Monday, January 21, 2013

Le Havre

I got to play this at Hammercon and I enjoyed it so I ordered a copy of it (from this great on-line game store in Canada German Boardgame Company which is another post itself really) and I got a chance to play it a couple times over the holidays.  I'm not going to go into the mechanics or the theme since you can read about it, but it's a resource manipulation game where you build up wealth by converting raw materials into goods and money and investing in infrastructure.

First thing - Cards and Cardboard.  This game comes with a lot of cards and a lot of cardboard.  There are lots and lots of tokens for the resources.  Cardboard chits represent cows and clay and fish and iron and wood - it's all about the goods.  I played twice with containers for those chits and one time using the spaces on the board and I believe that you need to have some strategy for managing the cardboard or it gets out of hand.  Little square bowls seem to work best - especially if you can put them on the board in the spaces provided.  There are cards for buildings and ships that need to be laid out and also the turn sequence is done using cards.  Have enough space at the table for players to organize all their building cards and resources too.

Next thing - Time.  It's a good three hours if you play the short game (the one where you start with more goods and play fewer rounds).  If you play the full game you start with less goods and really feel you are building up from scratch, but it's not a lot different in the end, just longer.  It's just like Titan in that respect.  You can start with more tokens and some of the early combos done for you already and it won't really change the game, but it will seem like you've cheated.  I say don't be afraid of the short game, especially if you're playing with less hardcore gamers or those with less patience.

How does it play?  I really like it, it has a lot of fiddly bits which I enjoy and there is a whole strategy in blocking other people from using buildings that can be interesting.  It isn't directly confrontational but there is a feeling of resource pressure from the other players which I don't get out of Puerto Rico.  I enjoy the hard decisions and the game moves quickly for a turn based.  Set up is an ordeal however with many cards to arrange and tokens to pass out, so a good storage strategy is essential if you don't want to add that time to the start of the game.

I like it and it fits into the same niche as the Mayfair crayon train games or Puerto Rico.  Its a good grown-up family game.  I haven't played with less than 4 players (played 4 and 5) but apparently it plays well with 1-5.  I don't see myself playing it single player since I'd just play a video game instead of wrangling all those chits around - but if the power was out and the zombie barricades were all in place it might be fun.  I'd try it with 2-3 however and it probably works much better than the train games or Puerto Rico with smaller numbers of players.  There is also a stand alone 2 player game called Le Havre: The Inland Port which looks interesting because it does away with all the goods tokens in favour of a resource dial or something.

Le Havre is a good game.

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