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Subject: Baycon 2009: Part VIII (The Quest Awakens Refreshed...) rss

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Peter Clinch
United Kingdom
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# Previous day's final game Diamant

Having breakfasted in the hotel, we were ready for a challenge!!

None of us had played it before and we had a full complement of 5 (Carl, Rick, Paul, Fatboy & me). Whilst reading the rules and setting up the numerous pieces, several passers-by commented “ooh Le Havre with 5 players- you’re brave!”, and we looked at each and thought ‘what have we let ourselves in for’. It took about an hour to work through the rules re-reading sections that didn’t make sense, and referring to the many cards etc.
Eventually we got underway, firstly it has an interesting cycle in that some players will get more actions per turn than others. This is ok however, as the starting player moves around –it evens itself out. During your turn you choose to take resources or actions. This is a typical worker placement type methodology (i.e. Cuba, Caylus, etc), however it is complicated by the variety of resources, and the number of different buildings you can build or buy. On top of this, the basic goods can be manufactured into something better (e.g. hides becomes leather, fish becomes smoked fish), and these upgraded goods provide either more food or vp’s when shipped. And of course a harbour wouldn’t be a harbour without ships. These are used to transport goods and so earn vps.
I liked the way that the buildings were shuffled into piles, but the lowest numbered card was always on top. This meant that the cards come out in a pseudo-historically order, in other words the cheap cards come out first. Another facet of the game is that you can use other people’s buildings (like Caylus) and you pay the owner for the privilege.
During your turn, you have to weigh up many options like who/where to get food, what actions to take, what to do with the resources you have, do you build/buy or use someone else’s. From this point of view there are almost too many combinations for a newbie to digest, and would need several playing before you become comfortable with the text on the cards and have an idea of a winning strategy.
As we were all in it together, we were struggling to get food and scrape what few resources we had. There are some obvious combinations, like the ‘butcher’ and ‘tanner’- which means as you slaughter the cattle for food your left with hides, which can then be processed into leather. However, you do not need to have both buildings as long as they are both available. I found it most enjoyable, with the constant conundrum of “what is the best action to do?” with limited actions per turn, you can’t do everything so like most games you are having to make decisions and compromise based on your priorities. As I said, I liked it and some liked it more than others. It didn’t particularly float Rick’s boat (‘scuse the pun). But I’m sure it will be played several times again.

As an afterthought, it is often compared to Agricola (being of the same stable), I would prefer Le Havre because you can make your own destiny from what is presented to all the players (i.e. the order in which cards appear) however a lot of Agricola depends on the occupations/minor improvements that you are dealt, but both are really good games- challenging and entertaining.

So, no longer being Le Havre virgins, we decided to split up for a bit. As it happened a guy I hadn’t seen for several years bumped into us, so we asked him to join us in a game of Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery

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