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This game probably would benefit from repeat plays. It felt much less complex than the BGG rating would suggest, but I imagine it gets more complex the more experienced you are with it. I love how much the game state changes from one age to the next: at the end of the Canals age, I was winning handily, but by the end I lost by almost 60 points. The long-term engine building is crucial. The game goes by a lot faster than you'd think. Our learning game took about 2 hours. EDIT: The more I think about this game, the more I like it. Brass teeters on the edge of rules bloat, but never really suffers from it; instead, the fiddliness gives it depth and adds to the fun element. The best compliment I can pay this game is that it's a fun game to lose.
I late pledged this game on Kickstarter after watching several solid gameplay videos (Ant Lab Games, Heavy Cardboard) and listening to my wife comment how boring the game looked. Well, it turns out that my wife and I love to get this one to the table. The simplicity in mechanics, coupled with the depth of decision-making, makes this one of our favorite games that we can play in about 2 hours. This game has a great mixture of strategy and tactics that come together to create the win.
The edges have been sanded down from its predecessor, far less aggressively competitive than the original due to the new resource constraints. What results is less of a knives-out fight for rail network territory and more of a nuanced balance of parallel competitive interests. With three industry goods, the game is open to "multiple paths to victory" that so many people laud as a positive attribute. I usually find this dull as it often pits you against the game more than your opponents. This paradigm is more apparent at the lower player counts, since two or three players can pursue different paths without bumping heads. In 4p, someone is going to get in your space on at least one-- and potentially several-- of the directions you're headed. Beer is kind of the exception to this. On the one hand, beer is to blame for the new restrictions that tie players' hands, slowing down the double-rail spam strategy forcing people down the one of the aforementioned "multiple paths." On the other hand, beer is the one resource that all players really need in the Rail era, and I wonder if the knife fight appears with breweries as players become more skilled. There's still an important timing aspect to getting breweries out. If you want to use your own breweries, you had better make sure nobody else can access them. I don't like Birmingham [i]better[/i] than Lancashire, but I do like it [i]differently[/i].
Why do I simultaneously feel so dumb and so smart playing this game. It's one of those ones where analysis-paralysis prone players may experience full brain meltdowns. I have no idea how to play this properly. Flipping tiles is fun. Having others flip your tiles is fun. Trains!
Brass: Birmingham is a captivating design that will immediately appeal to strategy gamers. The intermingling of the various industries creates rich player interactions and creates a strong foundation on which its economy stands. The result is a somewhat opaque game system that equally invites strategy and opportunism. The comparison to its predecessor it inevitable, but Birmingham more importantly embodies the strengths of iterative design. The Brass system is rich with thought and has much to offer, and is one that I aspire to master.