This next game I’m taking a closer look at has its steam engines ready for the next journey. Brass Empire, from Rock Manor Games, is seeking for crowdfunding for not only for the well-received deck-building, but also for its new expansion, New Canton.
This review will first focus on the actually base game itself and then go in to a preview on the expansion.
1-6 Player – Age 10+ – 30-60 mins
Publisher: Rock Manor Games – Designer: Mike Gnade – Lead Artist: Declan Hart
Brass Empire is a deck-building game where players start with a the same deck, buy cards with resources they make, and collect the most brass, the game’s victory points, in order to win the game. As with many other deck-builders, the starter deck follows the norm of a ten card deck and having you draw 5 cards at the end of each turn. In Brass Empire, you also begin with a reserve deck of a specific faction, which cards can be purchased from just as you would when buying cards from the market. Different faction will focus on different aspects of the game, such as gaining more resources or destroying opponent’s buildings.
There are two separate markets in which a player can buy from making a total of 12 card pool selection. The Labor Market let you gain employees that will generate resources, let you draw more cards, and you may find powerful employees that may even give you a better edge against your opponents. The Design Department is where you get buildings and units that help mine brass and attack others. When you gain cards, they will always be sent to the discard pile. So the only time you’ll see your purchased cards is when you need to shuffle your discards.
For a building to be constructed, it needs to be played from your hand face-down. Next turn, all face-down buildings are built turning face-up and stays in play until it gets destroyed. Units also stay in play until they leave. Units can’t be used when they first come out, but are able to act after that. Units serve to main purposes. First, they can mine for Brass and collects one Brass for each strength is has. Second, it can attack other units and buildings. An attacking unit will deal damage to a card’s health, which will cause it to be destroyed if it reaches zero. In this game, damage is persistent and it will carry over each turn. Damage is calculated at the same time, so other units and even some buildings can attack back. Destroying a building or a unit through combat will reward the attacker with the brass from the supply of the destroyed cards brass value.
The game will end once all the brass has been taken. The player adds all their brass points from ones they collected and for every cards that has it’s worth in brass. The winner of the game is the player with the most points.
Steampunk has been one of my favorite themes across film, literature, and video games. With the influx of steampunk going into geek culture out there, I’m starting to get picky on how anyone’s interpretation of the genre represents itself. One of the things that Brass Empire avoids is relying on Victorian era style steampunk too much (you cannot believe how this annoys me). Each of the factions is based on a different theme and part of the world like the Wild West or Japan. While the game does showcase a great amount of diversity in the art, the art itself has some caveats. Most of the art is done by one artist, Declan Hart. Not all the art is best, especially ones depicting people. However, what it certainly makes up for is the very imaginative and creative buildings and vehicles. Throw a bunch of airships in there and I’m already liking the game.
The graphic design is good and each card is easy to follow and understand. However, I wish there was a much easier way to sort the cards. There are essentially two different types of cards, labor and developments. Here the tricky part, the main way to tell these cards a part is this small symbol to tell whether it’s an employee, a building or unit, but all the employees go in one deck, and the buildings and units got in another deck. There are many times to my surprise even after sorting the cards that I have found another no belong into one of the decks. I think what’s confusing me that cards has the same design as any other card. It’s a little annoying, but just a minor problem that doesn’t slow down the game too much.
Brass Empire takes place in the world of Cobalt. It’s like a world where we live in but if there was steampunk things in it and if all lands converged into one big mass. When it comes to themes and story, I always like to know more about the world and there’s plenty what the book has. One thing I wish for is more it on the cards and that’s way flavor text can add a lot to the immersion. But what I can tell you the upcoming expansion will have focus in that and I’ll go into more below.
What kind of deckbuilding game is this?
There are many deckbuilding games out there and I believe that Brass Empire holds up very well on its own. To make a comparison, I would put it between Dominion, the granddaddy of deckbuilding games, and Ascension, a highly respectable deckbuilding game with several expansions that even rivals its predecessor.
It’s more complex than Dominion with more tactical decisions when buying from the market and more diversity of cards in each game. It’s less complicated than Ascension, with its straightforward mechanics and it doesn’t lose steam going towards the end of the game.
Deep without being complicated
What I really like in Brass Empire is that that cards are so simple to read and they don’t have a block of text on them. You also have a huge market with 12 cards to purchase and your faction cards in your reserve as well.
Set up and factions
It does follow the most basic set-up of a typical deckbuilding game but you also get to start with a faction reserve deck. You don’t necessary need to buy any of these cards but it will certainly help to give an edge throughout the game, I find some of the cards to still be useful nearing the end of the game.
I never felt that there was a part of the game where the market stalled from giving good and even purchasable cards. I felt I was able to make a good card purchase each turn. As you’re buying buildings and units, you’ll be putting them out which helps condense your deck. Both may eventually get destroyed, but they get to be played once again. Also, buying higher price card is not too out of reach.
There is a bit confrontation in the game and it rewards players for attacking and destroying their cards. Damage is also persistent so players can team up to take out a really good building. The nice thing is that you at least get to use the effect when it comes out for the first time. The only way to get attacked is to have something in front of you.
This is also brings up something very important. There are many paths to victory. The only way you know you’re doing things right is you are collecting brass for points. You can get points by destroying other player’s card through combat, generating brass through other cards, and mining with units or spending construction resources.
Other Opinions & Remarks
At the time this review is being written, the Kickstarter of New Canton is currently going on which I highly suggest you checkout for the second printing of Brass Empire and for the new expansion I going to go through now.
New Canton not only adds in more and brand new cards, but it provides a new way to play. A story will also be part of this system and will unfold and even branch off from the player’s decisions they make during the game. The main feature is the campaign mode where player will choose a character that will evolve and change as the game will, both in mechanics and as part of the story. I don’t want to go into it too deeply for it might spoil some of the games stories and surprises. Player will oversee a faction and get a hero card that gives some abilities. The game progresses from game to game and major changes may occur during the middle of the game. Sometimes these events will activate after or before each game, or even during in the middle of a player’s turn.
Some of the new cards that can be found in New Canton are relics. These will be shuffled into one of the market decks. Relics don’t come face-up on the board, instead, it remain face down and a market card is played on top of it and can be obtain with the purchase of the card that is comes with. You may only use the relic once since they are very powerful.
Another are events that will be shuffle along the deck as well and can be drawn and take on effect during the game.
Score and Conclusion:
I’m not only surprised but impress of what Brass Empire does. I really like that there are different factions you can start with that has its own advantages, a simple and engaging combat system, and it has many paths to victory that makes it a solid deckbuilding game that feels fresh and doesn’t lose steam.