from GMT website:
Virgin Queen: Wars of Religion 1559-1598 is a game of grand strategy for two to six players based on the military, political and religious conflicts within Europe during the reigns of Elizabeth I of England and Philip II of Spain. Each player controls one or more of the major powers that presided over European politics in that day. Spain is the juggernaut, able to draw upon the vast riches of their global empire. But such a dominant power is sure to have many enemies. The Ottoman expansion towards Spain's Mediterranean outposts remains unchecked. Elizabeth's English sea dogs are poised to raid Spain's overseas empire. And the forces of Protestant reform will soon drag Spain into eighty years of rebellion in the Netherlands. Will Spain find aid from its Catholic allies? Perhaps not from France, where the Catholic Valois dynasty is soon to engage another group of Protestant believers in the bloody French Wars of Religion. And even Philip's relatives in Vienna who rule the Holy Roman Empire may dabble in the Protestant faith instead of remaining loyal to their Catholic heritage and Spanish brethren.
The six powers in Virgin Queen are:
Holy Roman Empire
Protestants (Dutch & Huguenots)
Virgin Queen: Wars of Religion 1559-1598 is the sequel to Here I Stand, another card-driven game of grand strategy that covered the previous forty years (from Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Theses in 1517 through the abdication of Charles V in 1556). Players familiar with Here I Stand will find much that is familiar in Virgin Queen as over half of the rule book remains unchanged. New game systems have been put in place to emphasize the changing nature of the conflicts here in the late 16th Century:
Religion: Streamlined from Here I Stand, the new rules for religious conversion and rebellion allow actions to be resolved quickly, reflecting the already entrenched presence of both Catholic and Protestant factions across the key areas of religious struggle.
World Map: Oceanic expeditions are now under direct player control as they sail to the Caribbean and beyond to seize plunder, found colonies, and attempt to circumnavigate the globe.
Diplomatic Influence: Alliances with minor powers (and major powers that can be activated in games with fewer than six players) are now made through a unified system where players buy influence at each of these foreign courts.
Weddings: Here I Stand’s secret negotiation phase is still present here in Virgin Queen, but with a new twist. Now you will want to arrange marriages for each of the princes and princesses of your family dynasty with a suitable foreign royal. Will even the Virgin Queen succumb to love and take a husband, or will she jilt that suitor at the last minute once again?
Patronage: Your royal court will be visited by artists, writers, scientists, and architects, who all want you to invest in their endeavors for the glory and advancement of the realm. Will you sponsor Galileo, Cervantes, or Shakespeare or instead spend your treasury on a fruitless quest for the Philosopher's Stone?
Espionage: Beware, there is also a dark side to this period – a time of espionage and spymasters. In Virgin Queen you can ask your ambassadors to spy on foreign courts, send out handgun-armed assassins, invest in cryptology, and even recruit Jesuit priests for undercover missions of conversion.
There are several different scenarios included allowing your play sessions to be tailored to the number of players and time available:
Two-Player Tutorial: Great for new players just learning the series, this 90-minute game pits the Ottomans against Spain during the time of the Siege of Malta and Battle of Lepanto. Uses a subset of the full rules so you can dive in quickly.
Campaign Scenario: The full Virgin Queen experience, this eight-hour game can last up to seven turns and is normally played with from 4 to six players. Variant rules allow you to play with just two or three players if desired.
Armada Scenario: A quicker game focused on Turns 3 to 6 of the full campaign, this 4 to 5-hour game is ideal for tournament play. Once again supports from 4 to 6 players.