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Le Havre: The Inland Port (Saturday Review)
Posted On 20 October 2018
Release Date: 2012
Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Length: 30 minutes
Artist: Klemens Franz
Publisher: Lookout Games
Complexity: 2.5 / 5
Digidiced and Asmodee Digital have been very kind to offer me the opportunity to review a number of their digital conversions. I decided to start with Lookout Spiele‘s award winning game Le Havre: The InlandPort which is one of the many popular games by designer Uwe Rosenberg. The game is set in the 18th century in the maritime city of Le Havre in the Normandy region of France. Players are harbour masters who try to build the best port by constructing great buildings. It is a two player only resource management game with a large action selection element – but with a twist.
So let me start with the twist, which I think creates a great dynamic and is a mechanism that really defines this game. When you buy buildings during the game, they are placed on a turn track, and at the end of each turn, all buildings move one space along the track. Buildings cannot be used until they have moved from the first to the second slot. The further buildings move along the track, the more powerful they become, but if they reach the end, they are sold, which is bad, because every building under your control gives you victory points at the end of the game.
So your aim is to allow the buildings to move along the track, so they you give you the most benefit, but unfortunately you have to use buildings to get the resources you need to buy more buildings. Using a building means that it goes back to the beginning of the track, giving it a new lease of life, but reducing its benefit.
The cycle of using buildings to buy new ones continues until you eventually end up with more buildings than you can use, meaning that some will reach the end of the track and get sold. Mind you, money is also worth victory points at the end, so even if you have to sell a building, you only lose half of the building’s point value. In fact, sometimes it is beneficial to voluntarily sell a building to get some more money that you can reinvest.
The fight between allowing buildings to progress, but needing to use them for resources, creates a great puzzle. You want to ensure that buildings are put into play and used in an efficient order, so that you have the right resources ready at the right time and avoid losing buildings.
The complexity of the game doesn’t end through though. There is another interesting mechanism that forces you to think about what you do when. Gaining and spending resources isn’t a simple matter of using tokens from a central supply. Instead your resources are tracked with counters on what I can only describe as a table with rows and columns. So when you gain or spend resources, you move the relevant counter along the table. Moving left or right decreases or increases the resource by one, which makes sense.
However, the twist is that moving up or down a table increases or decreases the resource amount by three – and going diagonally either down and left, or up and right, changes it by four. That means sometimes you have to spend more resources than you want, because you never get any change, but that is often still better than not being able to buy at all. On top of that, when using a building, you can only move the resource counters in a specific direction, as indicated on the building itself. That would be fine if the table was endless, but it is possible for your resource counter to get to an edge of the table, and then it can’t move any further, meaning you don’t gain as many resources as the building would have otherwise allows.
Confused? Well, don’t worry. Once you start playing, it becomes really clear very quickly. In fact, the app has a great tutorial that walks you through every step. There is no need to read the manual, and this is where digital games have the advantage. You can learn the game simply by following the app, and you immediately start playing the game. In fact, by the end of the tutorial you can carry on playing the game against that you started during practice.
Of course, this being a digital app and a two player only game means you get the choice of playing against computer opponents of varying difficulty. I found it very easy to win against Maurice, who is the very easy level of the app, in my very first full game, but you can choose from harder opponents if you want.
The app also allows you to play against other human players via the internet. You can choose between ranked or casual games, and as far as I know, you can play against players on different platforms, even on Steam for example.
I must say, the combination of the tutorial in the app by Digidicedand the great gameplay of this Uwe Rosenberg game are a real plus. I am glad Lookout Spiele have chosen to bring the game to digital platforms. It opens up the opportunity to play this amazing game solo against the AI, with other players around the world, or with friends – and you can learn it without having to pour over the rule book.
I can highly recommend Le Havre: The InlandPort to people who want to play a two player game that is quite quick to play, but has a good amount of strategy and a lot of great puzzling. It is a game that will keep you entertained for a very long time.
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