After 5 games at EPGS, it was now 6:30 PM and I still hadn't gotten in a game of Le Havre (the only boardgame I had played each of the first three meetings of the new year). Ted (usually an opponent) was in another game, but we had Dave B and Keith (two more common opponents for me) and were fine with a 3pl game. Then Mark (a relative newbie who played his first game of this a month ago) wanted in and we were 4. Just before we started ... another relative newbie (Neil) asked to come in too.
Now it was a month ago that I played my first ever 5-player game of this (both Dave and Keith were in that game; Dave got edged by a scant point against another Dave), and everyone involved was well-versed with the game. Would it be OK with 2 inexperienced players?
Well, no one objected and (we figured) it wouldn't be so long even with 5. We went for it ... and did finish in about 2-1/2 hours, just before the mall closed. The game itself was unique, just like every game of this, it seems!
Initial turn order: Keith, Neil, me, Mark M, Dave B (the one I had played in previous meetings at LH, but not the same 'Dave B' I had played against today at 7 Wonders and Cloud 9).
I started 3rd, meaning I'd get 2 actions in the 2nd and 4th round of each set of 5 (otherwise, only 1 action). Here were the first two moves:
Keith (offer: fish & grain) took 3 fish.
Neil (offer: wood & fish / INTEREST) took 3 wood.
Next offer: wood & cattle.
My choices: 2F, 1 fish, 1 wood, 1 clay, 1 grain, or 1 cattle.
YUCK! I took a grain, hoping it would grow and prove useful. Did it ever!
After Dave bought the Marketplace (using 3F from the offer spot to help pay the cost), I was able to hop in for the obligatory clay-iron combo. Mark (who took 2 clay before) took the one iron from the offer space, but I figured I'd beat him to building the Sawmill. But ... I couldn't pass up 5 fish that fell to me for my next move. (Heck, that would feed me for a long time with a 5-player game. I would actually get 5 fish again later from the same spot.) Mark promptly snapped up the Sawmill, but I was able to build the Abattoir not too long after (and with help from the Sawmill). I figured the Abattoir would be extra useful when I saw the 2 Specials: the Furriery (Hides to Bread, and then 1 or 2 Leather for 5F each) and the Clothing Industry (Hide/Leather for 7F each, no limit). Alas, getting early cattle would prove tough as both Dave and Neil grabbed them before I would get the chance.
(I would be able to grab a surprising 7 coins from the offer space, parlaying that into buying the Bakehouse.)
With 2 Craftsman buildings now in my possession, I would hit the Marketplace often (getting my early cattle in this fashion). Along the way, I was able to see the upcoming specials: the next two (after I pushed down the Furriery) would prove most useful:
Baguette Shop: Bread/Meat for 6F each, max. 4x.
Department of Agriculture: 1 Meat for each Economic building, 1 Bread for each Craftsman building.
That one early grain had already blossomed to about 6 (with a couple taken from the Marketplace). Further, a couple trips to the Hardware Store netted my a couple bricks and some more iron. I eventually used the two bricks (I would never get more) to (a) modernize Mark's Wharf to build an Iron ship ... my only ship for the whole game! ... and (b) hit the Sawmill again to build the Grocery Store, which could provide both raw material and finished goods for both feeding AND hitting the Baguette Shop! Bonus: the Grocery Store was an Economic building, so with one more I could hit the Dept. of Agriculture for 2 grain & 2 bread, later flipping that for 12F (or better, leaving and returning for two more of each, then netting the full 24F). At least, that was the plan.
I actually erred badly by buying the Dept. of Agriculture; I thought I saw an Econ. symbol, but it was actually a Municipal building. Worse, Keith bought the (real Economic) Baguette Shop. Much Worse: there were no other Economic buildings readily available. I would eventually get my 2nd such building (after something of a wait) by buying up the Storehouse, once Keith built the Steel Mill that was covering it.
(The Business Office, by comparison, was 2nd from bottom in a different stack. This was really a strange distribution of buildings that saw the Black Market as 3rd from the top. Mark bought it and used it early for only 2 grain; not so good, IMHO. A few turns later, he'd hit it again ... for 2 wood, 2 iron, and 2 grain! I had just taken 5 wood before that; I could have done the BM myself for the 2 iron and 2 grain. Which one of us was the relative newbie, again?)
I would hit my Abattoir once, killing only 4 cows (I had 6 and fully expected to come back later, but never got around to it) and netting 2 hides (which would eventually get to 4, but I never would get Leather to go with it). My first trip to the Baguette Shop netted me 24F, which I used to pay off 2 Loans (I would never get more) and snap up a couple more Craftsman buildings. Near the end, I got lucky again: my last Marketplace run (which got me 6 goods) revealed to me the Bakery, which lets you convert up to 6 Bread for 3F each ... and it was Economic! I would soon buy that up and, before game's end, hit it twice for 11 Bread (33F). Those trips bookended another jaunt to my Dept. of Agriculture (for 3 Meat and 5 Bread by then) and a 2nd (and final) trip to the Baguette Shop for another 24F.
My last action of the game (it ended way too soon for me, as you'll soon see) was to sell another 6 Bread for 18F. All told, I gained 81F just from selling Bread, Meat, and more Bread. For all that, though, I ended up with a ton of waste!
I finished with 10 Grain, 14 Cattle (and a Meat, after using 2 more to feed at the end), 4 Hides, 3 Iron (the Bridge was there, but I ran out of moves to build it), 4 Coal (also never shipped so much as a 3-cow shipment on my Iron boat), and 6 Wood (thought about a Wooden boat for some time). as well as a couple odd goods. SOOOO much potential, but all I got was points for the Storehouse. A lot of points ... 22, after counting! And all that wasted potential cost me ... sort of.
Dave (who says he figures me as the heavy-boat type) ended up with boats of each type by game's end: one Wood, one Iron, one Steel, one Luxury. He ended up with the Colliery and (bought) Shipping Line, and used his last two moves to (a) ship for 29F, which bought the Dock at a small profit, and (b) built his Luxury Liner for 30F. He and Neil both maxxed out their food output at 6 (the most needed in 5-player). After tallying up, Dave had 130 total points and I have 108 ... plus the aforementioned 22 from the Storehouse.
By WBC rules (Keith happens to be the GM, and I happen to be the assistant-GM), Dave would have beaten me on the tie-break: value of unused goods (I only had one unused good due to the Storehouse; Dave had much left over). But this wasn't the WBC, and I'm able to enjoy a shared victory.
Final scores: Dave & me 130, Keith 128, Mark 109, Neil 104.
It should be noted that, which Dave and Neil maxxed out their boat total for feeding, Keith and I combined for all of one boat (my Iron one). Keith got to 128, two shy of the win, without ever getting a boat. Pretty phenomenal, I'd say.
I also note that the three 'veterans' finished within 2 points of each other, while the other two were more than respectful with triple-digit scores in a 5-player game.
Just another crazy game of LH, and another day of EPGS in the book. Until March 5th ...