Harvest is a new release from Tasty Minstrel games, which positions itself as a follow up to Harbour - a pocket sized worker placement game that we enjoyed for a time. It's only really the art and the publisher that are the same, but there's a definite resemblance in the setting for the two games. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that the box is about 3 times the size of Harbour, but it's still a pretty small game box. For me, Harbour represented a very light Le Harve, and my expectations were that Harvest could be the lighter Agricola, following the same relationship. Although Harbour made a good travel game for us because it packed a bit of punch for its size, we eventually traded it away because it really dragged at the higher player counts, so let's see how Harvest plays and whether it overcomes some of the small box game problems.
Harvest is a worker placement game for 2-4 players in which you are building a farm to grow fantastical crops for the country show. Some crops are worth more prize money than others, but it's the total prize value of your crops at the end of five round which matters. Each round there will first be a draft for turn order, and then in turn order each player will place one of their two workers, followed by the next. Some actions are limited, some are available every round and others change every round. You'll improve your farm, buy seeds or other resources, plant seeds, tend your plants or harvest your plants.
With just two workers, planning is really important in Harvest, making sure that you have the correct number of water and fertiliser to make the most of your precious planting and tending actions whilst they're available. It's definitely worth planning ahead, but I've seen players do well with both a very rigid strategy and the more opportunistic playing style that I tend to opt for, which I think allows me to adapt more to the board which changes every round, because of the 30 different action cards.
What really made Harvest shine for us was when we moved to the variable player powers in our second game. In the first game we both played with the basic side of the character boards, which just gives you a flat 15 points and no other special ability. I found that the game moved too fast, because I essentially only did 10 things and then the game ended. I felt like I needed a 3rd worker. I was excited to find that one of the special abilities was almost equivalent to having a third player. The other 8 characters have equally powerful abilities that really make you pursue different strategies. Sometimes I'm not convinced that I've made 15 points out of my ability, but I've had a far better game than if I had used the basic side of my character board.
When we played Harvest a recent game day, it immediately captured the attention of a friend who thought it might be a good entry level worker placement game for his daughter and I can see what he means. It has a charming theme and artwork and really simple and clear iconography that makes the game quite intuitive. With just two workers to place each round, the planning isn't too overwhelming. For gamers, the basic side of the board is a bit boring, as I've described, but to introduce Harvest as a simple game, they might be quite useful.
Harvest is not a worker placement game that will set the world of gaming on fire. However, it is a solid game with plenty of variability in the box. It plays quickly, at under 30 minutes for two players, and a four player game teaching new players lasted under the advertised 1 hour play length. On our shelves, it is likely to slip through the cracks, being neither a small portable game or a big experience that I expect from many worker placement games on our shelves. Similarly, at a £39.99 price tag, you can buy a larger game for a bigger gaming experience. However, for gamers trying to make a compact collection, people introducing the worker placement style or someone seeking a slightly less dry theme in their farming game, then Harvest is definitely worth a look.
To compare Harvest back to Harbour, I definitely think Harvest is the stronger game, giving you more variety, more options and some more depth. It is also a quick game, not matter the player count. The only downside, is that it is not as portable. So, for the Yellow Meeple it's a 6.5/10.
To read some thoughts from the other half of this board gaming couple, check out Amy's review at; https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/old-mcdonald-had...