Friday, August 24, 2012

OMG: Did "Le Havre" Just Kill "Agricola"?

Although last Wednesday we had to postpone our completion of Warrior Knights it kinda worked out since Andrew offered to table La Havre.  Since I'm a huge fan of Uwe Rosenberg's Euro-classic  Agricola, I was pretty keen to compare the two and see which one I preferred.

In Le Havre, players move their Ship tokens along a track, adding Goods to Offer Spaces on the board as they go.  They can then take a single action which might include:

  1. Snagging all of the Goods from any one single Offer Space.
  2. Using the specialized function of any vacant structure.  
  3. Constructing a Building which will allow you to refine your raw materials, sell them for a tidy profit, or construct valuable Ships.

The timely and well-planned construction of Buildings will allow you to augment your emerging strategies and earn cheddar from your opponents in the form of rent.  Ships mainly help to feed your workers but they can also generate Francs when paired with things like Shipping Lines.

At the end of the Round, your stockpiled Grain and Cattle can multiply in the Harvest.  Then everyone has to figure out how to feed their workers.  In the final round of the game participants get to perform one final completely-open action.  Then everyone adds up the value of all their Francs, Buildings, and Ships and the richest player is declared the winner.

If you want a full PDF of the rules you can find said precious document right here.

Game Set-Up


Round One

Mike purchased a Building Firm and then proceeded to take more Wood then Jenna Jamison.  Andrew snatched up all tha', Francs.  I took advantage of low tide and gathered up four Fish.  Mike built a Joinery by placing his dude on his newly-acquired Building Firm.  Andrew couldn't resist snagging a massive offer of Clay.  I took one Franc and then purchased my own six-value Building Firm.  Mike produced one Cattle and one Wood but passed them up in lieu of an ass-load of Fish.  

During the first End of Round phase, everyone managed to feed their peeps without resorting to cannibalism, er...a Loan.  In other news: a Wooden Ship came up for purchase.

Round Two     

You wouldn't think it by looking at him, but Andrew took four Wood without any difficulty whatsoever.  I took one measly Clay, which admittedly was kind of a weak-assed turn.  Mike procured two Grain.  Andrew's dude used Mike's Building Firm to construct a Fishery which I promptly rented on my turn to score three Fish!  Mike also made a Fishy requisite from the board's heavily-loaded matching Offer Space.  Andrew produced one Cattle and one Wood on his turn but was forced to take Francs in order to feed his poor, starving, unwashed, smelly masses.  

During the Harvest Mike's Grain reproduced and all of us easily met our two Food requirement.  A second Wooden Ship came up for purchase but we all knew that this particular benchmark was still pretty far away.  

Round Three         

This time it was my turn to take all the Wood and I did so with relish.  Mike became the first player to snag two Cattle and Andrew caught two Feesh.  Envious of Mike's flourishing Grain, I picked up one for myself.  Mike brought one Iron and one Franc onto the board.  As he went to snap up the two-point Iron offer, Andrew persuaded him to take the Francs instead with a promise to build the Sawmill for communal use.  In a surprise move, Andrew sold the Fishery to the town on his turn, thus booting my worker dude to the curb.  Despite all the wheelin' and a-dealin', Andrew soon realized that he didn't have the resources to build a Sawmill that turn so he slapped together a Clay Mound as a consolation prize.  In a final play for the Round, I picked up a single, desperate, lonely Moo Cow.  

A third Wooden ship appeared signaling a Harvest-free end of the Round. 

Round Four           

Mike was all over a giant pile of Clay like Oprah on a turkey burger.  Andrew paid two Wood, one Clay and one Iron to build a Brick (Shit) House.  Despite being deathly allergic, I just couldn't resist three Fishes.  Mike gathered up some Wood in the hopes of fulfilling last Round's Saw Mill dreams.  Andrew used Mike's Joinery ("Uh..huh, huh.  Uh...huh, huh.") and got five Francs out of the deal.  I finally got a bit o' Iron in my diet.  Mike went to the Fishery to produce a spot o' Food.  

At the end of the Round me n' Mike produced some Grain and the city built its first Special Building: a Football Stadium!  What's next?  An Apple store? 

Round Five   

Andrew copped three Francs and I *yoinked* a similar amount of Clay.  Mike sent his drone to the Building Firm and hammered together a Baken Housen.  I reeled in three Fishies while Andrew took four Wood at once (or as I like to call it the "Kit Kat").  Meanwhile, Mike went off to the Bakery and spent one Energy to flip two Grain into two Bread, earning him one Franc in the process.  And with that we had out first entrepreneur!  To get in on all the hot breeding action (?) Andrew lured two Cattle into his barn with some Barry White, a bottle of Merlot and a gallon of lube.  

Both Andrew and Mike made l'il baby cows together.  Me and Mike then sat back and watched our Grain grow.  Good times.    

Round Six

Still apparently obsessed with Fish, I invested two Wood and one Clay in a Smoke House.  Mike pumped some Iron and Andrew bought an Abattoir which would prove to be a smart and valuable acquisition.  I paid Mike a one-Franc rental fee and used the Joinery to earn five Francs.  Mike hired Jerry from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to staff Andrew's Abattoir, turning two Cows into Meat while Andrew hooked four Fish.  I took a record-breaking six Wood and subsequently couldn't walk straight for next three Rounds.  

During the End of Round phase, I spent five Francs to stave off starvation.  In a reflexion of Mike's real life carnivorous existence, he and his minions gobbled down three Meat.  Andrew consumed four Fish and spent a Franc, presumably on tartar sauce.  In other news: our first Iron Ship came up for purchase!   

Round Seven

Seeing that it was good, Mike converted two more Grain into Bread courtesy of his Bake House.  Andrew picked up four Francs (I won't say exactly how but it involved a well-to-do Japanese businessman, a speculum and small bag of gerbils).  I got my poor lonely Cow a fuck-buddy.  Mike made off with an Albertan amount of Grain (I.E. four).  Thinking ahead to the end of the Round, Andrew went off to the Fishery to acquire three Poisson.  After bringing a Cattle and a Wood onto the board, Mike moved his peon to his own Building Firm, paid three Wood and one Clay and constructed a Hardware Store, which he promptly called "Lee Vallée".  Geddit?  Huh?  Um...okay...    

At the end of the Round, all three of us scored bonus Cows and the town built a Kiln.  Whereas everyone else could cover their catering bill, I was forced to take a four-Franc Loan.  A new Wooden Ship came up for purchase, which was pretty much just a tease considering how po' we all still were. 

Round Eight                  

Andrew procured a metric ass-ton of Clay ("metric ass-ton" = 5) and then bought a Black Market.  I made two Francs by converting Grain to Bread in Mike's Bake House.  Mike took Wood up the wazoo.  With the way finally clear, Andrew got to use his own Abattoir, hacking up two poor, defenseless Cows for two Meat and one Hide.  I grabbed three Francs and quickly paid off my Loan before some swarthy Greek gentlemen showed up and threatened to quarter my kneecaps with a chisel.  Mike clocked mo' Benjamins then Diddy after he converted three Wood to seven Francs in the Joinery.  Andrew took a quick nip down to the Marketplace and got one Fish and one Iron.  

At the end of the round we all got extra Cowage but only Mike got bonus Grain.  To cover our grocery bills, Mike spent seven Francs, I burned three Bread and a single Franc while Andrew paid two Meat and one Fish.  Damn, these meeples be eatin' us out o' house n' home!  A Furniture Factory and a new Iron Ship also came up for future contention.  

Round Nine

I picked up some Iron content, Mike made off with two Cattle and Andrew scored big with five Fish.  After painstakingly assembling all of the raw materials, I finally had everything to build my Wharf.  Mike went all Buddy Valastro and converted six Grain to Bread.  Andrew pimped out his Wood at the Joinery for five Francs.  Fretting about food, I went off to the Fishery and got  four holy mackerel (with a +1 bonus coming from my Smoke House).  

At the end of the Round all of us delivered some baby Cowz and Mike grew more Grain.  Again I found myself short one Food and was forced to take a Loan.  This allowed me to pay four Fish, one Bread and one Franc to feed all them hungry mouths.  

Round Ten
Mike carted away a massive amount of Wood.  Andrew went to the Abattoir to magically transform two Cattle into two abstract-looking Meat and one Hide.  I ran into the Joinery to convert three Wood into seven Coins and paid off the gangsters that I was in hock to.  Mike, clearly the runaway leader, became the first player to buy a Wooden Ship and start saving on his Food bill.  Andrew put his dude on Mike's Firm Building, er...Building Firm and picked up his own Wharf.  Given a rare window of vacancy, I rushed into the Abattoir and carved me up some doe-eyed cow faces for three Meat and one Hide.  Mike patronized his own Hardware Store for a vital smattering of Wood, Clay and Iron.  

During the resulting Harvest everyone was blessed with a cute new Cattle-ling.  This time I was prepared to host a feast and spent three Meat for food.  Everyone else was similarly covered.  

Round Eleven          

Andrew won the Le Havre lotto, taking home five Francs while I invited shafts from every direction in the form of four Wood.  Mike manned the Sawmill and constructed the Grocery Market for one Brick, which Andrew then promptly used to procure one Cattle, one Meat, one Grain, one Bread, one Fish, and a Smoked Fish (!).  Once again I set off to the Joinery to sell my Wood for seven Francs.  Mike truly exploited the Abattoir, pushing a herd of six Cows down the sluice only to pop out at the other end as Hamburger Patties and three Hides.  Right at the end of the Round Andrew sniped eight Clay, enough for him to re-enact a certain scene from Ghost, which mercifully didn't occur to him

There was no Harvest this Round but the town built a Courthouse.  To cover the exorbitant ten point food bill I was forced to spend three Francs, one Smoked Fish, one Bread and one Meat.  Meanwhile, Andrew blew all his Francs to stave off starvation and Mike dropped one Franc and three Meat.  Last but not least, the first Steel Ship made an appearance!  

Round Twelve       

I wrangled more Fish then a Russian trawler.  Mike did some more one-stop shopping in the Hardware Store, giving him another convenient variety pack of Wood, Brick and Iron.  Andrew scythed down five Grain.  I smoked all seven of my Fish, providing two Francs and a surprisingly mellow high.  After patronizing the Sawmill and building a Tannery for one Brick, Mike officially now owns more buildings then The Donald.  Andrew, more then familiar with the drill, moved his worker to the Abattoir to stun, cut and pack two Cattle for equal Meat and one Hide.  Meanwhile I picked up seven Wood, enough to make David Lynch jealous.  

Once again we were all blessed with the arrival of three new Guernseys.  Both Andrew and Mike propimagated their Grainz.  For the eleven-point food requirement Andrew spent four Francs, two Meat and one Fish.  Mike invested three Meat and covered the last three points with his newly acquired Wooden Ship (which I immediately christened the S.S. Ganktheleader).  I paid five Smoked Fish and one Franc.

Round Thirteen                      

Mike rustled up a huge herd of Cattle.  Andrew went to the Market and essentially became the first kid on the block to collect every Good.  I spent five Wood and three Coal for my own Wooden Ship (which I immediately christened the S.S. Brokeasfuck).  Mike ventured into the Tannery to refashion two of his Hides into a pair of black leather assless chaps.  On subsequent turns, Andrew took a ton of Iron and I nabbed six Fish.  Finally Mike popped into the Abattoir for a quick spot of slaughter, swapping four Cattle for an equal amount of Meat and two Hides.  

Once again, we all scored BB (that's Bonus Beef, BTW).  Mike and Andrew both got more Grain.  A brand spankin' new Steel Ship made an appearance.  In the Food department, my new boat provided three servings and I made up the difference with two Francs and four Fish (two Smoked and two Unsmoked).  Andrew scraped together a veritable buffet: one Meat, one Smoked Fish, one Bread and two Francs.  Mike provided three Charred Bovine Discs and his Ship easily made up the difference.

Round Fourteen       

Andrew visited the town's Brickworks and swapped six Clay for an equal amount of Brick, scoring three Francs in the process.  On my turn I was powerless to resist the siren call of many, many Francs.  Mike continued to be his own best customer in the Hardware Store.  Andrew pulled a huge handful of Wood.  I finally got to exploit the Grocery Market, which instantly left me covered for this Round's Food requirements.  Mike spruced up his Wharf by Modernizing it with three Wood and four Iron and then bought the first Iron Ship (which I immediately christened the S.S. Runawayleader).  Andrew let the gore fly after visiting the Abattoir. 

At the conclusion of the Round we all got new Cows and Grain.  Yay!!!  Now serving the equivalent of a Greek wedding party, Andrew spent three Francs, one Fish and three Meat.  Mike blew three Meat (?) and three Francs and his fancy little flotilla provided the remaining seven.  I served up four regular Fish, two Smokies, one Bread and one Meat.  

Round Fifteen 

I ended up taking six Clay with only the vaguest idea as to what I was gonna do with it.  Mike sent his serf into the Bakehouse, spent two Wood for Fuel and managed to transmute Four Grain into two Coins and four Bread.  With Energy becoming an increasingly valuable commodity, Andrew wisely converted six Wood into two Coal.  I chainsawed five Cattle for an equal amount of Meat and two Hides in the Abattoir.  Mikes raided the Grocery Market.  Andrew went off to the Batcave, er...Bakehouse as well, converting a whopping ten Grain into loaves!  I patronized Andrew's Brick House, exchanging four Clay for two Brick.  Obviously my nebulous plan was still half-baked.

Only Mike and I received both Grain and a bonus Cattle.  The town built a Patisserie ("Qui!  Formidable!").  This round's Food requirement was an ungodly fourteen (!) so some major wheelin' and dealin' was required.  Andrew sacrificed seven Bread to the slavering masses.  After deducting seven points worth of Ship rations, Mike met the remainder with three Meat and four Bread.  I coughed up three Meat, two Coins and my ship made up the difference.  

Round Sixteen              

After taking a "Woody", Mike recovered Clay on his second turn.  Andrew eviscerated four Cattle in his Abattoir and I collected some vicious Fishes.  After carefully laying the groundwork for several turns, Andrew finally built an Iron Ship!  I grabbed seven Francs and then ran.  Mike ground up a slew of Cattle in the Abattoir for seven pounds of prime chuck and three Hides.  

At the end of the Round I laid out three Meat and five Fish for food.  After deducting seven Ship points, Mike banked one Fish and two Meat to cover the spread.  Andrew turfed two Bread and two Meat after raiding his Iron Ship's four provisional points.  

Round Seventeen  

Andrew got his Wood-on, I raided the Grocery Market and Mike used the Sawmill to lower his cost on a Business Office.  In a seemingly common pattern, Andrew ran right in there, cutting through Mike's dedication ribbon like it was finish line tape.  In doing so he converted four Hides into one incredibly precious Steel!  I salvaged some scrap Iron that was apparently just sitting there rusting on the pier.  Mike toddled off to the Brick Works where he swapped four Clay for Bricks and eventually bought a Clay Mound and a Black Market.  Andrew took over the Sawmill and paid one Wood and three Bricks to procure a highly-prized Shipping Line.  

At Round's end all three of us scored Grain and I got a new cow (which I promptly named Mooby).  My Ship provided three chow, but I also had to dole out one Meat, one Bread, one Kipper and five vanilla Feesh.  Mike continued to parley his seven Food Ship points into a major advantage, only paying two Meat and one Smoked Fish to make him up to the required fifteen.  Andrew added two Meat, one Bread and one Franc to his Ship's four-point four.  

Round Eighteen             

Knowing that the game was almost over, I bought a Steel Mill entirely for the victory points.  Mike popped into the Business Office to barter for Steel with four Grain (and also got one Charcoal for Hides).  As per standard procedure, Andrew virtually trampled over me in his mad rush to use my new building before I could.  Oh well, at least I got two Francs out of the deal.  Andrew burned five Energy to transfer one Iron into the uber-valuable Steel.  Meanwhile, still apparently stuck in the Middle Ages, I went back into the Abattoir for one final five-Cattle slaughterfest.  Mike usurped the town's Furniture Factory and swapped one Leather and one Wood for six big Francs (paying two Food in the process).  Andrew cruised past the Wharf, not just to check out the sailors but also to build a Steel Ship with three Energy and two Steel.  In one last final action that was sure not to get me further ahead, I decided to cart off an entire Black Forest worth of Wood.  

Final Turn                   

We all elected to use Andrew's Shipping Lane but only Mike had commodities of any real value.  He ended up scoring twelve Francs for three Leathers.  Andrew shipped Bricks for eight Francs and I transported a coupla Hides for a whopping four coins.

In the final points tally Mike came in first, Andrew was a close second and I was a distant third.  


To answer the question posed by this post's title: no, Le Havre didn't kill Agricola since I still prefer the farming theme and spacial relationships of the latter title.  And since there isn't the same amount of angst and tension in Le Havre, I'm gonna hafta wait until I play it again before I decide if this is actually a pro or a con.  

But comparing Le Havre to Agricola is like comparing Star Wars to Lord of the Rings: they're both awesome in their own way!  Honestly, both games have plenty of cool distinctions that makes each one a unique and special snowflake.  

Also, I know that some folks like to bitch that the theme in Euro games sometimes feels "tacked on" but I really didn't get that vibe with Le Havre.  It really felt as if I was growing some sort of enterprise, even if my "evolution" was often inefficient and scatterbrained.     

Which brings me to another point of praise: although I got handily smoked in this game (as I usually do), at least I know exactly why I got smoked.  Unlike my opponents, I had absolutely no clarion thought when it came to strategy.  And because I didn't set myself up with some sort of easy Food-production channel early in the game I often found myself scrambling at the last minute to provide victuals for my peeps.  As a result, it often felt as if I was running to stand still.

In my next game of Le Havre I'll do whatever I can to buy a Ship right away, even if it means going into the hole.  Having a couple of boats in your service really helps take the sting out of scaring up provisions, especially when your actions are much better served producing and upgrading resources or building things that actually contribute to your "investment portfolio".  

Which is yet another sign of a really great game: you can't wait to try it again to apply all of your new-found wisdom.

For it's myriad of choices, charming components, "Sm City" theme and virtual elimination of luck, Le Havre easily earns six pips outta six!   

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