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Test Your Economic Prowess In Brass: Lancashire

I’m hooked on Brass and I’m here to tell the whole world about it!



Designer: Martin Wallace
Publisher: Roxley
2–4 Players
60–120 Min

So I just played through a game of Brass: Lanchashire a couple of nights ago and I immediately wanted to get a review in for it because of how much fun it was to play. This isn’t a new game by any stretch, having first been released way back in 2007. In fact, there’s even been a more recent sequel released (Brass: Birmingham) and even that one has been available since 2018. Still, this is a very solid game that I don’t think gets enough credit.

Brass: Lancashire tells the story of competing cotton entrepreneurs in Lancashire during the Industrial Revolution. In order to capitalize on the demand for iron, coal, and cotton, you must develop, build, and establish your industries and network. This game is heavy on economic resourcefulness and strategy. I’ll also mention that it takes a couple of rounds before you really get the hang of it. The second playthrough is far better than the initial one…or at least it was for me.


Something that I personally love about Brass is how it plays out in chapters. The game is split into two halves: the canal phase and the rail phase. To win the game, you must score the most victory points, which are counted after each half. By building canals, rails, and established industry tiles (more on that later), you gain victory points. Players take turns according to the turn order track (turn order can change from round to round depending on certain game variables), receiving two actions each to perform any of the following:

  • Build an industry tile
  • Build a rail or canal
  • Develop an industry
  • Sell cotton
  • Take a loan

The last thing players do on their turn is replace two cards that they played at the end of their turn with two more from the deck at the beginning of their next turn. Whoever spent the least amount of money during the previous round starts at the top of the order on the next round. This makes the game really swingy and a lot of fun. The turn order mechanism allows a few strategic options to players who go later in the turn order, enabling them to take multiple turns simultaneously. Back-to-back turns are amazing!

The canal phase ends once all the cards have been dealt once (the deck size is adjusted according to the number of players), and the scoring phase begins. All canals and all lower-level industries are removed from the game after scoring, and then new cards are dealt to begin the rail phase. A player can now occupy more than one location in a city, and a double-connection build (though expensive) is now possible. An additional scoring round follows the rail phase, and a winner is then crowned.

There are limits to which cards can be used for developing your industries, but any can be used for building connections, selling cotton, and developing. The timing and storing of cards becomes a strategic decision. Another point of strategy is where to develop industries. When a player requires something like coal, for instance, they have to use the nearest source. If that source belongs to you, you are rewarded.

Social Skills Come To Play

What I love about the game is just how social it is. The nuances involved with knowing when to wait and when to splurge as well as the when and where’s of grabbing up resource nodes is exciting and surprisingly tense. There were a number of turns where I was praying no one took a key resource port from me before my turn arrived.

Lastly, and this is a true quality marker for me with all board games: it didn’t feel like anyone was being helped but the game was still incredibly close. The guy who owned the game and had the most XP in the game did end up winning but it didn’t really seem like he was destined to take it until the very end. It reminds me of the epic Catan and Tikal matches I’ve had before. Rivetting right from start to end because no one is getting blown out of the water.

Lancashire or Birmingham?

As mentioned, there are actually two versions of the game. Birmingham is the newer version and has been updated to sort of smooth out the rough parts of the original game. That being said, many players (on gaming forums) prefer the older version specifically because of the somewhat random elements of the game. Lanchashire is much less forgiving to for newer players, the more recent edition is likely going to be easier to dig into. One thing many people agree on is this: Lanchashire shines best as a four player affair while Birmingham is brightest when three players contest.

Both games are great and I’m hooked. If you’re looking for a new game to play with your crew and you’re into strategy and timing heavy games with real consequence, Brass has what you’re looking for in spades.

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