Money can’t but you love, but it can get you a nice clay mound.
Le Havre for iOS is an adaption of a board game that has received numerous awards the past years. Created by Uwe Rosenberg it has a great pedigree. For those avid boardgame fans, or casual fans found on iOS there are only two names showing up lately: Uwe Rosenberg and Reiner Knizia.
There are no weapons, or warfare going on at all in Le Havre. The only guns seen are the biceps of the harbour worker on the title screen. For those looking for a Risk like experience where you can overpower the enemy by blunt force you are in the wrong place. Le Havre is a deep board game adaption of mercantile economics with companies competing for dominance. The winner is the one with the most cash, and assets on hand at the final round.
Gameplay is divided into rounds, and for each round you can take a number of actions. Depending on what asset is currently available, and what your opponents have done each game feels fresh. Unlike a lot of other board games I didn’t find any clear winning tactic to replay over, and over. In Le Havre you have to be focused on the current game, and try to figure out what strategies your opponents are deploying. There are some key facilities that can only used one player at a time, and you using them can easily block these. Looking at how the opponents play you can also make sure to take the assets they need. At the same time everything you do to sabotage them are actions that you fail to use to gather your own recourses.
I had never played Le Havre prior to this review, and without an incentive from the PR people I would never have approached it. As board games go these merchant style games are truly intimidating. There are so many rules to learn, and once you have learnt them there are tactics and variations depending on the current situation. A physical copy of the game arrived at my door with a cute message in a bottle. Having played the real thing a couple of times I felt ready to dive into the iOS version.
The first thing that struck me playing the iOS version of Le Havre on my New iPad is how muddy it looks. There is no retina support in the current version, and if there ever was a game needing high resolution this is it. There is so much information on the screen that having it all fuzzy makes it both distracting, and tiring to look at. The in game manuals look good though, and are fully readable. The problem lies in the actual game itself.
The presentation in Le Havre is all about trying to emulate the real game. This is both good, and bad. It is good for the game seller, as it means you won’t miss any effects if you buy a physical copy. It is however a missed opportunity in my eyes. I would like to have some sparkle, and more animations when playing the game. Sure it might be distracting, but at the same time that is what I need when waiting for someone to take his or her turn. Overall it can feel a bit boring to watch the same static board, and cards. But then I come from an effect laden computer game background, and those approaching the game from say chess might think that the presentation is just fine.
If you are new to the game there is a rather good tutorial getting you up to speed. It does help if you have played similar games before, or at least have a basic notion of how economics work. This is not the kind of game that you can gift to a friend, and expect to be able to play right away. It takes time to get into the mind-set, and if you do you will have one of the deepest most rewarding games to play infinitely. If you don’t get it, or don’t find it fun to gather recourses, build ships and win by numbers you just bought a dud.
Le Havre can be played in a multitude of ways against humans, or AI players. Playing alone against the AI is a great way to learn, but this is a game you should play against friends to fully enjoy. Pass and play with up to five people is a great way to experience Le Havre. As the iOS game keeps track of what you can, and cannot do it is easier to get novices to play it compared to the real version. If you don’t have any friends that are into a game about economics you can take your skill online using Game Center.
Le Havre is the most complete board game upon launch offering single player, pass and play and online multiplayer straight out of the box. It should have been cooked for a bit more to clean up the interface a bit, and given it retina resolution. Still it is a great adaption of the physical board game well worth diving into.
Le Havre $4.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Codito Development Inc.