Saturday night, Helen and I played Die Macher. We had played a couple of times before; three other players were new to the game. It was quite an experience.
Die Macher (which is about electioneering in Germany) is a real "gamer's game." It is rich in choices: gamers like having lots of viable options, and Die Macher delivers in spades. It is also rich in player interaction, and in mechanisms. All this richness means it takes over an hour to explain the rules to a new player. We started shortly after 3pm, but couldn't get the game itself going until about 5pm. The game is advertised as lasting four hours, and maybe it does with experienced players. It took us until well past 1am!
And how much did I enjoy this experience? Well sir, I'm still trying to make up my mind about that. Some of my favorite games are long and complex -- some even longer than Die Macher. On the other hand, six-hours-plus is a long time to sit in one chair and do one thing; a game had better deliver a pretty amazing experience to make that worthwhile.
I like games in which I can always find something constructive to do, and Die Macher certainly delivers. But I also prefer games in which I can build something I can rely on -- building something is only helpful if the others players can't simply knock it down again. In Die Macher it can feel like everything you do is ultimately futile. Actually you can build up quite a bit of solid progress in Die Macher, but it can still be discouraging.
Still, I enjoyed this session more than my previous ones. Die Macher is so complex that in earlier plays, I had very little idea of how to intelligently proceed. This time I was able to make informed decisions, which was definitely fun and satisfying. Perhaps after another play or two, I'll feel really at home with the game, and then my opinion of it may rise.
But I don't know how long it will be before I get more chances to play. Die Macher is really designed for five players. That and its great length and complexity means it's not going to hit the table very often, especially since there are other games I'd rather play when I have that much time. I'm sure I will play it again anyway: I'd like at least one more shot at it, and Helen loves it. And next time, maybe we can both do better than we did on Saturday!