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Ora et Labora Review

Jesse Dean
United States
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Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
2007 was a pretty good year for games. My two favorite games, Agricola and Race For the Galaxy, were released that year and while I find a lot of the games released in 2007 to be a little bit less exciting, the presence of this duo is enough to make it up for me. Race For The Galaxy was the first of these I encountered (I hated it for the first seven plays), but my first eight months of gaming after I encountered them were essentially consumed by almost continual plays of these two games. To this day they remain my most-played games, and while I have been interested in later releases, none of them have quite lived up to the bar that these two games have set, though numerous releases have gotten close.

As a result of these initial releases I have paid special attention to later releases by both Tom Lehman and Uwe Rosenberg. Among Uwe Rosenberg’s later release Le Havre stood out to me in particular, and over the years following its release I ended up playing it 40 times; a reasonable number but one that does not quite compare to the number of times I have played Agricola. For many gamers Le Havre was considered to be Rosenberg’s superior design and while I enjoyed it for quite a while, it never quite resonated with me the way Agricola did. Coke and steel’s chokehold over scoring bothered me a bit and typically reminded me of a common complaint about Agricola; where Le Havre in theory had a more open form of scoring, in practice it did not, the reverse was true for Agricola. This made the game rather repetitive after a while, even with the special buildings, which only occassionally had a big impact on the game. In many games these special buildings were merely there and could safely be ignored, as could a large number of the regular buildings, which could be used once or twice, but were mainly built for the points they offered. The way resources accumulated at the end of the game also seemed troublesome, and frequently made me wonder why I was going through the effort of building stacks of them if they would only ever be selected every couple of games. The release of Farmers of the Moor only cemented my opinion of Agricola being the superior of the two designs, as the additional level of complexity and decision making provided by this expansion pushed the game even farther into my good graces. This is not to say I think that Le Havre is a bad game, I still am willing to play it and quite enjoy it, just that I increasingly think that it does compare well with Agricola and my other favorites.

Uwe’s more recent releases, At the Gates of Loyang and Merkator, are even less interesting and I hoped that Rosenberg would return to the design style that initially attracted me to his games, so that I had a reason to look forward to one of his releases again. Ora et Labora’s description as Le Havre on steroids initially attracted it to me, though I was only cautiously optimistic due to Loyang and Merkator. Now that I was able to play it a bit at BGG.Con (5 plays as of this writing) I can say with little reservation that it is a worthy heir to Uwe’s previous titles and may be his best one yet. I've written a review of it if you want to see more extensively why I think this is the case.

Also, it has come to my attention that Kelly, one of the locals has a web site where she, with occasional guest postings from her friend Scott and her husband Chad, writes reviews of board and iOS games. It is one of the better designed board game sites I've seen and I encourage you to check it out: http://www.boardofplaying.com
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