After playing Harbour by Tasty Minstrel Games a few times with my wife, I had one thought: “How on earth does such a good game fit in such a small box?” We’re used to playing medium-weight euro games, and this one definitely scratched the itch.
The box is only slightly bigger than two decks of cards (it’s the same size as the Love Letter box if you have that game), but man does it pack a punch!
Harbour is a “stock market” worker placement game set on a fantasy shipping dock with loads of fun characters and cards. And while a game centered around a stock market may sound boring, that is exactly where this game gets all of its intense strategy from.
The game involves four good types: wood, stone, fish and livestock. Each of these is represented by a wooden block that you have on your character card. In the image above, I have: 4 livestock, 3 fish, 1 wood and 1 stone. Utilizing the position of the wooden block on the card instead of using multiple tokens is what allows this game to have such a small footprint for such an intense game.
Every turn consists of a player using a Building space to perform an action. Here I’ve played on the Inn card which allows me to remove one fish, stone and wood from my player card and exchange it for four livestock.
Certain building cards allow you to buy these cards, including one building space that is built into your player card (more on that later).
Now, when a player uses a spot, no one else can play on that spot until that player moves to a different spot. This adds an aura of intenseness to the game. “Don’t take that spot, don’t take that spot … damnit.” Sometimes the best play is to actually prevent your opponent from getting a spot.
In my opinion, this feeling is what makes Harbour great, it’s a game about reading what your opponent is going to do, and trying to beat them to it before they crush your strategy.
Now here comes the stock market part. Each good that you have is worth a certain amount of money on the market. In the picture above wood is worth $5 and stone is worth $2. In order to sell a good, you must have the corresponding number of that good. Here I’m selling 4 livestock for $4 and 3 fish for $3, thus giving me $7. Money does not carry over to your next turn, so you’ve got to spend it now!
After goods have been sold by a player, the goods move around the track. That means that the goods you just sold are now worth LESS money, while the goods you didn’t sell are worth MORE money.
So if I notice my wife is gunning to get that five wood and I don’t have much, I’m going to be sure to get a lot of livestock since it will move up a space. I cannot tell you how many times my wife has screwed me over by selling the goods I was going to sell ONE TURN before I was going to. So be sure to keep an eye on what the other players are doing!
When you sell goods, you have the opportunity to buy a building. Here my wife has bought the Tax Office and Traders Guild for a total of $21. When a player buys their fourth building the game ends and points are tallied.
Each of your buildings is worth a corresponding number of victory points which is usually somewhere around the amount you paid for them. Here my wife has 21 points already.
And if you win the game, you get the “Harbour Master” card the next game, which does nothing except let all of the other players know that you’re a winner, which is an awesome little touch in my opinion.
This game has a TON of strategy for such a small box (and small price tag). It definitely has just as much depth as many other “more complex / bigger” euro games that we own.
There are a crazy amount of different player characters that each have their own unique power and starting building, and a ton of different buildings, so your strategy may have to drastically change every game. This makes sure that the game has excellent replay value.
When I look at good games, most of them have the “easy to learn, hard to master” feel, and this game definitely hits that spot for me. Not to mention it’s easy for us to just throw it in my wife’s purse and bring it along to a friends house since its so small. At just $19.95 on Amazon, this game is a must have for your collection in my opinion.