I Fought a Second Korean War in a Simulator (The Results Were Shocking)

Kyle Mizokami

Key Point: A war has broken out on my living room table. The battlefield is the Korean peninsula; the time is tomorrow. Seven days into the war both sides have already taken frightful losses and the defenders have been pushed back. The South Korean capital of Seoul is already under siege and the fortified Demilitarized Zone is buckling under hammer blows from the North Korean People’s Army.

I bought a wargame called Next War: Korea, and I’m playing it right now. It cost me $80, and I believe it’s going to offer me some meaningful insight into how a real war in Korea might play out.

The Korean peninsula is, acre for acre, one of the most heavily militarized places on earth. I expect casualties will be heavy, just as they would be in a real showdown between North and South Korea and their respective allies.

Next War: Korea plays out on a sprawling poster-sized map of the Korean peninsula, modeling all major towns and cities, lakes, rivers, fortifications, ports, airfields and the DMZ. Ground and air units on both sides are represented by cardboard counters, with NATO-style unit symbols and their attack, defense and movement abilities abstracted into raw numbers. The objective of the main scenario is for the North to invade and occupy South Korea — or at least a significant portion of it.Loading Ad

Seven days into the war, the death and destruction on both sides is a sobering reminder of what happens when large armies go to total war.

Game theory

People have been killing each other in games for thousands of years. Combat simulations are so common that we don’t even think of the simplest ones, like checkers and chess, as being war-related at all. They’re just games, their martial past lost to history.

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