Friday, February 24, 2012

Here I Stand AAR - February Game

Once again our group played Here I Stand from GMT over the last three weeks. We had a truly spectacular time, with England winning on the final New World exploration phase of Turn 4!!

Ottomans = Hal
Hapsburgs = Mike
England = Eric  -- Victor with 27 VPs
France = Jan
Papacy = Brian
Protestants = Jon

Write up from Jan (local monk of the monastary). Next week we will play Sword of Rome by GMT games.

8 February 2012

And so ever onward, a new game to play, as low score I got the last pick and as it was only France remaining when it came around to me, I picked France, actually quite happily, and yet suddenly thrust into the breach of a power-Power and not a religious Power, I have no clue, and by no clue I mean absolute zero, and by absolute zero, I mean Kelvin scale not Celsius or even Fahrenheit ... but still, a chance to learn a new aspect of this brilliant game, and by learn I mean trial by fire, and by trial by fire I mean, the Hapsburgs (Mike) quickly leaped on my weak hand (continuing my card drawing prowess from the previous game) and position, immediately besieging the port city of Bordeaux, I moved a fleet into position to thwart the siege, and then the Hapsburgs brilliantly played the Treachery card that negates the value of the fleet ... one key lost, my army eliminated and Montmorency captured ...  Charles quickly moved the Hapsburg army to Lyon and captured that key as well, so there I was fairly well decimated on the first turn two keys down, although I was able to play my home card for 1 Victory Point as a patron of the arts and building a chateaux, and I did manage a minor delay in the English conquest of Scotland by allying with the Scots and not losing the entire garrison of Edinburg on the first turn.  After the deal of the cards for Turn 2, I continue with my luck of the draw, but at least when I sue for peace and seek the return of Montmorency, I won't be turning over much to the Hapsburgs, but I'll have nothing left to play except my home card most likely for another VP as the patron.  Should be a quiet Turn 2 for me, and it looks like diplomacy is my best way forward, sue for peace, perhaps ally with the Hapsburgs by offering what I can which is mostly the loan of a fleet since I will give him all of my cards in the peace treaty, and see how the struggle between England and the Hapsburgs evolves.  Meanwhile I have a week to study up on sieges, explorations, building and employing fleets, and all the rest!  It's grand learning this side of the game!

15 February 2012

It was wild, at least from the French perspective of being in the bottom of a hole and not knowing how to stop digging ... for some reason at the beginning of turn 2 everyone, except the Protestants, wanted to talk to me, low man on the pole, about diplomacy, never has the down and out been so popular ... but hey, at least they weren't all planning to invade me!  So taking it in turns, I made a peace agreement with the Hapsburgs that we later found out couldn't be fully implemented because I didn't yet fully understand the power-Power rules, but I implemented the main form of it through the sue for peace procedure when we got to that stage in giving up two cards (of three) and two victory points (per the "peace" agreement rather than the 1 VP and three cards I had initially thought), along with losing two units per the sue for peace rule ..., then the English and I made an agreement that we would be allies and that I would cease the war in Scotland, turning all the territory over to Henry and taking the Scottish troops and fleet to France to bolster my sadly depleted forces after the devastating Hapsburgs attacks on the opening turn, plus the then pending losses in the sue for peace with the Hapsburgs.  Even the Papacy wanted to talk about ending our war, mentioning excommunication, but alas I had no cards to give, so the war continues with the Papacy, although in my weakened state, it is a war only in name and not in fact, plus the Papacy has other "fish" to fry so to speak ..., and the Ottoman, who is an experienced French player stopped by at the end of the negotiations and also offered some sage advice to always fight to the last for Scotland to hold the English in check as long as possible, and also never loan any fleets to the Hapsburgs, something that I had already agreed to do in exchange for an alliance with the Hapsburgs that we couldn't fully implement in our peace negotiation ... so there we are I was down to one card and good advice that I had already earlier agreed against (yikes, how do I stop digging ...), but at least I've survived allied with England, and not so vulnerable to new attacks from the Hapsburgs just yet to go along with a basis for a continuing alliance, and I was able to use my lone 2 card to add a couple of mercenaries, then played my home card as a patron of the arts for another chateaux victory point.  So while I enjoyed a quiet time in the country visiting my grand deaux chateaux, the world around me was in flames!

 The Ottomans waged a relentless piracy campaign and captured several victory points and treasure, the Hapsburgs borrowed fleets to go after pirates, including a squadron I loaned on turn 3 as the residual of the earlier turn 2 peace agreement and alliance negotiations to go along with further card play, and even though my squadron was sunk by the Ottomans, I think the alliance on balance may prove fruitful because the Hapsburgs played the Diplomatic Overture card and gave me Spring Deployment while drawing two other cards from the deck, so now on to turn 4, after another quiet turn allied with the Hapsburgs and the English while building another chateaux, what could be better than deaux chateaux, why trois chateaux of course!

 I might make an expedition into Italy and prosecute my little war with the Papacy, probably being excommunicated for my troubles, but with the Protestant hoarding a big hand of cards, and the Reformation aflame in England, the Papacy might need to spend the excommunication on the advancing Protestants or Henry in England, as the Reformation along with the Schmalkaldic League is going to bring England and the Protestants close to the victory point, unless of course the Hapsburgs make a foray into Germany or take on Calais, but the Hapsburgs have their covetous eye on Hungary what with the Ottomans having been stymied to some degree by the Hapsburgs brilliant play of the Threat to Power card against Ibrahim Pasha and eliminating him, I believe it is called the "bow string" in those circles ...

Meanwhile the Reformation and Counter Reformation attacks and debates have been fierce with treatises and book burnings all over the place, the printing press, the first internet, proving its value in bringing the Word to the masses, and Eck fatigued from the constant action, rolled no hits on five defensive dice to a lower ranked German debater who made three hits on the attack, one short of disgracing Eck on Turn 3!  The Papacy caught Carlstadt in a debate and brought him down with a virulent theological attack then burned him at the stake!  With all this spell binding religious conflict, the Reformation has taken hold in Germany and most of England has been converted as well, but the Papacy wisely fomented unrest by encouraging the Pilgrimage of Grace in England to keep progress in check, although with the Schmalkaldic League coming into effect at some point in Turn 4 along with judicious application of persuasive means to quell the unrest, both Protestant and English will be in the high numbers of victory points!

Without any or few cards and as usual any that I do have cornering the entire supply of 1's and 2's, I haven't been in the exploration, conquest, and colonies game, but the Hapsburgs are surging ahead and the English are playing across the pond as well, lots of cards are accruing to the Hapsburgs especially, and I think their turn 4 hand is 11 cards!  Big Henry has been dabbling his toe into the marriage pond as well, and after a seemingly too easy divorce on turn 1, he quickly went through Anne Boleyn as she lost her head over a fling, then for mysterious reasons known only to Henry, he found the lovely Jane Seymour unappealing, yet he mounted Anne of Cleves like a lion in winter bringing forth a child, Edward on turn 3, Edward is not at all strong though, so the hunt could be on for a new bride to avert the succession from the possibility of Bloody Mary, which from a French perspective would be very fine, a Bloody Mary or two while reclining on a chaise lounge at the chateaux and contemplating the finer things of life ...

And now ever onward, as Brian likes to say after staring at the map for a week or two between sessions and developing the most perfect cunning plan, the first card play throws it all on the ground!  So here is the plan for the French on turn 4:  try for an alliance with the Hapsburgs in thanks for spring deployment and to show good faith for future negotiations, move into Italy and take a look at Papacy keys at the risk of excommunication; seek a no cost alliance with England so that the Italian expedition doesn't leave me too vulnerable to an English conquest of Paris and let Henry concentrate on Amsterdam and building the Reformation in England to set up for a near term victory, with the Protestants going for a big win with the Schmalkaldic League coming in and giving a surge in victory points, and of course if all goes well perhaps I might add that quatre chateaux for a quiet retirement once the real Powers have declared victory!

Meanwhile I have another week to study up on sieges, explorations, building and employing fleets, and all the rest!  It's grand learning this side of the game although I have to confess that I'm still mystified by it all!  I'm learning by mistakes, one by one, and so far at least I have been successful at that, well successful in creating the learning opportunities through mistakes, learning from them is another matter entirely!  For example, I botched the Winter Redeployment Phase by not returning Monty to Paris to set up for turn 4, oh well, lesson learned ... and then there is the failure to build naval squadrons to deploy against port cities that I would no doubt like to siege, oh well another lesson learned!  But even with the mistakes it is wild and so exciting playing this game!

22 February 2012

Did someone say wild, I thought I heard someone say wild!  It was so wild!!!!!  And magnificent!!

On the theory of learning by mistakes, I again (slow learner even by mistakes) loaned a naval squadron to the Hapsburgs to help against the Ottomans and secured an alliance and good will for the future, also England agreed to a no cost alliance so that we could pursue our interests without always looking over our shoulder, although I had some trepidation about it in thinking that Henry could play his home card to break our alliance, but then learned that an alliance is an alliance and the English home card can be used to declare war in mid action phase but not to break an alliance, sigh of relief, and even the Pope suggested a peace in our as yet unconsummated war again mentioning excommunication, but as the Papacy is the focus of my little learning exercise on expeditions and the risk of excommunication somewhat low with all the Reformation targets in play, I declined, although in retrospect this was another lesson learned as the turn played out.

 So onward to spring deployment and I played the Spring Preparations card given me by the Hapsburgs the turn before, moving Francis and eight troops to Milan for the expedition against the Papacy, eyeing Ravenna with no fleets or land-locked Florence for a siege.  The Pope countered with spring deployment of more troops to Ravenna making it uninviting for a siege and assault, and so it was game on for the action phase.

 Francis and 8 troops began the campaign marching from Milan to Florence through Modena, controlling Modena and besieging Florence, preparing for the assault in the next impulse (my first siege!).  The French made a valiant attempt, but making only one hit on five attack dice against two defenders the fortifications were not breached, then the Pope brilliantly played a troop move and control into Modena, cutting my line of communication and breaking the siege, so now instead of making another assault I had to turn my troops around and attack Modena, the Papacy force escaped a field battle, but diverted from my main plan, the Pope now blocked my path again deploying a Genoese force into Turin, so I had to use my City State Rebels card to extricate myself from Italy rather than perhaps reducing the Genoese garrison ... so I used the card for points marched from Modena to Turin and engaged the Papal force in a field battle, the Papal force was unable to escape and we fought a field battle that the French troops won handily under the generalship of Francis (my first field battle!).  So there I was positioned in Turin to return to Paris for the winter without suffering attrition and played my last card for that quatre chateaux for a quiet retirement in the country!  All this marching to and fro accomplished basically nothing in game victory terms other than the game playing learning-by-mistakes aspect of it all, and in retrospect perhaps I should have allied, or at least declared peace, with the Pope to allow his full resources to play out against the Reformation while I engaged in exploration and colonization of the New World while visiting chateaux!, although as the turn played out helping the Pope by staying home in France would likely have not changed the ultimate outcome, and when I say ultimate I mean ULTIMATE, but before we get to that part of the story here is a lesson or two learned, when playing France, first, and second, don't loan fleets to the Hapsburgs, third, don't invade Italy without a lot of big cards, a lot of troops and leaders to cover all the avenues like bread crumbs along the exit route, and lots of naval squadrons so that all of the targets of interest can be engaged, and fourth ally with everyone including the Pope while sending explorers and colonies to the New World and enjoying the finer things in life touring around visiting all those chateaux.

And speaking of naval squadrons, the Hapsburgs and Ottomans fought action after action, interceptions, battles, piracy, the sea afloat with debris, and my second loaned squadron followed the first to the eternal deep, there wouldn't be that much naval action in the Mediterranean again for four centuries!  Between the naval actions and the face down over Hungary, the Ottomans hamstrung by the bow string against Ibrahim, and the Hapsburg sagging under the wealth of abundance in challenges and only 11 cards to attack on all fronts while exploring, conquering, and colonizing; fought each other to a standstill, moving ahead on points but falling short of victory.

So our story now comes around to the Protestants.  With the Papacy mired down with the French annoyance, Luther strategically played the Printing Press immediately to gain bonus dice for the whole turn, and then went on a treatise publishing, translation, and debating rampage.  The first internet proved its value, and when the German bible was fully translated with its bonus and the Printing Press bonus, Luther successfully converted six of six spaces to the reformed faith.  Meanwhile the New Testament was translated into both French and English, and the Reformation expanded through all of Germany and England and into France.  The Pope succeeded in counter reformations and caught a French debater out of his depth and he was burned at the stake, but the wall into the electorates could not be penetrated, the celebrated Eck was unusually ineffective and was nearly disgraced again, and in the end it was not enough.  As the action phase concluded more than 40 spaces had been converted to the reformed faith, the Bible had been translated into German, and Luther was at 13 victory points with no threat to the imminent formation of the Schmalkaldic League, Luther was positioned for the game win at the end of Turn 4.  With the last Reformation attempt that put the point total at 13 Luther was ecstatic, absolutely over the moon, and he might have kissed Copernicus if only he had held the card!

And so there we are, almost at the end of the story, almost ... England had played a diplomatic game, building alliances, working back and forth with the Protestants to further the Reformation for his benefit as well as Luther, collecting a succession of fine wives, like trophies, gaining the male heir for his exertions, although a sickly Edward was a risk to the succession and the future of England if Mary came to power, and Henry had fought only one siege and assault on turn 1 against Edinburgh, arranging a peace with France in exchange for the Scottish troops and fleet moving to France after the devastating French losses against the Hapsburgs at Bordeaux.  Henry continued this theme, unable to now thwart the Reformation, building a tower of power in Calais for a future expedition after turn 4, and once again dipping his toe into the marriage pond, mounted a most exceptional new bride, Katherine Howard, found her much to his liking, and in the energetic pursuit of it all, even the sickly child Edward was miraculously cured by the exuberance of the English court, and a healthy Edward foreclosed the potential for a dire succession by Bloody Mary.  Henry celebrated his profound happiness and good fortune by sending out an explorer in Katherine's name, and played his last card, a 1, to remove an unrest on a reformed space remaining from the Pope's encouragement of the Pilgrimage of Grace, to move ahead on the victory track to an unassailably secure second place at 23 victory points.

With the action phase now concluded, the winter phase loomed large, Francis and his troops returned to Paris, Monty and excess troops in Lyon also came back to Paris, and the French were lodged in fifth place well behind the leaders, well down on the scale although a personal best for me nonetheless, but then the Schmalkaldic League was formed and Luther advanced to a game winning position at 25 victory points.  There was total euphoria in Wittenburg, and by total I mean TOTAL!!  And so onward to the New World phase.  The Hapsburgs first of small effect, and then Henry's exploration, oh yes Henry's celebratory exploration!  Many discoveries had been made, and when Willoughby, yes Willoughby sailed forth, luckily he headed on a southerly course rather than turning north and becoming trapped in the ice or something, he kept pressing south and lo and behold the Pacific Straits loomed in front of him!  Now Willoughby has the exploratory skills of a blank counter, that is to say zero bonus added to his exploration attempt, but he did not shy away from the straights and boldly went in against all odds, needing a natural 10, 11, or 12 on two dice, yes 6 chances out of 36 possible rolls, a 1-in-6 chance of successfully crossing the straits from the Atlantic into the Pacific, and forever naming this part of the world as the Strait of Willoughby, and so forging ahead it was "boxcars" double sixes!!  A victory point for 24 total and now a chance for the first circumnavigation of the world!  The Ottoman exclaimed, oh no what if another boxcars!!  Willoughby, buoyed by the successful transit of the wild weather of the straits and finding himself in the more tranquil South Pacific, sailed boldly onward!  And now with another 1-in-6 chance of completing the circumnavigation and returning in triumph to Bristol, the dice went down, and there it was "boxcars" again!!!!!  The circumnavigation complete, three more victory points for 27 total, surpassing the Protestants on the last possible roll of the game, Henry wins a magnificent victory!!!!!  Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat!!  Luther from the peak of euphoria to the depths of utter despair in two minutes!  Luther has many sleepless nights ahead of on the one hand but then on the other hand, while Henry and Katherine celebrate their most glorious good fortune as Edward grows strong, the Restoration fully established and in full flower, and the papacy and catholic countries suppressed at the end ....

Did someone say wild, I thought I heard someone say wild!  It was sooooo wild!!!!!  And sooooo magnificent!!

The odds of Willoughby successfully completing a circumnavigation if it even becomes available to him are 1-in-6 and 1-in-6 on two rolls of natural 10, 11, or 12, for a 1-in-36 chance, not very likely but still about 3% or a roll of one "boxcars," a result that would take on average 36 games of Here I Stand to see once, ok who has played 36 games of Here I Stand.  And to see Willoughby roll two successive "boxcars" at 1-in-36 combined with 1-in-36 for 1-in-1296, that is way up there in the rarified atmosphere even beyond Copernicus!  This might happen once in 1296 games of Here I Stand, and I'm going to boldly predict that no one will play 1296 games of Here I Stand, ever, so we saw something very rare and unlikely to be seen again before Haley's comet comes back around!

What a game!  And then we have the Virgin Queen coming along with the prospect for a back-to-back Here I Stand and Virgin Queen marathon mega-game continuing the powers for another few decades for a combined total win at the end!  Magnificent!!

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