Tips for playing Here I Stand for the first time
Don’t let the rules length scare you: Although the rulebook is long (44 pages), much of that length can be attributed to the step-by-step procedural style that is used (adopted from my work with Joe Balkoski on the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series). For any given power, the number and complexity of rules that must be mastered is no greater than a power in similar card-driven multiplayer games (such as The Napoleonic Wars ). And when you get to a new procedure for the first time, simply walk through that section of rules one step at a time and you can’t go wrong.
Pick powers before your game session: Many of the rule sections apply to only a subset of the 6 powers. For example, if you know who will play Ottomans and Hapsburgs before your gaming group gets together, those two players can read up on Piracy (but no one else will need to). Players should also read up on the special rules for their power in Section 21. Here is a list of ideas for sections that certain powers can skip:
- Ottoman: No need to read rules on Reformation and New World.
- Hapsburgs: No need to read rules on Reformation (other than Diet of Worms).
- England: No need to read rules on Piracy or Theological Debates.
- France: No need to read rules on Reformation.
Papacy: No need to read rules on New World.
Protestant: No need to read naval rules, minor power rules, or New World.
Assign the Hapsburgs to the most experienced player: The Hapsburg player will have more interactions than any other player. To successfully perform their balancing act as emperor over most of Europe, they should be familiar with all aspects of the game. Assign the Hapsburgs to a quick player who has the most familiarity with the Here I Stand rules.
Limit diplomacy in your first session: As suggested in the rules, the Diplomacy Phase can be entirely skipped on the first turn to speed play and help people learn the system before having to enter diplomacy. It is also fine to focus diplomacy around alliances and declarations of war in the first few games; more complex deals involving exchange of card draws, mercenaries, space control, and agreements to play cards for other powers can wait until players are better versed in the game.
Be aware of which religious power wins ties: In every Reformation or Counter Reformation attempt, either the Protestant or Papacy wins ties. (Initially this is always the Protestant, unless it is a Reformation attempt outside the target language zone. The Papacy will start to win more ties though once Paul III appears). If you know which power wins ties, you can always have them roll first. If they roll a modified result of “6”, you know the result without the other power having to roll any dice. Using this approach ends up saving a lot of time.
Use the 1517 Scenario and end the first game after Turn 4 or 5: There is a lot of good information in the Scenario Book about how to customize the game for the time and players available. However it is easier to learn the game from the 1517 Scenario start position (when the Reformation is just beginning). So I recommend starting with the 1517 Scenario but not playing all the way through. You can still declare a victor at the point you choose to stop. The average scores for all powers across all of our 1517 Scenario playtest games were very balanced by the end of Turn 4. The first time you play, I suggest telling everyone ahead of time that the player with the highest VP at the end of Turn 4 or 5 (your choice based on time available) is going to be the winner. If your time is extremely limited (say 3-4 hours maximum at a time), you might even want to play two turns from the 1517 Scenario to familiarize everyone with the rules in one session and then move directly to the Tournament Scenario (which will fit in a 4-hour time frame if everyone knows the rules) for your second session.
- Ed Beach, Designer