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Brass Lancashire

RRP: £69.99
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RRP £69.99
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Brass: Lancashire is one of Martin Wallace’s finest games. This 2018 reprint by Roxley Games is a thing of pure beauty, in both game design and aesthetics. Brass is an economic strategy game where players compete as rival cotton tycoons in Lancashire, UK. During the Industrial Revolution, cotton was a business of epic proportions. Can you build a blossoming network to transport ir…
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Brass: Lancashire is one of Martin Wallace’s finest games. This 2018 reprint by Roxley Games is a thing of pure beauty, in both game design and aesthetics. Brass is an economic strategy game where players compete as rival cotton tycoons in Lancashire, UK. During the Industrial Revolution, cotton was a business of epic proportions. Can you build a blossoming network to transport iron, coal and cotton? Can you create a thriving, wealthy conglomerate?

Your turn involves clever hand management. You perform two actions, by spending cards from your hand (and then replenishing your hand). Cards have either Lancashire-based locations on them, or industries. Will you build industry tiles or improve older ones within your network? Or will you extend your network? How many raw resources sit connected within your transport network? How much will it cost?

Almost everything costs money in Brass! Connecting canals or railways between cities costs, as does building/upgrading industry tiles. Managing your finances is crucial! You’ll earn income on a regular basis, but like any empire, you’ll have to spend money to make money. Keep a close eye on the fluctuating markets to see which materials have high/low costs right now…

Succeeding in Brass is knowing how to stretch the most out of your hand. Geographical locations on cards restrict where you can build your industries. But it isn’t a pure luck-fest, because you can use any card to take the ‘develop industries’ action. Also, any card allows you to sell cotton or take the ‘build a connection’ action. You can turn any hand into a great hand with the right decisions, made at the right time.

Brass: Lancashire is a game of two halves. First, you’ll build a canal network. Mid-game scoring occurs when the deck runs down. Everyone scores their canals and ‘established’ industry tiles. Afterwards, everyone’s canal networks get removed from the board. Also, any low-level industry tiles get wiped (higher-value industry tiles remain though, giving you a launch pad for the second half.) Then the rail network phase starts – now you’re linking cities with train lines, instead. End-game scoring kicks in when the deck depletes a second time, and most points wins, of course!

Player Count: 2-4 players
Time: 60-120 minutes
Age: 14+

Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Stunning themed artwork
  • Complex heavy weight strategy
  • High level of player interaction

Might Not Like

  • Set up is quite time consuming
  • Limited actions and change in board requires constant change of strategy
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Description

Brass: Lancashire is one of Martin Wallace’s finest games. This 2018 reprint by Roxley Games is a thing of pure beauty, in both game design and aesthetics. Brass is an economic strategy game where players compete as rival cotton tycoons in Lancashire, UK. During the Industrial Revolution, cotton was a business of epic proportions. Can you build a blossoming network to transport iron, coal and cotton? Can you create a thriving, wealthy conglomerate?

Your turn involves clever hand management. You perform two actions, by spending cards from your hand (and then replenishing your hand). Cards have either Lancashire-based locations on them, or industries. Will you build industry tiles or improve older ones within your network? Or will you extend your network? How many raw resources sit connected within your transport network? How much will it cost?

Almost everything costs money in Brass! Connecting canals or railways between cities costs, as does building/upgrading industry tiles. Managing your finances is crucial! You’ll earn income on a regular basis, but like any empire, you’ll have to spend money to make money. Keep a close eye on the fluctuating markets to see which materials have high/low costs right now…

Succeeding in Brass is knowing how to stretch the most out of your hand. Geographical locations on cards restrict where you can build your industries. But it isn’t a pure luck-fest, because you can use any card to take the ‘develop industries’ action. Also, any card allows you to sell cotton or take the ‘build a connection’ action. You can turn any hand into a great hand with the right decisions, made at the right time.

Brass: Lancashire is a game of two halves. First, you’ll build a canal network. Mid-game scoring occurs when the deck runs down. Everyone scores their canals and ‘established’ industry tiles. Afterwards, everyone’s canal networks get removed from the board. Also, any low-level industry tiles get wiped (higher-value industry tiles remain though, giving you a launch pad for the second half.) Then the rail network phase starts – now you’re linking cities with train lines, instead. End-game scoring kicks in when the deck depletes a second time, and most points wins, of course!

Player Count: 2-4 players
Time: 60-120 minutes
Age: 14+

Brass Lancashire, formerly published as "Brass" is the economic tabletop game that has been the subject of many gaming forums and leading sales charts for some time thanks to its new, revamped look and ironed out imperfections in gameplay. Brass Lancashire, sister to Brass Birmingham, is as the name suggests set in Lancashire England during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, and it certainly lives up to all the hype and high rating reviews.

The characters are represented by real, famous entrepreneurs; both men and women, who brought about the technological and engineering advancement from 1770 to 1870, and I love that there is a brief historical section dedicated to each of the eight characters at the start of the rule book.

The rule book itself is easy to follow with clearly defined rules, sectioned into bite size pieces. It also includes handy tips and a variant section on the back page to help the players get the most out of the game.

Gameplay

Brass Lancashire falls into the heavy euro category, with it being an economic strategy game with a good amount of complexity and several mechanisms. That is not to say that it should deter players who prefer less dense gaming, the actual gameplay itself is easy to follow and as it is played over two eras you can play in two halves, taking a break after the canal era scoring.

Each player begins with the same amount of currency, a character token, and a player board with various tiles which represent the different industries. In addition, there are network link tiles that are double sided; canal boats for the canal era and steam trains for… you've guessed it, the railway era.

Each player also has a hand of cards, and the game plays out over the course of several rounds made up of 2 actions per player, playing cards in hand. Turn order is determined by who spends the most money each round, and players continue to draw up cards and receive income each round, which is then used to invest in either building, networking or development. Alternatively, players can sell or take a loan to gain further capital, selling also gains Victory Points.

Hand Management

There is a strong hand management element to the game, but it is not a deck building mechanism - cards are the key denominator in what players can do and where, but the real purpose of the game is tile placement to achieve as many victory points as possible. Players need to build or develop their industries in order to progress with points, resources and income as well as to improve on the actions that are available in future turns.

During the canal era, players will receive new cards from the stack and play with their hands until their hands are finally exhausted. The approaching end rounds are indicated by the appearance of Stephenson's Rocket which signifies that the age of steam technology has begun and the railway era is dawning.

After the scoring of the canal era is complete, early level tiles and all networks are removed from the board, and the new era begins again in the same way as before. All players now try to rebuild or expand on their network and make that final push to earn as many victory points as possible.

This time Nathan Rothschild symbolises that the end of the railway era is approaching, and players will race to connect as many railway networks and sell as many of their industries as possible to gain maximum end game VPs.

Artwork & Components

The character portraits and the industry cards are masterfully illustrated to reflect the Neoclassical style of artwork during this era; while the boards, location cards and tiles echo the simplistic, linear design and muted pallets that set the scene for the industrial age.

It's dark, moody and almost smoggy looking, giving a real sense of atmosphere, and the box cover would not look out of place hanging in an ornate frame on a stately home wall. Although art is very subjective, there is no denying that Brass Lancashire is a great looking game that captures the attention of even the toughest board game critic. The attention to detail is incredible, even down to the card currency, which uses colour and tone to give the appearance of old and new coins.

I would definitely recommend sleeving the cards as they are a key element to the game and all cards are in play over both eras. There are many tiles to be stacked on the player boards, and the various sorting of different components makes the set up take a little longer than some other euro games, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Final Thoughts

Brass Lancashire has certainly earned its place in the top rankings in euro style strategy games. It requires tactical thinking, not just in developing your own industries and network links on the board, but it also requires keeping an eye on your opponents' strategies.

Its complexity is juggling how and when to monopolise areas or resource production for your own gain, as well as to meet the demands of your opponents and the foreign market for tile flipping and income, which adds an exciting dimension to play. What's more, the two actions per player, per round add tension to the development of your infrastructure.

Players may compete for the same territories and network links, so everything you are planning to do for your next turn may well have to change by the time it comes back to you.

Ultimately, it is the victory points that decide who wins, not the income, but developing that winning infrastructure can only be achieved through earning or borrowing enough money to be able to invest, so it is really a balance between short term and long term gains. In any case, it isn't until the end game scoring that you can actually discover how successful an entrepreneur you have been.

In terms of re-playability, because Brass Lancashire is a game of tactical decisions, influenced by the constantly shifting strategies, it doesn't matter that the mechanics of the game are always the same.

How you play the cards you are dealt and who you are paying with will change the game every time. Every player has the potential to help or thwart your planned manoeuvres and it's a game that gets better the more you play, and the smarter your choices become.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Stunning themed artwork
  • Complex heavy weight strategy
  • High level of player interaction

Might not like

  • Set up is quite time consuming
  • Limited actions and change in board requires constant change of strategy