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 final entry in the series, we will take a closer look at the Werwolf Insurgency.
“The Werwolf organization is not a myth,” warned the US Counter-intelligence Corps in 1945 as the Allies marched onto German soil. They were referring to a very real group, the creation of the Nazi regime in its dying days. Knowing that Germany would soon be invaded, the SS established a secret guerrilla warfare organization under the title Operation Werwolf. Waffen-SS special forces would operate in “stay-behind” positions behind enemy lines, wreaking havoc in a similar way to British commandos. Meanwhile civilians would be encouraged to take up arms and resist the Allies and Soviets through any means necessary – sniper attacks, bombings, poisonings, blowing up bridges and lynching “traitors” who collaborated with the enemy. Rumors of the Werwolves were enough to make Allied troops excessively cautious and had senior commanders fully expecting a protracted insurgency against a fanatical Nazi population. Fortunately, this did not really occur. The Werwolves were poorly funded and organized, few in number and eventually rooted out and destroyed by 1947.
The inspiration for the game comes from a single counter-factual question: what if the Werwolves had succeeded? In this alternate history timeline, Hitler and the Nazi leadership have given top priority to building up the Werwolf organization and deliberately planning a guerrilla war on German soil. In addition, things have not gone well for the Allies and Soviets – losses in 1944-45 have been much higher than historically and there is a demand to bring the troops home. The Werwolves have a real chance of winning in the same way that the Viet Cong or the Taliban won – gain the support of the civilian population and outlast the enemy in a long, costly insurgency. It should be noted here that the game includes non-player rules for those who feel uncomfortable playing as Nazi insurgents (or any other faction), so 1-3 players can play alongside a Werwolf “bot.”
The Werwolves start the game with a strong position in southern Germany – the historic Nazi heartland of Bavaria and the surrounding alpine regions. They also have a guerrilla in West Berlin waiting to strike at the Allies. There are many opportunities immediately available to them. The countryside in the west, from Lower Saxony down to Baden, starts off at neutral loyalty and sparsely garrisoned by Allied troops – wide open to Werwolf recruitment. The Allies are almost surrounded in the city of Nuremberg– a prime target for an attack or ambush to prevent play of the powerful Nuremberg Trials card and seize control of a decent-sized city. Werwolf can also focus on building up the level of resistance among the population in their own territory or building more bases to improve their points and resource income. They might even shift direction entirely and march into Soviet-occupied East Germany, to begin harassing the Red Army with assassinations or blocking the road network to slow down all the red and orange cubes in East Berlin, Weimar and Dresden. To achieve these ends, they have a decent supply of guerrilla pieces – black cylinders – waiting to be recruited.
Of course, Werwolf faces threats in multiple directions – Soviets to the north-east and the Allies to the west. Edelweiss guerrillas, no friends to the Nazis either, will eventually recruit in Werwolf occupied spaces and violently compete for territory. The combined power of these enemies is enough to slaughter large numbers of guerrillas and take control of the entire Werwolf heartland from Munich to Kassel. However, it is worth considering the Werwolf victory condition, which is mostly based on total resistance. This is a measure of how willing the German population is to side with the remnants of the Nazi regime embodied in the Werwolf leadership and actively fight back against the invaders. Each space can be in passive resistance (adds 1 x the population to total resistance) or active resistance (adds 2 x the population to total resistance). As mentioned in previous articles, spaces might also display Allied or Soviet loyalty, which the Werwolves are obviously trying to remove. Their main action to achieve these goals is terror, which will be performed frequently. If the Radio Werwolf card is played, a secret radio station will be placed on the map and make terror actions free.
It only takes a single underground guerrilla in a city or province to perform terror actions, so Werwolf will want to recruit widely and stay dispersed across the map. Of course, there will come times to confront the enemy directly – the Edelweiss may be using their own terror actions to undermine resistance, the Soviets might be grabbing control of too much territory and threatening victory, or the Allies might be bringing in troops and police for reconstruction efforts. In these situations, Werwolf will rely on ambush and assassinate to pick off enemy pieces one or two at a time. If they have managed to secure some research tokens (representing things like the V2 rocket programs, jet aircraft, etc.) the Werwolves can also attempt an expensive and risky wunder-waffen strike – potentially wiping out the enemy in a single space and terrifying the civilian population into neutrality. This threat, as well as the value of research tokens to the Allied-Soviet arms race, means that the competition over them will be fierce, especially in the early game when they are littered across the map.
The fundamental asymmetry between insurgents and counter-insurgents means that it is often impossible for Werwolf guerrillas to stand toe-to-toe with their enemy. Sometimes defence is safer. This is where the Werwolf pivotal event National Redoubt comes into its own – it establishes a well-stocked base that is twice as hard to destroy, including being quite safe from Allied air strikes. Usually this will be set up in the mountainous province of Bavaria and form the centre of Werwolf operations on the map. The most common way to destroy it is to send in huge Soviet armoured columns and bombard and assault until Hitler’s alpine fortress is reduced to rubble – but this wastes valuable actions and might give Werwolf breathing room elsewhere on the map.
The Werwolf faction will not be to everyone’s taste, but they are the central twist in the game’s timeline and a very challenging enemy to beat, whether as a bot or in the hands of a skilled player. Their event cards and actions really evoke the theme of this game – that of insurgency in occupied Germany.
And we have come to an end to our coverage on the factions and Event Cards for Werwolf: Insurgency in Occupied Germany, 1945-1948 from Legion Wargames. I am very intrigued by this game, its framework and the fact that is inspired by the COIN Series from GMT Games which is one of my favorite wargame series. I want to thank designers Clint Warren-Davey and Ben Fiene for their work with us on putting these pieces together to share the background and history of the game. The game is still up for pre-order and needs more orders to get printed, hopefully later in 2023.
If you are interested in more information about the game, we posted an interview with the designers on the blog 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