Recap: The Brass Challenge Begins and Space Alert First Impressions
Two years ago, I did a little resolution to play 15,000 minutes in a year. Despite my poking fun at the Cult of the Old, the idea of fully exploring a deeper game with repeated plays does have a certain allure. To that end, and with some other committed gamers, the prospect is this: Play a game twenty times during the calendar year. The chosen game: Brass.
Brass. Brass is a relatively complex game that has a solid economic base, a player driven market, route building, hand management, and action selection. The first play of 20 was held this week. We have about four or five committed to the game, but in this particular play, three players were new. I was the only one that had sold cotton and built ships before. For a game like Brass, that meant a natural advantage. Though, over twenty plays, any benefit should disappear entirely.
The early game featured cotton mills and ports. One player focused on getting as many items down as possible, while others focused on a port flipping strategy. For myself, I decided to tech early and get past all of the canal phase buildings (except for ports — I didn’t build a single port). That way, my buildings would be able to score on both phases.
At the halfway point, things were pretty even in points, but one player had almost nothing left on the board after we cleared canal only tiles. Experience had taught me to prepare for a good board position, and it payed off well. I was able to build one ship each phase, and even had the opportunity to overbuild someone’s iron foundry. This was more due to my opponent’s novice errors than any particular masterful planning of my own. In the end, the scores were relatively close considering the experience difference. I’m really looking forward to how this game will handle four very experienced players going at it.
Space Alert. This real-time cooperative game was highly anticipated by my group. Space Alert features a design by Vlaada Chvatil, a manic race to figure everything out, and a resolution round to see how well or how poorly we did. Combine that with a fun space theme and an intense audio track, and I could not wait to tear into it.
And tear in we did. We played the very first training mission twice and then did our first simulated mission. I loved it. The first training mission went poorly (we exploded), but mostly because there were a few rules misunderstandings. The second time we did much better, but it was also a little on the dull side. We had it figured out easily.
The simulated mission, though, was much more awesome. A lot to do, and plenty to keep track of. I was designated the communications officer since I knew the rules about when the threats would move. This meant that I could call out the turns when we needed to fire. The captain helped to manage the energy intake, and we successfully completed the first sim mission.
Of the five of us, two (myself included) were in love with the game, two enjoyed it, and one hated it. It reminded him of Robo Rally (which he also disdains), and he didn’t like the plan and resolve mechanic. It’s rare for there to be such a wide disparity from love to hate. Usually, we are in the same ballpark on things. He did enjoy the more complicated simulation mission better, and I think he’d enjoy the advanced simulations with internal threats even more. So, maybe there is still hope. Certainly, I’ll keep playing it. The game rocks, and I haven’t even gotten into the meat of it yet.
Princes of Florence. I’ve played Princes of Florence about a half dozen times before, and I have never won. I have never even come close to winning. Something about the game just flies right past me. Maybe part of it is that it is one of the few games I have been taught without reading the rules on my own, so it’s never been super clear to me.
I introduced the game to my group, and only one other player was experienced. He went for two jesters early while I did my normal tactic of buying buildings and landscapes. I started taking points early on, sacrificing my money. By turn four, I was the point leader, but I was rapidly losing funds. Turn six I blew everything I had on a fairly massive point grab. But, then I had nothing for turn seven. Nothing. I passed both of my actions and just sat there hoping the other players wouldn’t score points.
And I won. By one point. Of course, I won against first time players (mostly). But still, a Princes victory has been an elusive achievement for me, and I was happy to get it. I’ll most likely go back to losing by large margins now that the other players know what to do. But I will savor this happy circumstance while I can.