The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘Le Havre

One way to win … c’td

It would be more revealing to say that Puerto Rico’s way to win (as compared to Le Havre’s) is front-loaded. What you have to do is defined in the early game, after which you are relatively free to do what you want. Whereas Le Havre’s is endgame based. You are relatively free in LH, for example, to muck around with a variety of early strategies (with some constraints) as long as you load up on the coal once that starts.

I see no reason to consider Le Havre a “multiple paths to victory” game. So (contra Larry) I see no reason why moving this critical path to the front (and the corresponding freedom to the end) magically relieves Puerto Rico of the same charge. My gut is that Through the Ages is similarly front loaded.

If you want to say that PR isn’t ‘one way to win’ because my description is too vague, that’s a different charge. (“Focus on getting early income, usually via a high value trading good” isn’t nearly as specific as “stockpile cole, convert ship”). Also, PR and TtA give you a greater percentage of “non-scripted” actions … its not a binary decision.

I feel that LH gives you relatively few unscripted actions, in comparison. Certainly the fact that after 10 games of PR I was in no way tired of it speaks that it is more free-form.

And all those games are still interesting if everyone knows the secret.

As for the other comments, I’ve no idea if Automobile really falls into this category, or is just a pure tactical optimization game.

Update: The lesson, as always, is to “smoke the crack” to get comments flowing.

Written by taogaming

September 28, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Strategy

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The way to win

In response to my comments regarding Le Havre, Larry wrote:

I can’t believe a game can reach the Top 10 on the Geek (right behind Dominion, and with a higher average rating) if there’s only one path to victory.

As others pointed out, games with a single way to win can have a large following. You could argue (with some conviction and merit) that classics like Chess and Go have only one way to win. (“Mobilize your pieces better” and “Make efficient moves.”) But in those cases, the devil is in the details, and these aren’t particularly helpful discussions (which is why I don’t think these games apply …)

For definition, my single path to victory is a simple hueristic that will defeat someone who shuns (or is unaware of) that path.

If everyone groks the strategy and plays accordingly. then tactics and second level efficiencies dominate. I’m sure Le Havre contains levels I haven’t explored (for efficiency), but I can feel like I could summarize the first level strategies … (and ignoring them will cost you the game against competent opponents). [The fact that Alex Rockwell explicitly stated said strategy cemented my conviction. If he’s recanted I’d certainly have to re-evaluate.]

In the BGG Top 100, games that have a single path that I feel confident I could (or have) stated are:

  • Puerto Rico
  • Le Havre
  • Caylus
  • St. Pete (without expansion)

Games where I suspect a strategy exists, but I’m not confident I can state it:

  • Through the Ages (I’ve followed the strategy articles, and I think they are right, but the variance in that provides a lot of tactical exceptions)
  • Brass (I don’t like Brass enough to find out, and I may have had a rule wrong) …
  • Age of Steam (several maps, anyway)
  • War of the Ring (base game)
  • Automobile
  • Ingenious seems like a candidate

I bet most of the (non-fluffy) tournament games at WBC probably have a guideline you can’t violate … that doesn’t mean they have a single way to win; that depends on the guideline.

And yes, you get lots of Coal, make a huge coke conversion and ship it. To be fair, there are details you need to consider (avoiding loans isn’t one of them). “Be efficient” and “Coal is most efficient” are your watchwords.

Written by taogaming

September 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Ramblings

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Following Up …

Regarding Qwirkle … it may have one more level of expertise than I thought. You can set up plays to block Qwirkles (“Bingos” in scrabble, earning a bonus for long plays) and tile tracking plays a role, but as it is (to my mind) a filler I doubt I’ll ever make the effort during play to do much beyond score as many points as possible.

Our second game of small world had a high variance between scores, so that’s good. I still feel that the same criticism of Vinci (you just pound on the leader) is still there in Small World (you just pound on the perceived leader). In a strong group, the difference diminishes. To whit, in this game I lost 6 provinces to Berserking Ratmen (Aaiiiee) on the final turn, and lost by … 2 points. So, kudos on proper assessment of the leader board to all involved. I like that this is smaller and faster, but think its a bit too small. I’d like a few more races/abilities. I’d like a game to have maybe 3-4 civs per player. Also, you definitely want a starting auction for player order, I think. There are some brutal combinations and many mediocre ones.

Finally played a four player Le Havre. I liked the new buildings (The arts center and storehouse) that aren’t used in the 2-3 player games. I keep seeing arguments about how there are multiple loan paths to victory, and all I can say is that I’ve yet to encounter it. Yeterdays game had me get up to 8 loans quickly, take a ninth loan reluctantly (and get mildly hosed because an entry fee kept me from getting a 10th loan when I really wanted it), and then earn ~90 Florins from two shipments (mainly Coke and steel) to pay everything off. I think I need to emphasize to new players that you want to build powerful buildings, valuable goods and ships, and feeding your people is definitely your lowest priority. I’m ready for more variability …. in addition to buildings, maybe a mini-deck of “How the world works” cards that change a rule (before setup). Off the top of my head — roll a d6:

  1. Urban Renaissance — Flip up two special buildings at the start of the game.
  2. Poor Urban Planning — Deal the buildings into three piles as normal, but only partially sort. Make sure that buildings 1-10 are first, 11-20 and next, and 21-30 are last, but do not sort inside those groups.
  3. Credit Crunch — At the start of the game, roll a d6 and set it on the loan number. Any loan taken beyond that only provides 3 Fl instead of 4 Fl.
  4. Credit Crisis — Interest payments equal 1/2 the number of loans you have, rounded up. [Perhaps this should be 1/3rd].
  5. Dark Ages — After dealing out the standard buildings, randomly remove one building from the middle stack. It just won’t be built. [Do not remove Brickworks, but anything else is fair game]
  6. Financing Burden — Any player with 2+ loans is considered to have one less “(Marketplace triggering building)” symbol. Any player with 4+ loans is considered to have one less “Fishing” symbol. Any player with 6+ loans is considered to have one less “Hammer” symbol. These effects are cumulative. [Numbers may not go negative].

You get the idea. Just tweak a base rule for some variability. Obviously hitting loans is an easy idea.

I’m also ready to tweak a few buildings:

  • Cokery — No money for conversion.
  • Tannery — Increase limit to 8.
  • Brickworks — No reprocessing brick to brick.

(The cokery is my effective fix to the colliery, as well). I think this is justified because Coke ships for huge amounts and triples your energy. Getting 20 Coal, converting to Coke, and shipping 18 of it (using 2 to pay costs) still gets you 90 Fl, down from 110 Fl. But if you’d only shipped 9 of it, you’d get 45 Fl, down from 65 Fl.

I increase the Tannery because converting Hides to Leather doesn’t give you food (like the Smokehouse or Bakery), all it does is give you a shippable good. This way you can get enough leather to support 2-3 ships at once.

Written by taogaming

May 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

Posted in Ramblings

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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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Le Havre, Agricola and the One True Way

I’ve now played Le Havre half a dozen times. (Which means that everyone who said I should get it was right).

So, expanding on my initial thoughts

I’m not positive there’s a dominant path to victory in Le Havre, but I wouldn’t need much convincing. Perhaps it would be better to say that there’s a dominant failure path — worrying about food for your people (and/or loans). Avoiding loans cost actions; and actions are worth much more. An extra endgame action is usually worth 20 florin, and holding a loan for the entire game costs less (1 florin extra payback, 15 florin interest, a few florin from loans caused by followon interest). If you only needed one loan, it would be close, but you’ll need to take several actions in the first half of the game (until you get enough ships to cover the bulk of your food costs). Your 2nd (and subsequent) loans only cost 1 florin each (if we tack the cost of interest and ‘loans to cover interest’ onto the first loan), and 1 Florin is worth a lot less than an action.

Debating an action’s value is interesting. Arguably, action values rise during the game. An early food action isn’t worth much, but an early action that gets non-consumed goods compounds into better endgame action that’s worth 20. Perhaps it only contributed to a fraction of that, but how to value it?

This is one issue with the marketplace … it provides coal that will usually be worth 1 Florin (when you convert it to Coke) and then provides enough energy to power 3 ships or can be shipped for 5 Florin … and it provides other goods. Any reasonable use of the marketplace should be valued at 6 florins for the coal alone. If you also grab your first grain (or second cattle) you can assign a few harvests of value to that.

Thematically, this doesn’t bother me. But I’d have liked it to be a bit closer. Agricola suffers from the opposite issue — each begging card is a huge penalty (3 VP when a winning score is 40-50, so call it 1/15th of a winning score). Presumably for invoking that penalty you got a great action and didn’t just mess up), but that action would have to be amazing. Whereas in Le Havre carrying 5-10 loans and paying them back if it frees up a few actions then you come out ahead. [All of this neglects the benefit of loans of providing cash flow to pay entry fees, which is often worth a few actions by themself!]

Now, the rest of each game is interesting, but wouldn’t the balance have been better off if the decision were a bit closer in each case? For Agricola, make each begging card worth -2 VP each (or even -1). For Le Havre, charge interest on each odd Loan (or say that if you take out a loan to pay interest you get no change!) Now the number of “obviously better” paths is muddled.

In each case you have a different game. Would it be better? I think so.

What got me started on this line of thought is that I went to the Courthouse building to get two loans dismissed free and clear. (A 10 Florin benefit). Normally I don’t like this action; those 10 Florin can’t compound. But here I deliberately trying to slow the game down, so I decided to flip between that and other buildings. [My opponents buildings avoided any delay I caused was wasted, so I abandoned the idea].

Le Havre and Agricola are solid games; I’m just tantalized by the costs Rosenberg assigned to starvation. Defendable on theme (Agricola moreso), but out of balance with actinos saved. It seems like a deliberate design decision, but goes against the idea of making tough choices.

I expect to get more plays out of Le Havre, so I’m not complaining.

[If I were tinkering with Le Havre, I’d also consider making the Marketplace not be building #1, but perhaps #4-6. Low enough that it comes out early, but that in some games it may be blocked for a while…Actually, I’d considered making some buildings cost X, where X just means “don’t reorder.” They sit in the place they get dealt in the column; and you reorder the numbered buildings].

Written by taogaming

February 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

Posted in Agricola, Ramblings

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Wasabi & Conspiracy & mehr

Wasabi — Clever, quite boring.

Conspiracy — I remembered playing this as a kid, but was worried it wouldn’t age well. Despite having some blind bidding (you pay money towards the agents, but can move any agent. You reveal money to control and agent and lose money to kill other agents) I rather enjoyed it. It helps quite a bit that it’s a 20 minute game in our group.

Also played was Le Havre. At five games, its got kind of that pleasant sameness going. Interesting ideas to keep me going back, but nothing worth obsessing over.

Race, like the Dude, Abides.

Written by taogaming

January 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Reviews

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Le Havre Initial Thoughts

Got my copy of Le Havre this week and got a (3 player) game in today. Overall I like it, but it’s too early to differentiate “Good” from something better. It depends on how many paths there are to scoring. I can’t argue against efficiency games. I did like how most of my actions felt like there were several reasonable choices. Perhaps I’m not evaluating correctly, but in Agricola it felt like most plays had an obvious best one (even in my first few games). So, generally upbeat.

Written by taogaming

December 13, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Le Havre Initial Thoughts

Got my copy of Le Havre this week and got a (3 player) game in today. Overall I like it, but it’s too early to differentiate “Good” from something better. It depends on how many paths there are to scoring. I can’t argue against efficiency games. I did like how most of my actions felt like there were several reasonable choices. Perhaps I’m not evaluating correctly, but in Agricola it felt like most plays had an obvious best one (even in my first few games). So, generally upbeat.

Written by taogaming

December 13, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Should I buy Le Havre?

It seems like it’s my sort of thing, and I can order from Lookout games for roughly what Funagain costs.

Thoughts?

Update: OK, I went and read the rules and fired off an email to Lookout games. Assuming they still have any left …

Written by taogaming

October 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Open Thread

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