I am currently knee-deep in the playtest of Ed Beach’s latest game, Virgin Queen. In previous posts, I revealed the earliest design themes and some pictures. Having digested the most recent rules documents and seeing a few phases of a four-player scenario play out, it’s time to reveal some of the updated mechanics:
Marriages: These have been integrated rather seamlessly into Here I Stand‘s diplomacy mechanics. In order to make diplomacy more interesting and easier to learn, a marriage sub-mechanic has been introduced. Each European power has a number of unmarried royal persons, each with his or her own “eligibility” rating. By offering them in marriage to other powers, you both get the chance at earning victory points and cards. In a recent playtest, I cemented an alliance with Spain as the French. To seal the deal, Margot Valois married Philip II. We placed their two pieces in an “engagement” box on the board, and at the end of the turn, we will see how successful the marriage was. Rolling dice and adding eligibility ratings, we can go all the way from “Husband murdered” to “Founds a new dynasty.” Clever!
Activating Minor and Inactive Major Powers: One of the common gripes about Here I Stand these days is how players can start phony wars. For instance, the Hapsburgs often agree to go to war with Venice so that the Papacy can intervene, get the Venetian key, and thus another card to fight the Protestant player. Now players can spend the CP value of cards to get bumped up on an influence track for a particular minor or inactive major power. When a card is played which requires you to “resolve the power’s status,” each player with influence with that power rolls a die and adds his influence rating. The highest roller gets to activate that power. In my current game, for instance, the French player starts with one influence in the Holy Roman Empire (an inactive major power in the four-player scenario). If the mandatory event German Intervention gets played, I’ll get to roll a die and add my influence. If I am the highest roller, then I get access to a small hand of Holy Roman Empire cards, can move those armies, build fleets, etc. This elegant way of fixing the “dummy war” problem is well-integrated, and doesn’t add complexity to the game.
Reformation and Counter Reformation: Another common complaint with Here I Stand is that resolving the religious game takes far too long. Ed Beach has developed a new way of resolving Reformation and Counter-Reformation attempts that both reflects the changes in the religious game in this new era, and moves the game along more quickly. The English, Spanish, French, and Protestant players can all either “preach sermons” or “suppress heretics” (think “publish treatise” or “burn books”). Spending 2 CP gets you four attempts. You first look at the map and determine whether any spaces are eligible for “automatic conversion.” If you wish, you can immediately flip these, which means no more rolling seven dice, knowing you’ll probably get your “six” result anyway. Once this is done, each remaining attempt equals a die. You roll those dice, and each “five” or “six” result means you flip an eligible space, while each “one” result means you place unrest on an eligible space.
The religious game is further enhanced by a special action only the Protestant player can take. This is a “rebellion.” Spending one CP, a player can start two rebellions. Choosing a space which is currently under Protestant religious influence, but French or Spanish (actually Dutch) political control, the Protestant player just flips them to his political control (assuming no enemy units in the space). Those planning on playing the Catholic powers will quake in their boots–if this space is fortified, a Protestant army pops up on that same space! This is why I’m currently rushing my French forces to unoccupied fortresses that are seething with discontent…
These are just three system that have clearly evolved in a positive fashion since Here I Stand. Stay tuned for more updates as the playtesting process continues, including systems that don’t seem to gel quite yet.