Virgin Queen – A Disappointing Start

I never thought I would play a game of Virgin Queen even though I’m a big fan of Here I Stand. Our group hardly ever gets HIS to the table due to the number of people who really know the game well enough to play plus the time commitment. So why learn another game that would never get played? But with John now owning a copy the likelihood of playing it had increased dramatically. So when the opportunity for a PBEM game with John and a few others I had played HIS with before arose I jumped. Here’s how the first game of VQ went.

Virgin Queen
Campaign Scenario
July 3, 2012 to January 3, 2013

Ottoman: John!
Spain: WB
England: SB
France: DN
HRE: Me!
Protestant: AU

After I got my power assignment I took a look at the rules. Fortunately a big chunk (army movements, battles, etc.) are identical to the HIS rules. The new stuff looks really interesting and how it will work in the game. I decide my goal for the game is to score higher than John.

Turn 1
5 / Patron of Arts & Sciences: I’ll use this for the event.
2 / Morisco Revolt: Sell to the Ottomans!?
4 / City State Rebels: There’s a familiar card! I might save this to use on Metz next turn. A treasure would be handy to use with this.
5 / Foreign Volunteers: Instant Army.
3 / Ruler Falls Ill: This card is the VQ version of Haley’s Comet, but less powerful.

I initially thought that a good way to rack up VP would be to get the ruler of Central Europe, but after taking a look at the map I quickly dismissed that and instead allied with John’s Ottomans. I also allied with Spain and tried to marry away a daughter. I’m not sure if it was the best idea to do so, but it’s early in the game. I also gave away 3 Mercs to Spain for a card draw and 1 to France for free for hopes of sweetening a deal for next turn.

Card Draw:
3 / Nostradamus’ Prophecies: I think I’ll use this just to get a look at more cards.

Spring Deployment:
Nobody moves. This turn will be used to build armies and try to get some early bonus VP from artists and scientists so I keep my Patron home card. I also decide to pick Catholic as my religious preference. I had no idea what to pick but picking a side has a higher risk/reward so I went with one.

Action Rounds:
I use my first impulse to take a look at some more cards with Nostradamus:
2 / Taxis Family Couriers: I have mercs each turn to use for diplomacy and this is low CP so I ditch this one and keep the other:
5 / Holy League: 5 cp will be useful. And if the Ottomans can get a couple of VP I’ll use the event to try to get Venice on my side for some more boats.

Then I go for the for the miscellaneous VP that – while risky – can’t be taken away from me. So I patronize an artist and a scientist. I also add some influence into Venice as it looks like the Ottomans will make it to 14VP for me to use Holy League. I build up my army through Foreign Volunteers and some CP in case things sour between the Otts and I.

Meanwhile France is able to fight off the English in Edinburgh and then is able to ally Rome through a Papal Bull. This puts him dangerously close to an auto-win! Fortunatly I have Holy League and score Venice and its powerful fleet. The turn ends with some failed marriages – costing me a card – but I manage to score some VP and the Ravelin to defend my keys. I’m looking forward to Turn 2 and some more excitement.

Turn 2
5 / Holy Roman Intercession: I’ll use this for the event (see the diplomacy phase)
2 / Morisco Revolt: Held over from last turn.
5 / Holy League: Again… I’m glad France doesn’t have this.
3 / Ruler Falls Ill: Again… Did anyone shuffle?
4 / Rising in the North: I’m not sure the board will allow the event to even be attempted so another good CP card.

I again agree to ally with the Ottomans, but then Spain has a proposition. Go to war with the Ottomans and he’ll attack in conjunction. I also give my 4 Mercs to him (which I find out no one else wants) and I’ll get a treasure in return. I figure it’s as good a chance now with all my CP to put up a good fight. The treasure should help get my army in place as well so I agree. Plus this way I get to attack John!

Spring Deployment:
I move my troops into Pressburg waiting to pounce.

Action Rounds:
The rounds starts with the Otts scoring some more VP and then before I even get to take my first impulse in which I will unleash my powerful HRE horde on Buda the game ends. France plays Eloquent Ambassador and realigns Venice. The French get an auto-win before it really begins. And even worse John’s Ottomans have 17VP to my 13VP (with my religious preference).

So my first play of VQ didn’t go as I expected. First off, the game lasted 5 months for essentially what was one turn. Between holidays, conventions and other issues the game seemed to drag on. I can’t fault VQ for this it just was bad timing for this particular PBEM. As far as gameplay… well I don’t really think I got far enough into a game to really experience what makes this game different than HIS. The religious struggle, spying and other intricacies of diplomacy were basically never given a chance. I’d like to try this again to get a more in-depth play.

As the HRE I felt like I was playing a minor power – which I basically was since it is a minor power when less people play the game. The HRE just don’t seem powerful enough to actually fight off a determined Ottoman force. So they are forced to get their VP through the end of the turn art and science rolls. I also thought the game added complexity where there it wasn’t needed. Activating the minor powers gave the impression of many people having the chance at gaining an ally, but basically with +3 or +4 influence added before a die roll the chances were slim. I think the HIS version of activation would have sufficed.

But it’s not all bad. I think the diplomacy phase in this game has more options. The marriages and my 4 Mercenaries to give away certainly gave the powers leverage to negotiate instead of relying on the luck of the card draw. HIS and VQ really shine when good diplomacy occurs and all the powers can scheme against and with each other. Having more power and options to do this is definitely a good thing. I also like the treasures – although I really wished I could have used mine.

So I guess I’d give HIS the edge, but I’ll need a few more plays to really make a decision. What do you like better?

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