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Subject: Help newbie win with French! rss

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Jonas Mustonen
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I'm playing yet again 1517 scenario with Frenchies next saturday. I have learned the basics of the game with few games I have played before, but I'm not really sure how to win with French.

English are propably going at my throat at first sign of weakness. Their pretty much natural enemy and as long as keep credible number of troops and ships I think they stay on their own turf, am I right?

Is Scotland worth the effort?

Habspurgs are propably having their hands full with Ottomans and Protestants?

Should I even pay attention to protestants?

Should I deal witht Pope at all, other than buying of excommunications?

Should I go at Italian city-states?

Should I buddy up with Ottoman Empire at risk of almost certain excommunication? Is there real benefits for alliance with them, they have their own wars with Hungary and the Habsburgs, not really a worry for me, or are they?

How much effort I should put to New World?

What cards I should especially pay attention to and save for later if possible? Master of Italy perhaps?
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Luis Alberto Fernández Vallejo
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You know this document? Here you can read some tips for beginners, from Ed Beach's web page. There is a section for each Major Power --see France. And don't forget to read the whole document, it's very interesting.
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Josh
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I've played HIS only twice, once as the French. I tried to push hard into Italy, and it turned out to be very difficult because of supply lines. I also tried get into Spain, with slightly more success. I definitely should have paid more attention to the English. From my (albeit weak) calculations, I thought keeping Scotland was not worth the effort. Overall, I wish I had kept more navies on my northern coast to deter the English. The game was won by the English invading France and stomping across it because I was spread too thin in the south. Have fun!
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Colleen
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France has one of the most diplomatic positions on the board being in the center of everyone. There are a few things I would do with the French:

1. Build ships at your vulnerable sea ports. Because you cannot be attacked until your fleets are outnumbered, it's a great defensive move and could deter an attack by Hapsburgs, Ottomans, or Venice. Usually it's not so great against the English.

2. Never engage in a war that does not protect your boundaries and benefit you. If someone is running away with the game and winning, do not get involved with fighting that person. As France you cannot weaken your armies because some other player refuses to spend resources attacking the leader. It's too easy for everyone to fight France and so be mindful of how weak you become.

3. Always defend Paris. Those nasty English can declare war at any time and you should always be on guard for that. I like to try to make strategic alliances with the English because they cannot change the state of the game from "allied" to "at war" with their home card. This is a great protection against them. Also if you ever strike a deal with the English to go after the Hapsburgs - make an alliance to ensure the plan.

4. Offer the Pope something to avoid excommunication. It's annoying and worth a few mercs or a non-aggression against a common interest area.

5. You can basically ignore the Protestants. It's the Hapsburgs job to knock them down to gain the electorates. You have nothing the Protestants want and they have nothing you want. However, never forget the advantage of creating an alliance to spring deploy across their lands. Should you find your self at war with Hapsburgs that alliance is strategic in your war.

6. Use the papacy as another alliance possibility should you find yourself at war with Ottomans. You can spring deploy across their lands right into Ottoman home lands if no mountain passes get in the way.

7. Build your arts center. If you feel like you will leave a big hole in your defenses by attacking another country, then don't leave. Build your victory point and reinforce for a turn. It's not as fun but will strengthen your position for an attack the next round. I also like to do this if my card draw was awful.

8. Negotiate...negotiate...negotiate. You will lose if you do this poorly. ALWAYS look at the cards in your hand and see who it benefits. ALWAYS offer to play the event if that person does not provide you with something you want/need. Use it for peace terms, an alliance, cedeing territories, mercs...something! You asked about Scotland, well talk to England. England should give you something to make it easy for him to take Scotland (IMO). I like to begin by building a bunch of naval squadrons to threaten England if he fights Scotland. Then you can get real leverage in that negotiation.
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Jonas Mustonen
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I'll check that link Luis Alberto, thank you.

Josh K, I will actively try not spread my armies thin, or over-extend.

I value those tips Colleen, thanks! I have played about once as each power but French have been pretty much a mystery. Other powers are pretty clear cut in what are their strengths and where best or easiest to expand.

It seems France is best played with weighting carefully all the risks vs. possible profits.

 
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Philip Thomas
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You can either play using your Home Card for victory points, in which case you really should use it every turn, or using your Home Card for Ops.

Using your Home Card for VPs implies a defensive, careful strategy in which your priority is holding Milan. In the long run you will be in a position for a points win with some help from the New World etc.

Using your Home Card for OPs rewards an aggressive strategy. You will be behind the curve on VPs, but you should have plenty of troops and cards. Possible directions include Italy (with a suitable minor power Ally) Spain, and the Rhine Valley (Metz through to Antwerp). Form a strong alliance with the Ottomans to keep the Hapsburgs distracted and try to keep the English at least neutral. Depending on the New World and how many War Winner/Master of Italy Vps you pick up, you may be able to win on points, but an automatic victory on keys is even better.

What often happens (even when I play France), is that the French player gets confused between the two strategies, and ends up playing his Home Card for a VP every other turn and trying to fight all Europe at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster!
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Jonas Mustonen
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Yup, I got to decide that early on which way to go, and really cover the back. I propably have to butter up some to keep the situation from devolving to a point where everyone wants and thinks getting a slice of french pie would be easy.

I think I can propably convince English player with enough troops on French soil that war there would mean quagmire, for a while atleast.
 
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Matthew Barratt
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colleens wrote:
4. Offer the Pope something to avoid excommunication. It's annoying and worth a few mercs or a non-aggression against a common interest area.

5. You can basically ignore the Protestants. It's the Hapsburgs job to knock them down to gain the electorates. You have nothing the Protestants want and they have nothing you want. However, never forget the advantage of creating an alliance to spring deploy across their lands. Should you find your self at war with Hapsburgs that alliance is strategic in your war.


If France is at peace, one thing you can offer to do for the Pope is to build troops in unoccupied French spaces that can influence the religious struggle (St Diziers, Dijon, etc) at the start of the turn and have them spend a turn giving dice to the Pope's counter-reformation rolls before returning to Paris at the end of the turn ready for your next war.

If the Protestants find this annoying, ask them what they would pay for you to only build with existing stacks.

Conversely, if you can arange to have a fortified space that is not going to be threatened this turn manned only by a mercenary, then the Protestants should be very interested in any deal that transfers that mercenary to him as it would deny the Pope the stack's counter-reformation dice.
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Colleen
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Philip Thomas wrote:
You can either play using your Home Card for victory points, in which case you really should use it every turn, or using your Home Card for Ops.


I disagree. One of the best parts about HiS is how decisions need to be made based on all of the dynamic intricacies going on in the moment. France must always attempt to gain victory points. With a bad round of cards, the ops to pull off a siege might not be there, so spending the home card on VPs is right. However the next turn might result in good diplomacy, an alliance, a great hand of cards, and some nice targets on the board to go after - so that turn fighting is correct. The next turn might bring another run of nothing so invest in infrastructure, not fighting. What matters most is diplomacy. Good diplomacy can turn a bad situation into a profitable round. So I would most definitely split the home card between ops and VPs. Use all your available options to win. Free VPs with the home card are right to grab when you cannot use the ops very well.
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Colleen
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MBarratt wrote:

If France is at peace, one thing you can offer to do for the Pope is to build troops in unoccupied French spaces that can influence the religious struggle (St Diziers, Dijon, etc) at the start of the turn and have them spend a turn giving dice to the Pope's counter-reformation rolls before returning to Paris at the end of the turn ready for your next war.

If the Protestants find this annoying, ask them what they would pay for you to only build with existing stacks.

Conversely, if you can arange to have a fortified space that is not going to be threatened this turn manned only by a mercenary, then the Protestants should be very interested in any deal that transfers that mercenary to him as it would deny the Pope the stack's counter-reformation dice.


These are great suggestions.
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P. Al Williams
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I have won as the French, 6 player, 1517.
Diplomacy is extremely important.
The new world is very important for you.
Play it every turn from the start.

General advice in this game can be very hard as after about ten full plays I have yet to see two games really even very similar.
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Todd Pytel
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I've played the French three times (out of three HIS games) and won a VP Domination victory in the last one. In general, I think the French player needs to nickel and dime his way to a VP victory rather than aim for military domination. You pick up a few points in the New World, build a few Chateaux, take and hold one or two keys, and suddenly you're in contention. Any big military push in one direction is likely to leave you weak somewhere else, and you've got a whole lot of borders to cover. In the first game I played, I actually did very nearly get a military win, but there was some very poor play from England that helped me a lot and I wouldn't generally consider that a good path to take.

Mutiemoe wrote:
English are propably going at my throat at first sign of weakness. Their pretty much natural enemy and as long as keep credible number of troops and ships I think they stay on their own turf, am I right?

Sometimes. Early on Henry will probably be too worried about his heir and Scotland to waste his limited Ops invading. But later on, yeah... you've got to deter the English with troops or he'll use his Home Card to pounce on you. Still, England's got to fight somewhere - it's going to be you or the Haps. So I'd never feel completely safe.

Quote:
Is Scotland worth the effort?

I'm not sure. In my last game, I was moving in Italy (see below), so activating Scotland just didn't make any sense. In my first game, I activated Scotland and (along with some crazy dice and poor English play) completely hamstrung England and was a 5 or 6 away from winning on two different die rolls. I guess I'd say that if activating Scotland is going to get you another card draw, then it's definitely worth strongly considering. But I don't have a good feel for Scotland yet.

Quote:
Hapsburgs are propably having their hands full with Ottomans and Protestants?

Always. But they've got so damn many cards that I'm still always afraid of picking a fight with them. Also, a Hapsburg ally can loan you fleets - an extremely helpful deterrent against England.

Quote:
Should I even pay attention to protestants?

I always find myself taking a little nap during the religious stuff on the other side of the table, in large part because I don't know those rules at all. But a stronger player might be able to get a better read on the Haps by following what's happening in Germany.

Quote:
Should I deal witht Pope at all, other than buying of excommunications?

Should I go at Italian city-states?

The Alps make it extremely difficult to act in Italy. Unless you have specific cards that will give you a big advantage there, it's probably best to make peace and just try to hold on to Milan. In the game I won, I had those cards - Charles de Bourbon in particular - and took Florence on the first turn, leaving the Pope at a severe disadvantage the rest of the game. In that case, fighting in Italy paid off very well for me, but only because I had exactly the cards I needed on the very first turn. Otherwise, I'd have taken a pass.

Quote:
Should I buddy up with Ottoman Empire at risk of almost certain excommunication? Is there real benefits for alliance with them, they have their own wars with Hungary and the Habsburgs, not really a worry for me, or are they?

I don't really see any point in dealing with the Ottomans. But again, I may not be seeing all the angles. I suppose that in certain situations they could help you in the Mediterranean.

Quote:
How much effort I should put to New World?

I think the New World is pretty important, though inconsistent. Early colonies should pay off over the course of the game, in theory. And you've at least got Cartier as a solid explorer. Once he's been used, explorations are a bit less enticing. But Cartier circumnavigated for me in my winning game, which was a big help for my VP count.

Quote:
What cards I should especially pay attention to and save for later if possible? Master of Italy perhaps?

I've yet to see Master of Italy pay off for anyone. Scary if it does, but in practice it's very hard to control all those keys. The big cards, for almost everyone really, are Andreas Doria and Diplomatic Marriage - activating Genoa or Venice is huge in a lot of ways. Military cards at the right time can be devastating. Shipbuilding, while certainly not a game winner, can help you build a fleet at a discount. Potosi Mines are always nice. Copernicus can be a game swinger at the right moment as well.
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Colleen
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I've been wanting to try out a strategy using a French/Ottoman alliance, but it requires a few conditions to be met that are difficult. First before laying siege in Spain, I'd ensure a peace with England for the turn by creating an alliance. That keeps you safe from the home card for one turn. Then I would consider what my eastern border looks like and see how defendable it is with minimal troops. If it looks reasonable to defend, then I would spring deploy everything I've got except for a skeleton defense south to Spain along with the Ottomans support. I figured if Ottomans attack Vienna and we both attack Spain, we can basically force Hapsburgs to surrender the next diplomatic phase for some cool VPs. By leaving some naval squadrons after you eliminate most of the Hapsburgs fleets (if possible) you can easily defend Spain as well. However the drawback is the revenge by England in the next turn so there must be a winter movement to cover the north. This plan also leaves France vulnerable to excommunication and could boost the Ottomans to an unacceptable VP level.
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Greg Schmittgens
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FWIW -

Go for the VP whenever possible. Keys on the map can (and do ) change hands, but permanent VP never go away.

When I'm the French (and I have won as the French), I always play the Home Card for the VP.

When I'm the French, I always max out the New World.

The rest of my card plays depend on the map situation.

(Anecdote - One time, I suggested to the Hapsburgs and British that we all go after the New World and let the dice decide who gets what. Instead, they fought over Europe (including part of France). I got about 10-11 VP in the New World (Jacques Cartier circumnavigated the globe - not the first time), all my chateaux, then came back and sued for peace to get my keys back - game over.)

But that's just my opinion - I could be wrong.

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michael heitz
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Everyone has hit a lot of points, so I'll just add a few thoughts.

1. Scotland is not worth the effort unless you have specific cards that help. Combat cards combined with response cards that give you more troops. Anti-merc cards to cut down the English army size. Without those cards you cannot hold Scotland long term. Even with the right cards, it can be tough to hold Scotland long term. You'll have to commit to naval builds on your north coast. If you can hold Scotland for a couple/few turns you can hamstring England as it requires a serious investment from them to take Scotland when defended by France. In one of our last games (I was France), England only took back Scotland (on turn 3 or 4) because they drew Treachery. I was dominating the seas at the time so they never could have assaulted without that card.

2. The New World is critically important, in my opinion. You are the only one who can realistically compete with the Hapsburgs for New World points. Sure, England can get lucky from time to time, but normally France needs to take those points. First, it obviously helps you if you can circumnavigate and/or take the amazon before the Hapsburgs. But, more importantly, it denies those points to the Hapsburgs, which they really need. If you can limit the points the Hapsburgs gain from the New World, you've really put them against the wall in that they almost have to win via a military victory rather than on points. Getting only 1 point per key really makes it difficult for the Hapsburgs to build up points when they only get a couple of points from explorations.

3. Build chateaux at every opportunity. These are points that can never be lost. You can always sue for peace and get back the points for your captured keys. Of course this is situational and sometimes you have to play your home card for points. Generally speaking, in over 30 games that my group has played, when France does well or wins, she has built lots of chateaux, when France doesn't do well, they have been engaged in lots of conflict and have played their home cards for points.

4. There's rarely a reason to enter into an actual alliance with the Ottomans, but by all means talk to them every turn. You both are enemies with the Hapsburgs and can each have reasons to attack the Pope. You need them to take the Hapsburg heat off of you because you will fight England more than once during the game, usually. And they need you to help against the Hapsburgs if the Hapsburgs start rolling. The Hapsburgs almost always will have card advantage over the Ottomans.

5. Campaigning in Italy is like Scotland; you have to have the cards to do it. The main reason being is that if you campaign in Italy and take away a neutral key from the Pope, you guarantee an excommunication. You really don't want to be down a card on turn 2 if England successfully takes Scotland on turn 1.

6. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy! You are vulnerable from all sides; you have to talk and try to strike deals. You can fight evenly against England. You might be able to hold off a Hapsburg attack. But, without help, you cannot do both. Also, try to fly under the radar until it's too late. Understand the meta-game environment of your group. You have to be able to play other players off against each other. If you can't shake the target off your back then you have to be lucky to win.
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Greg Forster
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It's tempting to intervene in Scotland and then not bother to defend it, just so you get the benefit of having an extra key for a little while for a cost of 2CP. Of course, this puts you at war with England. But one thing I've seen happen in a high-trust group is this: England and France make a deal under which France agrees not to do anything to defend Scotland, and in return England agrees to let France intervene and not fight him on the continent. Or, alternatively, England pays France something to empty Edinburgh so he can take it easily - and France walks away with some troops and a boat.
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Jason Johns
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OK, France...

Basically, there is a New World triangle between England, France, and Haps. Of the three, you always want to be one of the two guys attacking the other. Continue to work on keeping sweet with either England or Hapsburgs.

I concur with the idea of constantly working for New World stuff. Unless the Haps goes wholeheartedly against you on turn one, then go hard after the New World on turn one.

The Ottoman can be your best friend to work over the Haps. I rarely see this, but if you can coordinate attacks, the Haps will be in trouble.

Did I mention DI-PLO-MA-CY!?!

Good Luck.
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Jonas Mustonen
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Thanks for all the input folks!

Game I played saturday didn't actually go that well with France but it was very entertaining and at least I wasn't totally walked over.

Ottoman empire and England both got to 25 VP. I was 16 VP and there was absolutely no consolation in that at least I was not as badly beaten as Habspurgs who were last.

I really screwed up diplomacy, I was gunning for easy victories with independent keys but managed to piss off both Papacy and Habsburgs big time, eh. This was propably my biggest mistake.

Protestantism was running rampant when Papacy poured for several rounds half or more of his CP's in to military, in hindsight I propably should have let Papa just take one indepent key I conqured in Italy. His holyness was perhaps too sensitive when thinking that 2 troops in Florence and 4 in Milan were at any moment rushing at the gates of Rome. I don't think anyone in the game expect Ottoman Empire had even a remote chanse to go at Rome, so filled it was with troops.

England cunningly bled me dry with eather demanding a card for turn of allying and ensuring peace, or rampaged across France and my CP's were bled dry when replacing fallen troops, moving troops to relief and trying to keep the Papacy and Habsburgs at bay same time. Immense amounts of English troops in Calais kept my troops tied up in Northern France just as deterrant. I not really sure did everyone understand the power dynamics of the Franco-Anglian alliance being pretty much about France paying for protection from England rather than teamup to steamroll across Europe, on the other hand it is smart to prepare for everything.

Several times I had Habspurgs at relatively weak position, he was too proud to sue for peace and didn't want to give even a single card of his enormous hand for me as settlement. I was too stubborn for my own good too, Spain is a quagmire. On the last round I came in to my senses gave in and sued for peace with diplomatic marriage.

My demands were all the time pretty "reasonable", but senseless war devoured his resources and mine. I even one time offered the peace on his terms but he was so riled of the constant border skirmishes that he wanted to wreak havoc in southern France and perhaps mistaking my temporary exhaustion on resouces for actually being vulnerable, of course it only led to his troops being fought off and heavy unsustainable losses to both. I can understand where he was coming with though, I would have done the same.

England propably mastermined this all, if so mad props to him for getting his enemies to do his work for him.

I was forced to use home card for it's CP just to raise and move troops. Constant warfare kept kept me in disastrous situation of my own making, No fancy Chateux for me, New world was also just a distant dream.

Trying to coarse people in negations with bad event cards or butter them up with promise of using the good ones with beneficial effects to them instead of using cards for only CP's proved ineffective. This propably gave some warning signals of some sort of terrible crookedness being afoot or the threats were not heavy enough or the buttering up sweet enough, and althought I carefully cultivated my reputation with being man of my word and honest in my deals I noted that this approach was futile.

Good game altogether, tough and smart players all, but I propably have to use diplomacy more to avoid stepping on toes too early. Next time when controlling France I have to play it all more carefully and without getting on bad sides early.



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