'Der Planer' is a somewhat different manager simulation because you don't build your company from scratch but you rather have to fulfill the requirements the managerial board imposed on you during a given period of time.
Right at the start you'll see another unique feature of this brilliant game. You're not just a manager but also a social person, having a family which demand their time and financial needs. That these sometimes don't fit into your timetable only adds to the interesting game concept.
First you find yourself sitting at the breakfast table at home. After a short dialogue with your wife you can choose one of three levels. Each represents three differently difficult job offers. As mentioned you may not build your truck park to your liking but rather are confronted - according to your choice - with a given selection of trucks and additional requirements. They include making contracts with alternative transportation systems like shipping or airlines or expanding in certain truck categories. There are different types of them representing the various loads you can transport with trucks. Also your contracts are limited to a certain period of time, for example one or two months. According to your success you're promoted and can apply for bigger companies or have to choose one of the previous three again.
So after you've selected an offer you're introduced into the company by the board. They show you the trucks you already have at your disposal and present their ideas how to improve the company in a given time period. When you think you can handle this you sign the contract and off you go.
The action centers around your office complex. Like in Mad TV there are floors with several rooms. Because you can get quite lost at first here's a short description of the office building and all its rooms, on every floor explained from left to right.
On the basement: the first door is the garage. Here you'll meet your mechanic who provides the necessary regular maintenance of the trucks. Next is the exit to the town. Here you can go to the station, airport or harbour to charter cargo space, visit the 2 truck dealers to buy new trucks, depart to another town or go home after a long day's work. Behind the big double doors is a very important place, your truck park. Here you have an overview over your fleet and you can hand out the orders you accepted. You have to decide which truck you want to use and which driver. There are several categories of loads in the game and likewise several different truck types. The last door on the basement leads into the PR room. Here you can book ads in the media to promote your company and hold press conferences in case of a bad accident and stuff.
The first floor: to the left is the room where you can open new stations. With more stations in other cities you'll get more charter offers. Sometimes it's required to increase the number of stations to fulfill the management board's expectations. Next is the conference room. Here you negotiate over contracts with shipping lines and airlines which enable you to use their cargo space. You can't do that without a contract. The last door is your chief of personnel. Here you can hire new drivers, cleaning women... or fire them. You can also send your drivers to a seminar to get the allowance to deliver dangerous materials.
The second floor: first there's the radio station. You can issue different orders to your drivers there. Behind the next door is the accounting's office. You can check your balance and lots of other stats there. The third door leads to the office of your lawyer (if you have employed one). He'll take care of lazy customers who don't want to pay the bills and similar businesses.
The third floor: here's your most important room, your office. With your computer you can check all necessary stats, do all the required actions, check what you have to do to succeed and lots more. With the telephone you can call other forwarding agencies and sell them charters you don't want to handle yourself. You can also ask airlines and shipping lines for a meeting to sign a contract and stuff. Right of the PC all incoming offers and bills are placed. Most await you in the morning, but after that every hour new offers arrive (or not). You go through them and decide which ones you want to take by suggesting a fee and registering them. But that doesn't mean that you already have it. When you've gone through all offers you have to go to the next door, where your faxing machine stands. All registered offers have to be sent back to the respective companies with it. And when they accept your price you'll get the charter. The next door is for your manager. When your company grows bigger you should employ one. He cares about sending charters via train, ship or plane, sends trucks to maintenance and more. And the final door introduces you into the paradise of luxury. As you're just employed by a managerial board you get a monthly salary and a bonus according to your success. This private money you need for expenses of your family or - much nicer - luxury goods. From big TVs to quick cars to even football teams you can find everything you could long for. Besides they raise your social status, an important characteristic in 'Planer'. Because only after you've reached a certain status you'll be able to retire.
You have many things to do. Most importantly earning money, of course. Accepting charter offers and delivering them in time will greatly contribute to that goal. But you can also sell charters to other forwarding agencies or make the sides of your trucks available for some commercials (nice income early on). You could also paint them with the name of your company; that doesn't earn you money but raises your popularity (=> more offers). When considering offers you always have to bear in mind if you have the right truck, if you can do it in time and if you have drivers available. Drivers may only work for 8 hours per day so you can't take too many offers per day (or you employ lots of drivers). You also have to decide over your personnel, whom to hire and whom to fire. You not only need drivers, also a mechanic, a phone girl, an accountant (otherwise your balance will show wrong numbers), a personnel manager and even cleaning women because when your office is dirty your reputation drops which means less offers. Of course you have to buy new trucks, check them for maintenance, negotiate transporting contracts, holding press conferences etc...And don't forget what goals you have to achieve! Daytime progresses with every action you make: registering offers, paying bills... Clicking at the clock will advance time five minutes to shorten periods with not that much work.
A great helper is your laptop (nice booting sequence). You can review everything which is important - pending charters, train timetables, location of your trucks etc. Furthermore (great idea) you can upgrade it with some extra programs for more extensive balances and so on.
Another innovative feature is the family aspect. Every morning you decide when to get up. On workdays 6am is the best time. At the breakfast table you're confronted with a short dialogue with your wife or son which quite often means that you have to pay for something out of your private wallet. Or even worse your mother in law decides to visit you and you have to be home at noon. Argh! Another workday lost... But you just can't afford to always say 'no' or your relation will deteriorate (as you can view by her comments). Also try to keep the weekends work-free or your health will suffer.
As you can see from this far from complete review this game is a masterpiece with lots of content and innovations. Read the manual for further information. Unfortunately it's German only so all who can't understand that will miss one of the best business sims I ever saw...
Also available for download is the addon 'Der Planer Extra'. Not much of a difference though. Now you're the boss of your own company and your job is to take over truck companies for a limited time to make them profitable or expand them. Graphics and gameplay are all the same, just some small features like new software for your laptop and other things have been added. If you've played through the original game and liked it have a look at it.
In 1998 Greenwood released a third part of this 'series', 'Der Planer Gold'. Surprisingly for the fact that it came out 4 years later nothing big was changed, neither concerning graphics or gameplay. This time all is located in North America and again you're managing different companies for some time. Again only a few things have been added like extended family interaction and the possibility to lease trucks. And (finally) they've added a tutorial. For hardcore Planer fans recommended, but maybe only for them...