The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

More Here I Stand

I got in another game of Here I Stand yesterday (the session report is online), so it seems like a good time to revisit my review:

  • There are still a few ‘critical rolls.’ But it’s the nature of the CDG that there will be critical events, usually via the card draw. Does that really important event happen on Turn 2 or Turn 4? In any case, diplomacy should mitigate some of these. (In our game England got his healthy heir on Turn 5, which should have propelled Spain and France into an alliance…)
  • Starting on Turn 4 meant our game finished, although it took a long time (~8 hours). Partially that was due to all players being new (or rusty), as well as some extenuating circumstances (outside minor crisis) that resulted in a few players not taking the side the studied up on. 2 hours a turn is a bit much, although I’d rather have a slower game than a 2 hours rules lecture to start off. Like many wargames, having multiple copies of the rules helps.

I vaguely remember Chris Farrell’s criticism of Here I Stand (in fact, I printed out some variant ideas he wrote and stuffed them into my box). I agree with some of the criticisms. If a turn takes 90 minutes and you have 5-6 cards, that means you are getting one play every ~10-15 minutes. While some impulses are complicated, some are simple book-keeping. (“I’ll spend 2 CP to explore the new world. Done.”) That said, I didn’t feel bored at all as the Bulralti of the middle ages … I got 1 bonus card over 4 turns (instead of the expected 3-4) and fought 4 simultaneous wars and had a good time.  Part of the reason is that evaluating the game state (determining who is winning) fascinates me. It’s a complex system.

After another game or two I might suggest yanking a few cards out of the game (I’m looking at you, Venetian Informer) because they aren’t as much fun (or useful). One of the interesting aspects of CDGs is the “Card as event” versus “Card as CP” issue. If a card’s event/cp ratio is out of line, then it only gets played one way. The natural balance is to make stronger events worth more CPs, and weaker events worth less, but that leads to cards of vastly different strength. Is this Here I Stand’s greatest flaw? Possibly:

  1. Cards range from 1-5 CPs (something points). Recall that We the People had 1-3, and the CPs weren’t actually spent as points, a 3 card could simply activateall the generals, whereas a 1 could only activate the great generals. So, strictly as CPs, some cards are five times as good as others. And since my critical actions require multple CPs, the range may be higher — a five card doesn’t just move an army five spaces (instead of one), it can also explore the new world, cause a theological debate, etc.
  2. Similarly, the events range from game winners (gain two VPs, get a shot at retaking a lightly garrisoned city, declare war in the middle of a turn to backstab an ally, ally with a minor) to “stop your opponent from winning” (Gout, bad weather) to the situationally useful, to the useless. I like the mandatory events idea in theory (they must be played as events, then get CPs). Possibly more card games need to mix these. “Either play this card for an event then get X CP, or get 5 CP” Now you can balance events better. (Twilight Struggle’s headline phase also works nicely to ensure that you always have some events, instead of just CP.  Many of the combat cards need to be upped.
  3. Mitigating this are the Home Cards, which give each power a consistent flavor and reduce the variance that simply giving everyone one or two more cards.

I suppose, in many ways, Here I Stand is a dancing bear. I enjoy it, it works. Does it work well? I’d have to sigh and say not, but it’s still a spectacle worth watching.

I did just (re)-read the 2 player rules (published in C3i), and I think I’ll have to get that to the table fairly soon. A much denser game (maybe 3-4 hours for two people instead of 8 hours for 6)? Sign me up.


Written by taogaming

February 21, 2010 at 10:39 am

Posted in Session Reports

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. […] Update — Played again in 2010, more thoughts. […]

  2. I think everyone made two significant strategic errors: underestimating the Ottoman position after the first turn and the English position after turn 5. The Christian powers should’ve loaned the Hapsburg their fleets to knock out the Ottoman flotilla, and the Hapsburg should’ve worked diplomacy hard, possibly offering bribes, to ensure that the western war on turn 6 was Hapsburg+France vs England rather than England+France vs Hapsburg. (Hapsburg+England vs France probably also leads to English victory.)

    I think you’re right about the card CP values. You could rule that 1s are now 2s and 5s are now 4s but that may not solve the problem.

    I also think you may be underestimating combat cards. They are tricky to play, and I’m not sure any of us played them well, but swinging battle odds enough so that you can unexpectedly capture an enemy leader is a devastating move. They’re also a way for uninvolved players to intervene in crucial battles, generally at little cost to themselves, since they’re low-value cards.

    Fred Bush

    February 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

  3. I have no useful comment. But I stand in awe of the phrase “Buralti of the Middle Ages”.

    Joe Huber

    February 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

  4. Hmm…thanks for the post topic, Brian. The Craft of CP values…


    February 23, 2010 at 6:02 pm

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