Earlier this year, I’ve written two strategy posts for Here I Stand (Ed Beach, GMT Games) – one on the Hapsburgs, one on the Papacy. You liked them and seemed to be craving more, and as ever, I was most anxious to oblige my esteemed readers. However, I haven’t won with all Here I Stand factions yet, and you’d rightfully demand that someone who tells you how to do things has done them themselves already. This is where Naty comes in. Normally, she writes about literature over at her blog natysbookshelf.wordpress.com (check it out, it’s amazing), but she’s also an accomplished Here I Stand player who’s run roughshod over everyone else at the table in her last game when she played England. Over to you, Naty!
This is the first guest post I write on my own for Clio’s Board Games, and I am very honored. Clio and I play together often and we’ve collaborated for years now on each other’s blog, so it was inevitable that I’d be dragged into writing an entire post myself. Apologies in advance, as my writing style is far less fancy than Clio’s and my idea of a winning strategy is “Beat them up until they lose”. It does not get much more nuanced than that, but it does serve me well more often than not.
Here I Stand is the most challenging board game I’ve played so far, and it was a surprise to win as England because as mentioned my playing style is normally not very scheme-y and rather on the simple and bold side, which normally in Here I Stand will take you only so far. However, as England is nicely positioned in an isolated corner of the board and thus neither has to constantly fight off enemies, nor are the English lands scattered all over the board (like the Ottomans and Habsburgs), you do have an advantage in playability, especially for beginners, keeping it more straightforward than other powers. Of course, the way it worked for me may not be your playing style, and in the end we all just want to have fun and conquer the world, so play whichever way you want to play.
As an undefeated English Queen, here are my 3 top tips for playing and winning as England:
Secure Scotland, Attack France
They’re the low hanging fruit, just go for it. Secure Scotland early in the game so you don’t have to worry about getting stabbed in the north while you attack elsewhere, and then go to town attacking the French. With their position right between you and the Habsburgs, they’re busy enough being harassed by the Habsburgs and building their chateaux to properly defend themselves as fiercely as they otherwise would against you. As long as you make sure that you’ve got enough naval squadrons in the English Channel, they cannot attack you back either (see game rule on chapter 15.1 Assault, on the last two items on Requirements). You already start with that advantage, and the French will hardly ever have the time and resources to gather enough ships to actually attack you, so it’s quite safe.
The English don’t have many troops, their land is quite small, so it gives you no advantage to set your sights on farther lands; your resources simply do not stretch that far. Unless you are more experienced or have an actual plan of what you are going to do, I would recommend you keep it simple and go for the usual targets: Boulogne, Rouen, Paris. I had it hard enough going more south than that, plus you compete with the Habsburgs if you do. You would do well to ally with the Habsburgs, and perhaps agree to share the spoils of French lands.
Even so, I chose to attack the Habsburgs early on as well, took Antwerp, Amsterdam and Brussels, and then convinced the Habsburgs to agree to an alliance because it’s also hard enough for them to keep you away, since they have vast lands and get attacked everywhere (it’s also to their advantage if the French are busy). Your isolated position limits you to French and Habsburg territory, but it also means it’s hard to attack you back and do much more than defend themselves. French and Habsburg territories are enough for a military auto-win, if you’re aiming for that.
Do Not Waste Time in the New World
I like trying my chances on unlikely wins, but let’s be honest: the English suck at taking those juicy New World points. They are much easier to get earlier in the game, but I find it far better use of your first turns to secure Scotland and/or try for an heir, since you will probably be busy on later turns. Trying to produce an heir already takes so much time and CPs, so it will take you far more time to gather any momentum for your war plans if you spend time with New World adventures. It works better for the English to be mono-focal and not try several strategies, wasting cards and time. The New World might be interesting and look like easy VP, but you will have very limited success, if any at all, with far inferior resources than other powers. Let it go.
This tip could also be translated into: keep it focused. Strategize, make a plan and follow through without getting distracted. You do not have as many cards as other powers and have much less flexibility, since you need to use your Home Card quite often for heirs and have little influence in most alliances. By keeping it focused, you are a very powerful attacker against whom it’s hard to retaliate and with a solid chance for a military auto-win.
Allies are few and rare with the English, isolated in the board as you are and with such few advantages to offer for negotiations. If you do end up allying with the Habsburgs, for example, full of promise to leave the easy targets that are their lands alone, make sure to consider a well-timed betrayal, for example when they are too busy with wars happening on the other side of their empire and can’t send resources quickly enough. (Make sure you let a formal alliance expire before, as you cannot declare war on a (formal) ally, not even with your Home Card.) It’s much harder to win the game militarily without taking these cities, so no matter what you promised the Habsburgs, you and they both know this likely won’t last. Just because you have few to no allies doesn’t mean you need them, and in fact it’s absolutely encouraged to break from previous partners if it suits your interests. Your position on the board is isolated enough that you don’t depend on alliances to be able to move forward with your designs. This applies to whoever you decide to ally to – France offered me an alliance against the Habsburgs after a few turns and I think my answer was a barking, villain-like laughter. That could not possibly have lasted longer than a turn or two if I’d agreed to it, but surely if you think it’s to your advantage, go ahead and ally with the French. Just be ready to backstab the hell out of them.