Posted by: david865williams | July 3, 2012

Ora & Labora

Following is the shocking, controversial review I wrote that set the gaming world on fire. I reviewed a game before I played it. Since I wrote this, I have played O&L once, and I stand by the observations.

I sat at the table with Ora & Labora, learned the game, and gave Jim McDanold enough bad advice to sabotage his game before sneaking out.

I think it’s on the low end of a 7. It’s a good enough game, I’d happily play it, but I think I’d sooner reach for one of Rosenberg’s other titles. Most obviously, it seems to be a rework of LeHavre, with resources that build up until someone collects them, buildings players build and use (and block each other out of), and a wide range of resources that are or can be turned into victory points.

My main beef is the production value. The cards are physically smaller than LeHavre. It is harder to look around the table and see what buildings are available for a player to use. The color scheme is darker and the cards are by necessity more crowded, so this game wouldn’t be as much fun for me to look at for 2 hours.

Ora and Labora added a few things. There’s a spatial element to the buliding, and you have to annex land to build on, which is cheaper if you do it before others do. Worker placement has a few twists that a clever player can use to advantage. These mechanisms seem to work fine, but I don’t know that Le Havre needed any sort of an upgrade.

The one nod I would give to Ora & Labora over its older sibling is “feeding your people.” O&L has a series of “settlement” phases interspersed where you use resources to build special settlement-only buildings. There are several to choose from and they provide varying number of victory points. So rather than the “do it or else” mechanism of Le Havre, you can build a good settlement or a weak settlement (or none at all), but you’re never flat-out penalized. While the math may add up the same in both games (have xxx ready by time y, or other players surpass you) it feels more forward-going and less like food is a drag on what you’d REALLY like to be doing.


  1. Good review. Reading the cards of the other players is impossible. We just ask “Do you have anything that I can use to make ____?” It works and you don’t have to worry about the other things. I am not good at engine building games so I don’t expect to compete for the win but this and Le Havre are both games I would play most of the time.

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