Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The sushi shop of horrors:- Harbour

Game Title: Harbour

Designer: Scott Almes

Manufacturer: Tasty Minstrel Games

Year: 2015

There's nothing quite like the harbour here, the sights, the sounds... and the smells. Meat so fresh it's still walking around and pooping everywhere. And the fish, well fresh wasn't the word. Rotten was a good word, foul would be another strong contender, 'writhing with maggots' wasn't bad if you could stretch to three. At these stalls you could find everything under the sun, even if much of it had been in the sun longer than you might like. These were fertile grounds for someone such as me, someone who knew the secrets to salting meat, and could make favourable 'trades' with honest merchants who didn't quite keep enough of an eye on their stock. A smart investment here and there and before you know it I'll run this town! 

Harbour is a light, relatively quick, worker placement game for 1-4 players. In it you take the role of an aspiring businessman, well actually a business-goblin, wheeling and dealing around a bustling port town, selling your goods and buying out properties. The game features comedic fantasy art and story, but if that's not your cup of tea it's pretty much ignorable in the heat of the game.
The key to the game is the revolving market, as people sell things (or use certain cards) the market prices for the four main resources (fish, livestock, stone and wood) changes. If you sell fish for a high price one turn, then next turn it will be selling for scraps, combine this with the fact that you must sell all your items at once, you can easily attempt to force your opponent into selling their 6 fish for 2 coins after you sold your 5 for 5. The market has 4 spaces, each of which goes up in price paid and amount needed to sell, the price is always 1:1 at best, so it's best to try and aim for that. In addition you can sell one of everything (in 3/4 player games) for 3 coins, which can be very useful, so long as you have enough left over to fulfil the other orders.  

When you sell items you must immediately spend that money on a building, there's no such thing as change so you pay exact or you overpay, your choice. The buildings each have an ability when you move your worker to them, along with a couple of icons that help you as you play, such as keeping 1 resource after selling it or paying 1 less for future buildings. Generally the buildings are non-owned in the centre of the board and anyone can use them, but once you buy one it goes into your play area and anyone who wants to use it must pay you a trade resource, unless they have a fancy hat from one of their buildings!
Some buildings for sale, the price is in the top right and the points value in the top left, the ability when you visit it is on the bottom and the bonuses for owning them are on the centre right.

Another important part of the game is only 1 worker can be on a building card at any one time, and you must move to a different building each turn. This can be useful to block an opponent from getting certain resources, or even to block their home space so they need to pay to use yours (the home space is what allows you to sell items). A lot of the buildings actually have requirements such as losing 3 of a resource to gain 4 of another, this allows for big swings after your opponent kindly made cattle worth nothing.

An example of someone selling to the market, they have 4 livestock and 3 fish which means they will have 7 money to spend on a building. After buying wood will become worth 4, fish worth 3 and livestock worth 3.
Harbour has a lot going for it, the art is great fun, it's a tiny box so easily portable and the different building cards and starting characters lead to a lot of variation between games. It isn't without its flaws however, the game has a heavy tendency of boom and bust phases, which is fine but if you are the last player to get a building you will often struggle to recover and always feel behind. Some of the building abilities are very variable too, anchors go from insanely useful to useless depending on what cards appear, warehouses are usually s solid bet giving you 1 resource left over after selling, but since a resource is worth 1 money at the most getting a coin which is worth 1 money every time you buy something is almost always better. Still for someone looking for a portable lightweight worker placement I'd recommend it.



  1. I just bought this game yesterday and can't wait to play it. After Lords of Waterdeep, I am really into the worker placement games and this one looked like a fun time. Thanks for the great review and mini-tutorial!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the review and I hope you enjoy playing the game! Lords of waterdeep is one I've been really keen on playing but never had the opportunity (there always seems to be someone in the group who doesn't like it). Harbour is quite a lot lighter as I understand, but I feel it still has a good amount of depth for a small game.