Gamers: Ken (wolfx), Allen (blownfreaks), Yee Ling (crabzai) and Jeff Au (jack208)
Games: Le Havre, DieMacher
Location: Old Town Kopitiam Cheras Google Map
Date/Time: 30 January 2009 (Fri) 8.00 PM – 2.00 AM
Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ Old Town Kopitiam Cheras 30/1/2009
This is the Chinese New Year (CNY) week and today was the 5th day of the Chinese Lunar Year. Not many gamers are around and with ayheng on working Saturdays and most regulars either still at their hometown or busy visiting relatives, it was left to a few of us to do some CNY gaming.
wolfx mentioned he’s fresh from a good non-working break and is ready for his PHD (permanent head damage) as he suggested we do two pretty heavy game back-to-back in the same evening – Le Havre and Die Macher!
blownfreaks was obviously game for it as I knew he has been wanting to learn the Die Macher game. So I brought Le Havre while blownfreaks brought his still unpunched Die Macher.
Since all four already knew how to play this latest gem from Uwe (of Agricola fame), we quickly set up the board + cards and got started with the Le Havre game.
The two wharves are coming out very late in this game (see order of appearance for standard buildings above) which meant that ships won’t be built so early (especially the iron ships) and players need to find other source for food beside ships.
This is also one of the features I like about this game; while the standard buildings always consist of the same 30 buildings, their order of appearance will to a certain extent influence your strategy. If you are thinking of using a shipping line strategy in this game, you better reconsider (with the late appearance of wharves). 😛
As an example, in this session the Bakerhouse – which converts grain to bread (provides 2 food) and money – was built by the town fairly early in the game. This meant going the grain/bread approach to get food and money is very viable.
Joinery (selling food for money) was also built early so money won’t be a problem in this game. I noticed the pace of building seemed to be slower in this game with the usual builders like crabzai and blownfreaks focusing on resources instead.
The 2nd wharf was actually built by the town – the first one was built by me – and from the picture above, the town has built about 6 standard buildings….
However this game really came ALIVE when blownfreaks bought one of the special building – Picket Line! The picket line essentially forces the other player to take tokens from the Offer space whenever the active player has activated this card. So you can’t like say go pick another building action on your turn. Evil!
The screwage factor of the Picket Line card is that it forces the other players to choose the “Take Resource” action – and can’t choose any other action – once the active player chose Picket Line as his action (and he gets first dip on the resource piles). Active player needs to pay its owner 1 franc to use the building but if chosen with right timing can hurt the other player.
blownfreaks was first to jump to the conclusion that the Picket Line is a very powerful card if used in conjunction with the Black Market especially if executed with the right timing.
The Black Market building allows the active player to take 2 resources where their pile is empty, and with the right timing can yield you up to 8 resources in that turn since all the other players now need to take from the offer spaces!
wolfx had thought the Picket Line can only be used once – which would made it less powerful but it’s still a painful one-round screwage card – but blownfreaks insisted the Picket Line can be used multiple times until the last round; which he duly did! You can almost hear the “groans” every time Picket Line was chosen.
(above) I switched from bread (grain) to processed meat (cattle) as my primary food source as with the constant use of the Picket Line, food level was getting very low and most of us were already up to 3-5 loans. I was also not able to get enough coal for use as energy source and instead have to go with charcoal.
Everyone seemed to agree we were huffing and puffing a bit more than usual for food in this session (compared to our past sessions). Not having sufficient food to feed your workers in Le Havre is not as unforgiving as Agricola, but still you need to ensure you got a fairly good food supply in-place before you can focus your time on other activities which gain VPs.
Even as we entered into the end-game, most of the standard buildings were built by the town (see above) instead of being built by players. For eg, I’d only built 8 buildings (see below) as the game came to a conclusion.
And all these partly due to the multiple use of the Picket Line which caused havoc to our game plan, forcing us to take resource offers when there were other better action options etc. 😛
In hindsight this game was skewed due to the (illegal) multiple use of the Picket Line. However I’ve also commented during the game that i) the Picket Line is actually available for all to use, and ii) it’s not really as powerful as it seems. With multiple usage allowed, it’s obviously a very strong card for its owner to play – as the other players have to pay 1 franc to use it – but with single use, it’s a good card but doesn’t unbalance the game.
blownfreaks didn’t win the game albeit abusing the Picket Line as often as he wanted so the card – while painful (hehe) to everyone – is definitely not unbalancing the game. I suspect the late arrival of the two wharves also contributed to this strange (and low-scoring) session where everything didn’t seem to flow as smoothly for everyone as it used to be.
Can’t wait to play Le Havre again!
wolfx has been wanting to learn DieMacher – perhaps he harbors hope of a successful switch to a political career – and since blownfreaks was always keen to get his copy of Die Macher to the table, this was to be our 2nd game of the evening.
As we did not intend to do R2 and it’s getting late into the evening, we decided to do a 4-round elections as a learning game for everyone. The full game lasts 7 rounds where players contest for one state in each round.
Obviously resources – contributions ($$), shadow cabinets, money – would be less tight in a 4-round game. Furthermore this game is best when there are 5-players and we were only four. But as a learning game, a 4- (or 5) round election is always good.
I will not delve into the game rules here but briefly the game is about fighting for the control of each state elections. As can be seen in the above round-table, each quarter pie area represented one state where each party would send it’s delegates to hold meetings, convert them into votes which would win them seats in the Parliament.
In-between all these, the party need to communicate it’s party agendas to the voters. Political agendas are also set at state- and national-level. Matching your party’s political agendas with the state agendas would obviously gain you more votes in that state election.. but having your party’s agendas aligned with the national agenda gains you the crucial VPs to win the game.
It’s all a matter of balancing your priorities as you trudged along from one state to the other canvassing support for your party and its delegates, yet at the same time keeping a heads-up on the national agendas that seem to keep changing.
And then there’s the matter of funding. Ahem. Getting a political machinery moving costs lots of money. Yes I’m sure your party has various fund-raising activities, and your membership base would also contribute a certain amount of funds for your campaign.
But to have control of the media.. sorry I mean to be able to “influence” the media (sic), to be able to get some of the ministries to pass some of your agendas – all these require much more money than you could hope to raise thru normal fund-raising activities.
So where do we go from here? Aha.. there are contribution cards you can play after each round which would give you anything from $5k to $50k (note: $50k is considered a substantial amount of money in this game).
However – yes it comes with a price – if you choose to accept these “contributions”, you might have people deserting your party as they perceived it to be less “honest” about the questionable contributions. If you refuse the contributions, you hope that sending out a “Look, my party has integrity” message would increase your membership base and win your more votes.
wolfx, with his innocent-looking face and claiming to be absolutely honest decided to do the latter ie. refused a $50k top-drawer bribe contributions in favor of integrity!
Unfortunately no one took his virtue on board, and he didn’t get the return in membership nor votes he had expected (see below). He then realized what a piss-poor returns he got for refusing the contributions! It finally dawned on him that everyone has a “price” and you need to dance with the devil if you are to succeed in politics. 😛
You get membership increase when you refused a contributions. Each member is worth $1k per members payout round (alternating) so you need to balance that recurring membership revenue against immediate $$ from the contributions. Accepting the contributions would result in a decrease in your membership base.
This game IMHO is the only game that closely mirrors the challenges and decisions you’ll face if running a political party fighting an election campaigns for state seats. You’ll find you have so many agendas and priorities to juggle, and while you want to remain on principle, you also need to be aware of when to bend where the wind blows.
Really really great game even though it’s more than 20 yrs old. Kudos to Valley Games for reprinting this game – which has been OOP (out-of-print) – for some time. It’s still best played with 5 players and over the full 7 rounds. Learning the game is not difficult even though it does seem to have a daunting rule book (get someone to teach you, it’s easier).
Let’s hope we can do a 5-player full game some time soon.
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