The big story in this year’s Brass tournament was the near 50/50 split of player preference between the original version of Brass (now called Brass Lancashire) and the newer version of the game, Brass Birmingham. While one could argue that Birmingham is a variant of Brass, others could argue that each game has a different rule set, and knowledge in one game does not directly transfer to the other.
A total of 53 unique players entered this year’s tournament, which was actually an increase in attendance from 2019 in a year where overall convention attendance was down at least 10%. Seating for each heat was a bit tricky, since there were people who knew the rules to only one version and not the other. Thankfully there is a small crossover crowd that can play either version of the game, which solved the problem of how to balance the tables. And while the games may be different in rule set, one discovery this year was that having Brass Birmingham on the menu greatly helps to solve seating issues. Brass Lancashire is a fantastic game, but only at four players. Brass Birmingham, on the other hand, plays rather well at both three and four players. Hence, there were no unhappy tables this year since both versions of the game were available to play.
Just as was the case in the heats, there was an even split among player preference for format in the semifinals. There were two tables of Lancashire and two tables of Birmingham, which made it likely that the final would be Lancashire, since the rules of the tournament have a preference to Lancashire being played if there is a tied vote at a table. There was a large contingency of the Greenville Mafia present in the semifinals, with six total players, most choosing Birmingham over Lancashire (except for Bill Burtless).
The first Lancashire semifinal was between John Corrado, Peter Card, Eddie Chen, and Binh Phan. Some pretty wild stuff happened in this game, as Eddie’s opening move was a level 1 port in Warrington & Runcorn. In later discussion, he explained that he had a hand that wanted to build iron, but he had no coal cards to make it feasible. The port isn’t what Peter wanted to see, as he had already committed to developing his first ports away. Binh put the pedal to the metal and played a superb cotton game in the canal era and was able to get position on John, the other cotton player. Binh had a lot of money and developed coal to start the rail phase. In his opening move, he played what the table later concluded was a suboptimal path of rails on the map. Rather than build down into the point-rich cities from the port in Preston, his path started out of Liverpool. This allowed other players to gain presence in cities that they would likely not have otherwise been able to get to. Eddie played a stellar second half, building the right rails at key tactical moments and getting both of his shipyards out. He was able to win by five points over Binh, followed by John and Peter.
The second Lancashire semifinal was between Bill Burtless, Philip Shea, Erin Weir, and Carl Chauvin. This game followed closer to a mainline Brass game and had a high point ceiling. Bill flipped three ports, Erin built all of his iron, Carl flipped three level 3 and a level 4 cotton mills, but poor Philip was a victim of bad timing and a tactical error when building his third cotton mill, which he was unable to flip. He mixed up Bolton and Stockport when he played out his cards and it led to getting behind in tempo. The slip-up gave Carl an advantage that he would hold onto through the rail era, winning the game by a margin of five points.
The third Birmingham semifinal table was John Emery, Jonathan Mattanah, Andrew Emerick, and Randy Buehler. The canal era ended close, with the players all separated by about five points. All three players aside from Jonathan built at least two ironworks, and everyone built at least one brewery. Andrew went for a bigger brewery strategy and played a couple of manufactured goods to help flip his tiles. In the rail era, Randy lamented in the late game that he realized he made a mistake that likely cost him approximately five points when he essentially did a few moves in a suboptimal order, which led to not maximizing his potential points. He hoped it wouldn’t matter, but it did. Andrew won the game by a single point. A visibly frustrating Randy shook it off after a short walk around the table and looked at the bright side of earning laurels and being freed up to play in other events.
The fourth Birmingham semifinal was between Terry Brown, Jonathan Towne, Robert Eno, and Jay Matthews. Jonathan and Terry came out of the canal era with a somewhat comfortable edge over Robert and Jay. Jonathan’s path to points came from building all of his ironworks, while Terry played three breweries and two level 2 manufactured goods. Jay gave cotton a shot and was able to flip two level 2 mills in the canal phase, although he didn’t have many points aside from those. Jonathan pulled away slightly in the rail era to earn a berth in the finals.
The mob got whacked, with all Greenville players missing a chance to make it through to the final.
The final ended up being an extraordinarily tight game between the four players who were all making their first appearance in a Brass final. Due to the timing of the game being moved to accommodate players’ other commitments, the GM was unable to attend the game and take meaningful notes to reproduce a play-by-play within this report. But the final scores were so close that Eddie and Andrew tied at 149 points each. Eddie won the tiebreaker by being on spot 29 of the income track while Andrew was on spot 27. Carl was only three points behind at 146, and Jonathan was farther behind at 121, as he was unfortunately not familiar with Brass Lancashire and struggled through the more punishing tactical parts of the early game.
Thanks to everyone who participated in a fun, competitive and successful tournament!