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Subject: Deep Box, Deep Play rss

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Bob Durf
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Here I Stand is a great game. It has depth, a (mostly) balanced card driven system, and disparate powers that interact and play completely differently from any other game. It is a wargame, yet has meaningful non-conflict driven victory paths. It has uneven powers, yet they all carry their own weight in each game. Best of all, most of my group's plays have been very close down to the very last victory point to 25. Like my other reviews, I won't go into huge rule recitals. Go to better reviews or resources for that. I'll just share my opinions on components, gameplay, and any possible complaints.

Components: Simply wonderful. The board is sturdy, and has many of the tables and resources necessary to play already on it. The player cards are lifesavers, showing each power what it can do with command point costs. For a game with vastly different powers, this is hugely important. The Key control markers and the victory points and cards gained with each key captured is another nice touch.

The cards themselves are high quality. Many more are colorful then you might think, and the quality of the cardstock seems fairly high (though I have sleeved them anyways). The chits are one of the only areas of complaint, they are pretty small and can get lost easily, are very fiddly, and can separate at the seams easier than bigger ones. Be careful with them!

Gameplay: The card driven strategy has so many levels in Here I Stand. In a way, it builds off of Napoleonic Wars and its system of preemption. Holding cards, passing, choosing when to play a card and when to hold for the next turn is only a small part of the game, yet is strategic in itself. The cards themselves are all relatively balanced, with the exception of the possible controversial Copernicus. While the Copernicus card hasn't played a big role in my group's games thus far, I can see frustration around losing just because of one card play.

Relatively fast gameplay is essential to keep a game like this moving. However, a game like this can shift so suddenly in one impulse, with strategies and diplomacy ever shifting, that it can be difficult to plan ahead your turns. While this is a good thing game wise, its not so good timewise. Expect a long game. Even the tournament scenario is going to go the distance.

One issue with gameplay with new players in particular is the power curves of some of the powers in the game. The Protestants do not start off on the same footing as anyone else. They have no armies initially and operate by purely religious play until the Schmakaldic League is played. For a new group, this can sour the game for the most committed experienced gamers, playing what can seem like glorified Yahtzee until the League gets played. In a lesser sense, the Ottomans first turn is far less open then other powers and feels scripted. They have a low number of initial cards in hand, and their situation similarly doesn't expand until the Pirates are put into play later in the game. It is key to show players that there are mandatory cards that change certain powers as the game goes on, for both game knowledge and to keep those powers involved.

Other than that, the victory point track feels balanced. None of our games have gone to the end, with someone winning by over 25VPs, or in one case, an auto-military win. I think, like Napoleonic Wars, most Here I Stand games may not go the maximum number of turns, and that's actually a good thing, as it keeps everyone searching for VPs. The peace mechanics, the New World, and power specific VP mechanisms give every player the opportunity to search for points, even if they are getting pounded militarily.

Strategy: Every power has different viable strategies, and that is what really makes Here I Stand so unique and fun. The Hapsburgs are going to have a different game than the English, and almost every power can interact with each other in diplomatic ways. The one area this breaks down in for me is the Protestants and Ottomans early game play, as mentioned earlier, this limits their strategy and replayability.

I have not had the pleasure to play France yet, and it seems like France is in a more difficult situation than other players. France has limited areas of expansion and is easily defeated by the Hapsburgs in a 1 on 1 fight. If the English gets involved, forget winning a war as France. If England gets time to sit back and build, France seems to have trouble even fighting England on an equal level. Their home card seems much more situational than the other powers' home cards. If France controls Milan, its a decent way to earn some VPs, but if France doesn't, I can't see the card being risked on a dice roll. In the games I've played, I've seen the card played for the event relatively rarely, unlike the other home cards.

The Hapsburgs, rather than winning most of our games, seem to have troubles in every game we play, even the first couple 'noobish' ones, going against a pattern of Hapsburg victories in new groups. I think the Hapsburgs are more likely to be ganged up on than any other power, and our group has not hesitated to smack them all game with events and wars. It seems this self-balancing is necessary to keep them from running away with a win, since even being beaten down on the VP track compared to other powers, the Hapsburgs can still walk into each turn with a practical deck of cards compared to the other powers. They seem to be a strange snowballing power that will do poorly, unless they get a chance and run away with the game.

Conclusion: Here I Stand is a well constructed game. It needs competitive players who are willing to bash leaders that inevitably rise, experienced players who understand power curves in the game, especially religious ones, and finally, players who enjoy negotiating and a dash of luck. It has wonderful components, and a bunch of replayability. After a game, I want to play the same power over and over to try new things, and this can be replicated six times for all six unique powers! Plan ahead, bring food, and enjoy an immersive gaming experience!

OUTTAKES

GOUT: Here I Stand: $60. Gout: 2 CPs. Watching the Hapsburg player go mad after you play this turn after turn: Priceless

IRONMAN CHALLENGE: Rumor is if you achieve a auto-win by military conquest as the Papacy, Ed Beach will personally ship you a free copy of Virgin Queen...

PEOPLE COME, PEOPLE GO: From Henry's wives to the numerous popes, people certainly come and go quickly in such a long game.

VALLADOLID: Its different from Madrid. Even though it looks almost on the same spot on the map. See, Madrid is also on the map.




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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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Nice review Bob, particularly the emphasis on how each power plays differently.

What I love about HIS is that there are six people at the table who are effectively playing six different ways, but they can all work together through diplomacy and agreements.

I think your comments on the Protestants and Ottomans are generally fair, but I don't think that limits their strategy and replayabiltiy. Most of their early negotiations revolve around card-play, and seeking out other powers who can play card-events that benefit them. The Ottomans should also be working with France in those early turns [and visa-versa].

Quote:

Conclusion: Here I Stand is a well constructed game. It needs competitive players who are willing to bash leaders that inevitably rise, experienced players who understand power curves in the game, especially religious ones, and finally, players who enjoy negotiating and a dash of luck.


When I teach HIS, I present it as a semi-cooperative game where we all need to work together to maintain the status quo and prevent anyone winning. In my experience, these are the most enjoyable games. It results in more interesting diplomacy and a more tight and balanced game throughout.

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Max DuBoff
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New Jersey
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Great review, Bob! I definitely agree that it helps to have an experienced player at the table who knows what's happening.


P.S. Yeah, I've seen a Papal military autovictory and heard about another.
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Jason Johns
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Good review, Bob. This is a great game.
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Pepper Page
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Nicely done Bob. His is one of my favorite games. An excellent review.
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Martin
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Amnese wrote:


When I teach HIS, I present it as a semi-cooperative game where we all need to work together to maintain the status quo and prevent anyone winning. In my experience, these are the most enjoyable games. It results in more interesting diplomacy and a more tight and balanced game throughout.



When I play HIS, I treat it as a game someone has to win eventually and don't try to make the last hour take three or four

Disagreement on how hard you should try to forestall a victory aside, I also think it's a great game and great review.
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itsmarty wrote:
Amnese wrote:


When I teach HIS, I present it as a semi-cooperative game where we all need to work together to maintain the status quo and prevent anyone winning. In my experience, these are the most enjoyable games. It results in more interesting diplomacy and a more tight and balanced game throughout.



When I play HIS, I treat it as a game someone has to win eventually and don't try to make the last hour take three or four

Disagreement on how hard you should try to forestall a victory aside, I also think it's a great game and great review.


I played a game once where the Hapsburg player was sick of the game, so he just 'gifted' the win to the English player so that it would end quickly. England felt it was a hollow victory, the Hapsburg player felt a bit guilty, and everyone else felt a little annoyed that the game had ended this way. That may be the extreme version of what you're saying, and sure you can play to end the game quickly with someone else's win if you want, but in my experience a more enjoyable game is one where you're working closely together to the best of your abilities to prevent someone else winning.
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Martin
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Amnese wrote:
itsmarty wrote:
Amnese wrote:


When I teach HIS, I present it as a semi-cooperative game where we all need to work together to maintain the status quo and prevent anyone winning. In my experience, these are the most enjoyable games. It results in more interesting diplomacy and a more tight and balanced game throughout.



When I play HIS, I treat it as a game someone has to win eventually and don't try to make the last hour take three or four

Disagreement on how hard you should try to forestall a victory aside, I also think it's a great game and great review.


I played a game once where the Hapsburg player was sick of the game, so he just 'gifted' the win to the English player so that it would end quickly. England felt it was a hollow victory, the Hapsburg player felt a bit guilty, and everyone else felt a little annoyed that the game had ended this way. That may be the extreme version of what you're saying, and sure you can play to end the game quickly with someone else's win if you want, but in my experience a more enjoyable game is one where you're working closely together to the best of your abilities to prevent someone else winning.


I agree there's a line you want to avoid crossing, but I've been in games that go to the other extreme, where the bickering over what should be done to prevent a winner and who should contribute becomes overwhelming. It's bad enough to spend 6-8 hours losing a game without having to put up with someone saying you're not losing correctly.

Not that I ever lose at HIS, of course. All comments related to losing are purely theoretical
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