Brass: Lancashire (originally known as Brass) was released in 2007 by well known designer Martin Wallace. Brass is an economic strategy game about competing entrepreneurs in Lancashire, set during the industrial revolution. Since its release it has received and been nominated for a host of awards. It is highly rated by a plethora of players and is currently sitting at number 35 on BoardGameGeek. The game is obviously well designed and well loved.
2018 and Martin Wallace is back with his sequel to Brass: Lancashire, Brass Birmingham. It has a similar theme with players still taking on the role of entrepreneurs in, unsurprisingly, Birmingham during the same industrial revolution. Players will build, develop and establish industries and networks to become the most successful entrepreneur by exploiting the low and high market demand. All this sounds very familiar to Brass: Lancashire.
This appears to not just be a re-skin of Martin Wallace's previous game but a very different experience than Brass: Lancashire. There are a number of features and gameplay changes (whilst still remaining true to its heritage) that warrant it as a separate stand alone game to is predecessor and not just another pasted on theme. The game is still played over two halves (Canal era 1770-1830 and Rail era 1830-1870) and still has the familiar Brass actions of:
- Build - Pay required resources and place an industry tile
- Network - Expand a players network by placing a canal or rail tile
- Develop - Increase the victory point value of a player's industry
- Sell - Sell resources
- Loan - Receive a £30 loan and reduce income.
There is an addition of a new action, Scout, which allows players to discard three cards and take a wild action. But this is not the only new aspect of the game.
Iron, coal and cotton are the three industries present in Brass: Lancashire. Brass Birmingham has iron, coal and cotton as well, but introduces three new industry types; Brewery, Manufactured Goods and Pottery offering further game changes to the original and additional strategic choices.
Brewing beer now forms a big part of the game. For a player to sell goods they must also pay a beer to the relevant trader. Think of it is a sweetener to the trade deal.
Manufactured goods behave similarly to cotton but feature eight development levels with each level providing unique rewards (rather than just an increase in victory points). Manufactured goods offer a greater reward than cotton, but a much more difficult path to follow. Pottery offers huge victory points but it is essential to plan correctly and is a costly investment.
Boom or Crash
Brass: Birmingham looks like an amazing game that is due to be delivered to Kickstarter backers later this year. The game board is gorgeous and has the look of a dark, smoky, industrial city that ties in with the theme of the game beautifully. I unfortunately missed the (canal) boat on this one, which I am a little disappointed about. I will be keeping an eye on this when it hits retail, hopefully later on in the year.
From the information out there I can't imagine that this is going to be anything but a huge success. Will it over take its predecessor Brass: Lancashire on the BoardGameGeek rankings? Who knows, but I guess only time will tell. It certainly has the potential, with improved gameplay, new actions, new industries and new strategies to explore and exploit. I will be following the reviews, playthroughs and opinions on this game and have got my an eye on it for a future purchase once it hits retail.