WHEN IN COMES TO CONFRONTATIONS ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA, the traditional matchup is US versus North Korea. Occasionally one sees a South Korea vs North Korea battle. How about North Korea vs China?
As I was browsing the internet I found Dragon and the Hermit Kingdom in Modern War #45 (Decision Games). This game covers a near-future hypothetical invasion of the Korean peninsula by China. Which got me thinking….
What if China and North Korea had a “friendly” little dust-up today? By today I mean today; as in what wargame on my shelf could I use to make a quick battle to pass the coronapocalypse?
As I eyeballed my shelf of games, my eyes came to rest on Flight Leader (Avalon Hill, 1986). Flight Leader is a game of “Air-to-Air Jet Combat Tactics 1950 to Present.” I recalled a few years back I made a homebrew scenario with South Korean F-16s confronting intruding North Korean MiG-21s. It was based on a then-contemporary news article. When I pulled the box off the shelf and opened it, sure enough, my scenario was still in there.
One problem I had at the time was how to make fit “peacetime” Rules of Engagement (ROE) into the game. I didn’t just want both sides to start fighting, I wanted there to be a “dance” as both sides jockeyed for position or blocked or pushed the other. The answer I came up with at the time was…well, I really didn’t.
I decided to basically play the same scenario, only this time with North Korea versus China. For the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAARF) I brought a 2-ship formation of J-11 fighters at Aircrew Quality C (2x Average pilots). For the game, I just used the stock SU-27 FLANKER. For the North Korean Air Force (NKAF) I used a 4-ship formation of MiG-21 Fishbed bis/L/N with an optional internal cannon. I set the North Korean Aircrew Quality at E (2x Average, 2x Inexperienced pilots). In the scenario this was a 40pt vs 40pt matchup.
This time I tried to add a mechanism that would (crudely) simulate the chances of things getting out of control. You know, as in “out of control and lucky to live through it” like The Hunt for Red October….
The crude mechanic I decided upon was a d10 check every turn for each airplane. Based on the Aircrew Quality, there was a chance of a pilot “losing their cool” and opening fire. The crude metric I decided upon was:
- Aircrew Rating C: Roll 8+. DM +1 per opposing aircraft behind 3-9 Line. DM-1 per opposing aircraft ahead of 3-9 Line. DM +1 if radar Lock-On by any opposing aircraft.
- Aircrew Rating E: Roll 6+. DM+1 if any opposing aircraft behind 3-9 Line. DM -1 if any opposing aircraft ahead of 3-9 Line. DM +1 if pilot Inexperienced. DM +1 if radar Lock-On by any opposing aircraft.
As I played it out, the early turns were indeed “peaceful” as both sides jockeyed for position and kept the others in their forward hemisphere. However, once the merge happened and both sides started twisting an turning it got much more interesting. Sure enough, it was one of the Inexperienced NKAF pilots who blinked first.
The fight was on, but that gave me another scenario design problem to deal with; what was victory?
I decided that once the fight started, each side would have to meet certain conditions:
- PLAARF: Force NKAF to withdraw. If aircraft lost must destroy 2x NKAF for every loss.
- NKAF: Force PLAARF to withdraw. Shoot down at least one J-11/SU-27 if any aircraft lost.
Not the greatest thinking but a start. In this battle the Inexperienced pilot who started the battle took a poor HW (Heat-Seeker, Wide Angle) shot and missed. The J-11s engaged and quickly shot down 2x MiG-21. The last two MiGs took parting shots and scored some damage on a single J-11 before skedaddling. I ruled this a solid Chinese victory.
This battle made me think about the greatest Top Gun parody ever. Makes me wonder which one was Red Maverick….
Feature image courtesy USA Today