We continue our primer for newcomers to Here I Stand by taking a look at the second power to act in the action phase, the Hapsburgs. Again, I’m talking about the tournament scenario, and pulling the game map up might be helpful.
As the scenario opens, your forces are divided between four distant regions: Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Austria. You have the highest point total in the game, which makes you an easy target. In addition, you are the only power to start with some of your territory under the control of another power (Buda is Turkish territory). No doubt you’ve already figured it out–winning will not be easy!
I will admit that the Hapsburg opening moves are not obvious and are the most dependent on how diplomacy plays out. However, keep some general considerations in mind. First, you are the defender of Europe. Whether the Ottoman onslaught succeeds or fails is based almost entirely on your actions (or lack thereof!). You’ll need to work to keep Vienna from falling to them. Some people prefer to build up a large force in Vienna itself, while others prefer to move a large force to Pressburg, Graz, or Linz and intercept the Ottomans from there. Deciding when to fight the field battle and when to withdraw inside the walls is based on what combat cards you’ve got, keeping in mind that the Ottoman player can lay down “Janissaries” at any point and throw in five extra dice in a field battle.
If the Ottomans aren’t applying too much pressure, it is possible to snatch up Tunis early. This takes some planning and costs several CPs (hey, it’s a sea invasion!) but success is assured if you can keep the Ottoman navy off your back with a strong naval force. This move is most commonly launched from Naples, but it could work just as well from Spain or Corsica.
Other players prefer to begin their first turn by retaking lost electorates in Germany. The Protestants have to split their resources between military and religious actions and their leaders are just plain awful, so marching a force from Antwerp into western Germany is pretty easy. Remember, each electorate you own grants you 1 VP and harms the Protestants greatly (their hand size is dependent on number of electorates owned). Also, the presence of your Catholic forces in these spaces will aid the Pope.
Last, some players go for Metz (independent), Calais (English), or any number of French keys. This is not always easy to do–Metz is almost surrounded by French and Protestant spaces, and declaring war too early on the English or French may spell disaster if someone else decides to beat up on you while your back is turned.
Keep this thought in your mind: “The Hapsburgs are the fulcrum of Europe.” You’re top dog, you’ve got a lot of resources at your disposal, and you’re trying to keep the entire continent from descending into utter anarchy. Those foolish rulers: why don’t they ever listen to the guy with “Holy” in his title? In negotiations it’s critical to get one or two of the four powers directly opposing you–that’s everybody but the Papacy–to agree to an alliance. Then you can keep the others on their toes! On the other hand, if it seems two or more powers are planning on teaming up against you, watch out!
Keep Your Eyes Open For…
I’ve only played the Hapsburgs twice (and won both times), but in watching other players take on the role of Charles V, one danger has become abundantly clear to me. Some people will become paralyzed by the multiple fronts and just spend cards to hold territory, never actually working up the VP track. It’s true that there are times when you just won’t be able to make military gains, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have options. If you have the CP in your hand, send an explorer AND conquest in one turn. Sure it’s a gamble, but there are very few cards in the deck that can cancel these entirely, and they can win you the game. In round 1 of the 2009 Here I Stand play-by-email tourney, I spent cards to resist Ottoman piracy on the first turn, took one electorate (moving me to 19 VP) and then got a successful exploration and conquest to win the game in the second turn. If people really aren’t paying attention, you can actually do this and win in the first turn of the scenario.
Last, use your home card wisely. Being able to “teleport” Charles and the Duke of Alva anywhere in Hapsburg territory is awesome. Doing so will probably scare the living daylights out of the enemy (especially if it’s the French, Protestants, or English!). Many people choose to move Charles to face the Ottomans, but then it’s a pretty equal match. Instead, think of teleporting him to Antwerp and charging after electorates, or any other number of fun places. Being able to spend the 5 CP right away is neat, because you can teleport, bolster an army with mercenaries, and then move it right away. Any of your small armies can become a force to be reckoned with once the Holy Roman Emperor shows up, and that knowledge will give your enemies pause.
I am sorry to be so vague, but in my opinion the Hapsburgs really have the toughest job in the game. You’ll be the great balancing act of the continent, and everyone is jealous of your armies, your number of cards, and your chances for an early victory. The wolf pack will do its best to drag you down, but through skilled diplomacy, military might, and a little of that “I’m the Emperor–don’t mess with me!” bravado, you’ll find yourself pack leader at game’s end!