Total gameplay time: 10.5 hours
Turn end: winter before turn 8
Winner: France with 26 VP, Protestants had 25.
So, Statalyzer and I finished our 2-player game with the other 4 sides playing "bots." For each bot, we dealt them the amount of cards they were supposed to be dealt based on keys and New World, and then we turned over random cards from their hands as a card play for their faction.
We did not do any card play or card draw diplomacy. There were sometimes we assumed certain sides would go to war or make peace with each other. When there was indecision as to whether or not 2 sides would make peace, we would roll a d6 to determine it.
For the first few turns, these were the assumed plans for each side (as discussed and determined by us before each turn started):
Ottomans: Take over Buda, if Barbary Pirates was played, start pirating
Hapsburgs: Reinforce Tunis (SD), take over Metz, build ships for anti-piracy, explorations/conquests/colonies
France: reinforce Milan (SD), build chateaux, send out explorations/conquests/colonies
England: Take over Edinburgh, send out explorations/conquests/colonies
If Hapsburgs, England, or France drew a card that cancelled an exploration or conquest, they would play it on the faction who had the most VP.
Later in the game, we ended up with the following:
Ottomans suing for peace with the Hapsburgs, so they didn't take over Ottoman lands and to get Algiers back, and pirating up 5-6 VP.
Hapsburgs colonizing and conquering half of the new world and taking over Algiers (to be given back when Ottomans sued for peace), taking over Venice by sieging the French to prevent the French from winning, ended with Andrea Doria on their side.
France circumnavigating and gaining an extra card, Diplomatic Marriage to Venice while haveing Andrea Doria, other explorers were removed from the game due to Search for Cibola, taking over Metz from the Hapsburgs late in the game (ultimately holding onto it for the VP win)
England conquering someone and exploring a couple of locations, sickly Edward being born (Edward was the only other English leader to come into the game), taking over Antwerp from the Hapsburgs
Papacy never drew Andrea Doria. The only religious card played by either of the religious factions was Marburg Coloquy, which was picked up and played using Here I Stand. I ended the game with about 43-44 Protestant spaces, but 8 of them were in unrest due to Cartstadt and Pilgrimmage of Grace. The Pope burned Tyndale and Olivetan. Protestants disgraced Tetzel, and completed all 3 Bibles.
Game ended without the Amazon being explored, as later in the game, England, France, and Hapsburgs all were threatening to win at 23-24 VP, and the other sides seemed to always have a card to cancel explorations. After everyone played their final card in Turn 7, the Hapsburgs had 3 cards left, and they were sieging the 4 French troops in Metz. If the Hapsburgs took over Metz, then the Protestants win. Hapsburgs have a total of 18 dice over the 3 siege attempts and only get 1 hit. France ends up getting 4 hits over the 3 defenses.
Ultimately, the lack of diplomacy hurt both sides, possible hurting the Pope slightly more since the Protestants can pick up cards using Here I Stand, but the Protestants never got Printing Press, Augsburg Confession, Affair of the Placards, or Calvin's Institutes played, as all of those were played after they were forced to play their home card.
I liked not having the diplomacy deck used, but not having as high a chance to draw religious cards from the deck was kind of annoying. I probably could've also won, had I not wasted 3-4 cards on trying to disgrace committed Papal debaters.
I also learned a valuable lesson about playing the Pope - don't put Jesuits in Germany if Carlstadt is still alive.