Sunday, May 25, 2014

A review of Harbour (Currently a Pre-Kickstarter by Tasty Minstrel Games)

I received a playtesters copy of Harbour on Friday night. My wife and I already had a date planned, but I was able to convince her to try it out after we were done having sushi.

The rule book was not entirely complete, but was pretty good (I will sum up our questions later in the post). Some of the components did not look exactly as they did in the rule book (an accompanying letter explained most of the discrepancies, but the Market Board was set up slightly different than the rule book indicated that it would be).

Alison wants it noted that she found the rule-book by itself to be confusing. It explains everything on the cards, but because of the lack of context it is a bit overwhelming. We did not actually realize that we each started with a symbol (a coin for me and a top hat for Alison) until after the first game was over.

Andrea's favorite card was the Ranch
I expect the rulebook the be cleaned up a lot before the final release of the game (Eminent Domain's rulebook was pretty good), but right now it still needs some work.

The components were obviously not the final version, but I was pleased to find that they were still very high quality. The cards were perfect for shuffling. They seemed well coated, and made of decent card stock.

The artwork was excellent. The images were very thematic and also very funny. The iconography was clear and easy to understand. I liked that any complex ideas were explained in both icons as well as text. Some of the artwork was not yet entirely complete, but as long as they have the same artist complete it I have no worries about the game's visual appearance.

My personal favorite card in terms of artwork was the Bait Shop. Alison liked the Lumber Yard best, but we both also liked the Fish Market and the Architectural Society.

Game Play:
In terms of game play, the game seems (after only two plays) to be fairly well balanced. I will post another review after I have played it with more players and more times. There were cards that were more powerful than others, but they cost more to buy, so the player that was able to secure them for personal use was able to benefit only after having payed a reasonable cost.

The game setup is simple and takes almost no time. Some games take so long to set up that it makes you want to play them less, and this is not one of those.

Setting up involves:
Taking a character mat, a pawn, and a set of tokens, shuffling a deck and dealing out five cards to a communal pile, and placing four tokens on another mat.

Each turn involves just one action: moving your pawn to a open card and resolving its effects.

Common effects include modifying your amount of resources (more on that later), buying buildings, affecting the demand for the different resources in the market, and finally taking resources from other players (it seems that if you do this you always target every opponent and they decide what resource you get, so the attacks don't seem too personal).

During the game you will keep track of four types of resources: Stone, Lumber, Fish, and Meat. They all have a value of $1 each (always), but at different times there will be a different demands for each of them, so you end up only able to sell a certain amount of your goods. The demand can be as low as 2 and as high as 5. This means that unless you have the right amount of the right goods you are not able to buy the buildings that you want to.

Buying Buildings:
Here is how the game ended on the second game
The goal of the game is to buy the most valuable buildings, and the game ends when any player has bought four buildings. The max number of buildings that could theoretically be bought by any player are 7 (by using a library in conjunction with a clocktower) thought if this is possible in actuality I am not entirely sure.

We did end a game with me having 5 buildings, so the theory behind the multiple buy in the last turn is sound.

Both games that were played were fairly close.

It seems like the game provides a satisfying mix of strategy and randomness. I personally prefer games that are heavy on strategy and light on randomness, and Alison likes games that are more evenly mixed. Both of us enjoyed the game. The elements of randomness in this game only include which buildings are dealt out, and at what point in time in the game they are dealt out.

There is a bit of a random feel to the market, but it follows perfectly understandable rules, and it is possible to always know what state it will be in after any interaction given that you know what the player is going to be doing during that interaction.

Now, our questions about the rules:
Privateer Ship (& Bank): Can you move a marker that is already at the highest value (or lowest) (effectively moving nothing) just to get the other effect of the card?

Cartographers: Can you draw 5 cards and then buy a card that was already in play?

Clock Tower: if you move to a building owned by another player do you pay them twice?

Final Thoughts:
All in all it was a fun game, and I intend to play it many more times. I will bring my playtester's copy to work on Tuesday (Monday is Memorial Day) and play it with four players and see what my coworkers have to say.

Post Review:
Other gaming this week included some games of Love Letter, and a few games of Witch Hunt. The rules have been updated with the changes that we have made.

Mainly the recent changes are clarifications, however we have been vacillating between having -2 and +2 testimony cards.