"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist- I really believe he is Antichrist- I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you- sit down and tell me all the news."
It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna. With these words she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception. Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite.*cough cough*
Sorry, wrong tome.
Die Macher. Aside from the 18xx games, there is no other Euro that I know of (remember, I state emphatically Euro) which takes as long or as much brainpower as this monster. What do I think of it? It's long. It's involved. It's actually pretty engaging - you generally don't have your attention wander. But it is long.
That said, there is a lot of elegance to many mechanics, especially with regard to play balance and scoring. On the other hand, the Valley Games edition suffers from a number of iconic and graphic issues - to borrow a term from computing, the user interface is sometimes quite poor.
For example, two major issue icons (Nuclear Power and Economic Development) are very similar at first glance, and a third, the Global War on Terrorism, can appear similar when viewed from across a table. The coalition icon is somewhat vague, the State chits and State cards might have been consolidated better as a single item, and so on.
I could go on but it's late and there are better things to try to document.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Going First
Since bidding for first player is a distinct phase and can cost one a lot of money, I thought it best to try to remember why you would want to go first rather than last.
If you go first: You can place media markers first. This could score you the critical plurality in a State.
If you go last: You can often pick up opinion polls in upcoming states for cheap. You can see what your opponents do in terms of altering their party platform and placing party meetings. You also win ties if you get 50 votes if two or more players score 50.
Generally, unless you really, really want media dominance, you want to go last.
Don't Fall Behind in Party Membership
Party membership both gains you income and scores points at the end of the game. Do not fall behind. In both games we've played, I've lost by a fair margin, to a great degree due to not keeping up with national opinion . Party membership = important.
Key Issues (Issue Coincidence Doubling)
These are only removed by the use of the shadow cabinet. Do not try to think otherwise. I think this game this ability was used much more often than in previous games. Also, do not place Key Issue markers on a card more than a turn in advance, where they can be removed easily. I made that error, placing a key issue on a state effectively two turns in advance, the final result of which was that it was not only turned into a standard issue, but removed entirely by the time we got around to scoring it. Do not do that again!
Typical Starting Player Bid
This game, the typical winning bid for starting player was between 3,000 and 5,000 Euros. I have no idea whether this is typical or not. The highest bid, which was something like 11,000 over the next competing bid, was my bid of $18,000. It did end up netting me a 48 seat state and the resultant media marker placement, so that probably got me a lot of points.
General Game Design Note
Try not to have more than seven phases in a turn. Die Macher has 10, with several of those steps effectively having between one and three sub-steps. Yes, politics is a complex subject, but the sheer number of steps in the game cause it to seem more complex than it is. This game design might have been edited more rigorously to condense and amalgamate some of these steps, perhaps.
Poll bidding ranged from an average of 5-10,000 euros in the earlier rounds up to 20,000 in the mid-game and all the way up to 48,000 and 69,000 in the endgame. As a humorous side-note, the 48k bid was useless for the bidder (Me) and netted a one point (!) party membership increase. This exorbitant expenditure was only exceeded by Ouch's bid of 69k which resulted in a 0 point membership increase.
First Round Bidding
One of my many errors in play this time around was overbidding for pretty much everything on the first state. Although it was a high seat state (42, I think?) I bid too much on first player, I bid too much on opinion polls and a few other aspects which escape me at this hour. When you don't know what the national issues will be, it's just not worth it.
Chapter II: Wherein Kozure Questions His Own Deep Strategy Skills
Playing this game again has reminded me that I tend to do poorly at games which require deep strategy and branching path computational skills. Tigris and Euphates, El Grande, Chess, Taj Mahal, Maharaja and a number of others fall into this category. These games also happen to be ones I tend to not like much. Notable exceptions are Tikal (which I tend to do fairly well with) and Power Grid (which I usually score in the middle to high end, but not win), so I'm not sure what distinguishes the play of these games from the others.
All in all, though, I am just poor at strategy. This weakness extends to strategic-level wargames as well, so it's not a Euro thing - it's strategy in general.
This confuses me somewhat, as I don't do badly at tactical wargames, and there are many Euros which I'm pretty good at. I have noticed a definite trend in that I do well at games which are introduced for the first time and then slip in the scores with additional plays as the other players become familiar with the game. It seems that my own particular dash for gaming is dealing with the unexpected or the unfamiliar. Most of the time.
Anyhow - at some point in the future I'll have to try to piece together what it is about these specific games which make me a poor opponent vs. other games where I hold my own. It'll probably give me some insight into my own personality.
For the moment, though, I'll just buck up and adopt a fatalistically optimistic approach to deep strategy games - yeah, I may have a poor track record, but this time, I'll do better.
Attitude is everything, right?