Here I Stand/Virgin Queen

Overview

HereIStand

I recently finished a tense game of Here I Stand where five of the six players were within three points of victory going into our last turn. Discussions amongst the gaming group sprang up comparing this game to Virgin Queen, the “sequel” to Here I stand. The general consensus was that Here I Stand was the better game, but both were quite good. I wasn’t so sure. I had been introduced by the group to both games within the last year. Unable to decide, it seemed appropriate to do a joint review.

First a little background. Both games are card driven games (CDGs) made by GMT. Here I Stand models the first part of the 16th century and the focus is on the reformation in Germany. Virgin Queen takes place in the latter half of the same century. Religion still plays a part, but some other factors get introduced.

Incidentally, I finished second in both games. I seem to have developed a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

Components 

Both feature large, brightly colored maps. VQ’s is a bit disproportionate, with France dominating the middle of the board. HIS is more uniform (and is the one pictured). Military units are depicted the same in both, which gives the games some nice continuity. Countries can have military leaders which allows for the movement of larger armies and, in some cases, combat bonuses. The cards are beautifully done with period art illustrating the card’s feature. Both are simply great games visually.

Score: HIS: 10  VQ: 10

Gameplay

CDGs mean the game is driven by the cards and for both games the cards can be played for the event (some of which can be helpful to you or particularly nasty to an opponent), or the cards can be played for their operation points, which range from 1-5. From there, you have several options on how to use your points. Both games allow you to build or move troops or fleets. There’s religious conversion in both games, with HIS a battle of Catholic and Protestant wills between the Protestants and the Papacy while VQ has a similar battle between the Protestants and Spanish (though VQ’s religious conversions have more to do with the Dutch uprising). HIS begins the exploration and colonization of the New World while VQ takes it to the next step with piracy of colonies. VQ also has patronage as a path to victory where artists and scientists can be lured to your court to add significant VPs or other bonuses.

Neither game is a pure wargame. In fact, if you play the Protestants, war is not going to win you the game. Winning the game can come through a combination war, religion, patronage, piracy, exploration, marriages (in VQ), and heirs (English in HIS). There’s a little something for everyone in this game. My gaming group tips the nod here to HIS due to the in depth reformation which allows players to hold religious debates or select regions for conversion. However, the more I think about it I might give the nod to VQ, which adds more to the New World phase, the patronage aspect, and the ability to have your people marry people from other countries to provide bonuses, VPs, etc.

Score: HIS: 9 VQ: 10

Replay Ability

No country plays the same way. Want to go on the offensive? Be Suleiman and the Ottomans. Want to be the big dog? Be the Spanish. Want the religious aspect? Be the Protestants. With six countries you can play each and have six completely different experiences. But even playing the same country could have totally different results. Since players have the ability to secretly negotiate with each other, alliances can alter from game to game. Add that to the roll of the dice or a well played card event and you won’t get the same results each time. A general strategy may emerge, but the English may have to rethink their plans if they get bogged down fighting Scotland or those pesky Irish revolt. In my HIS game, the French and English often became strange bedfellows, setting aside their differences to take down the Spanish. Who plays is as much as a factor as who plays what.

Score: HIS: 9 VQ: 9

Balance

In the first game I played of VQ, the Protestants had real trouble getting rolling and it never felt like they were a factor in the game. In HIS, the Protestants again got off to a rough start only to see their fortunes change with some good attacks (religious attacks!) against the Papacy and at one point were just two conversions away from an automatic win. I tend to think they are the toughest to play, and they definitely aren’t suited for someone who wants to build troops and pillage. Again, the balance will come down to who plays and what they play. A smooth talking Spanish player could easily run away with the game should they get the right alliances, but a strong alliance against them can quickly even the odds. I don’t think either game is perfect, but there’s not a lot to tell between the two of them.

Score: HIS: 8  VQ: 8

Overall: HIS: 9; VQ: 9.5

Well, this wasn’t nearly as clear cut as I hoped. Admittedly, which game you like will come down to personal preference. On one hand, HIS will appeal to those that are interested in the reformation and the beginning of the age of discovery. Virgin Queen adds several more game options with the scientists, artists, and expanded New World options, though some options, such as assassins and spies, weren’t used as much. Personally, the additions to VQ are enough for me to give that extra .5, if just to make a distinction between the two. Frankly, if either are coming to the table, I’m not turning them down.

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