Full disclosure: A review copy of Haven was provided by Red Raven Games.
Whew. Last reviews of the year! We made it; we survived. I will likely be structuring my review cycle a bit better in the upcoming year to avoid potential burnout (and to give myself a break to do more Lifestyle Things; would probably prefer not to hit 200 reviews / year). I’ll have more to say on that in January. Until that point, let’s take a look at Haven, from Red Raven Games!
In Haven, the Guardian has slept for … a while. Since then, the Forest has tried to protect itself from interlopers. Unfortunately, some new folks have shown up and are definitely looking like they’re gonna interlope. You’ll need to leverage Leaf, Water, and Stone Lore in order to summon elementals to help you defeat (or control) your opponents. Thankfully, your Seekers will be able to help you, as long as you don’t get too greedy. Will you be able to push your faction to victory?
Easiest first thing to do is set out the game board:
You should randomly place the Elemental Standees on it so that they’re on a Shrine space (one of the green spots) on a path that’s connected to the edge of the board (there are 6 such spaces):
You can also place the Victory Point cards on top of the board:
Set aside the Shrine Tokens:
They’re double-sided. You can set aside the Haven Tokens, too, or give them to each player:
In order for giving them to each player to make sense, you should probably have each player choose to be the City or the Forest, so do that, and then give them the Seeker, Offering, and Lore Power cards (respectively) for each group.
Have them shuffle their Seekers and place the deck face-down on its space on the board:
Have them remove one of each of the three primary types of Offerings from the deck (Stone, Leaf, Water), set those aside as their starting hand, and then shuffle the remainder, placing it, as you’d guess, face-down on its space on the board:
Take the Lore Powers cards; you can remove three from the game, if you want? I’ve never done it, but I imagine once you’ve Played Enough that might be a decent strategy move. Both players should shuffle the Lore Powers and place the decks face-down on their spaces on the board:
If you choose to use the Hidden Artifact cards, shuffle them and place them face-down (or face-up, if you want; that’s also a variant) below the 0 – 4 spaces on the bottom of the board (text should be visible if the card is face-up).
There will be one left over, so you can put it into the box or cast it into the darkness or whatever you do with your games. Not here to judge. Shuffle the three sets of Lore tokens and place them vertically face-down between the two players:
You can flip the top one face-up. Each player should now draw one Seeker, and the Forest player should also draw one Lore Power card. Once you’ve done that you’re all ready to start! The City player always goes first.
Also, if you happen to get your hands on some Red Raven promos, you might find these:
Give each player one to start, and have them keep them face-down.
So, the game is played over a sequence of rounds as players vie to take shrines guarded by Elementals. When enough shrines are taken, the Havens they surround become controlled by a player, which may earn them more points later on. You can also compete on Lore, trying to summon the elementals themselves to your aid. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!
A game takes place over several turns. I’ll outline them below.
On your turn, you’ll perform two actions (except for the City’s first turn; they only get one action):
- Add a Seeker: First, designate one of the Lore tokens, and then either place a card from your hand face-down or flip a card from the deck face-up in front of that Lore token on your side of the field. This will help you potentially claim the token and the Shrine later.
- Remove a Seeker: Discard one of your Seekers face-down to your discard pile. You should try to avoid this, if you can — it’s a bit wasteful.
- Play a Lore Power card: You may activate a Lore Power card in your hand, use its effect, and then discard it. You may only play one Lore Power card per turn.
You cannot play Offerings during this step.
Draw Two Cards
One at a time, draw cards from any of the three decks. Slight caveat: if you have no Offering cards in your hand, you must draw at least one Offering card. If you draw an Elemental from the Offering deck, place it on your side of its matching Lore token, face-up, and then draw another Offering to replace it.
If the Seeker or Offering decks are depleted, shuffle the relevant discard pile and that becomes the new Seeker or Offering deck. If you run out of Lore Powers, you should have appreciated them more. They’re gone for good.
Resolve Lore Tokens
Here’s the fun one. If, at any point, you have three Offering cards (total) on either side of a Lore token, it’s time to resolve them. This includes Elementals, so, be careful. If multiple Lore tokens need resolved, go from left-to-right (from the active player’s perspective). If nothing needs resolved, skip this whole bit.
- Reveal: Flip any face-down Seekers face-up. If, for some reason, the total of your Seekers’ Lore Value exceeds the number on the Lore Token, discard every card belonging to you on that Lore Token. Same goes for your opponent. If no player has any Seekers here, ignore this Lore token. Move it to the bottom of the stack and discard all Offerings on it. You can skip the rest of this step for this Lore token.
- Resolve Combat: Count the swords on your Seekers (and Lore Power card effects). The player with the most swords wins combat and claims the shrine under this Lore’s corresponding Elemental. Place their Shrine token, their-side-up on that space. If they control the majority of Shrine spaces (2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4) surrounding a Haven, they now also claim the Haven. If a player claims a Haven, their opponent may immediately draw a Lore Power card, if they want. If players are tied for combat, the player with more cards played on their side (Seekers / Offerings / Elementals) wins. If players are still tied, the City wins. The loser may move the Elemental on that now-claimed Shrine space to any empty Shrine space on the board. If there are none, the Elemental leaves, and the game ends after this turn.
- Resolve Lore: Add up the Lore Value on Seekers at this token; the player with more wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player with more cards, like combat, but if you’re tied on that one the Forest wins (it’s even). The winner claims the Lore token and keeps it face-up in front of them. Flip the next Lore token face-up.
- Discard: Discard all Seekers / Offerings / Elementals from the Lore token. If one player lost both Lore and Combat, they may keep one Seeker on the Lore token. Otherwise, yeah, discard every card.
Once all Lore Tokens are resolved, move on to the next step.
Make an Offering
Place one of your Offering Cards on your side of a Lore token of your choice. It must, as you might guess, match that Lore type, but if it has multiple Lore types on it you can choose either one.
You must play an Offering, so, have fun with that.
End of Turn
First, you should discard down to 7 cards. I forget this all the time, so make sure you don’t.
Now, if any Elementals have left the board or an entire stack of Lore tokens has been depleted, the game ends. Otherwise, it’s the next player’s turn!
End of Game
Awesome, the game’s over, so, now do the following:
- Lore Scores! Add up each player’s total Lore Value in each category. Award the Elemental VP Card to the player with the higher total amount, not tokens. If tied, nobody gets it.
- Haven Guardian! The player with the most Havens claims the Haven Guardian VP card! Again, if tied, nobody gets it (not that, mathematically, it matters).
- Other points!
- Each Lore token is worth 1 VP.
- Each Shrine is worth 1 VP.
Total your points; the player with more points wins! If it’s a tie, the player with more total Lore Value (across all tokens) wins! If it’s still a tie, you learn to coexist peacefully and you both win! I kind of want to try for that; it sounds pretty hard to actually end up doing.
There are a bunch of Variants, but I’ll talk about a few I like a lot:
So, those artifacts I mentioned earlier in the game? Well, now you can obtain them! If you ever have 3 matching Seekers in play at 3 different Lore tokens, you can reveal all three of them to claim the Artifact matching the Seekers’ Lore Value. Your Seekers aren’t discarded or anything. Each card is worth +1 VP at the end of the game.
Haven Master (I call this Connected Havens by mistake; whoops)
When you score at the end of the game, award the Haven Guardian VP card to the player with the most connected Havens (they have to share an edge). If there’s a tie, nobody gets it.
So for this one, instead of moving an Elemental from the board, you can place it (once there’s no where else to go) on an already-claimed Shrine and fight for it again. If you’re moving an Elemental away from a Shrine that was already claimed, then the game ends. So you can get up to three Bonus Fights if you want a slightly longer game, and the Havens could switch control too!
Player Count Differences
Uh, it’s two-player only.
- Don’t give up that central Shrine. It’s connected to, like, six Havens. You can’t write that off or else you’re giving your opponent a serious edge. You need to make sure you get it. I’m not necessarily convinced you need it to win, but, it will definitely mean that you have to put in more work if you lose. So, try not to, if you can avoid it.
- Count cards. You should know when you’ve seen all your Seekers of a certain Lore Value and what your odds of seeing an Elemental are before you draw an Offering. That’s going to be crucial, especially when you’re flipping random Seekers off the top of the deck and hoping for the best.
- Do not go over the Lore Value. That’s such a waste of your cards and time. That said, you can potentially bait an opponent into going over by playing the Lore Power card that modifies a Lore Value. Bonus points if you can then chain that into an Elemental and completely wipe the floor with them on one shrine. As I usually say, cruel, but fair.
- Remember your Faction has a slight edge. You win all ties in either Combat or Lore Value; make sure you keep that in mind. This may let you make a slightly better move somewhere else, provided you can maintain a perfect tie on a Lore Token.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It’s got a very unique playing style. I like games that are distinct and memorable, and this 1v1 asymmetric game is certainly both of those. It’s got an interesting theme, unique gameplay mechanics, and enough stuff going for it that after a few plays I can kinda look at it and say, “that’s so Haven”. It’s just very distinct, and I appreciate that.
- We don’t have enough green Red Raven Games. Ryan’s art style is phenomenal, obviously, but beyond Above and Below (and Islebound, though that’s more teal) I don’t have a lot of this like, vibrant green from him. It’s really nice — would love to see more foresty places in future games.
- It’s a pretty elegant tug-of-war. Figuring out which Shrines you want to try and attempt for and which ones you’re okay letting go of is an important strategy, but managing that war on three fronts makes the game pretty complicated, especially because you generally have the same abilities as your opponent, so you’re evenly matched.
- It seems like it could be expanded / spun off, somewhat. I think there’s a lot to explore here between the interaction of various Seekers and Lore Powers, and I could see new maps or new Lore tokens looking really interesting. Not looking for necessarily a ROOT-style massive asymmetric game, but I think there’s potential for more Haven.
- I like that you’re always forced to have at least one Offering in hand. This forces you to draw from the Offering deck, which can cause you to randomly reveal an Elemental and potentially resolve a lore token unexpectedly. This can be super beneficial or super bad, depending on your life choices. Either way, it’s usually pretty funny.
- There’s a 0 Lore Power card with no swords that’s just like “hey everyone, I showed up today!”. It’s almost completely useless (unless you’re playing with Artifacts) but it’s a big mood.
- More backstory, please. I’m just generally invested in Red Raven’s worlds, and would love to learn more about them.
- Similar to Fantastiqa, it can be a bit to learn. It takes some time to learn, but it’s worth it. There are a few rules that can trip you up (removing Lore Powers at start, the discarding rules, discarding Seekers if you exceed the Lore Power limit), but the setup is a lot less intensive, in my opinion, so that’s nice. That said, it generally will push your first play up past the initial 30 minute playtime, so, be mindful of that unless you play super fast.
- Tiny cards remain the bane of my existence. I also don’t want to shuffle them because I’m afraid I’ll bend the stacks! Don’t want to damage the art, but, gotta shuffle them well.
- The Hidden Artifacts are quite difficult to get. It’s rare to get all three of a Seeker at any one time, and even if you do, it’s rare to go at least two turns without resolving one of the Lore Tokens (which often results in cards being discarded). It makes getting one rewarding, but it’s definitely possible to go the whole game without any being acquired, which can feel weird.
- Keeping the discard face-down kind of encourages the game to be a memory game, which I generally find a bit frustrating. There are players who are just a bit better at memory games, and so they tend to do better in situations like this. I usually house-rule that you can look through your discard pile, just, keep it fast or do it on another player’s turn. If you’re holding up the game, then you’re not doing a very good job.
- If you don’t enjoy card-counting, you’re gonna have some trouble with this game. A lot of what you need to do is assess what the risk of drawing an Elemental at an inopportune time is, and that can change depending on which ones you’ve seen and how many cards are in your deck. It also helps you a lot with deciding which Seekers you want to flip, provided you know what the odds of flipping a Seeker that causes you to bust is. Some people aren’t into that, so, this game will likely not be for them.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I like Haven quite a bit! There’s an interesting tension when you’re trying to figure out whether your opponent is trying to beat you on Lore or Combat (or both), and I think that drives a lot of the game, which I enjoy. The fact that your decks are essentially the same (one Lore Power difference) and that ties break differently for you is a nice touch, I think. It’s only slightly asymmetric, so it’s not hard to learn the Forest once you’ve learned the City; they play the same. You just might have slightly different incentives as a Forest player than a City player, which makes the strategies change slightly to follow. It’s obviously complemented by more fantastic art from Laukat, which I appreciate, as well; I think the greens here are a really nice move for him and I’d be interested in seeing more games with similar color schemes in the future. All that in a ~30 minute time frame is pretty good, for me, all things considered. If you’re looking for a bit of complex gameplay that’s not going to break the bank, mentally, or you want a challenging game that’s ever-so-slightly asymmetric, I’d recommend taking Haven for a spin! I’ve enjoyed it.