Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Game Designer: Scott Almes
Players: 2-4 (a solo option is being worked on)
Ages: 13 and up
Playing Time: 15-30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $20
Tasty Minstrel Games has had phenomenal success with past Kickstarter’s such as Kings of Air and Steam, Dungeon Roll, Belfort and Eminent Domain which have all gone on to become well-loved and played on tabletops everywhere. Now TMG is doing it again with their latest Kickstarter project called Harbour, a light-hearted, light-t0-medium weight fantasy euro microgame that mixes resource management with a commodity market mechanic.
With less than two weeks remaining until the projects end date, Harbour has blown the doors off of its initial funding goal of $15,000, hovering at just over $112,000 pledged and closing quickly on 5,000 backers! If you’re like me and enjoy micro-games then I heartily recommend giving Harbour a look, the box may not be wide but the contents are plenty deep.
The premise of the game is that each player takes the role of an entrepreneur in a fantasy port city, collecting and exchanging goods and then hitting when the market is hot and shipping those goods off for maximum profit in order to purchase buildings that grant additional bonuses and victory points. The game enters its final round when one player purchases their fourth building and the winner is the player with the highest total of victory points. Harbour is incredibly easy to play and can be taught in less than five minutes, couple that with the amount of varied buildings and player cards planned for the final product and we have a depth of options and re-playability that will make this a permanent part of my game night bag of holding.
Setup is simple, each player randomly chooses a player board from the seven the base game has, but at least double that will ship with the final game thanks to the unlocks from the Kickstarter to this point. These player cards represent not only your character and its special abilities; it is also your starter building and warehouse where your goods will be stored prior to selling at the market. Each card has the owner’s portrait and name, the special symbol or symbols that denote the different benefits available to you, an inventory area for your goods and the special actions you may take at your building. Every player selects three goods of their choice to start with, or in the easy version everyone begins with one of each good in their warehouse to get things rolling.
The seven characters and their buildings each offer unique goods and abilities, which is really nice and pretty balanced from my experiences thus far. They feel and play quite differently allowing for divergent strategies each play which increases re-playability and keeps the game from getting stale.
Let’s take a look at a couple of the cards of Harbour so you can see these differences. We’ll start with the Investor who gains one stone and one livestock per turn and when the Investor player buys a building they gain one good of the player’s choice. The Clockwork Tradesman gains one wood and one fish per turn and when buying a building, if you sell any goods in the second slot on the market board, you gain $1.
From my plays of the game so far, the only character I wasn’t too crazy about was the Contractor as it felt a bit underpowered and its special ability indicates this. The special ability with this card is that if you have the least amount of buildings, you collect two goods of the same type. Your regular action gives you only one good of your choice while all of the other player cards give two set goods for their regular action. This is definitely a play from behind card, one that would be good for an experienced player to use when taking on a new opponent to handicap themselves a bit or for a more reactive player. I’m not knocking the inclusion of this card, it just didn’t suit my playing style but it does speak to the unique characters in this game and that’s a great thing. This variety keeps the characters and strategies fresh each time, allowing for some brain burning action without too much analysis paralysis. You will definitely need to pay attention to not only your player board but everyone else’s when formulating your strategy.
Next in your setup, you place five building cards above the market board in the center of the table, as these buildings are purchased they are replaced from a deck of 36 building cards. The game progresses with each player moving their pawns onto different building cards each turn, taking that buildings action, acquiring goods or selling them at the market. You may use any buildings even your opponent’s buildings, as long as they are not occupied by another player and you pay the owner a good of your choice to use them.
The buildings each have different special actions such as acquiring a set amount of goods, swapping goods you have for others you want and even changing the market value of the goods on the market board. The base game has 24 cards but to this point six more have been added through the Kickstarter, with more unlocks planned this number should grow quite nicely.
The market board is placed in the center of the table beneath the building cards and cubes that represent the four base commodities in the game, stone, wood, fish and livestock, are all randomly assigned values from $2 – $5. The market will change as the game moves along based on supply and demand when items are sold and shipped off or when a player uses a building cards special ability to change the market values. Just as in real markets, you have to deal with speculation and manipulation which can lead to some hair pulling and frustration when someone changes market values right before you were ready to cash in big, but don’t worry because you can repay the favor in a future turn!
During every turn of Harbour you will either gain resources or ship goods to cash in and purchase buildings. Things do go a bit slow the first couple of rounds but if you choose your starting goods based on the market board at game start, you can be purchasing buildings within the first few turns. The game plays really well and moves quickly after the first couple of rounds when good start to really flow, finishing in about 15-20 minutes for two players and about 30-45 minutes for three to four players. With the special benefits you receive from each building you buy, things speed up even more since those benefits are cumulative.
There are of four special symbols that each building will have, some have more than one and here’s the breakdown.
Anchors – Used to gain extra benefit from some buildings. For example you may receive one of a certain good based on how many anchors you have, which could be one to three or more goods acquired at once.
Coins – Coins reduce the cost of a building by $1, so getting a couple of these right away will allow you to race for that fourth building quickly.
Top Hats – Allow you to use a building owned by another player without having to pay them any goods to do so.
Warehouse – For each warehouse symbol you own, you keep one good when shipping it. This can be huge used in conjunction with the coin symbols because you can buy very cheap and keep some of the goods you sell!
One last mention is the art; it is fantastic in the preliminary version and can only get better in the final product! It captures the fantasy flavor of the world of Harbour with a distinct look that is both fun and cute, making this a very family friendly game.
For Harbour’s $20 Kickstarter pledge, you’re going to get a lot of game in this little box since the project keeps adding more and more player cards and buildings. Don’t be fooled by the size of the box because it’s not the size of the box that makes the game, it’s the size of the game in the box and in that regard and Harbour is a big box of fun!
If you like light to medium weight euro cube pushers that allow you to play the market, undercut and outwit your opponents without needing to sit for a couple of hours at the table, I heartily recommend heading over to Kickstarter and backing this project right now as I did. An added benefit is talk of a solo version in development, something I always love to see added as I personally love solo games so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will become a reality. Tasty Minstrel Games looks to have another winner on their hands with Harbour, don’t miss out on the Kickstarter!
Company Website: http://playtmg.com/
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tastyminstrelgames
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/tastyminstrel
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.