Brass: Lancashire - Tony's Top 5 Board Games

Brass: Lancashire - Tony's Top 5 Board Games

The Meeple Design website has been live for almost a year now and during that time we have been focussed on our designs but are also gradually finding time to update our blog with more regularity. Therefore, we thought it was about time we added the obligatory 'favourite board games' post. It should give an idea about our thought process behind buying new board games, I will admit that sometimes we like something shiny, and hopefully a bit of insight into why we started Meeple Design. There will my top 5 games and Hannah's top 5 games as well. I am sure the list will be different and even if there are crossovers I think the reason we like the games will vary as well.

It is difficult to pick my favourite 5 games, as there are so many that I enjoy playing and a few that I need to play more of before I can confidently say they are among my favourite games. The 5 games that I have picked are partly because they play well with 2 players and I play most often with 2 players, even pre-pandemic. It is quite clear from the 5 games that I have picked that I am a big fan of euro style games. 

In order to provide a bit more detail about each game and why I like it, I will be publishing an article for each game. They are in no particular order as it was difficult enough to narrow down to only 5 games. My top 5 games are:

Brass: Lancashire
Players: 2 to 4
Play Time: 60 to 120 minutes
Board Game Geek Rank: 18

We backed the Kickstarter of the Brass reprint and have Brass Lancashire & Birmingham. Lancashire is currently my favourite of the 2 purely because my wife and I have not yet played Birmingham. Before backing the game, I watched a Shut Up & Sit Down review of the original Brass. My impression from watching the review was, that they seemed to enjoy the game, but found it very dry and could be seen as somewhat boring. So..... seemed like the perfect game for my wife and I. On top of this, the Kickstarter reprints were deluxe editions featuring new artwork with poker chip style money. 

The game is set during the industrial revolution with gamers playing as cotton entrepreneurs vying to establish their various industries and delivery network. Like most good Euro Games the winner is the player who gains the most victory points during the course of the game. Each turn, players take 2 actions achieved by playing cards from their hand. The cards available list locations on the board or a specific industry which allow the player to choose 1 of 5 actions. These options are; laying an industry tile, building a delivery link, developing one of the industry tiles already placed, selling cotton or taking out a loan. 

What makes Brass: Lancashire unique is creating the delivery links. These are important as you can only build new industries on locations which you have a link to. Furthermore to build certain industries you need coal, available from coal mines that have been placed on the board, and in order to use required coal from mines there must be a link from the mine to the spot that you want to build an industry. The route does not have to be made solely of your colour links, this adds an additional layer of strategy trying to determine where your opponent will place their links, in order for you to optimise your turns and money. The resources available from iron works and coal mines is also unique, at least compared to other games I have played. The resources on these locations are limited, any player with a link to coal mines can use the coal and in the case of iron you can use any iron that is available, which provides 2 key points to consider; do you need the resources to construct other industries and once the resources are used you can flip the tile which provides you points at the end of the game so maybe you want other people to use the resources so you can flip the tile.  The final point to consider when using actions to place links, once the first deck of cards has been used that triggers the end of canal era and all the canal links are removed from the board. The game then moves onto the next stage,  progressing from canal to railway links. Railway links work much in the same way as canals except they are more expensive to place, you can place 2 in one turn and,or obvious reasons, you can not place them in canal spaces

As an action,  you can take out loans, which in Brass you most certainly will need to and the timing of taking this action is extremely important. Loans are either 10, 20 or 30 which reduces your income by 1, 2 or 3. Later on in the game it is more difficult to increase your income level therefore it can be wise to take an earlier hit on your income in exchange for money to build your industry. There is also opportunity to sell cotton, which can trigger the flipping of  the cotton factory tile to create a Port, which can grant your opponents points. Alternatively, if there are no ports or only opponents ports to sell to, you can instead sell to the ‘distant cotton market’ which adds a risk/ reward element giving only you points but can also mean you are unable to sell the cotton at all, and therefore unable to flip your own cotton factory. 

One of the elements that makes Brass: Lancashire one of my favourite games, is the relatively simple ruleset. There isn't a deck of unique cards, there aren’t 101 different rules & sub rules but there are difficult decisions that you have to make on every turn based on a relatively simple rule set. This can lead to analysis paralysis for some people so if you prefer easier going games or don’t enjoy playing with people who suffer from AP then the game isn’t for you. I also agree with the review I mentioned earlier from Shutup & Sit Down that the game is dry both theoretically and the fact it is a heavy economic style game. With the theme of the Industrial Revolution, it is a game that some may consider boring. However, I consider it to be an almost perfect game deserved of a place in my top 5 favourite games. My wife and I will play Brass: Birmingham soon and maybe that will displace Lancashire on this list or maybe we will look both equally for different reasons. Either way I will post my thoughts as soon as I get an opportunity to play it.

As fans of Brass in general we have created our own Meeple Design travel style and silhouette posters to decorate your gaming space with as well as unique apparel designs. All of which are available exclusively from Meeple Design - check them out here.

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