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Subject: 2p first play... good close game! Part review/part session rss

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Benjamin Notrevealing
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** My first post so be nice! **

I've often browsed the Geek for new games to buy and was quite interested about this game called Le Harve. My wife and I own Agricola and Caylus and quite enjoy them, so I thought this would be a good game too as it has many similar concepts, but enough differences to make it a completely different game. Also in its favour is that it's apparently a good 2 player game (which we don't have many of). It is very important to me that my wife enjoys a game, otherwise there is not much point in purchasing it as the vast majority of my gaming sessions include her. Therefore I was glad to see that someone had created a free computer version, called JHavre.

Although I'd already read the rules, I played the game through once solo first, to get a hang of how it all fitted together and how the interface worked. I scored 155 points, but as I say I was not concentrating too much, but I had some idea of the "flow" of the game from this.

So it came time to play the game with my wife. I explained the rules and she seemed to mostly understand them - as I say, many concepts in Le Havre are present also in Agricola or Caylus, which we have played many times. It was a bit difficult to grasp why you would buy buildings though. An explanation of the interface too and we were off!

We started the game following Agricola-like tendencies... if you see a big pile of stuff then pick it up. We also endeavoured to get 1 wheat/2 cattle up early on, and bought some early buildings that looked interesting. When the wharf came along, we bought a few ships to ease the increasing food requirements. The farm (special building) came out early on too, bringing many extra resources into the game. It seemed to be going alright for us both.

As we moved into the middle game, we both, to some degree, struggled over what our paths to many VP would be. My wife was looking at getting steel ships but wasn't sure if she could get there or not - once I pointed out that at the very least she could ship steel for a lot of money, she was reassured and started going for it. A key point came as I peeked at the special buildings with the marketplace, and saw that the steakhouse was coming (1 charcoal & 1 meat = 6 francs, up to 4 times). I had about 10 cattle at this point and decided to save up even more before I went to the abattoir, with the aim of using the steakhouse. My wife had very few cattle and was eating through her supplies of meat, so I did not think the building would be so advantageous for her.

Eventually the steakhouse came out and I got up to 17 cattle before slaughtering 14 of them. Wood seemed unimportant later in the game so I managed to pick up 15 wood from the offer space too, which I then turned into charcoal... thanks to this I used the steakhouse twice, netting me a cool 48 francs cool

However my wife moved slightly ahead of me in the race for steel, so as we moved into the last 10 turns I followed her around on the colliery, iron works, steel works and wharf. As we came into the last round, we had both planned out our moves... we would both be shipping twice (I also had already shipped once earlier in the game), I would be buying an extra ship and some useful things to ship too (some leather from my 10 hides perhaps), and my wife would get some bricks to build the bank.

This is where things started to go a bit wrong! I did not quite have enough energy to go shipping twice, so I had to get the extra energy by picking up the 18 wood on the offer space, so I was unable to go to the tannery for extra points. Over the course of my three shipping adventures, I sent off 11 bread, 1 coke, 3 steel, 7 cattle and 7 hides for a total of 97 francs, and had 2 wooden ships, 1 iron ship, 1 steel ship and 1 luxury liner (although I did purchase the steel ship rather than build it).

However this was nothing compared to the problems my wife suffered, as her plans were scuppered when we realised energy was required to change clay into brick! With only 1 coke to use for energy we had to decide if it was better to get the town hall or to ship. We decided it was probably better to get the town hall, so that's what she did. As a result, on her last turn all she could do was pick up 3 francs to boost her score. This was really quite sad as she had a great few last turns lined up but they were scuppered by a mis-calculation (if we had noticed this only 2 turns earlier, it would all have been OK). My wife this only managed one shipping trip, though it was a good one as she sent off 3 cattle, 5 steel 4 leather for a total of 65 francs. Her fleet consisted of 1 wooden ship, 2 iron ships and 1 steel ship, all of which she had built.

I thought my wife's poor ending would hand me a good-sized victory but it did not - the game in fact ended incredibly close as I scored 263 (101|70|92+0|0) to my wife's 261! (81|46|118+16|0) She scored 42 more building points than me which nearly got her the win.

Our first impressions....
- it will be a lot easier with a whole board & cards set out easy to read - we took 3 hours to play mainly because of the interface! (Not that I think the interface in JHarve could be any better than it is)
- my wife in particular was struck down with AP at times (something she is not particularly prone to) but we feel this will decrease with time as we become more familiar with the buildings and strategies.
- although I won with 3 shipping trips, my wife nearly won with 1 shipping trip. I do not feel you need to ship lots to win, but that you still need some ships to offset food requirements, and that it would be tough to win without using the shipping line at least once.
- we spent a lot of the early part of the game sorting out our food but near the end we hardly needed any due to all the ships we had built. We thus nearly ended up with huge piles of food each but we managed to ship them and/or use them for payment for buildings.
- we feel there's more to this game than we have come across so far. For example, the loan strategy is one I will be trying out at some point, or concentrating specifically on one aspect, rather than the "all-round" strategy we went for.
- compared to our favourite 2p game, Agricola, we don't think this is as good, but that it is still a good game and will be a nice change from playing too much Agricola!
- It will be nice to have another good 3p game too... when there are 3 of us we tend to play settlers, TTR:E or Agricola... I'm a bit tired of the first two at the moment and we maybe play Agricola too much!

Overall we did enjoy this game and I will be going out to buy it for real sometime in the next couple of weeks

Finally, judging from what other people say, it seems our scores were quite high! Any idea why this was? Were we being too friendly? Did the special buildings assist our scores? Or are we just naturally talented people?!
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Very nice session report, especially as it is the first one for the computer game.
Your scores are good to very good for a 2p full game. High would be around 300.
Le Havre gets better the more you play it. It's definitely worth the purchase!
 
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Maaike Fest
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Did I understand it right that you bought most of the buildings and ships instead of building them? Building is much cheaper and profitable .
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Building costs resources and precious actions, buying costs just the francs (which you don't lose, usually). I always buy Steel Ships instead of building them. Way more efficient. Of course, buying everything is complete nonsense. I didn't understand he has bought most of the buildings and ships, just the Steel Ship and some special buildings, I guess.
 
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Benjamin Notrevealing
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Sorry I didn't make it so clear... the only thing that either of us bought instead of building was that one steel ship I bought. When I talked about going on a buying spree, it was because we both had lots of spare money as the game went on so I thought it made sense to buy things from the town (not the "not yet built" piles)... as you don't lose out on any points, can gain on entry fees, can sell them back to the town if needed (as I did with the shipping lane near the end, to get on it again) and also can be worth bonus points (eg bank). Was this correct logic?

Thanks for the opinion about it being better to purchase instead of buy steel ships... will consider that in future games!
 
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DMSamuel
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Great review/session! I also keep my eyes open for 2 player games that my girlfriend will enjoy because most of our gaming sessions are just the two of us. Agricola is our favorite right now, but we do have Le Havre and enjoy it as well.

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Most things are better to build than buy because the VP value of items is always less than the cost of purchase - which means if you buy something in your last two turns, you probably won't make up the difference in value - since your money is converted into VP at the end of the game for the purposes of scoring, it would maybe be foolish to purchase something for 30 francs when it's only worth 20 VP. Unless you REALLY needed to use that building, you might as well not pay money for it.

Now, having said that, I don't mean to say that one should NEVER purchase rather than build - it really depends upon the situation you are in. For example, if you need a building that is currently covered by a different one that yo don't care about, you might not have enough materials to build both, so you may choose to buy the top one and build the one you really want - that saves you the cost of wasting your precious resources.

Also, I can imagine someone coming up with a strategy where they bought rather than built most things - I just think it would be hard to do.
 
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