Reinhard Staupe


No. of Players:
2 - 4



The Caribbean island of Cuba seems to be of continuing interest for EGGERTSPIELE, since they have followed the release of their successful strategy game Cuba not only with an expansion, but also with a new stand-alone game named Havanna. However, whereas the former game was a full-sized boardgame with quite a few components, the latter comes with a somewhat reduced outfit of playing materials, featuring a set of 13 action cards for each player, 36 cards depicting buildings, some coins and worker figures and a bag filled with wooden cubes representing different building materials. Alas, no board is included, and so four players will use their action cards to compete to be the first player to construct buildings with a total value of 15 victory points.

Apart from handing each player his own set of action cards, one peso and a randomly drawn building material the playing area is prepared by randomly revealing a total of 12 building cards which are placed in two rows of six buildings at the table. In addition, four pesos and three random building materials are placed as common stock next to the available buildings, and with these simple preparations the game already can start.

The actions of the players are determined by their hand of action cards, and as indicated every player possesses 13 different action cards which allow actions like the taking of pesos or building materials from the common stock, the recruitment of workers, the stealing of pesos or building materials from another player etc. However, many of these actions bring up the question whether they actually can be performed, since much of the game depends on the player order and the number of available pesos and building materials in the common stock. Thus, it is much better to be one of the first players to act, since the choice of available materials is bigger and the risk of suffering from a thief is lower because a player who has played a thief primarily has to steal from a player who comes later in the player order.

However, the order of the players does not follow a simple alternation rule, but instead it is actually determined by the action cards chosen by the players. Thus, all players simultaneously chose their two actions for the upcoming turn, and when the actions are revealed the players first have to check out the values associated with each card. The value numbers on the action cards vary from zero to nine, and each player has to align his cards so that they form a two-digit number, with the lower of both cards coming first and the higher number following. Then the players have to compare their numbers, and the player order is determined by going from the lowest to the highest number.

As you can see, it pays off to have a lower number in order to get the possibility to act earlier, but on the other hand you might also have guessed that the more important action cards which allow the taking of specific building materials or money bear the higher values. Thus, the players have to ponder which two cards they should play, and it may well be worth to play a high value card together with a low value card (or even the zero-value "Siesta" which offers no action at all) in order to get a chance to profit from the higher value card.

Once a player has acted on his two action cards and taken all workers, money and building materials he was entitled to, he ends his turn with the possibility to build one or more buildings from the open rows of buildings at the table. Here the building materials, pesos and workers are needed, and the restriction applies that buildings only may be purchased at the outer ends of both building rows, thus adding a bit of tactical depth by giving the players a chance to speculate on keeping resources for a possibly more valuable building at one of the inner spaces of a buildings row.

The game then continues with the players taking their turns in player order until all players have acted on their two action cards (as good as they could with the later players possibly facing a plundered common stock). The common stock then is replenished with new building materials from the bag and some pesos, and then the players go ahead and chose their next actions. However, here comes the tricky part of the game, since the players are required to choose one of the action cards which they had chosen for action this turn, whereas the second action from the running turn is discarded and replaced with a fresh action card from the players' hands. This means that players have a chance to play the same action for two or more turns in a row if they keep discarding and replacing their other action card, but it requires a good degree of planning, a bit of memorizing cards already used by the other players and a good eye for the game situation to use card combinations to their best advantage. In addition, the players are confined further by the fact that their hand of action card is slowly diminishing, since the used cards are discarded and may not be taken back to a player's hand unless the hand is reduced to a size of just two cards.

If these two restrictions are viewed together it becomes clear that that Havanna depends to a very high degree on the players' timing and also is a bit speculative. A general familiarity with the action cards and an understanding of the strategic value of each card is needed, because otherwise a newcomer might face detours and delays which will give more experienced players more than enough time to build and fortify a leading position. Myself, I run into a ine mess by having two cards of medium value on the table, with the other players outbidding me. I did not want to loose a full round by covering one of the cards which a low, weaker card, and so the others kept undercutting my total so that I was not able to gain the required money and building materials. However, if all players are on board in this cardgame (sorry, couldn't resist), Havanna offers a nice implementation of the players constructing action chains without actually becoming too predictable. The ever changing situation at each player's hand offers ample room for speculation how the other players might act, and a bit of bluffing and smirking all is part of the action.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2009 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany