When I had first heard of Harbour by Tasty Minstrel Games, it was on an end-cap at my local Barnes & Noble. I had received a $50 gift card for there and was picking up a copy of Tsuro (review coming later) and was looking for another game around the $20 mark to use up the rest of the gift card. The artwork looked interesting, so I bought a copy of Harbor without knowing anything about it.
At the time, my wife and I were new to the board game scene, excluding the typical mainstream games like Scrabble and the introductory games like Catan and Ticket to Ride. Judging a game by its cover, I figured something in a box that small would be a very light game without any real complexity. However, when we began reading the rules and directions, we started to wonder if we’d ever be able to fully understand the gameplay.
Harbour is a worker placement game where you’re trying to obtain goods, and then ship (sell) those goods to buy buildings. You obtain goods by visiting buildings and completing the corresponding actions on each turn. What you really want to do, though is to try to ship your goods at the most opportune time as per what’s the most valuable in the marketplace. However, once one player ships their goods, the value of all of the goods changes and you have to adjust your gameplay accordingly.
Once we started playing it, the rules seemed easy and it was fun to see how an ever-changing marketplace made you rethink your strategy. The method of keeping track of up to 24 goods using only 4 wooden tiles is genius, as it saves on the cost of the game, footprint size of the packaging, and pieces to keep track of.
We followed the beginner setup instructions on using certain building cards and the player building cards that have all of the same sides. We also omitted the bonus point cards for our first play-through so we could focus on the core mechanics first.
After our first game was completed, we were pleasantly surprised how a game that initially seemed daunting turned out to be so much fun. For our second game, we continued to use the beginner setup, but used the bonus cards at the end. By the third time we played, we utilized the full ruleset of everything being random and different, which was by far the most fun we had while playing it.
Overall, Harbour is our favorite game we’ve purchased without first researching it. Its compact size makes it great for travelling, the price point is where you can impulse purchase it like I did, and it’s a great way to get into slightly more complex games from ones like Ticket to Ride. We don’t play it all the time, but when we do, it’s always really fun.