#ThreatTuesday – Essential background sources for modern-era #NorthKorea #wargame design and play

If you want to play a wargame involving conflict on the Korean Peninsula, you can play titles like Mitchel Land’s Next War: Korea (GMT Games, 2019). It is also helpful if you have some background to better understand the situation and threat. Here are three titles that I consider essential reading for players (and aspiring designers) of modern conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea Military Power: A Growing Regional and Global Threat, Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence Agency, 2021. Press Announcement – “This volume in DIA’s series of military power reports provides details on North Korea’s defensive and military goals, strategy, plans and intentions. It examines the organization, structure and capability of the military supporting those goals, as well as the enabling infrastructure and industrial base.”

The Armed Forces of North Korea: On the Path of Songun, Stjin Mitzer & Joost Oliemans, Warwick: Helion & Company, 2020. From the Publisher – “North Korea’s Armed Forces maps the most important events from the inconclusive ceasefire struck at the end of the Korean War, throughout the Cold War until modern day. An especially heavy emphasis is placed on the current status of the Korean People’s Army by examining their wealth of indigenously designed weaponry. In the course of the book not only will many of the Korean People’s Army’s most secret projects and tactics will be covered, and its conflict history with the South and the world at large is put into new context. Moreover, an up-to-date, comprehensive assessment of the equipment holdings of several branches of the Korean People’s Army is included, offering a numerical estimate of its naval and aerial capabilities. From the recently introduced stealth missile boats, ballistic missile submarines and main battle tank families to their often-ignored indigenous aircraft industry, virtually all indigenous weapons systems are discussed extensively.”

Helion & Company, 2020

ATP 7-100.2 North Korean Tactics, Washington, DC: Department of the Army, July 2020. From the Introduction – “ATP 7-100.2 addresses the tactics, organization, and activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ground forces. Part one of this document focuses on the strategic and operational levels, and includes North Korea’s military structure, organizational philosophy, and an introduction to functional tactics. Part two focuses on the tactical level, and describes Korean People’s Army Ground Forces (KPAGF) offensive and defensive tactics in detail. Several appendixes provide additional information on specific military functions and their use in tactical situations.”

Alas, there is no single-source tactics guide for the Korean People’s Air Force (KPAF)…

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sits in an airplane as he guides a flight drill for the inspection of airmen of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force in this undated photo. (KCNA/Reuters)

…nor for the tactics of the Korean People’s Navy (KPN).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front, stands on the conning tower of a submarine during his inspection of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167 in this undated photo. (KCNA/Reuters)

A Note of Caution: While these sources certainly create a solid baseline of understanding, they are not “living documents” and therefore some of the data is possibly outdated or has been supplemented by newer understanding. But it’s a start…


Feature image – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People’s Army Strategic Rocket Force’s performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, March 29, 2013. The sign on the left reads, “Strategic force’s plan to hit the mainland of the U.S.” (KCNA/Reuters)

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#SundaySummary – New arrivals need a Quartermaster General so not lost in Forgotten Waters while reading Game Wizards of North Korea (@AresGamesSrl @PlaidHatGames @compassgamesllc @docetist @TravellerNews #TravellerRPG @toadkillerdog @gmtgames)

Wargames

New ArrivalIan Brody’s Quartermaster General WW2 (Ares Games, Second Edition 2020). Described by some as “Card driven RISK” that’s an unfair characterization as the game is much more fun than it looks. This is also supposed to be a decent 3-player game playable in 2-hours or less making it a great candidate for the weekend Family Game Night. We already have Quartermaster General: Cold War (PSC Games, 2018) which we enjoy playing so we look forward to going back to the “classic” version.

Quartermaster General WW2. Photo by RMN

Boardgames

New ArrivalForgotten Waters (Plaid Hat Games, 2020). Another candidate for Weekend Family Game Night. Also my first foray into the “Crossroads System” as well as my first “app-assisted” boardgame. I traded for my copy of Pacific Tide: The United States versus Japan, 1941-45 (Compass Games, 2019). I like Pacific Tide, but Forgotten Waters will be played with both RMN Boys vice one at a time. That said, when it comes to cooperative games the RMN Boys prefer classic Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) and then the “Forbidden“-series (Forbidden Island and Forbidden Skies specifically) so we will see how unforgettable this one becomes.

Forgotten Waters. Photo by RMN

Role Playing Games

New ArrivalGame Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons by Jon Peterson (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021). This is definitely a hobby business history and NOT a history of D&D as a game. So all you Edition Wars fighters out there looking for Jon’s vote need to look elsewhere. I wish Jon would do the history of Marc Miller and Traveller someday. I know, not as dramatic but nonetheless of intense interest to a Traveller RPG fan like me.

Game Wizards. Photo by RMN

Professional Wargames

The Defense Intelligence Agency released the 2021 edition of North Korea Military Power: A Growing Regional and Global Threat. This product is a must-read for any professional wargamer that wants to include North Korea as a threat. Given that it’s unclassified and for public release, even commercial wargame designers like Mitchell Land can use it to update Next War: Korea (GMT Games).

Courtesy DIA

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame #OSINT – 2019 China Military Power Report & Reuter’s Special Reports on China

OSINT – Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is data collected from publicly available sources to be used in an intelligence context. In the intelligence community, the term “open” refers to publicly available sources. It is not related to open-source software or public intelligence. (Wikipedia)

EVEN in these days of the internet, wargamers can still benefit from official government publications. For wargamers of the Cold War, the Defense Intelligence Agency Military Power series was amongst the first, and arguable the best, publicly released unclassified intelligence on the threat.

DIA still publishes their Military Power series, but the Department of Defense is directed by Congress to also submit an annual report to Congress. The Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Concerning the People’s Republic of China 2019 was publicly released on 02 May. To accompany the release the Department also held a press conference (transcript here) to discuss the document.

As useful as the DoD document is for wargamers, I also direct your attention to a series of Reuter’s interactive Special Reports on China that wargamers may also find insightful:

All the Reuter’s reports are done with very nice interactive graphics; lots of good information to draw upon for a modern wargame in Asia.


Feature image Defense Intelligence Agency

#ThreatTuesday – #Wargame Library: 2019 China Military Power Report from @DefenseIntel

This past week, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) publicly released the 2019 edition of it’s China Military Power Report. With a subtitle of “Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win,” this report compliments the Pentagons’s Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China in 2018 released in August. I previously wrote how the Annual Report is a useful tool for wargamers; the new China Military Power Report is probably even more useful for game designers looking to portray the Chinese military in a modern wargame. The chapter Core Chinese Military Capabilities and the various appendixes give a useful broad outline of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Flying under the radar is a second report recently published by the US Department of Defense. Assessment on U.S. Defense Implications of China’s Expanding Global Access is a supplement to the August Annual Report. For wargamers long focused on scenarios across the Taiwan Strait or in the South China Sea, there is more to think about:

China’s expanding global activities in some of the areas listed above present military force posture, access, training, and logistics implications for the United States and China. The PLA’s first overseas military base in Djibouti and probable follow-on bases will increase China’s ability to deter use of conventional military force, sustain operations abroad, and hold strategic economic corridors at risk. The PLA’s expanding global capabilities provide military options to observe or complicate adversary activities in the event of a conflict. (p. 4)

The Annual Report, the new Assessment, and Military Power Report are good for the broad strokes and a top-level view of few key platforms but a naval wargamer (like me) looking for more tactical depth will find the publications wanting. In 2015 the US Navy Office of Naval Intelligence published The PLA Navy: New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century which shows many ships but unfortunately lacks individual ship details. Oh, but do note the two other products available from ONI, Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies and The Russian Navy: A Historic Transition.

For a wargamer, this abundance of “official” open source information is a real boon for designing your own games or scenarios. Now if we could only get similar items for US forces. I note that the last Naval Institute Guide to Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet was published in 1993!


Feature image  – Type 055 Renhai-class guided missile destroyer from Chinese internet via thediplomat.com

When National Security & Wargames Collide – the 2018 China Military Power Report and South China Sea (Compass Games, 2017)

Every year, the US Department of Defense must prepare a report to Congress titled “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,”

The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development of the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese security strategy and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts supporting such development over the next 20 years. The report shall also address United States-China engagement and cooperation on security matters during the period covered by the report, including through United States-China military-to-military contacts, and the United States strategy for such engagement and cooperation in the future.

The 2018 China Military Power Report was released this past week. I decided to read-through the report while having my copy of designer John Gorkowski’s South China Sea: Modern Naval Conflict in the South Pacific (Compass Games, 2017) nearby.

Making a modern wargame is difficult as so much changes so rapidly. The hardest part may be the military hardware since games are based on open sources and not privy to the latest classified assessments. Wargames may rapidly become OBE and not of relevancy (and interest).

South China Sea does not suffer from this problem, at least yet. This may be because SCS actually is two games, one political and one military.

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Arms Exports & Sales

As I read the 2018 China Military Power Report, I found myself flipping through the Political Cards in SCS. I found many cards directly related to events in the Report. Previously, I stated that I found the Political Turn in SCS not necessarily to my liking. After looking at the Report and comparing it to the SCS Political Cards I now see that the game actually does a very good job at capturing the political factors around the issue. Indeed, if one really wants to understand why a fight may happen in the South China Sea, one really needs to play the Political Turns in SCS and not just focus on the military.

That is not to say the military is not important. The Report also lays out the high-level factors related to combat in the South China Sea. The Report makes it clear that China is on a ship-building spree; a spree that may not be fully captured in SCS. While one can argue about the order of battle in the game, the underlying truth is that the game system accounts for the growth of the PLAN. More importantly to wargamers, the underlying combat mechanics of the Military Turn in SCS, that of detection and strike, remains a useful model of modern naval conflict.

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CV Liaoning

Reading the 2018 China Military Report has convinced me I need to get South China Sea to the table a few more times. Most importantly, I need to give the Political Turns more attention.  I am also now even more anxious to see how Harold Buchanan’s Flashpoint: South China Sea currently in the GMT Games P500 (Not There Yet) looks at the same subject.