“The year is 1932. The place is pre-WWII Germany. In Secret Hitler, players are German politicians attempting to hold a fragile Liberal government together and stem the rising tide of Fascism. Watch out though—there are secret Fascists among you, and one player is Secret Hitler.” – Secret Hitler rulebook
Secret Hitler is one of my favorite board games. It is a party game of secret alliance, doubting, lying, and deduction, where you get to see players yelling and accusing each other of being fascists and Hitler. It’s great. But most of all, I like Secret Hitler for being a history-themed board game, set in the interwar period of Europe in the last years of the Weimar Republic, the republic that succeeded the German Empire after the Great War in 1919. The Weimar Republic was a fascinating, unorthodox and even paradoxical political entity, a democratic system that rose from the ashes of the Empire, once praised by the world for its success, but ultimately became the womb that gave birth to Hitler’s fascist regime.
A year ago I reviewed the game Coup from the gameplay perspective – what elements make it a good board game (link here). I would like to do something different for Secret Hitler. I will examine and narrate the historical background of Secret Hitler—what makes it an interesting game for me. Welcome to my history workshop. Let’s address this question: what happened in Germany in 1932?
This will be a two-part series. In the first part, I will introduce the structure of the Weimar Republic’s politics and government in relation to the game and touch on the history of the Republic before 1932 that paved the path to the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party.