No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! NO MORE SYSTEMS!
You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike God!
So, I’ve played Here I Stand with the full 6 and love it. Scheduled a rematch between the players and ranked it a 10. I talked about it so much that one of my one-on-one players demanded a try of Here I Stand. Since the rematch wasn’t coming up for a while, I busted out the 2-player variant and decided that it would be worth a try. After a single play, I feel like I’ve just started to scratch the surface of strategic options available, but have a firm grasp on what makes it different than typical 6-player Here I Stand.
My Review will assume that people know how to play the basic game and are interested in the differences between the versions.
The only thing you need is Here I Stand and the 19 new Diplomacy cards, as well as a printout of the rules from C3i. The new cards are just like the old cards, but with purple backs instead of brown ones. The contemporary artwork and clearly worded text are great and visually appealing.
The new rules are very well laid out and simple to understand. There are a few holes that arise, all of them from how the different unplayed powers interact with the players, but common sense, or a die roll and resolve those issues well…or, there’s always the Forums here on BGG.
An Altered Main Deck:
Since you’re only playing with two powers, the Protestants and the Papacy, the deck is gutted of all the cards that are focused on the other powers. Piracy and foreign diplomacy are now abstracted in the Diplomacy Deck, and the New World, Henry’s Heirs, France’s Chateaux and other elements of the game are removed because they are unnecessary to the central plot of this game, the religious struggle over Europe. In addition, some cards also have an altered effect.
The New Diplomacy Phase:
Every turn, both players will draw one card from the Diplomacy Deck. From the second turn and on, the Pope, followed by the Protestants will play a single card (from his hand of two), and keep the other. These cards will generally either profit the Pope, or the Protestants, occasionally it can be good for either to play.
The most impacting of these cards are the invasion cards. Invasions allow your opponent to utilize one of the unplayed factions to attack their opponent. Most of the invasions are bad for the Pope, with just a handful having a negative effect for the Protestants. Invasions are a great way to distract your opponent from what your main effort that turn is, or to take a key or electorate and deprive your opponent of essential victory points.
The Pope can make peace with different power s he’s at war with by excommunicating their rulers, or by suing for peace like in the normal game. The Protestants can’t really make peace with the Hapsburgs (the only invasions they have to fear), but can mobilize a strong force to defeat them.
It seemed to me that invasions were very helpful to the power that used them, but by themselves could not win the conflict.
The other Diplomacy Cards have limited effects much like some of the more powerful events in the Main Deck.
A Limited Map:
Everything outside of the German and Italian Language zones is gutted. There are representative forces, but nothing to truly mobilize, which limits the effectiveness of the Invasion cards against a careful player. This becomes doubly true because no new armies can be purchased for Invading forces. The rules for Unrest and Control are also simplified.
The only way that victory can be achieved through Domination is with a difference of 8 or more on turn 4 or later. This keeps everyone in the game and prevents an effective Papal player form eking out an unlucky Protestant. Other victory conditions remain as in the normal game.
An interesting variant is to play as if this is the only way to win. It forces a player to consider how to damage his opponent more than build himself up.
It is a great CDG based on the Here I Stand rules set. The play of the game is quick, and can be used to help new players get up to speed with the rest of your group before the next full round of Here I Stand.
The religious conflict is very well fleshed out and it is truly the focus of this game. Players who play this variant can feel very comfortable playing in the main game and using their experiences from this version to bolster their strategies with 5 other players.
The time commitment is quite moderate. Even in a teaching game there is less than 4 hours required, which includes setup and some brief rules reading.
Sometimes the cards on the Diplomacy Deck aren’t clear enough. They’ve got lots of good text, but often they are trying to abstract too much and things get a little muddled. Also, certain cards don’t have a time limit: Henry the VIII asks for a Divorce coming up after Edward the VI is already King.
The only ugly aspect of the game is that it’s not really Here I Stand anymore. It’s a fun CDG on the Protestant/Catholic wars, which happens to use the parts of Here I Stand as well as having some rules in common. The biggest attraction of Here I Stand is the player interaction.
The wheeling and dealing of the diplomacy phase, the intensity of playing an event that really puts a hurting on the player in the lead, the frustration of the Papal player as the French disregard the Protestant expansion and instead attack into Italy…this is what Here I Stand is made of, player interaction, the natural and unnatural alliances that take place, allowing for wild and unexpected events. Also, in the main game, every power has a different strength, and a unique weakness. The New World is a fun diversion, as are Henry’s wives, and here they are simply excluded.
If you love Here I Stand, you will not be terribly disappointed by the 2-player variant. It is a good 2-player CDG that has many rules in common with a gaming system you already know well. However, the lack of player interaction, and the massive reduction in diversity, that is the stuff that makes Here I Stand a great game, so the 2-player variant is not as exceptional to me.