#ThreatTuesday – War in the South China Sea?

Amongst the many issues facing the new US administration is the contentious issue of the South China Sea. Not only is this battle being fought on the high seas, but also on the gaming table.

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Courtesy BGG

John Gorkowski previously designed Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea. BTC is a very near-future, operational-level simulation of conflict in the South China Sea. In late 2016, John announced:

One of the War Colleges asked me for a streamlined version of the game for classroom use. They may or may not actually use it, but I plan to make such a “lite” version and share it with the community. ConSimWorld Forum, Aug 26, 2016

The work-in-progress is called South China Sea (SCS). John explained the changes between BtC and SCS:

The South China Sea (SCS) system is BtC pruned for play-ability. How did we do that? We took the scale down from 70 nautical miles per hex to 45. We standardized unit sizes at two-steps each with exceptions for aircraft carriers and certain large cruisers. That meant going with land battalions rather than regiments. And, we created a rule that allows naval units to move more than one hex in a single “go”, but included a mechanism, based on stealth, that enables the other side to “check” that move to create a more variable and volatile environment.

This last adjustment is most important and was most difficult. Because modern anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) have such long reach, 290 nmi in some cases, you can’t just let phasing ships “jump” more than one hex at a time without giving the non-phasing player a chance to react. Otherwise, the phasing player could move through his enemy’s field of fire, or beaten zone if you prefer, without drawing fire. So the new “intervention” mechanism allows the non-phasing player to “react” by stopping a multi-hex move by the phasing player, but not with certainty. So stealthy ships can dart two or three hexes at a time while larger less stealthy ships will not progress that far before the enemy can react.

What did not change? The core strike mechanism that applies across all forms of combat and the air naval movement/combat sequence all remain the same. ConSimWorld Forum, Nov 9, 2016

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Sample South China Sea Playtest Counters (courtesy ConSimWorld)

I have been participating in the playtest of SCS. My early verdict is I like the revised combat system, but question the political system. In an email exchange, John shared the following comment:

I know what you mean about political turns….The good news is that in several scenarios players can chose to just skip POL [Political] turns and go right to the action.  Email from John Gorkowski, Jan 14, 2017

John is caught between two customers here – the immediate paying customer (important for income NOW) and the future gaming consumer (potential future income). I think SCS will be a useful addition to the library of modern naval combat. I sincerely hope SCS makes it to the public so we too can explore potential South China Sea conflicts.

 

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