Here I Stand: The Minor Powers

August 23, 2010

In Here I Stand the players command one of the six Major Powers in the game. However, there are also four Minor Powers that play a big part in how the game unfolds. They can be allied to some powers, conquered through war or used as pawns during diplomacy. Below are some of my recommendations of how each Minor Power, and the cards that affect them, can best be used.

Sorry Luther, but you’ll have to sit out this strategy discussion. Also, first up is Hungary/Bohemia which is only relevant to the full 1517 scenario. The discussion of the others powers is pretty relevant regardless the scenario.

Hungary/Bohemia
• Keys (units): Belgrade (1 Regular), Buda (5 Regular) and Prague (1 Regular)
• Spaces: Breslau, Brunn, Pressburg, Agram, Mohacs and Szegedin
• Major Powers: Ottoman and Hapsburgs
• Activation: Diplomatic Marriage and Defeat of Hungary-Bohemia
• Deactivation: None

The Hungarians act as a buffer for the Hapsburgs against the Ottomans. The typical start for the Ottomans sees them sieging Belgrade and then moving to wipe them out in Buda with a fairly easy field battle due to the 5 regulars present. This gives the Ottomans 6VP (2 Keys and War Winner) and starts the war with the Hapsburgs. It also gives the Hapsburgs a key, Prague, due to the new alliance with the Hungarians.

Taking a look at the power cards and board, I think it is in the Ottomans best interest to hold off on the Buda field battle. The Ottomans need 1 key to give them an extra card which they will get with Belgrade. The Hapsburgs need 2 keys. If the Haps take Metz, the Ottomans defeating Hungary gives the Haps their 2nd key and that extra card. The Ottomans are better off holding their cards, building forces and potentially taking out the Knights of St. Johns before giving the Haps a gift.

Unless the Hapsburgs draw Diplomatic Marriage in the 1st (or possibly 2nd) turn, there isn’t much the Hapsburgs can do about the Hungarians. If they are able to activate Hungary right away, it will slow down the Ottoman advance. The Haps can control the 5 regulars in Buda to force an Ottoman siege versus the field battle. The Ottomans will have to spend more time and/or CP than they would like to march West, but it certainly won’t stop the Turkish advance. I would recommend saving that marriage for another minor power…

Venice
• Keys (units): Venice (2 Regulars, 3 Squadrons)
• Spaces: Corfu (Fortress, 1 Regular), Candia (Fortress, 1 Regular)
• Major Powers: French, Papacy, Ottoman and Hapsburgs
• Activation: Venetian Alliance, Diplomatic Marriage and Papal intervention
• Deactivation: Venetian Alliance, Diplomatic Marriage

In my opinion, Diplomatic Marriage, should almost always be used by the Papacy, French and Hapsburgs to activate Venice. The Venetians can be a powerful ally against Ottoman piracy with their 3 squadrons and two fortresses. The Venetian fleet can also help gain naval superiority for assaults on ports. And in winter, moving the regulars in Corfu and Candia in Venice give you a fully defended key.

Since one of the ways to activate Venice is by a Papal intervention, this is often used by the Pope during negotiations. The French or Hapsburgs would be my first choice for a Venetian declaration of war (DOW). These powers may be declaring war on other powers and they may have an extra CP to discard. This way they can get something from out of it. The Pope benefits because he can hang excommunication over their head if they don’t follow through on all the terms of the deal. The Ottomans could be used for a Venetian intervention as well, but the Pope is likely no match for a strong Ottoman force if the deal goes bad. Plus, the Pope can not excommunicate Suleiman.

If the Pope draws Venetian Alliance after Venice is already an ally, they can use this 4 CP card for the event to build up to 6 CP worth of units. I would guess that the card would be used for CP rather than the event in most cases.

Once allied, deactivation is always a possibility but would require the right powers – Ottoman or Pope – to get the right cards. And even then, it may not be worth the CP to do this. This is yet another reason that Venice should be the favored ally for these powers.

Genoa
• Keys (units): Genoa (2 Regulars, 1 Squadron, Andrea Doria)
• Spaces: Bastia
• Major Powers: French, Papacy, Hapsburgs, Ottoman (kind of)
• Activation: Andrea Doria, Diplomatic Marriage
• Deactivation: Andrea Doria, Diplomatic Marriage

The Genoans are a strong ally as well. With Andrea Doria, as the only non-Ottoman naval leader in the game, the other powers in the Mediterranean certainly want to have him on their side. However, Doria can cause problems: If one of the other two powers (able to) plays Andrea Doria for the event, Genoa is deactivated AND reactivated to that power. This swing in units, keys and VP can be dangerous.

For this reason Genoa should be activated near the end of the game. It would be wise to hold the card Andrea Doria as long as possible to activate Genoa. In the tournament scenario this may easier to do than the longer scenarios. If the French or Pope draw Andrea Doria they should highly consider spending the 5 CPs on a war and assault on Genoa than activation. Once Genoa is conquered you won’t have to worry about it switching control with the play of a single event card.

The second part of the Andrea Doria event card will likely never be used. A power would have to activate Genoa earlier in the game, and go to war with the Ottomans, and move Doria into a sea zone with two Ottoman controlled ports. Then when Andrea Doria is played you have the chance to take away up to three piracy VP and draw a card. The power playing the event also draws a card. I can see this event occurring for the Hapsburgs as they would likely already be at war with the Otts and try to position Doria near them to prevent piracy. However, 5 CP can probably be spent else where.

Scotland
• Keys (units): Edinburgh (3 Regulars, 1 Squadron)
• Spaces: Stirling, Glasgow
• Major Powers: French, English
• Activation: Auld Alliance, Diplomatic Marriage, French intervention
• Deactivation: Auld Alliance, Diplomatic Marriage

Scotland will play a part of every game of Here I Stand. Obviously, the English should use Diplomatic Marriage to activate Scotland as an ally if they draw it early. They’ll get a squadron, 3 regulars and save the time and trouble of a war. However, chances are the typical English strategy early in the game will be to kick those pesky Scots off their island.

The French should carefully consider intervening if the English declare war on the Scots. The French could negotiate a deal with the English: France will intervene in an English home card DOW and move the Scottish troops to Glasgow. The French get 3 Scottish regulars come winter and the English should have an easy time taking an empty Edinburgh. The French should look for an alliance on the following turn.

But be wary of the English asking the French to intervene, they may just be looking for a free DOW on France. If a satisfactory deal can’t be struck, the French may just want to let Scotland defend itself. The English may spend more CP than they would like trying to take out 3 units in an assault.

If the French do intervene, England should be sure to take political control of both Glasgow and Stirling. If France and Scotland are allies, the French can use Auld Alliance to bring 3 French regulars onto any Scottish controlled home space not under siege. Used later in the game with an English alliance, these 3 Catholic troops can wreak havoc to the Reformation in England.

Summary
• Don’t be in a rush to knock out the Hungarians.
• Venice should be your number one choice for an ally.
• Activate Genoa towards the end of the game.
• France and England need to discuss Scotland.


Here I Stand: Henry VIII, Warlord

November 14, 2009

I am new to Here I Stand. I had been interested in trying it for over a year, but with every game my friend John hosted, I had schedule conflicts. Had I known what fun I was missing, I may have pushed harder to get them to schedule a time that I could make. Last July, I finally made it to a game. Playing as the French in the tournament scenario, my lack of experience and knowledge of the rules caused me to flail about, get pushed around diplomatically, and squander CP like crazy. My lack of skill probably ended up working in my favor, as the rest of Europe beat itself up, ignoring the French, leading to a sneaky French victory on the back of some nice cards and optimal New World rolls.

Initial Strategy

After having a blast in my first game, but regretting not understanding the rules better, I wanted to be better prepared for the next game I played. I learned in advance that I would play as the English. I turned to John, our most experienced player, who had played the English in our last game for clarification on the only confusing rules issue for the English, the divorce and pregnancy chart. My plan was to make a deal for the divorce with the Papacy, unless I had a very high CP hand that I did not want to risk with granting card draws. While I think the divorce is valuable, my powerful home card also guarantees that Edward is born if Henry is persistent. Depending on the hand I was dealt, my offer would vary between one or two card draws or card plays. I figure that unless a disaster happened, I would be able to eventually get Edward and the 5 VP, using my home card as many times as needed. I planned on taking Scotland, and then targeting a French or Hapsburg key, picking up some New World VP’s and making England Anglican. I figured a balanced approach would allow me to draft behind the front-runner until I could use my home card’s special ability to surprise a mainland power later in the game. The best part about seeming harmless as the English is that the Protestant player can generate a lot of VP for you by converting England. They won’t do that if you are in the lead, so it was critical to my success that I strike late.

Turn 4

We had a couple new players at the table, and after a brief tutorial for them, we got the game going. My initial draw was outstanding. I had Erasmus, Paul III, Copernicus, Michael Servetus, and Foreign Recruits. I had the ability to work out a deal for the divorce, and score  3 additional VP. So much for keeping a low profile. The Pope agreed to grant the divorce, in return for the play of Paul III on my first impulse, and Erasmus on my second impulse. I also got a mercenary and a card through the use of Diplomatic Overture from the Protestants, in return for an alliance and a promise not to play Servetus until he had no cards to discard. I rolled a six–healthy Edward! The roll freed me to use my home card for a war of my choosing during the action phase.

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Anne Boleyn was spared by providing a healthy male heir

Turn 4 was exciting. The Hapsburgs were running amok after playing Diplomatic Marriage to activate Venice on his first impulse and taking Metz early in the turn. The Ottomans were getting absolutely crushed with terrible rolls. The French took Milan immediately and built a chateau soon after. The Papacy, in large part due to plays by myself and the Hapsburgs on his behalf, made some significant gains early against the Reformation. Late in the turn, with the Hapsburgs threatening a domination victory, I declared war on them instead of Scotland, and, through a naval move, put Henry VIII and a sizable force in Calais and then marched on Antwerp. The Hapsburgs were not pleased, and eliminated my mercenaries with a card and then attacked my siege force with Charles V and a slightly smaller army. The dice crashed into the box and I destroyed the Hapsburg force, capturing Charles V and leaving only one unit in Antwerp, which fell on my impulse moments later. I had to use Servetus (which the Protestant snapped up and played using his home card) for the assault, but it was well worth it. That ended turn 4, with Hapsburgs at 19, The English at 18 (9 VP this turn), The Papacy and France tied at 18, Ottomans at 17 and the Protestants at 16.

Turn 5

The next turn was certain to be interesting. I got Dissolution of the Monasteries, Diplomatic Overture, Auld Alliance, Siege Mining, and some other average cards that I can’t remember. I also was able to get the Hapsburgs to agree to an alliance even though I had taken a key and would get a card for Charles V. He certainly did not want to sue for peace, which would have granted me some combination of VP’s or card draws. The French were looking to take Genoa, and asked for an alliance, which would have prevented me from taking any keys this turn, but would not pay my fee of one card for that peace of mind. I drew a lot of cards from the deck with poor results. I got three cards worth 1 CP and one worth 4 with Dissolution and Diplomatic Overture, turning 12 CP into 7 CP. I drew Threat to Power from the Hapsburgs. I still ended up with a lot of cards to play with, meaning my opponents would be unable to react to my plays at the end of the turn. I was looking for a knockout blow, but I wasn’t sure where to deliver it, or if the other powers would perceive the English threat before it was too late.

The Ottomans continued to crash into the Hapsburgs, but finally succeeded in taking Vienna, losing Algiers to the Hapsburgs. The French went after Genoa and New World VP’s, and spent their home card for another chateau. The Protestants, aided by the Anglican movement, gained some ground, but sort of fizzled after the Jesuits showed up and negated the reformers in France and England. I decided to invade Scotland. Using my home card, I made the declaration, and the French intervened. This move puzzled me, because only two regulars and the French king stood between Henry VIII and his sizable, war-hardened force marching from Calais to Paris. I should have declared war on the French directly, but I figured I could win by taking Scotland and going after the new world. I shifted gears, took Paris (siege mining made it easy), captured the French king, and used Auld Alliance to deactivate Scotland. The French sunk my explorer. With victory out of reach, I held a couple combat cards for the next round. England 20,  Hapsburg 19, Protestant and Papacy 18, French and Ottoman 16.

Turn 6

Holding the lead heading into the turn made it very difficult to make friends in diplomacy. I was dealt a very high CP hand again, which included some nasty cards that could have been painful in the hand of another player. The French had no interest in ransoming their imprisoned king. While I was unable to make a single deal, I was able to break up a massive Hapsburg lead coalition, which was essentially designed to destroy me. I did this by convincing the Protestant that there was no way the Hapsburgs would play Catholic cards against him (easy point to make since obviously the CP would be critical for the crusade he was planning against me). A few of us also helped out our new Ottoman player by preventing a peace settlement that served absolutely no purpose for him, allowing him to eventually better his score by 3 instead of 1 (when you can’t win, play for the highest score possible). The pope decided that he could just wait to play City State Rebels. I convinced him to see how the war went, and then play it on whoever remained ahead of him. I assured him that I had no interest in converting England, so when the dust settled, he could possibly win if the Hapsburgs and French were successful in knocking me down if he conserved his CP. Seeing that their deals with the other three players were not on stable ground, the Hapsburgs and French had to change plans on the fly.

henry8joos1

Henry VIII did not live to enjoy his victory over France

I used Foreign Recruits in Antwerp on my first impulse, which meant not even a perfect roll on the City State Rebels could succeed, which would have been a likely waste of 4 CP. (I did expose myself later in the turn, and with me still in the lead the pope pounced!) No faction challenged my military directly. Had they seen my hand, they would have realized that it was a very wise choice; I could have summoned an impressive force to respond to any threat, and it would have likely resulted in them gaining no VP’s. I took Rouen early in the turn. The Hapsburgs lost Prague, and fought with the Protestant over Trier and Mainz.  They also invaded Tunis, but had that force eliminated late in the turn by Mercenaries Demand Pay. I decided to go for 24 VP and the win. I marshaled my forces and went for Bordeaux, forgetting that the Pope still held City State Rebels! He played the card, forcing me to use the Swiss Mercenaries I had planned on using to initiate the assault. I barely survived the rebellion in Rouen (1 regular remaining!) The Protestant really got burned at the end of the last turn, losing religious influence in a couple of electorates. All of England remained Catholic, except for the armies, after Henry VIII died late in the turn. The French finally took Genoa, and ended up scoring in the New  World and with another chateau.

Final: English 22, Hapsburgs, Papacy, and Ottoman 19, France 17, and the Protestants at 13.

I learned several things about Here I Stand from this session. The cards can really change your plan drastically. I had planned to dabble in everything and draft behind the leader, but instead ended up spending most of the game as the front-runner and almost completely focused on my military. Once you are in the lead the pack has numerous ways to drag you down. I was very fortunate to survive several close calls with amazing die rolls, and the Hapsburg player only dropped in VPs after his initial surge, simply because the backlash had crippled him severely, decimating his western force and costing him a key right away.

I also noticed that the Protestants were very hampered by my success. You can read about his trials in an earlier post in this blog. England is one of the easiest targets for reformation, but he could not risk giving me any additional VP’s starting early in turn 5.

This was a fun game, thanks to all the other players, and thanks to John, our gracious host! I look forward to our next showdown is tomorrow, November 15th, When I will be playing as the Hapsburgs.


Here I Stand Session Report–English Perspective

July 15, 2009

I purchased Here I Stand roughly 14 months ago and have played it ten times since: eight times in person and twice online (6 and 4 personal record). It is a six-player card-driven wargame about the Wars of the Reformation. If you’re interested in purchasing it, you might be swayed by the fact that it has received excellent support from the designer and has a rather large and enthusiastic fan base. This past Sunday I sat down at the table with five other guys ranging from 25-30, one brand new to the game, and we saw who could have “the biggest hat in Europe.” We started the tournament scenario around 10:45 AM, broke for lunch at 1:30, and finished by 5:00 PM. The agreement was that we’d go two turns, with the auto-victory being 23, not 25 VP.

This session report is from my point of view as the English. My first hand was pretty mediocre: no exciting events, no combat cards, and nothing to help my friend Martin Luther out. I met with the Protestants and got a card draw out of him; I was hoping to use it as leverage to get the Pope (Russ) to grant a divorce, but that didn’t work out. I even offered him two cards in exchange for a divorce (probably a mistake), but he wouldn’t take it. Darn! I met with the French last, played by Joe, our new guy. I gave him a card pull and we agreed to a sort of convoluted deal I first saw in round 2 of the 2009 play by email tourney.

One new war was declared in the first turn–I went after Scotland. France chose to intercede for free, pulling the Scottish into an alliance (as per our agreement!).  The action phase saw a rush of movements on all fronts. The Ottomans immediately clashed with the Hapsburgs (Mike) in Hungary, but not a lot of territory exchanged hands. Then the Ottomans went for a very successful piracy strategy, hitting the Hapsburgs several times and receiving VPs and cards. The Protestants played a very common combination of military moves to snatch up electorates and convert French spaces to their faith. In response, the Pope called debates and flipped most of the French spaces back. He also burned a debator late in the turn. The French took Milan late in the turn, while the Hapsburgs snatched up Metz.

After declaring war, I marshaled my forces and went after Scotland, but not before the French had moved those infantry units out of Edinburgh for me. I took Edinburgh easily and left the three Scottish units in Glasgow. They eventually winter-moved to Paris and effectively became the Scots in exile. The sum effect of the deal was this: I got a key (2 VP) at very little cost, the French got a card pull and three Scottish infantry units on the Continent. I ended up burning the Scottish ship in port, but in the future, I think I’d offer that up too (we sort of forgot about it!). This has become my standard opening move for the English; any feedback on it would be most appreciated.

(Update: I cut this deal a third time in another PBEM game. After going through with it, this was met by howls of protest from my opponents. Someone emailed the designer asking about the legality of the deal, considering it is very “gamey”. No official word yet on whether this will be outlawed in future. From my point of view, this is one of the only moves that gives the English a prayer of winning in competitive play. One player dubbed this “The Caledonian Gambit.”)

That done, I was content to use my home card to marry Anne Boleyn; a lucky six on the pregnancy chart yielded a healthy Edward and five VPs! Things were looking good at this point. To end my turn, I built up infantry units in London and a fleet in Calais. By the turn’s end, the Ottomans were threatening an early victory, with the Papacy and the Hapsburgs close behind.

After a lunch break, we returned to the table and drew cards. The Hapsburgs got extremely unlucky with their colony rolls and didn’t get any extra cards. The French picked up one through Potosi Silver Mines. I was fortunate to be dealt a strong hand with many CPs: three “five” cards! Combined with “Dissolution of the Monasteries,” it looked to be a fun turn.

Diplomacy was even more involved this time; Martin Luther and I couldn’t really come to a deal, although I did have “Calvin’s Institutes.” He was feeling pretty confident after snatching “Printing Press” from the discard pile the previous turn. I allied with the French with the understanding that we would declare war on the Hapsburgs and make a mad dash for the finish line before the Ottomans got there. The French had “Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince,'” so this turn was going to be a surprise for Charles V!

However, things didn’t go exactly as planned. I spring deployed to Calais and used my home card on the Hapsburgs right away, and then made a hard drive for Antwerp. This was foiled by a nice intercept roll and two combat cards, “Field Artillery” and “Tercios.” In a massive field battle, I lost four of eight units while he only lost two of seven. While I retreated to lick my wounds, the French delayed jumping in on the war and sent out an explorer. Not good! And the Ottomans and Hapsburgs clashed at Pressburg…again. The fields were awash in casualties, and both sides spent some combat cards, but it only served to exhaust both of them. The Ottomans later went on to do piracy, and the Hapsburgs found themselves out of cards very early on. However, there was a large stack at Antwerp now (six units and a leader), and I felt that a field battle and siege might not get me what I wanted.

The French never declared war on the Hapsburgs, opting to go for Genoa instead with “Machieavelli.” This was a bummer for me, but what can you do? Martin Luther opted to grab a few electorates and make Germany almost entirely Protestant. While this was frustrating for me, I was able to play “Dissolution of the Monasteries” and got two cards and three free Reformation attempts. (And the Protestant not helping the English too much is understandable…that can be like dealing with the Devil.)

As the turn wore on, I used my high CP cards to good effect. I built some more units in Calais and deployed my fleet, eventually invading Spain. Since the Hapsburgs were out of cards, I was able to snatch one key. I then sent out an explorer and tried to publish my own treatises, but they failed!  At the end of the action phase, the Papacy was at 20 VP due to a great play of “Michelangelo.” The Hapsburgs were at 19 with the Ottomans, the French, and me, and the Protestants trailed at 18–definitely the closest game I’ve played in. During the New World phase, the French pulled their best explorer and found the Amazon (21 VP). They then conquered a tribe (22 VP). I found the St. Lawrence (20 VP), but it was not enough. Joe, a first time player, won the “biggest hat in Europe” award as the French.

Final scores: Ottomans 19, Hapsburgs 19, English 20, French 22, Papacy 20, Protestants 18. And it all came down to a few die rolls. Very satisfying.

So what was the margin of victory for me? What could I have done better to win the game? I had a huge CP hand that second turn. It was truly ridiculous. Had I not been so torn between the military or Reformation paths, I could have chosen one and gone for broke. I had the CP to possibly take Antwerp and invade Spain (which was nearly empty) for 23 VP. Or, I could have played some cards in a different order, taken the Spanish key, sent an explorer, and gotten two treatises published, which may have put me over the limit. (As it was, I only published one treatise and flubbed both rolls.) Last, I could have ignored the military after the Calais defeat and published treatises like crazy, which might have put me over.

One last thing: I have played and won as the English before, but only in games where I was playing both them and the Protestants at the same time. The English are really hemmed in by the Scottish, the French, the Hapsburgs, and the need to get the Reformation going. It feels like one doesn’t have many options when playing them, which is a pain.

However, this was, hands down, the most fun and smooth game of Here I Stand we’ve played. A hearty well done to all players, and congratulations to Joe/Francois!

Cross posted to Board Game Geek.