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Subject: A Worthy Sequel to "Here I Stand" rss

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Stefan Koller
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Last weekend I got to play Virgin Queen with some of my best wargaming friends. We are all very familiar with the game's predecessor, Here I stand, which we managed to play 3 times in 2012 alone. (I usually write up lengthy session reports of our war/boardgaming sessions, feel free to browse them on my profile if this stirs your interest.) The reason I file this under Reviews as opposed to my profile session reports is that I thought the game deserves a second review, with a slightly different focus on what I'll call the "heart" or "core" of the game.

Multiplayer Card Driven Games (CDGs) like Virgin Queen require a highly congenial social context. You need 4 (ideally 5) other people who are willing to read 40+ pages of intricate rules, often not organized or worded very helpfully, and yielding an incredibly complex result overall. In other words, already bringing yourself to the gaming table requires a huge effort (and considerable brains, I'm afraid).

The next thing is that the game doesn't reasonable play under four hours, unless someone else at the table played particularly poorly, and created weaknesses on the board that a more experienced player can exploit without the others stepping in in time. That's the sort of thing you can't and at any rate shouldn't expect to happen when scheduling a game like this. I think six hours is a more reasonable estimate.

So here we are so far - high number of players, and considerable play time. I mention these right away because, at least personally, this is the context in which this game shines (I'll explain why in due course). So it's the context you want for this game, and your first honest question to yourself will be - do I have such a context, and how often can I reasonable expect to create it per year?

Thematically, the players take on one of six powers in 16th century Europe. Spain dominates the scene, followed by England and France to the West, and the Ottomans and the Holy Roman Empire a bit more to the East. The sixth force on the map is the Protestant, a two party faction controlled by a single player, with the Huegenots in France and the Dutch Protestants in the Lowlands (Nederlands).

It's easiest to explain the core of a game by reference to its victory conditions, so here we go. Every player controls military units on the map, but also has several other resources. Dominating key areas on the map ("Keys") earns you victory points (VP) as well as pushing you closer to an automatic military victory. E.g., some factions only need to earn three extra keys, other five. This will rarely happen unless someone fails to pay attention to what the others are doing (see above). More likely, getting keys will earn you extra VPs and help your scoring over all.

There's a multitude of other ways for you to earn VP, some of them peculiar to the faction you picked. For instance, the Ottomans can build the Suez canal (itself worth 2 VPs) and then start to build a colony in the opened area, thus earning further VPs. The Western European powers will do something rather similar, earning VPs by trading with the New World, the two Americas, except they get there not by building a canal but traversing the Atlantic Ocean. Compared to the game's predecessor, some nifty navigation rules have been provided. If you steer your ships (presented by navigator tiles) against favourable currents (printed on the game map), you risk drowning your vessel. Much furore ensued at our game table when the English player managed to sink Drake by an unlucky roll of 3 (on a 2d6 roll, that's rolling two 6-sided dice - the core mechanism of the game, with the standard target number being a cumulative 9). "Poor Francis, he was only made a Sir when he returned home, so I guess it's no lordship for Drake today!"

Other ways to earn VPs, and equally new to the game (i.e. not in HiS), is patronizing the arts and sciences. Frankly, this is basically the colonization mechanism all over from HiS, except re-themed. You invest some of your operation points (CPs, these are allocated per your hand cards each round) and get a specific scientist or artist to sponsor. At the end of the round, it's again 2d6, plus a bonus specific to the personality you sponsor. Various results ensue, from very negative (he goes away) to medium (nothing happens) to very positive - extra cards next round, or more VPs.

Several other VP-related things are very specific to individual powers. Suez canal I already mentioned, there's also the Holy Roman Empire (Eastern Habsburg, for those HiS players) who declares secret loyalty to either Protestant or Catholic dominance in Europe, and who can earn bonus VP towards the end if he predicted the right dominance (basically, the more VPs the more that side dominates).

Speaking of, religious dominance operates very similarly as in Here I stand, but is simplified a great deal. Papacy is now a minor power, and Catholic Conversion attempts are specific to the Catholic countries, sc. Spain/England/France. Protestant conversion attempts still occur on the Protestant player's side. This works by throwing a couple of d6s, and flipping over markers on the board (location specific) to religious dominance. It's very simple, really. You succeed to flip the location to your favoured side if you roll higher than a 3. If you roll a 6, you can flip a space that has recalcitrant factors in it (like army forces loyal to Catholicism, or Jesuits). If you roll a 1, you have to add an unrest token to the space, which generates all sorts of difficulties for either your VP score, or for other ways that would secure you VPs.

Let's give an example. To get key military locations (Keys) you'll have to siege these places. Sieging takes multiple rounds, in that you'll have to fight battles until the forces in the besieged town are totally eliminated. This takes considerable miltary resources from your side, and will give the other player considerable time to respond in time. (Contrast with simple field battles, which are initiated and decided on the same round - but these typically don't ever take place on Key locations, but outside them.) To be able to initiate a siege at all, your forces will have to have "Line of Communication" to a space you already control. And that requires, inter alia, that no Unrest (tokens) break such lines.

This little snippet really reveals the overall mechanical genius of the game. You have a ton of subsystems thrown into a box, which interlock wonderfully. Some of the most powerful military actions in the game require you to not be on (or near) a location with unrest - but unrest can be created in various ways, including the religious conversion subsystem.

And that's only one example of many. Learning to play this game depends on two factors. Your understanding how these subsystems interact - and how to exploit that to your best advantage - and learning the special effects that the cards you're dealt each round give you. The latter, like the 2d6 die rolls, are randomized, so the replay value is sky high.

But if there's such a multitude of subsystems, each of which individually and in combination earn you VPs in this game, there's also at the game's heart somethign very simple, and very beautiful, and that's the diplomatic element.

You see, Virgin Queen is a deeply asymmetric game. Each faction will have distinct advantages and backdraws. For instance, the Ottomans start out with an incredibly high number of armies they can control to great effect (thanks to guaranteed extra cards each turn, and two guaranteed high value cards each turn) but are excluded from some of the game's other subsytems. Other powers look militarily extremely weak, like the Holy Roman Empire, but got this stealth VP bonus scoring going which no one else is privy to. You get the gist. The result of this, from beginning to end, is that there's an incredibly fragile balance of power on the map.

Playing this game well (or HiS) requires that you pay attention to this balance all the time - there's no down time in this game, because fail to pay attention and you're out of the loop (and soon after, out of the game). It's simple enough - if you don't watch out, someone else may win the game prematurely (or decide factors to get there, prematurely), and if others don't watch you, you might do just that. So take the Ottomans who can basically kick the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) down in the first round, and get their extra keys really fast. The other players will be aware of this, and to stall an early autowin for the Ottmans, will send all the support they can muster to the HRE.

This is where the game's diplomacy phase comes in. Declaring war with another power, or being neutral towards it, or being an ally, goes tandem with the players making promises to each other. These are first discussed away from the game board, and then made public (and binding). As part of this agreement, players can give each other (randomly drawn) cards, or extra military forces (which instantly end up in the other player's area). New to Virgin Queen, players are now allowed to tell the other players (and show) which cards they have. If I'm the HRE player and I have a super powerful Event card for Spain, I can promise Spain to implement that event (and not simply discard the card to play it for another effect) if Spain gives me troops to avert the Ottoman threat.

This is the type of thinking that's at the heart of the game. Spain will have to gauge carefully if they give their troops away - can they afford to? Is the bonus given to the other player too much (in case he's already on the way towards victory)? Will this piss off the Ottoman player so much that he'd start assaulting Spanish isles in the Mediterranean?

Strategies within strategies within strategies, to echo the great Baron Harkonnen. It's the game's heart, and it's where it shines. It's a through and through social experience where you have to not simply GRASP what's going on on the map, you have to understand how to socially manipulate other player's fears, appease them, taunt them, reassure them, or whatever. If you don't manage to play THAT part of the game well, then you'll very likely loose and, what's far worse, the core of this beautiful game will pass you by.

It's the main reason why I started the review on pointing out that the game's social context is so demanding. I said that because, without that social context, you will miss out quite a bit. Of course there's plenty of room for social maneuvering in PBEM play (play by email), but to me it's the timing and pressure at the game table, the facial expressions (every player got a tell, as in Poker, if you've played long enough with them), the body language, the laughter and shouting, that makes Virgin Queen such an amazing social experience. That experience only gets going once the players are familiar with the game, each other, and the type of stratagems on which the whole setting thrives.

And make no mistake, the game's faction are not simply asymmetric on the board, they are decidedly out of whack on a power level. As I said, HRE starts out as the underdog, Ottoman as the reverse, and the game makes no excuse for that. Factions don't simply have different resources, they place very different demands on individual player guile - who to approach, with what, at what time. This aspect has admittedly been softened a bit in Virgin Queen, compared to HiS. For one, the really weak powers are out of the game (Papacy) and made a minor power. Honest, the only way I'd ever envisage having a good run with the Pope in HiS would involve whining quite a bit to the other powers, and ask them to pimp you massively lest you'd throw the game away to some other player. The other thing the designer added is some auto scoring each round for some of the weaker powers. E.g., France now gets 1 VP each round (2 in later rounds, even) for holding Paris (which they will). This strikes me as superficial but much needed balancing touch on France's position in HiS, where the French only got their idiosyncratic VP on a lucky roll of 5 or 6 (iirc) and by shelling out their most powerful card each round.

So, given that this is where I see the heart of the game - that this is what all the rest of the game, the bothersome tiresome cumbersome rules reading, and all the rest, has to not drag down too much but rather ENABLE - what does Virgin Queen bring to the table, compared to Here I stand?

Something amazing - the marriage and assassination rules.
Round by round you can marry one of your faction's (dynasty's) aspiring younger nobles to a noble of another player. The mechanism is simple. You arrange them to be wed to the other player's noble, which has to be agreed to in the diplomacy phase, and at the end of the turn you add the value of the two nobles two 2d6 (one d6 rolled per player) towards a target number of up to 15. Get a 15, and you score 2 VPs each, get less and you get something much less impressive or nothing; worse even, these nobles won't just not marry this round, but are removed from the marriage market. Hilariously, the asset value of your nobles decreases the older they get. A great, thematic incentive to marry them off all the quicker.

The subsystem, new to VQ, is staggeringly simple, but goes right to the heart of the game. Basically, there's now a new, third resource in the overall stratagem making that drives the game's heart. Apart from giving (or demanding from) other player's cards or armies, you can now promise them a family alliance. This is super historic, if you think of the Habsburg's family motto (Tu Felix Austria) to the effect of, "Let other countries wage war [and kill each other] while you, happy Austria, marry". The idea being that you win conflicts, not by fighting bloody wars, but by appeasing your opponent by means of an arranged marriage. The game takes this lesson on in in full. Marrying (or refusing to) an opponent's noble will NOT automatically do much in the military arena. You can still have as much (or little) war as you want, so the rules don't get in the way here once you've agreed to a marriage, you can still wage war. Again, super historic, if you think of (to mention one of many examples) the later example of the Habsburgs marrying off Marie Antonia (Antoinette) to the Frenchies but then being deaf on their ears when she'd ask them to be gentle on her new nation, militarily speaking.
Befitting the game's title, there is one noble in the game who profits from NOT being married off - the virgin queen. She'll net the English Player VPs each round she's stayed off the wedding market, so to speak. There's even a special rule for Elizabeth "jilting" her lovers. Next to Drake's premature demise, this is the type of thing that will inevitably cue jokes from Blackadder (forward to minute 7:00), "I'll cut your head off" and the like ("O RLY?").

The other new subsystem is assassination, and it thankfully only enters late in game. A single die roll, and you can kill off a military leader on the map. And guess what, an army without leader is incredibly hard to micro manage, mobilize, and fight battles with. It's very simple again. You can invest operation points from cards (CPs) to place informants with other powers. In the next round, you invest more CPs on a straight on assassination attempt. Each CP gets you a d6, plus 2 for your informant (which is optional), and then as long as you score more hits (5s or 6s) than your opponent (who'll likely roll much fewer d6s), you'll likely remove the army leader from the map for the rest of the game.

It's incredibly debilitating. In our game, the Ottomans had alrady captured on of the two HRE army leaders, and then ran a 6d6 assassination attempt on the remaining leader. Luck averted this, but the odds were on the side of creating a situation you'd NEVER get in HiS: a guy with armies but no leaders to lead them. It'd have been the END for the HRE.

Thankfully, this is very limited in its application, and the circumstances of effective assassination are far and few between. Not only will you really need to expend resources; also, you can't pull it off often (as per the rules) anyway.

Still, as with the marriage subsystem, the thematic component of the informants (espionage and assassination) is spot on and creates the exactly right type of table chatter on which this game thrives. "You won't marry my Anna of Habsburg? Well, then the knives come out next round, watch it buddy!"

It's for these reasons that I think VQ is more than a worthy sequel to HiS. It's like the designer made a very clear stance on where he thinks the game really shines, on where the whole value of this bazillion subsystems really lies - the diplomatic arena - and then ramped it up to 11.

The result is hugely impressive, and creates hours of gameplay your groups will remember for years after.

In closing, two peripheral comments.

First, a critical one. It seems to me that the patronizing the arts and sciences subsystem feels tacked on. It's the only one in the whole game that doesn't visible interact with military or diplomatic 'heart' of the game, and it shows. It sticks out like a sore thumb. I wish the designer could come up with a way to remove it, if only via a house rule. The game is long enough as is, and intricate enough. I guess some groups like such chrome, but this game alrady has that, in spades. The other thing that feels tacked on is the Ottoman power. No wonder it's a minor power in the 5 player set up. Being wholly removed from the Religious Conversion AND marriage market subsystems make them comparatively boring to play. (I should know, I did. )

Secondly, I'll be honest here and come right out in saying that I thought Virgin Queen would be a disappointment. Here I Stand is such an amazing game, developed and improved over many years, no small thanks to an enthusiastic fan community, that I thought - no way they can pull it off so soon after, with so little playtesting. I bet they'll rush out a game that feels like a weak rip off compared to HiS, and replete with many balance issues and rules troubles that slipped past GMT quality control, that only Deluxe-Lux edition in 2014 will be worth buying. (I should say I'm a huge GMT fanboy, but I'm not very enthusiastic about their pacing of releases in the past four years.)

Well, the opposite is true. While a single game cannot possibly reveal finer problems of balance, it's amazing enough that there were no howlers. (This is far from universal in our experience with GMT games.) And that's why I want to close this review by publically thanking the playtest community that has made this game the stellar success it is. They are all mentioned by name in the rules book, but I think public appreciation of just how much they delivered here deserves repeating. Thanks guys, and girls, for the amazing value and service you render to us all, to the whole boardgame community, on what is wholly done out of your own time and money.

And, of course, thanks to Ed Beach and GMT for delivering a very good game, that meets the exorbitant expectations associated with the title.

Naturally, I have to close with a remark on what I'd recommend people to buy, if they had to go for either Here I stand or Virgin Queen. I'll say this - either of these games will be a sure fire hit with your group, if you meet the set up conditions (specified above) and if diplomacy and social interaction ranks highly in what you value when meeting for wargame sessions. I'm a die hard fan of Here I Stand who didn't want to admit that VQ might well be at least equally good, I haven't bought the game and will likely not do so, because I can't see that much point in owning both games when already three (!) other guys in your regular group own them. But in all, you simply can't go wrong with either. In the end, I think, the tip on the scales will go to theme. If you like the marriage and assassination subsystems outlined above, Virgin Queen should be your choice. If, on the other hand, you like the much more complex (and thematically much more engaging, and hilarious) religious conversion mechanisms of Here I stand, again your choice will be obvious (and validated). That's, in closing, the only thing you won't get in Virgin Queen. You won't be able to burn books or heretics on the stake. You won't see Luther nailing the 95 thesis to the door. You won't see the Diet (Reichstag) of Worms convene to settle what's to be done about the belligerent Augustinian monk. None of that here in VQ, because frankly there's too much goodness in the game already.
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Don Barree
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Excellent review. I must say I'm in awe of your group's ability to play this game in 6 hours. Our games run more in the 8-10 hour range so far. If we ever played one to the bitter end (7 turns) we'd all need to bring sleeping bags but, in all seriousness, I can't see this game going the distance with so many ways to get VP.
 
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Dave Jackson
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This is a great review/summary and exactly what I was looking for to get a solid grasp on the heart of the game. Thank you for posting it!

I P500'd this hoping to delve into a deeper game than our usual fare, as well as being curious about the history. The longest and most complex game we play are 6-8 hour TI3 with 8 people, but I can only muster the forces for that a few times a year, usually bribed with food of some sort. We've been playing Rex several times recently and are thrilled with the psychological/diplomatic/social/asymmetry aspects of the game. So reading that this has the same aspects (although on a far grander scale of course) is very exciting! I'm sending this review to my group to sell the rules-reading time investment in trade for a great social gaming payoff.
 
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Steve Bishop
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Thanks for taking the time to review this, first class.

My copy of VQ is still in the shrink wrap which is a first for me for any game I have ever ordered. I don't have a large gaming group locally that I could get to play this so in the back of my mind I'm thinking "I'll never get to play this, what's the point of opening it and ruining it's resale value?".

Your review has re-ignited my interest and if nothing else I'll be looking for a Vassal game sometime soon when real life goes a bit quieter.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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I'm waiting for the song.
 
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Bartosz Trzaskowski

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Here's the song.

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Darrell Hanning
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This is actually the song I had in mind:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/17041/virgin-queen/unbox-...
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Mike Metcalf
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The Ottomans boring??? Excellent review but as an Ottoman player, there is no such thing as "boring". It's even interesting to watch those dirty, stinky Christians try to marry themselves off; not understanding that a harem is the best way to go. Us Turks, we get to sit back and perform the manly actions like yo-ho-ing our pirating way up and down the Med, beating our collective chests in a threatening manner attempting to cow the Spaniards and Empire folk into abject submission. And, lest we forget, there's always whipping those Christian slaves into excavating the canal! I'm having a great time with the Ottomans. Of course, their rulers and leaders seem to be disappearing a little too quickly......
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Thomas van Nieuwkasteele
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As I was part of the game the review was written about, I will add my thought as the French player.


You have the following diplomatic balance.
Ottoman and french player need to win by turn 2 or 3, as they keep getting weaker in the game (ottoman because of there rulers and the French due to erosion of key.
HRE and England are in it for the long run and need the game to take longer
Spain is a threat the whole game
Protestant is a very big threat and more powerful than I first thought they will be. Conversion and uprising are far easier than in HIS. Also Spain and France are less capable to counter them militarily than in HIS.

So you will need strong players to play England and HRE to be able to maintain a balance the fist three turns if they want any change of winning the game.


You say that the patronage of arts and science is tacked on. In one sense it is, it is new take on the new world discoveries in HIS. But I think you perhaps misunderstand the importance of this track.



For me as the French player it was a dual sword. I spent a fortune on cards to get as many point as possible on this track, between 6 a 8 cp's a turn (18 mercs). Perhaps the cp's would have been better spend on military units. It was like a drug once you start on the road spending cp's on the track you can't stop. I had to go for the quick win, as I had no hope anymore to win any kind of war. I was faced with the problem I can get a lot of points and totally ignore my military but if i don't succeed, everybody can decide to declare war and take 1 key each and I am dead.


So if you take out this element in the game, due to a house rule, you are going to get a very agresive french and spain player in the beginning. Later in the game this track will also become more intresting for the HRE and Ottoman player, as they will have the choice do we continue our war or do we spend our cp's on this track. If you take it out it will be probably be fullout war the whole game.


For France the clear ally is Spain. The only way this pact could ever be broken is if the protestant player makes a long term deal with France to say he will convert places to protestant but will not rebel with the Huguenots. France does not care about how many spaces are converted, but the rebellions are annoying, it costs keys and therefore card draw. This could be the situation you could convince France to attack Spain. However this would only work if the protestant player is someone who will honor the long term agreement and not backstab. So now you get a nice historic group dynamic here, which players in the game group are honest enough to make such a deal.

Great game and I want to play more.

Thomas
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Ottevaere Wouter
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Nice review! I was getting interested in this game, reading the Rule Book, Scenario Book, FAQ and posts on BGG.
This review gives me the last 'push' to be certain that I'll be buying this game.
And then I hopefully can convince my player group to spend a 10-hour period on this beautiful game...

Aangezien ik in Vlaanderen woon, kan ik misschien in de toekomst vragen omtrent spelregels en/of -situaties aan jou doorsturen, aangezien jij een ervaren speler bent (zowel HIS als VQ). En misschien zitten we ooit samen rond dit bordspel - Nederland is niet zo veraf!
 
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Alex Ferguson
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Very interesting commentary! And of a length that truly does justice to that of the game! I do have a pedantic quibble or six, though...

Windjammer wrote:
The next thing is that the game doesn't reasonable play under four hours
And the rest!

Quote:
(on a 2d6 roll, that's rolling two 6-sided dice - the core mechanism of the game, with the standard target number being a cumulative 9)
Interesting you'd say that. If anything, I'd say it was "roll a variable number of d6s and count up the 'hits'" -- though that itself has many variations, as does the "roll 2d6 and consult a table" family...

Quote:
E.g., France now gets 1 VP each round (2 in later rounds, even) for holding Paris (which they will). This strikes me as superficial but much needed balancing touch on France's position in HiS [...]
I don't think it's especially either foregone as a situation, or artificial as a mechanic, when you consider France is the primary target for the Protestant Rebellion, starts the game at war with England, and latterly may well have a "Catholics vs. Ultracatholics" war with Spain on its hands. To lose Paris in all seven turns might be regarded as careless, admittedly...

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[Assassination]'s incredibly debilitating. In our game, the Ottomans had alrady captured on of the two HRE army leaders, and then ran a 6d6 assassination attempt on the remaining leader. Luck averted this, but the odds were on the side of creating a situation you'd NEVER get in HiS: a guy with armies but no leaders to lead them. It'd have been the END for the HRE.
Don't forget there are default leaders, for when your "named" guys are... unavoidably detained. (By death.)

Quote:
First, a critical one. It seems to me that the patronizing the arts and sciences subsystem feels tacked on. It's the only one in the whole game that doesn't visible interact with military or diplomatic 'heart' of the game, and it shows.
I'm surprised you'd say this, especially after your raptures about the marriage mechanic, which seems far less integrated into "play on the board". Perhaps it's just a more exciting thing unto itself...

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I wish the designer could come up with a way to remove it, if only via a house rule.
I doubt it would cause any huge imbalance to simply drop it, at least in HRE-free 5pgs. Maybe spot the Emperor a small handicap, as that's the power that seems to benefit most...

Quote:
The other thing that feels tacked on is the Ottoman power. No wonder it's a minor power in the 5 player set up.
The 5pg actually "drops" HRE as as player power to be the "Activated Major Power" (that starts off inactive). It's the 4pg in which the Ottomans are also an AMP (an initially active one).

Quote:
Being wholly removed from the Religious Conversion AND marriage market subsystems make them comparatively boring to play. (I should know, I did. )
De gustibus! One of our group, who's played both now, complains about how dull the Prods are in each, and was practically salivating when he got to use the Ottomans in our recent VQ outing to whack Spain up and down the Med a few times... (I was Spain, so harried on all fronts, and trying to be main rules teacher/lawyer, too! O.O)

Quote:
You won't see Luther nailing the 95 thesis to the door.
"Dead, you know."
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Philip Thomas
United Kingdom
London
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France gets 1 VP a turn in HIS by playing its Home Card. The VP is automatic if France controls Milan and 3+ if he doesn't. It is dependant on Francis I being alive and uncaptured.

So, not 1 VP on a 5+. However, it is still not as good as the VQ VP for Paris since you don't need to use a 5 CP card to keep Paris.

Interesting what you say about Ottoman strength vs HRE at the beginning. There are fortresses blocking the road to Vienna, which gives the HRE plenty of time to raise mercenaries, especially given their diplomatic assets. Plus, Ottoman starts at war with Spain.

I don't think Ottoman isolation is much worse than HIS. They're locked out of the marriage market, as they were locked out of the New World in HIS. Both games they are neutral in the religious struggle (although of course fully able to play religious events). Militarily there are only two powers for them to fight, just like in HIS (its arguably better in VQ since the Papacy in HIS is a less likely and weaker opponent). They are definitely in the Patronage market, and they can get involved in the World Map side of things by building the Suez canal. They can't pick up any minor power allies, but nothing new there (incidentally the handling of minor powers is much more interesting and nuanced in VQ).

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JL Meseguer
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I played with the Protestants in the game and had a lot of fun with them.

Their situation is different than in HiS. For me, the Protestants' game is about the War of Independence of The Netherlands, as in this game you mainly score points with keys and religion is just an extra.

My feeling while playing the Protestants is that you need to spend your first (and possibly your second) turns building up strength by sending colonies to the New Worlds, pirating and spending some money in the patronage track. With a bit of luck, you'll get to marry the Orange prince in the first turn, but you'll need very good cards because your starting position is very weak, so you will not be able to negotiate.

Your obvious ally is England, but both the Ottoman and HRE can be allies if Spain and France seem to be clearly winning, so don't forget to talk with them when things look dire...

Another important thing is that Spain can build only Regular troops in The Netherlands, so use that to your advantage... Spain has treasures and therefore can spend more CPs than the Protestant, but your troops are less expensive as they come cheap because of the rebellions and you may also easily bring mercenaries.

Starting in turns 2 or 3 it's your moment to shine. If you have prepared accordingly (maybe with a bit of help from England, Ottoman and HRE) you will have already some Protestant key spaces in France and The Netherlands, and the Protestant's Rebellion action is very powerful and fun.

All in all, a great game which I hope to be able to play again.
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Thomas Moon
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Excellent review.

Thank you.
 
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