"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
This late 20th century Korean War scenario is the fourth in a series of Session Reports based on my Memoir 1980 variant for the flexible Memoir '44 system. The scenario features units from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States contesting the advance of three North Korean (DPRK) divisions near Uijeongbu. The units represent brigades or regiments and each hex measures about a mile across.
The random nature of the Memoir ’44 system is a good match for this project, and the command problems which appear in a typical session will fit the scenario perfectly. The hypothetical background for this campaign is probably weaker than a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict, but I wanted to include Korea. The order of battle information for DPRK forces in the late 1970s is largely speculative. The special rules portray a confused and chaotic winter battle fought in horrible conditions. I have retained as much of the original Memoir ‘44 framework as possible.
On this map of South Korea near the DMZ the compass would point north to the upper left edge of the board in this photograph. Terrain tiles include hills, rivers, bridges, towns, and the city of Uijeongbu. Most units have three movement points. Hills cost two movement points to enter for most units, but tanks require three movement points to penetrate this rough terrain. A town costs one movement point to enter and the city requires two movement points because the streets are clogged with refugees.
After fighting a delaying action along the DMZ coaltion forces have concentrated to defend the approaches to Seoul. US troops have been assigned to protect the right flank near Uijeongbu but the deployment of these formation has been slowed by DPRK commando operations off the edge of the board. The tightly controlled DPRK units have pushed forward but supply problems have forced a halt in this sector, allowing the ROK divisions time to regroup. A unit of Communist infiltrators will create a diversion as the ROK and US formations prepare an aggressive defense.
The defending ROK/US player actually moves first. This narrative was created because a meeting engagement is the most interesting battlefield encounter. A static scenario based on symmetrical lines of similar formations can be an invitation to boredom, so I usually attempt to develop unbalanced boards with clumps of units.
The formations in the ROK divisions represent mechanized infantry brigades and tank brigades; a recon unit, the attack helicopters, and the artillery formation are corps assets. On the right flank part of the US 2nd Infantry Division needs to occupy good defensive terrain because US force is heavily outnumbered by the North Koreans.
I have created a special "hot" deck of command cards for this scenario. The ROK/US player is presented with a hand of five cards. The DPRK player has just three cards but his army level assets (green miniatures) never require orders because they are under the direct control of Dear Leader. Several unnecessary or unwanted cards have been removed. To speed play all of the wimpy Recon cards have been taken out of the deck. Other cards have become random events which are played immediately when they appear. When a Counterattack card surfaces the DPRK commander will immediately pull the top card from the deck and play it automatically, then another card is drawn to fill up the player's hand. Dig In helps the ROK/US player entrench Uijeongbu and gather reinforcements. Other event cards like Artillery Bombard help the DPRK player.
The coalition has air superiority so ROK and US jets are available. It is possible for these aircraft to appear over the battlefield with a lucky roll of the weather dice. Aircraft can perform three types of missions: direct ground support during a battle, bombing runs at the end of a turn, or interdiction missions which pin enemy formations into position with no chance to move or attack.
DPRK formations are reinforced with numerous artillery units. The infantry division has towed guns and the mechanized divisions have self-propelled artillery. There are also DPRK rocket launchers. Since the ROK artillery has superior fire control systems an extra battle dice is rolled during every attack. All mechanized artillery units include a vehicle, a commander, and a block representing the formation’s reserve ammunition supply. The first hit on an artillery unit destroys the ammunition; the second hit knocks out the commander and the formation is removed from play. A player may choose to expend an artillery unit’s reserve ammunition supply during one attack. This option allows the player to conduct two fire missions.
The primary formation in the DPRK commander’s order of battle is the mechanized division. A typical division contains one artillery regiment, two mech regiments, and one tank regiment... but other units have been added from the headquarters reserve. Infantry formations use a variation of the standard Memoir '44 rules and roll a 3-2-1 sequence on the battle dice. Mechanized infantry can move three hexes or move two hexes and fire. Each mechanized infantry unit includes four figures and a vehicle. The vehicles do not count as a miniature.
Tank units move and fight using the standard Memoir ’44 rules. Since the miniatures are quite large only two playing pieces will occupy a hex with the third armored vehicle in a tank formation represented by a small flag token. The first hit on a tank unit removes the flag.
The attack helicopters shown in this photograph have unlimited movement and fight like flying tanks with a 3-3-3 battle dice sequence. Because of the threat posed by SAM launchers helicopters may never be ordered into a hex adjacent to an enemy unit. The BRDMs leading the North Korean column represent a reconaissance unit.
The ROK staff officer miniature shown with the mech brigade in this image can be assigned to a formation at the end of a turn. Any ROK formation accompanied by a staff officer is automatically activated during the following turn, but this requires advance planning on the part of the player. The US player has no staff officer... everybody is on Christmas leave.
The deadly Communist infiltrators (green kneeling figures) are extremely difficult to destroy. This special DPRK unit can only be attacked by close assault and aircraft may not participate. Infiltrators never require orders (they are controlled at the army level) and they always move one hex regardless of terrain. They roll three battle dice but can only attack adjacent enemy units. The infiltrators begin the game in a location already on the forward edge of the ROK/US positions.
The Sheridan light armored vehicles represent a recon unit. All three players have similar formations. Recon units move and fight like tanks but only roll two battle dice.
Elite DPRK regiments equipped with BMPs roll an extra battle dice during a close assault. These units would spearhead assaults. The ROK Special Forces/Airborne formation is lightly armed but is also an elite unit. Those factors balance each other out so the ROK brigade with its jeeps fights like regular mech infantry.
ROK infantry formations develop a kind of rubber band technique during the battle as they advance to contact the DPRK columns then snap backward to withdraw after the pressure builds. The ridges tend to channel the DPRK armor but massed artillery fire can blast a hole for the North Koreans if ROK forces are caught in the open.
The bold DPRK commander must overcome his command card handicap to score victory points by capturing Uijeongbu (good luck with that...), moving DPRK units into the last pair of southern hexrows on the board, and wrecking ROK or US formations. The cautious ROK/US player must avoid heavy losses and keep the North Koreans tangled up in the hills.
One point is scored by the DPRK player for the destruction of an enemy unit. A full-strength DPRK unit in the last two hexrows (this cuts the lateral highway north of Uijeongbu) scores two points while a reduced formation scores one point. The ROK/US commander scores one point for each destroyed Commie formation. In case of a tie score the number of US formations destroyed is taken into account, since the loss of an American unit might have severe political consequences. If the final DPRK score isn't higher the North Korean commander can expect an extended vacation in a labor camp.
All four sessions of the Memoir 1980: Korea scenario were enjoyable. The game has a "sudden death" quality because the appearance of the Finest Hour card is used as a random event to signal the end of the scenario. It is buried in the middle of the deck and the game concludes at the end of the turn when that card is revealed. The session illustrated here ended with a 9-6 DPRK victory because the highway was cut by a full strength regiment of elite North Korean troops. Bad weather rolls crippled the ROK and US airstrikes.
Thank you for taking a few minutes to read this lengthy article.
The vehicles are Micro Machines. The figures are 1:72 scale miniatures produced by Esci and Caesar. The attack helicopters are from Chopper Strike and the aircraft are from my personal collection.
Come and get them if you dare!
To Do List: 1. Eat 2. Workout 3. Be Amazing
This looks great and it also looks like a lot of fun.