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Brass: Lancashire» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Develop, develop, develop... rss

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Pedro
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There were four of us eager to make money in pre-industrial Lancashire: me, Francisco, Hugo and Nuno. Me and Hugo had played the game before. Francisco and Nuno were complete newbies.

I had decided to try a very cotton centric approach. I was fairly sure that Hugo (the other guy who had played before) was going for a shipyard heavy strategy and I wanted to see how a cotton strategy could compete. So, I was determined to ignore shipyards, coal mines and iron works and focus on cotton mills and ports. I've never developed or built anything except cotton mills and ports for the whole game. I'm fully aware that this very rigid approach is not the ideal way to play this game but alas I wanted to try it anyway.

After a quick rules explanation we got things going.

The first turns were fairly typical: everybody was trying to get an early income. I build a port, a cotton mill and flipped them for income. Hugo flipped his cotton mill with external markets. Nuno and Francisco built coal mines and iron works. I developed early to reach level 2 ports and pursued on my predetermined path. That was the only time I developed... and that was a big mistake. Hugo was also focusing on cotton but he was using external markets more after one initial lucky draw.

Nuno surprised me by building the level 1 shipyard. I was sure Hugo was going to do it. Francisco was a little bit lost, trying to get his head around all the seemingly quirky stuff happening.

The first era finished like this:

Pedro:
Canal points: 11 Industry points: 22
Cotton mills: 2 L1 and 2 L2
Ports: 1 L1 and 1 L2

Nuno:
Canal points: 14 Industry points: 18
Cotton mills: 2 L1
Ports: 1 L1
Coal mines: 1 L1
Shipyards: 1 L1

Hugo:
Canal points: 16 Industry points: 11
Cotton mills: 3 L1
Ports: 1 L1
Ironworks: 1 L1

Francisco:
Canal points: 13 Industry points: 19
Cotton mills: 2 L1
Ports: 2 L1
Iron works: 1 L1 and 1L2
Coal mines: 1 L1

Things were not looking bad. I was in the lead by 1 point and I had 3 L2 buildings at the start of the rail age, when everybody else had only 1 and Hugo, which I though would be my biggest thread had none. I think Hugo was even more surprised than me when Nuno built his L1 shipyard.

In the rail age I continued on my path. Build cotton. Build port. Ship cotton using port. Repeat. I kept loosing excellent opportunities to make easy money and points selling coal or iron when demand was high simply because I hadn't developed my L1 coal mine and L1 iron works. This was a big setback to my progress.

In the meantime Nuno, Hugo and Francisco were setting themselves up to build the 3 shipyards available in the rail age. Hugo built one early and seemed to be well positioned to build the second soon. But he and Francisco failed to ask for a loan in the second age because they didn't notice the cards were ending until it was too late. This really messed up their plans. Nuno seized the opportunity and built his first shipyard. Hugo would later beat Francisco and would build his second.

Nuno was also playing a very smart tactical game. He took all those opportunities for easy money that I was missing and built quite a few coal mines and ironworks when demand was high.

When we tallied the final scores we were up for a big surprise: Nuno, the newbie, had tied for the lead with me with 115 points each. He was 1 point behind in the end of each age, but he finished the game with 20 pounds which netted him the 2 points he needed for the tie. Hugo's two shipyards weren't enough to do better than third , with 92 points, and Francisco finished in an honorable 4th place, with 87.

Pedro:
Industry points: 55 Rail points: 27
Nuno:
Industry poitns: 55 Rail points: 26 Money: 2
Hugo:
Industry points: 47 Rail points: 18 Money: 1
Francisco:
Industry points: 22 Rail points: 35

My biggest mistake, I think, was not developing enough. It's crucial to develop and I think it's almost mandatory to reach level 2 in coal or iron to be able to take advantage of opportunities for easy money and points. Taking advantage of player order manipulation is also very important and this is one aspect of the game that I have been seriously neglecting. Hugo and Francisco were really hurt by the mistake that prevented them from borrowing money in the rail period. Nuno played very well and was able to promptly adapt to the circumstances. He didn't have a plan from the beginning but he was smart enough to adjust to the situation.

Overall a very enjoyable game. Everybody had a lot of fun and is eager to play it again soon.
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Eric Williams
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I may end up writing this as its own "strategy" thread.

I agree with you about development and I also agree that pure cotton mill strategies are not the best once all players understand the game.

My group has now played Brass so many times there's talk of buying a new copy! The components are holding up brilliantly (including the cards surprisingly). It's just that we fear forgetting it. Anyway, with many plays this game's intricacies and subtleties have haunted me so I tried an idea and stuck to it - like you. My idea didn't involve cotton or shipyards but did involve carefully calculated development.

By the end of the canal period I was in equal second place with 35 points (4 player game) but had 2xL2 coal, an L2 port, and an L2 Ironworks plus an L3 Iron works on the board - all flipped. I didn't build a cotton mill until the mid rail period, and then built an L3 and an L4 with an L3 Port. I didn't take a loan until near the end of the canal period and that was the only loan required. Most iron needed for buildings or development (most - not all) and most coal needed for buildings and lots of rail links came from my own tiles. I ended up winning comfortably with a final score of 151.

Three things that made the big difference - cotton mills are cost intensive as are shipyards. They are action vs VP's efficient but they are not always cost vs VP's efficient. Iron works, ports and coal mines on the other hand can yield very good incomes and VP's per $ spent on them. Secondly, the VP efficiency is gained by having multiple tiles that score twice. And finally, having well placed buildings all over the place at the start of the rail period plus a good supply of coal means you can go nuts with the first and best opportunities at the more lucrative rail links. Instead of spending $16 plus on a cotton mill or $25 plus on a shipyard, spend $15 on two rail links and use your own coal. Each of these actions can potentially net 8 - 12 VP's!

My initial fear with the above approach was how to use up the coal and iron I'd be producing. But with development you can use a lot of iron, and then build coal requiring tiles during the canal period to flip those income rich coal tiles.

I'm starting to think the old "build cotton mills early" strategy is a nice safe one, but not a winning one.
 
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Richard Young
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I would be interested to know how you could be "surprised" by someone building the level 1 Shipyard in Liverpool. Sure, they're expensive but they flip immediately and yield very attractive amounts of VPs. There doesn't seem to be much interest in pressing for Shipyards as other investments may prove to be more successful in the long run. However, I'm not sure why a group would sit idly by and let one be built regardless just from a sound competitive standpoint.

First of all, to play one, you have to develop away your two level zeros, and there is only one place you can build it - Liverpool. So, the first player to develop away the worthless shipyards is marked for the move (sure it doesn't mean he's going to but he's sure in a good position if no-one else does the same).

The next prerequisite is that no-one has already built a port in Liverpool. Why Liverpool would be left open when a player is ready with his Level One Shipyard seems careless. I would prefer to have a Port in Liverpool anyway let alone as a block to a possible Shipyard build (unless you are going to be the Shipyard builder and are trusting the others to remain asleep)...
 
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Pedro
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Bubslug wrote:
I would be interested to know how you could be "surprised" by someone building the level 1 Shipyard in Liverpool.


I wasn't surprised by someone building the level 1 shipyard in Liverpool. I know that shipyards are a good source of points and that they'll eventually get built.

My surprise was due to the fact that Nuno-the-Newbie was able to build it instead of Experienced-Guy-Hugo.
 
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Paulo Soledade
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Develop could be the key of this strategy. I've tried it before although with three players, and I manage to get 196 VP's which is a kind of a record. I've constructed a L2 shipyard but the main reason for this score was a very strong move on iron and developments which made me end the canal period with a L3 cotton mill on the board.

Paulo
 
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Pedro
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If everybody else starts developing those level 0 shipyards away, I tend to stay out of it and invest in cotton and ports.

In previous games I had also developed or built the L1 coal mines and iron works but this time I wanted to be really specialized and see if I could pull it off. It wasn't bad (I did manage to tie for first place) but it became very clear to me that it's fairly important to have coal mines and iron works available for building during the rail age.
 
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Jesse McGatha
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Cotton mills can be valuable, but if you're going that strategy, you really want to probably develop off some of your lower-tech mills and make sure by game end you have flipped all your level 4s. This strategy works much better/faster if someone else decides to stalk you by building lots of ports for you to ship to, since they get somewhere around 2/3 the points you do.

My highest score, though, at 200 points in a 3-player game came from a strategy of building *all* my iron mills in the canal age and flipping all but the level 4 (although this almost flipped also) and supplementing in the rail age with lots of coal mines, rail links, and 2 very opportunistically acquired ships. I never built a single cotton mill or port. In a different game I followed a similar strategy and ended up with 59 points at the end of the canal age and just missed winning the game at around 185 points because I didn't anticipate a run on coal and ended up 1 pound shy of being able to build a ship because of the cost of coal/iron on the demand tracks.

In another game, I watched someone build every single rail link they owned for an astounding number of rail points (don't remember the numbers, though). In general I find rail link points are vastly under-valued compared to ships, for example. It is so much cheaper to build rail links than ships when considering the cost-to-VP ratio.

Anyway, a few thoughts.
 
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Pedro
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What I like the most about a heavy cotton mill strategy... is the ports!
I always build a lot of them and use them to flip my cotton mills when I go for a cotton heavy strategy.
 
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Ricky Gray
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Quote:
The next prerequisite is that no-one has already built a port in Liverpool. Why Liverpool would be left open when a player is ready with his Level One Shipyard seems careless. I would prefer to have a Port in Liverpool anyway let alone as a block to a possible Shipyard build (unless you are going to be the Shipyard builder and are trusting the others to remain asleep)...


Hmmmm...not exactly sure what this means. The context here is building the shipyard in Liverpool in the canal period. Thus, building a port there in the canal period not only does not block someone else from building the shipyard, it fairly well invites them to build it by giving them ready and immediate access (through your constructed port) to the coal that will be needed to perform the build. And, it blocks YOU from building the shipyard there because you've used your only allowed Liverpool build to build a port! (remember that you can only build one industry per city per player in the canal period).

Ricky
 
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Francisco
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Actually I recall having 89 points, which makes my 4th place even more "honorable".

A few comments...

This game is top-notch, hands down... brilliant!
It's probably my number one Wallace game and I just played it for the first time yesterday. Now I yearn to play it again ASAP! Hell, it's not just my number one Wallace game, it's definitely in my top 10 all-time greatest games and top of the class regarding 2007 (I haven't played Agricola yet).

It's "heavyish". From a first time player's perspective, what I can say is that even though I understood the rules - they're not complicated - as soon as I started playing I suddenly felt slightly lost, due to some of the intricacies. I wasn't sure of what I wanted to do exactly, and had a hard time planning ahead, which made a medium to long-term strategy hard to conceive. So I decided to go with the flow, play along and have a more tactical approach, until I started to get a better grasp of things, as well as the games' concept. Unfortunately that only happened halfway into the Rail Era. As soon as things started to "click" for me, I felt this urge to act and follow through with some kind of last minute plan. Which I almost did, if it wasn't for the fact that I forgot to ask for a last minute loan, which complicated things slightly, and the fact that the other three players weren't exactly asleep! laugh
As soon as we finished the game I felt like playing it again! It's that good. It's a game of efficiency done right. This game drove me from a feeling of "being lost," to a "Click! ...I know what I'm doing and what I want to do!" feeling. All in a couple of hours. Its exhilarating and terrific fun.
Wallace is back!
And so will I... for more!
Next time I'll be a contender.

Brass... I accept the challenge!
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Jesse McGatha
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Bubslug wrote:
The next prerequisite is that no-one has already built a port in Liverpool. Why Liverpool would be left open when a player is ready with his Level One Shipyard seems careless. I would prefer to have a Port in Liverpool anyway let alone as a block to a possible Shipyard build (unless you are going to be the Shipyard builder and are trusting the others to remain asleep)...


This comment seems to imply that one player building a port in Liverpool somehow precludes other players from building a ship there. It seems to me that if you believe that to be true, you must be playing the rule about "one tile per city in the canal age" wrong to assume that it applies to all players rather than a single player.
 
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Richard Young
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Good catch!!! Yes, we did have that wrong. Yikes, no wonder our Canal period scores seemed unusually low compared to the session reports I've seen so far. Thanks! blush
 
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