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Review: “Harbor Master” by Hiro Tanikawa, Buffalo Games — 9/10

Publisher: Buffalo Games (US), published 2016

Title:  “Harbor Master” by Hiro Tanikawa, Buffalo Games, 2000 pieces 

Finished size: 38.5″ x 26.5″


Box Quality:  (8/10)

The Buffalo Games 2000 piece box is the same as their regular box. It has a small square shape, which saves room on the shelf. The front is shown above. The back of the box has a generic Buffalo Games back. Unfortunately, the name of the artist is only shown small in a copyright notice on one side. The year of manufacture is not listed on the box.

Buffalo Games boxes also have the distinctive issue of not being shrink wrapped but instead the lid is glued onto the bottom at 4 points, one along each side, so you have to use a knife to cut the box open.

The sides have a photo of the puzzle, the puzzle name, and piece count. The Buffalo logo is on two sides so you can shelve it facing out. I would have liked to have seen the artist name under the image name on all sides (and the front of the box).


The box comes with a poster which can be used for reference when assembling the puzzle. That’s particularly nice when you’re working the puzzle with another person since one person can use the box lid and the other person can use the poster.

The poster is shown in the photo below. It has the puzzle image to use during assembly and shows a few other 2000 piece puzzles. The back of the poster is blank white.

Overall, I’ve given the box an 8/10 score. I love the added poster but dislike cutting the box open and the lack of artist name and bio anywhere on the box or poster.

The Image:  10/10

I’ve given ‘Harbor Master” full marks on the image score.This is one of those images that stuck me immediately in that oh-I-can’t-wait sort of way. �� I featured it in a new puzzles post here.

Holding the box in my hands, this image is just as appealing as it looks in online previews. I love the cartoony style, the colors, and all the detail and objects in the image. The overall aqua-gold-red color scheme is also very attractive. The image design is well suited for a puzzle. There are objects all over the scene that help break up the floor and walls, which can otherwise be monotonous. There’s still a lot of brown in the image but I’ve taken that into account in the Assembly section.

I think this is an image that has a nice cross-gender appeal. It’s a masculine-themed image but the art style softens it. This is my favorite Hiro Tanikawa that I’ve seen yet and I believe it’s the first puzzle of his that I’ve assembled (but undoubtedly not the last–he did this year’s Falcon’s LE Christmas puzzle).

(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)

Puzzle Quality: (9/10)

You can see my brand page for Buffalo Games here.  This 2000 piece puzzle is fully compatible with the quality of the 1000 piece Buffalo Games puzzles, which is nice to see. Sometimes the larger piece sizes can have some quality cuts, probably to keep the price down. But that wasn’t the case here.

The quality is good, the pieces feel sturdy, and the artwork reproduction is perfect. The cut is the same as their 1000 piece puzzle cut, as you can see in the close-up below. It’s a standard grid-cut puzzle that has a few ‘zip zag’ sided pieces. There’s a good variety of piece shapes. I never had a question about whether or not a piece actually fit. The connections were fairly tight and you can move small groups of pieces without having them fall apart if you’re careful (but not larger sections).

The final finish is very flat and seamless. On the downside, the finish is glossy so you can get glare under overhead lights. In this puzzle, I found that mainly affected the darker pieces, which I discuss in the Assembly section.

Assembly:  (8/10)

This puzzle is moderate-to-difficult and takes a good number of hours to complete. I spent six evenings on it. The 2000 piece size makes it considerably more challenging than a 1000 piece puzzle. And the sketchy-cartoony style makes similarly-colored features in the image less distinctive from each other than they might be in a more detailed art style. In addition, there’s a whole lot of brown at the end. But the challenge is part of the fun as long as you’re up for it, right? Let’s break it down….

First day — I assembled the border of the puzzle and the bright blues because they seemed the most distinctive. A few of the oranges and reds were easy to pull too. Et voila:

Day two — Adding in the greens and some of the yellow. The raincoat was pretty distinctive because the texture was shiny and solid. The yellow on the angel prowhead has lines and swirls running through it. Since there are several areas of the prowhead, it took a little extra time to figure out what pieces went where. There’s also lots of other gold like lamps, but I hadn’t started those yet.

Day three & four — The next phase was essentially filling in everything that wasn’t brown or super dark (blacks, dark blues). There is a glossy surface, so I found that distinguishing between dark brown, black, and dark blue was difficult at night under overhead lights. There aren’t that many truly dark pieces in the puzzle though. Most are lighter brown and tan.

This stage took quite a while because of the sketchy art style. I really love the art style visually. But when assembling, there are a whole lot of brown pieces with bits of yellow/gold, or pieces that are all tan/gold, and you can’t really figure out where they go by comparing the piece to the poster, at least not without intensive scanning and study. There is quite a bit of gold spread throughout the image. I’ve rated assembly pretty highly because I enjoyed the challenge, but it’s definitely not easy!

Day five & six — doing the brown. The last stage is to do all the tans-to-browns-to-blacks in the image. There’s a lot of it on the walls, the cupboards, the chair, etc. There are quite a few shades of brown, but many of them are quite close to another shade, especially under night lighting. It’s definitely not an impossible tasks, just a time consuming one. I found myself often laying a piece down next to partially assembled areas to see if the browns matched up. Also, because the puzzle is quite large, I found myself spinning the Jigboard a lot with piece in hand or getting up to move around the puzzle to look at different areas, which takes a bit of extra time. (Is this like Pokeman Go exercise? No?)

Overall, I’ve rated assembly an 8.

Bonus Point:

I’ve given this puzzle’s score one bonus point for being a cartoon 2000 piece puzzle. Those are hard to come by, and I found the overall size and challenge added a lot to the experience for me and also makes the final product so huge! It feels like a real accomplishment.

Additional Photos



This is a gorgeous 2000-piece puzzle in a bright and fun cartoon style that should appeal to men and women alike. The colors are lovely, and there’s a lot of detail in this scene. The large size and the sketchy cartoon art style make this puzzle more challenging than most. Be prepared for a serious puzzling effort! The final puzzle is very large at 38.5″ x 26.5″ and feels like a major accomplishment. The finish is flat and smooth and the puzzle would look good framed. The Buffalo Games quality is quite good and pleasant to assemble, though there can be glare off the glossy surface under strong overhead lights. Recommended for those like cartoon puzzles, puzzles in larger sizes, or those are looking for something a little more challenging.

Where to find:

“Harbor Master” is 15% off at Puzzle Warehouse (thru 7/25/2016). Click below for the sale page.


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