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Subject: Pre-Spiel-3-tired-player shortened game rss

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Jeremiah Lee
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This is my second time at the Essen Spiel convention, and I was there today to help a friend setup his booth...as well as to try to snag any interesting used games that I happened to see. It was a pretty slow day (around the used dealers), though, and instead I ended up mostly spending my afternoon elsewhere...

I had gone over to the Lookout Games booth to see if I could snag any of the giveaways/specials before the mobs descend, and instead what I found is that the booth was just being set up (they were ahead of most of the booths, which will be set up tomorrow). There was a crowd around, so I stuck around to see what was going on; as it turned out, I was to be more than an onlooker. After doing a bunch of manual labor ("labor" is going too far, really), the crowd was dispersing, and Hanno asked if anyone wanted to play the Australian edition of Le Havre that they had at the booth (the only one, I think).

Nobody else volunteered, so I walked away carrying the prize. There was a crew of people going back to the Holiday Inn Express to play, so I knew that I could get in a play tonight somehow.

Three of us sat down to play: Karen Woodmansee, Patrick Korner, and myself. All of us flew in yesterday and are pretty seriously jet-lagged, to the point that I'm wondering why I'm writing this review now, really. We sat down thinking that we would only play a few rounds, but we liked it so much that we ended up playing the whole shortened game.

I read the rules in about 20 minutes while the others played a couple of games that someone else had picked up today.

Components





Before I explain the game, let me say: Holy chit. There are a lot of them in this game - the rules tell me 420 of them. It's not quite Roads & Boats, but there are still a lot of cardboard pieces to punch when you get this game.

There are very few wooden pieces (a wooden ship and a person disk per player), 3 game boards, and 110 cards.

Explanation of the game pieces and board

This game is about resource collection and the conversion of those resources to victory points. There are a bunch of different types of goods in the game that you have to manage, and all except for money can be upgraded (before being upgraded, they are counted as the "standard" good):

1. Money. This is in Francs. Money can be converted 1:1 to food, and each Franc is worth 1 VP at the end of the game.
2. Fish. Each fish is a food; each fish can be upgraded to smoked fish, which count as two food.
3. Grain. Grain is not a food, but may be baked to convert it to bread, which counts as two food.
4. Cattle. Cattle is not a food, but may be slaughtered to convert it to meat, which counts as three food.
5. Wood. Wood is used for building, and it counts as one energy. It can be converted to charcoal, which counts as three energy.
6. Coal. Coal is used for three energy and may be converted to coke, which counts as 10 energy.
7. Clay. Clay is used for building, and it is used for building. Clay can be converted to brick, and a brick may substitute for a clay when building.
8. Iron. Iron is used for building, and may be converted to steel; steel may substitute for iron if necessary (ouch).
9. Hide. Hide is used as a commodity for selling; it may be converted to leather, which is sold for more money.

There are three game boards which form the board of the game, and there are a few important areas on the game boards:

The supply areas. There is an area for each type of standard good.
The offer areas. These areas are used to stash the goods that a player may choose to take on his/her turn.
The supply tiles (7). Each supply tile has 2 types of goods; both are standard goods. These are the goods that will be added to the offer areas for their respective type of good (one good per type is added). These tiles start the game face down, and are randomly placed before play.
The shipyard. The ships available to be built/bought are piled up here. Only the topmost ship of each stack (4 stacks) may be built.
The building proposals. At the beginning of the game, the standard buildings are shuffled and dealt into three even piles. These piles are then sorted by card number and placed with the lowest numbers on top. Only the top-most card may be built or bought (though multiple may be built or bought on a turn). Since we were playing the shortened game, there were only 21 cards.
The special building space. I won't really talk about this, since the special buildings are not used in the shortened game.
The town buildings (not on the board, just kept adjacent to the board). The town buildings consist of the action spaces available for building, purchase, or use that are not owned by any player.
The round deck. Each round is played over 7 turns (for example, in a 3-player game, one person will get 3 turns and the others will get 2 per round). The round cards determine the food cost at the end of each round, and then are flipped over to become ship cards available for purchase and building.

How the game is played

Each player has two main actions they perform on each of their turns:

1. The supply action. For this action, the player moves his/her ship to the next unoccupied supply tile and adds one chit of each standard good on that tile to the offer area for that type of good.

2. Either: move your person to a different, unoccupied action space (all of which are buildings); or, take all of the goods from one of the supply areas (ie, all of one type of good). If the user moves to a building, he/she must be able to pay the cost at the top of the card (it is in either food or money and is paid to the owner of the building or the bank if it is a town building) and must perform the action of that card.

An important note about the building cards. The buildings that start as the town buildings are those that allow you to build other buildings. Buildings may be acquired in one of two ways: either they can be purchased (see below), or they may be built through the use of an action. If the building is built, the resource cost on the card is paid. If the building is bought, the franc cost of the card is paid. Building takes an action, buying does not. The end result is the same: both cards end up in front of you as action spaces that anyone may choose. I found the rules to be confusing on this topic, so I wanted to make sure that I put something in this review about it.

An important note about building ships. In order to build a ship, a "Wharf" card must be in play available as an action space (ie, someone has built it or it is a town building) and must be chosen as your action. Ship purchase happens as outlined below and does not require an action. Again, I didn't think the rules were entirely clear on this. (both of these misunderstandings could have been because I'm tired)

In addition to these main actions, each player may do the following at any time during their turn:

a. Buy a building or a ship. Each of the buildings and ships has a Victory Point number in a circle to the left of the name of the building (the "value"); in most cases, this is the cost to buy it. Some of them have a heightened cost, which will be denoted immediately below the value. You may place your worker in the same turn onto a building that you buy (remember that you can do this at any time during your turn).

b. Sell a building or a ship. The card is sold back to the bank for half of its value (the number next to the name of the building); if it is a building, it becomes a town building and if it is a ship, it goes on the top of the ship pile of that type.

c. Repay a loan. Each loan (I'll talk about this more in a bit) is repaid for 5 Francs.

After every 7 rounds, a reconciliation occurs. Some rounds, a harvest will occur; in those rounds, anyone with at least one grain receives one more and anyone who has two or more cattle receives one more cattle. Then the round card is consulted to determine how much food each person must turn in to the bank. Ships supply a constant supply of food that is extremely useful (and probably necessary) for paying the food cost of the round (the food that the ships supply cannot be used during the round to pay a building use cost). Some rounds, there will be a symbol that denotes that a building card should be moved from the building proposals to the town buildings (I'm ignoring the special buildings for purposes of this review). Then the card is flipped over to become a ship card, and play continues starting from the first of the seven spaces.

During the harvest, if a player cannot meet the food needs of the round, that person is forced to take (a) loan card(s), each of which provide 4 Francs (which may be converted to food at 1:1). Paying the loan back occurs at any point during a player's turn; a loan is paid back for 5 Francs. Interest must be paid on the turn on which any player lands on the supply tile that says "INTEREST" on it; 1 Franc must be paid to the bank regardless of the number of loans taken. It is possible to pay back the loan if you are the active player on that round without paying the interest.

At the end of some number of rounds-quite a lot of them-the round deck will run out; at that point each player has one more action they may take with their person. During that last action, multiple players may select the same action (ie, no blocking).

Points are tallied by summing the value of all of the cards a player has along with the number of Francs they have (remember they're 1 VP each) and subtracting 7 points for each outstanding loan at the end of the game.

Observations/Reactions

We all really liked the game. For me, I thought this was a better game than Agricola, which I like but am not blown away by (my main gripe is that the turn order mechanism sucks, I think...and 2-player Agricola is just broken unless you alternate start player). The other issue that I really have with Agricola is that the randomness of the cards may not outright determine the outcome of the game, but it sure feels like it can.

This game doesn't suffer from either of those problems; every card is available to every player (though there probably is a slight first-turn advantage), and the turn order just alternates throughout. There is enough randomness in the setup of the game that I think this game will have a lot of variation, and I'm sure that once you add in all of the standard buildings and the special buildings (only 6 of those per game I think), I think there will be a lot of plays you can put on this game, just like Agricola.

This is, as the rules mention, a cross between Caylus and Agricola (and maybe Roads & Boats or some other goods-tech-tree game), and I think it succeeds. It's a little on the long side, as our shortened game ran over two hours (though some of that is inexperience and I think if you played it a few times you could get it to be much shorter).

I'll purchase this game tomorrow, and I wasn't 100% sure of that before tonight. I won't be surprised if this game is as well-received as Agricola.

Scores

Jeremiah - 114
Karen - 113
Patrick - 105

Update:

Provisional rating on this is an 8+ out of 10. Not sure exactly where it will land, but I've played it solo and it feels at least as playable as Agricola that way.
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Daniel Brown
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Thank you for taking the time to write this while you are there at Essen. Nice to hear the game might be as good as I am expecting.
 
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Corin A. Friesen
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NO PIC?!?! cry

Shame on you.

On Monday morning, I will order this game (since I believe Monday is the day the order page goes up).
 
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Tim Seitz
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Great write-up!

 
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Mark Haberman
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Thanks for the write up.

As for turn order being broken in Gric with 2 players, I don't think that's the case. At most it forces one player to take the turn order action one more time than the other player. As player 2, you simply take the turn order action, and now you are first player. Well, worth the action. If the first player decides to take it back, and you keep alternating, than as second player at worst you have to take the turn order action 1 more time than the first player, at a very small cost I think.
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Timothy Pride
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texasjdl wrote:

Before I explain the game, let me say: Holy chit.


This review worth to thumb-up just by this comment only.
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T. Nomad
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I didn't read much of the review: Le Havre isn't really on my radar, and I should be studying. You get the thumb for taking the time out to provide us, your fellow junkies BGGs with a much-needed fix peek of a hot title.

You are a dedicated 'geek, Jeremiah, and for that I thumb thee.
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tom moughan
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ahh....I love the smell of a stack of sketchily placed animals in the morning!
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texasjdl wrote:

6. Coal. Coal is used for three energy and may be converted to coke, which counts as 10 energy.


didn't see that anywhere on the board...lol laugh
 
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Corin A. Friesen
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lengthtoavoid wrote:
texasjdl wrote:

6. Coal. Coal is used for three energy and may be converted to coke, which counts as 10 energy.


didn't see that anywhere on the board...lol laugh

It's no joke... coke is a solid fuel made by heating coal without air (oxygen) so that the volatile components are driven off. In the game, it is on the other side of each coal token.
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Calavera Despierta
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texasjdl wrote:
After doing a bunch of manual labor ("labor" is going too far, really)


I think in Europe there it is spelled "labour."
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