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January 19, 1919. The Great War is over, the Kaiser has abdicated, and Germany is on its knees. After suffering a humiliating loss at the hands of the Allied nations, the former Great Power is now confronted not only with the death of millions of its citizens, but also with a severe economic crisis and a political turmoil that threatens to plunge the entire nation into civil war. The November Revolution of 1918 ushered in a new era of liberal democracy in a country traditionally ruled by noblemen warriors. The first democratic election has now been held, but democracy’s enemies are numerous, and the future of the fledgling Republic appears grim. No one can tell whether the democratic Coalition will prevail or whether any of the extremist factions will rise out of the chaos and seize power.
One thing is perfectly clear, however: the coming years will not be remembered for their peace and stability.
The Weimar Republic is a Card Driven Game of political struggle in interwar Germany. Four factions compete for dominance: the democratic Coalition, the Soviet-backed Communist Party, Hitler’s National Socialists, and the far-right Radical Conservatives.
The game follows a timeline of 15 years (1919-1933) with two rounds in each year. During a round, players take turns using their faction-specific abilities to increase their influence in Germany’s regions and major cities, to maneuver the political landscape of the Republic, and to dominate through a combination of propaganda, parliamentary elections, street violence, economic influence, and ideological zeal.
Typical actions include agitation, reforms, recruitment and deployment of fighting men, strikes, uprisings, assassinations, and coups. General and regional elections are held at irregular intervals throughout the game, potentially shifting local power balances in sometimes radical ways. The timeline moves through three distinct eras, each with its own deck of event cards. There are also several special cards like Elections and Parliamentary Control Cards.
Gameplay is fast-paced; initiative flows back and forth, and the direction of the game may change rapidly and unexpectedly. Although competition between the factions is fierce, some of the faction-specific mechanics overlap, and players can often take advantage of each other--including the making and unmaking of alliances.
The Weimar Republic includes scenarios ranging in length from 3 to 8 hours and a special tutorial scenario that can be played by new players in only 90 minutes. Victory is absolute and generally achieved through “sudden death”; there is no final scoring or adding up of different objectives. Each faction can be replaced by a "bot" player, allowing 1-4 players to play with any combination of factions.
Playtest Player Mats
The Weimar Republic confronts players with difficult choices and questions not only in terms of gameplay. The historic downfall of the Republic to the threat of totalitarianism was not merely manifest in the National Socialist movement. In 1919, the embryo of the NSDAP was hidden deep within the heterogeneous far Right, and Hitler was known to few outside Bavaria's ultra-nationalist circles. Reactionary militarist forces, armed Bolsheviks, and a broken economy presented much more acute threats to the Republic during its early years than did National Socialism. The Weimar Republic allows players to explore democracy's inherent frailty through the "what if" scenarios about which historians (and gamers) so often speculate.
What if things had taken another turn some time during the twenties? What if the KPD, the Soviet-backed Communist Party, had obtained parliamentary control in key states or launched a successful revolution? What if the radical Right had managed to gain broad popular support before Hitler outmaneuvered the old reactionary elites? What if the democratic coalition had managed to stay together, unite the German people, and deliver the progressive, democratic welfare state that was promised from the outset?
These questions are not only historical in nature. Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 had enormous consequences for Germany, Europe, and the entire world--consequences that still echo today. What would our present situation be like if he had failed in his political aspirations or if his ascension to power had come earlier? In The Weimar Republic, the outcome is up to you, the players!
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