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home / news / Strategic Command: World War I - Empires in Turmoil
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Strategic Command: World War I – Empires in Turmoil – Dev Diary #3

Published on October 31, 2023

For our third dev diary for Empires in Turmoil, here’s a preview of two of the most commonly requested campaigns, covering the East African theatre of World War I, and the Russian Civil War.

1916 Lion of Africa

In Strategic Command, and indeed in many conflicts throughout history, the capture of a nation’s capital has traditionally marked the defeat and surrender of that nation.  There have been exceptions to this: the collapse of the nation’s Fighting Spirit can hasten its defeat, while the establishment of alternative capitals will prolong it.  Your goal has always been to maintain control of enough territory, symbolised by the capital, to keep your side in the fight until the enemy breaks and can be overrun.

Until now.  Enter Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.


In 1916, Lettow-Vorbeck was the commander of all military forces in German East Africa, and for all practical purposes governor of the colony.  This fact alone made him unique, for all other German colonies had been conquered by the British Empire and their allies in the opening months of the war, while he had successfully thwarted a British invasion at the 1914 Battle of Tanga.  With the entire continent of Africa (not to mention enemy armies and the Royal Navy) separating him from reinforcements in Berlin, and only 20,000 men under his command, Lettow-Vorbeck had no realistic chance of inflicting a decisive defeat on the British.  But his mere presence aided the German war effort: every day that he fought on was one more day that the British had to station armies in Africa.  One more day that they could not send reinforcements to the Western Front.

In the end, he would outlast every other German army, surrendering only on November 25, 1918, when word of the Compiegne armistice finally reached his command.  By the end of the war, Lettow-Vorbeck had less than 1500 men still fighting under his command, just one unit on the Strategic Command map, but he had achieved his objective, and the British had not.  By these terms, the East African campaign was a German victory, never mind the fact that Dar-es-Salaam had been captured more than two years prior, or even that the entirety of German East Africa itself was occupied by the Allies by the end of 1917.

To reflect this, we have introduced a new set of victory conditions for this campaign: if even one German unit survives until the war ends in Europe, irrespective of how much territory is controlled by either side at any particular time, they will win the campaign.  The British therefore have one goal, hunt down and destroy Lettow-Vorbeck and his army, with a major victory being awarded if he is defeated by the end of 1917 (the Germans can achieve a major victory if they still have 15 units in the fight at the war’s end).

Greatly outnumbered and even more dramatically outgunned, if the Lion of Africa is to stay in the fight for that long, it will have to be the enemy’s territory that sustains his army.  Every time the Germans capture an Entente-owned town for the first time, they will receive a one-off bonus of 40 MPPs, vital reinforcements for an army that will always be on the run.  Native porters will provide German forces the mobility necessary to evade capture or destruction, in what is sure to be a desperate chase across East Africa.


1919 Shadow of the Tsars

Perhaps no Empire went through more turmoil as a result of the Great War than Russia.  In 1914, Tsar Nicholas II ruled over the world’s largest nation with an iron fist, his rule unquestioned since the revolts against his rule were crushed in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War.  Five years later, the Tsar is dead, but the shadows of his regime loom large over a nation that has descended into chaos and outright anarchy.  Two revolutions have placed Petrograd, Moscow and much of the interior in the grip of the Bolsheviks under Lenin, who is determined to seize control of the rest of the old empire by force.

But he is far from the only man hoping to succeed the Tsar.  Across the nation, various armies opposing the Bolsheviks have coalesced into an alliance known as the Whites, led by Yudenich in the north, Denikin in the south, and Kolchak in the Urals.  The last days of the Great War have also left behind several Allied expeditionary forces on the northern and Black Sea coasts, initially deployed to protect Allied property in the wake of the October Revolution, they now provide vital aid to the White forces.  German offensives in early 1918, and the subsequent collapse of the German Empire, have added to the chaos, as independence movements have taken advantage of declining Russian power to assert their own influence: many have sided with the Whites, but only due to a common perception of the Bolsheviks as a more dangerous threat.

Lenin’s repressive government may have brought the White factions together, but no delay can be afforded if they hope to overthrow the Bolsheviks.  Declining public support for intervention means that Allied supplies will not continue flowing to the White armies forever, while the popular legitimacy of Bolshevik rule grows with every month that Lenin remains in power.  With armies scattered from the Baltic to the Urals, the Whites’ only hope of victory lies in overcoming the many divisions and disputes troubling the White coalition, by forging a unified offensive aimed at the heart of Bolshevik power: the city of Moscow, before waning foreign support and internal differences shatter the fragile strength of the White cause for good.

By contrast, Lenin presides over a unified regime, if one still subject to frequent strikes, civil strife and sporadic peasant revolts.  Under Trotsky’s command, the Red Army has advanced into the Baltic States, capturing Riga three days after the New Year, and is prepared to crush Ukraine’s fledgling nationalist movement.  Command of the railroads of the interior allows the Red Army to rapidly redeploy units from one part of the country to another, with a force of fearsome armoured trains leading the way.  Under threat from all sides, the survival of communist rule will depend on the Bolsheviks’ ability to keep their many enemies divided.

Russia’s darkest hour has begun.  Your decisions will determine whether it will be the Reds or the Whites who emerge victorious from the shadow of the Tsars.

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