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Posted on Sep 25, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“… we are going to hold the line.  We are going to win.” General Walton “Bulldog” Walker – High Flying Dice Games’ “Victory in Hell The First Battle of Naktong River August 5-19, 1950”  Game  Review

“… we are going to hold the line. We are going to win.” General Walton “Bulldog” Walker – High Flying Dice Games’ “Victory in Hell The First Battle of Naktong River August 5-19, 1950” Game Review

Rick Martin

“Victory in Hell – The First Battle of Naktong River August 5-19, 1950” Board Game Review.  Publisher: High Flying Dice Games  Designer:  Paul Rohrbaugh  Graphic Design: Tim Allen  Price $12.95 (unmounted counters)  $18.95 (mounted cardstock counters)  Exclusive Victory in Hell card deck $9.00

Passed Inspection:    fun game; easy to learn; beautiful graphic design; high level of solo playability; small footprint; fantastic value for the price

Failed Basic:     a rule clarification was needed for the supply points

High Flying Dice Games is known for high quality low price games as well as for focusing on military topics not often addressed by other game companies.  When you speak with Paul Rohrbaugh, High Flying Dice Games’ (hereinafter HFDG) owner and principal game designer, you can feel his passion for the hobby.  “Victory in Hell The First Battle of the Naktong River August 5-19, 1950” continues the great tradition of high quality and low price!


From the introduction to Victory in Hell:

           North Korea’s invasion of the South in June was swift and devastating.  The US-lead UN coalition and surviving South Korean forces withdrew to a small perimeter centered on the South Korean port of Pusan.  By August, the North Korean forces, although bloodied by repeated US airstrikes and weakened by stragglers from their swift advance, were massed for what many thought would be the final offensive to take the rest of South Korea.  The main focus of the North Korean attack was along the Naktong River where a small bridge head had been secured earlier.  Victory here could insure that there would be only one Korea, ruled by Communist leader Kim Il Sung. A UN victory could buy time and set the stage for a counter-offensive that might send the Communists back and free South Korea.

Victory in Hell is packaged in a zip lock bag and features stunning graphic design by Tim Allen.  The cover of the game is evocative of the “Red Scare “style artwork of the 1950s and the map is simply breathtaking in its photorealism.  Map features are open level 1 terrain, rough level 2 terrain, hills which are level 3 terrain, rivers and streams as well as villages and lakes.  Villages are marked with a symbol which I believe is a North Korean Supply Point but the rules don’t really address this.  Paul was very quick to clarify that the symbols are supply points and put out an addenda addressing the omission.  Also it looks like more recently printed copies of the game have completely corrected that omission.

The game components include:

1  11” x 17” Map

1 Player’s Aid Sheet

80 double sided counters (in the lower priced game they are unmounted and you’ll have to do some prep work on them to get them ready for play or for a few dollars more you can get them professionally mounted and trimmed by the good folks at HFDG)

8 pages of rules

You’ll need a deck of playing cards and one six sided die to play.  You can also buy Victory in Hell cards which is what I used for the review play.

The units in the game are infantry regiments and armored companies.  A hex is a third of  a mile and each turn is one day. Turn one is 8/5/1950 and the game ends on turn 15 which  is 8/19/1950.

Each unit is represented by a two sided counter with one side being the unit at full strength and the other being the unit’s diminished side.  Each unit has its historical I.D. and a silhouette to show whether it is an armored unit or infantry.  Each unit is rated for its Attack Factor, Defense Factor and Movement Factor.  Also each unit has a colored band denoting what formation it is.  Infantry units from different formations can’t stack together.

There is a factor called the “Fortunes of War” or “Fog of War” (it has two different names in the instructions) and is represented by a counter.  When one side uses the effects of the “Fortunes of War” (one of these – bring a unit back to full strength, return an eliminated unit to play or re-roll a die roll) then the counter is passed to the other player.  Note that it is not mandatory to use the counter which keeps it from coming into play by your enemy.

There is both a Victory Point track and a Communist/US morale track.  The morale shifts based upon supply points being held and number of units eliminated.  If your overall morale gets low, it’s more difficult to rally pinned troops.

After the units are set up per the game instructions, a random number of Communist units are marked “pinned” based upon die rolls because of prior bombardments.

The turn sequence is as follows:

1) Initiative and Determine Artillery Support/Air Strikes

2) Activations – do one of the following:

  1. Assault
  2. Move
  3. Artillery/Air Strikes
  4. Entrench
  5. Rally

3) End of Turn Book Keeping and Refit if on a Refit Turn

To figure initiative, you either use a deck of standard playing cards or you use the Victory in Hell cards.  Both players draw a card and the player with the highest number goes first.  If using standard playing cards, if the card number is odd the side can activate 3 units.  If even the number of  units activated is 2 units.  On ties, the player who did not get to perform actions last turn goes on this turn.  If a joker is drawn neither player gets to act and instead the active player rolls a die and consults the Random Event table.  Random events include such things as “Allied Bravery” or “Communist Bravery” which gives the player the ability to re-roll 1 die roll or “Communist Air Support” which allows the Communists to bring in Il2 Sturmoviks to strafe his opponent’s tanks and infantry.

The inclusion of random events in to the game adds a wonderful degree of uncertainty in to the game play.  No two games will ever play quite the same.  When a second joker or random event card is drawn the turn ends and the game moves to another day of the conflict.

If you are using the Victory in Hell playing cards (you can see what they look like in the pictures included with this review) you don’t have to remember the rules for what means what on the cards as everything is spelled out for you in terms of Activation Points and Random Events.

There are no combat results tables to reference in this game.  When one unit attacks another, the system is very simple but effective.  As long as the unit isn’t pinned, it can attack.  The attacking player adds up the Attack Factor attacking units and modifies the results based upon terrain, entrenchments, elevation and whether the defender is already pinned or if you are attacking the rear of an armored unit.  If the die roll plus modifiers is less than or equal to the defending unit’s Defense Factor nothing happens.  If the results are less than or equal to zero, the attacker is pinned.  If the results are greater than the defending unit’s Defense Factor the defender is pinned.  If the defender was already pinned, it either retreats or is flipped to its degraded side.  If the defender is already degraded, it is destroyed.  If a unit can’t retreat without becoming adjacent to an enemy unit, it must also take a step loss and be reduced or destroyed if it already has a step loss.  These rules are fast, simple and to the point.

Artillery and air strikes are also handled in a very easy way.  At the beginning of a turn, if you are the US / UN player, roll a die and see how many artillery or air strikes you have.  There are tracks for tracking the number of artillery and air strikes you use. For the Communist player, you roll to see how many artillery strikes you get but airstrikes are only available as a random event as stated earlier.

When the US / UN player loses units, it may only bring in reinforcements during the Refit Turn which is variable depending on die rolls.  The Communist player can rebuild units from previously destroyed units and bring them in from its supply points in villages.  If the supply points are occupied by US/UN troops, that village can’t be used to draft troops.  The occupation of these supply points is critical for both sides.

Another key to victory in the game is the occupation of hills.  The number of hills in the Pusan perimeter area makes quick travel difficult and being able to occupy the hills allows you to use the height advantage to gain combat modifiers.

I found it very difficult for one side to hold on to victory points for very long as well as keep its moral constantly high.  The game accurately reflects the war of attrition that the Korean conflict embodied.  The variable nature of the game turns can make each game different and also can disrupt your carefully planned strategies and tactics.

In this age of the pandemic, an important aspect that must be reviewed is how well the game plays in solo mode.  It plays very well!  The random nature of the turns and actions and the well defined objectives defines the game play.  There is no solo bot per say but if you play with both sides doing what they need to do to achieve their objectives aka the Communists must protect their supply points and hold the hills and the US / UN forces must take the supply areas and occupy the hills – you will have a blast!

One game I played took about 4 hours to play and the other took around 6 hours to play.  Both games were very fun!  Optional rules add additional flavor to the game.

Victory in Hell is a great game and for the price should be on every game table if you are interested in the Korean Conflict.

Armchair General Rating:  95% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

cover and map
initial set up
fight for the hills
US activation
Communist activation
US airstrike
random event