I’m not sure which side is the most difficult to play in Here I Stand, but I have to believe the papacy ranks up there pretty high. In our most recent HIS game, in which John has already posted the English perspective, I played the Papacy.
Going into the game, I knew it was going to be tough. I was sitting at a table full of crafty player. My brother, Rick, controlled the Ottomans. Rick is one of those crafty players that always seems to twist things into his advantage. Mike, John’s brother, played the Hapsburgs. Mike is turning into a pretty good player. He’s come close to winning a few times and I think it has bolstered his confidence and made his play more aggressive and sound. John, my boardgaming nemesis and good friend, played the English. My greatest fear was his ability to manipulate others at the table for his gain. Combined with sound strategy, he makes for a tough opponent. Joe, the new comer to the table played the French. Despite being new to the game, I knew not to underestimate Joe. He’s a good strategic thinker and is able to quickly execute on opportunities given to him. The final player was Will, playing the Protestants. Until this point, I hadn’t played against Will in a strategic game. He was a bit of a wild card, but I was confident I could outmaneuver him.
In round one of the tournament scenario, my hand was relatively poor. It contained a number of combat and response cards of low value. With such few CP, I decided to go the diplomatic route and get others to act on my behalf, rather than mulligan and try to draw a better hand and go it alone. The gambit paid off fairly well. I offered a card draw to the Hapsburgs in return of a promise to capture one electorate and one card for the French to pass through Geneva on their way to Milan so I could use the bonus die of a Catholic stack to counter Calvin’s presence on a book burning roll.
The card pulls only cost me 3 CP and put me in the good graces of the French and Hapsburgs, a relationship that would serve me well in both turns 1 and 2. If I made a mistake in the negotiations, it was probably not to grant the English a divorce for 2 cards. It would have probably given me 4-5 CP and made the English a bigger target for the other players to go after.
The turn 1 play saw the Hapsburgs and Ottomans stalemate in Hungary and the French make a slow trek to Milan. The Protestants made an aggressive push to change France to Protestantism, going so far as to translate the French bible. But with all the French and Hapsburg troops along the boarder, I was able to us my few cards to stem, but not stop, the tide. In a final gambit to stop France from falling to heresy, I called a debate and was able to burn a 1 value French language Protestant debater.
I finished turn 1 with some more improvements to St. Peter’s, allowing the Papacy to sit in third place, behind the Ottomans and Hapsburgs, but closely—too closely—followed by the rest of the players.
Turn 2 saw me with a high value hand. I knew now was my time to make a move. In negotiations, I went hunting for Society of Jesus, but found no one had it in possession. I also found that nearly everyone wanted me to continue my generosity and allow them a card pull. I rebuffed the offers and instead renegotiated the deals.
I promised a card play on behalf of the Ottomans for them declaring war on Venice, so I could ally with them. My card would allow the Ottomans to pull a card from the Hapsburgs’ hand and they would leave Venice to me so I could gain a VP and increase my hand size by one card for turn 3. With the Hapsburgs, I loaned a fleet and a mercenary, so they could further defend against Ottoman attacks or piracy in exchange for him playing a card that would allow a number of burn book attempts in France. The deal was definitely in my favor, but thanks to our friendly relationship from last turn, it was a fairly easy sell. In fact, thanks to my generosity on turn 1, it seemed like everyone I spoke to was willing to work with me. The final negotiation was with France. France spilled the beans on the English-French deal to team up and destroy the Hapsburgs. I counseled France to hold on to Machiavelli, watch how the English-Hapsburg fight goes and only jump in when the French could secure VPs. My concern was the English seeking to weaken both the French and the Hapsburgs and take VP without spending many CPs or losing many troops. This along with the threat of the English gaining VP through the change to Protestantism could lead to a quick English win. The French agreed with my assessment and changed their play appropriately.
When it came time to play cards, I went after VP. I pushed forward by allying with Venice and getting a key. I then was able to use Michelangelo to increase St. Peter’s by 10 points, securing more VP! The rest of the game was spent securing Europe from Protestantism. I burned books, removing Protestant influence from the French and Italian language zones. With my final rolls, I pushed into England and Germany with a little luck.
However, the game was too close. I hadn’t gained enough VP and with a few cities falling to Protestantism, I’d lose the VP I fought so hard for. The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans found to a stalemate while the English and the Hapsburgs suffered heavy casualties in Antwerp. After seeing the Hapsburgs use all their good cards and fearing what would happen if I gave the Ottomans another card, I stabbed the Ottomans in the back and didn’t play the card I promised on their behalf. Fortunately, we had already decided this was to be the last turn, so it was a betrayal without consequence. Not exactly my finest gaming moment, but I needed to keep my buffer on the Catholic/Protestant track and could dare give the Ottomans a chance for a win.
The French heeded my advice and instead decided to declare war on Genoa. However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. The final Protestant and English cards would make or break me. To Will’s credit, he avoided the easy conversion site, England, to go for an undisputed win, as changing England would result in English VP and an English win. He once again went after France and found success, but not enough to change the VP points.
The English then went for the win with their final card play. They tried to convert England. This would be doubly bad for me. Not only would it take me out of the lead, but it would push the English above me and tie me with the Ottomans, Hapsburgs, and Protestants on the VP track. But luck was with me. A couple good rolls kept the English Catholic and the dreaded VP change from happening.
However, the dark horse French took the prize when they captured Genoa and had successful rolls in the New World phase.
Final order of powers: France, Papacy, English, Hapsburgs, Ottomans, Protestants.
Getting to second place took all my effort and the cooperation of the other players. I’ve learned as the Papacy that you need friends to survive and thrive.
Furthermore, debating is very difficult and as the Papacy, you must use everything, including your home card, to stack the dice in your favor. While removing a 1 value debater from the game doesn’t really hurt the Protestants, but the VP you gain can never be removed.
And while it is easy to forget out St. Peter’s, don’t. 5 CP for 1 VP is a given ratio for the Papacy. When deciding to build or burn books, make sure you take the CP to VP ratio into account. I wish I could go back and reexamine my final card plays. It may have been better to burn books one less time and instead get a VP from St. Peter’s.