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Here I Stand» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Initial Impressions review rss

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michael heitz
United States
Santa Fe
New Mexico
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Intro
I haven't seen any reviews yet, beyond complements of the components, so I'll throw in my 2 cents. Be aware this is based on our first playing and we only got through turn 3. First, yeah, the components are great, especially the art on the cards; really evokes the period. We played a four player game, and the group I play with are quite a finicky bunch; one questionable rule, or ambiguity and they're out. The consensus was a resounding thumbs-up. Everyone is eager to play again. What follows are my general opinions of the game. I'm assuming some familiarity on the part of the reader of the game mechanics (card-driven, point-to-point movement). This is not a detailed explanation of how to play the game. And, I'll let others with more plays give more detailed and specific analyses of the different powers.

Rules
Some might be put off by the 40 page rule book. Don't be. This is not a complex game. It does have a lot depth, but when you boil it down, it's an easy game to learn. The rules are probably the best written rules I have come across in my 25 years of gaming. (I'm not counting simple games with one or two page rules.) Everything is explained thoroughly, with good examples. The only concept I didn't immediately grasp was regarding the debaters (committed vs. uncommitted, the when and how), but that was cleared up upon reviewing the pieces. Any question our group had was explicitly laid out in the rules. It was refreshing to play a game this deep and not have to stop in the middle and house-rule some ambiguity, or close some broken loophole. Once I had studied the rules in detail and reviewed the map, pieces, etc., I was able to explain the game to our group in 15-20 minutes. Our group are very experienced, good gamers ("A" gamers). You might adjust the teaching time depending on the level of experience.

Gameplay
To anyone who has played other card driven games, the basic gameplay will be familiar: everyone gets a hand of cards to played for action points or events, etc. What I really liked was...the best way I can decribe it is the asymmetry of the gameplay. By that I mean there are lots of subtle and indirect ways to help/hurt other players, beyond the obvious declare war and attack. The game requires players to let go of short term selfishness and pay attention to the bigger picture. Our game saw a strong early threat by the Ottomans against the Hapsburgs near Vienna. The Hapsburg player was entangled in war with France and was struggling. A well timed event played by the Protestant player (with no advance promise of reciprocation by the Hapsburgs) brought the Turkish offensive to a screeching halt.

Also, I liked the ripple effect of the actions. Most actions you take can reverberate throughout the turn and beyond, making for a very fluid game. You have to be very flexible. If you put on blinders and plow forward you can get into trouble. The French & Hapsburg refusal to make peace in our game led to England slipping under the radar and stealing a key city away from each.

Another aspect of any great game is decisions. You absolutely cannot do everything you want, and many of the choices you have to make are painful. Do I have a smaller army of regulars or a larger army with mercenaries (which are vulnerable to card plays)? Do I try to capture that city or send voyage to the New World? Do I play this card for its event or use the command points for other things?

I found downtime was not a problem either. Much of the play was fairly quick because you normally only have a couple/few points to spend on actions. Also, because what happens on one side of the board can effect the other (or have repercussions), you need to pay attention all the time.

The last thing I'll say on gameplay is that, while there are similarities between some of the powers, they all are quite unique and play differently, making for a fresh game (I anticipate) when you change sides in future games. Although most powers have the same measure for base victory points, everyone has some unique way to gain additional VP's.

Play Time
The scenario book gives 8 hours as an estimate for a full 6-player game. I'm not sure I buy that, so don't let that scare you. Once everyone is familiar with the rules, and if they are relatively experienced gamers, I just don't see this game taking that long. You generally have only a few cards in hand for one thing. For another, once you play a card, by the time it is your turn to play another, if you've been paying attention, you should know what you want to do. Most cards allow 2-4 points for actions, so you're not doing a whole lot with each card. Now, if your group includes someone who suffers from analysis paralysis, then yeah, I could see a game taking 8 hours; otherwise, no. Maybe I'm wrong about this. Time will tell.

Theme

The game really captured the period for me. The combat/campaigning is ponderous and requires planning, both for the beginning and end of the turn. The New World aspect of the game is well done. Sending explorers/conquerors/colonies for potential VP's and/or cards was a nice add on to give the Hapsburgs, French & English something else to think about. Some might not like fact that you just roll on a chart to find the results, but I thought it was a nice abstraction, with a balanced risk/reward. The religious conflict is done very well. You might think that having to track two aspects of control (political & religious) on each space might be ponderous, but it's really not. The reformation becomes a whole sub-game with implications beyond the Papacy & Protestants. The spread of the Reformation is very simple, with dice rolls between the Papacy and Protestant, but space selection and order become very important, so it's not just mindless dice rolling. Also, the theological debates can get very tense. Another dice roll off, but the timing of the debate can be everything, adding another element of strategy. Plus, how can you not like a game where someone could be burned at the stake!

Number of Players
This game (as most games) I think will play best with a full 6 players. You miss out on some diplomacy with less than 6. I think a slight edge might go to players who double up on powers. In our 4 player game (France; Ottomans; England & Protestants; Papacy & Hapsburgs) we tested this. England & Protestants were played cooperatively, while Papacy & Hapsburgs were deliberately played more independently. This led to an advantage for the Protestants in the religious struggle. The rules do deal with this by making you average your score for your two powers when checking for a domination victory, so maybe that is enough. Again, this is based on one play, so I may be off base.

Conclusion
Overall this is a great game. Aesthetically, thematically, game mechanics, play balance, everything meshes very well. Very rarely does a game grab the attention of our group, with everyone really wanting a replay, and HIS does. If you like multiplayer, diplomatic/military, accessible games, then get this game. I may be biased because I am currently obsessed with this game, and I am a sucker for games set in eras that have not been covered much by other games. Really, I can't recommend this game enough.
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
Germany
Düsseldorf
NRW
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Hi Michael,

Thanks for the info. I have been following this on efor a while and is on my hot list. You are the one of the early Birds and I am really curous how this one turns out. As it is from GMT I am very confident.
Love the theme.
 
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Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
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jheitz4581 wrote:
Rules Some might be put off by the 40 page rule book. Don't be. This is not a complex game. It does have a lot depth, but when you boil it down, it's an easy game to learn.


I haven't yet played, and am only about 25 pages into reading the rules. But so far, I'm very confused and have found a disturbing number of very minor exceptions to remember. The confusion will probably go away after I read more rules, but it's a little distressing to have read 25 pages of rules and not have anything to stand on (so to speak ...).

This will hopefully evaporate after our first "learning game," but so far I have to disagree with the statement above.
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michael heitz
United States
Santa Fe
New Mexico
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sos1 wrote:
jheitz4581 wrote:
Rules Some might be put off by the 40 page rule book. Don't be. This is not a complex game. It does have a lot depth, but when you boil it down, it's an easy game to learn.


I haven't yet played, and am only about 25 pages into reading the rules. But so far, I'm very confused and have found a disturbing number of very minor exceptions to remember. The confusion will probably go away after I read more rules, but it's a little distressing to have read 25 pages of rules and not have anything to stand on (so to speak ...).

This will hopefully evaporate after our first "learning game," but so far I have to disagree with the statement above.


Steffan: I think once you walk through a practice game a lot of your confusion will disappear. I still think that, although there are a lot of rules, most everything is pretty intuitive. What confused you so far? What were the minor exceptions?
 
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Brad Miller
United States
Seattle
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I'm playing in an email game of this right now, (go England!), and haven't had too many issues so far. The Naval rules re combat, rotation, and requirements for besieging are a bit tough, but I'm getting there.

On a related note, anyone who would be interested in playing an email game, (fast players, in the USA or related timezones), let me know, I'd like to run one myself.
 
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