Monday, February 28, 2011

Le Havre

LE HAVRE  by Lookout Games
Published in 2008

Le Havre tells a story about the developement and growth of the French city of Le Havre

Each player assumes a role of a businessman, trying to get rich by managing the flow of goods from the harbour of Le Havre, and turning them into cash and property. Buildings and ships are built or bought, workers must be fed or paid, and the best business strategies ensure the best profits.

Le Havre is one of the few really good economy games, that actually offer an enjoyable solo experience. Like all money-making games, Le Havre is much better with more than one player... but the interesting, yet simple mechanics can be turned into a very nice solo game as well.

The board is cramped with markers, so setting the game up will take some time. Of course, I could just keep the markers in a big bowl, or something, but I rather put them to their designated spaces. Everything looks nicer that way!

Most of the cards represent the buildings, that may be bought or built. The building proposals are in three stacks, and only the top buildings may be aquired. This means that the more advanced buildings may not be aquired at the early stages of the game.

Each game also has a small number of special buildings, which are randomly drawn.

The other cards keep track of the game rounds. When a round ends, each player must pay an increasing number of food for his workers. This is the only thing that every player MUST take care of while playing the game - every other course of action is completely optional.
After the round has ended, the round card becomes a ship card, which may then be built or bought.


At the beginning, I am going to need some building materials, so I grab wood and clay from the offerings.

I visit the Building Firm to build a Fishery with some wood and clay.
This will help me with my food production throughout the whole game.

I also build a Marketplace. This basic building provides me with a small amount of any basic goods I want. The more 'craftsman's' buildings I have, the more goods I can get from the Marketplace.

I visit the Marketplace to pick up some iron, wood and coal. Also, I get a tip about the special building that the town will contstruct soon...

The First round ends.
I pay my employees with some fish. The Town constructs a Kiln, an extremely useful building that allows me to make bricks out of clay, with a very good efficiency.

I aquire three new buildings:

I use the Construction Company to build a Bakehouse and a Charcoal Kiln.

Then I buy a Clay Mound. This is a good investment, as the Clay Mound costs very little money, but grants me an endless supply of clay.

I take a large amount of wood from the offering. Then I use some of the wood, as well as clay to build a Smokehouse. This greatly improves my food production, as now I can smoke the fish that my Fishery produces, increasing its food value.
And just in time for the end of the second round, I smoke large quantities of fish, producing ample amounts of food for my workers.

The Town constructs an Abattoir - a slaughterhouse. Slaughtering cattle would be the most efficient way to produce food, but cattle is not that easy to come by.

I buy the Kiln, that was mentioned before.

After this, I use it to turn clay into bricks. Some wood is burned to produce the necessary amount of energy for this.

I visit the Marketplace again; this time I can pick up much more goods than before, as I own 5 Craftsman's buildings.

I empty the iron offer - now I could start building some more advanced buildings.. But first I need to take care of the food for this round, so I use my Fishery and my Smokehouse to produce smoked fish. Some money is also gained in process.

I build a Wharf. Now I would do good to build some ships to assist me in my continuously rising demand for food. The main function of ships is that they bring free food after every round.

A round ends, and I have to use all my fish to pay the food cost.

The Town builds a Diner, which is a good place to make some money, as is buys wood, bread and smoked fish with a high price.

I build an Iron Ship. For this, I had to modernise my Wharf by adding some bricks to it.

Ships produce food, and they can also ship goods overseas for a good profit.

I burn some coal to operate my bakehouse; a load of bread is baked. Also, the annual fishing & smoking takes place, to ensure that I have enough food.

I just got rich!
Lots of wood, bread and smoked fish were sold to the Diner. This raises my balance so high that I could buy just about any building I want to.

The rest of the fish goes for my employees.

I go ahead I buy The Abattoir, as well as a Colliery. Some more bricks are made at the Kiln.

With the help of the Construction Company, two new buildings are built: A Tannery and a Shipping Line. Tannery converts hides into leather, while Shipping Line manages the trade overseas.

A big herd of cattle is processed in the Abattoir. The resulting meat is enough to feed my people when the round ends.

I have the Ironworks constructed.
Another round ends, and the town constructs an Iron Mine with a coal seam. I won't need it though, as I have my own Ironworks and a Colliery.

I own pretty many buildings already!

I build a Steel Mill. This very valuable building would allow me to create steel, which is turn could be used to build the best of the ships. But a slight miscalculation is made as I find myself void of any coal for energy...
Without energy, I cannot make steel, construct ships, or even smoke fish.

And as of now, I don't have enough food.
I have to hoard massive amounts of normal, unsmoked fish and offer that for the workers.

The round ends and the town builds the last building; a Cokery. The last round begins.

I have some coal mined from my Colliery, and then take it to the Cokery to turn it into coke. Coke provides a superior amount of energy - even enough to make steel.

The Steel Production has begun.

I while later, the steel is fashioned into a sturdy steel ship.

I end up using the town's Iron Mine after all, as I needed both iron and coal - and fast, since the last round is ending soon.
And just before the round ends, I construct another steel ship.

Now there is only one more move left to make. I use it to take all the money from the offering space. This money had been piling up during the course of the game.

Game Over! Only a small amount of goods are left in my possession, which is a good thing, since the goods are worth nothing when the game ends.

Now it's time to count the scores...

Money: 28    Property: 176    Total: 204


A rather successful game. Not my best score though, which is 214 in a solo game. The special buildings in this game were good, and they were playing a big part in my success. Escpecially the Kiln: Usually I have always been low on bricks, but this time the Kiln provided me quite enough of them. The Diner could have been used more, but I didn't seem to find time for this.

The feel of the game is great! There are quite a few ways to make money in this game, and managing the resources is so much fun.
In solo game, there is usually no trouble at all to meet the food requirements, but still it's interesting to find a way to produce the food. (even if the Fishery & Smokehouse- combo seems the easiest way)

The appearance of the game is cartoonish, but this is all right. Le Havre is a light game with easy-going attitude - photorealistic images would not have been necessary.

RATING: 10 /10


Le Havre is the best economic board game I have ever played. Now I haven't played that many economic games, but then, I'm not that big of a fan of them. However, this game is great, and I enjoy playing it alone, as well as with somebody.

The solo game has some downsides though: First of all, many of the buildings are not used in the solo game. In fact, only the very basic ones are... All the "intresting" buildings are not.
The other thing is, that no matter how good the game is, playing just for scores is not that rewarding. In solo Le Havre, there is no victory conditions and no other goals than to make more money than you have made in your previous games.

A good thing about the solo game is its duration; "only" an hour. Multiplayer Le Havre is likely to get really long, even up to three hours.
But even with the negative things mentioned, Le Havre is one of the very few economic board games, that are fun to play alone.


  1. My best solo score is a little over 290, far from the best possible but I'm still working on my strategy.

    I think one thing that's key to high solo scores is abusing the Marketplace -- it gives you potentially a lot of things with each use, some of which, like Iron, are hard to come by in quantity in the early game. The drawback is that these things are spread out over many categories (especially if you buy one or more of the construction buildings), but during a full 50-turn solo game you're going to need most of those things anyway, so it actually ends up being a big time savings to get some of them over repeated Marketplace trips, plus you get to see what's coming up in the Town buildings and even influence it slightly.

    I tend to try to build the two wooden and two iron boats as early as I can, since the total food each ends up being worth increases the earlier in the game you build them, plus they can be used later on with the Shipping Line, which in a good game can be worth 80 or more francs in profit by itself. The problem there is getting that first Brick with which to modernize the Wharf. I find that games with the Town Center (the promoted-item version of the Marketplace) tend to greatly favor shipping, since you can get both that first Brick and even early Coke for mass shipping through there.

    I try to buy the Construction Firm as soon as I can and use it for most, if not all, of my b built buildings, two at a time, to conserve turns. Owning it is another house (so the Marketplace and Town Center are more effective), and it saves me the non-inconsiderable food for its use.

    I try to get an early Grain (often from the Marketplace) so it can build throughout the game; it's frequent that there's a turn or two in the first round in which nothing seems to be worth the turn spent on it while you're waiting for offer spaces to pile up enough to build two things in one Construction Firm use, and a Grain gained in the first round will eventually become a total of six extra by the end, a good amount for turning into bread for profit, shipping and making up for food shortfalls. It's best throughout the game to prioritize building materials, I think, from the Marketplace, but you can also build yourself a breeding pair of Cattle that way. (BTW, I almost always use the Fish offer space for that first round's food requiremment. The best-case scenario is when you can take the five Fish and smoke it both before the end of the round, but that's not always possible.)

  2. Thanks for sharing :)
    Your strategies seem quite efficient already!
    Sure enough, this game has a nice strategic value even in solo mode... A sign of an ingenious game.

  3. Impressive web site, Distinguished feedback that I can tackle. Im moving forward and may apply to my current job as a pet sitter, which is very enjoyable, but I need to additional expand. Regards.
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    1. Thanks for your kind words! And good luck :)