Die Macher is a strategy board game designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel of Germany. The game is based on the German electoral system and each player takes the role of one of five political parties (in the 2006 edition, the CDU/CSU, FDP, SPD, Greens, and Die Linke). Parties score points based on seats won in seven state (Land) elections, the size of their national party base, the amount to which they control the national media, and how well their party platform aligns with national opinion.
Each state election is a "mini game" on its own. Each state has its own interests (such as "do we support higher taxes, or not?"), and a party will do better if its platform aligns with the local concerns. Players can deploy a limited number of "party meetings" (groups of grassroots activists) to a state; the more they have there, the more votes they will generate when the election is resolved. "Shadow Cabinet" cards, representing influential party officials, can be used to perform some special actions, and each party tracks its "trend" (favorability rating) in the state using a sliding scale. When the election is held, each party scores votes based on the formula (trend + interest alignment)* (number of meetings). A maximum score is 50, and parliamentary seats (victory points) are awarded based on this score and the state's actual number of seats in parliament. The seven states are chosen at random from the sixteen Länder of Germany, so some elections will be more influential than others. Players can modify their party’s' platform and by controlling the local media can also affect what the state is concerned about.
Winning the local election allows the party to advance their media control to the national level and to help outline the national issues list. Players see the elections developing in advance and can apply their resources to the current election or upcoming ones, adding to the difficult decision making. During each state election, parties can agree to, or be forced into, coalitions, and share in any victory. Parties must also decide whether or not they will accept contributions from special interests with the possibility of alienating their grassroots donor base.
Die Macher takes about four hours to play.
Die Macher was first released by Hans im Glück publishing in 1986 as a four-player game, featuring only the Länder of the former West Germany and political issues relevant to the mid-1980s. This version is often sought-after by collectors. A revised version of the game with higher production value was released 12 years later, and this version was nominated for the 1998 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award; it added the Länder of eastern Germany, a fifth party (the PDS, the successor of the East German SED), updated the issues to those of the 1990s, and extensively changed the rules. In 2006, Valley Games of Canada produced a new version of the game, with language-independent components, revised issues, the PDS renamed to Die Linke, and a few minor rules changes.