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Subject: First Impressions rss

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Steven Fuller
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The Virgin Queen
Our group is a big fan of Here I Stand, and The Virgin Queen was P500’d immediately. It arrived last week, and since then we’ve had the opportunity to play two games. In terms of components, the board and units are excellent, and the cards are themed perfectly. The game has quite a few chits, but storage was not too much of a problem as GMT always provides ample baggies.

For the first game we managed to get six people together. Needless to say, the game was interrupted constantly by players learning the rules and by nightfall we had only done three turns. We all agreed we enjoyed the game. It does a mighty good job of making you feel like the leaders of a major power. A major sea war between the Ottomans and Spanish dominated the Mediterranean, while the Spanish had their hands full dealing with English raiding of the New World and the Protestant Rebellion. France took an isolationist policy and focused on the arts and sciences, causing the Holy Roman Empire to declare war. Not much else was achieved.

The second game was played the following day, with three players instead of six. We decided to play the Tournament scenario, and it went very smoothly and was quite enjoyable. Spain lost, having failed in her war with France and the Netherlands even with the Holy Roman Empire’s help, and French narrowly beat the Protestants, coming down to a successful marriages vs. a failed rebellion. The following is what I can say about the additions of the Virgin Queen.

It’s Detailed: Like Here I Stand, there are a lot of one-time events and chits. Game-play was stopped constantly the first game to recheck rules. The second game was much faster, but there was also half the number of players. The Player Aid Cards do a good job, and I’m sure this delay will pass in time, just like it did in Here I Stand. In my opinion, the level of detail is what makes the game so sweet.

Arts & Sciences: This new addition allows for powers to invest in VP-awards in the form of artistic and scientific achievements. It felt similar to the colonies of the previous game, in that you spent CP on the action and then waited to the end of the turn. Science also brings with it the ability to obtain ‘bonuses’, which is like investing in a new technology. The VP awarded from such endeavours seemed to add up fast, especially with France (who also gets bonuses from Marriages and keeping Paris Catholic). Some of the sciences look like they could aid a power very well, but most people focused on the Arts as it brought with it greater VP rewards.

The New World: The extra-level of detail in the new world leads to a new theatre of war. Spain receives treasure (extra CP, VP, or card) unless it is pirated by opposing players. France, the Netherlands, and England were all active the first game and Spain did not receive much treasure. The second game, patrol boats succeeded in eliminating a very unlucky Drake (who causes hell for the Spanish). We enjoyed the addition of trade winds and dangerous zones, and a Dutch explorer was lost going around South America. Ottoman Explorers remained inactive in both games, so we have yet to see how they play out. Regardless, the New World is a chance for all sides to gain VP, CP, and cards, and remained a contentious area throughout both games.

Religious Conversion: The streamlined rules in our opinion really better the game. Gone are the painstakingly long turns of the Protestant vs. Papacy. Religious conversion is fast, with sides often switching back and forth in a fury. The ‘super 6’ is an easy way for players to feel satisfied that they truly are the better side. All in all, I feel there is less conversion in this game – there seemed to be more war for the Protestants, which suited us just fine.

Rebellion: The Protestants have the ability to rebel, which leads to a France and Spain having to deal with armies popping up all around their lands. It’s done quite well, with the Protestants having the ability to target Catholic units or not, in exchange for potentially failing. The rebellions are small, but we found them to be a frequent thorn in the side of France and Spain, and are unable to be fully put down. These are the Wars of Religion, after all.

Inactive Powers - I thought the game did this very well. Diplomatic Status would be checked through card events. A status check would see if the powers would activate/deactivate based on a die roll. A player’s current diplomacy – CP spent through the Diplomatic Influence action – would form the modifier on a dice off between the powers applicable to effect the inactive power. The Ottomans, Holy Roman Empire, and Venice saw themselves fought over. The major powers never seemed too powerful. They indeed cause reasons for concern, but in practice the Ottomans were checked by the Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire proved ineffective against the Dutch. Still, their entry was a strain on their opponents.

Espionage – Espionage wasn’t in the first game, but was rife with the second. The French and English have home cards involving these activities. The French were performing assassinations all game. An attempt against Elizabeth failed to kill her but resulted in the loss of cards for England. The Spanish felt the worst of assassination, with the Duke of Guise, head a large Spanish Army, was struck down in France. Without a leader, the army fell apart. Indeed, killing enemy army leaders is a good way to prevent them from marching on you! However, when they fail it is truly horrible, as the Spanish’s botch attempt against Henry of Navarre proved, leading to revealing his hand and losing a card. Finally, informants were placed and neutralized throughout the game. There were no Catholic Rebellion attempts.
Marriage - Marriages are a nice addition. A dowry is often appreciated and we saw cards being traded for good wives. A marriage is truly a random act, though with high eligibility something nice should come of it. The French, aided by their home card, had spectacular weddings. Since they get VP for marrying off their women, it was this act of marrying that won them the game. It was hard to convince people not to marry with them if they were guaranteed a VP! Marriages were even performed to be followed by war. However, marriages can be sour – William of Orange met his death through his ill-fated marriage with Louise of Lorraine.

All in all, we had a terrific time playing Virgin Queen. It definitely makes you feel like a leader of a major European power. Combat and movement have been left untouched from Here I Stand, and battles are often bloody affairs, with leaders marching their army of mercenaries to some new hot-spot and hoping for the best. The addition of assassination makes going to war a bit more chaotic, but it didn’t prevent us from doing so! All the powers are embroiled together, more so I believe than Here I Stand, and there was always overlapping wars and alliances at play. France and the Netherlands proved to be the main battlegrounds, with France winning despite having a large Huguenot presence in the South and Brest and the Northeast Spanish. The Holy Roman Empire and the Ottomans clashed frequently, but that didn’t stop them from allying to go to war with Spain! Diplomacy is also enhanced with the addition of marriages, and there is a bit of competition for wives. True to form, Elizabeth was fickle as ever, and people tended to attempt to wed her as they did kill her.
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Arturo Siles
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I agree with you.

We recently played a six player game at Rvbicon Club in L'H, and after only six hours England obtained an automatic win conquering France.
Play was changing every turn and every faction did things well:
Ottoman: piracy and exploration after Suez Canal (with the help of excavation bonus.
France: Weddings and fight against Huguenots.
Holy Roman: Patronage and fight the Ottoman
Protestant Conversions and rebellions
Spain: Overwhelmed, tried espionage and assassination and did well in the new world. Playing a lot of treasure CP.
England: going undercover, conquest of Scotland and France for the auto win, thanks to Treachery card after entering and sieging Paris itself.

Wishing to play again, planning to do HiS and VQ in a row.
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New Zealand
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May the Great Spirit Bless all who read this.
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Great review, well done.
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