwan. It is a bilingual game on the Second Sino-Japanese war.
The two other acquisitions were the latest issues of Battles Magazine and Agaisnt the Odds.

Battles Magazine

Very good issue of Battles. For once Charles’s article addressed a real point instead of meaningless philosophical meandering. Phil  article was less effective than usual and I do not subscribe the idea that ZOC represent a single thing. It depend on scale and design intent.  The review are top notch as usual with my favourite being the one on the new edition of the La Bataille de la Moscowa.  In a climate were abstraction and “simplicity” seems to be ends in itself rather than just means the fact that some gamers appreciate the importance of details is refreshing. It also provide a very interesting rationale on why details are important.  The review of Ted Raicer’s Case Yellow was very interesting. It echoed a lot of the point I made here earlier. While I disagree that Case Yellow has replaced Victory in the West as the benchmark on this topic I agree with the reviewer on almost everything. Another good article was the analysis of the Battle of Ascalon through 3 different game systems.
I have not yet played the game (due to my gaming time at home being sucked by Everlasting Glory!) but I enjoyed the historical article on the campaign and the battle.  As far the game is concerned the map is very nice while I was not really captivated by the counters, but they look functional. I will play it when I go back home…
Forgot to mention there was also a review of mine!


The huge disappointment of this batch has been the latest issue of ATO. Not to say that it is a bad issue, but it could have been much much better. The topic this month is Boudicca (or Boadicea) revolt in ancient Britannia with a game from one of my favourite designers, Richard Berg.  I am playing the game right now and it looks quite good. There are a couple of problem on scale (what the Roman auxiliary counters represent?) but the system, so far, sound good.  Richard accompanying article is reasonable (I have a problem with some numbers, especially why 7 cohorts destroyed generate only 1200 casualties). Andy Nunez article on the history of Britain is interesting. He is clearly happy to discuss sources and find the funny contradictions of chroniclers. John Prados column on design and, in this case, designer’s problem with players criticizing designs even before buying them is spot on.  William Stroock article on the training and development of the American Expeditionary Force under Black Jack Pershing is also very interesting. Actually it is what I like most, a well written article on a relatively obscure topic. And here the happy list end… and the awful start.

I will start with my personal pet peeve the dreadful “and the data shows… just anything Ed Heinsman want you to hear!”  Again mr. Heinsman shows us that he do no understand history but really wants to make political point.  He wrote an article to show us that the Pax Romana was not so peaceful and not so happy. Fine with that but to do that he distorts history, avoid to present sources for his quite unbelievable and bogus numbers (it seems mr. Heinsman has never read Hans Delbruck and his debate on reliability of ancients number) it also paints a woefully fantasy picture of the Roman Empire.  But now I have reached the point where I am just hoping that column will finally go into the dustbin of awfulness and ATO will took the chance to use the space for more interesting articles, and one that did a little more fact checking about history. 
Then we have a pearl of idiocy in an article where a renowned and quite bright board game (boardgame not wargame) designer explain us why he dislikes conflict simulations and why we have to stop playing them. Do not get me wrong, the article raise some interesting point, but more than half of it just show that the writer do not like wargames and did not know a lot about them.
Sam Sheik small article on Axis airpower is not too bad per se, but it is dead wrong, poorly researched and exemplifies one thing Lee Brimmicombe-Wood said about wargaming magazines long time ago. The history in them sometime is just dreadfully shallow and instead of adding food to debates it is just a rehash of popular myths.  While once this was not bad and had the merit to spread historical knowledge now it is just redundant and leaves the reader with the impression of having been ripped off. I found quite puzzling that an article purported to talk about the Luftwaffe and the two Japanese air forces did not include key text like H.R. Hooton two volume history of the Luftwaffe, Hata  books on Japanese aces  or Peattie’s Sunburst.  It would have also benefitted to have a look at some serious air combat historians like Cristopher Shores.  The article would have been good 15 years ago not now. Now is plainly ridiculous. I feel difficult to understand why a small amount of pilot who actually see combat in combat made the Luftwaffe combat experienced. The same it is also true for the Japanese. As several primary sources point out the Japanese pilots in December 1941 were not so experienced as a whole and the combat veterans from China were a minority. While I agree that the small cadre of experienced flyers increased overall efficiency the actual numbers do not support the myth of a massive axis superiority.  The Polish Air force did not succumb in one day and actually inflicted considerable losses on the Luftwaffe. Dutch and French pilots bleed the Luftwaffe to death to a point where its effectiveness was already in doubt before the start of the Battle of Britain. Japanese pilots inflated their victories and actual damage assessment from these elite flyers was poor. The sinking of the Prince of Wales was due to pure luck and a freak hit that disable her AA battery rather than superior efficiency.  Hit percentage during the sinking of the Force Z was under 20%...
The other weak point of the article is the complete lack of understanding of then current technology. We are told two things that are completely unsupported: all German and Japanese fighters were incredibly advanced and that they made a mistake in not producing heavy bombers. Certainly the Bf-109E was an excellent aircraft like the Zero but they were not completely different from contemporary planes like the MS 406, Dewotine D520, Spitfire, Hurricanes and P-40 or F4F. Each plane had its own advantages and disadvantages, also almost every air force had more conservative design to perform specific roles. While biplane fighters are looked with contempt they did have significant advantages in 1940. At the time the fighter doctrine was still in flux debating between speed and turning radius extremes. Biplanes usually were able to outturn monoplanes. They were more manoeuvrable and required less support in term of runway. The Bf-109 for example was a pilot killer in take off and landing.  The heavy bomber myth again rests on faulty premise. A closer look at heavy bombers in service in 1940 show planes that were close to useless. Even the first variants of the Boeing B-17 were bad aircrafts. The weak link was engine technology. Engines were not able to produce sufficient power to weight ratio to sustain effective medium bombers.  American hopes on its heavy bomber force were a gamble on development of engine technology  than anything else. When the German and Japanese medium 1940 bombers were designed they were the best trade off between speed, range and payload. Let’s face the reality only the impressive US radial engines made heavy bombers an effective weapon en masse (while the Lancaster used in line Merlin Engines the Stirling and the Halifax used Bristol Hercules radials). Even then the engines almost condemned the B-29 to the realm of colossal failures.
The article has other minor problem and compared to the previous two is not that bad, and it is also shorter. Yet it shows a problem that is becoming quite common in military history magazines, namely they lack of interesting content for long time reader, especially when the writer approaches widely researched subject with a distinct lack of knowledge.  Yet it is no mean a universal trend. I will point the readers to the extremely well done historical articles accompanying Battles Magazine game for a change.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Korean War AA3, part 3

We will launch the  main assault through the Uijongbu corridor. Two infantry divisions supported by tanks are poised for the attack. I have to operations left so I can activate both. The 4th Division and the 107 Tank regiment will break the ROK units and the 3rd Division supported by the 109th Tank regiment will race to Seoul.