After a recent session with our local roleplay group, my friend Jason remarked that he was looking to get four additional players to play a game he’d purchased recently. The game was Die Macher, one I’d never heard of, but he explained was about German parliamentary politics. The game is notoriously complicated and he was chomping at the bit to play. While these types of games are not necessarily my forte, I nevertheless agreed to give it a try. Maybe it would be fun?
The set up has players choosing one of five traditional German political parties: CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, Die Linken, and Die Grünen. I ended up as Die Grünen, The Green Party. The board consists of four tiles, each one standing for a German state and holding a number of votes that can be won in the election. To win each election you will need to spend from your funds. Each party starts with the same amount, but after each election you get more funding based on the number of votes you won. The first chance to spend your cash comes in the bid to determine order of play. Whichever player wins this bid determines who goes first. I found that was strategically powerful and won almost every bid, choosing to make the player who appeared to be strong in the state go first. This let the rest of get a sense of what direction he was going and allowed us to counter.
Each state has opinions on five different issues. In turn, each party has cards that show positions on five issues. There are eight total issues in the game: Genetic Engineering, The War on Terror, Economic Redevelopment, Taxes, Nuclear Power Development, Worker’s Wages, and Social Security. There are usually some issues your party holds a position on that the state doesn’t care either way about, but the more issues you align with them on the better your chances of winning the most seats. Each issue is also marked with a desire decrease or increase and you want those to match as well. Each election the parties get a chance to discard, draw, and flip flop on issues to better align themselves with the concerns of the current election.
Then comes an opportunity to purchase Shadow Cabinet abilities from a deck of cards. These are party positions like Party Whip or Finance Minister. The more expensive the card the more it can do in the state it is played. Every card allows you to automatically gain votes if you choose or you can increase/decrease popularity ratings that affect voting, among other abilities. These cards also allow the forming of coalitions, determined by parties who share two or more positions on the issues. These coalitions allow the parties involved to combine the final votes and this lets them place issues and positions on the National board, which comes into play in the endgame.
You can purchase Media Markers in each state that represent your party’s presence on television and social media. If you have a plurality in current state and win the vote you place a marker on the National board representing your media presence across the country, and this too is calculated in the final score. A big determinate in your final votes are organizing Party Meetings. You can place them even on states that are not where the current election is being held as this helps shore up support for upcoming rounds. Each of these meetings will be multiplied by your combined Popularity and the number of issues you align with the state on (called Coincidence) to determine your votes in the election.
As I said before this is not a game I would have considered in my wheelhouse, but I had a lot of fun playing it. The first round was the slowest naturally because none of the players had actually played before, so we took our time going through each component of the game. By the third round, we were at a nice steady pace. Instead of playing the traditional seven round game, we opted for a five rounder which took about four hours total. I never felt bogged down or confused after the initial round of play. For two rounds, I even formed a coalition with Josh who was Die Linken. As a result, we dominated those elections and shaped a lot of National policy and positions. In the end, I came in second, with Jason, the birthday boy, in first.
I read afterwards that some people called Die Macher a game that you’d love to play once and never again. I didn’t get that at all. Yes, it is a very complex game with a lot of moving parts. But it is not an impossible game to understand and enjoy. I would love to play it again now that I have a good sense of its mechanics. Sadly, Die Macher is out of print and bit pricey if you find it, Jason paid a little under $100 for his copy. Apparently, there is talk of a new edition but nothing set in stone. If you get the chance, even if you don’t think you would enjoy it, I’d say give it a chance. You could be happily surprised.