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Old May 27th, 2020, 01:39 AM

Clavius Clavius is offline
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Default #0092 USMC Armor in Korea #5 11/50

(Sorry, this won't be anywhere near as detailed or as interesting to read as most of the AAR's I've seen here because it's almost too depressing to describe, but I share a couple of ideas on how to approach this one and maybe why not to avoid it as ugly as it gets.)

Spoiler Alerts - but I'm not sure you can use them to your advantage in any event!

Talk about a "Kobayashi Maru" scenario! I was somewhat familiar with the Chosin Reservoir debacle in general having read about the "Fox Hill" battle, but I wasn't familiar with this historical part of the battle when I started this scenario. I didn't realize the USMC side was set up to get beaten like a drum. It reminds me a lot of the #0095 "Ambush at LZ Albany 11/65" scenario about the nightmare ambush of the Air Cavalry reinforcements leaving the site of the LZ X-Ray "We Were Soldiers Once" battle in Vietnam. The question probably isn't so much how to win (which after seeing the size of the still-unengaged PRC forces on the map after the game I'm not sure is possible) but how not to lose too badly.

And here's why you might still want to tackle this one anyway. Even though I - realistically - got the snot beat out of me, I was still stunned, particularly after seeing the aforementioned PRC forces still on the board, that even though I had lost most of my force and many victory hexes, I still had a Draw conclusion. I'm a tactical neophyte, but maybe if you work hard at this one you could find a way to get a Marginal Victory out of it.

You're attempting to get a mixed USMC / Royal Marines infantry relief column up the MSR in winter snow through a narrow valley to Hagaru-ri. Aside from a weak gun carrier, there is no armor in the convoy. You will have no air support, and no (effective) artillery support. The column is ambushed instantly by a deadly combination of very accurate, very heavy mortar fires through the length of the column and heavy concentrations of assault troops in good cover on the high ground on either side of the road (but seemingly mostly on the east).

The scenario starts with a pre-game mortar bombardment that pretty well dooms the machine gun teams you will so desperately need from the start and routs many units that you will never get control over again without tweaking Rally hexes and possibly "Swap'ping" the scenario's map sides.

Even though I've had the game for many, many years, I've never done too much with Rally hexes before. This is probably because before recently I haven't often played the smaller infantry unit scenarios and also because I never found the AI's behavior in the direction it sent fleeing units to be such an obstacle to a playable outcome before. The problem is that with the USMC/RM default flee direction to the east in this scenario and so many PRC units on the high ground to the east, fleeing USMC/RM units inevitably did the worst possible thing. They tried to run up the steep eastern ridge right into the well-concealed teeth of the ambush, meaning they were sitting ducks and weren't ever going to "down-suppress" to where I could direct them again. None of the units that fled up that ridge ever got beyond the PRC line.

After restarting the scenario a number of times and tinkering with various initial responses to see if I could do anything to get control over the routed units, I finally set an all-formation Rally Hex in a notch in the Western ridge. This is the point where more knowledgeable users will no doubt smile and think "Uh Huh. That didn't help much, did it?" Nope. Time to actually go read up on Rally Hexes in the manual. So, with apologies to those who already understand the mechanism, the Rally Hexes only "attract" units at the end of a turn (which I would actually call the "in-between" turn). The manual says the AI uses different logic to determine which way a unit will "squirt" during losing combat pulses. I can't tell from the game behavior if the combat logic incorporates any knowledge of the set Rally Hexes when it decides which direction the unit will flee during combat, but it didn't seem to help at all in this scenario; my units kept running up the eastern ridge to certain annihilation.

OK, at this point, I put my Captain Kirk cadet shirt on and went into the editor and "Swap'ped" the map sides. This had a definite effect on how units fled and they now generally tried to move toward my Rally Hex toward the west, i.e., away from the heaviest concentration of PRC units. Note that given the size of the forces arrayed against you, it's still only a minor help and not what I would call much of an "advantage". Few of my units actually made it to the Rally hex regardless. They were still under very accurate fire most of the time, and they still did "really dumb things" like running up exposed hilltops to get "away" during combat. (Side comment - PRC fire in this scenario seems freaky accurate at any distance. Perhaps my sense here is just due to the constant heavy suppression of the UMSC / RM forces that generally can't seem to hit anything more than a hex or two away in this scenario.)

Admittedly, swapping the map sides is something of a cheat. On the other hand, also admitting that I know little of how troops in combat generally tend to deal with real "rout" situations, I still can't believe that USMC or Royal Marines - in particular - would attempt to retreat *up* a steep ridge *towards* the heaviest concentration of enemy fire 180 degrees *away* from their Rally points. In the case of USMC or Royal Marines, I could see some of them bravely attempting to actually *attack* towards those forces in real life, but we're talking here about units already desperately trying to fall back, not counterattack. So fair's fair. I mean, there is such a thing as "path of least resistance"? Amiright? (Game Designer note: Particularly in the case of highly trained units, I would think a more realistic behavior in a "nightmare" situation where the usual combat-driven retreat or rout would be opposite "common sense" would be for the unit to hunker down right where it was and fight with whatever it could bring to bear. I'm thinking specifically of what the historical "Lost Platoon" Cavalry unit of the LZ-X Ray battle did in a terrible situation having lost the platoon's leadership and being surrounded. They hunkered down and toughed it out throughout the night until relief finally arrived.)

Anyway, it made little difference. And while all this is going on, I watched Victory Hexes go by the wayside overrun by invisible PRC units up and down the MSR.

The USMC mixed armor / infantry reinforcements don't appear until about turn 7. If you send them up the MSR to try and save the little that's left of your convoy by this time, expect them to quickly suffer the same fate as the convoy before they get anywhere near what's left. The joke here is that the reinforcements include a mortar team. I say "joke" because a) If you unload and deploy the desperately needed mortar team as soon as it arrives on the MSR so it doesn't get destroyed in the subsequent ambush, it will still take 3+ turns to drop their first rounds, b) You probably won't have any units left in the area of the convoy that can actually Spot for the mortars (visibility is already low in the scenario even if you had a spotter), c) The quickly-deployed mortars can't reach the heaviest piece of the PRC's direct fire artillery near the convoy, and d) Your mortars will probably get taken out in fairly short order anyway by the PRC mortars that are already accurately attacking your reinforcing column.

In any event, the reinforcement column that I tried to send up the MSR also got the snot beat out of it by the time it got close to the southernmost part of the wreckage of the original convoy.

Spoiler Alert again!

So when the game ended at turn 20, the map was a shock. Not only were there still large numbers of unengaged PRC units on the map (only hinted at occasionally by the messages about mines being removed from places my forces weren't anywhere near and the loss of so many victory hexes) but it also appeared that I was up against what seemed like half of the PRC's mortars in all of Korea. This is something else that made the small mortar force in the reinforcement column seem pretty ironic.

But I still somehow got a Draw.

So, maybe I will take a few more swings at this one over time. Maybe adding individual formation Rally hexes to the Swap'ped map sides mod would make a difference, and maybe getting the reinforcement column off the MSR and into the "rough" to the west would help, though it will probably now take somewhat more than the allowed 20 turns to get the reinforcements to the remnants of the convoy if you do this (and require another scenario mod).

Regardless, from what I later read and saw about "Hellfire Valley", the scenario seems brutally historical and well-designed. But do think about Swap'ping the scenario map sides if you try it.
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Old May 28th, 2020, 07:34 PM

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Default Re: #0092 USMC Armor in Korea #5 11/50

Just a quick followup. I mentioned in an aside in my earlier note my sense that the PRC fire accuracy was "freaky" high and the USMC accuracy was poor. I went into the scenario to investigate this a bit. What I see is that a sampling of the USMC and RM units' morale and experience values were set lower than the "70" that the manual says is "average", and a sampling of the PRC units show numbers consistently above that average. I created a fresh scenario in 11/50 between USMC/RM and PRC units using similar units and it appears the scenario significantly discounted the USMC/RM units' default Experience and Morale by 10-15 points, and increased the PRC units by roughly similar numbers. I can understand that under the desperate circumstances and conditions of the Chosin, the UN unit settings might reflect tired soldiers, but I'm not sure why the PRC units would be so much higher unless it was to tweak the balance of play.

As I mentioned, the battle results - under my admittedly neophyte command - seem historically accurate, and I'm in no position to quibble with those settings, but it's worth noting.
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Old May 29th, 2020, 02:11 AM
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Suhiir Suhiir is offline
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Default Re: #0092 USMC Armor in Korea #5 11/50

In an ambush scenario like this one might adjust to values to represent A) Panic and disorganization on the part of the troops ambushed B) A prepared ambush vice a simple meeting engagement or battle.

Since you said the adjustments are on the order of 10-15 points I don't think they're out of line. If they were 25+ then I would.

But that's just my opinion.
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hellfire valley, korea, routed units

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