Brass: Birmingham is an economic-themed strategy game for groups of 2-4 players. It is the second game in a series that was modeled after the original Birmingham game, created by Martin Wallace in the late 2000s. The setting of the game takes place from 1770-1870 during the Industrial Revolution and is separated into 2 eras. Players are tasked with creating a network of industries that fit in with the fluctuating market demand.
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To set up the board, place it in the middle of all players with the day or night side facing up. If there are less than 4 players, return all cards and Merchant tiles showing a player count greater than the number of players to the box. Place the decks of Wild Location and Wild Industry card face up in their own Card Draw Area spaces. Shuffle the rest of the cards and place them in the Card Draw Area to serve as the Draw Deck.
Next, shuffle the rest of the Merchant tiles and place 1 of them facing up on each of the Merchant spaces that match the number of players in the game as indicated near the board’s edges. Place 1 beer barrel piece on each beer barrel space next to a Merchant tile that is not blank. One black cube will go on each space of the Coal Market, with 1 space open that has 1 pound on it. Additionally, place 1 orange cube on each space in the Iron Market area and leave both number 1 spaces empty. The leftover cubes and beer barrels will go next to the board and serve as the General Supply. The General Supply is not limited to the number of pieces that are present in the game. In the event that something runs out, you can represent that piece with something else. Lastly, place the money next to the board in its own area that will serve as the Bank.
To set up the player area, each person will take a Player Mat as well as 17 pounds from the Bank. They will then choose a colored Character tile and the corresponding colored link tiles. Stack the Industry tiles that match the color (Cotton Mills, Coal Mines, Iron Works, Manufacturers, Potteries, and Breweries) on their own slots on the Player Mat with the black side facing down. Victory Point (VP) Markers are placed on the 0 space of the Progress Track on the board and Income Markers start on the 10 space. Each player will draw 8 cards from the designated Draw Deck as their hand, which should be kept hidden from their opponents. One additional card is taken from the Draw Deck and placed face down in front of each player to start their Discard Pile.
Once the game board and all player areas are set up, everyone’s Character tiles will be shuffled together and placed in random order on the Turn Order Track.
The object of the game is to gain the most Victory Points by the end of the Rail Era.
The course of the game is split between the Canal Era (1770-1830) and the Rail Era (1830-1870). Each era is further divided into rounds, which will continue until the Draw Deck and all players’ hands are exhausted. The number of rounds that are played per era is dependent on how many players are in the game. Player take turns following the Turn Order Track that was established during setup.
During each player’s turn, they are usually allowed to perform a total of 2 actions. However, there is only 1 action allowed during the first. Round of the Canal Era. In order to perform an action, a card must be discarded from your hand and placed face up on the Discard Pile.
There are 6 different types of actions that can be played during a turn, and the same action may be performed twice at the player’s discretion:
Build: To build, you will pay the cost in pounds to place an Industry tile on to the board.
Network: You can expand your network by adding Link tiles to the board.
Develop: Removing Industry tiles from your Player Mat will allow you to Develop and access higher industries.
Sell: Cotton Mill, Manufacturer, and Pottery tiles can be flipped by selling to a Merchant and sometimes drinking a beer.
Loan: Loans of 30 pounds can be taken from the bank if you move your Income Marker 3 income levels backward.
Scout: Discard the card required to perform the action and 2 additional cards from your hand, replacing them with 1 Wild Industry and 1 Wild Location card. This cannot be done if there is already a Wild Card in your hand.
If a player chooses to pass instead of completing an action during their turn, they must still discard one card for each skipped action. All money spent during a player’s turn will be placed on top of their Character piece on the Turn Order Track.
After all actions have been taken, the active player will draw from the Draw Deck until they have a total of 8 cards again. When the Draw Deck finally gets exhausted, each player’s hand will decrease as the game moves forward until there are no cards left.
Before the start of the next round, the character tiles will be rearranged on the Turn Order Track with the player who spent the least money in the lead and the player who spent the most money in the back. The money spent will be reset for the next round by clearing the character tiles and returning everything to the Bank. Depending on income level, each player will either take money from the Bank or pay what they owe.
The Canal Era will end after the round where all players have exhausted their hands. When this happens, Victory Points will be added up for each player’s canal and rail links on the board as well as their flipped industry tiles. Level 1 Industry tiles will all be removed from the board and returned to the box, leaving all greater Industry tiles untouched. The Merchant Beer is also reset in preparation for the Rail Era round.
How to End the Game
The game ends when all players have used the final cards in their hands during the Rail Era.
How to Score the Game
To score the game at the end of the Rail Era, players will follow the first 2 steps performed after the Canal Era: scoring canal links, rail links, and flipped industry tiles. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game is the winner.
It is a good strategy to get loans from the bank within the first round since they are much easier to pay back in the beginning and you will most likely need one as the game progresses. Additionally, placing level 2 buildings on the board before the Rail Era begins will give you an advantage in the following rounds.
Variations of the Game
Brass: Birmingham is available in the French, Polish, Russian, English Retail, and Roxley English Deluxe Editions.
How the Game Changes Depending on the Number of Players
The rounds played in each era change depending on the number of players in the game. For a 4 player game, there are 8 rounds. This number increases to 9 rounds for 3 players and 10 rounds for 2 players.
Time to play: 60-120 minutes
Manufacturer suggested player age: 14+
Community suggested player age: 14+
Community rating: 8.6/10
Popularity: Rank 19
Designer credits: Gavan Brown, Matt Tolman, Martin Wallace
Published year: 2018
Link to official game site: http://www.roxley.com/