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Subject: Am I not using loans effectively? rss

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Dave Nellis
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So! Currently in Le Havre I don't really ever take more than a couple of loans per game, and I'm thinking I'm barking up the wrong tree.

In the 2 player game, there are 14 rounds. Let's say you took on average of 2 loans per round. That's 26 loans providing eight food per round which is worth at least 2 actions per round. In the two player game, that is increasing the number of actions per round by 50% to 66%. Since the maximum interest is 1, you'll pay that interest 13 times, plus the 1 franc penalty per loan when you finally pay them back. That's a total penalty of 39 francs. A penalty of 39 francs for almost 26 more moves? So a non loan taking player gets about 49 actions, where the loan taking player gets about 75 actions, in a game where I've seen typical scores be 240-200? Those extra actions would HAVE to make up that 39 franc difference!

Am I being WAAAAY to conservative with loans, or is my logic off?

Now watch this bite me in the ass next time we play.
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Chris Rudram
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Your penalty is higher than 39 francs. You need to pay back 130 francs (26 * 5) at the end, in cold hard cash. Remember, you spent the four francs in feed people... and if you don't, each loan is -7 francs. And you do have to keep liquid cash to pay the interest. You can't take a loan unless you HAVE to, as well.

I think you can use loans aggressively. But not that aggressively. I've had 6-8 in a game and done fine. For me, I take them when there's a great option early on, but I would have to take a food action instead to keep my guys fed. Then the loan can buy you an extra turn or two, and things snowball in this game.

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Dave Nellis
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Duh! That's quite an embarrassing gap in my logic. I'm tempted to delete the thread! :D
 
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Chris Ferejohn
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He already accounted for having to pay them back - that was the 26 extra money (one for each loan). However, this does not take into account the fact that food is, generally, cheaper than money. It is more efficient to feed people with food.

Edit: of course, I'm not sure where "26 more actions" is coming from. 1 loan != 1 action.

That said, I certainly don't ever shy away from taking loans. Actually, the thing to be really careful about is not to end up getting exactly "zeroed out" money-wise by a feeding or interest payment. That can leave you really stuck in terms of being able to go into someone elses building. Similarly, keep an eye out early in the game for an opportunity to give someone else a dollar or a fish to stick them in that situation for a couple turns (though its not worth giving up too much to do this, its something to consider given a close decision, and there seem to be a lot of them in this game).

Generally speaking, the interest payment encourages you to go "in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound". If you're going to take 1 or 2 loans, you may as well take 4 or 5 if you can manage it (which isn't always easy). And obviously, you shouldn't pay any loans back until you are ready to pay them all back permanently.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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If you take loans massively, really make sure you happen to ship more often than your opponents. And: GET SHIPS! Ships are double as important for a loan player than for a feeding one. In my early stage of playing Le Havre (like 100 sessions ago) I once made the mistake to get a bunch of loan (like 12+) and then wasn't able to pay them all back, because I hadn't had enough goods to sell. I ended with 2 or 3 left-over loans, that's -21 points. Ouch.
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Dave Nellis
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Good advice! I generally consider 2 francs a sort of 'minimum' balance so I can pay interest and pay to use a building.

When I said 1 loan = 1 action I was thinking in terms of the desperate moves I normal make to AVOID taking a loan. Like taking 2-3 fish or francs. I seem to make at least of few of those per game right now.

Maybe I can think of loans in terms of what I can easily ship in a game where I ship twice? If I manage to ship 10 cattle, or 8 hides, I'll earn about 30 francs while spending 6-12 energy. That's really going to be the most money I can earn to pay back loans, so 5-6 loans could be the realistic maximum. So if that saves me 3-4 desperate, non optimal food taking actions, but subtracts the actions I take to power the shipment, all that loan taking just saves me 2-3 actions?

Definitely not the power move I was first thinking, but absolutely a small advantage.
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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I also think 5-6 loans is a sweet spot. Actually, if you concentrate a little on coke and steel, your 1-2 shipments can yield more than 30 francs each. In the end, the loans just shift your actions a little. Where people gather food effectively, you do other stuff. Then they'll do that stuff also, having no problems with feeding, when you are trying desperately to gather high value stuff. They do the same in the end, but lost a little speed earlier. Therfore they keep their whole income and you need to pay the loans off. Usually, this is balanced.
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Maaike Fest
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Ponton wrote:
I also think 5-6 loans is a sweet spot. Actually, if you concentrate a little on coke and steel, your 1-2 shipments can yield more than 30 francs each. In the end, the loans just shift your actions a little. Where people gather food effectively, you do other stuff. Then they'll do that stuff also, having no problems with feeding, when you are trying desperately to gather high value stuff. They do the same in the end, but lost a little speed earlier. Therfore they keep their whole income and you need to pay the loans off. Usually, this is balanced.


Is this with the old or the new loan rules?
 
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maaikefest wrote:
Ponton wrote:
I also think 5-6 loans is a sweet spot. Actually, if you concentrate a little on coke and steel, your 1-2 shipments can yield more than 30 francs each. In the end, the loans just shift your actions a little. Where people gather food effectively, you do other stuff. Then they'll do that stuff also, having no problems with feeding, when you are trying desperately to gather high value stuff. They do the same in the end, but lost a little speed earlier. Therfore they keep their whole income and you need to pay the loans off. Usually, this is balanced.


Is this with the old or the new loan rules?


With the old loan rule. The new loan rule makes loans a little harder.
 
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Chris Ferejohn
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Ponton wrote:
maaikefest wrote:
Ponton wrote:
I also think 5-6 loans is a sweet spot. Actually, if you concentrate a little on coke and steel, your 1-2 shipments can yield more than 30 francs each. In the end, the loans just shift your actions a little. Where people gather food effectively, you do other stuff. Then they'll do that stuff also, having no problems with feeding, when you are trying desperately to gather high value stuff. They do the same in the end, but lost a little speed earlier. Therfore they keep their whole income and you need to pay the loans off. Usually, this is balanced.


Is this with the old or the new loan rules?


With the old loan rule. The new loan rule makes loans a little harder.


New loan rule? Is this the 4+ loans is a interest payment of 2? I'd thought that was a variant rather than a rule. Or are you talking about something else?
 
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Chris Ferejohn
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Shatner wrote:

When I said 1 loan = 1 action I was thinking in terms of the desperate moves I normal make to AVOID taking a loan. Like taking 2-3 fish or francs. I seem to make at least of few of those per game right now.


Yeah, I'd definitely avoid things like this. In fact, often early on it can be a good idea to avoid taking small amounts of food/fish so you are forced to take a loan and thus have a bit more liquidity for the next round.
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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cferejohn wrote:
New loan rule? Is this the 4+ loans is a interest payment of 2? I'd thought that was a variant rather than a rule. Or are you talking about something else?


Actually, it's: "In a 2/3/4/5-player game, pay 2 francs interest if you've got at least 2/3/4/5 loans."

And yes, that's a variant, but an official one. It's also printed in the rulebook of the latest printrun.
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Chris Rudram
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cferejohn wrote:
He already accounted for having to pay them back - that was the 26 extra money (one for each loan). However, this does not take into account the fact that food is, generally, cheaper than money. It is more efficient to feed people with food.


It's 26 EXTRA money, but he's spent the 104 coins from the 26 loans... needs to come up with that as well else it's a -7 per loan penalty.

I agree thought 4-5 loans is a good number if you go that route just to smooth things over.
 
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Robert McDonnell
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I just learned of this "variant". I think it makes the game a little more balance but it is still not enough.

My personal opinion is that it should be one franc of interest PER loan. This would add a lot of balance to the game and make it much more realistic.
 
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Riku Koskinen
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mcmoe316 wrote:

My personal opinion is that it should be one franc of interest PER loan. This would add a lot of balance to the game and make it much more realistic.


Nope, that would make the loans just plain bad, and playability is more important than how realistic something is, IMO. It's pretty common in Le Havre that when you take one loan, you'll be taking more soon. One loan does not help you that much, mostly feeding you for one round. If you had to pay 3 interest for 3 loans, it would always be more effective to use actions for food-grabbing to avoid loans altogether. Like in Agricola, where it's 99 % of the time correct to use actions for food rather than take begging card(s) (without Mendicant).

Regarding the topic, I think it depends on the available actions when deciding between loan-taking and food-grabbing. During the first couple of rounds in the game (3-player long game, I have not much experience from other modes), if there are 4 fish available, and the next best things is like 2 wood, or 1 clay with all the good buildings occupied, what is the correct move? How about, if you know you can get a ship next round that will feed you for a while, is it better to avoid taking the first loan now because you know you won't need another one in a while anyway, saving some interest payments and not having to worry about paying the loan back in future?

I have had success in Le Havre with 0 loans, and close to 10 loans. Sometimes you know you won't be getting a ship in a while, or there is just a too juicy action available. Then it's correct to avoid wasting actions for food and playing with loans. Other times you can get a ship early enough that you need to pick food for feeding purposes only a few times, and then it might be correct to do so.
 
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Jeff Lotton
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In a two player game, I've found that 9 or so loans provides optimal returns. For me it's more about the opponent(s) and what they are doing. If you do not follow them in a loan taking strategy you are going to get left behind.

In a 3 player game the optimal number is not so clear to me, I think it's a little higher perhaps as much as 12 or so but it's not as clear to me as the 2 player is.

The main advantage of course is the ability to offset your food bill and take additional income early on to get key buildings and other materials.

They are a bit of a slippery slope, and you never really know when you've gone too far with them.

One thing that tends to keep me from taking more loans during a game is if the "interest due" round is 1st or 2nd in order. Then you can find yourself taking lons to cover interest, again and again and ooops, you've gone too far.
 
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Jerry Hagen
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testcranker wrote:
In a two player game, I've found that 9 or so loans provides optimal returns. For me it's more about the opponent(s) and what they are doing. If you do not follow them in a loan taking strategy you are going to get left behind.

In a 3 player game the optimal number is not so clear to me, I think it's a little higher perhaps as much as 12 or so but it's not as clear to me as the 2 player is.

The main advantage of course is the ability to offset your food bill and take additional income early on to get key buildings and other materials.

They are a bit of a slippery slope, and you never really know when you've gone too far with them.

One thing that tends to keep me from taking more loans during a game is if the "interest due" round is 1st or 2nd in order. Then you can find yourself taking lons to cover interest, again and again and ooops, you've gone too far.


What leads you to believe 12 might be the optimal number of loans in 3-player?

I've played a fair number of games at that player count and anything 10 or higher is considered a heavy loan strategy. We have seen wins at several peak loan counts between 0 and 12 inclusive. Zero seemed like a strange edge case, with an early grocery market to jumpstart the winner's food production.

Most of my plays are with a single opponent in common (the third player's identity varies), so it's possible we have a groupthink.
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Robert McDonnell
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Padish wrote:
mcmoe316 wrote:

My personal opinion is that it should be one franc of interest PER loan. This would add a lot of balance to the game and make it much more realistic.


Nope, that would make the loans just plain bad, and playability is more important than how realistic something is, IMO. It's pretty common in Le Havre that when you take one loan, you'll be taking more soon. One loan does not help you that much, mostly feeding you for one round. If you had to pay 3 interest for 3 loans, it would always be more effective to use actions for food-grabbing to avoid loans altogether. Like in Agricola, where it's 99 % of the time correct to use actions for food rather than take begging card(s) (without Mendicant).

Regarding the topic, I think it depends on the available actions when deciding between loan-taking and food-grabbing. During the first couple of rounds in the game (3-player long game, I have not much experience from other modes), if there are 4 fish available, and the next best things is like 2 wood, or 1 clay with all the good buildings occupied, what is the correct move? How about, if you know you can get a ship next round that will feed you for a while, is it better to avoid taking the first loan now because you know you won't need another one in a while anyway, saving some interest payments and not having to worry about paying the loan back in future?

I have had success in Le Havre with 0 loans, and close to 10 loans. Sometimes you know you won't be getting a ship in a while, or there is just a too juicy action available. Then it's correct to avoid wasting actions for food and playing with loans. Other times you can get a ship early enough that you need to pick food for feeding purposes only a few times, and then it might be correct to do so.


I play with three groups of people and the third group taught me how the heavy loan strategy works so well.

I totally hear where you are coming from and I agree with all of your points. I guess I have a hard time playing the game now that I have learned that the optimal strategy for winning the game is the same strategy that has ruined financial markets and created a group of European nations that have no intention of paying back their sovereign debt. Unfortunately my personal political views have ruined an otherwise great game for me.

note - America is no better, just "too big to fail"
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Chris F.
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mcmoe316 wrote:
note - America is no better, just "too big to fail"
...but we're trying as hard as we can!
 
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Jeff Lotton
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jhagen1908 wrote:
testcranker wrote:
In a two player game, I've found that 9 or so loans provides optimal returns. For me it's more about the opponent(s) and what they are doing. If you do not follow them in a loan taking strategy you are going to get left behind.

In a 3 player game the optimal number is not so clear to me, I think it's a little higher perhaps as much as 12 or so but it's not as clear to me as the 2 player is.

The main advantage of course is the ability to offset your food bill and take additional income early on to get key buildings and other materials.

They are a bit of a slippery slope, and you never really know when you've gone too far with them.

One thing that tends to keep me from taking more loans during a game is if the "interest due" round is 1st or 2nd in order. Then you can find yourself taking lons to cover interest, again and again and ooops, you've gone too far.


What leads you to believe 12 might be the optimal number of loans in 3-player?

I've played a fair number of games at that player count and anything 10 or higher is considered a heavy loan strategy. We have seen wins at several peak loan counts between 0 and 12 inclusive. Zero seemed like a strange edge case, with an early grocery market to jumpstart the winner's food production.

Most of my plays are with a single opponent in common (the third player's identity varies), so it's possible we have a groupthink.


Sorry not sure what motivated me to point to "12" like I did. I was saying that in general it seems like more loans are optimal in a 3 player game than a 2 player game. Also, in a 3 player game there is the local court, which I seldom use but it can relieve some of the payoff burden towards the end of the game. It's not in the 2 player game.
 
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Jeff Lotton
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mcmoe316 wrote:
Padish wrote:
mcmoe316 wrote:

My personal opinion is that it should be one franc of interest PER loan. This would add a lot of balance to the game and make it much more realistic.


Nope, that would make the loans just plain bad, and playability is more important than how realistic something is, IMO. It's pretty common in Le Havre that when you take one loan, you'll be taking more soon. One loan does not help you that much, mostly feeding you for one round. If you had to pay 3 interest for 3 loans, it would always be more effective to use actions for food-grabbing to avoid loans altogether. Like in Agricola, where it's 99 % of the time correct to use actions for food rather than take begging card(s) (without Mendicant).

Regarding the topic, I think it depends on the available actions when deciding between loan-taking and food-grabbing. During the first couple of rounds in the game (3-player long game, I have not much experience from other modes), if there are 4 fish available, and the next best things is like 2 wood, or 1 clay with all the good buildings occupied, what is the correct move? How about, if you know you can get a ship next round that will feed you for a while, is it better to avoid taking the first loan now because you know you won't need another one in a while anyway, saving some interest payments and not having to worry about paying the loan back in future?

I have had success in Le Havre with 0 loans, and close to 10 loans. Sometimes you know you won't be getting a ship in a while, or there is just a too juicy action available. Then it's correct to avoid wasting actions for food and playing with loans. Other times you can get a ship early enough that you need to pick food for feeding purposes only a few times, and then it might be correct to do so.


I play with three groups of people and the third group taught me how the heavy loan strategy works so well.

I totally hear where you are coming from and I agree with all of your points. I guess I have a hard time playing the game now that I have learned that the optimal strategy for winning the game is the same strategy that has ruined financial markets and created a group of European nations that have no intention of paying back their sovereign debt. Unfortunately my personal political views have ruined an otherwise great game for me.

note - America is no better, just "too big to fail"


I had to overcome some personal anti-debt hangups to play the game effectively. It was a bit of a struggle for me. But once I saw loans as a game element and used them to the utmost advantage, it doesn't bother me so much. They are powerful and versatile game elements. I am still evaluating ways to make the most of them.

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Dario bacchi
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we've always played 1 interest PER loan - we tried it once with the 'standard' rule (1 interest no matter how many loans) and HATED it. Le havre shines cos of the tightness of the feeding - with just one interest u lose all that cos u just take out loads of loans instead of focusing on feeding and we found that without the pain of harvest time there just wasnt much left to the game.

I always teach it to noobs with our rule and wouldnt ever want to play it again without it

just my 2 cents
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Ponton wrote:
Actually, it's: "In a 2/3/4/5-player game, pay 2 francs interest if you've got at least 2/3/4/5 loans."

And yes, that's a variant, but an official one. It's also printed in the rulebook of the latest printrun.

The 2012 Lookout Games rules and the 2013 Z-Man Games rules do not mention this at all. They are quite clear: "players who have taken out a loan must immediately pay exactly 1 Franc in interest, irrespective of the number of loans they have."

Edit: added mention of Z-Man rules
 
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