New Haven

Reviewed by: Herb Levy

R&R Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; $39.99)

It’s exciting to explore unknown lands and claim them for king and country. It’s quite another thing to solidify that hold on the land by colonizing it! This was not an easy task for those brave souls in the New World but that is the challenge players must face in this new game from R&R Games: New Haven.

newhaven1New Haven, the name of the game coming from the settlement in Connecticut, is a Brian Leet and Kevin Worden design. It comes with a double-sided “community” game board, 4 Village game boards and player screens (one of each for every player), 60 Harvest tiles, 144 buildings tiles (and a bag to hold them), resource markers for each of the four resources in the game (stone, sheep, wheat and timber) and 8 pages of rules.

The “community” board is in the center of the play area for all to use. (On your first play, you may wish to use Board A which has four “pre-determined” resource areas.) Harvest tiles show two or three of the four resources of the game and all 60 of these tiles are shuffled face down to form a game “pool”. The 144 buildings are circular tiles. They come in four colors, numbered from 1 to 6, with their reverse showing just a plain meadow, quarry, forest or wheat field (no building, just unclaimed land). Buildings are placed in the bag with five drawn and placed on the circles on the board to create a building draw pool. All players now take from the bag six building tiles in addition to two Harvest tiles and hide them behind their player screens. Players also receive one Harvest Tile which is placed face down next to their Village board. This particular tile represents a “special shipment” which may be used and revealed later.

On a turn, a player must play one of his tiles anywhere onto the Game Board. Depending on where it is placed, that tile will generate resources which are immediately calculated and charted on the resource track. Resources generated equal the number of particular resources on the played tile plus the number of resources that connect to that played tile. Connections are only horizontal or vertical and not diagonal. Since there are only 2 or 3 resources on a tile, one resource will not be produced each turn. Essentially, players are harvesting commodities on the central game board in order to construct buildings on their own, personal, Village board. Now let’s put those resources to work.

newhaven2Each Building behind a player’s screen is a potential addition to your village. There is no limit to how many buildings you may hold nor how many you can construct on a turn, Buildings are numbered and a building may only be built and placed on a player’s village board if there are enough resources available of that Building’s type that match its number. If enough resources are available, those resources are deducted from the resource track and the building is placed on that player’s Village board – with the following restrictions:

The first building of a type may be placed ANYWHERE on the Village board. However, subsequent buildings of that color MUST be adjacent to buildings of the same color. In effect, you are building a color chain. If the number of a building matches the space it is placed upon, that building is placed face UP. If not, that building is placed face DOWN. Color considerations are important in placing buildings but it is permissible to place different colored buildings in the same row or column.

After building whatever buildings the active player wishes, other players get into the act. Now, in turn order, other players may use any left over resources available to construct their OWN buildings on their OWN board! Once everyone has built or passed, the active player draws one new building for EACH resource that has ended up at 0 on the resource chart. (The first building drawn MUST be from the array of five available buildings on the board; any others may be from the board or drawn blindly from the bag.) He also draws a new Harvest tile to replace the one played. Now, new buildings are drawn from the bag so there are always five in the pool and play continues clockwise.

As the board fills up, a player may wish to use that face down Harvest (aka shipment) tile. This tile is played instead of a “regular” Harvest tile and counts as FOUR resources of whatever resource the player wants. Resources are calculated accordingly. When that player has finished his turn, that tile is flipped over (from left to right) and, from that point on, acts as a regularly played Harvest tile for resource calculation.

When only one vacant space is left on the big board, the game ends and we score. (But what happens if there are several vacant spaces on the big board and a player has filled in all the spaces on his Village board? Surprisingly, the rules do not cover that possibility! But the intent of the rulebook is clear – every player should have equal opportunities. So, if a player finishes his board, we finish the round so everybody has had the same number of turns.)

Scoring is based on the placement of buildings on your personal board with only COMPLETED rows and columns earning points. Each row has a value (in settlers), ranging from one to six. Completed rows score face value but a row or column of ALL face up pieces score double the number of settlers of that row or column’s value. The player who has attracted the most settlers to his colony wins!

The B side of the large, community, board calls for the use of four Pond tiles (which act as obstacles in placing Harvest tiles) as well as randomly seeding buildings that players may claim by placing Harvest tiles on those occupied spaces. This is the way to go for the more serious gamers among us. A few variants to modify the game’s difficulty are also presented.

New Haven is fun – and a bit of a puzzle, the puzzle being to connect same color buildings in continuous connections. While you score for a completed row whether they are all the same color or not, it is always good to have your options open so that a particular tile in your holdings is still usable and not doomed to be a dead weight in your hand. Using tiles to generate needed resources so you have enough to build those higher valued buildings AND be sure to place them face up to double your scores is a balancing act to be sure. But there are also other considerations.

Knowing that your opponents may share in YOUR unused resources impacts on your tile placement! You certainly do not want to make things easier for the competition by offering them needed supplies. On the other hand, players using their competitor’s resources, reducing some or all to 0, allow that player to collect more Harvest tiles. The more tiles you have, the more flexible you can be in placing them. This flexibility makes it easier to collect needed resources to place multiple buildings (ideally, for that player, face up buildings) on the board in a single stroke. So there are considerations here that need to be carefully weighed.)

At its heart, New Haven is a tile laying abstract game with the intriguing theme of colonial land development and settlement. We’ve seen games like this before. (Think Carcassonne and New England, for example.) But with its pleasing puzzle and placement elements to make you think, New Haven is a place you’ll want to visit.


Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

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