Fall of the Weimar Republic - Session Review!

Fall of the Weimar Republic - Session Review! 

On April 21, 2007 I had a chance to play Fall of the Weimar Republic
at the monthly meeting of the Arizona Wargamers Group in Mesa,
Arizona. I used the cards that Ron Pehr kindly made and put online,
although I enlarged them to 2.5"x3.5" to fit into standard card
sleeves. (I will consider uploading these, although if I and my
friends can get some of our questions answered about the game rules,
we may try our hand at more colorful and artistic cards.)

We had three players for the game: one took the Nazis, one the
Spartakists (Communists), and I had the Socialists. We read through
the rules once. We had some questions the rules didn't seem to
answer, so we launched into a test game.

Each of us laid our Party Card out in front of us. We dealt each
player 5 cards, decided who was the "most German" (to start), and
began to play.

In the beginning we had to keep checking the rules to remember the
turn sequence. As the game went on, we got better at that, although
some of us made little "cheat sheets." (Ahem, player aids!)

We immediately ran into a series of questions on how to handle the
play of certain cards.

First were the Organization Cards. Should a player discard them or
leave them face up next to his party card? The rules said to put them
into "play," but nothing more than that. We decided to leave them
face up in front of each player. Part of the reason was the
Government Card "Arrests" that causes a player to discard a "target
Organization Card." How could an Organization Card be targeted if it
wasn't face up for all to see? The other part was in the rules on the
Recruit Phase and the Steal Support Phase. Each said one of the two
sources of Propaganda Levels was Organization Cards, which could be
used over again every turn. Well, it was our best guess!

Then the rules said to recalculate the players' "Total Organizational
Level." But the Organization Cards each had a Propaganda Level, not
an Organizational Level. We decided the rules had a mistake in them,
something left in from an earlier version. We decided what the
designer meant to say was recalculate the Propaganda Level.

Since we left the Organization Cards in play on the table, we
recalculated the Propaganda Level each turn based on each Organization
Card in play. In fact, we counted the Party Cards, too, since each of
them also had a Propaganda Level. There was a certain logic to all
this since the Organization Cards were such things as "Financial
Contributions," "Youth Organizations," and "Absorbing Minor Factions."
They really amounted to "boosters" for the Party Cards that increased
each party's ability to generate propaganda. Or so we rationalized!

In the Recruit and Steal Support Phases players first try to play
Support Cards in front of them and then try to steal them from other
players. We weren't sure how many Propaganda Cards could be played in
each phase. We decided players could play as many as they desired in
each phase, as long as the cards said on their face they could be
played in that phase.

Other cards were easier to figure out. We discarded Government Cards
each time they were played. Legitimacy Cards were played face up in
front of each player, as the rules clearly stated.

In the Reorganization Phase, each player is supposed to discard his
hand down to five cards. I think this happened by necessity only
twice during the entire game. Players usually had fewer than five
cards. This was one of the reasons we wondered if we played the cards
properly in the other phases. This became the phase where a player
discarded an Anarchy Card if he so desired. This typically happened
later in the game and was done by the player who was ahead.

Based on our best interpretation of the rules, as the game progressed,
players built displays of cards in front of them. One half of the
display was the Party Card and the Organization Cards. They generated
Propaganda Levels each turn. Together with the Propaganda Cards,
which were discarded when played, they produced the "money" to "buy"
and steal Support Cards. The other half of the display was the
Support Cards and Legitimacy Cards. These generated Political Support
Levels each turn that were the key to winning. The winner is the
player with the highest Political Support Level when the Anarchy Level
reaches 10.

The game developed in two phases. In the first phase, players built
their displays as we worked through the deck. Little stealing of
Support Cards took place in this phased. After most of the
Organization Cards, Support Cards and Legitimacy Cards had been played
and were on the table, the second phase began. Players began going
after each others' Support Cards. The Legitimacy Cards were pretty
impervious, except for one Special Card, the "Veto," which negated a
Legitimacy Card. But the Support Cards were fair game.

Interestingly, each of the three players held the lead at different
times. It may have had something to do with having three players,
because the two who were behind at any given moment inevitably ganged
up on the leader. The Organization Cards were fairly evenly
distributed, but I'm not sure that would have happened with more than
three players. Still, players had to conserve their Propaganda Levels
and time their moves in the Steal Support Phase carefully.

There were humorous moments when Support Cards lined up contrary to
history. At one point the Spartakist player managed to line up the
"Imperial Army," the "Bourgeois" and the "Great Industrialists" in his
display. Not bad for a Red rabble rouser!

It took about two hours to play, but part of that was spent reading
and interpreting the rules. My guess is we could have played in half
that time if we had known what we were doing. It did seem to drag a
bit about 2/3 of the way through, and I found myself playing an
Anarchy Card or two even though I wasn't in the lead just to move
things along.

The end of the game was a bit tricky. Obviously the player who was
ahead wants to end the game. But with the lead switching back and
forth, reckless play of Anarchy Cards would merely set up the next
leader for victory.

In the end, that was just about what happened. The Spartakist player
was leading and close to victory. Suddenly, at the last minute, the
Nazi player surged ahead and played the last two Anarchy Cards needed
to end the game.

Looking back on it, we all agreed we enjoyed the game, although we
still had lingering doubts that we got the rules right. One of the
players said he particularly liked it because it's an event and an era
without a game until now. Another said he like the special attributes
each Party Card had that made them distinctive.

We didn't make much uses of the scales on the Party Cards for
Propaganda Level and Political Support Level. The cards were too
small to put markers on, but even if they were bigger, I don't think
it would have made a difference. It seemed to be easier to simply
recalculate the levels each turn. We still aren't sure we got the
rules right, and I invite anyone who can shed light on them to do so.

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