Havana

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

288898.jpgHavana is a spin-off of Cuba, which I’ve never played. It’s fairly well-regarded: we sought this out rather than stumbling across it. It’s well-made (Though not beautiful—why are relatively few games GORGEOUS art objects? That wouldn’t be hard for companies to do, actually?) and quite easy to learn, but I don’t necessarily enjoy playing it.

Havana’s a short game, but not as fast-moving and engaging as something like Jaipur. In a resource-collection and building game like this I enjoy longer play: the ability to gather more resources and do more. I also feel very cramped in Havana, because there aren’t many resources, your hand is tightly controlled and you get no refreshing resource base (i.e. ‘5 monies to start the round’ a la Rokoko). It’s a poverty-based game rather than an abundance-based, choice-heavy game. This suits the theme well (theoretically, you’re engaged in some scrappy, post-revolution property development), but isn’t my preferred play style. I also don’t like how careful I have to be with my deck, knowing that unless I really play the Refreshment card for all it’s worth I’ll never have access to some of my best or must fundamentally necessary cards again (and thus I’ll have no way to obtain resources, or build some buildings). (Side-note here, I think we all know ‘Mama’ is the best damn card in this game.) It’s a personal peccadillo, but I also dislike thieving/resource destruction mechanisms in general, and tend to underplay them. Havana’s having several ‘steal the following player’s X’ just feels mean in an already resource-poor game, and gives the person employing them only a measly payoff.

As a two-player game, Havana can get weird and unbalanced—i.e. ‘one player’s hitting the win condition while the other only has five points’. Things are closer with three players, but perhaps too close: everyone’s one building away from victory, it’s just whose turn it is next that determines who wins. That feels too random for me. I know it might not be, given that players’ positions reflect a confluence of luck and strategy, but game-feel is more important than sheer mechanics. There’s not necessarily a firm, satisfying sense of pulling ahead and building to a win in Havana.

This game isn’t bad, but we’re ultimately letting it go because if we want to build stuff with resources, we have lots of games we like better for that. If we want a quick game, same. If we want a tense, competitive game, same. If we want something for two players, or three—you get the idea. We never end up using this one, and it’s time to let it go, perhaps allowing our copy to find its way to a new owner more drawn to it.

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