Several members of our group were anxious to give this game a real ftf playing, so Chuck, Eric, George, Patrick, Michael, and myself sat down to give it a shot. Eric and I had the most experience, me with a couple of solo ventures (where I mangled the naval rules quite badly), and Eric in a pbem game with the designer. Everyone else had given the rules a quick look, so Eric and I went over the very basic ideas of the game. We also took the Papacy and the Protestants to avoid having to explain all of the religious struggle rules, a very good idea as these two powers are harder to play for beginners. After about 45 minutes of explaining, we got started.
Things went fairly predictably in the first turn, with the French prepping to assault Metz for the key and the Ottoman moving quickly up to Buda and triggering war with the Hapsburgs quickly. Eric's Protestants did a miserable job of converting spaces after Luther's Theses, but rocked the Diet of Worms to make up for it. Meanwhile, the exploring powers got going in the New World, with Chuck's Hapsburgs discovering the Pacific Strait (but being captured by the Portuguese after attempting Cirumnavigation), and also conquering the Incas and getting a colony in place. Chuck did extremely well in the New World, we figured he ended up with about 8 cards over turns 2-4, never missing a colony/conquest roll for cards.
In turn 2, I as the Papacy was doing a good job of avoiding allowing play of the Schmalkaldic League, which came up early in turn 3. Sadly, it came up while Chuck still controlled four of the six electorates, so he found himself way out in front. Charles was a madman, first knocking back the Ottomans from the gates of Vienna after losing a battle in Pressburg, then taking Buda and capturing Suleiman. He had so many cards every turn, and all of them seemed to be 5's. In fact, the only really good luck I had against the Hapsburgs (yes, everyone but George "The X Factor" declared war against them in turn 4 to try to avert their victory), was in forcing a card discard that turned out to be Sack Of Rome - Whew! I did manage to take Florence and activate the Venetians, but when the Ottomans took Vienna and Tunis but left Belgrade open, then Chuck managed to conquer the Aztecs, he went well over 25 points and won the game. We had decided to end the game that turn, which may have had something to do with Michael's Ottomans choosing to leave their city open, but in the end it really didn't matter that much.
What was great was that everyone, even George and Patrick who had little to do because of small card hands (I think the English have to go after the New World and the Scots in a big way in turn one). The Protestants were doing quite well until the Hapsburgs took out the two electorates they did have, even though Germany was pretty much all Protestant by then. The French did well enough in the New World to sneak by for second place with around 19 points, with me right behind, followed by the Ottomans and English.
There is a lot of interest in playing this at our Sunriver gathering in early May, and I'm hoping that we can get up at least a tournament scenario game (3 turns). We clocked in at around an hour a turn, although I think that Chuck's enormous hand sizes (he had 12 cards, count 'em, in turn 4) slowed things down just a bit. As it was, I felt the game was great fun, and it showed how strong the Hapsburgs are, although getting eight extra cards in three turns is hard to fight, especially when everyone else plays CP (and my only 4 card of the hand) just for the DoW. It will be interesting to see how the diplomacy phase plays out in the next game, in ours very little happened other than the occasional DoW.
Thanks for coming over, guys. I'm looking forward to the next game!