Marcus came over today to introduce us to Le Harve. I was eager to try it since both Van and I enjoyed its sister game Agricola when it was loaned to us.
While the 3 common playing boards did bring Agricola to mind at the start, the game that stuck in my mind as I played was Caylus. Le Harve utilizes a similar mechanic which allows players to build buildings available for use by other players for a small fee.
Some first impressions:
1. With the nature of the loans in this game, a 'starvation strategy' is much more feasible than in Agricola or even Stone Age. In Agricola, starvation is a strict no-no due to the hefty penalty. In Stone Age, a starvation strategy while possible can be easily deterred by opponents who catch on to it. Here, it almost seems a folly not to take advantage of loans at opportune moments.
2. The game gives the same feel as Agricola in which I feel I've constantly more things to do than actions available. However, the availability of loans coupled with the ability to substitute money for food at 1:1 reduces the tension somewhat, and food actions can be sacrificed for better options when available. However, the demands for food do step up significantly towards the end.
3. Shipping appears key to racking up points towards the end of the game. I failed to anticipate the ending well, and was busy repaying my loans and acquiring food towards the end-game. As a result, I failed to ship even once, leading to an inability to acquire a better exchange rate for my remaining resources.
4. Ships have a triple role - first for a regular food supply, second to provide capacity for shipping and third, VPs. I paid too much attention to the third function, and put off building ships to the very end in hope of nabbing the ones with higher VPs. This was terribly unwise as it left me fighting to acquire food at the end, and unable to effectively utilize shipping to acquire points towards the end. Early ships are evidently important with the incremental food requirement.
5. The best goods to ship appear to be those that can be converted without energy such as coke and charcoal. In particular, shipping steel makes little sense with the additional need to supply substantial energy for the production process.
6. Bulk exchanges are a must to save actions, thus planning ahead is critical. Efficiency of actions is clearly the determinant of victory.
7. I like the set-collection element of the buildings where acquiring certain groups of buildings provide additional advantages.
8. The ability to purchase buildings ahead in a stack could be used as a strategy in gaining priority assess to high cost buildings that need to be built.
9. In some ways, it is harder to plan your actions as there is no certainty an opponent will vacate a building you are targetting. While it did not come to that in today's game, I see that part of the importance of owning key buildings is to be able to sell them when necessary to forcefully vacate an opponent.
10. Owning and blocking the Shipping Line towards the endgame can really throw a spanner in our players' plans. However, with a sufficient large shipping capacity, perhaps one ship with the last unblockable action is all that's needed.
11. Potential wastage of resources due to indivisibility. I can remember the number of times today I over-payed or had to round down francs acquired due to odd number exchanges.
12. Game seems to drag on somewhat towards the end. I suspect I would prefer it more if its length was closer to that of Agricola. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to my next play.
I ended the game with 114 points, Van had 140 and Marcus took us to the dryers with 200+ points. Almost left that out but this is after all a supposed session report ;)