Monday, 4 August 2008

2-player Brass

On Sun 3 Aug 2008 Michelle and I played Brass for the 2nd time. Brass is a 3 or 4 player game (last time we played a 3-player game with Han), but I recently found a 2-player variant on BoardGameGeek by Henri Harju, so I was keen to try this out. If it's good, then I won't need to wait for a 3rd player to be able to play the game.

The 2-player variant, in a not-so-small nutshell, is as follows:

  1. Board
    • Inaccessible: Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Stockport, Macclesfield, Oldham and Rochdale.
    • Canal connection available to Scotland.
  2. Cards
    • Remove cards for inaccessible locations.
    • Remove 1 card each for Manchester, Wigan, Liverpool, Lancaster, Preston.
    • Remove:
      • 3 x Cotton Mill industry cards,
      • 3 x Port industry cards,
      • 2 x Shipyard industry cards,
      • 1 x Coal and Iron industry cards.
    • At the start of canal/rail period, remove 2/0 cards.
  3. Resources
    • Skip $1 spaces on coal and iron demand tracks
    • Start game with $25
    • Remove one -1, -3 and both 0 distant market tiles (8 left)

The game played quite well with this variant. Competition was tight enough. I still experienced planning to build an industry at a particular spot, only to see Michelle take that exact same spot just before I could do so. Both Michelle and I had to take loans quite a few times.

In the railroad (2nd) age. Seven cities/towns are not in play, and I marked them off using the silver coins. The 1 Pound spaces on the demand track on the upper left are also not used, and are covered with silver coins too.

Michelle made good use of the demand track, building coal mines and iron works when coal or iron is in short supply, thus selling her resources quickly, making money in the process and also flipping her coal mines / iron works quickly.

In our first game, I misunderstood the canal/railroad scoring throughout most of the game and only realised my mistake near game end. This time with the correct understanding, I realised that the transportation network is a very important source for victory points, and is not just an enabler for your industries. I also find that this is yet another source of cooperative / competitive tension in the game. When you build a canal or railroad, if your opponents build industries in cities at either end, although they are taking "your" spot, they are also giving your canal / railroad extra points. I find this cooperative / competitive tension quite interesting. This canal / railroad scoring also reminds me of the houses and emissaries in China. You want to be where the crowd is, because that's where the big scoring opportunities are.

I'm quite sure 3-player games would be more interesting, since there is another player to consider, especially when this game has the cooperative element of taking coal/iron from an opponent's mine for free, which helps yourself but also helps that opponent in flipping his/her tile quicker. With 3 players you'll need to think of who you would benefit less. With 2 players, you'd probably just try to build your own coal mines and iron works. However I find the 2-player variant interesting enough and worthwhile enough. Hopefully I can play this again soon.

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