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Subject: First play of my first heavy boardgame rss

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Levi Hobbs
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Background/story time:
2-3 years ago I discovered modern boardgames, and I have been an omnigamer ever since but have developed a desire for heavier games. Slowly my interest grew--at first I denied it, realizing that I would quickly get in over my head. Furthermore, understand that I first started building up my boardgame collection primarily to have something to do with friends that wasn't time-consuming--I needed something more time-boxed than MTG, which was consuming all of my life at the time. So I started with Dominion and grew from there.

All that to say, at first I had no desire for heavier games but slowly that desire has grown. At BGG Con Spring I finally bought my first truly heavy eurogame. By the way I realize that how you define "heavy" is totally relative. But for me, my heaviest games up till that point were Caverna, Kraftwagen, and Battles of Westeros, which I define as mid-heavy, but not quite heavy. From watching reviews and reading about Brass, I guessed that it was what I would call "heavy," but in the realm of heavy games, one of the lighter. (I was ready for Brass but not for Die Macher or TI3.)

I bought a ton of games at the Flea Market at BGG Con Spring, so for three months Brass waited. Staring at me from my coffee table, conveniently located so I would see it whenever I sit in my favorite recliner. I grew intimately familiar with the five golden brassen brazen? big letters on its box. First I had a casual interest, then a desire, then a yearning of my very soul to unlock the deep secrets of the Boardgame of Gormenghast.

The session:
Anyways. After reading through the rules twice and skimming a third time, I finally set it up and played a dry-run of three players.

I decided to have the red player focus on fast victory points, so in the canal half of the game he focused more on canals than industry. I had the green and yellow players focused more on income. All three players did a bit of everything.

After building a ton of coal, yellow quickly discovered that all the coal in the world isn't worth much if no one uses it! Green built a coal mine that was closer to the demand than two of yellow's, so even though yellow had built first, his two coal mines never got used, while green's did. Red made a similar mistake with building an ironworks that never got used up by the end of the canal age.

Sure enough, red's focus on canals did pan out in terms of getting more VPs--he was ahead of the other two by about 15 or 20. However, yellow and green had income ahead of his by 15-20. This really hampered red in the rails half of the game, where green and yellow were making big moves almost every turn and always seemed to have a nice surplus of cash. Everyone took out multiple 30-pound loans throughout the game, and in hindsight I'm wondering if I should have done more mental math to make sure all of those loans made sense, especially the ones made early in the rails age. It seemed worth it at the time. Also, you can't really do much if you don't have any money...

All three took out several loans throughout the game, but red had to take out more.

Who won?
Red focused on ironworks and shipyards in addition to a fair amount of rails. However red came in last as expected. Yellow came in first, and I attribute this to A) having no un-flipped tiles at the end, and B) having an extensive amount of points from railroads.

Green did pretty well but not as well as yellow, because A) they didn't have the extensive canals that yellow did, and B) they had two unflipped canals at the end. The foreign market for cotton bottomed out and after every port had already been flipped, there was no longer anywhere to sell cotton.

Analyzing the outcome:
Ironically, the winner didn't have as many cotton mills as the other two players, and I had originally thought they were perhaps the best source of VPs. Ports seem a safe source of VPs, especially in the rails age, but not as big a ROI as others. Coal seems to be the best source of income. Iron seems to be take-it-or-leave-it.

Shipyards are obviously the best source of VPs but they're more expensive than the canals/rails route...in my game everyone did some shipyards so it's hard to tell how that factored into the win.

Interesting things that happened:
I noticed there's basically more potential for cotton mills than there is potential for cotton sales!

You can build a port even though you have no cotton to sell, being self-assured that someone will need to use their port. If you build a port somewhere, then someone else can't build there.

We (I) never used the iron and coal in the supply tracks until the last turn of the game. I guess this is because of the way I think: people need coal/iron, so I'm going to build this to cash in! I wonder if this would be different in another game.

I noticed sometimes you may really want to build someplace but since you don't have a card for it and don't want to spend both of your turns, you do something else, hoping that someone else will build the coal mine/port you want. However, other players may not be thinking about building that thing at all because of their own goals, so it comes back around to your turn without that thing ever being done. I guess this is where the iron/coal supply track, and the foreign market come into play.

Thoughts on the game:
I feel like Brass is pretty well-balanced in many ways...I really like how players basically end up working together to make a unique ecosystem every game even though they're totally competing with each other. I also love flipping over these tiles.

It feels like this game could have been made WAY, WAY more complex than it is. Honestly, I went into this game expecting the worst (in terms of complexity). But (perhaps partially because of my expectations?) I didn't find it to be all that bad. Some people complain about the rules not being intuitive, but most of them seem pretty intuitive to me. But hey that's just me.

Honestly I feel like this game really simulates an economy really well. I love that the game is all about linking supply with demand and setting up income streams. There's nothing I love more in a game than increasing my income. And I like how the buildings get upgraded and you can actually upgrade them yourselves.

Honestly on my first playthrough, I only looked at the rulebook half a dozen times! I really appreciate the reminder sheet that came with my copy (not sure if it's in all copies?). It's just the structure of a round. For a while I kept forgetting to collect income at the beginning of a round, and I could see a lot of people forgetting to reorder the player turn order.

I also think the rules in the back, the "easy to forget" rules were a great idea. Only about half of them are easy for me personally to forget, but it's a great checklist for me to read over every once in a while.

Summary:
I can't wait to play this with a couple choice friends. I won't be introducing this to newbies to boardgames, or trying to squeeze it into a 2.5 hr night, for sure. But I could see it playing within 2.5 hours once people know what they're doing.

I see why this game is such a classic and this very well might become one of my favorite games with further plays! I'm thinking I will probably end up rating this an 8 or 9.

The only thing I really didn't like was the money...cheap little plastic chips that didn't even have anything printed on them. I replaced it with my own favorite metal coins by Drawlab. If you own Brass and you're planning on owning very many boardgames, I would recommend getting some fancy metal coins to reuse in your boardgames; they really help a lot with flavor and feel.

Brass: help make the great, sooty, Industrial Revolution happen!
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Clement Tey
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I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.
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David Larkin
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Iron works should always get flipped, upgrade your industries to make sure. An early iron works and a couple of upgrades gets you a level two industry that will stay put into the second phase if you get it flipped. If you place it well it can be a big strategical advantage to build out from when the railway age starts
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Andi Hub
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princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.

I do not agree. Brass is well above Kraftwagen and also Caverna (actually I have not played Caverna, but I take Agricola as a proxy). When to take loans, which industries to develop away or build, how to build you are network, estimate which strategy can be implemented with the cards your dealt; these things are in my view quite a bit more complex than your "average" Euro.

@levininja: I really liked your analysis
Quote:
I really like how players basically end up working together to make a unique ecosystem every game even though they're totally competing with each other.

This is also what I really like about this game. It is competitive, but maybe it is beneficial for player A to build a port for player B's cotton mill and both gain relative to players C and D. To me this is a very interesting kind of interaction which I prefer over direct conflict and destructive attacks.
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David Gibbs
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What final scores did you see?

In a 3-player game, a winning score will often approach or exceed 200 pts, and often all three players will be over 150 pts.

I often see coal track emptied well before the end of the rail age. I sometimes see iron track emptied before the end of the canal age.

Yes, there are more cotton mill locations than port locations -- but some of them (variable amounts) may ship to external demand.

Shipyards cost a lot of development -- that is actions -- to use. Actions are your most valuable resource. Generally it isn't worth putting pursuing a shipyard unless you expect to build at least two of them in the rail age.
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David B
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princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Kraftwagen is significantly lighter than Brass.
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Levi Hobbs
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dagibbs wrote:
What final scores did you see?

In a 3-player game, a winning score will often approach or exceed 200 pts, and often all three players will be over 150 pts.


I believe the final scores ranged from 170 down to 130.

dagibbs wrote:
Shipyards cost a lot of development -- that is actions -- to use. Actions are your most valuable resource. Generally it isn't worth putting pursuing a shipyard unless you expect to build at least two of them in the rail age.


Well it only takes one development to flip over two shipyards and start building them, so I didn't consider that a huge investment.
 
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Levi Hobbs
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Zark wrote:
Iron works should always get flipped, upgrade your industries to make sure. An early iron works and a couple of upgrades gets you a level two industry that will stay put into the second phase if you get it flipped. If you place it well it can be a big strategical advantage to build out from when the railway age starts


Well the one thing I wondered about this was, developing all your tiles isn't always a strictly good thing right? Because the earlier tiles have more income and less VPs, so early in the game it makes sense to build the earlier versions...

But then again if you end up with a bunch of extra money at the end of the game then you weren't playing it right...

But then again you have to take loans to get money anyways so it's not like you can measure success by how much money you have...

It all gets rather confusing to me as to the ideal strategy. But that's part of what I like about this game.
 
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Gar Per
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princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Complexity /= Weight. Brass is an easier ruleset, but is more deep strategically than Caverna. Brass is one of those games where the difference between a good decision and a bad one can make or break your game. Caverna, while it has more rules, is more forgiving of poor decisions. A bad decision is a suboptimal space that still yields you pretty much what you need.

I say that, but largely I agree the are similar weight, just that I'd place them both as Heavy.
 
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Andi Hub
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nate_lockhart wrote:
princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Complexity /= Weight. Brass is an easier ruleset, but is more deep strategically than Caverna. Brass is one of those games where the difference between a good decision and a bad one can make or break your game. Caverna, while it has more rules, is more forgiving of poor decisions. A bad decision is a suboptimal space that still yields you pretty much what you need.

Brass' rule set did not strike me as simple or even elegant at all, but with the big amount of depth I pretty much agree.
 
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Gar Per
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ringo84 wrote:
nate_lockhart wrote:
princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Complexity /= Weight. Brass is an easier ruleset, but is more deep strategically than Caverna. Brass is one of those games where the difference between a good decision and a bad one can make or break your game. Caverna, while it has more rules, is more forgiving of poor decisions. A bad decision is a suboptimal space that still yields you pretty much what you need.

Brass' rule set did not strike me as simple or even elegant at all, but with the big amount of depth I pretty much agree.


Yeah, I don't think elegant would be a word I would use (teleporting resources and whatnot), but the rules explanation has always surprised me with how quickly I could get through it.
 
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Kester J
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levininja wrote:
Zark wrote:
Iron works should always get flipped, upgrade your industries to make sure. An early iron works and a couple of upgrades gets you a level two industry that will stay put into the second phase if you get it flipped. If you place it well it can be a big strategical advantage to build out from when the railway age starts


Well the one thing I wondered about this was, developing all your tiles isn't always a strictly good thing right? Because the earlier tiles have more income and less VPs, so early in the game it makes sense to build the earlier versions...

But then again if you end up with a bunch of extra money at the end of the game then you weren't playing it right...

But then again you have to take loans to get money anyways so it's not like you can measure success by how much money you have...

It all gets rather confusing to me as to the ideal strategy. But that's part of what I like about this game.


I'm not sure if you're just musing here or genuinely do want to know about strategy, so I'm going to stick my comments about answers to these in spoilers, and you can choose to look or not.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
It depends a bit on the player count. With four, developing is almost always good, and it's common to see three or even all four of the players develop on turn one.

With three players building industries can sometimes be better than developing them, but it's not because of income - it's because the longer game length and less crowded board means it's possible to run out your industries too early if you develop too aggressively. But even there developing is usually better.

A big reason developing is strong is that income isn't that big a deal in Brass. It helps, but because loans are not especially punishing and the income curve tapers off quite quickly, loans are generally the main source of money for experienced players. The other reason that developing is strong is because level 2+ industries you place before the end of the canal era will score twice, so getting high points tiles down during canal is key to pretty much all good strategies.


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nate_lockhart wrote:
ringo84 wrote:
nate_lockhart wrote:
princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Complexity /= Weight. Brass is an easier ruleset, but is more deep strategically than Caverna. Brass is one of those games where the difference between a good decision and a bad one can make or break your game. Caverna, while it has more rules, is more forgiving of poor decisions. A bad decision is a suboptimal space that still yields you pretty much what you need.

Brass' rule set did not strike me as simple or even elegant at all, but with the big amount of depth I pretty much agree.


Yeah, I don't think elegant would be a word I would use (teleporting resources and whatnot), but the rules explanation has always surprised me with how quickly I could get through it.


Think of teleporting this way:

Coal is a commodity that is continuously needed to run and maintain an industry. Hence a reliable connection to a source or port is necessary to maintain that supply. Iron is an initial investment in technology to get an industry up and running and so a continuous link to supply is not needed.
 
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David Gibbs
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levininja wrote:


dagibbs wrote:
Shipyards cost a lot of development -- that is actions -- to use. Actions are your most valuable resource. Generally it isn't worth putting pursuing a shipyard unless you expect to build at least two of them in the rail age.


Well it only takes one development to flip over two shipyards and start building them, so I didn't consider that a huge investment.


Yes, and that lets one (and only one) shipyard be built in the canal age.

To build a 2nd shipyard, in the rail age, you must then develop away the remaining level-1 shipyard. And, if you don't happen to be the player that got to place a canal-age shipyard, then you have to develop away 4 shipyards (2 actions) to place that shipyard. And, unless you get the shipyard in Liverpool, you may have had to place a low-value rail as well - especially if building in Birkenhead.
 
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Chris
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pfctsqr wrote:
Coal is a commodity that is continuously needed to run and maintain an industry. Hence a reliable connection to a source or port is necessary to maintain that supply. Iron is an initial investment in technology to get an industry up and running and so a continuous link to supply is not needed.


Absolutely. The new machinery can just go on the back of a horse and cart for a one off delivery etc. It's *PERFECTLY* covered by the theme, no teleportation for a single second and is totally logical. Just because it's not an explicit mechanic in the game, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.
 
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Great to see a new Brass player. If you want to learn more about the game, there is plenty of good advice in the strategy section here. I certainly learned a lot by reading those threads.

I feel that depth in Brass is, to a certain extent, provided by your opposition. The more experienced your opponents are, the deeper it becomes. Playing gradually becomes a journey of discovery, where details that once seemed small and irrelevant, become crucial.

Brass can be played online against other opponents, for free, at the excellent site http://brass.orderofthehammer.com There you'll find a mix of players, among them some very hard-core ones.

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pfctsqr wrote:
nate_lockhart wrote:
ringo84 wrote:
nate_lockhart wrote:
princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Complexity /= Weight. Brass is an easier ruleset, but is more deep strategically than Caverna. Brass is one of those games where the difference between a good decision and a bad one can make or break your game. Caverna, while it has more rules, is more forgiving of poor decisions. A bad decision is a suboptimal space that still yields you pretty much what you need.

Brass' rule set did not strike me as simple or even elegant at all, but with the big amount of depth I pretty much agree.


Yeah, I don't think elegant would be a word I would use (teleporting resources and whatnot), but the rules explanation has always surprised me with how quickly I could get through it.


Think of teleporting this way:

Coal is a commodity that is continuously needed to run and maintain an industry. Hence a reliable connection to a source or port is necessary to maintain that supply. Iron is an initial investment in technology to get an industry up and running and so a continuous link to supply is not needed.

That there is a logical or thematic explanation, does not make a rule more elegant, but just easier to remember. For Birkenhead there is also a thematic reasoning.

But a non-elegant rule set does not necessarily make a game bad. Sometimes (and for Brass this is imo the case) some edges and clunkiness make the game more interesting and even better.
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Gar Per
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ringo84 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
nate_lockhart wrote:
ringo84 wrote:
nate_lockhart wrote:
princemousey wrote:
I don't know where you got the impression of Brass as heavy from, but it fits right in the complexity range with caverna and kraftwagen.


Complexity /= Weight. Brass is an easier ruleset, but is more deep strategically than Caverna. Brass is one of those games where the difference between a good decision and a bad one can make or break your game. Caverna, while it has more rules, is more forgiving of poor decisions. A bad decision is a suboptimal space that still yields you pretty much what you need.

Brass' rule set did not strike me as simple or even elegant at all, but with the big amount of depth I pretty much agree.


Yeah, I don't think elegant would be a word I would use (teleporting resources and whatnot), but the rules explanation has always surprised me with how quickly I could get through it.


Think of teleporting this way:

Coal is a commodity that is continuously needed to run and maintain an industry. Hence a reliable connection to a source or port is necessary to maintain that supply. Iron is an initial investment in technology to get an industry up and running and so a continuous link to supply is not needed.

That there is a logical or thematic explanation, does not make a rule more elegant, but just easier to remember. For Birkenhead there is also a thematic reasoning.

But a non-elegant rule set does not necessarily make a game bad. Sometimes (and for Brass this is imo the case) some edges and clunkiness make the game more interesting and even better.


Precisely. In most cases thematically backed rules are special case, more complex, or niche, but often easier to recall. Niche or special rules are sort of the opposite of elegant, at least as far as rule sets are concerned.

Regardless, my initial point was that Brass has a pretty simple ruleset, even if it is inelegant due to some quirky (perhaps thematically backed) rules.
 
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Outstanding game....I hope you have good luck finding someone who will play it with you!
 
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