Liguria: Pimp my Cathedral

Pairs well with: Grog for your long sea voyage.
Traitor Rating: 2/10 daggers in the back.


Board-gamers are a picky lot. Contrary to popular belief, when presented with a game which has a tonne of bright colours, a million pieces, and a theme along the lines of ‘the ultimate zombie werewolf death match apocalypse’, they do not get so excited they hyperventilate. What actually happens is that they take one look at the box and think ‘I’m not four’, ‘Please stop trying so hard’, or ‘for the love of God, pitching monsters against one another and using that many adjectives doesn’t make a game good, invest some of that energy into the actual game’.*

What a lot of people don’t understand is that board-gamers like dry, intricate and deeply boring themes. Euro-themes. Agriculture and shipping. Because that is what makes a really great game: enough theme to feel involved and immersed in a different environment, but enough structure and room for strategy to feel satisfying. An unfortunate by-product of this is that when we try and describe a very good game to someone else, it always winds up sounding like the most tedious thing in the universe.

‘Hey, have you played Paper Mills of Liechtenstein yet? No? You really should, it’s about working in a paper mill where you need to make sure the colour and consistency of the paper pulp is exactly right.’


‘Ermeghherdd I just played Sacrificial Canaries! I am totally the best at loading pieces of tin onto a cart and then getting a horse to pull it up the mine shaft. It only took three hours, it was amazing.’

Liguria falls into this category. It’s a game about paint samples and financial planning. You go travelling from port to port collecting different coloured paints, which you then bring back to your own port in order to paint your cathedral. But trust us guys, it’s a great game.

‘Have you realised that re-painting a cathedral in 16th century Italy would probably have the modern equivalent of Pimp my Cathedral… I would probably watch that.’

Each player represents a port, and has their own ship. During12268901_10156309277145085_1530353084_o_Fotor a turn tiles will be selected at random from a bag and placed in a line in the centre. The players then have the option of selecting how many of the tiles they want to pick. The fewer tiles you opt to pick up means the closer to the beginning of the turn order you will be when resolving actions, and so will be more likely to get a good pick.

The layout has a little port and boat in front of each player, and all of the players sitting in a little circle, connecting it up. This is actually a pretty damn nifty alternative to the usual method of, you know, just sharing a board. You get to sail your little boat around your little circle of friends and it means you can be pretty flexible with table-space. More importantly, it means you can have fun pretending to be a bit of a child and sailing your boat along the table and making noises.

“That’s not a boat noise, Lizzy.”
“You can’t tell me what to do!”

The boats also have that really pleasant double-cardboard kind of makeup, where you can fit little cubes neatly inside them. What’s not to love?


The tiles have a number of different icons: buildings, churches, daggers, paint contracts, scrolls, collection bags and helms. Most of the tiles you build in your town (your board) and provide you with a range of benefits: buildings provide victory points, helms provide an extra movement to your ship etc.

The idea is to build up a good range of tiles which help you to get the most paint. You will only receive victory points for paint if you have a tile asking for certain types. It’s all about the paint, man.


‘I don’t understand it, there are only three types of paint colour in this game but I’ve still managed to collect only blues and can’t fulfil any of my paint contracts. What is this? Why am I so bad at paint?’

‘Our ports must have some serious artists living in them because I’m pretty sure even Michelangelo couldn’t paint a cathedral with only three primary colours and make it look like a 3 year old child hasn’t gotten carried away with some marker pens’

dsc_0418_FotorAfter the tile selection phase there is a card phase. Each turn, three cards are laid out which will have a number at the top, and an action below. In most cases the action will be something similar to ‘three boat movements’ or an anchor which allows the boat to stop and start. The number at the top of the card is important because you’ll be adding all of these at the end of the game. Some are negative, some are positive, and if at the end of the game you end up with a total that is negative you will immediately lose a whole bunch of victory points. It’s kinda brutal.

Sure does teach you how to manage your finances in real life better though.


The final stage of a turn is where players may move their boats and pick up paint. There are several islands scattered between the ports and these offer temping treats such as extra paint and victory points. Once you dock at another player’s port you collect as much paint as your boat allows and then sail back to drop it off at your own. Unlike other shipping games like Puerto Rico and Le Havre your boat can stay out as long as it wants instead of having to return in the same turn. This gives the game more of an authentic feel sailing from place to place in a long sea voyage that eventually results in returning home with a butt-load of paint.

Conspiring to win
Conspiring to win

The turn begins again by drawing and laying the tiles. The game ends when the tiles run out. Simple. Go and paint your cathedral, kids.

Another thing worth mentioning is some different strategies – in this game it is not, in fact, actually all about the paint. This is fortunate because a lot of our friends are Warhammer 40K-obsessed nerds who could bring more paint to the table than you’d need to cover a fleet of cathedrals – we wouldn’t stand a chance.

Scrolls, for example, add an interesting diplomacy twist: when a player docks at another’s port they may place a scroll tile on any track of that player’s board. That means at the end of the game the player who owns the scrolls gets 2 victory points per tile in that track.

I'm here to steal all of your hard earned points. Thanks bye.
I’m here to steal all of your hard earned points. Thanks bye.

Briony has basically mastered this game, and instead of collecting paint she simply swans about collecting scrolls then sails from port to port being incredibly diplomatic and partaking in everyone else’s victory points at the end of the game.

Lizzy, on the other hand, wiped the cathedral floor with everyone in the first game just by getting highly into the building-points game. Ka-pow!

We haven’t met anyone who hasn’t liked this game. It was actually the first game we played at Essen, chosen only because as everyone streams into the hall for the first time there is a manic rush to sit at the nearest game and play it. We thought that Queen Games would provide us with some good reliable fun, and it did! Liguria was just suitably close to the door and we got to experience paint like never before. Excellent work all round.

Un-pimped cathedral
Un-pimped cathedral

The fact that the game is pretty relaxing and not stressful at all is another thing it has in its favour compared to other similar games.** Ship some paint, have a nice time. Shh, shh, just don’t think about having a load of cards with negative numbers, you’ve still got time to sort that out.

At the end of the day, or indeed your long sea voyage, you can take comfort in the fact that however badly your game has gone your cathedral will get painted and the citizens of your town will be all the happier for it.

*This is such a persistent problem that sometimes we’ll see a game and be so put off by the theme that we won’t give it a solid chance. The Possession is basically Evil Dead in game form and at first appears to rely heavily on gumpf like zombies and girls who look like they belong in The Ring, but is actually a solid, well-balanced game with some unique features and clever mechanics.

** Bob’s friendly robot boyfriend found it incredibly stressful, but then he is terrible at financial planning.

Le Havre: Misery Shipping

Written by Briony, Bob and Lizzy.

Brutus scale: 4/10 slippery fish-gutting daggers in the back.

Pairs well with: Salty tears. Port.


Le Havre is a game that has been languishing on Briony’s game shelf for far, far too long. It was bought more or less because it was made by Uwe Rosenburg, the same chap who made Agricola and Glass Road (you may know him from our other posts as the King of European gaming and farming misery). Le Havre, named after the French port city, demands that players generate and sell goods from the docks over a shipping line. Although similar to Agricola in many ways, for example in needing you to generate enough food per round, it also brings in other mechanics from trade-based board games. The trading and shipping of goods is extremely similar to Puerto Rico, whereas the buying of transportation for your goods is similar to Gluck Auf.

As it’s taken us so long to play this game, and as we haven’t found anyone else who has actually played it before, Briony, Pat and Pete (generic gaming buddies 1 and 2) have decided to dedicate an entire evening to the misery of learning complex rules for the selfless benefit of humanity. DSC_0092They strongly suspect some of the emotional traits of Agricola will have crossed over to this game, but are willing to lay down their lives, or at least good mood, to break some new ground and report back on their findings. Unfortunately, reading the entire rules has taken Pete so long that he’s had to tag out and get a beer while Pat takes over. Briony suggested simply watching a YouTube video on setup and gameplay, but they got less than three minutes in and the YouTubers’ immaculate setup and condescending encouragement to buy extra plastic trays and inserts in the name of personal organisation became too irritating to bear. Today’s misery team were going to have to do it the hard way.

3,000 pieces counts as simple, right?
3,000 pieces counts as simple, right?

Fortunately the set-up of the game is relatively simple, including the docks, resources, the town building firms, and the range of buildings on offer. Resources are generated by sailing through the port, meaning that there is a timing critical element to selecting and claiming resources you need. Your ship (the HMS Cardboard Puck) sails to the next available space which restocks the particular item you land on. You may then perform an action: this can be taking all of an available resource, using a building, or constructing a building. And so off we sail down the port, excitement in our hearts at beginning our new journey as a shipping company. (Note: If you really want to feel the joy first hand watch the opening 20 minutes of Muppet Treasure Island before beginning for full effect).


Early game: the excitement is short-lived. What a surprise. As we generate resources by sailing through the port, it has quickly become apparent that there is not enough food in the early stages. At the end of most rounds there is a harvest, (Much confusion, are your ships farmers? Can you harvest the actual sea?) and then you must pay the amount of food on the round card to sustain your workers. This is only assumed, as there is no explanation as to where this food actually goes. We might just be throwing it in the sea as tribute to Poseidon, who knows. The first few rounds seem to mainly be about generating enough food to last you a few more rounds, so that later on you can invest in building or luxury resources that you may use to build or ship later. This is Briony’s method so far as she believes a massive stockpile of fish and cattle will be worth it later on, and may even look intimidating to the other players forcing them to make errors in awe. Pat and Pete have gone for the opposite: wildly claiming resources and constructing buildings straight off of the bat, cranking up their early game points and constructing some sort of giant building that incorporates all buildings. Who knows what goes on behind those closed doors.

Mid game: The demand for food is ramping up each round, making snack-generation a pressing concern almost constantly. Poseidon is a demanding deity indeed, and doesn’t seem to take the suggestion of going for a sneaky kebab very well. No sir, this man is hangry, and no grease-laden snack shall suffice. This leads to the diversification of strategies, which is a great part of this game, as there are many methods and possibilities to get the resources that you might need. The simplest is to just take them from the offers at the docks, and the more complex using of specialist buildings that allow conversion, purchase, or generation of resources.

As the game is progressing each of us has constructed a wide range of buildings (primarily for victory points as we had little idea about which would be the most beneficial) so almost by accident we opened up a bounty of opportunities for ourselves. Pat has set his heart on buying a fleet of wooden ships more or less because they were there and they were new and pretty. Briony has generated enough meat to last a lifetime and has now begun investing in any buildings she can get her hands on. Literally.

Who wouldn't want a clay mound?
Who wouldn’t want a clay mound?
Expressing sad fisherman feelings.
Expressing sad fisherman feelings.

Late game: Shit is going down. Prices, food costs, victory points, everything is now higher than Snoop Dogg at an alpine resort party. Pat and Pete’s wooden armadas provide a set amount of food per round, meaning that they need fewer resources. Briony’s sprawling industrial metropolis continues to grow, which serves to both help generate victory points and convert basic resources into luxury ones. As a result she’s now the first to use the shipping line to sell these goods and make a ton of cash. Unfortunately she spent an awful lot of planning and effort into collecting coal, a resource which was listed on the card as being worth 5 francs, when in fact it turns out there is a printing error. It turns out coal is listed twice, once at 3 francs, and second at 5 francs, which should actually list coke (converted coal) as 5 francs. Briony is a very sad, sooty fisherman. ‘Have mercy, great Poseidon!’ is what should have been called, but by this stage it was more like ‘fuck you, Poseidon. I don’t need to prove shit to you. Get off my back already.’

Endgame: A noticeable effect of constructing literally all of the building cards available is that the port is now brimming with massive piles of resources, including money. Pete has opted to claim huge stockpiles of free wood (feel free to insert* all generic ‘got wood’ jokes here) and clay and is rapidly transforming them into brick to ship, and selling wood in the joinery building. Both are racking him in some big hits of money. Unfortunately there is only one building card that can be used to ship goods (‘the shipping line’), so this is easily the most contended-for card throughout the latter stages of the game. Pat is muscling in on it, and has been shipping cow and coke (that classic combination). As the number of rounds left is ticking down we’re all beginning to hawk everything we can in order to scrape in as many victory points as possible.

If you’ve played Agricola before, you’ll now that scoring can potentially be the most depressing part of the ordeal, with dizzying heights of 11 or 12 winning the game. Now, take that and throw it out of the window. Le Havre has been designed to work in the exact opposite way, with all players scoring well over 100 points. This is probably because resources can be sold for money, as well as receiving money for shipping goods, and counting the cost of your buildings contributing to your final score. Make it rain. Briony has wiped the floor with the others with a closing, and first time playing, score of 271. Fuck you, Poseidon.

The 'Shnaps Distillery' is a card that Briony fully endorses.
The ‘Shnaps Distillery’ is a card that Briony fully endorses.

In conclusion, our brave reporter and Uwe Rosenberg connoisseur Briony enjoyed this game far more than Agricola for a number of reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that designers listen to their target audience and feedback, as Uwe has addressed the issue of misery-scoring apparent in Agricola. Despite this, scoring in Le Havre is a little extreme, as it patronisingly cheers you on like an overly-competitive mum at a school football match. ‘LOOK HOW GOOD YOU ARE AT FISHING. GO YOU. SHIP THAT FISH. WOO!’ But you know, that’s okay. It feels quite supportive. Secondly, there is a really wide variety of strategies available that allow you to be very flexible. This consequently means it’s a lot harder to drastically fuck up your turn by miscalculating or not paying enough attention, because chances are there is another free card or action that could have roughly the same benefits. Thirdly, the designs and iconography of the cards, resources and board are really well thought out and themed. And finally, the game is very well balanced and offers more mechanisms, such as selling resources, converting resources to money, and breeding cattle or grain that aren’t available in similar shipping games like Puerto Rico. Definitely check this game out, but be prepared for some intense rule reading and playing a couples of rounds to get the feel of it before diving in to the full version (a shortened one is available too). Or just have a better set of friends who have already played the game before.


*Feel free to insert all generic ‘insertion’ jokes here.

Top image courtesy of Z-Man Games