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Billabong Boardgamers - "Die Macher Day" - February 28th, 1999

Present: Dey, Roger, Chris, Janet, Doug, Bernie, Greg, Alan, David

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

Our call to the polls returned 9 members willing to try Die Macher. Of the nine players, only Alan, Janet and myself had played before. We spent an hour explaining the various rules and systems to the newbies, then randomly drew seats for the two separate games.


Doug, explaining the rules pre-game.

Table 1:

Doug (PDS), Greg (FDP), Dey (CDU), Roger (Greens)

Due to the insidious way the myriad of systems in this game reduces my brain to fudge, this report is probably incomplete. However, I'll try and point out some highlights of what happened. We should have some photos to cover the inadequacies of the reporting :)

Election 1: Saarland (I think)
A low seat election to get the game rolling. Doug had a couple of matches in his party program, so decided to invest a little effort to try and pick up an early election victory (always a good thing because of the 25 points in the bank due to a media marker). Amazingly, it came off! This was probably for two reasons, first off the new players were wanting to see that first election played through to see how it all hung together, and secondly, the second election in the game was the largest in terms of seats available - Nordrhen-Westfalen with 80 potential seats (each seat is a victory point in this game).
Seats:
Doug: 6
Dey: 0
Greg: 0
Roger: 0

Election 2: Nordhren-Westfalen
During the pre-game setup round quite a bit of effort was put into this region, thus all the spare media marker slots were taken up. Dey, Greg and myself seemed to have nice trends and matches in program/opinions so it was going to be close to see who took the election. I didn't think I was going to win, but put in a strong start player bid and managed to win the choice. I chose Greg to ensure I was going last - you never know, perhaps I could fluke an election win. I would have been happy with close to 80 points from seats. Well, I did win....Dey was first to 50 votes, followed by Greg and lastly Doug. A coalition was formed between Greg and myself to ensure the win. Hmmm, I'd taken the 25 AND 20 point media marker spots, and had a great say in the national opinion which gave me extra party members. I was winning, and didn't try to deny it.
Seats:
Doug: 80
Greg: 80
Dey: 80
Roger: 12

Election 3: Thueringen
A smallish election that I decided to ignore after the effort expended in elections one and two. Being an awful game reporter, I don't remember what happened as this game takes up all your spare time plotting future campaigns. I do recall Roger making the comment "Doug said concentrate on large elections and look what I do....".
Seats:
Roger: 23
Dey: 17
Greg: 0
Doug: 0

Election 4: Sachsen
One of the bigger regional elections that I'd been eyeing off, but I just couldn't get my trend or party program to kick in. I was running short of party meeting markers and had four tied up in this region. I tossed an extra one in on election three and cashed them into votes then and there to find a better use for them elsewhere. Greg was Die Macher in this region, putting a lot of effort into achieving a win. He was picking up the nuances at this point, carefully calculating just how much he needed to expend to achieve 50 votes. However, Greg was in danger due to a coalition formed between Dey and Roger that looked powerful enough to top Greg's guaranteed 50 votes. Due to some miracle, they didn't defeat Greg - I'm not sure why as once again my attention was elsewhere. Dey put a slight crimp in Greg's win, using a shadow cabinet member to remove his only media marker in the region. Thus Greg didn't get a media marker onto the national board this election.
Seats:
Greg: 46
Roger: 17
Dey: 13
Doug: 10

Alarm bells were starting to clang - Greg was doing well...

Election 5: Rheinland-Pfalz
Things got interesting here, Greg and Dey formed a coalition against Roger and myself, and something unusual happened. The whole election was a dead heat!
Seats:
Greg: 42
Doug: 42
Dey: 28
Roger: 28


Table 1: Roger moving a trend marker. Doug and Greg ensuring the correct one is moved!

Due to the turn order, Greg and Dey finished on top of Roger and I and took the win. Greg was really scaring me at this point.

Election 6: Hamburg
I had been putting considerable effort into this region well in advance to try for a late media marker as well as a chance to influence the national opinions late in the game. I lost my nerve a little, however, and forced a coalition with Dey to ensure the election win. As I said, Greg really was scaring me! :)
Seats:
Doug: 14
Dey: 11
Greg: 9
Roger: 0

Election 7: Berlin
The last election resolved itself (you don't play a turn 7, just count up the votes as a result of the previous rounds work). Dey had been campaigning vigourously, and nobody had any funds left to contest the region. It was a case of get what you could and pray the national board didn't get mucked up too much.
Seats:
Dey: 40
Doug: 28
Roger: 6
Greg: 0

The last two turns looked like I may have edged Greg out, the tallies came out as (seats/media/party members/party program):

Doug: 180 / 57 / 73+10 / 57+10 = 387
Greg: 177 / 35 / 64+6 / 40+10 = 332
Dey: 189 / 25 / 34 / 62+10 = 320
Roger: 86 / 20 / 35 / 25+5 = 166

The margin of the win wasn't apparent until election 7 was being tallied up, and even then Dey could have perhaps toyed with the margin. I don't think the result could have been changed, the 28 seats on election 7 securing it, I suspect. Dey had a great second half of the game, doing well in several elections. I can't really see why Roger ended up so far behind us, but he said he'd like to play it again. It still remains one of my favorite games - nothing complex in the mechanics, but very involving and it seems to play so fast. Again the 4:30 hours seemed like 2 hours to me.

Now, I don't know how this happened, but the FIVE player game finished BEFORE our four player game. Here's the report from Janet....


Table 2

Janet Ford writes:

Playing: Janet, David, Bernie, Chris, Alan

Janet and Alan had played this game twice before, with Bernie, David and Chris being new.


Table 2: Janet (in an Igel Aergen tshirt) and Chris

Election 1: Sachsen
Janet had four matching party programs and a doubler was placed on one of them, setting her up nicely. Alan invested some money into that election and after realising Janet's strong position, decided to from a coalition with David, but to no avail. Bernie was also in a good position, but couldn't form a coalition with anyone. Janet was off to a strong start with a media marker on the national board.

Election 2: Rheinland-Pfalz
This resulted in Chris and Bernie in very good positons. Alan and David were not really interested in this election, while Janet was in a so-so position. Janet forced a coalition with Bernie, much to his distaste! The result being that Chris and Bernie did well outright, but the coalition won the election. Janet was in a very good overall position now, thus sparking some "get Janet" comments. :)

Election 3: Bayern
David was in a very strong position in this election as he'd been planning to win this election since the beginning of the game. Janet was again in an average position, as was Chris. Alan was interested in getting some points due to it being a high VP (60) election. Janet forced a coalition on Chris, just toppling David off the winning post. Poor Chris didn't have a media marker, so Janet again capitalised on the media markers, placing a third on the national board in as many elections.

Election 4: Hamburg
This saw Bernie being sentimental over his home town! Alan really wanted this election win and did everything he could to form a coalition with Bernie. Being on 48 votes already, Bernie did not want to know about Alan and changed a Program Card to prevent himself being forced into a coalition with Alan. Janet tried hard to get in the scoring as well, but just missed out on the five vote mark (the minimum you need to score VP's in any region). Bernie was beginning to be a threat to Janet's lead at this stage.

It was at about this time that we realised that this game was at the same stage as the four player game next to us. We were promptly told "it's not a race" when this was pointed out! :) Doug writes: We were obviously playing Die Macher on a higher plane thus requirely more thought!.

Election 5: Thueringen
This was close between Alan and Bernie, however David's control of the media ensured his win.

Election 6: Niedersachsen
Everyone bid '0' for the choice of start player, apart from Bernie who bid $18000! No coalitions were formed, however Chris reached the magical 50 votes first, followed by Alan, then Bernie toppling them both out. Alan did not have a media marker to place to capitalise on the "short head" loss. David was not interested in this election, and Janet grabbed what seats she could.

Election 7: Sachsen-Anhalt
David won this election outright, with Janet and Bernie fighting out the election to pick up what seats they could.


Table 2: David and Bernie

Total Scores:
Janet: 158 seats/65 media/83 party members/67 program = 373
Bernie: 184/32/53/82 = 351
David: 132/25/30/70 = 257
Chris: 143/0/61/42 = 246
Alan: 93/0/42/35 = 170

Janet's three wins in the first three elections helped her immensely, as did her lead on the party members track. Bernie was the obvious threat doing consistantly well in the winning of seats in the elections. Chris always scored well gaining party members after each election. Bernie was also scoring well here until David changed the national opinion after election 7.

Thanks to Roger and Doug for providing the games, and thanks to Doug for his commendable "how to play" speech at the beginning of the afternoon. An enjoyable day, especially for me!

Cheers
Janet


Post game comments from the players

Greg Hallam writes:

I thought it was a very enjoyable afternoon, and I hope that we can do the occasional long game more often. My personal impressions of Die Macher: it's done a brilliant job of translating political elections into a game that works and is fun. My only criticism is that its a little "dry" for my taste - if I was choosing a long boardgame for a desert island I'd prefer something like Civilization - however, Die Macher is still a good game that I would be pleased to play again. And I'm pleased I scared Doug!

Doug Adams writes:

I thoroughly enjoyed the game at table 1, however I am racked with some guilt over the margin of my win (my first win at this game). Given the fact Janet won on her table as well, it leads me to believe that experience counts significantly in this game - particularly after hearing how she stole an election victory from David via a forced coalition with Chris. New players should have the rules explained to them at length, even to the extent of taking them through one turn to show each mechanism in play. I now feel that I should have emphasised the importance of money in the game during my pre-game babble.

It came as a nice suprise to see both games played out in 4.5 hours, as the other two games I'd played took an hour longer. This is one of my top 5 games, and I'm always eager to play again. I can't think of another game that is so finely balanced. For me it's the ultimate in resource management, with you having to juggle media, party meetings, trend, shadow cabinet, party platform, party donations and of course, cash - all to achieve the magic goal, votes! It's simply a marvellous piece of design, and Karl Heinz-Schmiel rates highly in my book. Doug's rating: 9 - it would be a 10 if only it were shorter.

David Coutts writes:

In the first election I failed to take notice of the great deal that Janet got at the start, and I shouldn't have committed as much pre-game effort here. In the second election I was always negative, and didn't manage to pick cards to change that. In the third election, as Janet wrote:-

Janet forced a coalition on Chris, just toppling David off the winning post. Poor Chris didn't have a media marker, so Janet again capitalised on the media markers, placing a third on the national board in as many elections.

The fact is that I spent over 2 hours working towards this election, and pointed out to Chris that it wasn't in his interests to play a Koaltion marker (he had no media marker), and that if he did Janet would force a coalition on him (and she did have a Koalition marker). And Janet was already winning by a mile (and I was losing by a mile). All this was ignored, and Janet went further ahead with the first 3 elections won and the first 3 media markers.

To be honest, after that, I found the game dragged. I agree with Greg's comment that I would rather play a long game like Civilization (or Britannia, or History Of The World). I also didn't like the sheer randomness of the Opinion polls, which are bid for face-down. My first 3 were useless. All 3 were for the third election space, and only the third one was worth publshing. However, Janet & Chris won there anyway.

I'd heard that the end-game was the key, but reading both Doug & Janet's reports I'd say the early-game victories certainly help.

David's Rating :-6

Roger Smith writes:

Doug has already posted the report for the four player game and others have commented on the games. I thought I'd add a few of my observations as a first time player, concentrating on where I went wrong, and the learning curve.

I read first the rules a few weeks ago when my copy arrived from Joe. I had been expecting the rules to be unclear and/or the game to be difficult. To my surprise, neither was the case. The mechanics seemed clear, logical, and very intriguing. The area that seemed the most difficult to come to terms with was the number of items contributing to the victory points at the end of the game, and what would be the appropriate actions to take at different times. Prior to last Sunday's game, Dey, Greg and myself worked through a sample turn. This was an EXCELLENT idea - highly recommended for all new players. Doug's introduction to the game (for all nine players) was masterly. He started with the VPs then worked back, stressing the key points.

As my score indicates, I didn't do very well. This isn't a problem for me as I enjoyed the game at the time. Straight afterwards I was thinking "this is a game I would probably play twice a year". However, since then I have spent a lot of time thinking about the game in general, and where I went wrong in particular. To me, this is a sign of a really good game.

So where did I go wrong? Sometimes my mistakes were simply due to not knowing the game well enough. However, most of them are examples of poor play on my behalf :) I've written myself this reminder list of things to watch out for in the next game.

a) Fight to win the elections in the high scoring regions. We had the 80 point region come up for election second. I was the only player not to get points for this as I had written it off as unwinable.

b) Manage your money. I didn't have any money to bid on opinion polls in the first turn as I had spent it all without realising the polls were coming up.

c) Be selective about achieving media dominance. I achieved this about three or four times in regions where it was of no use to me. That is, there was a selection of cards in the Tauschpool that was of no use for swapping; I was already so badly off trend wise that I didn't need to be protected from going down further; I obviously wasn't going to win the election so I didn't need a marker present to move to the national board. I could have saved my money.

d) Remember that there are only TWO ways to affect trends: shadow cabinet and opinion polls. I don't want to make excuses, but I had shocking luck with the latter (the former I just played poorly, which may have increased my reliance on the latter).

e) Use coalitions. I haven't worked these out at all. I'm not into team games, and am naturally suspicious of such activities. We didn't have all that many opportunites for coalitions (due to only having four players)? Obviously they are very important and I need to work at getting a better understanding.

f) Constantly monitor platforms and opinions. I did particuarly badly matching against the national opinion at the end of the game. This was partly because I had underestimated its importance (I didn't know about the special scores for the end of game) so had not put enough effort into aligning. Trying to match with several regions AND the national board was probably the aspect of the game I found hardest. This has a very Knizian aspect to it. In a four player game you need to monitor up to four regions, four parties and your concealed hand, the national board and the Tauschpool. 11 items all comprised of 3+ cards...aaarrgghh.

g) Don't take donations. I played the donation cards totally wrong, taking money when I shouldn't have, and never getting the three bonus party member die rolls for not taking the highest donation.

h) Plan ahead and make starting player bids. My problem is that I never had a concrete enough plan for the round to feel confident making a bid (I ended up bidding 0 every turn). Doug used the starting bids well throughout the game.

The bottom line is that I'd like to play again soon.

Bernie Meyer writes:

...while I admit to feeling just a tad victimized at that point, it didn't really bother me all _that_ much. IIRC, this was in the 4th round, with me sitting on 48 in the 4th election before the start of the round (yes, I _do_ like Hamburg. Heck, I like it enough to have voted in the last State election, one day before I officially gave up any residence there, and about 18 months after moving away. Helped too keep out the far right by a whisker, too ;-). The 5th election was completely gone for me, anyway, while in the 6th election, I already had a fair number of votes on the board, and had the trend swing from +3 to neutral --- which wasn't much of a problem, as I had a close to perfect match between my party program and what the public cared about, and still could cash in my chips at the end of the round at a reasonable price. The 7th election (where I was moved from neutral to -3) looked grim at the point, but a slight adjustment of my party line (mainly to follow a media-changed opinion in election 6) gave me a not-too-bad score for program matching, and I was full of confidence that the 15 votes I had added earlier using my shadow cabinet, in conjunction with my chancellor card (which I used to push my trend from -3 to +3) would allow me to win that election and thus the game. But alas, Janet would not have it, and pushed the trend back to +2 with an opinion poll (which I was willing to bid all my money for, but which was waaaay out of my financial reach at that point), and thus I fell short at 45 votes of doing the "nigh impossible", i.e. winning three of 4 visible elections.

So, to sum it up --- yes, I wasn't too happy about having trends 5,6 and 7 moved against me in the same move, but it didn't really hurt me much, either. What hurt me much more was my fickle party base, who would leave me in droves every time I actually took a donation (I managed to loose 13 members on 5 dice for my first 2 donations. Considering that, IIRC, Chris managed to get a total of 2 out of 6 dice at one point [much to everyone else's chagrin --- he was adding members ;-], that seems quite impressive).

I found the game thoroughly enjoyable, and would love to play again in the near future, at a time when I can still remember all the mistakes I made. A few that come to mind right now are:

  • In the very first round, I forgot about the fact that the opinion polls would be auctioned off, and spent all my money in the previous phase, commenting "there'll be new money soon". As a consequence, I had to sit and watch Chris buy an opinion poll for DM1000 --- which is ridiculous, considering that party membership pays off 1000 per member after that round.
  • In election 3, I had to keep someone (Chris?) who went after me from also reaching the 50 I was sure to get. This was _almost_ certain before the round even began, but I didn't want to risk any surprises in my beloved (26 seat) Hamburg, so I used my shadow cabinet to push his trend down even further. The risk I was taking (and which I had agonized over quite a bit) was that as retribution, I would have taken my last remaining media marker away, which is exactly what happened (I had hoped that Chris(?) would shy away from using DM8000 just to annoy me, as there was no way left for him to win that election. Not that would have stopped _me_, but....). Well, next time I'll know better --- I didn't gain much benefit from winning that election at all.
  • On a number of occasions, I had too many of my resources tied up. Particularly, I repeatedly ran out of media markers --- when someone finally swapped away one of mine from election 5, I was sooooo grateful. Also, in round 6, I was unable to put down more than one small wooden cube in election 7, because I had 9 there already. I should have cashed in 2 or 3 of these before, no matter what the multiplier was (Of course, it would only have brought me so much closer, but wouldn't have made any real difference at all). Is there _any_ way of withdrawing your media from elections that you once thought winnable, but which are now clearly out of reach? * For election 2, I greatly suffered from being forced into a coalition by Janet. I would have won it outright on my own (and in fact _did_, despite going easy on the investment), and so really disliked the idea of teaming up with Janet, who had already won the first election. Unfortunately, I had played a telephone-shadow-cabinet there in the first round, without really knowing what the consequences were. That was an interesting aspect of the 5 player game --- we didn't really get into coalitions much at all, and when we did, it was usually someone forcing it on somebody else to piggyback on a sure victory. I found that I tried to keep my telephones far away from anything I was interested in (or at least I did after the 2nd round).

By and large, I have to agree with Doug --- there are so many mistakes to be made in this game that avoiding all of them seems a Herculean task.

Alan Stewart writes:

After investing over 18 hours in 3 games of Die Macher, and coming last or second last each time, it's not my favorite long game.

In our game on Sunday, I'd learnt from experience, and concentrated on the end game to try and influence the national Board. In the end I never influenced the National Board once!

My target was the 6th election, but having won none before that I had little money to finance it. However, I had kept my Chancellor to play in that election, hoping for a coalition. Bernie was ahead in the votes there, and when he bought the right to go last, a coalition was my only chance. Chris was the other player interested in that election, and he chose not to play a Shadow Cabinet card there, and in fact ended up with an unused card which could have been used for a Coalition with me!

Bernie won the election, and changed 2 cards on the National board.

I agree with David that the opinion polls are too luck based. Sure you can buy them to keep them out of other people's hands, if you can afford it. But what you are really looking for is usually an improvement for your own side. I bought 2 opinion polls in the course of the game, and published one to knock a couple of votes off an opposing player. They didn't help my position at all.

What you get in your party platform is also too luck based. In our game a `positive hospital' went on the national board and stayed there for the whole game. I never saw a `positive hospital' card in the whole game despite discarding 2 or 3 cards each time I had the option to replace my ahnd. The other 4 players got them and kept them in their party platforms fpor the whole game. That's a lot of party members gained purely through the luck of the draw. This was also the only National Board card not to be replaced at all - hardly surprising as I never had the option to, and a `negative hospital' card was never in a completed election anyway.

It's also a game where the actions of other players can totally screw you over, despite what you say. Janet moved my trend down through an opinion poll just because she could, despite the fact that I was last. Why didn't Chris form a coalition with me in Round 6? I don't know. Once Bernie was going last, it was the only way Chris was going to get anything out of the election, but he didn't play a card to enable a coalition.

It's also a game which rewards the wearly winners. They have money, they can do things and outbid anyone else. They have control of the National Board and get more party members.

Who won the first three elections in our game - Janet.
Who won the game - Janet.

Who won the first elections in the other game - Doug.
Who won the other game - Doug.

Janet got a very good match between her party platform and the first election on the deal - luck again.

I may play it again, but would rather paly other longer games, like Advanced Civilisation or Brittania.

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