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A Derk appears from the mists...
United States
Portland
Oregon
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When I first started to embrace the German game way of life (short playing times and fairly light gameplay), I was saddened that the epic game, taking place over many hours and burning up an extraordinary number of brain cells in the process, would be lost in a rapid-fire flurry of games with neat wooden bits. Then I heard about Die Macher. Everyone who ever talked about it said that it was a mammoth game that took forever to play and reduced your brain to a foul-smelling sludge as payment for the experience. Yet it embodied a lot of the better parts of the German games that I’m so fond of. It sounded like a winner to me. All I had to overcome then was the fifty-dollar price tag. I’ve never regretted the move.

The game is co-produced by Moskito-Spiel and Hans im Glueck (my favorite game company). It comes with a bunch of little wooden blocks, and a metric buttload of cards. The cards are graphically nice, plus they use extensive symbolism as a means of depicting possible actions, which means non-German-speaking gamers can easily enjoy this game. The board is actually a system of several boards: four boards, each representing an upcoming regional election; a single board which shows the national statistics; and lastly a board with enough space to hold all the little piles of cards you’ll need throughout the game. All in all, the game is produced with an eye towards utility, and it succeeds quite well.

Die Macher is a game about seven sequential political races, which take place in seven different German regions. Players are in charge of one national political party, and must manage their limited resources to help their party to a victory. The winning party will have the most victory points after all the regional elections. But there are four different ways of scoring victory points. First, each regional election can supply ten to eighty victory points, depending on the size of the region and how well your party does in that region. Second, if a party wins a regional election and has some media influence in the region, then the party will receive some victory points. Third, each party has a national party membership which will grow as the game progresses and this will supply a fair number of victory points. Lastly, parties score some victory points if their party platform matches the national opinions at the end of the game. I know that you might not know what all that means, but the point is that there are many different ways of scoring points throughout the game. And scoring those points is accomplished through many different mechanisms, which makes the game one of most complex games I’ve played.

Each game of Die Macher is a series of seven elections, however which regions and the order they take place is determined randomly. Therefore each game can take on a very unique feel depending on which regions are drawn. The winner of each regional election is determined by which party acquires the most votes of the available fifty. Votes are garnered by converting election meetings (little blocks that you purchase for the region) into votes. However, the conversion rate of election meetings to votes will vary from party to party based on two factors: agreement with the local political opinions and your party platform, and the current ‘trend’ that your party has for that region.

First, the party platforms. This is accomplished through a very ingenious mechanism. There are several issues that have the opposing sides depicted. For example, "Should we condone the Eurodollar?" Now or Later. "Should we use nuclear power?" Yes or No. Each party has five different cards representing five different sides of issues. So my party wants the Euro now, doesn’t like Nuclear power, and feels we should work on healthcare reform, etc. Also, similar cards show the local opinion about various issues. If your party platform agrees with several local opinion points, then you can convert your meeting markers at a higher rate than another party’s dissimilar platform. To facilitate this matching, parties can manipulate opinions through several avenues (but I’ll talk about that a little later).

In addition to political issue agreement, one must also consider a party’s trend. Trend is just an abstract scale to determine what the public at large thinks of a particular party. A party’s trend can be very important to convert your election meeting markers into votes at a truly useful rate.

To help parties manipulate the cow-like people in the different regions, the parties can also use the media. If a party controls more media than any of the other parties, they can replace one of the regional opinions with one of the spare opinion cards. This can be used to make your party’s platform agree more with local opinions, plus it could make other parties’ platforms disagree more.

But if media domination isn’t your cup of tea, you can convert enough of your meeting markers at the current rate to try to have more votes in a region than all the other parties combined. If you achieve this ‘absolute majority,’ you can exchange one of the regional opinion cards with a card from the spare opinion card pool (similar to the media domination benefit). Obviously, if you’re able to get media and vote control, you’ll be able to totally control public opinion in that region. But you must keep in mind the game as a whole. Sink too much effort or too many resources into a single region will yield disastrous for your party in the long run.

As I noted before, there are only fifty votes available in each region. And if your party is able to garner all fifty votes, that’s all you’ll ever be able to get in that region. However if the other two parties band together as a coalition and their total vote take is over fifty (like twenty-five and twenty-six each), then coalition will win the region. Coalitions add a very dynamic aspect to the game, because in order for two parties unite they must have two party platform issues that are the same. In addition, you can force a coalition upon another party if three of your party issues are the same.

If your party, or the coalition your party is a member of, wins an election, then you can transfer some of the regional opinions to the national board. Agreeing with the national opinions will give parties national membership during the game. However if you agree with national opinions at the end of the game, you can earn a sizeable victory point allowance. This is the one mechanism in the game that I think might be a little unbalanced. Because whoever wins the last election can have an unfair influence on the national political issues. It’s not a game breaker, it’s just something to be aware of as the game progresses (save some power for the last election).

I really, really like this game. If I had to pick my favorite long game, this is it. The main problem with the game is that it’s long and complex (although those are probably the reasons that I like the game as much as I do). With so many different ways of approaching a victory combined with a variable setup for the regions, which assures each game will be decidedly different, there’s a whole lot of game here. But that can be a problem too. The first time someone plays this game against experienced players, they can expect to get his butt summarily stomped. But hopefully newbies will look past a poor first time game and return to wage the political war again. I know I’m looking forward to my next game. I recommend this game to any gamer who can convince at least three of his ilk to spend five short hours melting their brains.
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Pierre-Luc Thiffault
Canada
St-Laurent
Québec
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Re:User Review
derk (#1),

I hear this is a highly complex and long game. Am rather interested in getting this game for my collection. Assuming from the people I know that they never played, if this game were to put on the table for a group of players that never played this before, how hard would it be to understand the rules and the game mechanics?
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Thomas Donnelly
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Re:User Review
dwarf (#35803),

The game is complex, but very playable. My advice is to print out all the player aids, familiarize yourself with them, then give yourself almost an hour to go through the mechanisms of the game with the players.

That's how I did it. Had a great 1st game with 5 newbies.

Enjoy.
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Brian Walker
United Kingdom
London
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Re:User Review
I think it takes one complete game to grasp. I've taught it to many people, ususally advising that they shouldn't expect to do well first time around. Most agreed afterwards that it was time well invested.
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Jim Leesch
United States
Buffalo Grove
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Re:User Review
I played for the first time last night. I think that with the player aids (which could use revising, BTW) and five players that are even moderately familiar with the game, it can be played easily in 3 hours.

I don't think it takes a whole game to "get it." It only took me half of a game to realize just what I had done to screw it up.
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Jonathan Arnold
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
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Re:User Review
JimPAX (#479668),

I don't think you can play a 5 player game of Die Macher in 3 hours. Maybe in 4 hours, but even that seems a stretch to me. We play maybe twice a year, with maybe one newbie each time, and it takes a good 5-6 hours to play.
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