Well, after months and months of trying to get together a game of Die Macher, it finally happened.
I acquired Die Macher about six months ago and since then we’ve been chomping at the bit to try the mother of all Germans games. Last night we finally did it. Dan, Corwin, Jeremy and I (Rick) got together, learned the rules and played a full game.
Die Macher is a game about elections. There are seven regional elections, and each player represents a party trying to win these elections and gain as many seats as possible. Each of the seats gained counts as a victory point along with a number of other factors. The player with the most victory points after seven elections wins.
That may be the game in a nutshell, but in reality there’s more to it – a LOT more. The game is quite involved with each player trying to get together party meetings, match their party platforms the what the people want in each regional election, using the media, commissioning opinion polls, and turning party meetings into votes which get turned into sets. It’s all quite involved, there are many steps to each turn, but each of these steps is pretty straightforward and we found only a few ambiguities – and these were answered by the FAQ. The rules are very good for a game of this complexity.
The one nice thing about this game is that, as opposed to most German games, it does hold to the theme quite well. It’s not a simulation, however, and makes no pretense to be. The game does go long way to give you the feeling that you are actually running a party in a election and doing the things that the parties actually do – change their platforms, use the media, do polls, etc.
Component-wise, there are a ton of bits in this game – talk about wooden cube overload. There are six boards – four for regional elections, a National Board (to show how each party is doing nationally) and an Organization Board to hold the myriad of cards and tokens required for the game. There are four different types of wooden markers for each player, almost 300 cards to six different types, and a pile of tiles.
After about a twenty minutes of going through the rules, we set up the game – no small feat for a game with this many bits and cards. We weren’t sure whether we’d do a practice election and then start again for real, but after the first election we thought we pretty much got the hang of what was going on, so we soldiered on.
In the first turn, everybody was playing fairly cautiously – trying to get the feel of the game. The first region board (this is the one that will do the election in the first turn - there are four region boards in play at once) didn’t get much attention as there weren’t that many seats to be had. The second and third region got much more attention as players started putting together party meetings in these regions.
The first election was a quiet affair which only yielded 5 seats for Corwin, 8 for Jeremy and 5 for me. Jeremy was the winner of the first election.
In the first and second turn I concentrated my energies on the second region and handily got 50 votes to win the second election. The others, seeing my dominance in this region, mostly concentrated their energies on other regions.
The subsequent elections were much harder fought. I got hammered in the next couple of elections as I was the perceived leader but was able to bounce back in the fifth election to grab some seats. Election five was particularly hard fought, with all of us gaining quite a few seats. Two of the elections were won by Coalitions – one by Corwin and Dan and one by Corwin and Jeremy (if I remember correctly).
The last election was a quieter affair as it didn’t have that many seats available. Jeremy won it and gained 24 seats.
In the final reckoning, Jeremy was the leader in seats with Corwin and Dan tied and me trailing. However, there are a number of other elements that factor into the final score – the National Media (where Corwin did very well), Party Membership (which I lead), and Matching Votes.
Matching Votes turned out to be the key to the win as I got more than twice as many points as everyone else as my party platform matched the national opinion very closely. We found out that could have just as well not have been the case – as Jeremy won the last election, he was the last one able to adjust the national opinion. He didn’t realize, however, how much effect it had on the final scores (as a matter of fact, none of us did) and he made a certain adjustment. It turned out had he known the effect, he would have made a different adjustment that would have given him the game.
So, in the final analysis, I did win the game but I’m marking my score with the fickle-asterisk-of-fate to signify that the game could just as well have been Jeremy’s.
*Rick* - 315*
Jeremy – 305
Corwin – 305
Dan - 273
Rick – 7.5
Jeremy – 7
Corwin – 9
Dan – 7.5
Wow. After four and a half hours, we finally finished. The game went fairly quickly, I don’t remember any downtime at all.
Any criticism of the game mostly stemmed from the fact that there is a little too much chaos – for example, it’s hard to plan a strategy to get votes in an election when the other players can screw you by doing any number of things (not to mention that randomness of the Opinion Polls). Also, the changing of the national opinion cards was also too chaotic – this is especially tough to deal with as they are worth so many points at the end of the game. I believe there is a variant in the FAQ that is supposed to address this – we should probably use the variant the next time we play.
But let’s not take away from the game, it’s really good. Any game that can last more than four hours and keep you that engrossed has got to be good. I very much look forward to playing it again!