The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Le Havre strategy

Finally getting around to answering some comments in the last thread

One thing that I touched upon, but that Alexfrog explicitly called out, is that having a loan provides a cash infusion (if you manage your entry fees). This is definitely troubling. I agree that the cokery is where to aim. You only need to go there once, and then you have plenty of energy, a nice income boost (15-25 can happen, 10 is pretty easy).

[In fact, my flirtation with the courthouse last game was me trying to delay the cokery for as long as possible and see what happens. Since I was playing for no cokery to show up, I spent 5-8 coal on energy early, which narrowed my margin of victory].

Regarding Larry’s question (“Is the player the one who always takes out lots of loans?”) I don’t have enough data to answer. So far, every game I’ve played the winner had lots of loans. But … it’s been me.

I can see Uwe’s point … if two players are taking out loans then the 3rd player should be able to get food cheaply … but just because I’m taking out loans doesn’t mean I’m giving up on fish. (Among other things, fish pay entry fees), just that I’m not desperate for it. I won’t take 3 or 4 fish (unless there’s really nothing to do, which sometimes happens on the first round or two). I’ll happily take 6+ (until the late game). But that’s not because I’m worried about loans; Taking 6+ fish is efficient. Just like taking 6+ wood. Or 3+ Iron.

The lack of various routes to efficiency is somewhat disturbing. Take a luxury yacht. It’s 30-38 points. But it costs 3 Steel + 3 Energy (call it a coal). Well, you could use that coal to ship 3 Steel for 24. And you could ship other goods (if you had more goods, energy and boats) for more money. In other words, depending on what you’ve got, shipping may be more efficient than a yacht (but since you can’t ship twice in a row, it may be best to ship/yacht/ship). That’s the thing about the cokery …. it provides energy (for shipping, processing steel, etc) and a good commodity to ship, and income. Whereas building steel is strictly limited, costs energy. and often doesn’t get money. You’ll need some steel for steel ships, but it’s a definite limited thing.

When I said

I’m not positive there’s a dominant path to victory in Le Havre, but I wouldn’t need much convincing.

I was thinking about shipping coke. Seems like I’m not the only one.

Slaughtering cows gives you furs, but you can only process them a few at a time. [And cows ship for more than meat, which saves actions]. Ditto fish. Baking bread isn’t bad, but costs energy. Maybe some special buildings mitigate, but the base buildings practically force you towards coke. And you can’t stop people from getting into buildings.

(Consider a variant where the harvest rounds that build the cheapest building just remove the cheapest building. Now suddenly something might not get built and be missing for the whole game! Or that each special building also had a building it removed from the game (unless already owned by a player. Now in this case you’d have to worry that the cokery wouldn’t be built. But even if it’s buried at the bottom of a stack, it will probably still show up early enough …)

Alex’s discussion of the Coal strategy is here.


Written by taogaming

February 5, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Strategy

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4 Responses

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  1. I think the factors that make it dominant (broken?) are:

    1) There is no limit to the coal->coke conversion, plus it provides money. Your benefit from the action grows, the more you have. It also costs no energy, and provides large amounts of energy.

    2) Coke is the best good to ship, providing 5 franks. (The only better good, steel, is expensive and thus doesnt really ship at a profit). The result of this is that any quantity of coke is highly valuable, unlike some other goods.

    If leather gave 5 when you shipped it, and the tannery had no limit on producing leather, and the abbatoir had no limit on converting cows to leather, and there was a good source of cows, and if leather let you power ships, then it would be good too.

    Lets look at it this way:

    The most efficient way to score points is to ship high value goods on a lot of ships, for 1 action. The other good way is building buildings, however that method has limits to how much you can do and requires getting a variety of reosurces.

    1) What good gives the most franks, relative to the cost to acquire it? Coke.
    2) What advanced good can be converted into with no limit, that has a good shipping value? Coke.
    3) What advanced good is created trhoug ha process that does not require energy, AND provides money? Coke.
    4) What good provies you with the energy to activate many ships during a shipping action? Coke.
    5) What good provides you with the energy to build the ships that you need in order to ship? Coal, and Coke (for making steel, for steel ships).

    Coke is the one good that can be efficiently acquired in any quantity, and is useful in any quantity, and is necessary for efficient shipping.

    In order to ship efficiently, you need coke to power the ships, you need coke to get steel to build the best ships. That means that youre already going to be acquiring coal, going to the cokery, and going to the steel mill.

    Gaining additional coke before you do this does NOT make the process cost any more actions, and it provides more money AND more high value shipping goods. This process becomes STRONGER the more coal you get.

    So clearly coal is highly valuable. In fact, it is the most valuable resource to have a lot of. So maybe it is much more difficult to get? Well, there is a building that provides 4 of it for 1 action, which is more than you can usually get for all but the weak goods. Clearly this is the most powerful action!

    Now, if this were balanced against the fact that it is hard to find actions tpo take coal, because you were too busy getting food to feed your people, then maybe it would be balanced. However, you dont NEED to feed your people. The loss of points from not feeding them is very minimal in comparison to the vlaue of spending that action on getting coal.

    To try and quantify the value of the Collier action (with a hammer symbol):
    You get 4 coal. Provided that this is before your one trip to the cokery during the game, and that you still have sufficient time left in the game to ship or use the coke you create, the value of this action is:

    4 franks, from the conversion. The conversion action needs to be done once during the game, so there is no extra cost.
    4 additional 5 value shipping goods/10 energy goods.

    Lets say your shipping will be done with 1 wood ship, 1 iron ship, 1 steel ship.
    The cost of shipping is 1 coke (to run the ships) + 1 action. You ship 9 goods.

    2 1/2 actions in the Colliery provides 10 coal. (And thus 10 franks when converted).
    1 Action activates ships, consuming 1 coke and shipping 9.

    The value of these 3 1/2 actions is 10+(9*5) = 55.
    55/3.5 = 15.7 per action.
    Subtract from this the cost of the colliery and shipping line if you dont have them, bringing us to about 13.7 per action. For anything to be better than going to the colliery it must provide a higher net gain. There are some other things that you can do once that provide a higher net gain, such as acquiring certain buildings, or building a ship, but they are limited. The colliery is the highest met gain repeatable action, and probably by a sinigificant amount. The only competition is the marketplace with the correct building symbols, which allows getting 1 coke and some versatile resources like Iron and Cows.


    February 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm

  2. Others have reported more balanced strategies and I’d love to hear from them. But my real question is, in a three-player game, if two players are hellbent on acquiring coal and coke, what opportunities are opened up for the third player?

    Larry Levy

    February 6, 2009 at 9:40 pm

  3. Well, with a third player avoiding coal, wouldn’t the coke strategy become more efficient … you get an extra round or two of cola to convert. What is this third player doing for power? Presumably grabbing big chunks of wood and then charcoalling once? The third player will get some big supply pickups (since the other two will tend to be doing colliery/marketplace/x (they need a third thing to handle timing), or is the 3rd player jumping into the marketplace as well? That’s still good, and helps disrupt timing.

    But I’d think the 3rd player would still jump on 4 coal just to meet energy needs, even if not going hellbent for it.


    February 7, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  4. Yeah, if any player doesnt fight for coal they just make it stronger for th others, since the others will get more coal from the colliery and marketplace.

    When one action is simply ‘the best’ action most of the time, not taking it doesnt mean that you get to do some other cool strategy. It just means the opponents get it more and win by more. Remmeber that the entire point of this strategy is that the more times you take coal before doing the conversion, the more you get for it and the more efficient it is (because there is no limit to the conversion).


    February 9, 2009 at 1:11 pm

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