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Subject: This is just a tribute - BRASS: BIRMINGHAM rss

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Jelly Pantz
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Original post: https://jellypantz.blogspot.com/2019/02/brass-birmingham.htm...

I did not have the good taste to back this game on Kickstarter when I had the chance but my brother-in-law did, and within a few weeks of trying out his KS edition I would obtain my own copy of the retail edition. A few weeks after that I caved and bought the premium chips (they come in the bigger box of the KS edition) to use as money in the game. I then made my friends play it with me several more times in 2018 as my new obsession. And I will continue to do so unapologetically because it's simply a fantastic game.

Birmingham is a reimplementation of board game classic BRASS, which I admit I did not find appealing. The art of the old game looked old & tired and the mechanics needlessly complicated, the kind of game that The I.T. Crowd made fun of in their spoof of board game YouTube reviews. Well, this new edition fixes the art problem with double-sided, beautifully detailed night & day boards of the sooty English Midlands circa the Industrial Revolution. And after playing several games, I will say that the mechanics are needfully complicated in order to craft the experience the designers want you to have.

And that experience is one of a competitive race to efficiently develop a network of varied industries across the board connecting to a selection of different markets (which are variable from game to game) where you'll make your sales, driving your income and eventual victory point gains.

Your player board will present you with your different industries as tiles in their own hierarchy of development. You'll pay money and resources using the BUILD action to get those tiles on the board into your network, which are cities you've connected by your canals (railroads in the 2nd half of the game) using the NETWORK action. You can burn lower level tiles off your player board with the DEVELOP action in order to get to the good stuff above it. The SELL action is where you go big time, flipping tiles on the board to get the income boost and access to their VP. Level II and higher industries may score twice, at the end of the canal phase and then again at end game in the railroad phase. BUT you can only sell if you're networked with a market that accepts those types of goods and IF you have a barrel of beer for each tile you flip. Beer is the lubricant that keeps this machine going, and Breweries are an industry tile you can build onto the board for yourself and other players to sip. Beer, Coal, & Iron will actually come out onto the board on their respective tiles... be careful with placement & intended use because they're available to everyone who's connected to them! But when those resources are used up off the tile, it will flip as in a SELL and the owner will get its income & VP.
You can also take a LOAN action for £30 or SCOUT to get a Wild city & industry card.
You can only do two of these actions on your turn, and you'll have to discard a card from your hand to do each action. I should point out that when you do BUILD, you'll need cards from your hand that actually match the city or the industry space on the board where you intend to place the tile. It gets tough.
The end of the canal phase will see your network scored and canals wiped from the board along with your Level I tiles. Railroads are the new big thing and they're expensive, so I hope you've got income to work with and that you can make something new of the industries you've still got on the board.

This whole mishmash of rules, actions, & phases will present you with a tense and fiddly, deeply engaging, competitive puzzle that will reward the experienced gamer. And the experienced gamer is absolutely the target audience for this handsomely updated version of a classic game.

As an aside, I did create a Spotify playlist in an attempt to create an engaging atmosphere for the game, which you can find here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1271216088/playlist/3zs5cJMX8r... should you want to check it out to use in the future.

QUICK HITS
Theme: Industrial Revolution
Gameplay: Economic hand management.
Components: Just fantastic even without the premium Iron Clay money chips.
Replayability: Complexity might make it harder to get to the table, but rewarding experience.
Rulebook: Really good.
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Brian Hoare
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I read your title and expected this:




(although, Cornwall is _not_ in the Midlands).
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Al Bert
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I expected this because i thought you couldn't remember the best game in the world.

Tenacious D - Tribute
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Albert Marquet
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That's awesome.
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matt tolman
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Thanks for the review, made my day!
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Phil Schmidt
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jellypantz wrote:

And that experience is one of a competitive race to efficiently develop a network of varied industries across the board connecting to a selection of different markets (which are variable from game to game) where you'll make your sales, driving your income and eventual victory point gains.
I just want to say that Brass:Lancashire does this too, but the complexity is also combined with a lot of convolution in the first edition.

Everyone talks about the art, but I believe the graphic design has been really underrated. I haven't played Birmingham yet, but it sounds really samey to Lancashire. Most of the gameplay rules are the same.

I think the primary reason for the good impressions by people who didn't like the previous edition of Brass has to do with the graphic design decisions. A lot of stuff was difficult unless you just knew it. To see the effects up upgrading you had to dig through your tech stacks and look at both sides of tiles, and you just had to remember them all while interpreting unhelpful symbols. Now it's laid out on a nice play mat in an intuitive way.

Seeing what tiles were and weren't flipped was tough. Now it's easy because of the half dark portion. Finding your cities off the cards was a nightmare, and players frequently would lose their train of thought doing so. Now there are color coded regions to guide your eyes, and more info on the cards

Once you got past that, Brass provided the experience you describe. But you had to get past a lot to get there. Now it's a lot easier and a lot more people can appreciate the game.
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Jelly Pantz
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I have to agree with you about the design, and I think the original Brass comparison to the Lancashire/Birmingham reimplementations should be a real example for the whole industry.
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Andrew Smith
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I have to agree with you 100%.

I’m slightly different in that I love original Brass despite its very slight oddities. My lad and I would also play 2P by taking two colours each and highest total score wins. That would be quite a game.

Brass Birmingham simply blows original Brass away. We have extra features like how breweries work, the complexities of the manufacturing tiles and how they need different stuff to build and give non-linear rewards, and it works brilliantly out of the box with all player counts etc.

Quite simply, it is design genius. It requires a high degree of gaming skill to play expertly, and games are intense and deeply satisfying.

I don’t have a favourite game in my collection because games vary so much. But if I had to select my top 5 favourite games of all time, Brass Birmingham, Battlestar Galactica, and War of the Ring (Anniversary edition of course) are no-brainers as having amazing design and production qualities, and are awesome to play. I will never tire of these games.

This game is a gift to the gaming world. Thank you to everyone who was involved in its production, from original Brass to what we have today.
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Jay M
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battlepuppy wrote:
Quite simply, it is design genius. It requires a high degree of gaming skill to play expertly, and games are intense and deeply satisfying.

***

This game is a gift to the gaming world. Thank you to everyone who was involved in its production, from original Brass to what we have today.
Quoted for truth!
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Matt McCourty
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jellypantz wrote:
I have to agree with you about the design, and I think the original Brass comparison to the Lancashire/Birmingham reimplementations should be a real example for the whole industry.
Randomly jumping in to offer a counterpoint to this...

Since Brass was published, the industry as a whole has developed the concept of player boards showing income/expenditure/costs/powers and so on, which change as you add or remove tokens. I don't think this concept existed when the original Brass came out.

Eclipse was the first one I remember but it may not have been the first and there are many, many others since. Through The Ages, Terra Mystica etc.

Credit to Roxley for seeing what can be improved and improving on it, but I think they have taken an example from the industry, rather than the other way round.
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matt tolman
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Silentz wrote:
jellypantz wrote:
I have to agree with you about the design, and I think the original Brass comparison to the Lancashire/Birmingham reimplementations should be a real example for the whole industry.
Randomly jumping in to offer a counterpoint to this...

Since Brass was published, the industry as a whole has developed the concept of player boards showing income/expenditure/costs/powers and so on, which change as you add or remove tokens. I don't think this concept existed when the original Brass came out.

Eclipse was the first one I remember but it may not have been the first and there are many, many others since. Through The Ages, Terra Mystica etc.

Credit to Roxley for seeing what can be improved and improving on it, but I think they have taken an example from the industry, rather than the other way round.
I don't think eclipse was the first. Undermining came out before that! :D Gavan did graphic design, and I came up with the idea to have slots that are cut out. I'll assume we weren't the first, but I was unaware of it in other games. Unfortunately slotted player boards didn't work with brass as there are multiple tiles in each slot, and you are losing them not gaining them, but I wish more games had cutouts for tiles, it just feels good.
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Alex Mauer
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mopeymatt wrote:
I wish more games had cutouts for tiles, it just feels good.
They’re definitely a good tool to have available, but I hope we don’t start seeing them everywhere. There’s a time and a place, and sometimes it works well, sometimes not.
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matt tolman
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Hawke wrote:
mopeymatt wrote:
I wish more games had cutouts for tiles, it just feels good.
They’re definitely a good tool to have available, but I hope we don’t start seeing them everywhere. There’s a time and a place, and sometimes it works well, sometimes not.
Basically it works well when things are added during gameplay to the player board, not taken from it.
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Jelly Pantz
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Silentz wrote:
jellypantz wrote:
I have to agree with you about the design, and I think the original Brass comparison to the Lancashire/Birmingham reimplementations should be a real example for the whole industry.
Randomly jumping in to offer a counterpoint to this...

Since Brass was published, the industry as a whole has developed the concept of player boards showing income/expenditure/costs/powers and so on, which change as you add or remove tokens. I don't think this concept existed when the original Brass came out.

Eclipse was the first one I remember but it may not have been the first and there are many, many others since. Through The Ages, Terra Mystica etc.

Credit to Roxley for seeing what can be improved and improving on it, but I think they have taken an example from the industry, rather than the other way round.
The industry is aware of this, but certainly not everyone is implementing these graphic design choices that streamline the game as effectively. Brass Birmingham is one more great example for them to draw on.
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