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Subject: Die Macher -- Session Report rss

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Greg Schloesser
United States
Jefferson City
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Finally. Finally. I finally played Die Macher, which is widely recognized as one of the best European strategy games ever designed. In spite of having never played, I have an interesting history with the game. I purchased a copy when Rio Grande first distributed it years ago. I read the rules numerous times, but never felt comfortable enough with them to explain it to our group. I eventually sold my copy, figuring that if I would eventually be able to play it at a gaming convention. I never did. A few years later I purchased another copy when it was on sale for 10 euros at Adam Spielt. That copy still sits shrink-wrapped on my shelf.

Mark Smith purchased a copy of the Valley Games edition, and has been itching to play. He did considerable research into the game, reading various rules clarifications, hints and tips. He was well prepared to teach the game, so four of us ventured into the world of German politics.

I led the Left, and we all got some good laughs over my party platform, which was basically against everything through most of the game. I captured the first election, and shared in a coalition victory with the FDP in the second election. This allowed me to place two of my media markers on the National board, but it also set me up as the perceived front-runner.

It was pretty much downhill for me from that point. Bill, leading the SDP, captured the third election, setting up a tense and dramatic competition for the fourth election. Mark and I formed a coalition, while Bill and Dan joined forces in an alternative coalition. The election ended in a tie, which was broken in favor of Bill and Dan due to the “win by a nose” rule. Sigh.

The fifth election once again saw two coalitions formed, and I was on the losing side once more, as Mark and Bill captured the victory. I finally got back into the win column with a coalition victory in the sixth region, and felt fairly good about my national position as I was matching four of the five national positions. Sadly, I was not even in contention in the final election, and two of those national opinions were changed, stripping me of dozens of points.

In the final tally, Dan proved to be the most astute party “macher”, leading FRP party to victory.

Finals: Dan 434, Bill 393, Greg 335, Mark 330

Ratings: Mark 8.5, Greg 8, Bill 7.5, Dan 7


Die Macher is a VERY good game, and my opinion and rating may improve with subsequent playings. However, I wasn’t as blown away by the game as I anticipated. The game is hailed by many as the pinnacle of European game design, and I was expecting to be completely enthralled and smitten. There were enough drawbacks, however, to mitigate my enthusiasm. For one, the game was long … very long. It took us almost five hours to play. The game seemed to grow repetitive, and I couldn’t help wondering what was really gained by those final two elections. I’m not sure the game would lose anything if it terminated after five elections. I also felt the final election was anti-climatic, as it was held immediately after the sixth election without being able to exert any further influence upon it.

Now, I’ve only played once, so many of these concerns may well vanish with repeated play and experience. I am sure there are valid reasons for all of the rules and mechanisms. The game’s phases and mechanisms are tightly bound, and their interaction really doesn’t become evident until after numerous rounds. So, I am certainly not going to pass judgment after just one playing.

While the Valley Games version is perfectly functional, I will admit to being a bit shocked by the severe warping of the boards, something that I don’t recall occurring with my Hans im Gluck edition. This fact alone is enough to convince me to retain my German version as opposed to acquiring the new edition.

Other comments:

Mark Smith: I agree with that. There's so much to wrap your head around early that it takes into the 2nd or 3rd election for the various parts to start to come together. Next time we play, maybe we should try the 5-election variant. My guess is that the game won't suffer from being shortened. That was such a learning game that I'm hesitant to draw a conclusion.

That said, given the emphasis given in the "strategy" section of the rules to the idea that the game is "characterized by a lack of everything," I was surprised the money never got as tight as expected, although the shortages of meeting markers and media were acutely felt at various points - especially among the players who were actually able to SCORE any media during the game :-). There was tension, but not quite as much as I had anticipated, and very little from fear of not having the money to do what we wanted (it was difficult to do what we wanted, but not generally for want of money). Maybe we were massively underbidding for starting order and polls...but even if we bid a lot more for those things, the "only the winner pays" auction would tend to leave most players fairly flush for the next auction. Maybe having a 5th player contending for those items would also drive the price up (but it would also introduce more money into the system).

Hmm...I'm getting pretty detailed here...suffice it to say I like the game and would like to see just how much I like it with some future plays, and would also like to get some other people's takes on it.

 
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Viktor Haag
Canada
Kitchener/Waterloo
Ontario
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gschloesser wrote:
For one, the game was long … very long. It took us almost five hours to play. The game seemed to grow repetitive, and I couldn’t help wondering what was really gained by those final two elections. I’m not sure the game would lose anything if it terminated after five elections. I also felt the final election was anti-climatic, as it was held immediately after the sixth election without being able to exert any further influence upon it.


The game speeds up dramatically after one or two plays, as long as (a) one player knows the game well and directs traffic effectively, or (b) everyone playing has played once or twice. I haven't tried the shortened game, but our last four-player game was played in just over three hours and moved with a nice pace.

I've played four times now, and it was remarkable how the game speeded up.

It might also speed things if you use poker chips instead of the provided money cards, but then you'd lose some of the uncertainty about how much money players have without taking precautions to hide chip-stacks.

--
Viktor
 
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D a n _ C
United States
Michigan
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gschloesser wrote:
Finally.
While the Valley Games version is perfectly functional, I will admit to being a bit shocked by the severe warping of the boards, something that I don’t recall occurring with my Hans im Gluck edition. This fact alone is enough to convince me to retain my German version as opposed to acquiring the new edition.


Hmmmm. That's weird. My Valley Games edition is totally flat, no signs of warping whatsoever. There was some damage to one of my boards in packing, and when Valley replaced it for me, the new board was also just fine in terms of warping.

The main complaint people have on the Valley edition is the graphics and how indistinguishable the icons can be from any distance greater than 6 inches. That, and the new pink colors which replaced blue from the former edition.

I wouldn't let any of these things stop anybody from picking up this classic game, though, it's a winner and a totally unique gaming experience.

DC
 
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