Les Gardiens de Havresac – a well oiled building in an enchanted land

LBag building games don’t run on the streets. Havenbag Keepersa play by Frédéric Guérard (It is a wonderful world, Meeple Land), is added to this small growing list. In this game competitive and positioned between the Family and Insider ranges, each player embodies a group of “guardians” – warriors, thieves, druids and other priestesses of the Lore medieval fantasy: eager to save the kingdom of Havresac from the grip of a witch.

Each player will have an identical game board, representing a piece of the kingdom dotted with forests, lakes, treasures and ruined villages, which will gradually be invaded by fantastic creatures, evil (foxes, crocodiles, pigs) or not (fairies).

If the cover of the box didn’t attract us more than that at first glance, at the beginning it was something else entirely. Illustrations signed Sabrina Miramont (Photosynthesis, Nuts hospital) they are overall classic, but fascinating and easy to read (what else ?). The material is also of good quality.. We appreciate the numerous wooden pieces (112!) Representing the creatures, the thick individual boards and the bags of well-made pickaxes, which are quite pleasant to handle.

Shuffle your bag and sprinkle the board with tokens

The the construction of the bags is therefore the central mechanic. In each of the five rounds, you will need to place the keeper tokens you extract from your bag on your individual board to get the most victory points at the end of the game. Placing a Guardian token on a space allows you to activate its power to defeat creatures, open chests, or use a general action such as restoring villages, capturing a fairy, etc. You will therefore need as much rake as possible to score effectively. For more details on the rules, you can watch this Ludochrono.

Only here: you cannot place a token anywhere, but (approximately) at a certain distance from another previously placed, a distance that depends on the speed of the guardian drawn. Also, at the end of each round, all of your tokens will return to your bag. You will then be limited in your expansion zone and will have to make choices. The whole principle of the game is therefore based on the way in which we will organize the placement of the tokens between them, in order to “scratch”, collect, conquer as many objectives as possible on the board.

Sacrificing one or two tokens in each round allows you to further project the next ones (here the warrior) and to orient yourself in terms of the objectives collected at the end.

Also, and central to the construction of the bag, if each player starts with the same composition of goalkeepers in their bag, you will have to choose the best guards to recruit with the gold earned after each roundso you can build an efficient bag and be able to combine the powers and speed of your tokens when placing them.

The score track and goalkeepers that can be purchased after each round

The hidden son of Karuba and Orléans?

Without surprise, we will find sensations experienced during the holidays ofOrleans. Taking the Guardians out of his bag and placing them on his individual board constitutes gameplay next to his distant cousin, where it was instead necessary to attract his supporters and place them to trigger actions.

The feel of the game is also similar to that of Karuba. Already during installation, as in Karuba, the players will start with the same possibilities, with an almost identical layout. So at each start of the round, they will also face the same generation of creatures on their board, during a “Lotus” phase. The main difference will lie in the draw phase of the bag (which everyone will have invented in their own way), where inside Karuba the players would simply place the same tile on their respective game board.

Another trait of the gameplay common to the two titles and not least, every he will play in his corner with almost no interactiontaking the guardians out of his bag and placing them on his table until the very end.

To twist the neck of this first that we can read sometimes: this absolutely does not make it a game that only interests solitaire! I could see a nice atmosphere around the table, even if we are not fighting for resources or squares of territory. Lack of interaction isn’t a bad thing about the game, but a divisive character that will please some and displease others. So it’s up to you to position yourself 😉.

The players I was able to test with Havenbag Keepers they are all lovers of Karuba. A small majority of them preferred the former, the others preferred to go back to Karuba. Difficult to give you a precise opinion, even if I find it Havenbag Keepers it is a bit richer, implementing the mechanics of construction of the bags very well and with simplicity. In any case, if you are a fan of this title, there is a good chance that it is Havenbag Keepers be a good choice for you!

Like coffee, light or strong

While the game is accessible and can be played lightly, it’s not as family-friendly as it seems. To optimize the positioning of your chips and play effectively, you will need to consider the ones that are still in the bag. In fact, if I expect my (slow moving) archer to come out after my (fast moving) druid so I can position him far away and hit a specific target, then my strategy is flawed. There has to be an escape route in case he gets out of the bag too early, such as making sure he can reach a goal, even if he gets picked up first. I could give other examples like this, but I think you got the idea 😉

If you want to score efficiently, the game therefore requires an effort of anticipation and intuitive odds managementotherwise you risk suffering the injustice of the pickaxe case by blaming the game design without questioning your own strategy.

Likewise, every “creature” position on the board will be drawn sooner or later during the game. It is therefore possible to memorize the draw of the creatures and better anticipate the next rounds, if we give ourselves the means (personally I’m just lazy!).

Overall, if you play it safe, have your back, and memorize the drawing of creatures a little, the game will reward you. We can see that there has been extensive work on this issue and it is welcome. However, this exercise isn’t easy for everyone!

The creatures spawned during each round

However, I told you at the beginning of the chapter, the game is still meant to be played lightly, without worrying too much. You can focus on the village recovery path (the more you cover, the more points you collect in each round), or the hunting board path (at the end of the game, an interesting bonus if you can shoot a large number of creatures) much more risky. Overall, it won’t go much further and it seems to me that it fits the game format perfectly. Depth is inherently limited, so don’t expect to be able to push optimization and strategy too far.

Giving priority to the restoration of villages seems to me to be the essential strategy, which saddens me a little. If anyone has been able to make their own butter differently, I’d be curious to know.

Likewise, the number, location and diversity of the elements to be conquered while remaining constant on the boards, there is no fundamental need to rethink your strategy from game to game. The purchase of goalkeepers will not necessarily depend directly on the game in progress. We could always start with the same combination without risking too much. This may be displeasing to some. For my part, given the familiar format, and the infinity of combinations of guardians to try to test the result (I can’t wait for the next part to combine more Witches and Druids), I feel sufficiently satisfied on this side.

To increase complexity and replayability, Night Guardians and a winter board are offered

Solo mode in all of this?

Havenbag Keepers lends itself easily to solo play due to its lack of interaction between players. It is quite possible to play the game alone and optimize the placement of the chips. For this purpose, a card is provided, to list the increasingly difficult challenges that you will have to validate one after the other. I find this more motivating than “beating your score” and I’ll tell you about it in an upcoming “Solo is Beautiful” article.

In conclusion

In their collection of original and pampered titles, Catch up Games earns points with a title that is as accessible as it is fun to play. On the border between familiar play and play intended for initiates, Havenbag Keepers implements the construction of bags with simplicity and efficiency, in the manner of Charlatans of Belcastel. If like me you like this mechanic that isn’t a legion in contemporary games, this game might grab your attention. That said, while it does require some thought and more complex options are offered, the game may not be suitable for an experienced audience.

It can also be divisive, due to its lack of interaction. Here everyone plays for his apple. Personally, I’m a fan, I don’t really like seeing my opponents interfere in my strategies! It will therefore remain in my playroom, because the journey has not disappointed me.

Treasure tokens are like a box of chocolates …

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