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Subject: Here I Stand Primer: The Ottomans rss

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John R
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[Cross-posted from our blog, Margin of Victory: an in-depth look at board games]

[Note: We're playing Here I Stand again this weekend with a few new players. Joe requested that I sketch out some possible strategies for each side. As our least experienced player is going to be the Ottomans, I'll start here and fill in the rest over the coming months.]

When we have new players at the table, it's customary to offer them the Ottomans or French. While both offer plenty of fun opportunities, they are "rules light" powers because the religious game does not directly affect them. Of the two, however, the Ottomans are more straightforward--perfect for someone who is learning the rules. What follows is some advice for those new Ottoman players who are sitting down to play the 1532/Tournament scenario.

Setup

You begin play with the second highest victory point (VP) count, 16 to the Hapsburgs' 18. As the game opens, your land forces are clustered around Istanbul and Buda. However, you are also in control of a powerful but scattered navy. Your time will be split between engaging in piracy, fleet actions, and taking keys.

Three Basic Openings

By spring deploying troops to Buda, some Ottoman players opt for a swift and decisive victory at Vienna. This will most likely force the Hapsburg player to meet you in the field at Pressburg and/or spend his home card building up a defensive force. However, to ensure victory, you will probably spend your home card to get some extra dice in that field battle. If you win, you have hamstrung the Hapsburg player in the east, allowing you to make a later assault on Prague. If you lose, you have spent a lot of command points (CP) for little/no gain. I consider this your riskiest opening move. There are a lot of possibilities if you win, but if you lose you end up spinning your wheels a bit. This is the "Vienna option."

Another choice is the "Tunis option." Spring deploying a token force to Buda will most likely scare off the Hapsburgs. Consider burning a 5 CP card to put fleets into the Aegean Sea and North African Coast on the first impulse (2 CP). Then naval transport a decent-sized army to Tunis, an independent key (3 CP). Taking this key will net you a nice 2 VP without ticking off the Hapsburgs directly. Then you can build up a fleet of pirates and raid the Hapsburgs, French, or Papacy.

A third choice is the "Venice option." Through careful wheeling and dealing, go to peace with the Hapsburgs and declare war on Venice (a minor power). You'll need a powerful navy to blockade Venice, but snatching up that key and threatening Italy might be worth it! Keep in mind that declaring war on Venice will allow the Papacy to intervene (2 CP), thus putting you in the Pope's bad graces (but who cares, right?).

Negotiation Considerations

Never hesitate to speak with the Protestants and English. They don't directly threaten you in any way, so you can usually work out some deals. The Protestants are "card hunting" for key Reformation events; if you have these, you may be able to get a random card draw from them or a promise to play "Foul Weather" or "Gout" on your behalf. It's usually good to talk to the French too; if both of you decide to go after the Hapsburgs at the same time, you can make great gains and keep the Holy Roman juggernaut off balance.

I would also argue that there is a time when making peace with the Hapsburgs is a good idea! This agreement will allow both of you some breathing room to pursue other interests elsewhere (for you, Tunis or Venice...for him, electorates, Calais, Metz, etc.).

Keep Your Eyes Open For...

Because Here I Stand is a card-driven wargame, you obviously can't prepare for most situations that will come up. However, you can stay on the lookout for opportunities. Tunis, Venice, Vienna are your three key considerations. If you ever see that you've got a good shot at taking one, go for it! Later in the scenario, the Hapsburgs may need to draw forces out of Italy to deal with threats elsewhere. If this is the case, feel free to nab Naples. If you can build up a strong pirate fleet, go a'raiding and just pick at whomever you feel needs to be brought down a notch or two. You may even be able to get something in exchange for going after a particular power ("Hey Martin Luther...what would you offer me if I agreed to raiding the Papacy?").

Final Thoughts


Through careful use of pirates you can leech resources from your enemies. You will be tempted to use your home card in all sorts of situations; gauge carefully where it will do the most damage and let your janissaries do their worst.In short, playing the Ottomans gives you the perfect opportunity to play the "Boogeyman" of Europe during this period; enjoy it!

John,
Margin of Victory
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Dan Owsen
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Nice general strategy. The only problem with hammering too much on the Hapsburgs is it can cripple their ability to weaken the Protestants and leave them open to England. Without the Hapsburgs to balance the Protestants and English, they will have a fairly easy time of it. If you do anything that helps the Protestants, definitely get something for it. Personally I'd never give them any of the cards that help them, they have too many helpful cards in the deck already!

Taking Prauge AND Vienna seems pretty greedy (unless the Haps are really running away with it). I'd try for the war win just taking Vienna. You need to balance land wars with piracy.

The Turks are definitely the best power for beginners, they are fun and easy to play.

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Jason Johns
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Good overall assessment. I am a strong defensive player. I tend to hold the Ottoman home card until it is the last card I will play. FREX: if I want to hold 2 cards, it'll be the 3rd to last I play, etc. I normally play the 1517 scenario, so this advice may only generally apply. I tend to hold two cards on one turn and then play all of them on the next. The third turn would then be holding, etc. It gives some flexibility.

I know this sounds counter-productive, but be careful with piracy. I can't tell you how many games, I've seen the Otts do well at piracy on one round (from 3-5 points) and everyone stop or curtail what they're doing to target the Otts. A lot of overreaction.

Finally, YES, make a deal with the Haps and go to peace if you can. It's GREAT for the Ottoman. I will say that it's bad play for the Haps though. IMO it's the job of the Haps to contain the Ottomans. You can't do that if you're not at war with them. If the situation gets out of hand, well, there's nothing you can do, but you don't want the Papacy being the one who is stopping the Ottomans. Their main job is the Prot who is now running rampant as the Papacy builds troops.

Anyway, just my $.02.
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Greg Forster
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"When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning" - Dr. Reiner Knizia
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This article emphasizes alliances with the English and Protestant, but the French are your key ally because of your mutual hostility to the Hapsburg and the potential to hit him at the same time.

Build lots of cavalry early, and keep building them. Your ability to build cheap units that aren't vulnerable to merc cards is a key advantage. Start by building a cav in each of your home keys and then returning the regulars to Istanbul in winter so you can use them. If the foreign war cards come out, send cavalry units and then leave them there. It's never worth fighting a foreign war.

Don't neglect piracy! You will usually need it to win. Depending on the situation it may make more sense to do it a little every turn or focus on it for a whole turn. Learn the piracy rules - they're trickier than they seem. (Check out the Frequently Misplayed Rules document in the files section.)

Remember that corsairs do not count when you are determining whether you can assault a port key.

Timing the fall of Hungary is critical. You need to carefully consider at what point you want to be at war with the Hapsburg. If Barbary Pirates comes out early, consider focusing on piracy and ignoring Vienna. Try to ensure the Hapsburg will be busy elsewhere when Hungary falls. And see if you can catch him off guard - there's no need to telegraph your intentions!

UPDATE: Oops, didn't realize this post was meant to address the tournament scenario, where some of the concerns I raised here aren't relevant.
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