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!

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