Review: Harbour

Harbour review

So, you want to make it big? Everyone knows that there’s more money in distribution than there is in retail so why not go that route?  What about becoming the master of all imports and exports?

Harbour is a quick Worker Placement game from TMG. It’s got an interesting little economics mechanic that does a pretty good job of replicating supply and demand and helps to keep the game interesting.

I need to apologise for the poor quality of the pics. I know my pics are, usually, not great but these are really poor. I’m away on business. Also I’ve just come off of the wine route so my spelling and grammar is going to be extra special. Although I’ll try my best to be otherwise.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 1-4 players
  • Ages 8+
  • 60min

The box is small; it will almost fit in my pocket. It is also packed full of good stuff. There’s no read board per say, it’s got a deck of cards that you will use to make the locations for your meeple to travel to. There are 14 different player cards each with unique player powers. 1 Card for a robot/automata player for solo games.

Harbour review
The small box is packed to the brim.

4 Meeples; 1 per player. 5 Sets of goods markers. The game uses an interesting method of goods management to keep it’s footprint small. Most games of this type have loads of tokens representing goods and you just grab as many as you have in stock. Harbour has a warehouse track on the bottom of the player card. The track is numbered 1-6 you simply place the marker on the number that matches your stock level and you’re done. There are also stickers to help identify the goods; if you’re colour blind this is great. However it would help if there were stickers for the meeples too.

The is a rules leaflet, it’s not difficult to read and learn. Finally there’s a mini expansion for Belfort, another TMG game. I don’t know if they include expansions for all of their other games in each of their games but that’s some clever marketing.

Sleeves

These are what I used.

mdg-penny-card-sleeves_grande

Theme

Harbour has the players in the role of suppliers of various goods needed in a fantasy kingdom. They make their way around the Harbour to acquire goods which they ship off to who knows where to be sold to the public. In return they get paid. With all of this money they can purchase various buildings in the Harbour. Each building will grant Victory points and the person who get the most will be given the key to the Harbour (literally, there’s a card with the key on it).

TMG makes great looking games, IMO. They have this cartoony art style and they lace their games with humour. All of their cards and boards have some text or art that will make most crack a smile. Harbour is no different.

Harbour review
Each character is different and even has a funny little story on them.

Gameplay

Setup is simple. Shuffle the player cards and give each player 1 of them or let them chose, any method you wish really as long as everyone has 1 of them. Everyone gets a meeple and a set of goods counters. Then find the market card, and randomly add a set of goods markers to it. Each player will start the game with any combination of 3 goods that they wish. I usually setup the market after selecting starting goods, just to keep everyone on their toes.

From the deck of buildings flip over a number of buildings equal to the number of players + 3 and you are good to go.

On your turn you will must move your meeple to an empty building. This could be one of the open revealed buildings or the building on your player board. You can also move to building that’s owned by other players, it can be their board or a building that they have purchased. You do have to pay them for the privileged though, any 1 of your goods of your choice.

Harbour review
The $ price in the top right is the cost of the building. the star on the top left is the VP value.

Each building is unique and each building can only cater to 1 player at a time, there are a few special circumstances which will have more than 1 player use the same building but those are few and far between.

The actions on the building will vary between acquiring and trading goods to manipulating the market and buying buildings. Buying buildings is the most interesting part of the game.

The market has the 4 different types of good ranked 2-5. When you purchase a building you need to decide which goods you will be shipping from your stores. You need to have at least the same number of that goods as it’s rank however you ship all of the good of that type if you have more. You also ship all of the goods that you want to ship for that purchase at the same time.

Harbour review
The goods start out in the top row of the market.

So if you need to ship livestock  and wood, you will slide the markers for the livestock and wood on the market to the ships, and gain the $ value indicated on those ships. You can then take any of the buildings in the play area for that amount of money or less. You don’t get change and you don’t get to keep money, spend it or lose it.

Then the market shifts. Remember supply and demand? The goods that you supplied to the market are now in stock so they are worth less, the goods that you chose not to ship will have less stock available so they will be worth more. Slide all the goods on the market in the direction of the arrows to see the new values of the goods.

Harbour review
The goods that you want to ship are moved down to the ships. The everything follows the arrows to restock the top row.

Every building in the game has 1 or more icons on it. These will grant you bonuses in the game. Anchors help you with trading. The more you have the greater the amount of good you will receive from certain cards. Warehouses will allow you to save 1 good each time you ship goods. Coins reduce the purchase price of buildings and top hats allow you to use other players buildings without paying them to do so!

When any player has purchased his 4th building, the game goes into a final round where the other players will get 1 round each. At the end of this round everyone will totally the Victory points provided by their buildings and a secret bonus VP card. The person with the most is the winner.

Conclusion

It’s a small box and it has a small footprint. A 2 player game will easily fit on a normal CCG player mat. There’s a load of variety in a very small box, no 2 games will be the same. It’s very fast to setup and it’s quick to play too. For me it’s worth buying. It’s not great but it’s good, it ticks all of the right boxes and it’s fairly cheap.

The icons on the cards make it fairly easy to teach to anyone; however the more complex cards have explanations written on them.

Harbour review
The Mayor is ready to start.

I love the market. Most worker placement games have the strategies revolve around the actions available and purely around which are the best ones to takeat different times. The market adds in a means to directly influence other player’s games. When you manipulate the market you will directly impact the value of the goods in other player’s stores.

How does it play solo?

Solo play is done by means of a robot/automata player. Setup the game for a normal 2 player game. Then the robot player has a set of instructions that it needs to follow. It moves across the available buildings from left to right and tries to perform each action. If it can’t or if it is one of the more complex buildings the robot will gain 1 of each resource. This is actually quite a big deal especially since you normally only gain 1-2 resources at a time. Once it has traversed the available buildings it will return to its home building and attempt to purchase a building.

It acts as a game clock. You need to keep 1 step ahead of it and have to plan particularly well to win consistently. It can prove to be quite a challenge and will force you to think of strategies that you have not tried before. However it is possible to have a fairly easy win. The game isn’t particularly difficult. 

Harbour review
The robot…

Can I play this at a braai?

Most Worker Placement games will leave you with nothing to do when it’s not your turn so you can go and attend to things that require your attention. However Harbour plays quite quickly so while I think it can be done, you run the risk of having the other players feel like the game is dragging on a bit too long.

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