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Subject: Corey rambles about Le Havre rss

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Corey Hopkins
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So there's this board game that is pretty well known here on BGG. The setting of the game is a developing seaside town. During the game, players all participate in the burgeoning economy by building buildings and engaging in commerce with each other and the town itself. A player can visit the property of another player, but must pay a fee for doing so. Players may take out loans, but interest must be paid. The game is known to last a while, but there is a shorter variant described in the rules. The winning player is determined by their cash on hand, plus the cash value of their assets.

Obviously, the game I'm talking about is Monopoly.

Gotcha!

Le Havre is Uwe Rosenberg's celebrated follow-up to Agricola. There are many similar ideas in the two games, but fundamental differences as well.

Le Havre, like Agricola, is a worker placement game. However, throughout the game you will only ever have access to one worker. On a player's turn, she does one of two main actions: 1) take a pile of stuff from all the different magically-refilling piles of stuff on the board, or 2) put your one worker in a building and take out that building's action, paying a fee if you do not own the building. Your worker stays in the building until you move it to another one on a later turn. In addition to this, you are able to buy buildings and pay off loans as extra actions.

Every seven turns, the round ends. At this point the players pay some amount of food and gain grain or cattle if they already have some. The town may build a building from those available to players or from a set of special buildings. A new ship will become available for building.

Building ships is a major part of the game, since they give you permanent food discounts and allow you to sell goods for cash. More advanced ships (Steel, Luxury) are also worth quite a bit of money.

Building and buying buildings is another key factor in the game. Many buildings will allow you to turn raw materials into more advanced goods. Some of these advanced goods (especially coke and steel) are key to the end game, and some can be very lucrative if sold.

At the end of a set number of rounds, each player gets one more action. This is the only time that multiple workers can use the same building. Then, all players add up their cash on hand and the cash value of the buildings and ships they own. The player with the highest total wins!

Stuff I Like

d10-1 User friendly. This is a big deal to me. It's really annoying to have to look up the minutiae of setup instructions at different player counts if it's scattered around in a rule book. But with Le Havre, once you've played a couple of times you can probably just throw the rule book away (but don't really do it!) Seriously though, I've probably only had to check the rule book two or three times since I bought the game a couple of years ago.

In Le Havre, all the setup instructions are included on the board and on the cards. The board even includes the setup for the short game and the solo game. The cards in particular are a work of genius, allowing themselves to be sorted and ordered for different numbers of players (and different length games) with incredible ease. I think the boards and cards in Le Havre edge out The Castles of Burgundy for me in terms of pure component functionality.

d10-2 Short game. I am a sucker for games that have multiple ways of playing right out of the box. Especially when the game is big and thinky. This allows me and my wife to have a low-stress learning game that doesn't throw everything in at once. Now, the "short game" in Le Havre isn't really less rules-complex than the main game (since there aren't really a lot of rules anyway), but it's nice to not have to commit an entire evening to learning a new game. Plus, the short game is great on its own, when you want the "feel" of Le Havre without the time commitment.

d10-3 Simply complicated. Let me just come right out and say: I usually have no idea what I'm doing in this game. At any given time, it's probable that I have my actions planned for the current round, but the next round might as well be the year 3000 to me. This is why, when I hear people say, "Well you've got to plan from the very beginning with your last turn in mind," I just start laughing. Because they obviously don't see the big pile of fish that Tricia just left sitting there I mean c'mon!

Ok that got away from me a little bit. My point is, even if I feel like my brain has just been wrung out like a sponge after I play, it's not because the game has complicated rules! It's because through a simple rule set, the game has given me a deep and challenging exercise in forward planning. But seriously you guys, you would have taken the pile of fish too, there were like 20 of them.

d10-4 Variability. Now Le Havre doesn't quite have the variability of Agricola, which basically came with three expansions in the box, but it does pretty well on its own. First, there's a nice little system in place that will slightly alter the order the buildings come out, but doesn't change it so much that the game is broken. Next, there is a deck of 36 special buildings. Each game, you pick six of these that the town might build ("might", because one or two won't get built). A lot of these special buildings provide alternative ways of making money beyond shipping stuff, which is nice.

Stuff I Don't Like Quite as Much

d10-1 Game length. This is pretty minor, since there is a shorter variant, but the game can drag on pretty long (and I only ever play with 2!) I'm usually feeling it by the end, as I'm trying to form the mush that my brain has become into something that can make a rational decision. I know, to some of you I must seem like a lightweight. But anyway, it might not hurt to have some cold ones on ice for after.

d10-2 Fiddly. This isn't something I really care about, but I figured I'd put it here. There are a whole bunch of little square pieces of cardboard in the game. The rules are going to tell you to just pile them up on the indicated spaces. Do not do this if any one of your playing partners is at all persnickety! Half of the game will be taken up in a vain attempt to keep the piles from intermingling. Do yourself a favor and buy some small, cheap, plastic containers that will fit right on the spaces of the board. You will save time and sanity. You're welcome.

Pulling into Port

To wrap this all up, I'll just say that, to me, Le Havre is a great game. It's a high quality production, and it makes players think at a high level. I know this because until last weekend I had lost literally every game to my much smarter wife. But on Sunday, November 8th 2015, I won. The score? 278 to 277. *mic drop*


Corey rambles about... Review Geeklist






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chopkins828 wrote:


d10-3 Simply complicated. Let me just come right out and say: I usually have no idea what I'm doing in this game. At any given time, it's probable that I have my actions planned for the current round, but the next round might as well be the year 3000 to me. This is why, when I hear people say, "Well you've got to plan from the very beginning with your last turn in mind," I just start laughing. Because they obviously don't see the big pile of fish that Tricia just left sitting there I mean c'mon!


Corey rambles about... Review Geeklist
My games of Le Havre in a nutshell laugh. Great review and overview. Thanks!
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chopkins828 wrote:
The setting of the game is a developing seaside town. During the game, players all participate in the burgeoning economy by building buildings and engaging in commerce with each other and the town itself.
I am from Le Havre and I guarantee that it is neither burgeoning, nor developing...

I agree with everything else about the game though...thumbsup
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