If you’ve read the site regularly or listened to the show, you’ll probably know that Agricola is one of my all time favourites. I’ll play it anywhere, with anyone, anytime; seriously, if you fancy a game on boiteajeux.com, let me know – I’m LittleMetalDog over there. I honestly reckon that designer Uwe Rosenberg is some kind of savant genius when it comes to design. Just look at his track record. Bohnanza, Ora et Labora, All Creatures Big and Small… the guy knows what he’s doing.
Of course, one of his most famous games is Le Havre. In all honestly, I’ve tried my very best but I can’t get my head around it. I can see that it’s a great game and I understand why it’s popular, but frankly it leaves me a bit cold. Hell, even the tutorial on the iOS version of the game confuses the bejesus out of me and I’m really not that dumb. Honest. Thankfully, there’s now a stripped down two-player version of the game that (a) I actually understand and (b) is pretty damn good.
Le Havre: The Inland Port focuses on building the perfect engine in a race to score the most points after twelve rounds of play. Starting off with a handful of resources and a few Francs to your name, you’ll need to invest in buying buildings, each of which will boost what’s available to you to use in later rounds and contribute to your final score. As the game progresses the buildings on offer get more expensive but also more powerful and valuable. It’s a lot more straightforward than its big brother.
You also have two boards – one that keeps track of the amount of resources you have called the Warehouse, and one that you stash your purchased buildings on. Split into six sections, there’s also a rotating arm that’s numbered at its centre. When you pick up a new building, it’s placed into the sector marked with a zero; once a turn has been completed, the arm moves around. The numbers around the centre of the arm signify the amount of times a building in that space can be used but be sure to not leave it too long…
You see, each time the arm moves, the number increases; you’ll get two, three, four or four actions and an extra Franc. Normally this means that you get to move the cube representing a resource type on your board that amount of spaces, though you’ve got to be careful as the area you’re moving around in is somewhat limited and in a game where exact management is everything, waste cannot be tolerated. This may be a simplified(ish) version of Le Havre but it’s still quite a hardcore experience.
Also pretty hardcore: the final sector. Should you allow any of your buildings to slip into that area you’ll have to sell it for half the price. You will feel like an ass, even though you could potentially pick it up again. Again, it feels like a spectacular waste when you should be attempting to control everything as best you can. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.
Anyway, at the beginning of each round, a new selection of buildings are added to the stack of what’s available to buy. You’re either going to buy one of these brand new options (paying the cost in coins or resources) or use something you’ve already purchased – either way, it’s immediately moved to the zero section of the wheel. You also have the option of using any buildings your opponent has bought; all you have to do is hand over one Franc and the ability is yours. This can’t be refused and is a perfectly viable option if they’ve got what you need – after all, there’s no way you’re going to get absolutely everything you require to win the game.
As the game goes on you’ll get more to do, allowing you to maximise your resources and get the biggest and best buildings. Some offer no resources at all but can bring in some massive points, so be sure to keep an eye out on what’s due to appear in upcoming rounds on the handy chart that’s included in the box. The moment the twelfth round is done, you total up the value of everything you’ve bought, add in the Francs you have left over and whoever has the highest amount is declared victorious.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that The Inland Port isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s far from the prettiest game in the world (‘functional’ is probably the best description for how it looks) and is dry as all get out, but if you’ve got the kind of gaming brain that enjoys developing a perfect routine you’ll get a lot out of this one. It’s all about getting the perfect amount of resources for what you need, maximising your play and – when necessary – screwing over your opponent by using what they’ve got available. Personally, I have to be in the right frame of mind for it but should the mood take me (and there’s a suitable opponent at hand) this is well worth a play. Rather than spending two hours attempting to decipher Le Havre and all its machinations, thirty minutes with The Inland Port is a comparative delight. Give it a shot!
Le Havre: The Inland Port was released by Lookout Games and Z-Man Games in 2012. Designed by Uwe Rosenberg , it caters for two players only with games taking about thirty to forty minutes. Pick up a copy for yourself by visiting Gameslore – you’ll be able to get one for £20.49.