Toy Corner

Review of Brass Birmingham

Jun 27, 2024

Brass Birmingham

Brass Birmingham was released in 2018 and has made waves in the board gaming community, where it is even top of Board Game Geeks overall rankings and is crowned the best board game around. Why does Brass Birmingham deserve its high rating? Through a detailed examination, we'll uncover the elements that make this game a must-have for any board game enthusiast.

Features of Brass Birmingham

Have you ever unpacked a game and instantly felt thrilled by the quality of its contents? That’s precisely the experience you get with Brass Birmingham. The game includes clay poker chips, wooden cubes, and beer barrels, each adding tactile pleasure to your gameplay. Imagine moving those solid, weighty coal and iron cubes around the board – it’s like holding a piece of history in your hands. The cards are linen-finished, giving them a luxurious feel that won't get worn out after a few rounds. And honestly, who doesn’t love the sound of poker chips clinking together, marking your economic prowess?

But let's not forget about the money. The base game comes with cardboard currency, which doesn't quite hit the mark. To truly feel like you are in the industrial era, investing in high-quality poker chips is highly recommended. Trust me, the sensory experience of handling real-feeling money amplifies the strategic depth and enjoyment of every transaction.

Why should the look and feel of a game matter? Well, because it transforms gameplay into an experience, leaving you captivated from start to finish. Brass Birmingham delivers with its richly detailed board, capturing 19th-century industrial England in all its gritty glory. The artwork is meticulously crafted, with each visual element serving a purpose. The rail networks, the canals, and the various intellectual properties you can build aren't just strategically vital; they also look marvellous – almost like a historical tapestry you get to interact with.

Moreover, the game's design thoughtfully interweaves functionality and flair. For instance, the beer barrels might seem trivial at first but become crucial as the game progresses. Their visual design is such that they’re easy to spot on the board, yet they seamlessly blend into the overall aesthetic. This balance ensures you remain engaged without feeling overwhelmed by too many distractive elements.

In essence, every component, from the smallest cube to the most detailed artwork, is designed to enhance your connection to the game and the era it represents. Isn’t that what we all look for in a great board game?

brass Birmingham components

Setup and Rules of Brass Birmingham

Have you ever rolled up your sleeves in anticipation of a grand strategic battle? That's the kind of thrill you'll get when setting up Brass Birmingham. First, players need to arrange the board, depicting the industrial Midlands, a detailed map that instantly transports you back to 19th-century England. Each player gets a player board, industry tiles, and a set of canal and rail tokens in their chosen colour.

Understanding the rules of Brass Birmingham might seem daunting at first, but think of it as cracking the code of a rich, strategic enigma. Each player takes turns performing actions such as constructing industries, building canals and rails, and developing technology. The primary aim? Gain the most victory points by the end of the game.

You might wonder, why go through the trouble of learning such an intricate game? Well, imagine the delight of outsmarting your friends by strategically positioning your industries and networks. Each card you play corresponds to a location or industry type, dictating your potential moves. It's like a chess game with added layers of economic strategy.

In each round, players can get income, borrow money, and mainly, take two actions. These actions range from building cotton mills and ports to developing infrastructure and selling goods. Why is this important? Because every choice pushes you to think a few steps ahead like a true entrepreneur. Strategic planning, resource management, even a bit of sabotage—it's all in the spirit of good old competitive fun.

Feel a bit overwhelmed? Don't fret. The game evolves into two distinct eras—The Canal Era and The Rail Era. This progression isn’t just for show; it changes the landscape of the game, making every move count. Each era has its own separate deck of cards, and completing the Canal Era by flipping all tiles to the opposite side is deeply satisfying.

Why should anyone invest time in such a complex setup and rule system? Because the rewards are equally intricate and rich. The sense of achievement and depth of strategy available in Brass Birmingham offers a gaming experience that's both immersive and intellectually stimulating.

In essence, setting up and learning the rules may seem like you’re preparing for a grand academic thesis, but once the game starts, it seamlessly transforms into an engaging narrative of industrial triumphs and strategic prowess.

Gameplay Experience

Brass: Birmingham doesn’t just ask for your time—it demands your brainpower. You've got to out-think your competition at every turn. Should you develop industries to gain lucrative victory points, or should you invest in expanding your rail network to open up new trade opportunities? Such decisions aren’t just important; they’re crucial to your success. Picture it: you had the option to build another pottery but realized investing in the rail network might have been more profitable.

The mechanics are as compelling as a Sunday roast with the family—comforting yet full of possibility. Each turn, players take various actions such as building industries, developing technological advancements, and constructing canals and rails. It's engaging, like mapping out a master plan where each piece plays a crucial role.

The interactions you will have with the other players will feel like you are in a lively pub discussion, where players are actively engaged in both collaboration and competition. Interaction isn't an afterthought; it's baked into the core experience. You'll find yourself keeping one eye on your own production and another on your competitors, ready to adapt your strategies based on their moves. It’s this social dynamic that keeps the game vibrant and unpredictable.

One thing to consider is that Brass: Birmingham isn’t a quick affair—you’re looking at an investment of 60-120 minutes per session. But much like reading a good novel, every minute is worth it. The twists and turns of strategy make it a time well spent.

brass birmingham components

Pros of Brass Birmingham

If you're wondering why Brass: Birmingham garners so much acclaim here’s what sets it apart from other strategy board games. Beyond its captivating historical backdrop, it strategically combines complex mechanics with an inviting learning curve. Let's dive into the perks that make it a standout.

One of the most compelling features of Brass: Birmingham is its intricate gameplay mechanics. Unlike many board games where you’re merely going through the motions every decision here carries weight. For instance, should you take a loan to expand your industry or save up for a more rewarding investment later on? This kind of strategic depth keeps players engaged and makes each session thrilling.

What’s particularly impressive is how well the game balances long-term planning with tactical decisions. You might wonder “Why should I care about balancing my loans?” Well it’s because every penny you borrow impacts your turn order and ultimately your game strategy.

Another advantage is the game’s high replay value. With its ever-changing board and diverse strategies no two games feel the same. Whether you’re focusing on building industries during the Canal Era or the Rail Era the variability ensures that players will never tire of returning to Birmingham’s streets. This is particularly important for long-term value as it means continual enjoyment from a single game purchase.

Finally, the visuals of Brass: Birmingham is nothing short of stunning. The artwork makes you almost feel the cobblestone streets of Birmingham as you move your pieces. A beautifully crafted game board and unique clay money tokens are just the icing on the cake.

Cons and Disadvantages

One of the primary drawbacks when first starting out playing Brass Birmingham is the game's complexity. The layered mechanics mean a steeper learning curve. For new players, it can feel like diving headfirst into a sea of rules and strategies without a lifeline. It takes multiple plays to fully grasp the subtleties, which might deter casual gamers or those looking for a quick, light-hearted game night.

As mentioned previously, the game time of Brass Birmingham is quite long and demands a significant time investment. Typically, one session can last between 60 to 120 minutes, sometimes even longer if players are new or particularly cautious with their decision-making.

Another point to consider is the potential for analysis paralysis. The myriad of choices available on each turn can lead to prolonged thinking, causing the game to drag. Players may find themselves endlessly deliberating the best course of action, much like deciding what to order at a restaurant with a 10-page menu. This can disrupt the flow and enjoyment, especially for more decisive players who favour a brisk pace.

Also, the game's interactive nature means that the actions of one player can significantly impact others. We have added it as a con but for some this competitive edge is a pro for many.

Finally, Brass Birmingham truly shines with a dedicated group of players who are familiar with its intricate mechanics. Finding such a group can be challenging. Rallying a consistent group for this game can be difficult, limiting how often you can actually play it.

Final Thoughts on Brass Birmingham

Once you have played Brass Birmingham a couple of times you will truly see why it is ranked so highly amongst board game enthusiasts. Finding the right people who will be interested in the 18-19th century industry era and who love strategizing could be a struggle but we have found the game to be just as good with 4 people as it is with 2. If you ever get the chance to play Brass Birmingham then it is recommended that you do and try for yourself as you will not be disappointed.