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Brass: Lancashire» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First play: kids and me, with a couple pics rss

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Hugh Grotius
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I got "Brass" for my kids (one a pre-teen, the other a teen) at Christmas, and only in the past couple of weeks have I finally managed to digest the rules. Am I ever glad I did! We just had a fabulous time with this game.

Learning the game wasn't so bad. It helped a lot to play with the online Brass program; even though it has no AI, it does enforce the rules, and that helped correct my rules mistakes. We still did make one significant rules mistake (and possibly others), but by the end of our first game, all three of us were comfortable with the rules.

Anyway, the pre-teen took Red, the teen took Green, and I took Yellow. The kids did a good job of increasing their revenue stream early on, whereas I plunged myself into debt by paying to develop ships and then investing too quickly in a shipyard at Liverpool. I took 3 or 4 loans over the course of the game, of 30 pounds each; the teen took 1 or 2 loans; Red took maybe one loan over the whole game.

During the canal phase, I built eastward from Liverpool, Green dominated the northeast and northwest, and Red had a sort of north-south axis of development. Green and I were coal suppliers, but Red dominated the iron market. Red sold cotton on the overseas market a couple times, but the market quickly threatened to bottom out, and everyone began investing in ports to buy further cotton. As far as tech, each of us did a little developing, but iron was often in short supply, making R&D expensive.

At the end of the Canal phase, we all had a mix of level 1 and level 2-3 industries on the board. Here's a look at the board before we removed the level 1 and link counters. You may be able to see that Red was leading in both VPs and income, with Green in second, and me bringing up the rear on both VPs and income. In my defense, I was busy teaching the game, managing the bank, dealing, umpiring, etc.!



Here's a closer look at part of the board.



We took a break at this point, after maybe two hours of game play. The next day we resumed, now in the Rail phase. The pace of play quickened a little, as we gradually were getting used to the rules. The rules aren't super-complex, but they are unusual, and they take getting used to.

Anyway, this time we faced an almost constant coal shortage, as the new Railroad Thingies burned through coal almost the minute it hit the board. Iron was also in demand, but not as much; we weren't sure how much more to develop in this phase, as none of us wanted to develop so fast that we ran out of counters.

I'm curious what a good rule of thumb is for development. We favored developing mills, ships, and ports. With coal in constant demand, we were reluctant to toss away our coal counters, and our iron counters seemed precious -- no one ever developed iron.

This time there were only a couple sales to the overseas Cotton market, and even though the market price stayed high, people favored their own ports instead.

Both Red and Green built shipyards this time, and here we made a big rules mistake -- we ignored the "Canal only" marker on the level 1 shipyards they built. We noticed after both had been placed, and we just decided to let things stand. Here was one area in which we could have done more development!

Here's the board at game end. Red won with 187 points over Green's 175. I was a distant third with 131 points. I was proud of these kids for figuring the game out so fast!



One interesting thing: the final VP totals were inversely proportional to income. I ended with the highest income, and Red the lowest. In calandale's video AAR of his first solitaire game, he noticed the same correlation. (I like calandale's videos; he also did a great series of videos on the OCS game "Burma".) Is this inverse-correlation typical?

We all loved "Brass"! At first my teen was very frustrated, as he didn't know what to do, and I was hard-pressed to advise him: there are so many choices in the early going that one can easily be overwhelmed. But once he got the hang of it, he kept saying he found it very "satisfying" to place, say, a coal mine and have someone else use his coal and flip it. Indeed, there's lots of positive feedback in this game -- you feel like you're building up your empire, never losing it, and that's a plus when dealing with kids who are occasional sibling rivals.

Me, I just liked the difficult, brain-burning decisions to be made. I made all sorts of sub-optimal choices, and the outcome reflected this.

There's relatively little luck, which also appeals to our group. The cards constrain one's actions only lightly, and the Distant Market "deck" was a minor factor in our game. Well, I guess there was one moment where Green sold with just 3 slots left on the Distant Market rather than sell to Red's port. He pulled a -1, allowing him to complete his sale. (In retrospect, maybe he'd have been better off waiting to build his own port.)

All in all, this game was a big hit with all three of us, and we're planning to play it again in the next day or so. In the meantime, I'd welcome any comments on our strategy, or on rules issues. Thanks for reading.
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Eugene
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Fun write-up. Calandale once mentioned that he couldn't think of any euro game that couldn't be taught to an 8-year-old as a first introduction to euros. I responded with a derisive, "Any Martin Wallace". So your pre-teen had no trouble with the game?
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Eugene
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Grotius wrote:
I'm curious what a good rule of thumb is for development.

All the level 1's are pretty much crap, except perhaps for L1 iron. Develop that garbage away. It's a standard first move.
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Hugh Grotius
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Thanks for your comments, Gary. My pre-teen is a smart cookie -- she can go toe to toe with me in "Combat Commander", "Fighting Formations," "Agricola," "Le Havre," "Puerto Rico," and (lately) "Space Empires 4X." She may not be typical of her demographic, but she had no trouble learning "Brass." I suppose it helps that she had a patient teacher (me)! Also, she's really got a knack for Euros in particular. She's hard to beat in "Le Havre" and "Agricola."

As for developing: which to develop away first? Mills, then ports, then ships?
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Eugene
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How pre-teen is she? There's a big difference between 8 and 12.
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Eugene
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Grotius wrote:
As for developing: which to develop away first? Mills, then ports, then ships?

Mills are generally first to go. The coals as well, since the L2's give a much bigger income boost, which is so important in the early game.

Don't worry about developing ships until you're sure you're going to build them. In fact, I've taken to not even building L1 ships, only going for L2's if the situation lends itself to that. Unlike the other industries, one can play and win Brass without ever even going into shipbuilding.
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Samuel Hinz
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What you develop away really depends on the other players. Especially in four players but I'm sure this game had it too, it is often better to fill a gap and build whatever other players are not building. As this mean less competition in those industries you build.
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Hugh Grotius
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We probably didn't develop enough, from the sounds of things. Although I was impressed that my youngest scored 187 points! That seems to be a respectable score. I hope we scored correctly: links and industry VPs after the canal phase; links, industry VPs and 1 VP for each L10 in cash at game end.

And yeah, she's 11, not 8, so that makes her an older pre-teen. But she was kicking my butt at Agricola when she was 9.
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Eugene
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Those are impressive scores. You did remember to remove all L1 industries from the board at the end of the canal era, right?
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Hugh Grotius
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Yep, we nuked all the level 1 industries at the end of the Canal phase -- and removed the canal links too, of course.

It probably helped that I first played a couple of games solo (using the online computer version) to learn the rules and basic strategy. I was then able to guide the kids through their first few decisions. Too bad I didn't think more about my own choices!

Also, as I mentioned, we did make one big rules mistake -- we allowed level 1 shipyards to be built during the Rail Phase. That was a chunk of extra VPs for both Green and Red.

I did wonder whether we were playing the income rules right. I took 3-4 loans, and my teenager took 1 or 2, but Red (the winner) took only one loan. I keep reading that it's typical to take 3-plus loans a game. But by the mid-Rail Phase we were all making 20 or more pounds a turn, which seemed to obviate the need for loans. I did announce "no more loans" when the deck ran out, but no one needed one anyway.
 
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Pieter
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Money, used well, translates directly to VPs. For instance, building two rails instead of one for an action is really expensive, but gives those extra points you crave. Near the game's end, income is not (very) important, but cash in hand is. So it is fairly common to take a big loan right before the deck bottoms out.
 
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Eugene
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That's pretty good income level as well. When taking loans, did you move your income marker back three (if you took $30, which you always should) levels and not just three spaces?
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Hugh Grotius
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Yep, we took 30L loans; it makes sense to burn the fewest actions possible on loans. And yes, we moved the income counter back three tiers (not just three spaces) after each loan. I don't think anyone's income got higher than 25 pounds or so, but I don't remember for sure. My kids did a very good job of building up their income stream early on; I'm the one who got strapped for cash, after building the shipyard and taking a loan. I suppose it's possible someone forgot to pay their 14 pounds for a mill or whatnot on a particular turn, but in general I was pretty good about asking each player to play a card, pay the cash to the amount-spent box, take/pay for any requisite coal/iron, etc.

As for ending cash, I had the most at game end (51 pounds), and I lost the game, heh. The winner had only 20 pounds or so.
 
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Eugene
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Well, the only other thing I can think of that might have contributed to the impressive scores is whether or not you removed the correct number of cards from the deck before each era. If not, then those extra turns would really push scores higher.
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Hugh Grotius
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Hehe, we did remove the proper number of cards in each era, although in both cases we had one-too-few cards at the last round -- maybe I've lost a card?

Also, *my* score wasn't all that high -- I had a 131 or some such. It was the kids who did well. There were a couple times when I played "Mr. Nice Guy" and, say, let someone else grab an iron-works spot. So maybe my largesse played a role. Also, there is that extra 10-15 points per player for the Level 1 Shipyards the kids shouldn't have built in the Rail age.
 
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Eugene
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Well tell your kids well done!

As far as the card shortage, remember that the first turn of the canal phase, only one action, so only one card used.
 
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Eugene
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Wait, hold on a minute!

Looking more closely at the first image above that shows the end of the canal era...something is definitely amiss.

Red has 8 buildings and 7 links. That alone takes 15 actions, one a piece. Note that building two links for one action is only during the rail era.

Also, all three of Red's cotton mills are flipped. This is at minimum one more action. However, a triple cotton sell is very difficult to pull off, and few first-time players consider attempting such a feat. Nevertheless...

Red's two ports are L2's. This means his L1's had to be developed away. That's one more action. In addition, two of Red's L1 cotton mills are also not present on the board. This means they too had to be developed away. Again, one more action.

So all totaled, that's 18 actions minimum to achieve Red's canal era end. But in the canal phase, each player has only 15 actions (1 the first round, and 2 for each of the 7 that follow).

As I said, something is definitely amiss.
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Martin G
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You get 19 actions in canal era in a 3p game
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Eugene
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Ah, thanks Martin. I was looking at our 4p game online.
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Hugh Grotius
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Red did develop more than we did, and I remember Red selling at least one cotton to the Distant Market and one cotton to one of her own ports. Actually, I thought she'd sold twice to the Distant Market, but maybe not? It's certainly possible we messed something up. And as I said, although I did remove cards, for some reason I ended up with one too few cards -- I played the last round with only one card, and I just dug into the discards for a random second card to fill out that final hand.

Next time I might track our actions turn-by-turn, because it would be helpful to get feedback on whether we're messing anything up.
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Jay Sachs
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Grotius wrote:
Hehe, we did remove the proper number of cards in each era, although in both cases we had one-too-few cards at the last round -- maybe I've lost a card?


Doesn't the first turn of an era only have one card per player?
 
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Hugh Grotius
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First turn of the *Canal* era has one card-action on the first turn. As I recall, first turn of the Rail era has two actions on the first turn. At least, that's how we played it -- one action at game start, then two thereafter. (Actually, we almost started a second action at game start, but I remembered just in time!)
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Eugene
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Grotius wrote:
Next time I might track our actions turn-by-turn, because it would be helpful to get feedback on whether we're messing anything up.

We do this, putting our spent cards in front of us instead of on a discard pile. Invariably, someone -- usually me -- forgets to expend a card for an action, messing up the deck count.

Playing online only compounds this tendency, as when I do play on cardboard, I completely overlook taking care of all the administration.
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Daniel Corban
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What to develop has at least two other threads of discussion.

As for the repeated recommendation here to develop the coal, that just blows my mind. I strongly disagree with any suggestion to develop coal or iron. There are extremely rare circumstances in which you should do such things.

Ports are #1 thing to develop, assuming you are going to build any. Level 1 ports are probably the worst possible use of an action. Level 1 cotton have their use, but in general, level 1 cotton or ports should be avoided if possible. If you do build a level 1 cotton, plan to flip it ASAP, as their benefit is early income.

The suggestion to have individual discard piles is virtually a requirement. It should actually be entered into the official rulebook. Me and the people I play with still do this and we are long-time veterans.
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Hugh Grotius
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I hadn't thought of individual discard piles! That's a great idea. In our game, we just tossed all discards into one giant messy heap. In fact, I commented that the only thing missing from the board was a discard-pile box. But individual piles would really help.

In fact, one player (Green) at one point did forget to play a couple cards, and we had to backtrack a bit.
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