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Mr. Bunny
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Brass - Review
(Originally published on BoardGame-Reviews.com)

Brass was published in 2007 and is designed by Martin Wallace. The heart of this game is a tight economic system which rewards players for skillful economic management.

Brass is:

* Designed by: Martin Wallace
* Published by: Eagle Games
* Number of players: 3-4
* Playing time: 120 minutes
* Player ages: 13+

The components for the Eagle Games version of Brass are of excellent and durable quality. The linen finish on the game is good but not quite as good as the finish on the Warfrog/Treefrog edition.

A Quick Overview

In the game, each player attempts to build cotton mills, coal mines and so on in the historical Lancashire setting. The game plays over two phases: canal and rail. Players build canals in the first phase and attempt to ship their cotton to various ports and improve their production output.

The winner is the one who has the most intricate network of rails, mills, mines, ports and shipyards over both the canal and Rail Periods.

Game Play

The game starts with each player receiving a set of industry tokens in the player color along with 30 GBP. Players are then dealt a hand of 8 cards which determine their strategic play.

After a careful analysis of the dealt cards, players are ready to begin the game.

The game is played in two periods: the Canal Period and the Rail Period. Each period lasts approximately 60 minutes and players attempt to make use of their cards to build and develop industry at key areas on the map.

Each period finishes when the draw deck is exhausted and the cards have all been played from the players’ hands. At the end of each period, victory points are tallied and the player with the highest points wins.

The game turn is as follows:

* Receive income (if any).
* Play 2 cards for two actions.
* Determine turn order.
* Refill hand to 8 cards.

After every player receives income, each player then plays their two actions in turn order. If it is the first turn of the Canal Period, players may only play one card (and thus perform one action).

Cards are either industry cards (shipyards, cotton mills, ports, iron works, coal mines) or location cards. By playing a location card, players can pay to build an appropriate industry in that particular city. Some industries require coal and/or iron and these resources must be transported to the location.

This is why there is an interactive cooperative aspect to the game. Players can make use of each others’ links to develop industries. Cotton mills can only deliver to open ports or to the foreign market.

Coal mines produce coal which is necessary for building of industries. Iron works produce iron which is used for the development and advancement of industries and shipyards are pure victory points.

The goal of the game is to develop industries and cause the industry tiles to flip. When the industry tiles flip, it means that production is at capacity and victory points can be scored.

After the end of the Canal Period, after victory points have been tallied, all level 1 industries and canal links are taken off the board. Now players begin the Rail Period.

Summary

For the BGG Brass
If you have taken a look at my user profile, you will notice that Brass is among the highest rated games. (I don't rate above 9). I like Brass very much because of the following:

* It is very well-designed
* Things just "click" for me (though it did take a game or two before I was able to wrap my head around it).
* Once it clicked, I found it "simple" in concept but hard to execute strategy; exactly how I like it!
* Loans, usually, very punitive in these types of games do not have as negative an impact as one would have thought.
* Interaction is very high and I find that there is more in-game banter than other games that I have played.

Brass is a well-designed game that takes a game or two before you can wrap your head around it. But once it clicks, it clicks! I consider it to be among one of the best games that I have played. There is great tension and it feels like a race. I love how taking loans to develop industries is not as punitive as it may sound.

There are tough choices to be made with the limited selection of cards one holds and it allows for creative strategic thinking for all players.

Player interaction is high because development of canals/rails can be made use of by other players. It is a very good game and I highly recommend it.

Happy gaming.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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A solid review, for which I've given a thumbsup, but the style isn't really to my taste. I'd love to see the Summary section greatly expanded. The rest is what I'd look for in the description on the game page, or on the back of the box, not in a review.
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Mr. Bunny
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Hi there,

Thank you very much for some solid feedback. I really appreciate it. Would you mind telling me how you'd like the Summary section expanded?

I thought I wanted to give short snippets of reviews for people who are new to the hobby and I thought a short summary would be appropriate.

Thanks kindly!
 
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Kevin Bakker
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I agree with Sphere, I always come to the conclusion or summary first and decide if the review is worth my time to read fully.

You could think about giving it a ranking system for different aspects of the game (connection to theme, gameplay, scaling for different amounts of people, etc.... - and maybe an overall rating?).

Of course, most everybody does that on their reviews, so you can just talk more about what you liked and didn't like about the game (pros/cons). With that, I prefer list format rather than paragraphing for the conclusion/summary. I like to look there to see if I want to go into more depth with the review and read it all.

For your Conclusion:
-Format more efficiently
-Possible ranking system for different aspects of the game
-Lists are fast and easy to read (use for summary)

The above list summarized everything I said in this reply. Good review overall, but I like the bulleted list format for the conclusion - I am a scientist, so I tend to read the abstract(intro) and conclusions of a scientific paper (and reviews)before I read the meaty part. It may just be how my brain works, and again, just a suggestion!
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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usagi-san wrote:
Thank you very much for some solid feedback. I really appreciate it. Would you mind telling me how you'd like the Summary section expanded?


The summary section is where you tell me about how you interact with the game: what you like, what you dislike, etc. The other inventory/summary stuff just deals with the game as an object, and what I look for is viewpoint.

As I learn more about what you personally look for in games, and what strikes you as good or bad about a given title, it helps me understand your tastes and idiosyncrasies. The better handle I have on that, the better I can determine where we are similar and where we differ.

In other words, if I gain a solid understanding of who you are, and what you like, it helps me put your reviews in context. Without a solid feel for who you are and where you're coming from, I have no idea of how your tastes might correlate (positively or negatively) with my own.
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Andrew Swan
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Thanks for reviewing one of my favourite games (indeed the only one for which I've bought a microbadge!). Some specific feedback:

usagi-san wrote:
The heart of this game is a tight economic system which rewards players for skillful economic management.

True enough, but the other major resource that players have to expend efficiently is actions, of which everyone gets the same fixed number per game.

usagi-san wrote:
The winner is the one who has the most intricate network of rails, mills, mines, ports and shipyards over both the canal and Rail Periods.

Actually, the winner is the player with the most VPs! I've built exceedingly intricate networks of tiles and links but still come last, because other players built their networks more efficiently (and possibly they were less intricate to boot). Maybe a better word than "intricate" would be "profitable".

usagi-san wrote:
Players are then dealt a hand of 8 cards which detemine their strategic play.

You have a typo in "determine", but in any case, the cards might steer you gently towards or away from a given strategy, but most of the main strategies can largely be executed in spite of what cards you hold. The designer's notes even say something to the effect that the cards are largely irrelevant. That's open to debate (e.g. you can't play an efficient coal/iron strategy without cards that let you build iron works), but either way it's a bit strong to say that the cards "determine" your strategy. At most they "inform" or "guide" your strategy. This might seem like nitpicky wordsmithing, but I wouldn't want newbies reading your review to gain the impression that your hand of cards plays you, rather than the other way around.

usagi-san wrote:
brass-2

¿Que?

usagi-san wrote:
Some industries require coal and/or iron and these resources must be transported to the location.

Actually, only coal has to be transported. Iron just gets there magically.

usagi-san wrote:
This is why there is a cooperative aspect to the game. Players can make use of each others’ links to develop industries.

I'd describe this as "interactive" rather than "cooperative". The latter term is at odds with the reality that wherever possible, you are trying to pre-empt, exploit, and screw up your opponents, not cooperate with them. This is no Pandemic!

usagi-san wrote:
Cotton mills can only deliver to open ports or to the foreign market. Coal mines produce coal which is necessary for building of industries. Iron works produce iron which is used for the development and advancement of industries and shipyards are pure victory points.

The other key difference between the types of industries (apart from how many VPs they produce) is how much income they produce. Coal produces a lot of income for low VPs, whereas iron is the opposite. Most industries are more lucrative at higher technology levels; this is just one of the several delightful tensions in Brass.

Another important aspect of the game is that there are both strategic and tactical decisions to make. When playing with experienced players, you won't win by building a little of everything; thanks to the clever "development" mechanism, you need to completely ignore one or more VP sources (namely links and the five industry types) in order to gain the most points for each action you take and each pound you spend. While pursuing your chosen strategy (which might only emerge half-way through the Canal period), you always have to be on the lookout for tactical threats and opportunities, e.g. overbuilding someone's iron works, grabbing a critical link, getting to the right part of the turn order, etc. I think this blend of long and short range decisions helps to turn a good game into a great game. Too many games only require tactical decision-making.

Finally, no review of Brass is complete without a mention of Philip Eve's wonderful web site. Anyone wondering if Brass is for them can easily go there and try it out.
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Mr. Bunny
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Thanks folks, for your helpful critiques. I'll take this into account when writing further reviews.

In the meantime, I have made use of most of your suggestions and have appended/edited the review. Please enjoy and, once again, many thanks!
 
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