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Subject: Agricola vs. Le Havre vs. El Grande: Fight! rss

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Alberto Casarrubios
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Tomorrow I'm buying a new game as a gift to myself for beginning the new course (being the teacher doesn't make it any easier ). I'm having an itch for a "serious" Euro, and the candidates are Agricola, Le Havre and El Grande.

A little bit of background about my most common gaming scenarios:

My gaming group

We meet on Saturdays to play Magic and RPGs, but I always squeeze a little time to play a boardgame or two. They mostly like anything fantasy-themed, despise anything space-themed and prefer dice and immersion. Of the last games I've introduced to them, the biggest hits have been Kingsburgand King of Tokyo, and they've despised Cosmic Encounter and Glory to Rome (which makes me a very sad panda soblue).

My sister

She's a pharmacy student at the University, and we use to play a game or two after dinner. Her favourites are Airlines Europe, Ticket to Ride, Dominion and Power Grid. She likes thinking and planning ahead and playing mean (our Carcassonne games would be condemned by the UN ), but not direct confrontation nor wargames (no Hive, no Memoir'44), but she's a little bit weary about learning new games.

My students

I teach English at an academy, and I try to use games in the classroom to get them excited about something that requires speaking or aplying vocabulary. Dixit, Attribute and Bohnanza are our biggest hits, as well as Aye, Dark Overlord! for the higher levels. I love those gaming sessions, but the downside is that they need to be short (30 minutes or less) because of our time constraints.

Myself
I'm a sucker for long, heavy and demanding games, but right now no one in my main groups is particularly found of them, so sometimes I take some of my favourite games out and play them out against myself,
Enrico Viglino
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-style (minus the pipe). I'd rather not buy another game if I'm going to be the only one who plays it shake

Another point is that I try not to have games that are or feel too similar: for example, I have Steam so I have no interest in Railways of the World.

So, where do you think I should spend my hard-earned money?
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Geoff Burkman
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From what you've written, I'd say this sounds like a job for Agricola (and, yes, I've played all three games). Start the noobs with the family version, and then introduce the cards as soon as they've caught on to the basics. Good luck!
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Norman Hedden
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Le Havre

Best of the 3. May be a little long though, but well worth it. And, you can play it by yourself. Win/win situation there.

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David Debien
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I dont see any of these appealing to your first group.

For your sister, I would say El Grande for the mean-ness, or back-stabby quotient. But El Grande is terrible with two and only slightly better with 3. For El Grande, you really need 4 or 5 players.

Agricola is great with 2-5 players.

It would also appeal to your students as they would need to read the English on the cards (assuming an English version of the game) but playtime will absolutely not work in the 30 minute timeframe.

However! Agricola is a pretty darn good solo game as you have indicated that can be a factor.

I have played but am not a fan of Le Havre.
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Jack Reda
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I find Le Havre to be a little Le Boring. I love Agricola though.
 
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Sharon Khan
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I'd vote for Agricola from what you say. Le Havre is much longer and less themey, and El Grande is dryer and might be a little much too confrotational for your sister (although I don't like direct confrontation/wargames, and I do enjoy it).
 
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Kevin B. Smith
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Betote wrote:
She likes thinking and planning ahead

Forget El Grande for her, then. Although you have to keep some long-term goals in mind, it is a very tactical game. To the point that until the player before you chooses their action, you have absolutely no idea what you will be allowed to do that turn. And their action might completely change the board so when your turn does come, you'll still have to re-evaluate everything. The word "chaotic" kept coming up when we played it.

I haven't played the others, so can't give you advice there.
 
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Matthew Bond
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Agricola is a good fit for your sister, but I would say that none of the games you've mentioned would be a good choice for your buddies or students.
 
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Jeff Kayati
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I'd say that Agricola is the winner here. Scales well from 2-5, has a solo version that is entertaining, has a family version for those that want lighter fair.
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Samantha RD
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I would have to go with Agricola based on your criteria (at least for yourself and your sister - you're probably doomed with your game group )
 
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Kenny VenOsdel
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Haven't played El Grande so I won't comment.

As far as the other two Agricola gives more opportunity for indirect meaness than Le Havre so it might be good for your sister. At the same time you don't have to be mean or cutthroat when you play so it could still be good for students.

Le Havre is definitely longer, but it does offer rules for a shortened game. Likewise Agricola can be played in the family game setting which is both shorter and lighter, though I find it to be a bit more competitive between the players since you can't branch off at all.

As far as ease of learning I give it to Agricola. I think Agricola is has a less clear objective, get points by having lots of different things in your farm, with a more clear way to go about it. The options you can do on your turn expand as the game goes on but the information is not revealed until you are able to use that option. Le Havre on the other hand has a clearer goal, get the most money, but it is less clear how to do that. Combine that with the fact that nearly all the building options are available to be looked at (not purchased mind you) and that it is important that your strategy takes these buildings into account right away and you have a harder to learn game.

Personally I own and enjoy both though I don't get to play either that often at the moment. My wife has only played a partial game of Agricola but has sat through several games of Le Havre. I think I'm going to try and get her hooked on one of them soon.

Good luck.
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Gert Meyer
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I own Agricola and El Grande and have played Le Havre once (and liked it, btw).

I will break my comments into four sections.

Your Gaming Group:

Of the three games, the only one I can recommend for them would be El Grande. And that is a fairly weak recommendation.

In the game you get points for dominating regions on a map which gives it a fair bit of "conquest"-y feel, that may appeal to them even though the cubes are supposed to represent political rather than military influence.

Also, the action cards give players ample opportunity to directly mess with their opponents' cubes or pet regions which could appeal to the more confrontational player types.

Finally, it probably has the shortest play time among the three.

Your Sister:

Definitely Agricola. Requires a lot of planning and balancing multiple courses of actions that all seem good in one way or another. The game is designed with several "modes", allowing you to build extra complexity into the game as you get more familiar with it.

Works very well with two players, but also scales beautifully if you do come across more interested players.

Note: El Grande does NOT play well with 2, so that is a definite "no go" for your sis.

Your Students:

Sorry. But all these games have play time well in excess of 30 minutes. El Grande is probably the shortest of them, but also the one with the least amount of text and language dependence.

Yourself:

Agricola has a solo mode (as does Le Havre, apparently). I have not tried it as I prefer to play video games when I play solo, but I guess I can see the appeal in building up your farm even by yourself. However, I am not sure how the game prevents things getting repetitive over time.

Personal Note:

For your gaming group I recommend you have a look at Chaos in the Old World.

It takes some solid euro mechanics (reminiscent of El Grande), spicing it up with some card draw randomness and a fair bit of dice rolling, and wraps it all in a rich fantasy setting.

The personality of each god comes through in the play style in a way I am sure will appeal to many RPG fans. And it is ultra confrontational, both directly and indirectly.
 
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Goat Goatington
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I'm not sure you'll find any game that fits all of those groups. Which one is most important for your gaming needs?

For the group, none of the ones you suggested really fit. They're actually reasonably themed but certainly not exciting things and there's not a dice in sight. Agricola and Le Havre simply don't fit what you described leaving El Grande, but even that's a pretty far reach.
You might not be able to find a heavy euro they like at all. Based on Kingsburg, have you considered other dice based euros? Troyes has many similarities to worker placement but with dice rolling. Everyone is working to hidden goals where they only know the scoring card they're holding for the end game but will have to score everyone's card, leading to some fun in guessing what the opponent's scoring cards are. The Castles of Burgundy is a more solitaire tile laying game of building up a private estate using dice rolls.

You might be better admitting defeat and considering some of the euro/wargame hybrids like Chaos in the Old World, Small World or Dominant Species.


For your sister, either of Le Havre and Agricola will work. They're both going to be tricky to learn and will normally take a game or two until it's fully understood. Agricola scales to more players better and it always feels like need more actions. Le Havre gets very long winded with more groups and is more of a production chain game. It also feels like you need more actions but in a more positive manner; in Agricola it's normally choosing the action that leads to the smallest penalty while in Le Havre it's choosing the action that leads to the largest gain. You'd be better picking the one that interests you or your sister more; both will work and there are certainly enough similarities that it's hard to recommend one over the other.


The 30 minute requirement basically rules out any heavy eurogame for your class. I can't think of a single one that will fit into that short a timeframe.


For yourself, it depends on what you want from a solitaire game. Agricola and Le Havre can be played solo and are all about getting the highest score. There's no real winning or losing, just a number at the end. They do work for that case well and if that's what you want then they're the best suited to solo play of all the games I mentioned.
Troyes doesn't work at all in singleplayer, Castles of Burgundy works if you're willing to play both sides since there's no hidden information, Small World works if you're again willing to play both sides.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Betote wrote:
I'm having an itch for a "serious" Euro, and the candidates are Agricola, Le Havre and El Grande.

I choose not to play.

The above statement was not entirely made in jest. One scenario likes dice, the other prefers lighter games, and the final scenario wants things short and verbal. Based on those profiles neither of the three serious games fits the criteria.

May I suggest Stone Age or Roll Through The Ages instead?
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Alberto Casarrubios
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Thanks for all your suggestions and comments, they've all been very helpful

I think I can pass on getting a new game for now. My gaming group already has some favourites we have yet to play out, and Steam got them intrigued. For my sis, I can always teach her Puerto Rico, Kingsburg or Steam.

That's not saying that, if I happen to walk into a shop and find one of them, I won't impulse buy it. I try to keep my "unplayed" section at a minimum, and currently I've got no unplayed games (yay me!), so one or two won't hurt
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Brian McCormick
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Le Havre takes the best aspects of Caylus (building ownership; no hidden information), then takes the best aspects of Agricola (economy building), then adds in material upgrades (not sure what other games have this), all while stripping away the bad aspects of both Agricola and Caylus.

It's probably one of my favorite - if not my favorite - Euros

With that said, I don't see any of the three games you mentioned fitting in with your groups. Le Havre is at its best (IMO) when you take a group of 2-4p who are all going to pay attention and who enjoy Euros. It's not a game that I play with larger groups because I find that people just don't pay attention.
 
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David Robert
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I have to agree on the fact that Le Havre is a better game than Agricola. What I find annoying in Agricola, is that you have little choice of strategy. You always have to get everything. Sure, you can get there by different means, but in the end, there is little to no difference in overall strategy. In addition, the food constraint is tougher than in Le Havre, which makes me often feel that two games of Agricola don't really provide that much of a difference in experience.
In Le Havre, however, it is possible to build up a good food supply if you play well. Once you have that, you gain a bit of freedom to pursue different paths to victory, which I always like in a game.
 
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