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Subject: Initial Impressions after two games rss

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Dave
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Lafayette
Indiana
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Hello everyone,
This is my first time writing a game review so I'm not entirely sure what the outcome will be, but I hope that it helps at least one person decide whether or not to buy the game. I won't spend any time on explaining how the game is played since that has been done more times than I can count. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions afterwards.

Some History:
I'm fairly new to the boardgaming hobby, having only really started playing 'proper' games in November. As a child I had played the mainstream 'classics' like Monopoly and others quite a bit, but I never really had fun with it. My first foray into the hobby was with the Catan Card Game, and from there my primary gaming partner (my girlfriend) and I wanted to expand our collection with something less reliant on dice. We picked up Carcassonne and Dominion, which we both enjoyed quite a bit more than the Catan Card Game, and from there have continued to expand our collection here and there when it feels appropriate.

The first worker-placement game either of us had played was Agricola, which I absolutely love. While my girlfriend wasn't particularly fond of it, she really liked some of the mechanics and the complexity of the game. For me, this game taught me the types of games I would really enjoy, and I immediately went out looking for more.

Le Havre caught my eye almost as soon as I started playing Agricola, but I was hesitant to pick it up due to 1) The newness of Agricola, and 2) how my girlfriend didn't seem very fond of it. I figured that if I want my girlfriend to keep playing games with me, I shouldn't keep making her play games of the same type that she doesn't like. However, after thinking about it for about a month, and reading up on the differences between Agricola and Le Havre, I decided to take the plunge and pick it up.

My girlfriend was of course, skeptical about how she would like the game based on how similar it seemed to Agricola and how both games share the same designer, but I convinced her that I thought she'd like it and we set it up the following day for our first game.

Thoughts after first game:
The first game came and went in about 3 hours, not including setup time (which was a nightmare the first time, to be honest). There was a 90 or so difference in scores with me coming out on top, and I felt kind of underwhelmed by the game. I didn't feel challenged at all by it, and as a result it just fell flat. My girlfriend, who was on the losing side however, thought it was a great game, and immediately wanted to play again. Given it was 1am and the first game took a long while, we decided it was probably in our best interest to pack it up and try again another day.

A few days passed, and my girlfriend felt like playing a game. I wanted to play either Agricola or Le Havre (since I wanted to give it a second chance) and she chose Le Havre (of course).

Thoughts after second game:
The second game was noticeably shorter, and the setup time was reduced since between the two games I purchased some packs of Dritz sewing containers and Michaels. This time the game only took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes, including setup time. That was a nice change.

Apparently my girlfriend had learned a lot from the last game we played because she was capitalizing on noticing when I was short on food and francs, and continuously made it difficult for me to provide enough sustenance for my workers. Only 5 rounds in and I already had 6 loans. One thing was certain: This was nowhere near as easy as I thought it was.

Since Iron ships started appearing on the board I made moves to obtain an Ironworks and snagged as much iron as I could. I managed to build 3 iron ships over a few turns which made it much easier for me to keep up with the food demand, but it still wasn't enough. My girlfriend had no loans out and multiple ships doing her food transport. I had to think fast. I started buying and building as many industrial buildings as I could in anticipation of building the Bank, but right before I had the one steel required my girlfriend built it before I could. I built a Cokery and spent a turn getting a lot of coal through the colliery and then converting it all to coke. I obtained a lot of Iron, occasionally taking cattle or fish to fill the few food I needed every round at this point.

Before I knew it, we were moving along the last round and I still had my loans out. I had planned to build a luxury liner at the end of this turn, and then ship off the remaining steel (after converting 8 iron to steel) via the shipping line the following turn, however I counted my energy incorrectly and didn't have enough to build the ship and ship the steel. My last action of the last round, since I couldn't build the Liner I wanted to, was to take the 6-franc offer.

For my final action, I shipped off 8 steel and 1 brick on my 3 iron ships to net me 66 francs. I used 30 of them to pay off my loans right before the game ended.

I figured I had no chance of winning this game, since I struggled so much with food early on, however when final scores were tallied I won by 4 points. I think it was taking the franc offer on the last turn of the normal rounds that netted me the victory.

My girlfriend and I had a blast, and were surprised with the upset win. My impression of this game immediately changed from underwhelmed to awesome.

Summary
So here's the part where I'll actually review the game instead of making another session report. cool

The Good
Le Havre offers a ton of choices every turn, and none of them are easy. This is a game that really makes the players think and plan, and have to come up with alternate plans to their alternate plans as the other players take up building spots or resources. A wholly fulfilling game experience.

Le Havre is a very easy game to teach, since each turn simply requires taking two actions: one for the ship and one main action. Move your person to a building and do what the building says. While we were playing we only had to consult the rules once or twice to clarify what buildings do.

I like the theme of this game, and as it progresses the players really feel like they're developing Le Havre.

The two player game has a much smaller footprint than Agricola, which is good for people with small tables. You do have to place the cards you build/buy somewhere, but it takes up quite a bit less room since all of the resources are on the board, and the main board only has 3 sections.

For me, there's just the right amount of randomness. The order of the ship actions changes every game, as does the collection of special buildings used.

The Awkward
Le Havre comes with over 400 cardboard chits, which are a nightmare to work with sometimes. I fully recommend using some sort of storage solution with this game, that allows the small containers to sit right on the board. This avoids the need to stack the chits and cuts down on clutter substantially.

This game is long, especially during the first play. Once all the players know the flow of the game it goes by much more quickly.

As with most great games, Le Havre is prone to AP. If you play with people who have difficulty making decisions, Le Havre can feel like it takes ages to play. For my girlfriend and I though, it went pretty quickly.

Feeding workers doesn't feel quite right. It makes sense that as the game goes on you have more workers helping run and build your buildings, but they're not visible anywhere. It's not game-breaking in any way, but the lack of visible workers takes something away from the feeding mechanism of this game (contrasted with Agricola, where you can see your workers throughout the game).

The Verdict:

My personal opinion is that anyone interested in this game should definitely give it a try. The game can be long, but is never tedious or boring. It represents just the right mix of different mechanics for me and is a tremendously fun time. 10/10

Feedback is appreciated.
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James Klemm
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I'm glad you liked the game enough to give it a full 10/10! It is a great game and I love it too. Thanks for the background story too.
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Brian McCormick
United States
Lansing
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Thanks for the review. Le Havre is an outstanding game, and in many ways I prefer it over its cousin, Agricola.

If you are having storage issues, I recommend these tuckboxes: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/45168/le-havre-tuckboxes

They fit right into the game box, and you can simply unpack them and place them on the board when playing.

Also, Dannecus's player mats are exceptional. Print them all out, laminate, and enjoy!

(this is a link for the 5-player mats. You will need to also download and print the 1, 2, 3, and 4-player mats separately if you want)

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/37740/le-havre-player-aids...
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Dave
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Thanks for the thumbs and GG everyone, and for the advice and compliments! I'll be looking into those files, Brian. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.
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Brian McCormick
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indoze wrote:
Thanks for the thumbs and GG everyone, and for the advice and compliments! I'll be looking into those files, Brian. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.
I actually gave you the wrong link. The tuckboxes I linked you to are for the cards (they ARE really nice, though)

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/37683/small-boxes-for-sort...

Those are the little boxes I was talking about. Put all the tokens in the appropriate box. They fit snugly into the Le Havre box and you just take them out and put them straight on the board.

Enjoy!
 
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Dave
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Lafayette
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Oh, right! I'm using Dritz sewing boxes for that. After the first game it was pretty painful without them so I went to Michaels and bought a few of these small boxes. They fit perfectly on the board. I'd love to give credit where credit is due, but I can't find the thread on BGG that suggested them.

Thanks though! Much appreciated either way!
 
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Blue Fox
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Great review, specifically because it mirrored my own experience.

the two things that changed it for me were just playing and realizing what was going on AND storage boxes for all the chits. Cuts playing time down alot.
 
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colin darra
Wales
LINCOLN
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Totally agree - fantastic game - my absolute favourite euro game, just ahead of second fave Agricola.

Also 100% agree that you MUST get Containers for the chits.

In the UK I went to Dunelm Mill, where I bought a couple of Stacks of Round Cylindrical Tubs - each Tub Screws into the one above, and the top one has a screwed on lid.

So, when I put them away, I screw two containers together, and put a lid on the top one. This way they pack away nicely in the game box, and it is an absolute BREEZE to set the chits up, just unscrew and place the tub on the appropriate warehouse position.

 
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