Strategy & Tactics magazine and games can be a hit-or-miss affair. The articles are generally well-written if not original (as in original conclusions though the topics may be more obscure). The games are usually limited in scope due to rules length, map size, and counter limits. They also are not necessarily cheap at $29.99 for the game edition (magazine + game). But I am a sucker for alternate history and a fan of Brian Train’s work. So when I saw that Train (master of asymmetric warfare simulations) had teamed with Ty Bomba (known for his alternate history games) I took the chance.
Reichswehr & Freikorps (RWFK) advertises itself as a “low-complexity, strategic-level, alternative history wargame of the conflict that likely would have resulted had the Poles been defeated by the invading Read Army late in the summer of 1920.” The Soviet player is invading Germany; the German player is defending his homeland.
S&T magazine games usually have a “gimmick” that each game tries to showcase. In this case, the gimmick is the Red Army Morale. With High Morale the Red Army can favorably shift combat odds and move further. Low Morale negatively shifts combat odds and reduces movement. Morale is gained by seizing towns and cities and holding them.
The Sequence of Play is also interesting. The Soviet player has two fronts but can only move one front at a time. The German player has no set sequence of play but rather can “interrupt” the Soviet players turn three times to conduct rail movement, regular movement, or combat.
After setting up the game, I was rather dubious as to the coming experience. The 22″x34″ map is overlaid with a 16×24 hex grid. Though there are 176 counters, nearly half are markers meaning there are only around 100 combat units of which 1/4 are reinforcements. Taken together with the stacking rules which allow the Germans to put seven divisions in a stack or the Soviets to have all the units of the same army together I ended up with a few stacks and many empty hexes.
The first few turns see a nearly unstoppable Red Army juggernaut rolling over the countryside to take towns and cities. It is not until a few turns in that one realizes the impact of supply lines on the Red Army advance. Though the Soviets may be able to seize many towns, they are only able to create one new railhead each turn. The effect here is to slow the Red Army advance. This in turn means a loss of Morale since morale is gained by taking towns and cities but lost every turn over time.
In the end, the game sets out to do what it was designed to do; the Red Army player must keep up an offensive while dealing with a slow supply chain and gradually reduced morale. To be victorious the Red Army needs to stay ahead of that inevitable decline in morale. Reichswehr & Freikorps delivers on this gimmick, though I don’t see to much replay value here.