Harbouring Merchants

From the ever popular Monopoly to the lesser-known Jambo! and the cultish “Cashflow,” boardgames mean money.Market simulation games try to illustrate real-world business scenarios with derivative mechanics and simplified components. Often times though, these games intimidate – coming in enormous boxes, housing with even larger game boards, and smothered with convoluted rulebooks, that you have to wonder. Is the real thing easier?

Typically, a game involves managing various commodities. Sending a worker scurrying around a buildings, manipulating a supply and demand mechanism, and trading between quick profit for long-term gain – forms the core of business games.

Usually. Enter, Harbour.



Harbour’s tiny box is barely something store-bought candy comes in. Crammed into this travel-sized form factor is a game as sweet as chocolate-filled marshmallow, yet as complex as cinnamon-cherry twizzlers.

The goal of the game is to have the highest point total. Points come from buildings you build during the game. Each player is racing to build 5 buildings, and doing so, triggers a final round of play.

During setup, players choose among 14 roles. Will you be the mayor – imposing your authority to use other player’s buildings? Or will you be the Wolf – manipulating the demand for ever-critical meat? Even the nosy Neighbor has his uses – snooping around backyards and copying whatever opponents are doing. Choose wisely, for this role unlocks your defining power for the game, as well as your opening building.

Players take turns moving their single worker around the dock, activating the various available buildings, even other player’s buildings – provided they pay a fee. Activating buildings increase a combination of resources: Livestock, Fish, Stone and Wood. Some buildings can do more -manipulating demand for goods, or constructing even more buildings.
What you do, as in the real world, is guided by demand. Goods’ values are indicated on the market card at the center of the table. It may say there is a demand of 2 or more Livestock (pays out $2), 3 or more Fish (pays out for $3), 4+ Stone (pays out $4) and 5+ Wood (pays out $5).

Whenever a player buys a building that costs $7, by selling their stone and fish supply, the demand for those naturally drop. The livestock now slides up to a demand of 4+ then Fish and Stone follow in that order, Wood would still be at a demand 5+ waiting for a player to capitalize on it. The best way to understand the game, and the market system, is to simply play it. Gaining the most profit involves timing your buying and selling to leverage profit – while outwitting your opponents’ own machinations.


The amount of replayability in this game is more than many big box games out there, full of whimsical artwork that color up the enticement factor for non-gamers and gamers alike. One critical complaint people say about this game is that it’s cut-throat. I prefer to call it “tight.” One often feels the need to rotate teeny gears – squeezing out a precise combination of goods at the right time, to win.

I personally can’t recommend it enough. It’s a definite check out, if not an outright addition to one’s collection.
So Until next time, Make your games count!

Written by: Ronald Villaver
Edited by: Reg Tolentino