In 2007, Martin Wallace created the original version of Brass. Considered a masterpiece by many, it was a game that would go on to become one of the highest ranking games on Board Game Geek. It currently sits in 20th position in the sub category of strategic games.
Fast forward 11 years and Brass has been given a much needed face-lift in an updated version of the game, renamed Brass: Lancashire. The artwork is stunning and the production quality is first class. The same can be said for this, Brass Birmingham, the sequel to Brass which has been released at the same time.
The Black Country
The board sets the atmosphere perfectly, instantly immersing you into the world of the Black Country during the industrial revolution, between the years of 1770-1870. It's in this world where you will compete with the other players to be the most successful entrepreneur. Brass Birmingham is an economic strategy game which rewards careful planning and well thought out moves.
All of the components have been produced with exceptional quality. The player boards and cards are adorned with beautiful art so that they blend perfectly with the main board. The rule book is well written, although it can take some time to get your head around some of the rules concerning networks and links. However, the player aids are very clear and once everything clicks into place, it becomes straightforward to play.
Playing Brass Birmingham (Credit: d0gb0t BGG)
Mechanics of Entrepreneurship
As in its predecessor, you must develop, build, and establish your network and industries in an effort to exploit low or high market demands. Each round, players take perform two of the following actions (found in the original game):
- Build - Pay required resources and place an industry tile.
- Network - Add a canal/ rail link, expanding your network.
- Develop - Increase the VP value of an industry.
- Sell - Sell your cotton, manufactured goods and pottery.
- Loan - Take a £30 loan and reduce your income.
A new sixth action has also been added to Brass Birmingham:
- Scout - Discard three cards and take a wild location and wild industry card. (This action replaces Double Action Build in original Brass.)
Brass Birmingham adds other elements to the original version of Brass, including the addition of Breweries, Manufacturers, Potteries and larger coal and iron market sizes.
Brewing is one of the most significant additions to Birmingham. You must now sell your product through traders located around the edges of the board. Each of these traders are looking for a specific type of good each game. To sell cotton, pottery, or manufactured goods to these traders, you must also "grease the wheels of industry" by consuming beer.
For example, a level one cotton mill requires one beer to flip. As an incentive to sell early, the first player to sell to a trader receives free beer.
Brass Birmingham (Credit: d0gb0t BGG)
Final Thoughts on Brass Birmingham
Brass Birmingham is not a light game, rather it’s a must for anyone looking for an intense, brain burning euro. Gameplay requires both strong strategy and flexible tactics to manage competing demands. Interaction between the players comes through competition for the different markets, although this is less than in Lancashire, which has less industries.
The replay-ability of this game is high due to the variable set-up and the opportunity to explore a multitude of possible strategies. It can be a long and arduous experience but one which is ultimately rewarding and leaves you wanting to come back for more!