How to Win as the Hapsburgs in Here I Stand (Three Basic Tips, #3)

I often teach games to my fellow players. A lot of those games are somewhat complex (and often take several hours), so I don’t only explain how the rules work, but also give a bit of direction on the strategy – nothing worse than an evening spent feeling lost in the options or getting steamrolled because you didn’t know what was important! Of course, if the rules are already quite a lot to take in, you don’t want to be further overwhelmed by a lengthy speech on strategy. One method to keep which I’ve found keeps it short and sweet is giving the new player three basic tips. That’s something everyone can keep in mind!
So, without further ado, here are my Three Basic Tips for winning as the Hapsburgs in Here I Stand (Ed Beach, GMT Games): Which victory condition should you pursue, and how will you achieve it? How does your diplomacy prepare you for military success? And which rhythm will get you to European domination instead of a second-place finish?

VP or Military Auto-Win?

There are two ways to win a game of Here I Stand: The standard victory of having the most VP at the end of a round (usually at least 25), and the auto-wins. In the Hapsburg case, they need to control 14 key cities for a military auto-win. For many powers, the auto-win is more of a fever dream, but the Hapsburgs are in a realistic position to achieve theirs (in fact, that’s how I won the last game of Here I Stand which I played). And that’s the basic tip already: Don’t forget about either victory condition, and pursue the one that seems more likely.

In case you are a somewhat more experienced player and want to know more, here’s how to get to either victory condition:
25 VP look like a tall order given that the Hapsburgs start at a meager 9. However, VP will roll in for the emperor:

  • The New World is your best source of VP. Ideally, you send an exploration and a conquest every turn. As your conquistadors are much better than the French or English, you should rake in all conquests for 5VP, and get another 4-5VP from your great explorers. 9-10VP
  • Keys only give you 1VP, but at least you also get 1VP for controlled electorates after the Schmalkaldic League. With an early conquest of an independent key (typically Metz), gaining Prague when Hungary falls to the Ottomans, and another key either from Hungary or from Diplomatic Marriage/Andrea Doria, 2-3 more keys are realistic, as are 1-2 electorates even from a limited campaign against the Protestants. 3-5VP
  • So, with those basic assumptions you already sit on 21-24VP. The remaining 1-4VP can come from any source: Do a bit better in the New World, conquer a few more keys or electorates, have a defeated foe sue for peace and give you War Winner VP, get any of the bonus VP from Master of Italy, Copernicus, etc.

However, this will take some turns (the fall of Hungary and/or the full exploration/conquest of the New World are likely only completed around turn 4). A Hapsburg VP victory would likely only come from the mid-game on. The military auto-win for 14 keys, however, is something you can already pull off in the first few turns if the situation is right.
How do you get to 14 keys? You begin with 8, and, as said, 2-3 should roll in with not much effort on your behalf. For the remaining 3-4, you need one successful campaign. Yes, one. Here I Stand is all about timing (see the last basic tip for more on that), and if you can get the timing to strike right, one strike is all you need. Possible victims of your glorious victory campaign are the Ottoman Empire (including whatever they hold of Hungary), France, and, if the situation is right, even a hodgepodge of independent, minor, and possibly French (or Papal) keys in Italy.


Having taken Metz on turn 1 (the ninth key) and gained all of Hungary (keys 10-12), the emperor descends on the Ottoman Empire proper. Edirne and Salonika make the auto-win complete! Image from the excellent implementation of the game on

Make the Right Friends and the Right Enemies at the Right Time

So, how do you win such a great campaign? – By preparing for it with your diplomacy. Simply speaking, you want four of the other five players to be your friends and the last one to be your enemy, duking it out one-on-one with you. It is easy to insist on chivalrous one-on-one fights if you’re the biggest kid on the block. Then you overwhelm whichever smaller kid is your victim with your immense card and troop power. That’s mostly all there is. Sure, you can improve your chances by sophisticated maneuvers or lucky combat cards, but Here I Stand is not much of a operational or tactical game. Your military victories are won by your strategic vision.

Diplomatic Chart

Auspicious diplomacy for the Hapsburgs – the only enemy are the Ottomans. England and France will be busy with their war against each other (and England is tied to the Hapsburgs by alliance). The Pope as a Hapsburg ally will keep the Protestants in check which are not a political power yet. Diplomacy chart on the game board, taken from the Vassal module of Here I Stand.

In practice, that means charming and/or bullying four gals and guys around the table into being friendly with you. Sometimes you can use others for that – if the king of France is anxious about an English attack, they might be very willing to enter an advantageous agreement with you just to have one thing fewer to worry about. Don’t overdo it, though – if you make friends of all five other powers, you might be sitting there with a fistful of cards and not many good opportunities to spend them.

Go Big or Stay Home

That brings us to the last tip: Get the rhythm for hanging back and lunging forward right. If you always push with the same strength, your steady approach will at best land you at a decent 22VP and third place, and at worst will have you achieve nothing of note ever. If you’re playing for victory, you need big pushes (and times of rest in between). So you want to be parsimonious on some turns, only sending a few brave men to the New World, building a fleet or hiring some mercenaries, and hold your possessions against anyone who wants to take them from you – and on other turns (those with the advantageous diplomatic situation described above) you go all in and overwhelm your foe, helpless against the superior might of the Hapsburgs.

Hand Counts

Cards at the beginning of a turn. The Hapsburgs have been saving and will be able to spend an impressive 9 cards this round. Image from the implementation at

Fortunately, your monarch has an excellent admin rating of 2, so you can carry over up to two cards from one turn to another. That means that if you draw five cards a turn (plus a home card), you can spend only four of them in one turn (including home card) and a whopping eight (including home card) in the next. And anyone will have a hard time standing against that.

What are your strategies as the Hapsburgs? Let me know in the comments!
If you found this post helpful, maybe you want to read the corresponding posts how to win at Twilight Struggle or how to win as Prussia in Friedrich?


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