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Posted on Mar 16, 2017 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Steampunk Corporate Conflict – Brass Empire Review

Steampunk Corporate Conflict – Brass Empire Review

By Greg Johnson

Brass Empire Game Review. Publisher: Rock Manor Games Designers: Mike Gnade
Price: $49.00

Greg Johnson

Passed Inspection: Engaging game play, Original theme

Failed Basic: I would have enjoyed having the Brass token cubes as yellowish or goldish to fit with the theme better. Different sizes for the denomination would have been better. Having a different type token for damage would also have been better. As it is the Brass tokens are solid red cubes and translucent red cubes of the same size. The damage tokens are translucent clear cubes. All cubes are the same size. Factions abilities don’t seem to play as much a part in the gameplay as I expected it would.

This deck building game is set in a steampunk world where factions ruled by corporations try to enhance their wealth and influence by acquiring the valuable currency of Brass. They build structures and organize their employees for mining, labor, construction, offensive and defensive tactics. Strategies may be involved in espionage, technology or security and mining. The player with the most brass will is victorious when the preset pool of Brass has expired.


The game plays with one to five players and is set to play from 30 to 60 minutes. Initially, as with most games, there is a learning curve. Players who have played deckbuilding before will notice a shorter learning curve. The instructions are set up well enough to guide the players into play without too much head scratching.

Players begin by setting out a mining platform card, one for each player. They then choose a faction that they wish to work as during the game.

Choosing a faction provides you with five unique cards that only your faction can purchase during the game that provide you with faction specific abilities. Frontier focuses on labor. The corporate factions are: McGlynn Clockwerks, Harlem Electric, Omni-Edo Corp, Frontier Rail and Windcraft Enterprises.

Windcraft focuses on construction. Halem focuses on damaging other factions. Clockwerks focuses on card draw. Omni-edo focuses on card efficiency. These play styles become more important as the game progresses. This set of faction specific cards called a ‘reserve deck’ are set to the side and are available for only that player to purchase during the game.

Players will receive a set of starter cards that provide both one labor value (the Clerk) and one construction value (the Union Worker). All players receive the same set of 7 clerks and 3 Union Workers. These provide the ability to purchase new employees, buildings and units. The player shuffles the Clerks and Union cards and this becomes their deck to draw from to start the game. Players draw five cards for their starting hand.

There are two sets of cards that are used as a pool of cards from which to purchase additional deck cards. They are the Labor Deck containing Employees and the Design Deck containing Buildings and Units. Both decks are shuffled then placed face down. Draw and place six cards from each pile in a row beside the decks. These are available for each player to purchase. (It may take a few minutes to shuffle the cards because there are a lot of them.)

The cards have a construction or labor cost in the top right corner showing its cost to purchase. Players may play the five cards they drew in any order they wish. They must play them all, but do not have to used them all. An example would be playing three clerks and two union workers. This would allow the player to purchase something of three labor and two construction.

Cards in the labor and design pool are better than the basic starter sets and may provide more purchasing power. They also may contain abilities and effects which can be used during game play. Most cards have a Brass value in the lower left corner that will be counted at the end of the game toward your brass total.

Once a player uses all their labor, construction or abilities and effects of the cards played from their hand. They can draw five new cards and pass the turn.

One of the features of the Brass Empire is the type of cards. There are three basic types: Buildings, Units and Employees. As play has progresses players will be playing unit cards, building cards and using card effects based on the ones they purchased for their deck, hence the deckbuilding game mechanic.

Buildings: Constructing and Defending
Building cards are played face down initially and completed by turning them face up on the players next turn. Their effects will then be available to the player each turn it is in play. Building have an attack and health value, but do not get to attack, but only defend with the attack amount.

Units: Attacking, Defending & Mining
Units are played and are ready to defend on that turn, but cannot attack until another turn. Units may attack another player’s cards by using their attack against the other cards health. The other cards attack is also counted against the attacker’s health. Any health that has be reduced to zero or lower causes the card to be placed back in the player’s deck discard. If an attack did not destroy the defending card, then the defender would put a counter on the card representing the amount of damage that was done. An attacker that was not destroyed by the defender would also receive damage counters. In this way played cards may be removed from play, returned to the deck discard and replayed when drawn again.

Unit cards can also be used to mine Brass. Choosing between mining and attacking is a dilemma that players will face each turn. Each player must decide whether to use units to mine or attack. They cannot do both on the same turn. Units mine the number of Brass of their attack value when mining. Buildings and Employees do not mine.

Mining Platform
A player may also choose to spend some of their construction value to mine with the mining platform. This platform can be attacked and destroyed, then rebuilt repeatedly during a game. Two construction earns one Brass. One construction rebuilds it after being destroyed.

Brass Empire follows the basic deckbuilding mechanic and does it smoothly. It adds the elements of an exclusive reserve deck and a combat system that doesn’t intrude into the gameplay as a forefront element, but allows it to be an option. While none of these are extremely new, the game puts them into use in a way that allows for an experience that will keep you thinking and provide enough choices and options to enjoy and have fun with it. The game has a solitaire play option that is adequate, but honestly playing against human opponents is much more enjoyable. The game won’t laugh with you or groan at your corny jokes. Other humans required for that play experience. Overall, it is worth the value and provides plenty of entertainment.

Armchair General Rating: 88%

Solitaire Rating: 3 (1 not for solitaire, 5 suitable for solo)

About the Author:
Greg Johnson works as a professor in Higher Education in the areas interdisciplinary art, photography, web and graphic design and development. He also records music, audio and is a singer/songwriter. Greg and his wife Lisa are involved in board game design and board game graphic design with their business. An avid gamer Greg enjoys a variety of games from classic board games to table top miniatures.