Here I Stand Primer: The Ottomans

[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. (Feel free to refer to this map as you read.)


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!


17 Responses to Here I Stand Primer: The Ottomans

  1. Russ says:

    Taking Venice on the opening turn is a bit a of fool’s errand. The Ottomans will need to build ships to even siege the key. It’s an expensive operation. Tunis is probably the best bet unless you have a great hand and can stop Vienna. Vienna will probably put you into the best position for the next turn, but it is hard to take.

    However, declaring war on Venice may have merit, if you are trying to go to war with the Papacy for 1 CP instead of 2 CP by making the Papacy activate Venice as a natural ally. The Papacy will usually want to activate the alliance, because it gains them another key and keys are hard to come by as the Papacy.

  2. John says:

    I consider taking Venice a respectable first turn move *if* you can get the peace agreement from the Hapsburgs. You need to build one more fleet to blockade the Venetians, but if you win the battle, you sink all three in port.

    What makes this preferable to Vienna in my mind is the number of land units present. Venice has two regulars at the start of the scenario, while Vienna has six. Furthermore, the Papacy has far fewer resources to reinforce Venice than the Hapsburgs do Vienna. I think the turn one throwdown outside Pressburg or outside the gates of Vienna is often a total crapshoot, based more off dice rolls and combat cards than anything.

    I agree Tunis is the best bet, but only *if* you are willing to spend a 5 CP card (often spending the home card for ops!) to immediately snatch it up. If you need two impulses to do it, the Hapsburgs can mess it up by going after the fleet chain or playing a five CP card to do the same thing and beat you to it.

    I think this all underscores the real genius of the tournament scenario–no matter what side you play, you can’t adopt a “wait and see” approach.

    (I’ll try to get a good session report out after Saturday’s game…it’s an interesting set of people that will be playing!)

  3. Rick says:

    If you are going to go after the Hapsburgs, use piracy to first cripple them (they’ll have to award VP or give up cards) then go for the attack.

    I think this was my biggest mistake on our last play through. I attacked Vienna first, then went to piracy. Other way around may have allowed me to be more successful on my attacks.

  4. John says:

    Do you think active piracy will mitigate the preparations he will make after he sees you spring deploy to Buda?

    (I think this question is a real head-scratcher for the Ottoman. You end up telegraphing your moves more clearly than most other players because you really only have one direction to go–west!)

    • Rick says:

      It might not change the build up of units in Vienna, but it does help change the Hapsburgs ability to defend and/or strategy.

      In turn one, piracy will net you VP or cards taken out of the Hapsburgs hand as they likely won’t have ships in the seas to sink. Cards may cripple their ability to counter attack/defend themselves. Chances are, you’ll be awarded VP. This is good for two reasons: 1) VP, obviously and 2) the other powers may be distracted into protecting the seas and then you can into switching strategy as they don’t have as big of a lead in VP.

      • Rick says:

        That should read:
        “and 2) the other powers may be distracted into protecting the seas. The Hapsburgs may have to switch strategies as they don’t have as big of a lead in VP.”

  5. Joe says:

    If I was the ottomans, my first turn my home card is being used to create 4 regulars.

    • John says:

      Using the home card to create regulars is obviously a great ability, but keep in mind you still have to do it in a legitimate home space. If I can squeak through a turn without using it, I’ll play that as my last card to create four regulars in Istanbul–so they can spring deploy the next turn.

      It’s also fun to empty Istanbul for a move against Buda or elsewhere, but then play the home card to create a second army to take Tunis.

  6. Joe says:

    I would also be tempted to choose the Vienna option, simply because the Hapsburgs, while powerful, have so many other pressing concerns. They are also your biggest competition and threat to win in the first couple turns. It seems like the ottomans have enough resources to ding the extended empire through piracy or assault. Which ever is left open to you . . . possibly both.

    Peace is a silly option on turn one, because it limits your military options, and is the equivalent of gift wrapping the game for the hapsburgs (John, can you confirm this? Has an early peace ever worked for the ottomans?)

    • John says:

      Joe, in reply to your question, it’s my experience that going to peace with the Hapsburgs is possible if you *know* that someone else is going to war with them. Otherwise, you’re correct–you are handing the game to them. They’ll be able to take electorates at 1 VP a pop and send off a voyage of conquest and exploration.

  7. Joe says:

    I really enjoyed this topic, very good insight John. Great for new players.

    The Ottomans certainly can “reach out and touch” more places than I had previously considered.

  8. manyhighways says:

    Nice post! I wish I were able to play with you guys this weekend. 😦

  9. Rick says:

    Question – If you have a bunch of CP to burn, is it possible/reasonable to spring deploy to Agram and try to make a run to Prague?

    I’m not sure what the initial set-up is on the board. I’m just thinking that if you were able to get behind their lines. You are still a threat to Vienna (if they try to get Buda they would leave Vienna less guarded) but could take Prague more easily.

  10. Joe says:

    After watching another game, I’m convinced the ottoman just needs to make sure the hapsburgs don’t win turn one, while building their pirate navy and a massive land force. Don’t risk it all to take vienna on turn one unless the cards support it or the hapsburgs focus elsewhere.

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