In this series of articles, we are looking at the best opening moves in Werwolf: Insurgency in Occupied Germany, 1945-48. This is tactical advice for the crucial first few turns of the game and will be useful for play-testers or anyone interested in the game. The images used here are prototypes and not the final product. For this article, we are focusing on everyone’s favourite anti-Nazi guerrillas – Edelweiss.
More content on Werwolf:
- Preview: Werwolf, a COIN-inspired wargame
- Werwolf Faction Articles: Allies
- Werwolf Faction Articles: Edelweiss
- Werwolf Faction Articles: Soviets
- Werwolf Faction Articles: Werwolf
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Here is the Edelweiss starting position – the yellow cylinders (guerrillas) and discs (bases). Out of 20 guerrillas, 10 are on the map, along with 2 out of a total of 6 bases. Edelweiss have their forces concentrated in the provinces of East Germany, intermingled with Soviet garrisons. There are also some guerrillas in East Berlin and in the Allied territories to the west. The Red Army is right on top of you but there are opportunities, such as research tokens and easily-taken territory within your reach from the start of the game.
In many games, Edelweiss will have the chance to play an action with special action on the very first turn. This is because the Werwolf faction has two key events that can be played from turn one, and both of them have Edelweiss listed as the next faction in turn order. If playing with non-player Werwolf (e.g. in a solo game) The Fuhrer Lives will definitely be the first card played. Even if this is not the case and Edelweiss has to wait a turn before making its first move, the options are roughly similar.
Even if this doesn’t happen and Edelweiss cannot act until turn one, many of these strategies will still apply. Now, unlike most factions, the decision space for Edelweiss is wide open from turn one and any of your actions might be a good first move. Let’s go through them one at a time, starting with my most preferred options:
Recruit + Extort
This is a big move and usually my go-to opening as Edelweiss. First, spend all 5 of your starting resources to recruit in Niedersachsen (grabbing the HE there), Schleswig-Holstein (taking control), Nordrhein-Westfalen (taking research and taking control), Rhineland-Pfalz (taking research) and Sud-Baden (removing Allied control, plus you are protected here by mountains). Then, pause your recruiting to conduct an extort special action in all of the spaces just mentioned, plus Brandenburg, Mecklenburg (grabbing research), Thüringen (grabbing research) and Bundesland-Sachsen (also grabbing research). This activates a lot of guerrillas but gives you another 8 resources.
You can now continue recruiting if you wish, perhaps placing guerrillas in Wurttemberg-Hohenzollern and Saarbrucken and removing Allied control in both spaces. You might not be able to recruit in the populous provinces of southern Germany, as Werwolf may have played The Fuhrer Lives as their first turn, flipping all these spaces to active resistance and therefore making it impossible for you to recruit there – Edelweiss can only recruit in neutral or passive resistance.
Still, by the end of this move you have taken control of 3 more provinces, doubled your victory points and have up to 17 guerrillas on the map. You will have also grabbed up to 5 research tokens (unless another faction beat you to it), setting you up economically for the first half of the game IF you can hold onto them, plus a HE in Niedersachsen. Finally, you are in a position to play both of your key event cards from turn two. This puts you in a threatening position, use it to bargain with other factions from a position of strength.
March + Infiltrate
This move is very strong as it allows you to grab nearly all the available research and HE tokens on the map in 1 turn. First, march into Bayern with the guerrillas from Thüringen (picking up the research there) and Bundesland-Sachsen (also picking up the research there). The 2 guerrillas can also pick up the HE in Bayern – 3 valuable tokens grabbed with 1 action! Then, march 1 guerrilla from Mecklenburg (picking up research) into Niedersachsen (picking up the HE). This gives you control of Niedersachsen, another 2 tokens and the ability to destroy the thinly defended Allied base there with an ambush or attack – you could do an ambush as part of this move but I wouldn’t recommend it, as you will be making an enemy out of the Allied player from the very first turn and you will be spread very thin.
Then, march from Nordrhein-Westfalen into Rhineland-Pfalz, picking up the research in both of those provinces. Now, this leaves you with 1 guerrilla sitting on 2 research tokens, right next to an Allied troop. Even though the guerrilla is underground, all the Allies have to do is a commando raid special action on their first turn and they can kill this guerrilla and grab both research for themselves! This puts them halfway towards playing Manhattan Project and robs you of a huge amount of resources.
For this reason, the final part of this move is the infiltrate special action – replacing the Allied troop in Rhineland-Pfalz with an Edelweiss guerrilla. This gives us control of Rhineland-Pfalz, protects the research with an additional guerrilla and removes the threat of the Allies taking it with a single commando raid. Of course, they could still take both research if they did search + air strike, but this benefits Werwolf by pushing the province to passive resistance – something a smart Allied player will usually avoid!
So, at the end of this march + infiltrate combo, we have grabbed 2 HE tokens, 5 research tokens and control of 2 provinces. It has cost us 3 out of our 5 starting resources and spread us very thin though, so you need to be negotiating with the other players – especially Werwolf – so they don’t start targeting you early to take those tokens back.
Terror + False Flag
This opening is very situational and specific to the people you are playing with. IF the Soviets are commanded by a very aggressive player who you KNOW will be targeting you straight away, this is a way to do some real damage to their victory points as well as opening up more spaces for recruitment and slowing down their momentum. Use terror in Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, East Berlin, Thüringen and Bundesland-Sachsen. You can also seize the research in these spaces.
This move will cost all of your starting resources but reduces Soviet victory points by 8 (!), grabs 3 research and opens up 5 new spaces in East Germany to recruit in on later turns. To slow down the Soviets even more, use a false flag attack (perhaps killing one of the troops who could threaten to take research from you). With Cold War tensions at 2 before the Russkies even move, they are prevented from simply sifting through Allied lines and will be stopped as soon as they hit Nuremberg or West Berlin. Of course, you have made a real enemy of the Soviets right off the bat and they will come after you with a series of assaults to take research and retake control of their territory. That’s why you only do this if you know Stalin is coming after you anyway…
Attack + Ambush
This is the most risky, aggressive and ambitious opening and should only be attempted by experienced Edelweiss commanders who know their opponents well and can bargain their way out of a precarious position. Like terror, this hurts the Soviets but targets their troops rather than their population loyalty. Do attack in Mecklenburg, Thüringen and Bundesland-Sachsen, grabbing the research in each space and taking control of the latter two spaces.
Then, follow up with an ambush in either Niedersachsen (destroying an Allied base, taking HE and taking control of the space) or East Berlin (not ideal – you will kill a few Soviet pieces but not take anything else). The problem with this opening is it leaves many guerrillas exposed to assaults without meaningfully lowering the victory points of the other factions. It is purely to get a head-start on killing Allied or Soviet troops and would have to be followed up with a series of attacks, ambushes, assassinations and wunder-waffen strikes from both Edelweiss and Werwolf to really cripple the occupying powers. Certainly possible, but I wouldn’t count on Werwolf playing along!
More opening strategies to come!