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Subject: This and Le Havre Made My Brain Melt rss

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James To My Friends
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I've recently played Le Havre and Rise Of Empires for the first time within a couple of days of each other. One of the things that struck me was that although the game mechanics and theme are quite different, there were a lot of similarities in the way they made my head hurt.

What really struck me in both games is the sheer number of options, so many that in the early turns it is difficult to know what to do and what not to do. With each turn, with each action the decision get harder, and the consequences harsher. Until you become entangled in all the different strategical threads and choices. And that's before another player blocks your chosen option. It's enough to make your head explode as your thought out plans crumble to dust.

As your action is blocked you scramble to find an alternative, but every substitute option never seems so good. Or you don't have the energy, or quite the number of resources you need. Of course just as you make your decision and commit to an action you spot what the best option was. Typical.

I stress this brain strain in a good way. Maybe my chumpanzee brain sees these strategical paths as more complex than they really are, but the groups I played the games with seemed to face the same challenges. But it is those challenges that make these games so much fun, so rewarding, and so re-playable. It seems both games are on the limit of complexity too, any more aspects to consider and they might become too overwhelming. The Tom Vassel review I saw of Le Havre affirm this, saying that the options available to the player where better, better, better, or best. Playing the game I came confirm just how true this is, and it is also true with Rise of Empires.

One element where Rise of Empires differs from Le Havre is the use of a map, containing territories, resources, and victory points that requires the players to do battle to gain what they need. To me this raises the complexity of Rise of Empires just that little bit higher. Sure Le Havre has a ton of buildings to mull over, and I love collecting buildings, but a map just adds that additional dilemma. It is almost a step too far, but the simple, deterministic deploy and battle mechanic keeps it in check. Battles become just another strategical decision, working out the best time to attack, how many 'troops' to commit, and second guessing not just the defender, but the other players coming further in the turn order. In fact thinking about it, it is another complete head explosion working out which Empire tile is the best one for what you want to achieve, and still not leave a strong option for your opponents. Arrrggggggh!

For both Le Havre and Rise of Empires the game itself is definitely an additional player to beat. Many games I play once and can get into the strategy of the game straight away, and can be competitive against more experienced players. These two however, I think I'll need a couple more games each before I can really work out what exactly is going on.

I have just one more point on the complexity. In both cases the games I played were fully loaded with 5 players. I am fairly certain this maxed out the difficulty level. I'm interested in playing both games with less people to see if my brain doesn't melt.

To me these games sit really well next to each other, complimenting one another. The mechanics and theme are different enough for a decision to be made about which one is more preferable to play on any given gaming session, but the level of thinking, planning, and second guessing is very similar. If you have one then try the other. If you have neither then read some of the other reviews and get at least one of them.
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Chris Hillery
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voynitsky wrote:
To me these games sit really well next to each other, complimenting one another.


"My, Le Havre, you're looking quite fetching today."

"Oh, Rise of Empires, you silver-tongued devil, you. And you! With those bits! You simply must tell me where you get your cubes."
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Doug Cooley
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voynitsky wrote:
In both cases the games I played were fully loaded with 5 players. I am fairly certain this maxed out the difficulty level. I'm interested in playing both games with less people to see if my brain doesn't melt.


Le Havre with more than three is an exercise in frustration and analysis paralysis. RoE is just longer, but it is also definitely more tactical with more players. You have to be able to adapt quickly to win, which *is* possible - you can change over from resources to gold and thus take more cities, for example. I feel that the progressions that allow you to swap out "stuff" types (Haven, etc) are very valuable and worth getting early as you can change over up to six "things" per turn with them.

I enjoyed RoE with five, but it took a *long* time (we got through the second era in three solid hours of play). Three player moved along much better. I won the smaller game, and that was despite having two trade actions in the last turn I couldn't use! And I used one! Of course, part of that problem was that there aren't any terrain tiles left in a three-player game (old tiles are removed with three players rather than left out) and so the Empire and Progression actions were maxed out pretty early, and I didn't have a good gold production to put the tiles in cities.

I will also note that both games really only take one or two playings to "get it" and after that they are very enjoyable and it takes very little time to parse your options (other than the hard-to-read icons on the progress tiles, which slow things down). RoE should take from 2-4 hours with experienced players, scaling up an hour for each additional player. They are both among my favorite "heavy" civ-building games.
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Dario bacchi
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thanks - ive played le havre a few times and love the way it makes my head hurt and ive been really keen to find other games that have the same feel without necessarily having anything else in common.

its really interesting to hear you say this about RoE and it has just shot it high up my want list

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Richard Young
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Yes, wanting everything and having to choose "just one" is a hallmark of many good games recently. Martin's been doing it a while. A lot of his games feature a set number of actions, per game, that players must strive to make the most of in the light of things like turn order, other player's actions, managing bids, etc., etc.

Just looking at games of his like Empires of the Ancient World, Princes of the Renaissance, Liberte, Age of Steam, Struggle of Empires, Brass, Automobile, and now this, tells us that he likes to set your brain on fire! And they aren't just the same thing endlessly recycled either - they are all distinctly different and I find them all fascinating. Interesting also that despite being "heavier" games how many of these are in the top levels of the Geek Meter.

If you like RoE I expect you would appreciate any of the ones I've listed...
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James To My Friends
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rorshaq wrote:
thanks - ive played le havre a few times and love the way it makes my head hurt and ive been really keen to find other games that have the same feel without necessarily having anything else in common.

its really interesting to hear you say this about RoE and it has just shot it high up my want list



My work here is done :-) Good to hear you enjoy that same feeling :-)
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John Brownsill
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dcooley wrote:
I feel that the progressions that allow you to swap out "stuff" types (Haven, etc) are very valuable and worth getting early as you can change over up to six "things" per turn with them.


Unless I'm misunderstanding what you mean, or I've misread the rules, then you can't actually do that.

As I understand it those progress tiles that are considered "free action" tiles can only be used once per turn.You flip it over to use the action and it remains face down until the end of the turn, and is the turned back up ready for the next turn.

So "Haven" could be used once in Era I turn "A" and the again in turn "B", but it only lets you swap one type of good for another, and once only. so you couldn't use it to swap 6 gold for 6 resource discs.

There are upgrades available in Era II and III that let you swap 2 for 2 and then 3 for 3. So by turn 5 if you managed to collect all 3 tiles then yes you would be in a position to swap six "things" per turn but only for turns 5 & 6.
 
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Richard Young
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I think he may have meant "per game" rather than "per turn," and that would just be with the Era I Haven (assuming it came out immediately).
 
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Stephen Gassett
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I agree with the "too many options" observation. There are far too many things going on - too many tiles, too many symbols, too many special rules - basically, too much stuff in general for me to ever really enjoy playing this one. I own both Perikles and After the Flood and really like those, but this one just makes my head hurt. So I have to ask myself - why bother?
 
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Richard Young
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It was intimidating to see the array of tiles available in Puerto Rico the first time I played it. Twenty minutes with the game solved that problem and will solve it for you with this one as well...
 
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