Quick View of Haven the Board Game
The Game: Haven by Red Raven Games
How Many Players: 2
Age Range: 13+
What Type of Game: Area Control
Average Length: 45 minutes
You should try it if you like: Different strategies and tactics available to incorporate in area control games.
What's The Story in Haven?
“While the Haven Guardian slumbers, a nearby human village has grown into a city, hungry to control the powers of the forest. Can the forest creatures discover enough potent lore to defend their ancient home from the oppressive city? Or will the city use this lore to power their machines and turn the forest against itself?” (excerpt taken from the Haven board game rulebook)
In Haven, you are battling for control of the forest. Playing as either the people of the city or the forest creatures, you battle against your opponent for control of the shrines on the board. In order to win these shrines, you send out your “seekers” to compete for lore cards and thereby win over the elemental who is at each of the shrines.
The elements (leaf, stone, or water) are watched over by slumbering Elemental Guardians who awaken at the end of the game and will side with whichever player holds the most lore of that type. Additionally, whoever holds the most shrines in any given area will secure that “haven.” The player with the most havens will gain the aid of the Haven Guardian at the end of the game.
What the Gameplay Feels Like
At first, the rules of the game felt daunting. It looks and sounds like there is a lot going on here. Strategically, there can be. However, the actual gameplay is not nearly as complicated as I originally thought.
Essentially, you are playing cards to send your seekers to battle over lore tokens. It is like three mini-competitions are happening each round and you can choose which one to work on.
With 2 actions per turn, you can choose to add or remove seekers from 1 or 2 of the lore tokens that you are fighting over that round. Or you can play a card that has lore powers on it. For example, a card may allow you to go through the discard pile or revealing your opponent's cards.
Each seeker card has possible values towards weapons (how many arrows or swords are on the card) and lore. You want the lore values of the seekers to get as close to the value on the lore token you are battling for as possible, without going over. Meanwhile, you want those same cards to have more weapons on them than the seekers on the opposing side.
With each individual mini-competition won, you can claim control of one of the shrines on the board. As you gain control of the shrines, you can then get control of havens.
At the end of the game whoever controls the most havens gets the Haven Guardian card which gives that player 5 additional victory points. This does not necessarily ensure the victory of the game, however!
There are a lot of variables to take into consideration in your strategy. That's the part that felt overwhelming at first. However, those variables are also what provide a lot of replayability and enjoyment!
What I Liked
First of all, the artwork for this entire game is stunning. Even the inside of the box is beautiful. More importantly, however, the game itself is just a lot of fun. My husband and I are always looking for two-player games. This will be going into our regular rotation.
It has a lot of strategy behind that beautiful art and is also laid back enough for us to talk. The games are always close enough in the end that neither of us feels bad, and we always want to play another round. It's perfect for us to laugh and talk and eat ice cream while just enjoying a fun game.
What I Didn't Like
I think what made me hesitant about Haven is that there really are a lot of different approaches you can take to the board game. This is not a negative, really. In fact, that is what makes replayability so high. However, when I was first introduced to the game, there was an hour and a half (literally) of having a full explanation of every single detail in a very confusing and overwhelming fashion.
That isn't exclusive to Haven, however. Lots of board game explanations are much more complicated than actually playing it.
For your first time playing, just focus on the battle over lore tokens. As you get comfortable with that, then start adding in everything else and the game will unfold to you very naturally. This is what we ended up doing, and it made the game fun and exciting. And, as we played, we uncovered different mechanics and strategies.