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Subject: A Worthy Successor rss

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Robert Bor
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Le Havre was my main goal for Essen 2008. Therefore, my disappointment was big when on friday the people of Lookout Games told me that there were no more games for public sale, only preorders. However, not easily dissuaded from my goal, I made another attempt on saturday, near closing time, hoping that people did not pick up their preordered games. Not expecting anything, I was happily surprised when a version was available for sale. And it certainly was a good buy.

So what is it all about?

You are an industrial tycoon who tries to leverage the growing industrialization of Le Havre by making bucket loads of money. In the end you are rewarded for having the highest value portfolio, which is comprised of cold cash, buildings, ships and an odd assortment of "special" valuations.

A four player game is played over 20 rounds. Every round forces the player to meet a steadily increasing food requirement, which pressures the player to shape up their food production. If you don't, you will find yourself fully dedicated to meeting food requirements instead of increasing your portfolio. A single round consists of 7 actions. One action is taken by one players. Effectively, this means that players will have 7 actions every 4 rounds, or a total of 35 plus one final action. When you take an action, you hop your ship over the other ships to produce new goods. Contrary to expectations, you do not get these goods. Instead they pile up on the offer spaces, where a player can pick them up later.

During your action you can choose either to pick up the goods on one offer space, or make use of the special abilities on a building. The goods are gold, fish, wood, clay, iron, grain and cattle. Gold allows you to purchase buildings and ships as well as make use buildings not belonging to you. It also allows you to get 1 food for every 1 gold -- not the most efficient use, but handy if you need it. Fish can be eaten or processed to smoked fish, which feeds more people. Wood, clay and iron are the main construction ingredients, with the special note that these can be further processed respectively to the even more valuable charcoal, bricks and steel. Cattle and grain are not immediately digestable (Agricola players should know this!), but first need to be processed to bread and meat to eat up, resulting for meat in the leather by-product. Cattle and grain are interesting in the sense that your stock of those grows automatically during harvest (ie, the end of a round, though not all rounds are harvest rounds) if you have the discipline to hold on to it. Some actions require that you spend energy, for which you can use in increasing order of power wood, charcoal, coal or coke.

So there you are, all loaded up with all these resources and not knowing what to do with them. Don't worry, Le Havre offers more than enough temptations for you to spend your hard-earned stockpiles on. There are three randomly constructed building stacks, which have all standard buildings ordered by their order numbers. The top building in every stack can be purchased or constructed. The city helps a bit sometimes by constructing a building itself, so that it becomes available for the players also. Besides the standard buildings there are also special buildings of which only 6 out of the 24 available ones are used in a single game, possibly making for a refreshing new experience every game. Buildings offer various advantages, such as opening up new game avenues (like building ships), enrich products, give end score pluses, give free resources or generate money. If the building is yours and depending on the building, you exact an entrance fee for players utilizing the ability of your buildings.

Ships are crucial. A ship can be wooden, iron, steel or a luxury cruiser. The last one just has a high value and nothing else, but the first three help you meet some of your food production requirement EVERY round. I think it will not be an exaggeration to state that you cannot win the game without ships. Ships must either be constructed in a wharf or purchased with cash, of which the latter seems to be overexpensive. Besides meeting food requirements, ships also help you to sell abundant products, which in our case generated helpful extra cash.

If things are not going as they should and you cannot meet your food requirements, you can always sell ships and/or buildings or even take out a loan. In our game, loans were not handed out.

The detail that has been given to helpfulness is stunning. The game has all the ingredients to be incomprehensible, but amazingly it is not! The designer has gone to great lengths to explain otherwise difficult actions and cut down on time-consuming game administration. To name a few examples; the bottom row on the standard buildings so that you can quickly see what is coming up in a building queue, the explanation on the buildings, and the understandable use of icons on complex and diverse cards.

Everything in the game flows naturally. Our group played Le Havre wrong the first time (ie, we sorted the starting buildings not by sort order, but by value). With this error in place, the game detectably does not flow, which is interesting to experience. Alas, we corrected our mistake and started over. Le Havre must have been playtested very, very intensively.

The version I picked up was in english and it is very well written. Kudos to the translator!

Any decent review of Le Havre will amost certainly entail a comparison with its illustrious predecessor - Agricola. No change here. So what are the main differences and similarities?
* Agricola is about Agriculture, Le Havre about Industry
* Agricola has between 28 and 40+ actions, Le Havre has 36 actions -- it's all about getting the most out of an action
* Agricola allows synergetic strategies to be developed (not in the family game though) and so does Le Havre
* Agricola is about developing a balanced farm, Le Havre is about optimizing product enrichment
* Agricola has lots of basic resources at the beginning and little in the end (because of the harvest funnel), for Le Havre it is the reverse
* Agricola urges you to get your food production in good order with the harvest funnel, whereas Le Havre urges you to do the same, using the increasing food requirement every round
* Agricola punishes overspecialization, Le Havre does less so, even seems to reward it
* Agricola rewards players seizing the opportunity of picking up a big pile of resources, and so does Le Havre

To summarize, if you like Agricola, you are very likely to like Le Havre as well. It's a worthy successor to an already worthy game. I try hard to mention a negative, but I fail miserably. I heartily recommend this little pearl of a game to all Agricola fans.
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Daran The Great
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Very nice game (and not only because I won our first full bout) with a good level of complexity. While of course not a full wargame, the dreaded 'multi player solitaire game' syndrome is kept at bay as you continuously access each others buildings and compete for the opportinity to build a certain building or ship. Le Havre has for me a much higher feeling of connectedness/interaction with other players than Agricola.

As stated we really liked the design of board, cards and tiles, making all essential information very accessible at all times (but then again we are experienced gamers). Also, the setup with three stacks of buildings and the random special buildings will likely provide for welcome variety between sessions.

You are virtually guaranteed to be able to amass sufficient food during the turns, but the essence of the game is to avoid spending too many actions on your food production and develop you industrial prowess instead. Ships are the key, as they count against the food required for each turn .

As always, some buildings are more valuable than others (the wharf, market and abbatoir come to mind) and therefore nice to have, as other players will have to pay you a small fee (in food or gold) for the usage priviledge.
As the three building stacks and the end-of-turn stack allow you to estimate how and when each building or ship will become available, with a bit of experience you will be able to gather the proper supplies in time and even block other players from doing the same (in the initial phase I had good luck keeping iron pipes very limited, allowing me to build two iron ships)

Very nice game, that will grace our game table a lot the coming winter months.
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Randolph Bookman
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So between the two which would you recommend?
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Robert Bor
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shieldwolf wrote:
So between the two which would you recommend?


I am uncertain about it, because I had to acquire a taste for Agricola. The first game of Agricola was nice, the second better and with the third my thirst for more was unsatiable. I think Le Havre will have a similar addictive effect on me.

So at the moment, personally, I would say Agricola, but only barely. I think that Le Havre will take over that position.

Now which of the two I would recommend depends a lot on YOU as well. If you play a lot with children or non-gamers, Agricola is better suited, especially the family version. Le Havre is more, like someone so succinctly put it, "a gamer's game".
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Rob Mixemong
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Very nice review, I look forward to when the group I game with brings this to the table.
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Brian Cherry
Canada
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Thanks for this. Too many reviews just read like regurgutations of rules. Not this. Its clear and concise, like a quick disussion about how it plays - not just how to play it. Very nice to read.

I've also been wondering if I should pick this one up, and think now that there is space for both Agricola and Le Havre.

thanks for the insight

Jugg
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Michael Leuchtenburg
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BerZerg wrote:

* Agricola has between 28 and 40+ actions, Le Havre has 36 actions -- it's all about getting the most out of an action


Actually, Le Havre gives you between 36 and 50 actions, depending on the number of players. 36, 43, 50, 50 for 4, 3, 2, 1 players respectively. 5 players would give you only 29 actions!
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Carsten Beyer
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I wrote a review of a review to LH earlier today.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2904657#2904657
After reading your review, I'm pretty sure you both must have reviewed a different game, but in fact you reviewed the same. I agree to nearly all points you worked out.
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Железный комиссар
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I would also recommend Le Havre to those who soured on Agricola or didn't like it to begin with. Beneath the surface, they're very dissimilar games.
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