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iOS Review and Release: Le Havre

Brad Cummings
United States
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The Stats:
Compatibility: Universal
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: Codito Development
Version: 1.0
Size: 43.1 MB
Multiplayer: Yes. Local and Online
AI: Yes, varying difficulties.
Itunes link: Le Havre

The Good:
- Bright, easy to access interface.
- The tutorial does well at explaining rules and touching on strategy.
- Well done async Game Center multiplayer system.
The Bad:
- This is not a simple game and new players will still feel somewhat overwhelmed. It will take a few games to fully grasp everything, but the app is a good learning tool.

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Codito software has been bringing some of the highest ranked games on BGG to iOS for the past several months. Le Havre may very well be one of the most anticipated. Le Havre is currently ranked number eight on BGG and has had its time in the number one slot. It is a complex, lengthy Eurogame with a high level of preplanning, and important players choices every turn.

Le Havre is both well known and extremely complex so a full rules explanation will not be included here. In Le Havre players are gaining goods (like grain, wood, iron, etc) which they will use or convert to other goods (brick, bread, charcoal, etc). These goods are used to build structures and ships or are simply sold for income. The goal of the game is to have the highest net worth at the end of the game through value of buildings and cash on hand. Players can purchase buildings or ships which give them certain benefits. Other players’ buildings may also be used for a charge (which the owning player receives). Using buildings allows players to do many things including obtain goods or convert goods to secondary goods. In the port there are always offerings of basic goods that players can take. Play continues for a certain number of rounds (dependent on the number of players) and the player with the highest net worth is the winner.

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It must be known that I am not an experienced Le Havre player. I tried to play the physical version before this release but sadly it never happened. That being said I will not be able to comment on things such as AI difficulty (it still beats me soundly) or possible rules mistakes (the app taught me the game so I have to trust what it says). What I can tell you about is the level of polish, the clarity of information, and the overall level of quality. This is a great digital translation of this famous game.

One point of contention with past Codito apps was graphic design. There have been brilliant designs (Tigris and Euphrates) and less than stellar outings (Tikal). Le Havre follows that pattern of Codito’s more recent releases and uses assets very similar to the print board game. There is quite a bit of information to display in Le Havre, and while it is not perfect, Codito has offered some solutions. One great thing is that every bit of information is displayed on the iPad screen, there is no menu system to wade through. Perhaps the most compacted thing is the list of building each player has. Due to space limitations all except the newest building display the text name only, but by clicking on a player's building stack it will open up and you can see all of their buildings as well as how they function. The assets in the game are similar to previous Coditio games (sometimes the text can be challenging to read) but I was impressed by how colorful and vibrant the graphical elements were in this app. It looks sharp and though the game is still complex, it could attract some outside attention. Like Puerto Rico there are several buildings to track and several types of goods to gather, however, in this app they are much easier to tell apart. The graphic and interface design are very polished this time around, perhaps not the level of Tigris and Euphrates, but very good.

Apart from presenting the game in a very professional manner, Le Havre offers a strong gameplay feature set. Local play options include games against several AIs of varying difficulty levels and play styles as well as pass and play games. As I mentioned above, I am quite new to Le Havre so it is difficult for me to judge the skill of the AI but from what I can see it makes smart moves and plays in a believable way. With pass and play you can combine both local and AI players. This is useful for having larger games when only two players are available. Players are free to change their player color and their name. This game should work well in this type of environment as it does not contain any hidden information. As you can see Le Havre is equipped with your standard offline play options as well as additional features that add a nice touch of polish.

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Le Havre is large, meaty game. If this is not your cup of tea, it is best avoided, but for those that are ready for the challenge this app can help you learn the game. The tutorial is quite lengthy and deep but manages to explain the major mechanics. Codito is very good at mixing rules and strategy explanation. Obviously there are many paths to victory in Le Havre but Codito shows you a basic path as well instilling the need to purchase buildings and have enough food for each round. After you have gone through the tutorial there is AI play to use for experimentation and learning. Games with the app are lightning fast when compared to the reported playtime of the board game. The AI acts quickly and its actions can be sped up. This allows games to go much more quickly. Le Havre is a big game but this app is the perfect learning tool.

Once you have mastered the monster which is Le Havre you can enjoy hours of play either offline versus local opponents or AI, or you can hop online and challenge friends or strangers. This app features async online play using Game Center. This time around Codito has created a whole graphical interface around the Game Center API giving the app a polished look. Before sending invites you can set up the entire game including how many players to include, whether to include AI players etc. Once invites have been sent you go straight into the game and either play or await your turn. You receive push notifications timely when your turn arrives. Rather than the somewhat confusing Game Center interface, the app has a well laid out list of your games in progress and says if it is your turn. The online play seemed to function well in my opinion, however, because I have been playing before launch I have yet to experience a full server. One small quibble is that if you are not online when another player makes their move, you will not see the action. In the menu there is a move log you can check and of course the location of the players worker will show you where they went. If you are a fan of Le Havre and like async online play this app is a perfect fit for you.

Le Havre is a heavy game and will be great for those looking for something deeper. If you are new to the game the tutorial and AI options should be able to teach you the game. It is a game that will take some plays to master, but it rewards that effort with a pleasant level of depth. This is a must buy for fans of euro strategy games.

Rating: 4/4 A heavy game but one of the best.

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