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 agreed to provide a home for this 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 #5: Otto Von Bismarck
“It is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by iron and blood.” – Otto Eduard Leopold Von Bismarck, September 30 1862
Bismarck is a Prussian statesman, the chief architect of German unification during the second half of the 19th century. Ascending to the position of minister of foreign affairs and Chancellor (head of the government), he was the mind behind Prussia’s geopolitical strategy for around three decades. Great strategist, he saw the potential of a war against France to cement the unification of the German federation into a unified modern state. After a glorious and swift victory against the French Second Empire, the 18th of January in Versailles, the German Empire was proclaimed. In the process, France will lose Alsace and a part of Lorraine to the new Empire. This land grab had two objectives: to take control of industrialized French territories and serve as a protective buffer between the two countries.
As a true conservative, Bismarck was pretty hostile toward the Paris Commune and potentially saw it as a threat. Previous French insurrections during the same century tended to “contaminate” other European countries. While officially remaining neutral, Bismarck was a partner of the Franco-Prussian collaboration efforts between Versailles and the German invader. He agreed to Thiers’ demand to increase the number of Versailles soldiers that could be stationed in Paris, raising it from 40,000 to 110,000, then finally 130,000, and helped to release prisoners of war (especially officers) ahead of the official peace treaty. We can find in the archives of the Commune that there were suspicions that the Prussian army even granted some weapons to the Versailles troops. The Prussian invader will push their “neutrality” to the point where they permitted Versailles troops to go through the demilitarized zone, east of Paris, to attack the Commune from its rear during the Bloody Week.
For this reason, it made sense to make Bismarck a pivotal event to increase the collaboration track of the Versailles player, and enable him to lead a significant military operation on the board. However, this event comes at a cost; the principle of collaboration was very unpopular and had to remain secret, pushing it to its full extent came with a political price.
Thanks to Fred Serval for this great look inside the history of the characters and events behind this very interesting event.
The next card in the series will be #6 Louise Michel.
In case you have missed the recent posts in the series, you can catch up here by visiting the links below:
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
We also recently published an interview with designer Fred Serval and if you are interested you can read that at the following link: https://www.google.com/amp/s/theplayersaid.com/2020/04/06/interview-with-fred-serval-designer-of-red-flag-over-paris-1871-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-paris-commune-from-gmt-games/amp/