As you may know, I had a really good experience with the first game in GMT’s Lunchtime Series called Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis, 1860-61. This series of card driven games is designed as fast playing small footprint games that can be played by both new players and veterans alike. I have played Fort Sumter over 30 times with my wife and she still is interested in playing it from time to time. So when a new game in the line was announced last year I was very interested. Red Flag Over Paris: 1871, The Rise and Fall of the Paris Commune covers the two months of confrontation between the Communards and the government in Versailles during the 1871 Paris Commune. Players will take control of one of these factions and fight for control over Paris. But, you will also need to win the hearts and minds of the French population, as the board is divided into two areas, including military and political, as well as being divided into several dimensions (Political Institutions, Public Opinion, Paris neighborhoods, and the forts on the outskirts of the city). The game forces players to make tough decisions like when to focus on political influence or military dominance and how to optimize limited resources.
We have reached out to designer Fred Serval for an interview on the game and it’s mechanics but he also was interested in finding a home for a series of quick articles on the history behind the cards involved in the game. We are lucky to be able to bring these articles to you and will be hosting a series of 9 posts over the next few months.
*Note: The cards and their event text are still the prototype version only intended for playtesting and the design and the event might still change prior to final development.
History Behind the Cards #1: Victor Hugo
Thanks to Les Misérables, Victor Hugo is probably the most well-known author in French literature. What is less known is that he was a major political activist and one of the leading opponents to the Second Empire. For this reason, Victor Hugo had to live in exile from 1852 to 1870. After the fall of Napoleon the third, he could finally come back to Paris on the 5th of September 1870 and unfortunately had to live through the Siege of Paris (see Terrible Year Part 1).
During the Siege, he offered the rights to one of his books, Les Châtiments, to finance the fabrication of two cannons, named in his honor: “Victor Hugo” and “Chatiment.” On the 8th of February, he would be elected to the National Assembly and become an opponent to what he called “the vile peace.” He would not be involved directly in the events of the Paris Commune because he had to go back to Brussels to take care of the succession of his son, who died in March 1871. During the whole event, he would remain neutral and dedicated to de-escalation, promoting “conciliation and reconciliation” between the government in Versailles and the Paris Commune. After the Bloody Week, he would become one of the foremost voices supporting amnesty for the political prisoners of the Commune.
For that reason, I wanted Victor Hugo to be a compelling neutral event focusing on decreasing tension. It also made sense for him to have a decisive impact in the Public Opinion dimension as he was such a respected voice of the French population. For both players, he acts as a double-edged sword, but if used well, he could have a significant impact on the hearts and minds of the French population.
Thanks to Fred Serval for this great look inside the history of this historical event.
The next card in the series will be #2 Les Cantinières.
If you are interested in Red Flag Over Paris: 1871, The Rise and Fall of the Paris Commune, you can pre-order a copy for the special P500 price of $28.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-849-red-flag-over-paris.aspx