Werwolf: Insurgency in Occupied Germany, 1945-1948 from Legion Wargames is a COIN Series inspired, alternate history wargame with 4 totally different factions. In this series of articles, designer Clint Warren-Davey will examine each of the four factions and provide some insight into their actions and strategies in the game. In the third entry in the series, we will take a closer look at the Soviets.

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

As the Soviet player in Werwolf, you are in charge of the Soviet military administration in Germany. This includes troops of the Red Army, the NKVD security forces and the military and police forces of the nascent East German regime, including the Stasi. Your job is to crush the Edelweiss and Werwolf insurgencies, build up a communist state, gather German technology programs to keep up with the impending arms race with the West and expand the Soviet sphere of influence as far as possible on German soil. In historical terms, the Soviet occupation of Germany was mostly peaceful until the massive Berlin Uprising of 1953, but this was due to an incredibly brutal campaign of deportations, mass executions, intimidation and propaganda on the part of the Soviets and their puppet government in East Germany. There were a few examples of Werwolf terrorism in the East, such as the assassination of Soviet officers, but most resistance was destroyed. Of course, in the game’s timeline the Soviets have a much bigger challenge in their counter-insurgency efforts. The Werwolves are a large, well-trained and highly motivated guerrilla force. There is also the Edelweiss Movement (which we saw last entry) which has sprung up mostly in the Soviet occupation zone. As soon as the game begins, Soviet territory is infested with guerrillas which must be hunted down before the socialist future can be built. The hammer and sickle might fly over the Reichstag, but the war is far from over.

The Soviet victory condition is based on 3 things added together: the total population under Soviet control, total Soviet loyalty and the research advantage. These are all worth explaining in greater detail. First, control. To control a space in Werwolf you must have more pieces in that space than all other factions combined. Troops, police, bases and HE (Heavy Equipment) tokens all count for control. The Soviets get points equal to the combined population of all spaces they control. Initially, the Red Army and NKVD control the main cities in East Germany – Weimar, Dresden, Leipzig and East Berlin. The surrounding countryside – provinces like Brandenburg and Thuringia – have Soviet garrisons but are controlled or contested by Edelweiss guerrillas. West Berlin is of course occupied by a strong Allied force – this may eventually become a target for Soviet expansion but this can be disastrous for Cold War tensions. So, the official Soviet zone of occupation only has a small population under actual Soviet control. To build up points, you will need to crush the nearby Edelweiss forces (easier said than done) and then look further afield. In the game’s timeline, Stalin is using the insurgency as an excuse to violate the Potsdam agreement (which subdivided Germany into strict occupation zones) and extend Soviet control over as much territory as possible. Typically, this means expanding west into Allied territory or south into Werwolf territory. Confrontations with the Allies will inevitably need to be de-escalated with negotiation.

To garrison such a large expanse of territory against all 3 other factions, you will need lots of units. Thankfully the Soviets can build up their forces easier than any other faction and can potentially get all 50 of their cubes onto the map in the first few turns.

The second part of the Soviet victory condition is total Soviet loyalty. This is the sum total population showing communist sympathies, with “active” loyalty counting for twice as much as “passive” loyalty. While the huge Soviet forces will find it easy to take control of spaces, they will find it harder to build up loyalty – Soviet indoctrination is less efficient than Allied reconstruction and Werwolf or Edelweiss terror. However, building up Soviet loyalty is essential. Not only does it build towards the Soviet victory level, it keeps the population oriented away from Allied loyalty or pro-insurgent resistance and it prevents both Edelweiss and Werwolf from recruiting in the space. To indoctrinate, the Soviets will need both troops and police, so it pays to keep the Red Army and NKVD operating together to provide security. The event deck has many cards that can change Soviet loyalty either up or down, which all players will have reason to play at some point.

Aside from control and loyalty, the third Soviet victory condition is the research advantage. This is a zero-sum competition waged directly with the Allies for control of research tokens. These will be gained by purchasing them directly but also grabbing them from the map – as explained in previous articles, the research tokens in Werwolf represent the remnants of Hitler’s wunder-waffen programs which the Allies and Soviets were both keen to take. Just like with control, there are cards in the event deck that can help with this and provide benefits for accumulating research tokens:

To achieve these ambitious goals, the Soviets have a list of actions and special actions ideally suited to their aggressive style. Lacking the air lift ability of the Allies, they can use transport and patrol to cruise along Germany’s road network and seize control of cities. To reveal guerrillas they can use search or, if any insurgents have already been revealed or captured this turn, interrogate. Assault is the most direct way to destroy enemy forces but bombard allows all adjacent troops and HE tokens to contribute their artillery fire to the selected space. There is also the sinister deport action, which allows the very historically accurate approach of sending all civilians in an occupied territory to prison camps in Siberia. The population will be reduced (hurting the Soviet “control” condition) but the space is shifted directly to neutral, potentially a huge decrease to the Allied or Werwolf victory condition. 

The key to using all of these various actions effectively is combinations. Some great examples are assault, pause to interrogate (revealing more guerrillas) and then continue to assault. Or, use search in a space to reveal guerrillas there and then bombard using all adjacent troops and HE to destroy them. Transport combined with reinforce can be used to bring on troops and police where they are needed most:

Commanding the Soviet Union in Werwolf gives you a ruthless and powerful force for destroying the insurgencies that plague Germany and for confronting the Allies in the coming Cold War. They are a perfect faction for aggressive players and a strong favourite among the playtesting team.

The last faction that we will cover will be the games’ namesake, the Werwolf Insurgency.

In the meantime, if you are interested we posted an interview with the designers and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/06/27/interview-with-clint-warren-davey-and-ben-fiene-designers-of-werwolf-insurgency-in-occupied-germany-1945-1948-from-legion-wargames/

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