Thursday, 29 July 2010

Die Macher full game

Finally, I got to play Die Macher again. This was the third time for me, but the first time playing the full game with 7 elections. I played with Chong Sean, Wan and Shan. All of us have played before, but none of us have played it much, so we still had to refer to the rules a lot. The first election took us more than 1.5 hours! Thankfully we still managed to finish the game in 4 hours. The 7th election is only for scoring, so that means we spent 2.5hrs on 5 rounds, just half an hour per round after the initial slog.

Chong Sean has the Hans Im Gluck German edition, which I think has a better graphic design than my Valley Games English version.

Top: Stack of coalition tiles to indicate states where I can form coalitions; my player marker, Grune = Green Party. Bottom (card backs): Party platform cards; outside contribution cards; shadow cabinet cards.

In our game, the first and third states were rather big states, while the second and fourth were rather small. Later on as the 5th to 7th states came up, the 5th was also moderately big, while the last two were medium states. Competition was fierce right out of the gate, for the 1st big state. Eventually it was won by a coalition (not involving me). The coalition had more than 50 votes, so non-coalition parties would not be able to win. Throughout the game we had many coalitions, and many states were won by coalitions.

The first four elections, first one being the 48 state at the top, then going clockwise. 15 is the smallest state in the game. I (green) had invested heavily in the first state, pushing my opinion trend to the top, but alas I still lost due to not being in a coalition.

The setup sheet. I invested heavily in Hessen, the first state, increasing my opinion trend twice as well as placing 6 party meeting markers. Too bad I didn't win the election. I also placed a media marker in Bremen the 3rd state. The column on the right was the bid amounts to determine start player. I didn't have much idea whether it was good to be first or last player, and bid 0 half the time.

We played with a variant where the pool of available public opinions kept growing, as opposed to being fixed at 6 cards. This gave much more flexibility to players and created more opportunities. Chong Sean said this was the designer's original intention. When an election concluded, public opinion cards in that state which were not moved to the national opinion board were added to the pool. Also when conflicting public opinions were revealed, they went into the pool too. I think I like this better. I felt less restricted by luck.

Chong Sean commented that in previous games, the parties grew to become more and more like one another, because everyone tried to match the same public opinions of the states (aah... spineless populist policitians...). I wasn't so sure this was the best strategy. Perhaps it would be better to stand out from others, so that whatever you to manipulate public opinion would not help other players at the same time, and may in fact hurt them while benefiting you. It's probably risky though. It means you are less likely to be able to form coalitions, because your party's platform is too different. Perhaps the best strategy is some middle path.

My five party platform cards. This version of Die Macher was published when the introduction of the Euro currency was still being debated. Thus that coin icon on the second card from the left.

Our competition in media control was fierce too. I forgot about one of the shadow cabinet powers which allowed you to replace an opponent's media marker with yours. That's a very powerful move because you are reducing an opponent's control and increasing yours at the same time. Chong Sean pulled this on me and I learned the hard way. And of course I applied this trick afterwards. That said, this is not something you can do very often, because your shadow cabinet cards are limited.

I learned that media control really is quite important, because it not only allows you to change the public opinion of the state, it also protects you from bad opinion poll results. Another indirect but also very important benefit is sometimes you don't want the public opinion of the state to change. Having media control stops others from changing the public opinion.

I had media control in this state - 2 green media cubes.

As the game progressed, I felt a sense of doom, because I wasn't winning many elections, overall my party platform differed the most with others, even though I had some common policies. I tried to gain as many seats as possible during the elections, despite knowing that I didn't have a good chance to win the elections themselves, because seats = points. Since I didn't win many elections, I didn't get to move public opinion cards to the national opinion board. Chong Sean, Wan and Shan all had party platforms that better matched the national opinion board, which meant they gained more members every round, and more members = more income in rounds 1, 3 & 5.

Generally we were quite conservative with our money, and I think probably unnecessarily so. Our money was indeed tight in the early game, but by mid game we could actually afford more than what we bid for the opinion polls and the start player choice. Towards game end, we had so much money left that the last opinion poll card was won at > $100K. In the early game these went for $1K to $3K.

As the 6th election came, I saw one good opportunity to screw all the other players. On the national opinion board there was one secured national opinion against genetically modified crops. All the others also opposed GM crops, but my party had no preference on this issue. If I could remove this national opinion from the national board, it would hurt all the others. However a secured national opinion is hard to remove. You need to add an exact opposite card to the national board. There was exactly such a card in the 6th election. If I could win the 6th election, I would definitely move that card to the national board, so that I would reduce everyone else's scores. There's a Chinese saying, "hurting others with no gain for oneself", which is perfectly applicable and is a good thing in this situation. However Chong Sean saw this coming, and worked to stop me. When we totaled up the votes for the election, I won the election by 3 votes! I was shocked, and so was Chong Sean. I think somewhere along the way he miscalculated. Another reason that I won was that my party platform matched the public opinion in that state quite well.

So, I managed to discard that secured national opinion opposing GM crops afterall. Woohoo! Then when we checked the 7th election, I won that too! It was also due to good matching between public opinion and party platform. These last two elections which I won as sole winner caused a lot of damage to the other players, because I moved a total of four public opinion cards to the national board, drastically changing it. After we did the game-end scoring, I won the game narrowly, by only 10pts. I did plan ahead for the 6th and 7th elections, and tried to manipulate the public opinion and my party platform accordingly, but I didn't anticipate these to have such a big impact, because both states were just medium sized.

End game scoring. Left side is the seats gained throughout the 7 elections, which are summed up and then copied to the first row on the right side. The other scoring aspects on the right are: media markers on the national board (which can be moved there after winning an election), party members & bonus for most and second most members, matching of national opinions & bonus for matching secured national opinions.

Thoughts

  1. Definitely play the full game of Die Macher. I think the shortened game with 5 elections (i.e. just 4 rounds, since the last election is scored immediate after the second last) is not a proper game at all. I think the same thing about the medium-length version of Through the Ages. You should go for the full experience and not settle for a half-baked version.
  2. You really need more plays to be able to piece everything together, to get a full picture and to be able to plan. Die Macher has many moving parts. You need to understand how all these different aspects come together and how they work together as a whole. Only then you can prioritise and work out your strategy. Unfortunately game length is a hindrance to play this frequently. You need to find some players who are willing to invest the time and who have the same level of interest.
  3. Despite the length of the game, I feel constantly engaged. I need to watch closely the party platforms of all opponents, which will help to guess their intentions - where will they fight and where will they concede? Will they go for media control? How will they change the public opinions? Are there opportunities for coalitions? Forced coalitions? Watching everyone's party platforms can be a little tiresome, but it's something that you must do.
  4. The game is not only about where to fight. It is also about when to fight. Your set of shadow cabinet cards and outside contribution cards are limited. When will you use them? There is a memory element to this as well, because remembering what cards your opponents have played is useful.
  5. In any game only 7 states will come into play. This can provide a lot of variability. Depending on the sizes of the states, money can be tight or otherwise. The order of the states also impacts the game.
  6. The game is very thematic. All aspects are true to the theme.
  7. There is randomness in the game - die rolls for determining party membership growth, party platform cards that you draw, public opinion cards that are revealed, opinion polls, etc. The opinion polls are known to be the biggest source of complaint. But then you do have ways to mitigate it - by saving enough money to win the card yourself, or by having media control so that you won't suffer any negative effects. There are so many things that I can do in the game, that I feel I'm in control, as opposed to feeling I'm at the mercy of luck.

7 comments:

wankongyew said...

While it's certainly thematic, I find it amusing that we barely pay attention to the actual content of the platform cards. They're just pictures and colors as far as I'm concerned. It's quite funny how readily we flip-flop on various issues to match the current situation. I think the very first version of the game forced each party to have one platform card that they could never change. It would make things more thematic but would probably result in a less dynamic game.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Ha ha... that's true. Probably we didn't really care about them also partly because these were German issues and not Malaysian ones.

wankongyew said...

Also I forgot to mention how impressed I was by how quickly you and Sean could scan through the platform cards of all the players and process all the information. I know I play really slowly, but I needed all that time just to work through the possibilities and do the pattern matching. Shan confessed that she found that hard as well and mostly ignored which platform cards the other players had. She also said that you and Sean are probably fast because you have some sort of consistent and systematic method to scan and process the visual information.

And grabbing control of turn order in the last turn to make yourself first player so you could buy a media marker and take media control away from me was a clever move. I wondered if you would do that but underestimated how much you were willing to bid. I think if I had kept media control over the last election, you would not have won as I would have changed one of the values in my favor.

Finally, you were a bit hard on yourself for not winning early elections. But you still gained more or less the same number of points, so you only lost out on placing the value cards and media markers on the main board. And the points of the value cards doesn't matter until the end of the game and you demonstrated how easily you can change them by winning the final two elections. As for media markers, if you had tied them up on the national board, it would have been impossible for you to dominate the media in the later elections as you did.

荒凉。儒 said...

wish i had a chance to play this.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Wan,

Chong Sean and I simply have played too many games, so we are used to doing all these in-game analyses. I don't have any systematic tecnique, at least not consciously.

Indeed not winning many elections in the early to mid game wasn't as bad as I had thought when I was playing the game, because I still gained a decent enough number of votes. When I was playing, I really felt rather doomed, because I felt I was behind everyone else, and my party platform was more different from all of you, which meant I was going against the tide.

I think towards second half of the game you were more conservative on money than was necessary. If you had bid more for start player choice, indeed I probably would not have won both the 6th and 7th elections.

wankongyew said...

Hey, can I use one of your photos here? I just want the score sheet to write a little something about our session.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Wan, yes, please feel free to use any of the photos from the session.