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Brass: Lancashire» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Some observations and thoughts rss

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I've played four times now, all four player. Brass is quickly becoming one of my favourite games, and I'll probably have to buy my own copy. The first game we got a few rules wrong, mostly small stuff like only being allowed one tile per city in the canal era, and I don't think it made a huge difference to the final scores. I came 2nd in the first 2 games, and came 1st the next two games.

Obviously I haven't fully tested every combination of every strategy because there are six ways to score points (5 industries plus canal/rail connections), but here are some good moves I have found. I expect other players have also discovered the same things independently.

1. Opening

Taking an early loan is good. This isn't obvious the first time you play because it's hard to predict how much money you will need and the income you are going to have- after a few turns everyone ran short of money and had to take loans. The best time to take a loan is before you sell your first cotton.

At this point I should point out that shipping cotton ASAP is important because it provides 5 income (spaces), which is more than any other industry. Cotton is easier to flip than coal and iron (at least at the start of the game- later on you may run out of ports and external demand).

A good opening sequence is
1. Port*
2. Canal + Cotton Mill*
3. Loan £30 + Sell Cotton

This puts you down 3 and immediately up 8, giving you an income of three, and cash in hand of 30-6-3-12+30+3=42 at the start of turn 4.

*These could be built in either order, but bear in mind there are fewer port spaces.

Building the port first has the advantage that you have spent less money than someone opening with Cotton, so next turn you move before them and there is less chance of them interfering with your plans.

If someone does decide to flip your port, that is fine because A. they're giving you income and points and B. you can still use the flipped port to sell to a distant market (and claim free cash). Again, later on it gets harder to sell cotton- early on it is easy. The only down side of someone putting their mill where you wanted to build is that you might need to dig an extra canal. This slows you down, but not if they build one of the canals for you. Personally I wouldn't flip others ports for other people early on.

2. Early development

It is good to have some level 2 tiles already built at the end of the canal era. It is better to have some level 2 tiles already flipped at the end of the canal era. Why? Because they score twice! All level one tiles get removed so will only score once.

The best candidates are cotton, iron or ports, since they are each worth 4 or 5 points, doubled to 8 or 10. (Coal would only score 2 VP x2, shipyards are illegal.)

To achieve this you will need to do some developing, because there probably won’t be enough time/money to build AND flip a total of four cotton mills or three ports. Using up two iron works is plausible, since that is only 8 cubes, but you’ll probably have to rely on others using some of your iron for their own development. If one or more other players build iron works you will struggle to get it all used. Buildings don’t start demanding iron until level 3, with the exception of shipyards which use one.

So to do enough development you’ll probably want to build one iron works. These need one coal, so you must connect it to either a coal mine, a port or other external region. It’s only one cube, so it’s okay to buy it.

Building a level one iron works, you can aim to develop to level 2 cotton mills, which have the drawback of providing slightly less income and needing another coal from somewhere or ports which are cheaper and easier and don’t see the drop in income.

Alternatively you can try and build and flip a level 2 iron works. To do this, you’ll need to develop away the level 1 one. In a turn you would do the following:

First action: Development: Pay £2 for 2 iron cubes. Remove Level 1 iron and something else of your choice.
Second action: Build Iron works level 2. Cost: £7 plus, say, £1 for coal. Note that two of the four iron cubes will immediately go into the external demand, you get your 2 quid back, and you’re already half way to flipping the tile. It is best to do this all in one turn, otherwise someone else might decide to build an iron works and fill up the track.

Remember you will still need to access coal. You might have to use someone else’s coal, this is not ideal but not a disaster. The only way round it is to build your own mine. Note buying it from the track means somebody can send one coal up there if they are connected to an external port/region. If I was planning to develop cotton I would be more tempted to build my own coal mine.

A level one coal mine only provides 2 cubes (which is good because it makes it easy to flip), and gives an income of +4. Level 2 provides 3 cubes and an income of +7 (which is massive), so is another potential target for development, but here you’re doing it for the income rather than the points. Level 2 coal mines are so great I would always try and build both of them.

Having some coal ready to go at the start of the rail era is a strong move, since every piece of track needs one cube, as do many of the industries. If you build it towards the middle of the map it will get used quicker.

3. Turn order

Turn order is most important when there is heavy competition. In my experience this occurs when the board is getting congested (towards the ends of each era when people are starting to build links just for their VP value). Also if several cubes are bought from the external track going early is good so that you can be the person who builds coal/iron and fills up the track. It is hard to predict when this will happen. Sometimes you can flip a big tile right away.

It is not always practical to change your spending plans. Ways to reduce spending in your turn:
* Development actions
* Selling cotton
* Take a loan
* Building a (single) cheaper item such as coal, iron, ports, and single links.

The best time to do heavy spending (cotton, shipyards, double rail links) is when you don’t care about turn order next turn. This might be because next turn you plan to do things on the list above. Watch out for people flipping ports if cotton is getting hard to sell.

4. Later loans

Income loses it's importance later in the game, since increasing your income won't have time to pay for much. Hence it is okay to take some big loans (this would have to be in the first half of the rail phase, since you can't do it once the draw deck runs out).

There is no penalty for having loans, like in Wallace's previous games Age of Steam and Railroad tycoon, where you only issue shares if you really have to. It might be relevant for a tie breaker (I can't remember the rule), and ties seem unlikely seeing as winning scores are up around 100-120.

If there are, say, five income phases left, you could spend an action to gain £30, at the cost of -3 income/phase. -3 x 5 is only -15, so by the end you have still got a net +£15, and you get all £30 up front rather than hobbling along not affording things, waiting for your income to build up. Having said this I have sometimes ended up with more money than I can spend, so maybe the action is best used to do something else.
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5. Alternative opening

Rather than shipping cotton through a port you can connect to the Midlands or Yorkshire. You could try selling two at once. This would require two canals, two mills (cost: £30 exactly) and one action to sell, but you'll want to get your loan in before you sell. Hence it takes one more action than with a port. Basically, in place of a port you are building a cotton mill and another canal, but you get to flip two mills at once instead of a mill and a port at once.

You go up ten spaces (after moving back three), which is two more than if you go through a port (i.e. +1 income), but it takes an extra turn to do it, so you miss out on
£3 of income by delaying your income. However you will gain a little bit of money from the external market.

Other openings could be 2 mills, 2 canals, 1 port, 1 loan, 1 sale. Cost is 12+12+3+3+6= 36, so you can't do the loan on the same turn as the sale, costing another 3 from being in debt for a turn

Or 2 mills, 2 canals, 2 ports, 1 loan, 1 sale. Cost is 12+12+3+3+6+6 =42. Again you will be in debt for one turn, so it'll cost 45.

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Pat McLaughlin
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Both the previous articles mention getting extra cash by selling cotton via a distant market. It's much better than that! If you read the Brass FAQ by Martin Wallace (the game's designer) you will see that he says....
"Distant Markets – if you sell to the Distant Market then the additional income shown on the Cotton Demand track is added to your income level, it is not taken as cash."

You can find the FAQ here http://www.warfroggames.com/brassfaq.html


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Oooh, we've been playing it wrong then! I thought we were underusing the distant markets. Thanks!
 
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Marcus Lau
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paulclarke339 wrote:


1. Opening

....If someone does decide to flip your port, that is fine because A. they're giving you income and points and B. you can still use the flipped port to sell to a distant market (and claim free cash)....


Can you do that? I thought the only way you can sell to the Distant Market is through the distant ports (e.g. Scotland).

Once the port is flipped, you cannot sell any more cotton to it...

The only use of a flipped port is to buy coal from the supply market. Correct me if I am wrong.
 
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Henri Harju
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friedricetheman wrote:
paulclarke339 wrote:


1. Opening

....If someone does decide to flip your port, that is fine because A. they're giving you income and points and B. you can still use the flipped port to sell to a distant market (and claim free cash)....


Can you do that? I thought the only way you can sell to the Distant Market is through the distant ports (e.g. Scotland).

Once the port is flipped, you cannot sell any more cotton to it...

The only use of a flipped port is to buy coal from the supply market. Correct me if I am wrong.


Yes, that is correct. You only need a port to sell to destant market. Any port (printed on board, flipped or unflipped) will suffice.

Edit: though you won't get cash when you ship to distant market. The amount is added to your incame. (lvl. 1 cotton mill gives you 5 and lets say you get £2 from the distant, so you advance 7 spaces on the income track.)
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Jack Leonard
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Alternative alternative opening:

This is what I did last night. It's nice when it works, otherwise it can be reworked into a four turn opener with little trouble:

turn 1: cotton mill in Colne, Rochdale [best], or Macclesfield [£12]
turn 2: canal from said mill to an external location, and a mill in a location where someone else has buil a port, i.e. Warrington & Runcorn, Preston, or Lancaster [£15]
turn 3: take a £30 loan and sell cotton through the external location and your opponents port to the distant market

end of turn cash £33, with an income of £4 to £7

If very unlucky [drawing two straight -£4 distant market tiles, or someone else has already sold there], you may be forced to consider selling through your opponents port, or building one of your own in turn 4.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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snog wrote:
Both the previous articles mention getting extra cash by selling cotton via a distant market. It's much better than that! If you read the Brass FAQ by Martin Wallace (the game's designer) you will see that he says....
"Distant Markets – if you sell to the Distant Market then the additional income shown on the Cotton Demand track is added to your income level, it is not taken as cash."

You can find the FAQ here http://www.warfroggames.com/brassfaq.html


God damn it - are you serious? Why does it not surprise me that we got this wrong in the 2 games we played...
 
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Seth Jaffee
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sedjtroll wrote:
snog wrote:
Both the previous articles mention getting extra cash by selling cotton via a distant market. It's much better than that! If you read the Brass FAQ by Martin Wallace (the game's designer) you will see that he says....
"Distant Markets – if you sell to the Distant Market then the additional income shown on the Cotton Demand track is added to your income level, it is not taken as cash."

You can find the FAQ here http://www.warfroggames.com/brassfaq.html


God damn it - are you serious? Why does it not surprise me that we got this wrong in the 2 games we played...

Sorry for that overreaction - I am just sick of poorly written rulebooks in published games.

Brass is pretty good so far (3 games so far).
 
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