Der Planer
for PC (DOS)

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Company: Greenwood
Year: 1994
Genre: Strategy
Theme: Business / Cartoon & Comic / Humour / Logistics
Language: Deutsch
Licence: Commercial
Views: 44159
Review by Mr Creosote (2021-08-14)

With Der Planer, a new publisher entered the market… apparently not having had a better idea than fulfilling the cliché of German business simulations. Even more so as although Greenwood was new, the people behind it weren't. Seems they loved the genre so much that they never went anywhere else in the short company history.

We're entering the world of logistics. There is nothing to produce or to sell, but only other people's goods to transport. You don't even have your own company, but you will be (so far, so realistic) employed. Though not as a regular employee, but being a full-fledged yuppie, you will obviously directly start as manager. The company will hand you the keys to success in exchange for a salary plus the option for a success bonus, but only for a limited time (typically few months). Success being not only defined by profits, but also by achievement of strategic goals, such as expansion into pre-defined areas.

To the office, at a brisk pace

Commercial offers coming in, the preferred way is to fulfil them using in-house trucks. Different types of charge obviously need different lorries, as road tankers will not carry containers. Drivers need to observe break times and so on and so forth. If something fails in the planning, trains, boats and planes or even subcontracting to the competition may save your neck.

Behind the facade reminiscent of Mad TV, showing an office building with different functions behind the doors, the typically German numbers and statistics game is hiding. It just takes the appearance of virtual computer and laptop screens, bank statements or balance sheets.

This has its appeal nevertheless, because at its core, it is an optimization game across various dimensions. The wheels must never stand still, as this is not yet the age of bogus self-employment. The drivers will be paid, regardless of whether they're smoking in the break room or they're on the road. The challenge is therefore to accept just the right volume of contracts to stay exactly at the limit. Bearing the risk to fail and being heavily penalized.

Still room for improvement

A real route planning is unfortunately not possible, however. Providing a multi-step schedule to a driver (take fries from Bonn to Cologne, then load fish sticks and take them to Frankfurt and finally ice cream back to Bonn) isn't possible. The best you can do is send a new job to a driver already on the road through fax. Apart from that, you have to suffice with the naive game of providing the next assignment after return to the headquarters, which bears its advantages (possibility to change the trailers, switch of driver…), but also disadvantages (loss of time).

The large amount of manual micromanagement (on top of what has already been mentioned, there is maintenance, accounting, sending reminders, employment contracts and much more to be taken care of) at least keeps you highly busy at all times. There is always another truck to send out again, another contract to check, one more temp to select. This develops into a certain “just another turn” feeling (although in real time), almost like in real masterpieces.

Then, however, you will realize that most of this micromanagement is actually just busywork. The option of real route planning, for example, could have taken a lot of purely mechanical tasks off the player and opened up some freedom for more strategic aspects. This could have made the game more manageable and demanding at the same time – plus also more interesting on the long run.

She looks a bit overworked

In this context, it is quite telling that higher difficulty levels are not defined by more complex overall economic situations, but purely by the size of the company. Once the number of trucks and jobs grows beyond dozens, once new branches are opened in other cities, overburdening the player is certainly part of the concept. Unlike the quirks in the interface when switching the active branch in the truck pool, for example.

Long-term motivation is probably supposed to be delivered through the personal life aspect, which has to be developed as well. Each morning and evening, your wife and son will have the opportunity to demand for some money from your private account. It goes without saying that the player is assumed to be male. Refusal leads to loss of affection, because as everyone knows, money can buy you love. Plus occasionally coming home early when your mother-in-law visits. Success at work leads to a happy family life – maybe funny at first glance, but it does not open up new gameplay dimensions.


In any case, it is all played on worst cliché level. The unbelievably corny illustrations, drawn by mid-90s icon Celal, at least fit seamlessly into the romanticism of these naive capitalist dreams. Though it's hard to shake the feeling that some of them have been drawn without game context – or why is it that the same character looks totally different on each picture?

At some point, frustration will set in even for the most dedicated player. The annoyance over there being so many statistics and number, but some relevant data nevertheless needing to be manually calculated and kept (e.g. projection of transport costs). The absurdity of being informed in detail about the cause of an accident, but never being told which truck will need to be replaced now. The irrational choice of having your own office on the top floor instead of right next to the truck pool, although 90% of the play time is spent going back and forth between the two. All of these are little details, but lacking new challenges in the course of the game, they do take over the big picture at some point and squeeze all life out of the game which admittedly has been fun up until then.

Archived Review(s) ↓

Review by Adhoc (2001-05-10)

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...

Comments (2) [Post comment]

I WANT THE ENGLISH VERSION...eheh...ok...wanted to ask if there's a patch or even the english version of this seems brilliant...I just can't understand nothing of german