I was delighted a few weeks ago when I received an unexpected package from
Tasty Minstrel Games with an unrequested game in it. Not only had I not asked for it but it wasn't even published yet - how cool?! Inside I found a delightful note that indicated that I was being allowed to preview a Kickstarter game. After wallowing in my self-satisfaction for a few minutes I began to make arrangements to get a few plays in.
Harbour is a continuation of the micro-game trend that washes over Kickstarter. The new element of this one is that rather than being dice driven or a war game, it's a Eurogame, a worker placement game specifically. As with other micro-games, it plays in about 20 minutes and plays 2-4, just the right size to fit in between heavier games, while waiting for other players to arrive or to round out an evening.
The game begins with each player having his or her own warehouse which houses four different goods: meat, fish, wood and stone. There is a common market place where the price for each of the four goods is set as well as the minimum number of goods that must be sold to earn the value. There is also a field of buildings that represent the actions a player can do beyond his or her default powers. The buildings may also be bought by players, conferring bonuses, victory points and adding more buildings to the possible pool.
Each player has exactly one worker, whom, on the players turn, is placed on an unoccupied building and the appropriate action taken. Many buildings convey additional goods, commonly trading one for three of two of one for two of two differnt and so on. Some of the buildings allow the player to rearrange the market, making the goods in the players' warehouses more or less valuable. Also, the buildings allow players to buy buildings.
When buying a building, the player cashes in goods in his or her warehouse for the values in the market. If the player has more goods than are required, they lose the change none-the-less. The player chooses what goods to trade, tallies cash value and takes any discounts granted by player powers and building bonuses. He or she then selects a building to add to the tableau. The market is rearranged, a new building is drawn and if that was the fourth building in the given players tableau the final round is triggered.
Since this is likely the most complex interaction of the game, here is a detailed example:
Currently the market is
Wood $2 minimum 1
Stone $3 minimum 2
Meat $4 minimum 3
Fish $5 minimum 4
I have 4 wood, 2 stone, 1 meat and 5 fish. I also have one building that gives me a discount of a dollar.
There are five buildings in play (cost/VP)
I can trade for wood ($2), stone ($3) and fish ($5). That with my discount means I can afford any building out there. I decide it's near the end of the game and I want building 2 for the VPs. So I spent all of my fish (I have one extra but no change is allowed unless I have a building to do that for me) and my stone, sliding each down to zero on my warehouse track.
I also rearrange the market now. The most expensive item not sold becomes as expensive as it can. I sold fish so meat slides to the $5 slot. I sold stone so wood slides to the $4 slot. Now the sold goods fill in reverse order so stone is $3. Finally fish fills in at $2 slot.
Not only do I have 10 VPs, the powers of my new building but I have also changed the trading landscape for anyone else playing.
While playing this game we had no issues with the preproduction pieces. We did struggle a bit with the preproduction rules but I'm confident that those will be further revised and filled out during the production process. The game did live up to its time promises, with two or three players games lasted about twenty minutes.
For the groups I played this with, we did find ourselves struggling to get excited for additional games of Harbour. It may come down to our expectations but upon looking at it and playing a bit we constantly found ourselves comparing it to an extremely stripped down worker placement, Lords of Waterdeep came up multiple times. As a result we found ourselves trying to play it as a worker placement game but with just one worker it's not quite that. I keep wondering if we focused more on the market aspect maybe we would have found a different game, one that would have brought us back to the table for another round.
This game will be the right game, I think, for eurogamers who feel left out of the microgame revolution. If you are looking for a tiny Eurogame to play between Euros, you may find your muse here.