Building the way toward a fantastic library of iOS board games
Le Havre is a worker placement / resource gathering game where players compete to gain the most fortune working in and around a harbor. Every player starts with a few Francs and fewer resources in their possession, then see how well they can grow that into an empire. The original board game is often ranked towards the top of just about any Top 10 list of games ones could find. Can the digital app live up this pedigree?
While there’s a lot going on at the board itself, a players’ turn really only consists of 2 parts. The first thing they do is lay out a new round of offers into their correct spaces, and then they can take an action. The offers are a mix of gold, food or supplies, and the new items get put into their respective piles. Actions are typically either taking the offer in one of the piles or using a building. Different buildings do different things, and may allow you to generate new resources from old ones (turn clay to brick or grain to bread) to upgrade them, sell them off for profit, or even build new buildings and ships.
After every seven turns, the round ends and there’s a harvest. At that time, any cattle and grain you have multiply, and you must feed your workers using food you’ve hopefully collected beforehand. If not, you’ll have to take out a very expensive loan, so it’s best to avoid it. After a particular number of rounds (set depending on number of players) everyone can take one final action then whoever has the most money wins.
Le Havre is a somewhat complex game, and while you can only take one action per turn, you have a lot of choices. I found that this leads to a fair amount of Analysis Paralysis (or AP as we call it at the table). Thankfully, managing everything is much easier on the iPad than it is in real life. The in-game tutorial does a great job of touring you through what everything does and how it all works together, and I knew what I needed to know to play by the time I was done with it. With so much complexity, the game does an elegant job of breaking it down.
Additionally, Le Havre marks yet another awesome step in the march to bring more complex and meaty board games to iOS. It’s easy to learn, but it takes multiple plays for the strategy to really begin to reveal itself. There’s a frustrating middle point though, where you know what your options are for each turn, you just have no idea what you should do. Sadly there’s no way around this, you just need to push through and watch a few games play out.
The only complaint I really have about the game is the length. There’s nothing wrong with the app, mind you, it’s just not a fast moving game, and really takes a fair amount of time to play through.
I’ve wanted to play Le Havre for a really long time now. My problem has always been price and finding people to play against. This solves both those problems. The app seems perfect in every way, and hats off to Codito for pulling it off. The only reason I’d tell you to pass on the game by is if you’re just getting into the boutique board game world. It’s a bit complex and isn’t a great entry point. Ticket to Ride, Small World, Catan, or Carcassone are the play to start. Le Havre is the place to step up to from there.