Excellent game and this post will fall short in describing the tension and excitement that the game provided, but still, here goes...
And now some additional commentary from Richard (who played Ottoman in this game):
Firstly, thanks for a very exciting session and game. Probably our most exciting game yet with a lot happening and every power in the mix for a win until the very last roll of the dice. Also, a lot more consolidation of understanding the rules which is great.
Congratulations to Mike for winning as France. That's 2 wins for France from 3 games. Your prize is you get to play the Protestant power next game!
Special mention to Mark who built up the Papacy to within sight of victory. Another turn may have seen a Papal victory. We also saw our first Papal BBQ with 2 guests.
Jeff also did an amazing job as the Protestants, still holding political control of the electorates at the end of the game whilst fending off Jesuits everywhere and also our first disgraced Papal debater.
Well done Russell for producing Edward VI and coming from well back in the field to within a whisker of victory - despite getting you down early, those revolts in Ireland helped you in the long run.
Commiserations to Simon, who sacrificed himself to defend Christendom from Piracy after France and the Papacy outsourced this important activity. It's very hard when you become the front runner in sight of a military victory and you've got a big hand to play. Innovative diplomacy when a Hapsburg pile on looked inevitable was a stand out achievement.
I'd not even considered such a bold move.
In terms of observations:
If England produces Edward VI early enough, they are a big threat to win.
If France gets through the game unengaged in a war with the Hapsburgs, with Chateaux VP each turn, they are going to be hard to beat. They have many options when allowed a free hand.
Don't write off the Ottomans if they can get a run on with piracy, especially if there are no fleets to sacrifice.
Timing of your run to victory is very important so as not to frighten everyone.