Weekly Challenge #2, Part 5: Brass: Birmingham Mautoma
I have talked quite a bit about Brass Birmingham on this site. The theme of the industrial Revolution, the economic growth, hand management and excellent components (yes please poker chips), all have made this game one of my favorites. Heck it is a top 5 game on BGG all time at this point!
I often get the urge to play this game more often than I have the opportunity to play it, so I thought I would take some time to print the Mautoma Solo mode and give it a shot! This First Impression piece will be mostly on the functionality of the solo mode.
The first time I saw the cards for this, my brain started to turn to mush. The iconography on these are far from intuitive. As I was studying the rulebook, the actions and thought process was fairly clear, however the process is not very intuitive. As I jumped into the game, I had to reference the rules basically every turn (this was also my fault for not studying more). The more I played though, the more I was able to get into a rhythm.
As the human player, I will always have the first turn playing against Mautoma, which is fine, but it does take away some conflict in standard Brass as you jockey for player order positions. When it is the Mautoma’s turn, you flip a card and you essentially have to go through a decision tree until a card has an action that can be fulfilled, if that action does the required two actions (which oftentimes it does with a combination move) their turn is done. If they still have to do a second action, you reference the revealed back of the next card in the deck for what type of action you need to fulfill. Again, going through a decision tree and if no action can be taken, it passes and gains 5 points. I think with another play, I can become fairly adept at this.
I played on the easy difficulty this time around. From my experience with other games, automas can be fairly hard (I am looking at you Gaia Project) but the easy mode was definitely easy. The way the game scales is it takes different industry tiles off of the Mautoma’s board allowing it to put out higher levels sooner. I am not sure how this will scale, but I think it will make it more competitive, HOWEVER the nature of the cards that dictate the actions are not very competitive. There were multiple times where they wanted to take a sell action, and they had the resources needed, but they had no industry built to sell. At the end of the game they had an excess of beer on the board (this is needed to sell industries) that would have made it more competitive.
The biggest way that it got in my way was making my actions more expensive by consuming all the coal and iron like nobodies business, but that was something I could manage.
I had a good time with this to be honest. It is far from perfect, and the functionality is clunky, but I think it scratches the itch. This was the goal of checking this out! I will try and get another play with this in here in the coming weeks to see if playing a higher difficulty will change anything or to see if I missed any rules! In the end, I wasted no money on this, just time by cutting out the cards. I consider this a win.
PS. I had a lot of trouble posting photos, so I included them in the comments!