The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Here I Stand Review

I’ve now played three games of Here I Stand. I played earlier this year, and got two games in recently.

Now that I’ve got the full rules (basically) down, I have to modify some initial statements. But a brief review. Here I Stand is a multi-player (3-6) Card Driven Wargame ala Napoleonic Wars, Paths of Glory and the like. The game covers Europe during the Reformation, with the major powers being: Ottomans, Hapsburgs, England, France, the Papacy and Reformation.

The ‘hook’ of the game (apart from the theme, which I enjoy) is that each power works deals with several sets of rules. In addition to military campaigns, you have religious strife, the new world, piracy, marriage and others. Some powers ignore sections … the ottomans don’t care about the religious strife (all infidels look alike). Protestants and Pope are in no position to explore America. The Protestants have no military for the first third (or half) of the game. There rules cover 44 pages, and like many CDGs some important information exists on the cards. If all the cards were listed in the rulebook, you’d probably have 60 pages.

My first game included a thorough rules explanation, which was a disaster. Far better to summarize and explain as you go. You’ll need at least 1-2 experienced players though.

After my first game I was worried that the religious strife didn’t interact with the military. I was wrong, they interlock. Even the early game gives the Pope and Protestants a number of options. When to use reformers (and catholic debaters) poses interesting challenges.

The game is minimally scripted, with certain cards entering on some turns, and a few timed events get played ‘automatically’ if they never show up by a certain turn. Despite this, the variety impresses me. One game has a quick conversion of Germany while the Hapsburgs smash France. Another sees the Holy Roman Emperor battling the turks, with a minor English/French war and Papal intrigue occupying the continent. Diplomacy, as well as the cards, dictates the game. Even powers that can’t directly affect each other often can play cards to help or hurt a leader. But the constraints on each player (some caused by geography, some by differing VP calculations, and some by simple fiat) mean that you usually deal with all opponents, at least occasionally.

The first problem with Here I Stand is time. Now that I’ve played three games of the 1517 (Campaign) scenario, I’d like to try the 1532 version. The 1517 starts with the 95 Thesis, so the Protestants have no chance of winning until turn 4. (Ditto England). 1532 starts on turn 4. We’ve been able to do 4-5 turns in 6 hours (with the first turn taking 2 hours, and each following turn take about one). With experienced players the first turn will speed up. Starting in 1532 gives everyone a fighting chance to close out the game in 2-3 turns. Now the game may go 6 hours, but may also finish (without being called for time) by 3-4 hours. Much better.

New players should play the first few turns, since it simplifies most positions and turns on rules. [Ottoman Piracy, Henry’s Marriage, Protestant Military affairs don’t occur until the second or third turn in most games]. If either of my recent games had started on Turn 4, we would have finished. [Today’s game almost ended at the 5th hour, but a single card extended the game another turn].

Another downside is a few ‘critical rolls.’ The new world resolves everything with a single 2d6 roll (for each explorer), and religious debates usually throw a small number of dice (say 3-7 on each side) and look for ‘5s’ and ‘6s’. Still, plenty of luck exists on the deal.

Personally, the upsides outweigh the luck. Here I Stand (like most CDGs) oozes theme, and I find the history fascinating. Each power plays differently, and so far each game has played differently. It’s flexible with numbers (playing 3-6, with some players ‘doubling up’). If, as I hope, the 1532 scenario plays to completion in 3-4 hours (or 6 if the game goes the distance), then the duration won’t bother me. Playable in a (long) evening.

Like most wargames, not to everyone’s taste. But Here I Stand has become my favorite in the line of games spawned by We the People.

Update — Played again in 2010, more thoughts.

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Written by taogaming

December 28, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with ,

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