The Korean War: Scenario 1 – North Korea Invades

Victory Games’ The Korean War is an excellent operational-level game based on the first year of the Korean conflict that began in June of 1950.  I’ve been enjoying this game immensely lately and I have even shelved some of my newer incoming games to keep playing this one.   There’s a huge campaign in the game that allows you to play through the first year of the war and the number of bells and whistles that it features are impressive (global tension, rules of engagement, use of nuclear weapons, to name a few).  But before you get into the big show, there are four or five basic scenarios that ease you into the game and introduce the basic elements.  The first of these basic scenarios features the first four months of the war when the North Koreans were pushing the South Koreans back and the UN held on by a thread thanks largely to the defensive perimeter near Pusan.

This basic scenario only last four turns (one month = one turn) but there are two action phases in each turn beyond the first one.  In an action phase, your guys do the tough job of moving, fighting, advancing, retreating, etc.  Both sides go back and forth rolling for operations points, which allow you to do stuff with your units.  When both sides pass (or when the North Korean player passes and the UN player rolls poorly on the operations table), the turn ends.  So although there are only four turns here, there’s quite a lot going on.  Victory is awarded to the North Koreans for capturing a certain amount of South Korean cities while the UN/ROK’s objective is just merely to hold on to as much ground as they can while the US and its allies start to get reinforcements over to them.

Here’s how things went in one of my most recent plays.

A look at the map by the end of turn 1.

The North Korean player rolled a “9” and started off with four activations right off the bat.  The main objective here was to hit the ROK regiments closest to the 38th parallel and also to prevent the other ROK regiments from moving together and amalgamating into divisions on the next turn.

Starting off with an attack along the east coast by one lonely North Korean division against an ROK regiment sitting near the border,  I went with some NK air support and an intensive attack for a total +3 bonus on the attack roll and smashed the ROK regiment then advanced into the enemy hex. Down the road to the south, there were two ROK regiments waiting but with no action points left, there wasn’t much I could do about it.

The rest of my efforts were centered around the units near Seoul.  A total of 3 ROK regiments were clogging the roads northeast of the capital and these needed to be swept away before making the big push down the rest of the Korean peninsula.  A pair of NK divisions worked in tandem to smash the south’s regiments and the road to Seoul was clear by the end of the turn.

Northwest of Seoul, along the coast, another NK regiment slammed face first into an ROK regiment and marched straight down the road to the gates of the city.  Things were looking particularly grim for the South Koreans at this point, with the capital poised to fall in the next turn barring some sort of miracle.  North Korea’s operations had finished and play passed over to the UN/ROK at this point.

The area around the 38th parallel at the end of turn 1.  North Korean divisions breach the area around the border.

Pulling back troops from Seoul seemed out of the question.  There were still several unactivated North Korean units and they would speed down the coast without anyone to stop them.  The only thing left to do was find out what could be reinforced to stem the flow of enemy troops.  I could either send a unit east towards the coast in hopes of amalgamating with the two ROK units sitting along the road or I could start sending guys up towards Seoul.  With only one North Korean division threatening the eastern seaboard and four North Korean divisions on the outskirts of Seoul, it seemed better to protect the capital.  I sent one ROK regiment from Wongju up towards the city.  Four measly regiments now stood in its desperate defense.

Outskirts of Seoul: End Turn 1

Play went back to the North Koreans and they attacked one ROK remaining regiment near the border to the northwest of Seoul and, with the help of air support, completely eliminated it before heading down the coast to hit the capital next turn.  With the frontline ROK units nearest  the border destroyed and the way to Seoul clear, I was primarily concerned with keeping the ROK player from moving any more of his units for the rest of the turn.  With the end of the North Korean operations impulse, play returned to the ROK player.

The ROK player rolled a “2” for operations and got nothing.  No one could move so play went back to the North Koreans and they decided to pass, hoping to end the turn early before the ROK could further adjust its defenses.

The next roll for the ROK was a measly “3” and this meant the end of the action phase for turn 1.

The end result of turn 1 was that the North Koreans managed to clear out the border defenses near the 38th parallel and get to the outskirts of Seoul.  However, the need to end the turn before the ROK could take defensive actions meant that most of the North Koreans sitting further to the north didn’t move.  This might make the North Koreans’ job much harder since their reserves are sitting so far back now.  On the other hand, the ROK is bound to have a much harder time holding on to key locations.  The key concerns for the ROK player next turn are whether or not to try and amalgamate forces in and around Seoul in an attempt to delay the North Koreans (not likely to be effective anyway, since there are four divisions they’re facing here) or to focus on just getting the guys in the south up towards the bridges and cities in hopes of providing some kind of delay – no matter how feeble the defense might be.  With luck and enough action points, it should be possible to start entrenching some units further down the peninsula.  Let’s see how things work out.


  1. Mark, I"m not sure I've ever seen a system quite like this one. I guess you could say both game systems have some resemblance to each other in the way that both players are kind of reacting to each other back and forth throughout the turn but I would say the resemblance ends there. In the Korean War, stuff like air, naval, and armor support are really nicely abstracted to produce a simpler but elegant design. I can't recommend it enough.

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