For those that may not have seen the first few posts in this new feature, we have asked the designer of All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918 from GMT Games VPJ Arponen, to provide us with text of some of the proposed Event Cards and also to give a short summary of the historical background as well as their use in the game. We will plan to post these Spoilers every 7-10 days over the next few months, or even longer if Vez is up for it. We are very grateful for Vez and his willingness to do this for us and for our readers. Thank you for your hard work Vez!

In our 9th Event Card Spoiler post regarding All Bridges Burning, we take a look at card #11 Weapons from Russia? Please keep in mind that the artwork and layout of these cards is not yet finalized and is only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as the game is still in development, card details may still change prior to publication.

11. Weapons from Russia?

CaptureAlongside three player controlled factions, All Bridges Burning also features two non-player powers: Russia and Germany. Historically, the effective absence of Russia and the presence of Germans in key battles, such as that over Helsinki, showed that these powers played a key role in the historical outcome of the Finnish Civil War.

Caption: The card image shows a weapons stash found in a worker’s hall building. (Image: Finnish Board of Antiquities)

In the game, the players affect the presence of foreign forces in Finland by using events and a special activity to adjust the German and Russian Vassalage levels, respectively. The levels of Finland’s Vassalage to the foreign powers abstractly represent the manner in which various international and national trajectories develop in this regard. Historically, for one, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, effectively ended the Russian participation in the Finnish Civil War: the Germans dictated the geopolitical terms of the treaty, including the withdrawal of Russians from Finland. Later in 1918, the German presence in Finland was ended by the surrender of the German Empire in World War I.

In terms of internal events in Finland, the Weapons from Russia? event denotes the attempts made by some elements within the Finnish working class movement to associate the Finnish cause with that of the Russian Bolshevik revolution. After coming to power in November 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Russia were reached out to supply the Reds in Finland with weaponry. The desire to extend the October Revolution to Finland was there, but the threat of German intervention ―with whom Russia was at war― made Lenin have second thoughts.

Still, in January 1918, on Lenin’s orders, a weapons train carrying 10,000 rifles, 10 cannons, 30 machine guns and ammo, departed from St. Petersburg arriving to the Reds in Tampere on 2 February 1918. Information regarding the preparation and eventual arrival of such a train also reached the White Senate forces in Finland. An attempt was made to destroy a key railway bridge over the river Kymi, some 130 kilometers or 80 miles East of Helsinki, which would also have cut the one and only East-West railway connection in the country. The attempt failed, yet it still incapacitated the bridge for several days. Fighting raged along the railway further delaying the train which has been estimated to have caused the fall of Mikkeli to the Senate forces as the Reds there did not have weapons with which to fight.

Despite assistance, the aims of the Finnish Reds and the Russian Bolsheviks did not entirely coincide. The Finnish historian Seppo Hentilä wrote:

In late February [1918] Oskari Tokoi and Edvard Gylling, as representatives of the People’s Council [the body leading the Red Revolt in Finland], were negotiating a treaty between Finland and Russia with the Bolshevik government. Lenin, in preparation for his hoped-for union with Finland, proposed that Finnish citizenship should be immediately granted to all Russians in Finland; likewise he undertook to grant Russian citizenship to all Finns in Russia. However, Tokoi and Gylling did not accept this. Disagreements also arose over territory, notably the problem of where to place the border line in the Karelian Isthmus.

The sensitive position of St. Petersburg or Leningrad at a close proximity to the Finnish border (a mere 30 kilometers or 18 miles) and the resulting geopolitical presence that Germany would therefore have in Finland, would be a chief cause of hostilities again in World War II.

Other areas of disagreement in the negotiations between the Finnish and the Russians Reds were described by Hentilä as follows:

The treaty between Soviet Russia and Red Finland was made on 1 March 1918, and in it, on Lenin’s insistence, Finland was named ‘the Socialist Workers’ Republic of Finland’. Tokoi and Gylling reluctantly accepted the name. In other ways too they behaved in the negotiations as the representatives of any nation-state would do when defending their own interests. The aim of the People’s Council was above all else the preservation of Finnish independence.

Ultimately, in All Bridges Burning, a high level of Finland’s Vassalage to Russia will prevent the Reds player from winning the game. This concept of victory reflects the view that too great a reliance on foreign assistance would in the end have nullified the dream of Finnish independence. In the words of Hentilä:

If the Reds had won the war of 1918, the ‘Socialist Worker’s Republic of Finland’ would probably have been unable to prevent ‘voluntary’ annexation to Soviet Russia in accordance with Lenin’s nationalities policy.

The next card in the series will be #30 Meetings in the Catacomb.

You can catch up on the series to date by following these links:

#3 November Revolution in Russia

#8 General Strike

#9 Declaration of Finnish Independence

#27 The Reds Launch a Major Offensive

#43 Rough Justice

#45 Finland’s Fate Hangs in Balance

#24 Red Revolt!

#25 Disarming Russian Garrisons

All Bridges Burning Banner 1

If you are interested in All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918, you can pre-order a copy at the following link:

Also, check out our interview with the designer VPJ Arponen to get better insight into the game.