Last Sunday three sets of brother sat down for a friendly game of Here I Stand (read the twitter feed for some play-by-play commentary). I was really looking forward to the game for many reasons. One, the sibling rivalry aspect – I would play the French and my brother (Russ) the Protestants. We shouldn’t tangle too much, but we’re brothers, anything can happen. Two, this would be my fourth game of Here I Stand so I was feeling really good about the play and rules aspect of the game. And three, I analyzed all the possible plays, cards, etc. to get the VP necessary to win as the French. I was ready!
The deal was bad: I got 5 cards for a total of 10 CP, well below the 2.7 CP/card average. I would need some help. I allied with the Hapsburg in exchange for Besancon. Not too important, but I was really just looking to keep the Haps off my back. I knew I was going to war with the English. The English would DoW Scotland with their home card and I would vacate it. In exchange, I would get a card draw the next turn. Sounded like a good deal and if anything changed, I could just hold Scotland.
The action phase progressed as expected. I took Milan and the English DoWed Scotland. However, after the English rolled a 6 on the pregnancy chart and got a healthy Edward and 5 VP, I wasn’t going to give him another easy 2 VP. So I held Scotland and sent an explorer who went off to discover the Amazon! 7 VP in one turn! Things were looking up.
Going into this turn, I knew the English would try to press me. I got decent cards and decided on a pure defensive strategy. I was near the lead and didn’t want to draw any attention. My hand was decent: Potosi Silver Mines and Plantations should net me cards for Turn 6 and I could use Auld Alliance to defend Scotland. I was also able to get a Franco-Ottoman alliance this turn. He would play Swiss Mercenaries on my behalf and I would loan him a fleet. I would build my forces and gain the cards necessary for a turn 6 win.
The English player went for Metz and Bordeaux (with the crafty play of Charles Bourbon and moving out some fleets). He forced the use of my home card for CP, but my defensive plays and his bad dice roll on the assault in Metz forced him into an odd position on his final play of the turn. With his 1 CP card should he assualt Bordeaux or Metz? I still held one card in my hand and no one knew what it could be – Mercenaries Bribed had already been played. I put on my best poker face. He finally chose to assualt Metz and I played my combat card: Mercenaries Grow Restless! The renegade leader and his ragtag bunch of mercenaries were wiped out! After that huge success I was riding high and hoping for great things in the new world. Then Lady Luck left me. I had invested big in the New World and got nothing. No extra cards.
We dealt out the cards and and I got a decent CP hand, but no good events. The negotiations were intense. The Hapsburg player (Joe) was in the lead and had 11 cards in his hand. Having won the previous two games, he already had a huge target on his back – this just made it bigger. The Ottoman, Papacy and Protestant powers wanted either the English or the French to go to war with him to block his win. With the promise of a card play and a couple of mercs I could easily stop the Hapsburg player. However, I would also need an alliance with the English to also give myself a chance at the win. The English player knew this and refused. My next best bet was to go to the Hapsburg. I would give up a card draw for an alliance as well as the transfer of Navarre to the French. He was interested in the deal but also spoke to the English. During the announcements, my hopes of winning were crushed. The Hapsburgs took the English deal instead and I was on my own. My only chance at victory now was to go to war with the Hapsburgs and the English.
The action phase began. I took Navarre right away and then turned to defending against the English onslaught. The English player took Metz and then stormed on to Lyon. I did the best I could with my few remaining CP, but it was of no use. The English took Lyon. I could only build Chateau for 1 more VP and finished at 20. Good enough for fourth place. The English player made all the right moves and with luck in the new world, rolled himself to a great victory.
The Turn 6 diplomacy was the win or lose moment of the game. All 6 powers had legitimate shots at winning the game going into the final turn. The Ottoman player could win with Vienna and Piracy. The Hapsburg player was in the lead and held 11 cards – I still can’t believe the luck in the new world! The Pope was doing well against Luther, but the religious game can swing so dramatically it is hard to tell. The English and French had made big moves and only needed another key or two.
And this is why that diplomacy phase lasted way too long and was way too intense. Everyone had a huge stake and wanted someone else to stop the Hapsburgs. But no one wanted to give up much to allow that and throw away their own chances of winning. Having Russ at the table and knowing how to push his temper didn’t help matters either. I couldn’t blame him for throwing his hands up and leaving the table for a few minutes at one point. This was supposed to be fun?! It gave me a headache and I wanted to stop.
A few days later I composed my thoughts for this blog. I thought this was the best I’ve played a game of Here I Stand. I knew all the right things to do and made good moves during the negotiations. I think 2 extra cards from my colonies would have won it for me. The atmosphere was intense; every power had a shot at victory; good diplomacy can give you the power to win. This left me thinking: when’s the next game?