Mark came over for gaming on Saturday. While we’ve generally been managing the group meetings, this is the first time Mark and I have gotten together for a game since last September (yikes! that long?). There’s a large number of things that were contemplated, but Mark finally settled on trying out Here I Stand with me in the 2-player version. We think it’ll do well with the main group, but we want to get a feel for it first, so the entire group isn’t flying blind.

The two-player version narrows the game down to the struggle between the Protestants and the Papacy, with a certain amount of automated interference from the rest of the powers. Mark took the Protestants, leaving me to be the Papacy. As I somewhat expected, things began well for me, but started seriously eroding later. The initial spread of Protestantism is difficult, but as further reformers come on board, it gets easier. Also, there isn’t a whole lot else for the the Protestant player to worry about, so he can spend most of his attention writing treatises until he succeeds.

Meanwhile, I was plotting how to gain control of an extra key or two for VPs and a card draw. We usually try to get a read through on rules ahead of time, but this time neither of us had gotten very far, so it was a voyage of discovery. The first thing I discovered is that all troops go back the the capital or fortresses for winter, so starting a siege as part of your last action doesn’t do any good.

Something that I didn’t discover until I was going through the rules after we were done is that the number of cards specified for each power isn’t the hand size, but the actual number drawn. So I had thought that the three cards for the Papacy included the two Core Cards, really cutting down on the number of actions, and making me desperate for four keys to be able to get a fourth card, as I thought I had Papal Bull, Leipzig Debate and one other. Good to know for next time….

On the second turn, I successfully took neutral Florence. After that, we started figuring out how the non-player major powers were supposed to work, and I had problems. I had drawn Spanish Invasion as the first turn diplomacy card. Not a problem, I just needed to wait until it would target the Protestants instead of me. But on turn 2, Mark used Diplomatic Pressure to swap cards, giving it to him, and the Spanish promptly invaded me on turn 3.

Despite my efforts to resist, the Hapsburg navy defeated mine, and they successfully assaulted Rome. Technically, getting peace with the Hapsburgs was as simple as waiting for the auto-alliance at the end of turn 4, but I realized that once that happened I had no way of getting Rome back (and its one free unit per turn, plus 2 VPs), so during turn 4 diplomacy I excommunicated Charles V to force peace and get Rome back, giving Mark a VP in the process. Sadly, Mark then played French Constable Invades, seriously boosting the French forces in Italy (France begins the game at war with the Pope, but we hadn’t paid much attention to the available troops). This lead to the loss of more Papal troops and Florence.

Meanwhile Mark had finished the German translation of the New Testament, and with that and another boost, most of the HRE had converted. There were three debates during the game, all initiated by me. The first one had gone well, and had allowed me to knock out the only two Protestant spaces there had been at that point in the first turn. The other two backfired. My debater was disgraced in the second one (just a one-pointer…). And despite my clever plan to guarantee seven dice to four, I still lost by two hits on the final round. (I used Leipzig Debate to pick Eck and debated in English, which only had the two-die Tyndale.)

In fact, we noticed that the red dice tended not to roll sixes at all, while the blue dice in the set were a lot more even. There’s not enough rolls to be statistically significant yet, but they were very consistent about it.

Anyway, we only got to the end of turn 4, and Mark had managed to get enough points to avoid a Dominance Victory by me. (Actually, he had held on to Copernicus to make sure of that, and would have presumably used the 6 CPs next turn, now that he knew he was safe.) It was a good game, though I think the pure focus on the religious battle in the two-player game falls a little flat. I definitely want to do this with the group next time.