Warren Bruhn
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This is an article from the Protestant perspective, regarding a 1st play of HIS:

Anticipation:

Have been wanting to play HIS for almost a year now. Back in '78 & '79 was playing SPI's A Mighty Fortress, and was really enjoying the multi-player action. Only started playing CDG's about a year ago, and was hoping for a chance to try this one. The chance finally came when Evan, one of the local FTF gamers, decided to organize a series of HIS games at our magnificent local Portland game store, Guardian Games, which was accomodating enough to reserve Evan a large hexagonal table.

I was first alternate last week on Sunday at Noon, and could have played the Ottomans, however, I passed and let the second alternate play so that I could roam around the table watching and kibbitzing. (I was annoying enough at one point to be driven out of the French quarter. Sorry about that Linus!) The Protestants seemed to be doing pretty well in that game, a 1517 start, in spite of an early Schmalkaldic League. But, after I left at about 6:30pm, the English won, partly due to success in siring a healthy Edward, and partly due to some successes in the New World.

Preparation:

Evan was kind enough to loan me a copy of the rules, 20 minute rules, and scenario booklet. I must have read the 20 minutre rules three times, read over most sections of the rulebook, some multiple times. especially the religious rules, and read every strategy thread available here on BGG for the Protestants and the Papacy. Because I was also helping to edit the rules for No Peace Without Spain (designer Ed Herndon, publisher Compass Games), was trying to learn and teach Paths of Glory, and was trying to stay familiar with the rules of Empire in Arms, the attempt to learn HIS almost made my brain explode!

I asked for, and was fortunately given, the opportunity to play the Protestants in yesterday's game. I remember the religious struggle in A Mighty Fortress, and I figured being in the middle of that would be a more unique and interesting experience than playing a military power. The point of all the preparation was largely in the hopes of being able to play competently. Didn't expect to be able to win in a crowd of other people who either own the game or have played it before or both. But I could see it would take some prep just to play well enough not to be totally embarassed. It's an intricate game.

The Shock:

Received a powerful shock when I found we were playing the 1532 scenario. Most of my study had been oriented toward how to quickly advance the Protestants over the first three turns, and gain all the electorates before Schmalkaldic League was played. But the first three turns were over, and Schmalkadic League was already played, and the Protestants were short two electorates! To top that off, Luther starts excommunicated, not that there was a lot for him to do around Wittenburg.

I was discumbobulated enough to fumble the set up as well. Reading that there was no progress on Bible translations, I stopped there in frustration, not reading ahead to see that there actually was progress on New Testaments. And I took only 4 cards instead of 5, not reading my card carefully. This error was offset later in the game by the Pope thinking that he could not use 2 CP on one of his big cards. So maybe we came out even there. But my opening strategy might have been a little different if I had realized that I should have had another card and that there was pre-existing progress on New Testaments. But then again, maybe not...

The (one and only) Protestant military campaign:

Because of my error in thinking that the Protestants needed to take both Cologne and Trier away from the Hapsburgs in order to get 5 cards in the draw, and because I thought the New Testaments and Bible translations were hopelessly out of reach in a turn 4 start, I decided on a mighty Germanic military campaign! Well, as mighty as the lame Protestant generals and miniscule Protestant armies can manage... And hoped that the Pope would oblige by doing the same in Italy, which he did for turn 4 and part of turn 5.

It's easy to sum up this great military campaign. The Hapsburgs, free from other pressing military problems due to lack of good French cards, an alliance with the English, and lack of an immediate decisive threat from the Ottomans, concentrated in Antwerp under Charles V. Yikes! But I had already decided my strategy, and, without waiting for other wars to distract the Hapsburgs, marched the mediocre little Protestant army into Cologne, marching all their necks into the noose, as, thanks to another card play, their supply line went into unrest!

Mighty Charles V marched into Cologne, and quickly aquainted me with the power of the Tercios card! Mein Gott! But Charles V was not blessed that day, and his mighty handful of dice failed to produce as many hits as the blessed Protestants scored! What was worse was that Charles V had neglected to convert a neutral space to Hapsburg control as he had march into Cologne! So Charles V was captured, and his whole army was lost! Martial hymns were composed to be sung in all the churches of Germany... "Ein fest burg... "

The aftermath of that great and unexpected Hapsburg defeat was that the Protestants took Cologne, and at the beginning of turn 5 the Hapsburgs ransomed their Emperor at the cost of transferring political control of Trier to the Protestants rather than giving up a card. Was the Emperor grateful? No! He promptly used his plentiful hand of cards to march another army into Wittenburg to put the hurt on ground zero of the Reformation, and did, capturing another lame Protestant general, who I didn't bother to ransom. By now I had figured out that I didn't need all 6 electorates to get 5 card draws, so I studiously ignored the Hapsburg presence in Wittenburg.

The wider world:

Seldom have I seen a multi-player game in which players become so focused on their own affairs that they have limited awareness of what is happening elsewhere. I wasn't the only one who was doing his own thing, until suddenly some great event caught a players attention. This seemed like a game of tunnel vision.

The pregame diplomacy was sparse for me, as the French didn't have good cards on turn 4, and I had nothing that could really help the French or the Hapsburgs or the English, although those 3 powers were friendly. The Pope and the Hapsburgs confronted me throughout the game with as chilly a wall of hostility as I could reasonably expect.

After the start, I hardly spoke with the French player again. He was up to something, I supposed. But, whatever it was, it wasn't war with the Hapsburgs. I did see that he was making a march on Milan at the start of turn 5, only to be forestalled by the Papal army taking Milan ahead of him. Some things were happening in the New World, but I don't know what. Eventually the French joined in the later war against the English, as a result of my reformation activities in England.

The Ottoman player became so absorbed in his war against the Hapsburgs that we hardly spoke again, even though he was sitting at my elbow, and I did keep an eye on events in Hungary and the Med. The Hapsburgs did win a battle and almost annihilated the Ottoman army in Hungary. Eventually I played a Mercenaries Demand Pay card on the Hapsburgs, early turn 6 I believe, and the Hapsburgs just let them go and got more later (via a card?). The Ottomans finally prevailed at Vienna and took it and held it by the end of turn 6, in spite of another play of Tercios. They also engaged in massive fighting in the Med on turn 6, which sent 1 Ottoman squadron and 3 Hapsburg squadrons to the bottom of the sea before the Hapsburgs could link up with their Venetian allies.

The English negotiated a quick divorce with the Pope on turn 4, and allied with the Hapsburg. The English took Edinburgh without response from the card poor French, and the English were also doing something in the New World. Later, thanks to the success of the Reformation in England, the English were set upon by both the French and Hapsburgs, which resulted on turn 6 in 1 English, 1 Hapsburg, and 4 French squadrons joining the others already sunk, for a truly impressive stack of squadrons to be rebuilt on turn 7. It also resulted in the almost complete annihilation of the English army on English soil at the hands of an invading allied army of Hapsburgs and French, although the English retained all their keys, as the Hapsburgs and French had landed in an unfortified space and didn't have the cards to move forward to take London.

The Religious struggle heats up (light the matches!):

Delayed by our private military campaigns in Italy and on the Rhine, the Pope and I were slow to get into action on turn 4. I did snag some card out of the discards late in turn 4 that gave me multiple reformation attempts, which met with marginal success. When I found out at the beginning of turn 5 that I was supposed to draw 5 cards, and that there was pre-existing progress on New Testaments, my reformation sprang into action. Calvin and his colleagues were in play in France, and soon Cranmer and the English reformers also showed up to play. Unfortunately, so did a lot of dastardly Papal minions...

All through turns 5 & 6, the skies of Europe were polluted with smoke, as the two English reformers with debate values of 1 had been burnt at the stake, along with thousands upon thousands of New Testaments and learned and insightful Protestant treatises. There was so much smoke that I thought I was in England during the industrial revolution!

The Protestants just couldn't make any headway at all in France. Lost Geneva early, in spite of Calvin, and never could regain it. Briefly reformed Brest, Liege, and Calais, but those spiffy new little pocket New Testaments in French proved to be very flamable, and the Pope's incendiary police found most of them in pat down searches. The religious score in France at the end of turn 6 was Protestants 0.

Lost bits of southern Germany and the Rhineland and Bavaria to Papal incendiary crews, but got much of Bavaria and the Rhineland back with the help of Maurice and printing presses that turned out treatised and New Testaments faster than the Pope's fire brigades could burn them.

There was only one place where there was hope of spreading the Reformation...

The Church of England:

A sort of turning point came on turn 5, when I saw that I was far down near the bottom of the VP chart, with a pack of three far out ahead, near 20, and the other two guys well ahead of me. Until then, I hadn't paid much attention to England. Cranmer wasn't on the board at start, and there was France and the Rhineland to deal with, and a military adventure to experience. But then, I decided to pour every spare CP into reforming England. It was a struggle at first, as the Pope fought back hard with debates and book burnings. But by the end of turn 5 there was a substantial amount of reformed territory in England, much to the delight of the English player, who had shot up to around 23 or 24 VP, four ahead of the nearest competitor.

The Pope looked at the board and turned to me and said, "You are helping him win." I said darn right I was helping him win. If I was going to be at the bottom of the VP chart, with the Pope and Hapsburgs pounding me down, then I was at least going to get some revenge by making sure they didn't win either. (And besides that, the game was taking a long time, and I knew I was going to get hungry and want to end in time to get some supper. How's that for spiritual thinking?)

Of course, everybody else noticed too, and turn 6 started off with declarations of war on England by the Hapsburgs and the French. There was a new, more effective Pope, and thanks to that and to previous Papal conquest of Florence and Milan, the Pope was playing with 8 cards to my 6. Yikes! Two English reformers and thousands upon thousands of beautiful books, mostly in the English language, were put to the torch, even though the Pope did miss a couple of CP that he could have used on another book burning. (Sort of made up for my short card draw on turn 4.) It was unfortunate for the Pope that he didn't ever get the Jesuits and their universities of doom.

But the Protestants snagged that printing press out of the discard pile and fought back again and again, snuffing out some of the fires with the sheer weight of treatises, and the damp English climate. Eventually all of England and Scotland was reformed, thanks in part to the now Protestant friendly English armies, leaving the poor French speaking inhabitants of Calais as the only subjects of the English crown who were still in thrall to Popery.

The Pope wanted to keep the fires burning after the last Protestant and English cards had been played, but he was convinced to play his last card to gain control of Genoa, gaining him a couple of VP. When the smoke finally started to clear, the English were at 24 VP, and had a roll pending for some operation in the New World. The roll went the English way, and the victory was his.

I don't even know whether I finished tied for second or third with the Pope, as the Ottomans also did reasonably well, and probably finished ahead of us. However, at least I finished tied with the Pope, and he had to grab control of Genoa with the last of his many cards of turn 6 in order to do that. In retrospect, converting England was the right thing to do, as it moved the Protestants far up the VP chart. Even though it pushed the English onto the winner's podium, playing hard to avoid finishing in last place is valid, isn't it? And at least I ended up with a draw vs. the Pope. That's some consolation to me, though not, I suppose, to the other powers.

What to make of this game?

Well, the mechanics aren't difficult. But it's a very intricate game. Rules are not as much of a nightmare as those in Empires in Arms, though there's too many rules to make it easy to know them all before the first game or two. A new player should be resigned to jumping in and trying to dog paddle through the first game or two until it becomes easier to swim.

Seemed like more than half the dice thrown in the game were thrown by the Protestants and the Papists. Felt sorry that the other players had to wait while the Pope and I threw massive reformation and counter-reformation rolls all through turns 5 and 6. At least the English player was interested in the outcome. Was trying to play as fast as possible, but there were a lot of dice rolls to calculate, and we took a little over 2 hours per turn. There was so much to keep track of in the religious struggle that I felt it was barely manageable for a first time player. But at least this game allows one to concentrate on the special rules for one particular power at a time.

Saw some potential for diplomacy, even though the Protestants didn't get to participate in much of that during this game. Definately HIS has tension and conflict. Even if out of the running for victory, there is still stuff to do to make the fight interesting. And it's a pretty good social experience. It's nice to have a community of players committed to playing HIS a few times more. Definately willing to try this one again, at least before I forget all the rules.
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Andrew Kluessendorf
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Very nice, detailed session report. So how long did the game take? I would like to get a group to play this, but would like a realistic time estimate. Thanks!
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Craig Hebert
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Wish the Protestant player in my game would have been as hell bent on English reformation, as you were. Instead, he built camaraderie by playing City States for the French in Edinburgh, blocking my SD to gain Metz, and wanting bribe after bribe to get off his butt and commit anything.

In his zeal to try to steal a win on turn 7, along with 4 Hapsburg Squadrons being loaned to the French, the seeds of English defeat were sown. Going for the win via some monumental intrigue, usually has a "bite in the ass" consequence. The French, safely in at 25 points, only have to fear the Ottomans overcoming them, as they sail unimpeded throughout the Med, pirating each and every impulse,

I enjoyed your session report, and you did a great job on telling your tale.

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Warren Bruhn
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Game time: We get an 8 hour block from Noon to 8pm at the local game store. But it actually took us more than 6 hours of actual play time, perhaps six and a half hours. Seemed to take 6 to 7 hours of actual play time the previous weekend. The rest was set up, pregame diplomacy, and take down. I suppose the game could take much less or much longer depending on whether somebody slips in a dramatic military victory or whether everybody plays to keep everybody else from winning.

There's probably some threads here on BGG that discuss playing time. And a search on Consimworld for "playing time" might turn up some posts on the topic. Have seen descriptions of an average of 1 hour per turn for experienced players. But we were not all experienced, and there were pauses to discuss rules and contemplate options, so we averaged more time per turn. I would regard this as a game for weekend get togethers rather than a game to be played after supper. Although there doesn't seem to be anything in the mechanics that would prevent playing the full 9 turn game out over multiple sessions, if there was a place to leave it set up.

Protestant play: Well, my focus on reforming England was largely motivated by revenge on my Hapsburg and Papal oppressors, and by a desire to keep the game from lasting until 8pm. However, I also didn't feel like ending up in last place, which was where I was on turn 5 (which is the second turn in the 1532 scenario). There seemed to be no way to effectively break into France when there are so many French and Hapsburg armies garrisoning keys and fortresses there, and when the multiple connections to Catholic spaces give the Pope so many dice to throw on every reformation or counter-reformation attempt. While my play helped the English to win, it also helped the Protestants finish in the middle of the pack, in a tie with the Pope, instead of in last place.

This was only my first game, but I suspect that the Protestant has the option to play cards differently starting in the 1517 scenario. Perhaps there will be a card or two that can be spared to help other powers that are tying up the Hapsburgs or the Pope. In the 1532 scenario the counter-reformation is about to come down like a rain of fire. After the initial military experience in Cologne, I found I could spare only one card from the religious struggle. It was just too intense a fight. I suppose I could have spent a lot of cards to translate Bibles, for the one VP each gives, and for the reformation attempts provided, but I was under too much pressure to convert spaces when the opportunity was there. I didn't want to let the Pope have a chance to keep London Catholic so that he could plant one of those nasty Jesuit Universities there.

Also, I didn't see much percentage in playing for the long game. The Pope was playing 8 cards against my 6 (counting our home cards), and I knew that Gardiner, another good debater of the Papist delusion, would be showing up the next turn. And I also knew that somebody would eventually draw and play the Jesuits, which would make things even worse. While I might expect an occassional publication of treatises by the English player, I wasn't sure I could even maintain my position, much less expand it. Given the combined Papal and Hapsburg resources arrayed against the Protestants, and the lack of French action against the Hapsburgs, I expected to see Hapsburg armies invading Germany. I also expected to see Papal gains. So by trying to shorten the game I was at least able to avoid a worse result.
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Runs with scissors
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I was in the group playing the previous weekend, and we had a sudden death on turn 4 with both Protestants and English pushing over the required VP. 4 of the 6 players were new, so we were moving pretty slow, and it took us about 8 hours to go through the game 12-8pm. It would go much faster with experience.

Last turn as the Papists in a kingmaking move I went against the heretics, counter reforming 2 squares, of which he only regained one. So he went down a VP and the English won. Anybody but the Protestants sayeth the Holy Roman Church.

I did send Daniel a few ideas on how to handle the Papists, and by the smell of roasting debaters, he took at least one of them.

I'm also going to make the comment that I had read the rules prior to playing and they really didn't sink in until I was actually playing the game. We must have had 5 copies of the rules there, which was good as we were constantly referring to them.

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Warren Bruhn
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Yes, Matty (Prot) and Dave (England) seemed to be making a strong push the Sunday before. It probably helped that Linus (France) kept pounding on Evan (Hapsburgs) for most of the game. Will you be at Guardian for more HIS next Sunday?
 
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Craig Hebert
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Quote:
While my play helped the English to win, it also helped the Protestants finish in the middle of the pack, in a tie with the Pope, instead of in last place.


Good for you man - alas it's first/second for many turns in a row to last for me
 
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