Korean War: Counter Attack
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
A while back, designer Jay Townsend submitted a massive Korean War opus for Panzer Grenadier: three boxed games and a book supplement, adding up to an even 200 scenarios. We published the first of the boxed games, Pusan Perimeter, in 2014 and will bring out the second, Counter Attack, in 2015.
Pusan Perimeter focused on the initial North Korean attack across the 38th Parallel in June 1950, and covered the fighting as South Korean and American forces were pushed back into the bridgehead in southeastern Korea known as the Pusan Perimeter. There are 48 scenarios in Pusan Perimeter, and they include all of the major actions from the first attacks across the demilitarized zone to the retreat behind the Naktong River in early August 1950.
Counter Attack picks up where Pusan Perimeter left off, with the American counter attack at Chinju in August 1950, a few days after the retreat across the Naktong. By the second scenario the North Koreans have to face the war’s newest participant: the United States Marine Corps. The fighting swings back and forth through the middle of August and is pretty intense all along the line (multiple scenarios per day, in Panzer Grenadier terms).
The fighting rages into September, now with both sides attacking and a new force entering the fray, the British Army. The North Koreans make one final attempt to crack the United Nations lines around Pusan with their Great Naktong Offensive, but their starving and ragged troops are at the end of their endurance and are eventually pushed back despite their great valor.
The landings at Inchon come next, fully explored in Panzer Grenadier format with all the finely-honed techniques of amphibious warfare mastered by the U.S. Navy and Marines in the Pacific. The Marines come ashore in LVT’s and LCVP’s, backed by Sherman tanks with bulldozer blades and flamethrowers, plus Marine M26 Pershing tanks.
Back on the Pusan Perimeter, the United Nations forces there – British Army, U.S. Army, and ROK Army – began an offensive as well, expecting the North Koreans to fall back after the Inchon landings and recapture of Seoul. The North Koreans responded with bitter resistance, and about half of their forces holding the Perimeter line were killed or captured.
The scenarios wrap up with the fall of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, and the parachute landing by the 187th north of the capital that attempted to cut off the retreating North Koreans. They did manage to stop some of them, but not all, and the North Koreans would regroup on the opposite side of the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China, to return in a few weeks along with a few hundred thousand of their new friends. But that’s a story for another game.
Counter Attack, much like Pusan Perimeter before it, uses the standard Panzer Grenadier Fourth Edition rules with only minimal adjustments (no more than the typical series game; in this case the special rules include helicopters, parachute landings, bulldozer tanks, bazooka teams and recoilless rifles). It has four new maps and, like Pusan Perimeter, all of them are river boards (Korea has a lot of rivers). There’s also a coastal board (including a river), so those Marines can storm ashore at Inchon. In a new twist, one of the boards has a steep river gorge. All are of course fully compatible with maps from other Panzer Grenadier games (plus those from Panzer Grenadier (Modern) and Infantry Attacks).
The U.S. Army is back, somewhat improved in quality, with its Pershing tanks and even a couple of M46 Pattons, a much-improved version of the Pershing with a more powerful gun, better armor and better speed. The North Korean T34/85 tanks that blew apart the hapless Shermans of Pusan Perimeter are no match for this armored beast.
The U.S. Marines also have M26 Pershings, and for the first time in Panzer Grenadier they get M3 halftracks of their own in which to ride into battle. The Marines have better intrinsic firepower than the Army, but they don’t get the awesome M46. Even so, it's going to be really tempting to put together some Iron Curtain scenarios for these Marines.
Both Army and Marines do each get a helicopter. These are very early helicopters: a Sikorsky H5 “Eggbeater” for the Marines, and a Bell H13 “Sioux” (also known as the Bell 47, or “the M*A*S*H helicopter”) for the Army. They have no weapons; they can only spot for artillery or naval gunfire. And since American artillery has the VT fuse, that sort of spotting ability can be deadly. But helicopters make games cooler: this is scientifically proven.
The British contingent is not large, but it is feisty. The Brits bring no armor in this game, just hard-fighting infantry. Likewise, the ROK Army (the South Koreans) have no tanks of their own, and are little different from Pusan Perimeter. They play a smaller role in this game than in the first volume, but many of the “American” units have been fleshed out by KATUSAs (“Korean Augmentation To U.S. Army” – Korean conscripts added directly to American infantry squads).
The North Koreans are about the same as they were in Pusan Perimeter, but their infantry is better-armed now. The T-34/85 still outclasses the Sherman, but now there are better American tanks on the battlefield.
Pusan Perimeter has been a popular game, but I think I like this one better. After all, it has helicopters, which are almost as cool as elephants. But it also has a lot of intense scenarios, and a wide variety of units. You’re going to like this game.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold. Leopold is a good dog.