If you haven’t played Here I Stand then try to get a group together for the 6 player version. Failing that the 2 player game offers a real insight into how the game works and why it is so vastly different from other games (even it’s sequel Virgin Queen).
If you are playing it and struggle to take your faction to victory, here are my thoughts on the asymmetric positions.
During the Game:
For the protestant player the most important strategy is to take and hold the electorates. These are 2 VPs each and there are 6 of them! This is a huge part of not losing the game in turn 4, and then to reach the victory condition. Without all six this game will be a long drawn out battle or a quick loss. Early game conversion of these is critical as once you become a military power you will have to conquer them with military force – but you will not have that much to do it with!
Now, if you are seeking to win a lot of points through religious conversion you should also consider an early game French move. It’s tricky to get behind this move because it feels a “gamey” move, but sending the French south will make it easier to enter from the East when the opportunity comes! Just getting the guy out of Paris is huge!
Keep Milan for as long as you can. An early French army invasion will allow the reinforcement of Milan. You will one day lose this but the more it costs the papal player the bigger the conversion you will achieve across Europe. It will be an important part of the strategy, but not a crucial component of a victory. If the cards don’t come your way, then you will surely let it fall earlier than preferred.
Turning the English will be important. You will need almost all of it for the victory and your likely opportunities will come as Cramer comes to London or as Edward becomes king. Be careful though because if Mary comes in you will really struggle to convert England and you will find yourself holding out for the end game.
Converting the bible will be more important that it seems. Ensuring the use of all ops points and offering you the chance to threaten the opponent with mass conversion on any turn. It’s also good to use this in combination with a card called the Printing Press. An extra dice on conversion roles will give you the chance to make drastic gains in the religious war. You will want to use this with cards offering reformation roles, but also with the bible conversions. Towards the end of the game the extra VP from the conversions will also help at the end game.
Lastly, I value the strategy of getting the west coast of France converted as part of the opportunity to build a power base in France. It’s vulnerable and accessible from the English south coast. Spreading religion by see can be tricky but valuable, and if you are doing well early game then a port with access to England can be extremely helpful.
The single biggest tactic will be the military conquest of keys in the Italian region. You will need Florence and Milan to give you a route to sufficient victory points and to sufficient cards in the late game. You will win these locations in time, but the protestant may be able to put up a fight! These are too important not to take and to take early.
Once you have this you will need a route to Augsburg. The most southern electorate will be the only one capable of capture solely by papal forces. All the other electorates will require the invasion forces from the diplomacy deck. It’s important to keep in mind that you will need to manage your LoCs to allow for the siege and that spring deployment will not allow you the papal player to move through non-core regions (Italy / Germany only) which will make co-ordination much harder!
With that in hand you will need to defend French Catholicism and even bring back English Catholicism as this gets attacked.
You are the reactive power, let the protestant take the lead but don’t get so relaxed that you fail to see through the early game military objective – this is the most important part!
Debates & Reforms;
Two quick notes though that need extra attention – debates and reformation. Debates are the opportunistic moments in this game where each side will contribute the tokens for their special benefits in game, but find themselves exposed to the risk of debate. Powerful abilities are often attached to weak debaters and so as you take the action you leave the opponent the opportunity to attack. This is especially true for the catholic player who can use a home card to bring Eck into the debate and get 7 dice against a weakened protestant debate representative. Of course once the debates start some opportunities arise for second rounds, counter debates and swapping Luther in withe protestant home card. Each side will certainly hold those home cards and watch patiently for the other player’s rush to play it as an opportunity to take the advantage.
Debates also become viable for the Catholic as the first debate protestant arrives for England. An ability to pick him offer will offer the player a chance to convert England or to overflow back into the Hapsburg empire.
Reformation meanwhile has no downside – if you lose then nothing happens (unlike the debate where you can go backwards!). Pick the targets and roll. The selection is not simply a power balance but a focus that the attacker has the most die (because they win ties) and then if there is a tie for die on the attack, then you check the die for defense. The most attack and least defense will be optimal, but a greater attack is often worth the risk of defense.
That’s enough from me though, so hope this helped and …