Another Game of Here I Stand …
A turn takes 1.5 hours and you spend ~20 minutes negotiating, then most players make 4 or 5 card plays per hour. (The Hapsburgs make more). And that number can be reduced:
- You might lose a cards (events or being excommunicated).
- England can lose 50% of their turns if/when Mary ascends the throne (this happened to me, thankfully on the last turn)
- Some cards don’t give many options. Mandatory events are, as you expect, Mandatory (but you get 2 CPs).
Additionally, the rules have bumps and corner cases. They don’t stick as well as I’d like, although playing only once a year hurts.
As Chris Farrell has noted, the deck feels bloated. (Is there a link to that article on his new blog)? This creates variability between great events and mediocre ones. (Drawing only 3 cards that have only 4CP total, when cards range from 1-5 is terrible, and destroys your negotiating position, which is the crux of the game).
But what really jumped out at me yesterday — the religious conflict rules feel out of place compared to the highly granular systems everywhere else. English Succession is one die a turn (if that). The new world? Roll 2d6 once per explorer. Piracy? Roll 1-3 dice per attempt, maybe a few times a turn. But Reformation and counter reformation attempts toss 2-6 dice (usually) on each side, and you see multiple attempts per turn, so 15+ rolls per turn, the net result is that once you hit the midgame, the number of protestant spaces waxes between 25 and 35 (or so). The Reformation has too much chaff, too few bombs. (Mainly the debates, publishing the Bibles, and the big event cards. Our game was hurt in that Printing Presses never came out in 4 turns! Too much variability rears its head again).
Every other option (apart from building and moving troops, which are prepartory moves) feels like it hinges on a single toss of the bones (even if it doesn’t) or location of a single stack. The Reformation is the core mechanic, the game’s hook, but it grinds instead of glows. Field battles also use buckets of dice, but the results matter. It’s one big roll, not 15 small ones.
Despite being worked over by Mary and coming in last, I still liked the 7 hours. I think that it might work well as a 3 player game (so you are invested a lot more), and I still need to try the 2 player game. I’m tempted to pre-order Virgin Queen, since I like the game, but I’m worried it will share the same flaws. (I haven’t read much about it, anyone care to chime in?)
Anyway, I’m now thinking about how to Tinker with HIS.
- I’m going to trim the deck. Take Chris’s list as a starting point, although:
- I’m keeping Diplomatic Overture which allows for more strategy and negotiation, and is fun. (The rest of the cards he suggested strike me as good choices).
- Instead, I’m ditching Copernicus (#47, 6 CP), which is “Gain 2VP” for the player who draws it. Too swingy, auto-play.
- Julia Gonzaga (#84) — This gives the Ottomans 1VP if they successfully Pirate in a specific sea later in this turn? (At best, a 50/50 shot). And it’s a 1CP card. Gone.
- Galleons (#48) is basically the same as Plantations. Both cards give roughly an extra 1/6 chance of producing a card each turn (per colony), so even with 3 colonies, that’s only 3-4 cards per game. No need for two of them. (I remove Galleons as it is slightly better than Plantations for the Hapsburgs, since it defends against Raiders, and the Hapsburgs win often ).
- I’m torn on Michael Servetus (#51). It gains 1VP, but also costs the Protestants a card. In my mind, pulling it may be a balance problem, since I’m worried that removing too many ‘spare’ VP from the deck may do weird things, and also this will eventually cost the Protestants one card (unless held to the end), so it’s a negotiation point, as well. I’m leaving it in, since I pulled two other VP related cards.
- I’ll also note the official errata for the 1532 scenario, although personally I don’t think England’s change goes far enough. (Seriously, England’s setup is practically Identical between T1 and T4. I think that England will either crush Scotland or obtain a divorce in 3 turns. Starting the game with Scotland defeated seems reasonable). In that case, I would nix the extra card for England (in the tourney scenario) since Scotland provides it.
- Mary needs to be painful, but not random, so that England can plan. My immodest proposal:
- After the negotiation phase, if Mary rules and England contains any Protestant spaces, the Pope may demand 1 random card draw (which the Pope can either keep OR resolves on the Mary table normally) and the loan of one ship OR 2 mercenaries at the discretion of the Pope. (England does not have to ally with the Papacy for this. If England does not have a ship/mercs to loan, they offer a second card). Of course, the Pope and England may agree to waive this during the negotiation phase (presumably for other considerations).
- Additionally, when Mary is played the Pope randomly gets one card draw (again, either keep or instantly resolve on the Mary table) from the English hand immediately. (If the English have no cards or only the home card left, the card is drawn from the deck).
- England may not publish treatises while Mary is ruler (and English troops are Catholic, as per normal rules).
- Rationale — The Ship/Mercs thing is ahistorical (as far as I know) but it inflicts pain without card draws. So the net loss for the English will be roughly similar, but with a bit more control for all parties. One card a turn is less than the pope would usually get, but they’ll get a card they sometimes wouldn’t (if Elizabeth is the first play, they’ll have still gotten their swag, or if Mary is played after England is out of cards). Additionally, the ability for the Pope to keep the card (instead of just resolving it) should count for something, and adds an interesting choice. In this way, the Pope can channel the CPs Mary gives to be used against whoever, not just the English and Protestant.
I think more rebalancing could be done, but I’m operating on too little data. Arguably my card trimming unbalances it, but if it makes a more enjoyable game, I’m happy to pay the price.