Thursday, 13 March 2008

Brass (not a review)

Martin Wallace's game Brass is one of the games I will play almost any time. I really enjoy it, but it hits the points that I enjoy in a game. One of my gripes about Industrial Waste is the need to get orders to get income form your developed factory. I enjoy building up my super factory, but the day-to-day drag of actually getting orders isn't as fun.

Brass gives you all the fun of running several industries, but once you have a market for your goods, you never have to go through the bother of selling from that factory again. You keep selling from that factory (since your income is permanently increased), but you don't need to concern yourself with such low-level details.

The most important action (in my opinion) that you can take in this game is development. And that is implemented in a staggeringly unintuitive manner (flipping tiles off of stacks). The best payoffs (in points) come with the more developed industries, but they tend to give the worst income boost. It seems hard to evaluate, but I guess that's a good thing. Few businesses in the real world know exactly what the pay off for R&D investment will be.

The tension of this game lies in its limited actions and money. If you go for a cash strong approach to the game, then you should hope that shipyards are open when you need them (shipyards are a very good way to convert cash into points). You can almost always go for loans (and if you are feeling short on cash that is usually a good move).

Brass is a hard game to learn, but I think that's mainly because a lot of the mechanics are new. Also the components lead people to think coal and iron are the same. They aren't, and the rules treat them differently. Although calling iron, "iron" is somewhat misleading since it represents iron works building steam engines and such.

I've played the game about ten times. The first few games were learning about how cards worked and where you could build (transporting coal/iron). The next few were learning the importance of loans. Then there was learning how important development was. The last few games have focused on transportation links.

There is a lot to this game, and even after all the times I've played it, I don't feel like I know it well enough to give a fair review. The best I can do is say that I've enjoyed every game win or lose (which is admittedly highly subjective).

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