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A Derk appears from the mists...
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John, Tim, Ken, Derk

I’ve been aching to play this game again for a while now. And since four players were all we would get to Ken’s place today, I put my suggestion out to the table. After some brief discussion, we all agreed to give this long, brain-burner a try. I pulled out all the equipment and started setting up the boards as I tried to explain the in’s and out’s of politicking in Germany. We decided to use a four-player variant that removed one card of each opinion (yes and no) from the party platform deck. Plus the standard national opinion poll variant suggested in the FAQ.

The initial setup was fairly diverse with each player taking a slightly different tack. Ken chose to pick lots of nation party membership, retaining a majority of his precious media markers. John and Tim each picked votes in a few regions and a small national party basis bonus. I placed all three media markers in the third region, and placed meeting markers on the first region. We all bid for picking the first player, and John won with a pitiful 2000 mark bid. He predictably picked Tim to lead (the player to his left) and we commenced.

Both John and Tim had very close agreement with the issues in the first region, and both would easily gather the maximum 42 mandate. I was able to place a couple meeting markers and get a trend bonus for 12 mandate, while Ken was shut out. However, John won the right to place a national opinion card by hitting the fifty-vote cap last. Luckily, Tim was able to place a media marker onto the national board to match John’s. Ken used media domination and vote power to manipulate the second region, but the region was fairly small with only 26 mandate total. Plus the situation in the third region was really interesting. Tim, Ken and I all were showing meeting marker interest in this large fifty-point region, but I had control of the media from the initial setup. The fourth region was a nice sized region, and John seemed to have the edge there. When we played our contribution cards, I think Ken refused the largest amount while Tim and John both took thirty to forty each.

The second regional election wasn’t very exciting, as it wasn’t worth a lot of points and Ken was thoroughly controlling all aspects of the voting. No one had bid for picking the first player, and Ken had won the right in a roll-off with the dice. Ken would get last rites in the current region, for what it was worth. None of the rest of us garnered even a single mandate in the region. After politely backing down from a heated battle over the third region, Ken and I entered into a peaceful coexistence treaty. But the treaty didn’t include Tim, and I was able to trend Tim down to limit the number of votes he could efficiently get. John continued to gain popularity in the fourth region, but I had a decent number of meeting markers there and fairly good agreement with John’s party platform (thus agreement with the regional opinions). Ken placed a couple opinion cards on the big board to gain a couple national party members and a media marker onto the national board. When contribution phase came, Ken and I took money for upcoming battles while Tim won the biggest denial award.

The third turn saw my Green party finally get into the game. Up to this point, the game leader seemed to be Tim, or possibly Ken. The third region was a healthy fifty-point land, and three of us would get forty or more mandate each. I wanted to assure my victory, so I bid 7000 marks for the starting player selection and easily won. My pact with Ken was still intact, and neither of us hurt the other. I was able to get all 50 mandate and Tim scored 45 mandate. Ken followed closely with 40 mandate, and John brought up the rear with 16 mandate. Meanwhile, the race in the fourth region was heating up. As I mentioned earlier, John was controlling many aspects of this area. I had decent potential there, if things happened to my advantage. The fifth region’s 24 mandate was clearly being divided evenly between John and Ken, with a slight edge to whoever could seize control of the local media. The contribution round wasn’t very profitable for me, as John and I each tried for the fifty thousand-dollar denial thereby mutually canceling the bonus. Tim and Ken took ten’s and twenty’s, and I’m fairly sure that Ken rolled a single three for taking the money (which made him reduce his precious national membership). The sixth region selected was a mammoth fifty-four mandate, and Tim and Ken were poised for control there.

During the last turn, Tim had placed a shadow cabinet member into the fourth region with coalition abilities (to gain some votes). I had some nice things going on in the region, but I would be hard pressed to single-handedly beat John’s vote power after putting so many of my resources into the last battle. So I changed my party platform to match Tim’s and placed a shadow cabinet member with the power to coalesce (or is that collate?). John succeeded in picking the first player, but it wouldn’t matter as Tim and I combined for more votes. Ken and John weren’t very happy about this situation, because it looked like I was helping the apparent leader get further into the lead (personally, I figured I was going to win, so I definitely was helping the leader, me). John took 36 mandate, while Tim’s 8 mandate combined with my 32 mandate took the day. Both Tim and I were able to place a media marker and an opinion card on the national board. Ken didn’t receive any in this election, but he was setting up both of the next two regions for a total of 78 mandate. The fourth contribution round saw Tim refuse his fifty, the only one left in the game, to get a nice bonus in national party membership. Up to this point, Ken had been the main contender in the largest party, but the race would soon heat up. For some reason we hadn’t gotten all five national opinion positions loaded yet (therefore the large membership bonuses weren’t available), which is odd considering it was the fourth turn. Anyway Tim and I gained some serious national party membership for matching national opinions this turn, and I was able to overtake Ken for largest national party.

The next two regions were very evenly contested. The regions, twenty-four and fifty-four mandate respectively, would have three separate parties getting all fifty votes in each. In the fifth regional election John won ‘by a nose’ because Ken was forced to take all fifty votes early to keep an absolute majority of the votes and the ability to change public opinion. And in the sixth region, the victory would be evenly shared when Ken and Tim formed a coalition, as their party platforms were similar enough for one to force the other into a union. Four media markers went to the big board as they all had media interests.

The game was nearing the end and these last two turns sped by. We were flush with cash as we bid against one another for the last few opinion polls, often spending vast amounts of money for two dice worth of party membership. The final election was shaping up to be mine. I had received two of my media markers back when the third regional election board was cleared, and quickly took a dominant position in this all-important final region. When we actually figured out the vote totals for the final region, I was able to take the most votes for 36 mandate. But John was right behind me with 32, while Ken and Tim scrounged another 12 and 6 mandate respectively. But the most important part of winning the last election was the ability to place more opinion cards onto the national board for the last time. My choices of issues were rather limited, because the opinion I wanted to remove from the board (pro inner security, I think) had a security card on it, which made it untouchable. Ken got a little miffed with the cards I did chose (because they hurt/didn’t help him the most), but they also hurt the rest of the players too. Anyway, I got tons of national party members in the closing seconds of the round, narrowly edging Ken out in the largest national party contest. It was time for the final tally.

CDU (John): 160 mandate + 40 media + 38 national party + 35(+5) agreement = 278
FDP (Tim): 155 mandate + 52 media + 41 national party + 37(+5) agreement = 290
Gruene (Derk): 153 mandate + 45 media + 52(+10) national party + 57(+5) agreement = 322
SPD (Ken): 155 mandate + 47 media + 49(+7) national party + 12 agreement = 269

This was definitely an interesting game. The first thing I noticed was the unusually low national party membership. In previous games, the numbers were in the seventies and eighties. But this could be attributed to the delay in filling the national opinion slots. I was very surprised to see the mandate totals as even as they were, as I didn’t think we’d all done so equally. Plus the media points. This was another oddity, because our previous games had one or two players with nice media points, but we were all fairly even in this game. The final agreement points were a little skewed (that is, pro-Derk and anti-Ken), but that’s not unbelievable and I’m fairly certain that the party program variant we used contributed to the differential, at least a bit.

The question that keeps echoing through my mind is why I was allowed to dominate the final region. Generally speaking, this was a very peaceful game. There were several key points in the game that I expected someone to screw with other players (trend someone down with opinion polls, or replace media markers, or something equally nasty), but they opted for a more peaceful moves instead, like votes or party membership. I’m certainly not advocating nastiness for the sake of nastiness, as Ken would have my fellow gamers believe. But this game is all about doing what’s best for your political party and sometimes the best option is something that hurts everyone else or a majority of those someone else’s. For instance, I know Ken was a little disappointed that Tim didn’t take the opportunity to exchange media markers in the last region during the last turn. If he had, Ken would’ve also done so, and my control of the region would have evaporated. The coalition element was decidedly weak in this game. There were only two coalitions, and only one of them was a surprise to anyone. But I must say that I was impressed with our media scoring, as we all took full advantage of coalitions and ‘by a nose’ victories to score media points.

And lastly, the importance of the last election. As should be obvious from the scoring, Ken really got dogged in the last round. And I got huge bonuses for winning there. This is the second game where I’ve committed major resources to the third region, won the third region, cleared the third board, and then quickly moved into a dominant position in the seventh election with all my newly rediscovered meeting and media markers. I’m sure that some (if not all) of the reason for my success was the other’s inexperience. But it is still a disconcerting phenomenon. I’m wondering if perhaps we should allow coalitions in the last region. Or perhaps when a player does win the election, he’s only allowed one opinion card placement? I don’t know. The end game’s just one of those things in this game, and all players need to be aware of the implications of not winning that region. But when Ken mentioned something about the ending being similar to Krieg und Frieden, I started getting real concerned. I’m thinking that perhaps I simply need to explain the strategy that I used last game, and encourage my future opponents to take steps to counter it. Or at the very least, I should just re-emphasize the importance of the last election (considering this session report should accomplish the former task). Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this was a runaway victory by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t like the fact that I was able to duplicate my strategy for basically the same effect. This game remains one of most favorites. I’d put it right next to Cosmic in the Hallowed Derk’s Top Five.
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