Before we get into this interview, I want to say this. This game is not a glorification of Nazism. Nor is it an attempt to change the narrative, although this game is an alternate reality look at the occupation of Germany by the Allies immediately following the fall of Berlin and the resistance from various groups to that occupation. This game will not be for everyone and may offend some with its portrayal of the events and participants in this struggle. I would say give it a chance to develop over the next year or so as the game has just been placed on pre-order with Legion Wargames. I have long been enthralled with the COIN Series from GMT Games for its attempt to tell the less than squeaky clean side of some of the most infamous struggles in history. This game is not an official part of that series but is COIN Series inspired.
I have seen lots of information put out by the design team of Clint Warren-Davey and Ben Fiene and it appears that these two have done their homework and extrapolated some theories that may or may not have been totally 100% accurate but are based in some semblance of plans or partial historical information. I think that it is good to explore history in these type of games.
With all of that being said, we were contacted by our good friend Randy Lein from Legion Wargames a few months ago about this project and asked if we would be interested in doing some coverage through an interview and possibly some other mediums, such as our Event Card Spoilers format that we have used in other games, and we were immediately intrigued by the concept and the fact that the game uses some of the elements of one of our favorite series. I have been in communicaiton with one of the designers Clint Warren-Davey since that time and he has shared lots of information with me, including the rules and some of their background work on this one, and I wanted to make sure we gave it some light to give you a chance to understand what the game is so that you can make an informed decision about whether you plan to order this one or not. Clint has been great to work with and we look forward to continuing our discussions.
If you are interested in ordering Werwolf: Insurgency in Occupied Germany, 1945-1948, you can pre-order a copy for $72.00 from the Legion Wargames website at the following link: https://www.legionwargames.com/legion_WER.html
*Note: Any graphics or pictures used in this interview of components are nothing more than the prototype version for playtesting purposes (although they are fantastic graphics and look near finished!). Also, details of the game play and mechanics, as well as Event Card text may also change throughout playtesting and final development prior to publication.
Grant: First off Clint and Ben please tell us a little about yourselves. What are your hobbies? What’s your day job?
Clint: We are both high school history teachers here in Australia, and consider ourselves very lucky to get paid to talk about World War Two! We both have young children to take care of so our schedules are busy, but we have somehow found time to design a very in-depth game.
Board games are of course my main hobby, even though it’s hard to get time to play them. I have dozens of games that I haven’t played in years, but still keep them in my collection. My favourite games include Axis& Allies, War of the Ring, Star Wars Rebellion, Bobby Lee (Columbia Games), Scythe and Cuba Libre. I used to be involved in tabletop miniature wargaming (such as Flames of War) but this is harder to find the time for now.
Aside from history and board games, I have several other interests such as fitness, wine and political philosophy. I’m also trying to learn online marketing in my spare time to maybe build a new career later in life. I am a practicing Catholic, which helps keep me grounded amid all the chaos of work and family life.
Ben: History has always been a passion of mine, both in my previous career in the media and since returning to university to do history teaching a decade ago. I’m lucky enough to be able to teach a range of history courses in a large high school dealing with events from Hellenistic Egypt to the Napoleonic Wars to the Second World War and much in-between. I’m also the father of a 3 year old daughter who is already starting to learn about the past thanks to books and some great little podcasts that are around. My wife is a primary school teacher as well, so the poor kid really doesn’t have a chance, does she?
I’ve arrived at boardgaming as a hobby through a less traditional route. While board games have long been a hobby of mine, they have been more often used as a tool to structure campaigns for tabletop historical minatures wargaming. To me, the process of researching, accumulating sources, and then putting it all together to design a scenario, campaign, or to structure and paint an army is a hobby in itself. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a 15mm Achaemenid Persian army and a tiny WW2 Desert Air Force RAAF Squadron from 1941.
Board games which I enjoy are immersive and stay historically plausible – something Clint and I have sought to channel with Werwolf. I do manage to get some boardgame time as well, and have a growing collection. Volko’s games are my current favorites, Almoravid, which I’ve been playing of late, is a really elegant system which captures the feel of the Taifa period.
Grant: What motivated you both to break into game design? What have you enjoyed most about the experience thus far?
Clint: I have wanted to be a game designer since I was in high school, because I love games and it is a fantastic creative outlet. Mostly I made games for my friends and I to play, and I’ve only been trying seriously to get a published design for about the last 3 years. For me, it has nothing to do with the millions of dollars, luxurious lifestyle, worldwide fame and adoring attention that comes with being a game designer – it’s all for the love of games!
I enjoy every part of the design process – even writing rules can be enjoyable – but I especially love two phases. First, when you get the initial idea and write down thousands of ideas in a brainstorm session. In all the games I have made, the overall outline is outlined very quickly in my mind and the rest is filling in the details. The other part I love is playtesting. I take notes, record results and try a huge variety of strategies when I do this, and it really is the most important part of game design. I have personally play-tested Werwolf about 40 times and never get sick of it. Here are some pictures from a recent playtest:
Ben: I’ve been on the periphery of game design for a while now, and while Werwolf is my first published board game, I’ve previously worked on some tabletop games, mostly scenarios and adaptations of rules rather than discrete rulesets. Recently, I’ve been deep in the world of Cold War era military doctrine and hardware, researching and compiling army lists for Cold War Commander 2. I have previously worked on Chain of Command and a few other odds and ends. Werwolf is a different beast by several orders of magnitude. I enjoy the process of historical research, and also the challenge of simulating historically plausible events in an enjoyable way. I think we’ve nailed this with Werwolf, and while it is more in the realm of alternate history than anything I’ve worked on before, each card and event is based on considerable historical background. The challenge of taking an event, and making it ‘gameable’, is one which I enjoy, as is the graphic aspects of map design and aesthetics.
Grant: What designers would you say have influenced your styles?
Clint: It is impossible to overstate my debt to Volko Ruhnke, as Werwolf is very clearly inspired by his COIN Series. I should also mention Brian Train, who laid the groundwork for the series with his earlier work on insurgency and played a major role in designing brilliant games like A Distant Plain. To my mind, the key breakthrough that Brian and Volko made was representing the opinions of the population as the “terrain” of the strategic landscape. In Werwolf, just like all games in the COIN Series, population loyalties affect where forces can be recruited, whether or not hidden forces will be revealed when they move, victory levels for the various factions, and other mechanics. Very few games had ever addressed the political allegiance of the population as a decisive factor in war – Mark Herman’s We the People being one of the first to do this.
Aside from Volko, my designs draw inspiration from Martin Wallace, Cole Wehrle and Jamey Stegmaier. You will notice that these aren’t exactly wargame designers, but not exactly pure “euro” designers either. What all of these designers have in common is presenting players with lots of important decisions every turn and creating tense conflict between players, all while minimizing the impact of luck. I am fascinated by the cross-over between euro games and wargames and you will see this in Werwolf.
I will point out an important fact here: Werwolf is not officially part of the COIN Series as it is not a GMT game. GMT was given the opportunity to make it, but in the end we went with Legion Wargames as our publisher. As such, Werwolf might unofficially be called a “COIN-inspired” game, much like Hugh O’Donnell’s The Troubles being published by Compass Games.
Ben: For Werwolf, Volko’s ability to really nail the nature of asymmetrical warfare was a huge influence. From Andean Abyss on, I’ve been a huge fan of the system and really like Volko’s willingness to challenge the ‘norm’ of game mechanics to get a historical result. The other major influence for me would be my mate Richard Clarke from TooFatLardies, a tabletop wargame design company. Rich, like Volko, always has history as the goal. Rich’s approach is to underpin a game system with a mammoth amount of historical research, but rather than let that bog the game down, to boil it down to what aspect of history you are seeking to replicate, and what decisions would be required of you are in that role. Like Volko, Rich (and Nick Skinner, the other of the Lardies) experiment with mechanics and challenge gaming ‘norms’ to replicate the decision making of a historical role in a fun and historically plausible role. Sets like Chain of Command, a WW2 platoon level set, and Bag the Hun, Nick’s brilliant WW2 air combat system, have had quite a significant impact on my game design philosophy.
Grant: What do you find most challenging about the design process? What do you feel you do really well?
Clint: The most challenging part is all the nit-picky details like proofreading, editing, making sure all your counters can fit onto a standard counter-sheet, etc. Ben and I got this game to the stage where it was mostly ready to publish before we pitched it to Legion Wargames. You wouldn’t believe the amount of tiny spelling mistakes that kept popping up with each new draft of the cards! Having said that, I feel I do playtesting very well. I just do it over and over again, record all my results and try to “break” the game with unexpected strategies.
Ben: I’d agree with Clint – it’s the editing and the details that I find most challenging. It does seem that no matter how many times we look, each time we find a small grammatical or typographical error that ‘we cannot believe we missed!’ That is the least enjoyable challenge, a challenge that I love is that of looking at how to replicate historical events in a gameable fashion.
Grant: How do you divide and conquer the labor between you two in the design process?
Clint: It has been a very harmonious partnership – we work together very well and have been “in sync” from the beginning. Basically, I came up with the initial idea, wrote the rulebook and did most of the playtesting, while Ben designed the map, the vast majority of the cards, the counters and other graphics-related things. We worked together on the faction abilities, historical background for the game overall and for each of the 96 unique Event Cards, and continuously bounced ideas off each other throughout the design process.
Ben: Agreed, working with Clint has been quite seamless. While we both have different approaches to gaming, there are many points of alignment. I think this has given Werwolf a broad appeal. Juggling family and work commitments with the pressures of developing, testing, and pitching Werwolf has been challenging, but again dividing and conquering the various waypoints in the process between Clint and I has enabled us to get this project up and running.
Grant: What “historical” event does the Werewolf: Insurgency in Occupied Germany cover?
Clint: Werwolf is an alternate history game, but the story we present is entirely plausible. I’ll start with the real events that directly inspired it. Werwolf (I’ll say here that the game uses the German spelling, dropping the second “e”) was a real underground guerrilla group, comprised of SS and Hitler Youth members. It was intended to lead an insurgency against the invading Allies and Soviets when it became clear that Germany was losing the war in a conventional sense. They did in fact have a few successes and their own symbol – which you can see on control markers in the game. American intelligence officer Frank Manuel said that the Werwolves were prepared “to strike down the isolated soldier in his jeep, the MP on patrol, the fool who goes a-courting after dark, the Yankee braggart who takes a back road.” While General Patton claimed brashly that reports of these guerrilla fighters were nonsense, a U.S. intelligence report from May 1945 asserted, “The Werewolf organization is not a myth.”
Luckily for the Allies, Werwolf was badly funded, poorly led and established far too late to make a difference. Hitler and other senior Nazis did not invest significant resources or quality leaders in an insurgency, and Werwolf was effectively destroyed by 1947 (see Perry Biddiscombe’s multiple books on the subject). I don’t want to exaggerate anything here with the real history – Werwolf was mopped up pretty easily and was not a serious threat.
Despite this ineffectiveness, the surprising thing is the fear that it generated among the Allies. Experts on the Battle of the Bulge may remember how General Eisenhower had to be kept under constant guard in Paris in December 1944, due to the fear of German commandos led by Otto Skorzeny assassinating him. This was highly unlikely, but the psychological reaction to such threats was real. Patton was complaining about the Werwolf “myth” because he saw that so many ordinary soldiers were afraid of them and behaving overly cautious in their duties.
The Soviet perspective on this is somewhat different, although it is hard to find reliable Soviet sources. My impression is that they definitely expected to encounter civilian resistance, which is part of the reason their occupation was so brutal. Remember, the Soviets had resisted German invasion with widespread use of partisans – they might reasonably have expected Germany to do the same. In fact, there was some eventual resistance to the Soviets. There were protests and civil disobedience leading up to the 1947-48 Berlin Blockade (an event in the game) and there were large scale demonstrations throughout East Germany in the so-called Berlin Uprising of 1953 (also an Event Card in the game). Naturally, the Soviets handled these protests in their usual fashion: crushing them beneath their tanks.
Ben: Clint outlines really well the core alternate historical aspect – that the Werwolf organization was not a damp squib, but that it led an effective resistance to Soviet and Allied occupation. Alongside this however is the larger picture – that of the collapse of the Allied-Soviet alliance and the beginnings of the Cold War. While our game enables, even encourages, the Soviet and Allied player to work together to extinguish the last embers of Nazism, these players must balance this with their own goals, and own approaches to winning the game. The tensions between the two occupying players is my favorite aspect of the game – they must work together to crush the insurgency, but as the insurgency starts to crumble, the Allies and Soviets inevitably begin to look to their own goals to ensure their dominance in a post war world.
Grant: What was your inspiration for this game?
Clint: The concept for Werwolf came to me like a thunderbolt on 15th July 2021. I was listening to a podcast on political philosophy and someone said – “it’s not as though there were Werwolf IED’s blowing up American jeeps in Germany.” He was referring to how the USA had so thoroughly defeated and then ideologically dominated Germany in World War Two that there was no real Nazi resistance to the occupation. Despite Nazi Germany supposedly being one of the most fanatical populations of the 20th century, there was no prolonged guerrilla war or serious insurgency. Why didn’t 1945 Germany turn into something like 1965 Vietnam, post-2001 Afghanistan or post-2003 Iraq? This question immediately intrigued me. I looked up the historical Werwolves – as already stated, they were a small, badly-organized guerrilla movement set up in the final stages of the war, but were completely ineffective.
I had also recently become interested in the COIN Series, having played Cuba Libre only a few weeks before. The idea of a COIN-type game set in post-1945 Germany was clearly unique and had never been done. This was for the obvious reason stated in the podcast – there was no real resistance. But what if there was? Had anyone thought of this? It turns out there were a few novels set in this kind of alternate history – one of which was The Man with the Iron Heart by Harry Turtledove. In this story, Reinhard Heydrich was not assassinated, but convinced Himmler to allow him to train up a professional force of guerrilla fighters to resist the inevitable Allied invasion. This idea was intriguing. Basically, the Werwolf organization could have been an effective force if given funding, training and organization for several years before the Allied and Soviet occupation. This one counter-factual is the foundation of the game’s setting.
Grant: What is your thesis for the background on this unknown part of the history of WWII? What proof of your claims have you uncovered in your research?
Clint: Our thesis is that the occupation of Germany could have turned into a real insurgency, and there is good evidence for this. This may be surprising to many history buffs, but the American military fully expected to encounter armed resistance or guerrilla warfare in Germany after the Wehrmacht had been defeated on the battlefield. I highly recommend watching the 1945 film: Your Job in Germany directed by Frank Capra and written by Dr. Seuss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pygKpidEWxk
This was addressed to U.S. soldiers whose job was the occupation of Germany. That film gives you a real insight into the American ideological mindset in 1945. The paranoia, hatred and fear is palpable. This film informed GI’s that there were 2 million Nazis now out of uniform and back to civilian life, who could rise up at any moment. It says that any man you pass on the street while on patrol could have been an SS fanatic or a Gestapo gangster. American soldiers are told to be watchful, suspicious, aloof and not let their guard down even for a second. They are expressly forbidden from fraternizing with the enemy. The film states that the German “disease” of desiring world conquest has only temporarily “gone underground.” In other words, if you had told an Allied General (not Patton) in May 1945 that the occupation of Germany was going to turn into a multi-year guerrilla war and would require serious counter-insurgency measures, they would have believed you.
Of course, we do depart significantly from the historical record with this game. Primarily, we exaggerate the size and effectiveness of guerrilla resistance in Germany, with both the Werwolves and the Edelweiss Movement (more on them later). I came up with our alternate history timeline by trying to address certain problems that I knew people would ask: Surely the Allies would have nuked Germany if fighting had continued beyond August 1945? Maybe the Manhattan Project is not finished, plus you wouldn’t do that to a country already occupied by your forces anyway. What about the overwhelming superiority of the Allies? Maybe Normandy and Bagration were semi-disastrous, and millions more men were lost. This in turn could create a viable peace protest movement on the home front, much like during WW1 or Vietnam. To summarize, the main departure points in our timeline are:
a. Hitler or other top Nazi officials realise the war is lost in 1943 (perhaps after Kursk and Italy) and begin seriously planning for a protracted guerrilla war like they had faced in Ukraine and the Balkans.
b. The A-Bomb is not ready yet in 1945. Germany is occupied but still fighting and cannot be nuked into oblivion. Besides, it is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be used in an insurgency anyway (a nuclear strike was briefly considered in the Vietnam War, but cancelled).
c. The Allied and Soviet invasions of 1944-45 are incredibly costly, perhaps due to a more intelligent defense by the Germans. This creates a demand for peace and an unwillingness to throw away men indefinitely. The political pressures on Allied commanders in the field would therefore be similar to those fighting a modern insurgency – pacifying the population but not with excessive violence or loss of troops.
Grant: Why did you believe the COIN Series model was well suited for the story you are trying to tell?
Clint: The COIN Series model is the perfect basis for this game because it covers everything distinctive about insurgencies as opposed to conventional warfare: shifting population loyalties, hidden guerrillas, asymmetric factions, etc. Like the Viet Cong or the Taliban, the Werwolf guerrillas do not have the firepower or numbers to stand toe-to-toe with their enemy. They must blend into the population, strike from the shadows and encourage civilian resistance to outlast the occupiers. The core mechanics of the COIN Series handle this imbalance really well without getting down into the nitty gritty of weapon types, ground scale, battlefield tactics, etc.
I also really like how the Event Cards and sequence of play work. As Volko explains it, in a normal card-driven-game, you have a hand of cards that you are looking at, so your attention is focused on your own options. With the shared Event Card for all players in a COIN Series game, everyone is directing their attention to the board and to each other. It is also more realistic in a way. If you are a military or political leader, events happen and you must react to them. You do not have a selection of events that you can choose from. It also provides an interesting way to structure turns. You can see one turn ahead into the future, but beyond that you have no idea what the turn order will be or who will be able to block, disrupt or help the other players.
Grant: What are the four different factions depicted in the game?
Clint: Here is an overview of each one of these factions:
Allies: This faction is the Allied Military Government of Germany and includes American, British and French military forces, plus the nascent regime of West Germany. The Allies are trying to de-Nazify and pacify the German population, build support for democracy, stamp out guerrillas, track down advanced German research and technology and contain the Soviets without triggering another world war. Being from democratic countries, Allied commanders need to avoid casualties as people back home are sick of the war and do not want to be tied down in an endless insurgency. This means they can’t afford to walk into too many ambushes and must be cautious. The Allies do have enormous strengths though. The huge American economy gives them plenty of resources for operations while civilian morale remains high, they have total control of the air and can shift forces anywhere on the map and they are the best faction for influencing the loyalty of the population through reconstruction efforts and public trials of Nazi terrorists and war criminals. They have a very tough job, but plenty of cash, firepower and mobility.
Soviets: This faction is the Soviet Military Administration in Germany and includes the Red Army, the NKVD and East German military and police (including the Stasi). The Soviets are trying to take control of as much territory as possible, with the insurgency giving them the perfect cover to violate the Potsdam Agreement in pursuit of guerrillas. They don’t want war with the Allies but tensions will inevitably rise and they will soon be getting in each other’s way. The Soviets also want to build support for Communism through indoctrination and seize German technology for their ensuing arms race with the USA. Their counter-insurgency methods are a blunt instrument – if the populace is still harboring fascist militants, they can simply be deported to Siberia. If guerrillas are located on the battlefield they can be blasted with plentiful artillery. The Soviets can also build up their military forces faster than any other faction.
Werwolf: Unlike history, in the game’s timeline Werwolf is a huge, well-trained and fanatical guerrilla force that is brought into being from 1943 onwards. Hitler and other top Nazis like Heydrich or Himmler understand that the tide is turning against them, and so decide to deliberately fight an insurgency when the enemy invades German soil. They draw ideas from partisan fighting on the Eastern Front and elevate irregular warfare experts like Otto Skorzeny to positions of leadership in the organization. The Werwolves are recruited mainly from SS and Hitler Youth and they have a detailed plan to hold out in southern Germany and rise up against the enemy when the time is right. Hitler himself is not dead but has escaped Berlin to possibly lead Werwolf from the shadows. Their victory conditions are mainly based on building opposition to the occupying powers through their terror actions – very thematic considering what the SS were doing to German civilians in 1944-45 to keep them in the fight. Importantly, they do not care about control of territory or winning victories on the battlefield. However, they do have the ability to steadily inflict casualties on occupying forces through assassination, ambush and other means.
Edelweiss: We decided very early in the process that we would need another insurgent faction due to the power imbalance of the Allies and Soviets. This is the Edelweiss Movement, with the name taken from a real group called the Edelweiss Pirates. These guys were actually youthful, romantic, anti-Nazi rebels before the war and took pride in beating up the Hitler Youth, but after the war they were a menace to the occupying Allies and opposed the spread of Communism in Germany as well. In the game’s new timeline, we have merged various other resistance groups under the Edelweiss banner – the Prussian aristocrats behind the 20th July Plot, disaffected members of the Abwehr such as Frieherr von Gersdorff (who revealed the Katyn massacre), anti-Bolshevik Wehrmacht veterans who joined the underground “Schnez Truppe” or the huge numbers of civilians who took part in mass resistance to Soviet occupation in the Berlin uprising. This faction is not made up out of thin air – it is just a combination of several different groups who used insurgent methods to oppose the Nazi government and/or the post-1945 occupation regimes. In the game, Edelweiss are aiming for an independent, patriotic Germany free from foreign domination but also free from the blight of Nazism and the Hitler regime. They will use infiltration, extortion, ambushes and other guerrilla tactics to achieve their goals.
Grant: What are their individual motivations and how do they work together or against one another which is a hallmark of the COIN Series?
Clint: Just like the COIN Series, the four asymmetric factions of Werwolf have overlapping and conflicting goals. The actions, special actions and Event Cards available to them have varying abilities to harm every other faction. First, the obvious alignments are the two insurgent factions (Werwolf, Edelweiss) against the two occupying factions (Allies, Soviets). The insurgents can recruit in spaces that are neutral or in resistance and Werwolf victory depends on total resistance, so they both have a reason to remove Allied and Soviet loyalty. Conversely, the two occupying factions want to build up support for their own ideologies which necessarily involves crushing resistance.
This is where things diverge, however. The Allies want to de-Nazify the population, but not at the cost of handing half the country to Communism. They might even pay resources to Edelweiss or Werwolf players to make them fight the Reds! As tensions between the superpowers escalate, they may deliberately roadblock each other, propagandize the population against their Cold War rival or even march into each other’s cities to take control, stopping just short of a “hot” war. Similarly, Edelweiss and the Soviets find themselves obvious enemies at the start of the game due to the set-up but may work together to crush Werwolf if the Nazi fanatics are surging ahead. Likewise, Werwolf and the Allies may band together to contain the communist menace. I will point out here that Edelweiss are particularly strong as a “balancing” force that can ruin other players plans very quickly with their actions and special actions. They can ramp up Cold War tensions, set spaces straight to neutral with terror and convert enemy pieces into their own.
Grant: What has been the experience of your play-testers with the various factions? What are their basic strategies and victory conditions?
Clint: According to our playtest sessions, the four factions each have a very unique feel and appeal to different play styles. Broadly speaking, here is how they play:
Allies: The Allies victory condition is based on total Allied loyalty, morale and the research advantage. Total Allied loyalty represents how enthusiastically the overall population supports democracy and the West and is by far the most important condition for the Allies to pursue. Their primary tool for this is reconstruction, which can be done in the interstitial crisis rounds and when reinforcing. It represents rebuilding the shattered cities, distributing rations and organizing elections. Maintaining morale is also crucial to victory. It will be lowered by taking losses or demanding too many reinforcements from home. This means the Allies should use their air power to target concentrations of guerrillas rather than marching in their troops, as the insurgents have many ways of killing them. Finally, the research advantage is the difference in the number of research tokens between the Soviets and Allies – it is a zero-sum game where only one superpower can be ahead in the arms race. Grabbing research is always useful for this reason, and we have seen games decided by it. Overall, the Allies have a cautious and methodical style that relies on building up stable, pacified stretches of territory and making surgical strikes when the enemy reveals themself.
Soviets: The Soviet victory conditions are total Soviet control, total Soviet loyalty and the research advantage. Stalin is very interested in grabbing as much German land and population as possible, so control of territory is where the Soviets will get the bulk of their points. Ideological control is also important, so the Soviets will want to indoctrinate the population into Communism – i.e., total Soviet loyalty. They also have brutally efficient methods of crushing guerrillas and stamping out civilian resistance. The Allies control the skies, so most Soviet movement is using the road network. As such, heavily armed Soviet columns will frequently be clearing out the highways and sweeping into urban areas to take control. Research advantage works just like the Allies and contributes to Soviet victory. Because they don’t need to worry about public opinion back home (which is unanimously pro-Stalin) and can easily afford casualties, the Soviets are able to pour lots of troops and police into counter-insurgency efforts and containing the Allies. Overall, the Soviets are a blunt, aggressive faction that can easily build momentum and inflict large losses on the enemy.
Werwolf: Werwolf victory depends on total resistance (the level of nationalist or Nazi sentiments among the population and their willingness to continue the fight) and bases. Veterans of the COIN Series will immediately see a resemblance to the Viet Cong from Fire in the Lake or the Taliban from A Distant Plain. The main tool for increasing resistance in the population is through terror actions, which represent executing civilian collaborators, setting off bombs in public spaces, targeting local politicians and all the other ugly tactics of an insurgency. Werwolf can also snip at the heels of the occupiers (and Edelweiss) with ambush and assassinate to kill their forces. Wherever there is even a single Werwolf guerrilla there is a chance to target that space in some way. As such, Werwolf need to spread out and get their men into every part of the country rather than concentrating in easily assaulted blobs. They also need to avoid detection and stay underground until they can strike from the shadows. Overall, Werwolf functions as a true insurgency, with dispersed, hidden forces that should focus on the population’s allegiance rather than fighting big battles against the vastly superior occupying forces.
Edelweiss: Unlike Werwolf, Edelweiss are aiming to make themselves a legitimate military and political force in the new Germany by controlling territory – their victory condition is total control plus their number of bases. These aloof Prussian aristocrats and their patriotic followers do care about the loyalty of the population, but only as a means of recruitment and a way to stop the other three factions gaining ground. Of course, Edelweiss still fight like guerrillas due to the massive power imbalance between them and the occupiers. They are actually somewhat better than Werwolf at subverting, distracting and neutralizing the enemy rather than fighting them directly. This is fortunate, because their victory condition and set up puts them into the firing line of the Soviet juggernaut from turn one. However, they do need to control territory, which means they will concentrate forces and be “above ground” more than their Nazi rivals. With a smaller force pool but also a lower victory threshold than any other faction, Edelweiss can still creep their way to a win unnoticed. Overall, Edelweiss plays like a special forces contingent that can slip into enemy territory when needed, block the other faction’s moves and still fight their way to victory.
Grant: How many different spaces are there on the map? What pinch points are there for players as they attempt to control these areas?
Clint: I’ll let Ben answer this one, as he designed the map and knows its strategic contours back to front. I will say that the spaces I always aim to control are the central road hubs of Kassel and Frankfurt.
Ben: The Werwolf map is a big one. Germany in 1945 is not Vietnam, or Algeria, or even Colombia. Despite the devastation caused by the war, Germany had a much larger population, and a more advanced infrastructure than any COIN Series game to this point. The challenge was to represent this on the game board without overwhelming the player with complexity. The map has fourteen provinces, and fourteen cities, one of which, Berlin, is divided into two spaces – East and West. This gives a total of 29 spaces. If you include the roads (which represent railways, autobahns and other major roads) which link the cities and can be playable spaces for the purpose of patrols movement, and blockades, the total is even more.
Berlin is the key to controlling Germany. The population of East and West dwarf the provinces and other cities. This often leads to the Allies and Soviets engaging in a struggle over the city, particularly the West, as happened historically in events culminating in the blockade and airlift of 1947-48. Outside of Berlin, Bavaria is the largest region by population, with the cities of Nuremberg, Munchen, and the province itself almost reaching that of the capital. As such, Bavaria will often become a key region. The mountainous terrain makes it an ideal location for the insurgent factions to challenge the Allies and Soviets. The mountainous south western provinces, while low in population, provide the insurgents with a defensible ‘alpine redoubt’ from which to sow chaos across the south.
There are a few pinch points. Deployment begins with the Allies in the west and the Soviets controlling the east. Edelweiss is spread to the north and east through Saxony and Brandenburg while Werwolf is based in its Bavarian heartlands. Kassel, located in the center of Germany and adjacent to the province of Hesse, is a major transportation hub. Control of the city for the Allies or Soviets gives them the power to project force swiftly and effectively across the country, and also gives them the potential to ‘block off’ parts of Germany from the other occupying power. Conversely, the insurgent factions can disrupt occupying faction movement by controlling this city, striking from a potential base in the Harz mountains of Hessen.
Grant: What is the force structure of the various units?
Clint: This is quite simple actually. There is no command and control mechanic and no “leader” pieces on the board. All units of the same type are functionally identical and operate according to the actions and special actions available to their faction. As such, an “order of battle” for the game would be this:
Allies: 25 troops (blue cubes, these are US, British and French forces), 25 police (green cubes, representing West German police) and 6 bases (blue discs).
Soviets: 25 troops (red cubes, for the Red Army), 25 police (orange cubes, representing the NKVD and Stasi) and 6 bases (red discs).
Werwolf: 25 guerrillas (black cylinders) and 6 bases (black discs).
Edelweiss: 20 guerrillas (yellow cylinders) and 6 bases (yellow discs).
Grant: What are the units differing capabilities?
Clint: Werwolf and Edelweiss only have guerrillas. These can be underground or active – while underground they usually cannot be targeted, but they become active when performing aggressive actions or when the occupiers search the area. They are not very good at directly attacking enemy troops, but can still inflict very frustrating losses and shift population loyalties with terror.
The Allies and Soviets have troops and police. Troops are your main military forces and can fight in any terrain, operate heavy equipment (HE) and be moved around the map fairly easily. Police are less mobile and only fight in urban zones, but they are essential for controlling the population’s loyalty by providing local security and intelligence. You will need a good mix of both to win.
Ben: As Clint mentions above, the units follow standard COIN structures. However, the Heavy Equipment (HE) Tokens mean that you can field units more specific to our setting. For example, let’s look at a force comprising two Allied or Soviet troop markers. As it stands, these could represent a standard infantry, motorized, or airborne force. While this is abstracted, I like to think of a force of this size as roughly representing a small division or reinforced brigade. By adding two HE Tokens, this gives the force additional punch, and an additional level of resilience. By adding these tokens, this formation could represent one of Patton or Monty’s Armored Divisions, or a Soviet Tank Corps.
Similarly for the insurgents, the guerilla token represents an abstracted force of guerillas, I think of it as a collection of cells totalling several hundred to several thousand. By adding a HE Token to this force, we can give the fragile guerillas a slight combat edge. This can represent a ragged Kampfgruppe, equipped with a hodgepodge of Allied, Soviet, and old Wehrmacht equipment. While not able to take on the might of full strength Allied or Soviet formations in the open, a formation like this is quite capable of wiping out isolated units in an ambush.
Grant: What is the purpose of Research Tokens and Heavy Equipment Tokens?
Clint: Research Tokens are one of my favorite parts of the game. The idea came from the real history of Hitler’s investment into wunder-waffen (wonder weapons), which ranged from manned suicide missiles to a ridiculous “sun cannon” that would concentrate the sun’s rays with an orbital mirror. These ideas did not win the war, but many of them, such as the V2 rocket program headed by Werner von Braun, would prove directly applicable to the nuclear and space programs of the rival superpowers. NASA owed its early successes to Nazi scientists, which the Soviets would have preferred to take home if they found them first! The presence of advanced technology caches in 1945 Germany is represented by Research Tokens in the game. The map begins littered with these tokens and they can be captured by all the factions. More of them will pop up based on the Event Cards drawn as well. For the insurgents, these tokens can be sold for resources or sometimes used to attack enemy troops and terrorise civilians (the Werwolf faction’s “wunder-waffen strike” special action). For the Allies and Soviets, they are used to fuel the impending arms race, with the “research advantage” being a part of their victory conditions. They are also essential for the play of Key Events representing nuclear weapons. In early playtesting, I loved how the capture of Research Tokens formed little side missions for the players, as they diverted forces to grab them before the enemy! For those who know the history of 1945, this is reminiscent of events like Operation Paperclip.
Along with Research Tokens, we also decided early on to include another type of token scattered around the map at the start of the game. These are Heavy Equipment or HE Tokens, and represent concentrations of tanks, artillery, assault guns, mortars, anti-tank guns and other useful weaponry. We could have included these as another type of wooden piece but went with tokens so that they could be captured by other factions. In particular, the insurgents have a few sneaky abilities that allow them to steal HE Tokens from the occupying powers. Having uncontrolled HE Tokens at the start of the game also nicely represents the immediate aftermath of the huge battles of 1945, with piles of wrecked Panthers or Shermans waiting to be salvaged. HE Tokens provide a substantial boost to the attack power of the pieces carrying them and are a nifty little addition to the game.
Ben: Clint covers this well above, and I think there’s just one small point I might add. That is that the tokens do not represent the same thing to the occupying factions as they do to the insurgents. For example, the relative combat power added to the Allied or Soviet forces by the addition of a HE Token represents a mechanized or armored force. If this force is destroyed, and the token is captured by the insurgents, its combat power is not that of a full armored or mechanized division, but rather a cobbled together battlegroup equipped with whatever they could salvage from the destroyed equipment. The relative combat power of an Allied/Soviet troop with a HE Token is much more capable than an insurgent guerilla with a HE Token.
If the inverse of the example above occurs, and a HE Token is seized by the occupying factions, then this abstracts that unit resting and being re-equipped, potentially by the attachment of armored or mechanized units from Corps or Army level reserves. The HE Tokens are a mechanic we are really proud of, as it simply represents a complex and changing range of combat formations.
Grant: What is the purpose for sending Research Tokens back to the USA and Soviet Union? What benefit is derived from this action?
Clint: For the Allies and Soviets there are two main benefits to taking a Research Token and sending it back to the home country. First, it helps you get the research advantage referred to earlier, which translates to victory points if you have more than your Cold War rival. Secondly, in most games you will be playing with special “Key Events” for each faction. Both the Allies and Soviets have Key Event Cards representing their nuclear capability: Manhattan Project and Soviet Atomic Bomb respectively. When they have enough Research Tokens in the homeland, these cards can be played for their huge effects on propaganda and morale. They can easily double your victory level as people in Germany and all over the world see that your nation now has a nuclear deterrent. They also ramp up Cold War tensions, so if played at the wrong time could cost you the game!
Grant: What is the purpose of Morale? Why do only the Allies faction keep track?
Clint: Morale is a combination of public opinion back home in the USA and Britain, the willingness of Congress and Parliament to fund the war, perception of casualty levels and the actual morale of the troops on the ground. A good analogy here is the Vietnam War – after the Tet Offensive in 1968, it could be said that American morale dropped across the board despite many victories at the tactical level, which would eventually lead to withdrawal as the conflict dragged on. Only the Allies have to worry about this. The Soviets don’t have a problem with public opinion and do not mind sacrificing the lives of their soldiers as much as the democratic Western powers. The insurgents do not have this as a separate metric either – it is more intertwined with the concept of loyalty and resistance among the population. Morale is mainly affected by casualties, but it can be raised by destroying enemy bases, bringing troops home via the air lift special action and by many Event Cards. Morale affects both the victory level and the resource income for the Allied player, so it is crucial to keep an eye on it. The insurgents can often defeat the Allies with attrition by inflicting losses through ambushes, assassinations and other attacks. Just like Vietnam, this may have little to do with the real balance of military power and more to do with the perception of excessive losses as the body bags come home and the idea that the war is not worth fighting. Thankfully for the Allies, figures like Patton and Churchill can show up in the Event Cards to increase Morale, and successfully completing the Manhattan Project provides an even bigger boost.
Ben: As Clint outlines, it’s not that Morale does not exist for the other factions, it’s simply that, as the only democratic faction, the Allies have less ability to ignore the consequences of losses. For example, while Soviet forces routinely took large casualties during the war, the morale impact of this on the Soviet State’s war aims and strategy was negligible. Similarly the Germans, while significant losses of manpower and materiel like the capitulation in Tunisia or the collapse of Army Group Centre definitely had an impact on the individual morale and that of the military, this was not a primary concern for the Nazi leadership. On the other hand, Allied blunders could lead to political repercussions, for example the pressure from Churchill for Monty to capture the launching grounds for V1 rockets, and the political pressure put on Montgomery following the failure of Market Garden. Morale for the Allies is a concern. The Allied player can ignore it if they wish, hoping to make quick, high cost gains and build Morale back later, but this could potentially make victory less attainable for them.
Grant: What is the concept of Loyalty and Resistance? How do players affect these elements?
Clint: In an insurgency, the political sympathies of the population are the main battleground, not the physical terrain. In the original COIN Series games like Andean Abyss, the factions compete over support for the regime or opposition to it as well as military control of areas. In Werwolf, the population can be pulled in three different directions: Allied Loyalty, Soviet Loyalty and Resistance. All of these are relevant to both victory conditions and a wide range of actions, especially recruit.
These 3 directions can also be passive or active. As such, every space on the map except for roads always shows 1 of 7 different types of Loyalty or Resistance:
· Active Soviet Loyalty: The people of the space are fully devoted to Stalin and world Communism and will denounce any fascists in their midst to the local commissars. Their population counts as double for the Soviet victory level.
· Passive Soviet Loyalty: The people of the space are moderately loyal to the East German regime or sufficiently scared of the NKVD to not cause any trouble or help the insurgents.
· Active Allied Loyalty: The people here love Democracy, Coca-Cola and Hollywood, and enthusiastically support the Americanization of Germany. They will not join the insurgents and their population will count as double for the Allied victory level.
· Passive Allied Loyalty: The people here are moderately supportive of the West German regime and appreciate the Allies protecting them from insurgent terrorism and Soviet aggression. Insurgents cannot recruit here.
· Neutral: There are no clear sympathies here – popular opinion is wary of all ideologies. From this point, the population could be pulled in any of the 3 directions. Insurgents can recruit here.
· Passive Resistance: The people here are patriotic Germans who seethe with resentment over the occupation and are willing to aid and conceal violent guerrillas, both Werwolf and Edelweiss.
· Active Resistance: The people here are true believers in Hitler’s vision despite the catastrophe of the war. They will resist the occupiers in any way they can in order to resurrect the Thousand Year Reich. The more moderate Edelweiss cannot recruit here and the population will count for double points towards Werwolf victory. These spaces tend to be a natural target for Soviet deportation and Allied air strikes, because they are such a threat and the occupiers are willing to risk collateral damage.
Grant: What is the Sequence of Play and how is it determined?
Clint: Seasoned veterans of the COIN Series will find the Sequence of Play very easy to grasp, but for newbies it will take a few turns to understand. I’ll give you the abridged version. Each turn, a shared Event Card is drawn for all players, with a list of faction icons across the top which show the turn order. As factions take their turn, they can choose from a number of options on the Sequence of Play. The first faction to act each turn will have a wide range of options, while the second will be more constrained based on what the first one chose. The remaining two factions will only have the option to pass or negotiate. Therefore, only two factions will be performing actions or events each turn, but the order is always different. This creates a nice ebb and flow to the turns and ample opportunities to interrupt your enemy in the following turn by biding your time and sitting out the current turn. The next card to be played is always face up on top of the deck, so you can see one turn ahead into the future.
Grant: What different options are available to eligible factions on the turn sequence?
Clint: When it is your faction’s turn and you are going first, you can choose from an Action with Special Action, playing the current Event Card, Espionage, Negotiate or Pass. If you go second, you will be able to do a Limited Action, play the current Event Card, Negotiate or Pass.
Grant: What is the purpose of Espionage and what does this represent from the “history”?
Clint: This is a fantastic option for when the current event is weighted against you. For example, you might be playing as the Allies and the Morgenthau Plan Event Card has been drawn. If played by another faction, they could use it to wipe out huge amounts of Allied Loyalty on the map as the U.S. threatens to starve Germany’s population. Your best bet here is to use Espionage as it makes it impossible for the second player to play the current event and constrains them to just a limited action! Think of it like this: your spies are obfuscating the enemy, assassinating enemy leaders, destroying evidence or laying false leads to avoid a politically damaging event that might hurt your faction. In addition, the intel advantage you have gained from your spy network allows you to keep the initiative and you will remain eligible to act next turn.
Historically, Germany was a central battleground in Cold War espionage – as many Hollywood movies and John Le Carre novels would attest! We knew early on that this would have to be included in some way. All four factions can use this option, as we imagine that the insurgents would have their own spies and infiltrators recruited from the former Abwehr (Edelweiss) and the SD (Werwolf).
Ben: The Espionage aspect of the early Cold War was really significant – anyone interested at how widespread and significant this was should look at Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers. Individuals like Allen Dulles, Reinhard Gehlen and countless others operated in the shadows during the early Cold War, operating with a flexible approach to morality in order to forward their nation’s goals – or at least the goals as they interpreted them. The Negotiate ability represents when they worked in concert with their nation, while event cards like The Brothers by using the Operation Sunrise effect gives the insurgents the ability to exploit those occasions when the intelligence community worked to serve its own needs.
Grant: What are the Pass and Negotiate options?
Clint: Very simple. Any faction can pass – you gain a few resources and remain eligible for next turn. You would generally only do this if you are out of resources or you have no other option – perhaps you are 3rd or 4th in turn order and there are no more spots left. Negotiate can only be done by the occupying factions (Allies and Soviets). It is like pass, but instead of gaining resources you reduce Cold War tensions. You will often NEED to do this instead of your preferred actions or events, as it is possible for both the Allies and the Soviets to lose the game entirely if tensions are high during a crisis round.
Ben: Negotiate is another of those key tweaks to the COIN Series System we have introduced to model the environment of the early Cold War in Germany. Negotiating hamstrings the occupying factions, but failure to do so can increasingly limit their freedom of maneuver and lock units in place. Some capabilities can make negotiating more potent, particularly the Ike card. This capability represents Eisenhower’s ability to negotiate more effectively thanks to his remarkable diplomatic skills and the policy of ‘Public Friendship and Cooperation’ with the Soviets.
Grant: What different Actions and Special Actions are available to each faction?
Clint: Actions cost resources and are your bread-and-butter options each turn. Special actions are free bonus options, available if you are first in the turn sequence.
While the costs and conditions are different, the Allies and Soviets can choose from the following actions:
Reinforce: This is bringing in more troops to the field and can be combined with Allied Reconstruction and Soviet Indoctrinate.
Search: This allows the occupying powers to move into a space and reveal underground guerrillas. Imagine soldiers and police or NKVD fanning out across an area, kicking down doors, questioning civilians, etc.
Patrol: This is essential for securing the road network and also redistributing forces among the cities of Germany. It represents occupation forces mounting up in their jeeps or trucks and cruising along the highways and through the city streets, keeping a close eye out for insurgents along the way.
Assault: This is using your forces to destroy active guerrillas on the battlefield. Troops with HE Tokens are deadly in assaults.
In terms of special actions, the Allies can choose from:
Commando Raid: This ability is often overlooked by new players as it only destroys a single guerrilla, adjacent to any Allied troops. However, commando raid is very useful as it can remove underground guerrillas. This is how you can quickly remove a pesky Werwolf or Edelweiss terror cell that has snuck into a crucial space!
Air Lift: This provides the Allies with unmatched mobility and can shift troops to anywhere on the map.
Air Strike: This can destroy up to 4 enemy pieces from anywhere on the map. It has a big downside though – every space targeted will shift 1 step towards active Resistance (benefitting Werwolf in particular) due to collateral damage to German civilians.
Trial: Another ability often overlooked by new players, carrying out a trial allows you to shift a city towards Allied Loyalty and activate another guerrilla anywhere on the map. It represents the Allies finding German war criminals or terrorists and bringing them to a public trial, impressing local civilians with a focus on justice rather than brute force.
As you can see, the Allied special actions really emphasize the strengths of the Anglo-American occupation forces: air power, covert operations and procedural justice. The Soviets are of course totally different to this, and can choose from the following special actions:
Transport: With their plentiful supply of lend-lease trucks, jeeps and half-tracks and relative lack of air power, the Soviets can use transport to shift their forces long distances over Germany’s road network.
Bombard: The Soviets can use their massed artillery to bombard active guerrillas – like an assault but at a distance.
Interrogate: After you activate or destroy a guerrilla, you can use Interrogate to reveal another D6 guerrillas anywhere on the map. The randomness is due to the unpredictable level of information obtained from pulling out fingernails, kicking in teeth and other subtle methods of Soviet questioning.
Deport: If the civilian population is simply not budging in its capitalist or fascist sympathies, the NKVD can send them all to the gulag with Deport. This reduces the population of the targeted space but instantly shifts it to neutral. This is an aggressive option that is best for bringing down the victory level of another faction – especially Werwolf or Allies.
Just like the Allies, these special actions give the Soviets a very distinctive play style in line with their historical record.
Now for the insurgents (Werwolf and Edelweiss), which share some similar actions:
Recruit: This is placing more guerrillas or bases on the map, depending on population loyalty.
March: This is the only option allowing guerrillas to move, reflecting the preference of insurgent cells to recruit and operate locally.
Terror: This is the most important action for Werwolf and is quite useful to Edelweiss as well. It shifts the population towards active Resistance (Werwolf) or directly to neutral (Edelweiss).
Attack: In most wargames this would be a very obvious option – fight the enemy and try to kill their guys! In Werwolf, this is rarely your best option and should only be done in hotly contested areas where you will be safe from reprisal – unless you have captured some HE Tokens.
In addition to their regular actions, the insurgents can choose from a unique set of 4 special actions each. Werwolf special actions include:
Capture: This is the primary way for Werwolf to boost its funds and allows you to steal HE or Research Tokens from other factions – very useful!
Wunder-waffen Strike: This special action represents attacks with V1 or V2 rockets, jet aircraft, giant artillery, chemical weapons and other specialised late-war Nazi weaponry. It requires spending a Research Token but devastates enemy forces and Loyalty in one space.
Assassinate: This allows Werwolf to destroy enemy pieces (or research) without activating their guerrillas. It is very effective as part of an attrition strategy, especially against Allied troops.
Ambush: This is a powerful strike in 1 location with an underground guerrilla and is even better with HE.
Edelweiss can choose from the following special actions:
Extort: Like the Werwolf capture, this is the main way for Edelweiss to gain resources.
Infiltrate: This lets Edelweiss steal enemy pieces, as the crafty insurgents either convince enemy leaders to join them or use propaganda and subversion to encourage mass desertions from the ranks.
False Flag: This action is my personal favorite in the Edelweiss repertoire, although it was Ben who came up with it! It represents Edelweiss operatives dressing up in captured Allied or Soviet uniforms and attacking the occupying powers such that they blame each other for the attack. It kills an Allied or Soviet piece and pushes up Cold War Tensions by 1.
Ambush: Not wanting Edelweiss to miss out on this powerful special action, they can do it in the same way as Werwolf.
Grant: How do their options differentiate and how difficult was it to get a balance?
Clint: For me, the most fun and challenging aspect of the game design was balancing these. Remember, we have 4 factions, each with 4 actions and 4 special actions. This is 32 asymmetric options to balance against each other! They went through many iterations before we hit upon the right combination that felt right thematically and was balanced in play testing. The other issue was that some actions looked relatively weak until we figured out how best to use them. For example, I liked the Soviet “Interrogate” but struggled to find a good use for it. Then, I figured out one of my favorite Soviet combos: Assault in 1 space, pause to Interrogate (thus revealing up to 6 more guerrillas elsewhere on the map) and then continue to Assault the newly revealed guerrillas! The same thing happened with many other combos, such as Edelweiss March with Ambush, Werwolf Recruit with Assassinate and Allied Patrol with Trial. I will let players figure out how to best use each of these combos.
The reverse happened with things like Allied Air Strikes. Play-testers thought these were great and used them all the time, until realizing that they don’t really help the Allied victory level, which is based on building Loyalty. In fact, Air Strikes do the opposite! My advice to Werwolf players is this: you will eventually use every single option in every single game, you just need to know when the timing is right.
Grant: Let’s talk about the Event Cards. How many cards are there and what special rules govern how many are in each era?
Clint: There are 96 different Event Cards in the game. I’ll let Ben speak more about these as he designed most of them!
Ben: In designing the cards for Werwolf, the goal was historical plausibility, and so each event represented has a basis in historical research. As far as balance, the cards are divided to ensure that no one faction is over or underpowered – there were a lot of cards which did not make the final cut, and almost all of those that did were subject to some edits and tweaks. Each faction has a balanced opportunity to activate first, and that no faction has too many overly powerful cards.
The alternate nature of the setting means that we were able to manipulate the historical timeline, another key point of difference with Werwolf. Remember that the setting is Germany in 1945, but not Germany in 1945 as we know it. Some major points of divergence, such as no July 1944 Bomb Plot and the Normandy campaign being far less successful than it was historically, have given the freedom to include some characters and events which were not around in 1945. Our timeline means that Rommel and Stauffenberg can appear as capabilities for Edelweiss, and that the Soviets can develop a nuclear weapon earlier than they did historically. As such, the draw of Event Cards builds the narrative of each era of the game, with a Crisis Round providing the punctuation point. The narrative immersion is one of the great aspects of Werwolf.
Key Event Cards will be familiar to players of Fire in the Lake. A number of these are dealt to each player at the beginning of the game, depending on the particular set up rules. A Key Event Card is held by the player, and can be played in lieu of any Event Card if certain criteria are met. The effects of these cards are significant, and if the timing is right they can turn the tide for your faction.
Grant: What is the name of the interlude period at the end of an era? What is unique about this phase?
Clint: The gameplay is punctuated with Crisis Rounds. In most wargames these would be the end of a year or a season, but in Werwolf the operational tempo is not determined simply by the passage of time. Crisis Rounds will happen 3-6 times per game depending on which scenario you choose and will pop up at unknown times. They represent some kind of major political crisis, strategic realignment or some other event that forces all the factions to pause, re-organise and reassess their position. This is where you will receive resources, build Loyalty or Resistance across the map if you can afford it, send troops back to their bases and various other “clean up” tasks. Crisis Rounds are also closely connected with the Cold War parts of the game. If a Crisis Card is drawn while Cold War Tensions are at their highest, it is game over and both the occupying factions lose – only Werwolf or Edelweiss can win! Also, tensions go up every single crisis round. Even if the Allied and Soviet factions are trying to be nice, the inevitable suspicion that they feel towards each other will manifest over time.
Grant: Can you share a few Event Cards and explain their text and function in the game?
Clint: I will let Ben handle this one as he designed most of the cards.
Ben: I’ll choose a few to talk us through that are representative of some of the main themes in the game, and which should give an idea of how we have provided an historically plausible timeline for the game.
First off, let’s take a look at card 80, Polish Peoples’ Republic. This card is representative of the numerous cards which represent historical fact. Both options of this card are events which occurred from 1945 to 1947.
This card is geared towards the occupying factions, with the Soviets being able to take first shot, then Allies, then Edelweiss, and Werwolf last. This is shown by the icons along the top, with the eligibility running left to right. This is not to say that the Soviets will always have the option to use this card, or that Werwolf will never do so. The activation system means that any of the factions may have the option of using this card if they are eligible based on timing.
Cards can either be used by a faction to activate and perform actions, or played for the event. If played for the event, this card gives the player two options. The text at the top will most often benefit the occupying factions, and the shaded text will usually benefit the insurgent factions.
The historical basis for this card is the actions occurring in neighboring Poland, and their consequences for the events in Germany. The first option is LWP troops deploy to Germany. The LWP, or Ludowe Wojsko Polskie was the Polish forces fighting alongside the Soviet Army during the War. Known as Berling’s Army, after the commander Zygmunt Berling, the Poles historically fought through the Soviet counter-offensives of 1944 and were heavily involved in the Oder offensive and the Battle of Berlin. This card sees the deployment of a significant military force for the Soviets, and the province of Bundesland-Sachsen is shifted to Passive Soviet Loyalty. The shift in Loyalty represents the morale impact of this deployment leading to sullen compliance rather than outright loyalty. Note that if the province was previously Active Soviet Loyalty, the deployment of Polish forces would result in a reduction of Loyalty, representing the loyally Communist populace of Saxony questioning the need for this deployment of overwhelming military force.
The Polish support of the Soviet Army was never a given, with even Berling himself being dismissed after he led an unauthorized attempt to relieve his fellow Poles of the AK during the Warsaw Uprising. The shaded option, Cursed Soldiers, represents the impact of the numerous Polish anti-communist resistance formations known as the żołnierze wyklęci, or cursed soldiers. Prior to the 1947 amnesty, estimates of as many as 200,000 Poles were involved in active resistance to the Soviet occupation – a future theater for COIN/Werwolf perhaps? The effect of this card removes Soviet troops and NKVD as they are sent east to deal with the growing unrest in Poland. Bundesland-Sachsen is shifted to neutral, as rumors of repression and unrest in Poland undermine the Communist attempts to indoctrinate the populace.
Next, let’s look at card 31, Heliofly Fallschirmjäger. This is emblematic of cards that, while sometimes seemingly improbable, do have a firm basis in historical fact. This card is geared towards the insurgents, and unlike the previous card we have examined, the impact of this card is perhaps not as significant. The historical basis is the implausible and terrifying Baumgartl Heliofly III personal helicopter, an invention / death trap which is representative of a range of Nazi engineering projects.
The creation of Austrian aviation engineer / mad scientist Paul Baumgartl, the Heliofly was designed as a single seat helicopter. While never adopted, the Heliofly in its III-59 variant was representative of the work of several Austrian engineers including Bruno Nagler and Franz Rolz who received contracts from the German Government in the 1940’s. Zack Parson’s My Tank Is Fight provides a humorous overview of the development of these machines, as well as suggesting its employment as a tool for Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) to conduct a surprise operation. Our alternate history setting simply had to include some ridiculous Nazi technology. Converting this idea into a game event, I definitely did not want this to be a game winner, as even if the tech had worked, it would be unlikely to have a major impact.
The top option for the card is Back to the Drawing Board, which removes one Insurgent piece and makes one Insurgent faction ineligible. This represents the (unsurprising) failure of the technology, and the loss of initiative to the other factions due to investing in such a risky concept.
The shaded option is Death from Above. In this option, the insurgents have achieved the impossible and launch a surprise airborne raid on the enemy. It’s not going to win the game, but could potentially eliminate control of a province for one of the occupying factions.
Grant: What did you find most challenging about creating balanced Event Cards?
Clint: Balancing nearly a hundred Event Cards was indeed a challenge. My approach has been to just keep play testing and make only small modifications each time. No game is 100% balanced, but I believe that it is equally possible to win as any faction once you have mastered their particular style. One thing to note here is that the events in Werwolf are potentially very powerful – more so than the games in the COIN Series (although Red Dust Rebellion might be changing this) and those in other CDG’s. This was deliberate, as we wanted the possibility for dramatic swings to add to the narrative of each game. We have very powerful events for all 4 factions, so eventually they do balance out. Also, even with a powerful event to play, all 3 other factions will always have some way of hurting you. For example, a few new players seemed to think that the Allies or the Soviets were overpowered – until they figured out how to use Edelweiss False Flag attacks to push up Cold War Tensions and paralyze both of them!
Ben: As Clint says above, the process was one of continual playtest – debrief – edit – repeat. Overall we have had numerous iterations of the cards, and while we wanted balance, the nature of Werwolf is representing an asymmetric conflict. While some cards are most definitely more powerful than others, each faction has cards that play to their strengths.
Grant: What are some of the most powerful events?
Clint: The most powerful Event Cards in the game are not shuffled into the deck. They are Key Event Cards and are held by the players. When certain conditions are met, they can be played on top of the current Event Card, canceling it and replacing it with the Key Event. There are 2 Key Events per faction and they are used in most of the scenarios in the game. The nuclear weapon cards – Manhattan Project and Soviet Atomic Bomb – are both Key Events. These are extremely powerful for their propaganda effects. Aside from these, I think the most powerful Key Event is The Fuhrer Lives, which can be played by Werwolf. It represents Hitler himself emerging from hiding to lead his guerrilla organization, or Werwolf spreading rumors to such an effect. This card dramatically increases Resistance across the map, as Germans who are already sympathetic to the Werwolves become galvanized by the return of their leader. Below is an image of a very powerful Key Event for the Allies – Marshall Plan Aid. This can often double the Allies victory level if played at the right time, and can potentially hurt both Werwolf and the Soviets by reducing Resistance or Soviet Loyalty in Allied spaces. Aside from the Key Events, there are some other events in the deck that can have a huge impact if played at the right time. I’ve included an image here of Soviet Space Program, which can hurt Allied Morale and increase the Soviet Research Advantage but at the cost of raising Cold War Tensions. This really slows down the Allies!
Grant: One of the most interesting aspects of the Event Cards are those that have lasting effects on the game in the form of capabilities. What about capabilities in Werwolf? Can you share a few of these with us and explain their usefulness?
Clint: Yes, there are several capabilities included in the game for each faction. These are great when you can grab them early on as they have a permanent effect and aid you througout the game by increasing the effectives of various actions, reducing costs or gaining additional benefits. I will share just two of my favorites:
Otto Skorzeny is fantastic, as it allows your guerrillas to flip back to being underground when they march. This means if the Allies or Soviets have swept in and revealed your guerrillas, you can March them off in different directions and they will all go back to being hidden. It also allows you to get guerrillas into places with strong garrisons and high Loyalty, which would normally reveal them. There are so many ways to use this ability that I always snap it up when it becomes available. I love the theme here too – if the Werwolves became an effective insurgency they would surely have someone like Skorzeny training them. His career in irregular warfare was fascinating. The other card shown here is Ike, which is more diplomatic than military. It represents the ability of Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower (later a president of the USA) to maintain peace with the Soviets and keep Allied morale high. It improves your Negotiation actions and gives you a Morale boost every time you Negotiate – this can negate the effect of casualties and negative Event Cards. You will be Negotiating frequently as the Allies, especially against an aggressive Soviet player, so this will pay dividends throughout the game.
One more thing to point is that there are cards in the deck that can destroy capabilities – one of these is SS FJ Btn. 500, representing Werwolf doing a daring coup-de-main glider attack against a key target – like Ike himself! The capabilities in Werwolf are strong, but they can be destroyed.
Ben: Clint outlines the capabilities well above. I’d just mention card 86, which is Katukov’s Toast. This card can be used by either the Allies or Soviets – depending on who is the active player. This card is based on Soviet General Mikhail Katukov’s supposed interactions with General George S. Patton in 1945. While potentially apocryphal, the story of the two aggressive commanders demonstrating a grudging respect for one another represents the cooperation borne of necessity which is a feature of the Werwolf setting. When in play, Soviets and Allies can cooperate despite low level political tensions, with pragmatic commanders on the ground being able to work together despite political issues developing between the two powers. As with other capabilities, this capability could be removed by cards like SS FJ Btn. 500, where a coup de main could take out a key commander and so destroy the friendly relations. Like Event Cards, it is rare that a capability will allow one faction to dominate the game, it is more common that they will provide minor advantages if used at the right time.
Grant: What is the purpose of the various tokens that can be placed on the map including Radio Werwolf, National Redoubt, Bundestag and Volkskammer?
Clint: These tokens are all linked to a corresponding Event Card and represent major structures and installations. Radio Werwolf is based on a real radio program broadcast by Joseph Goebells right up until the end of the war, which encouraged civilians to join the Werwolves and strike back against the Allies and Soviets. In the game, the token represents the location of this underground radio station and is placed with a Werwolf base. As long as it is on the map, Werwolf Terror actions are free, which is a huge boost! If the base is destroyed the radio station is destroyed too, which will make it a top priority target for Allied and Soviet strikes. The National Redoubt is also based on a real Nazi plan from 1945 – the idea was to retreat the remnants of the Third Reich into an impenetrable alpine fortress in Austria or Bavaria to wait out the enemy and use it as a base for a long-term insurgency. This never happened, but it obviously fits very well into our timeline. The National Redoubt marker is placed with a Werwolf base and makes the space twice as hard to attack, both from ground Assaults and Allied Air Strikes. It also provides some other goodies for Werwolf, as the Nazis have stockpiled men, weapons and supplies in the alpine fortress.
The Bundestag was the West German parliament based in the city of Bonn. This was the center of the new Federal Republic when direct Allied military rule ended in West Germany around 1949. In the game, the Bundestag marker is placed in Bonn, and as long as the city is under Allied control it makes Reconstruction efforts cheaper as the local German government takes more responsibility for the country. The Volkskammer is the communist East German parliament in East Berlin, and fulfills much the same function for the Soviets. Both the Bundestag and Volkskammer are great assets and can save a lot of resources for the occupiers, but can of course become prime targets for the insurgents.
Grant: What is the purpose of the Cold War Tensions Track? How is it manipulated?
Clint: The game takes place in Germany in 1945-1948, with the country divided into Soviet and Western Allied occupation zones. While nominally on the same side in putting down the Werwolf and Edelweiss insurgencies, the Soviets and Allies in this time period are certainly not best friends! The growing suspicion and hostility between these ideological rivals is represented in the game by the Cold War tensions track, which is an absolutely crucial part of the game. This track starts at number 1 (Co-operation), when the two sides are friendly to each other. Very soon this will escalate to 2-3 (Suspicion) where Soviet and Allied pieces will treat each other as enemies for the purposes of movement. It will then go to 4 (Standoff, where movement in Berlin is “frozen”) and then 5 (Escalation, which doubles the cost of actions). If the track reaches 6 (War Imminent) the Soviets and Allies will declare war on each other at the next crisis round, ending the game and handing victory to the insurgents as the two Cold War superpowers destroy each other! The tensions track acts as an important “brake” on operations as the Soviets and Allies must waste turns “negotiating” to reduce tensions if they have been too aggressive against each other. It also redresses the imbalance between the militarily dominant occupation forces and the much smaller insurgent forces. Indeed, the insurgents will often deliberately use actions or events to push tensions up.
There are many events that can do this. For example, the BAOR card has the option of General Montgomery saying something inflammatory about the Soviets. The Long Telegram, representing George Kennan’s famous memo to the State Department, also pushes them up. Berlin Blockade pushes tensions up by 2 as well as affecting the loyalties of East and West Berlin and blockading roads leading in and out of it. Aside from event cards, Edelweiss can push up tensions with their “false flag” special action. If done at the right time, this can win the game by pushing tensions to 6 right before a crisis round. Furthermore, either the Allies or the Soviets may decide to deliberately push tensions up, just to slow the other one down with negotiating. There will also inevitably be many situations where tensions go up because one superpower has marched into the other one’s territory or targeted populations loyal to the other side. Imagine a Soviet commander leading a column of troops past Checkpoint Charlie and into West Berlin, because they apparently have intelligence on the location of insurgents and wish to help their American comrades find them. As more and more Red Army tanks rumble in and the NKVD begin assuming control of whole neighborhoods, naturally the Allies will be a bit suspicious and start making frantic calls to Washington! Or imagine the Allies launching an air strike against a space with strong pro-communist sympathies – ostensibly to kill Werwolf guerrillas but also to hurt the Reds. This will have a similarly hostile effect. When playing as Soviets I like to take great risks with the track – I will deport pro-Allied populations and grab cities in West Germany, pushing tensions right up to Escalation before I stop to negotiate. It really makes the Allied player sweat! However, for new players I suggest being cautious with this.
Grant: What are you most pleased with about the design?
Clint: What I love most about Werwolf is the theme and the deep narrative immersion you feel. It is a very disorienting feeling for play testers the first time they play. They see a map of Germany, it’s 1945, there are military forces – but this is definitely not a WW2 game! It’s not even a conventional war game at all. You can imagine the confusion when I explain that this is the first ever game about an alternate history insurgency! We have all played many games where you get to command WW2 forces in well-known historical battles. This is entirely different. There are no Panzer divisions, no clear front line, no Normandy landings, no Battle of the Bulge. The Germans here are ragged, undermanned, lightly armed guerrillas who are evading detection and spreading chaos and terror. The Allies and Soviets feel vaguely like conventional WW2 forces with their enormous advantage in numbers and firepower, but they are locked in a frustrating game of whack-a-mole and desperately trying to rebuild a functioning country out of complete devastation. Think of US infantry on a search and destroy mission in the jungles of Vietnam about to be sniped at by the Viet Cong, but instead they are patrolling the ruins of 1946 Berlin about to be ambushed by Nazi guerrillas wearing civilian clothes, using StG-44’s and maybe a salvaged tank. Or think of Coalition forces in Afghanistan trying to protect polling booths in an election, but instead it is rural Bavaria in 1948 and the Werwolves are about to detonate a home-made bomb amidst the crowd. This kind of setting has an uncanny feeling of being familiar and totally alien at the same time.
There are also dramatic reversals of fortune that add to the narrative feel – I have played as Edelweiss, been nearly wiped out, but ended the game with my guerrillas riding into Berlin on captured tanks and taking the win! Likewise, I have seen players command the Soviet juggernaut and sweep across the map, but then get worn down by relentless guerrilla ambushes and the Allies deliberately ramping up Cold War tensions. Then there are the 96 different Event Cards, which we have already talked about. It was suggested to us to drop some of the more “crazy” ones – but we kept them (don’t worry – the game is still balanced). The cards, even the very subtle or situational ones, really enhance the thematic feel and add a great level of tension and unforeseen possibilities to the game. Some of my personal favorite cards are Panzergraf, Kriminalkommissar and Operation Effective. I will let players discover how best to use these!
Ben: For me, it is the narrative immersion and how Werwolf provides a historically plausible and enjoyable game. Despite being set in World War 2, one of the most familiar of settings, Werwolf manages to bring something fresh to the gaming table. The merging of historical figures like Churchill, Dulles, Zhukov, Gehlen, and Rommel alongside some of the technological advances of the early Cold War enables you to game many counterfactual questions. I know that the alternate history is different, but one of the big questions of historical gaming is the level of alternate history in all games. If we are playing Waterloo, the moment we make a decision different to the participants, avoiding attacking Hougoumont for example, doesn’t that game then become an exercise in alternate history? Werwolf takes this concept to a large scale – the big question of what would have happened had Germany not surrendered, but instead collapsed into an insurgency. How would we have dealt with competing insurgent factions, would the Allied-Soviet pact have held, or would it have collapsed into open combat?
I really think we have achieved our goal of a fun and engaging game based in historical fact, but set in a very different but historically plausible 1945.
Grant: What other designs are you mulling over?
Clint: Well, nothing is set in stone yet, but I am working on 3 new designs and Ben may be helping me with some of them. Like Werwolf, these are all COIN-inspired games. It would be great if your readers could follow and contact me on Twitter (@Clint_Davey1) and let me know which of these they would most like to see next:
Black Dragon: The sequel to Werwolf, set in the same timeline, but in occupied Japan. 4 factions: Communists, Nationalists (remnants of the IJA and IJN and civilian militia), Black Dragon (a Yakuza-affiliated, ultra-nationalist secret society) and the Allied occupation government. If I get really ambitious, I might even give players the option of joining the two games together…
Kotongo: A 1-6 player asymmetric game set in the fictional African country of Kotongo during the Cold War. Basically a mash-up of the conflicts in Angola, Rhodesia and Congo in the 1960’s-1970’s. You can play as two opposing factions of mercenaries, the CIA, the KGB, the corrupt government or the insurgents trying to overthrow it. It will be my weirdest design yet but very unique in today’s market.
After Appomattox OR The South Will Rise Again (haven’t decided on a title): A game about Reconstruction in the South (1865-1877) after the American Civil War, basically treating it as an insurgency – which it was. Population loyalties would be Democrat or Republican, and the various factions would be focused on getting Senate seats and governorships and passing legislation, as well as the conflict between insurgents (Confederate veteran paramilitaries) and counter-insurgents (Union occupation troops).
Clint and Ben: Thank you TPA for giving us the chance to spread the word about our game!
Thanks for your great responses to my questions! Your answers were very thorough and I think really give the readers a good idea not only about the game and how it plays but also about why you have included certain mechanics for historiocity and what was behind your thinking. I think that this game is going to really be interesting and break some new ground.
If you are interested in ordering Werwolf: Insurgency in Occupied Germany, 1945-1948, you can pre-order a copy for $72.00 from the Legion Wargames website at the following link: https://www.legionwargames.com/legion_WER.html