Onside report: Back in the Fold
A slightly belated onside report of a committee game I ran during the Design Weekend, titled Back in the Fold.
The subject here is the negotiations in 1949 at the Petersberg Hotel near Bonn between the Allied High Commission and the recently elected Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer.
Developments in this period go very quick In the space of a decade (West) Germany goes from defeated enemy to valued partner, rather more quickly than anyone could have imagined. European integration also really takes off in this period-there would have been an integrated West European army in 1954 had the treaty not failed to be ratified by the French parliament.
The dynamics of the three main Western powers in this are also really fascinating.The United States start out wanting its piece of German hide (deindustrialisation) but then gradually get around to the idea that this is harmful to the rest of Europe, and of course when the Cold War starts in earnest they need Germany to rearm in order to defend Europe against the eastern Communist hordes. Britain seems curiously neutral in the whole thing, and France wants to make really sure that they will never be invaded by Germany ever again.
1949 in particular is interesting in that the process kicks off here. The German Basic Law (they don’t want to call it a constitution) has just been ratified, federal elections have just been held, but the new German government is still severely limited in what they can do – the Statue of Occupation that the three High Commissioners have cooked up between them is quite restrictive, and Adenauer wants to renegotiate these terms.
He doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage, apart from the fact that the United States and especially Britain want Germany to stand on its own feet economically as soon as possible, and the fact that he is now the leader of the German government after free elections.
The big problem are the French. They are opposed to any sort of concessions to Germany – but they can’t just oppose everything, because they are also dependent on Marshall aid, and don’t want to antagonise Britain too much either.
In short, ideal fodder for a nice committee game. The difficult bit here is always to write the right background briefing – not too much information, but enough for players to negotiate properly. In the event I had about a page and a half of general briefing material, plus a page of individual briefing for each player. That was probably not enough – we spent a fair amount of time at the beginning of the game discussing the general historical situation in more detail. I remember that for the Belgian political game I had sixteen pages of background material…
The game itself went pretty smoothly – the players (Jon Casey for the USA, Nick Luft for the UK, Peter Knowlden for France and Marc Seutter for Germany) played their expected roles and the agreement that was negotiated in the end was more or less similar to the actual historical agreement.
I don’t think there is much to extend this game – one could envisage a sequel about the negotiations of the Bonn-Paris conventions of 1952 (where the end of the occupation is negotiated), or possibly the negotiations about reunification in 1990, but the games would not be massively different.
All in all, a good way to explore a period and subject that may not get a lot of attention.