Wargame Wednesday – Reichswehr & Freikorps

S&T #273 Courtesy BGG

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.

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One thought on “Wargame Wednesday – Reichswehr & Freikorps

  1. Thanks very much for playing the game! This one has an interesting history, I quote from other posts where people have asked about the game:

    “The question has been asked, here at BGG and on Consimworld, whether this game “Reichswehr and Freikorps” is a straight-out 2012 reprint of Freikorps, published in 1999.

    The two games have the same basic idea, and share some concepts, but the executions are very different. Hereby hangs a tale:

    I designed Freikorps in the summer of 1998. At the time it didn’t have a home, or rather a publishing destination. In July 1998, I wrote to Chris Cummins of Decision Games telling him about the design and proposed that it be run as a game supplement in MOVES magazine, with mount-your-own counters and an 11×17″ map bound into the magazine (this had been done a couple of times, eg. Joe Miranda’s LA Lawless game in MOVES #75). I included a complete self-made copy of the game.

    I never heard back from Decision and went ahead and published it through the Microgame Design Group. It appeared in February, 1999 and sold a few hundred copies in the following few years.

    Then, in March 2003, Ty Bomba posted in the Strategy and Tactics folder on Consimworld that Cummins had asked him to take a look at the game, and that he would open a discussion area for it on Consimworld. There was little initial reaction to Ty’s game proposal and after the MDG suspended activities in 2003, Fiery Dragon republished Freikorps in 2004 (tin box) and 2007 (cardboard box and better counters). However, interest in “Reichswehr and Freikorps” did pick up later, the game proposal passed the Decision Games feedback approval process in 2009/10 and yes, the game came out at the beginning of 2012.

    The basic idea for both games is the same – Soviets win the Battle of Warsaw and go for Berlin – plus a few other concepts like morale but Ty Bomba added the step of allowing the German player to “interrupt” the Soviet player three times during the latter’s turn to conduct his actions. This tries to model one side’s getting inside the other’s “OODA loop” (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act cycle), as a few other games have tried to do (e.g. Joe Miranda’s Indo-Pakistani war game, in S&T quite a while ago Indo-Pakistani Wars).

    Anyway, long story short, this is not a republication of the original Freikorps. Therefore, you need to have both games!”

    If you can, you should look up the other, earlier version of Freikorps and its companion design, Konarmiya (which uses the same system as Freikorps but covers the earlier period of the Russo-Polish war, up to the siege and fall (Or Not) of Warsaw that sets the stage for Freikorps). It goes off in a different direction with IMO subtler play and not as many gimmicks.

    I’m glad you like my designs!

    Brian Train

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