Hot on the heels of discovering Agricola, I looked up the designer Uwe Rosenberg and found out he had released another game the year after and that it also ranked in the top 10 on BGG at the time, so I had to try it out. Le Havre turned out to be another fantastic worker placement game that also became one of my first solo game endeavours as I tried to continually push the limits of the maximum VP score I could achieve.
In this game set in a French harbour, you take the role of a business owner trying to accumulate the most money by building or purchasing buildings and ships and by shipping goods. The winner at the end of game is the player with the most money. The gameplay is very simple - either move your single worker to an unoccupied building and use its effect or take one of the goods offers, which gives you resources you may need. You can also buy available buildings with coins or sell your buildings you no longer need at any time during your turn. In order to sell your goods, you will need to construct ships. The game is played over several rounds, at the end of which is a harvest, but it is significantly less difficult than the harvest in Agricola as you can always exchange money for food, you can take out loans and repay them before the end of the game, and you can use the previously mentioned ships to offset the food cost.
Somehow this straightforward “move your worker” or “take goods” choice tends to take a long time, probably because most players are trying to figure out the optimal moves to make based on the amount of money they have, plus have the additional buy/sell actions. The real key to a successful strategy is figuring out when to buy buildings before other players can either build or buy it themselves and selling buildings (for half the amount they are worth) when you no longer need the building or are in more need of cash to buy something else. The order that the buildings come out vary from game to game and there are a few special buildings that are added to the deck each game to spice it up, so your strategy will need to be adapted to what is available.
Because of this, new players may become overwhelmed as they see experienced players making multiple moves on one turn and can see themselves fall behind rather quickly as the best buildings get purchased or constructed and their engine stalls. During the last few turns, it is not uncommon to find players pulling out their calculators to try to figure out which moves will net them the most points. Optimization is key in this game and it may take a couple plays to really figure out which moves are best. So even though playing the game is very simple, the strategies are definitely not.
One of my favorite things about this game is seeing your little block of businesses growing as the game proceeds, giving this game a very light city-building feel. Also, the different uses for each building is always interesting, especially when one of the special buildings comes up. So although I prefer it’s older brother Agricola more, I can see this game being more “fun” for lack of a better word, as there is usually a best action to take, but also a bunch of good actions as well. Over all these years, it has consistently remained in my Top 5.
I just thought it would be fun to start reviewing boardgames to keep me in the loop since I don't get to play them as much as I would like.
See my Top 50 here:
See my Top 50 want to play games here: