“I always start with the theme” – an interview with Martin Wallace

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“I always start with the theme” – an interview with Martin Wallace

What is the story of Brass? The best way to find out is to ask the designer, isn’t it?
Our PR Manager, Dominika, wrote an article about his career as a game designer. And recently, she had an opportunity to ask him some more questions!.

Dominika: What inspired you to create Brass?

Martin: One of my playtester friends suggested that I work on an economic game, as I had fallen into the habit of designing multi-player wargames. I chose the theme as that was the most interesting period of history for the place that I lived, Manchester. A piece of advice given to historians is to write about the places you know, so I applied the same point to game design. I studied economic history as part of my degree, so a lot of the material was already familiar to me.

D: How did you start the work on this game? From the idea for the mechanics or from the theme?

M: I always start with the theme. I then read as much as I can until ideas start forming in my head.

D: What was it like working on BRASS?

M: It was a long time ago, with many other designs in between. I think the core game came together fairly quickly, but it then took a lot of playtesting to balance each of the industries. It took around twelve months to design, develop and publish the game.

D: Did you visit the places mentioned in the game? Which ones can you recommend to us?

M: That’s a difficult one. None of the places are particularly pretty. You have to have a good guide to find the interesting stuff. I would certainly recommend a visit to the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. It is built around the first passenger station in the world.

D: Why is BRASS a bestseller? It’s continually among the top ranked games at BGG.

M: To be honest, I have no idea what the sales are for Brass. The publishers refuse to give me those figures. I have no idea why it is successful, I thought it was merely OK, but that shows how much I know.

D: And why did you design Age of Industry? Did you hope to repeat the success?

M: Age of Industry was designed to make it easier to create expansion maps. The problem with Brass is that the cards are specific to the map. A new map means new cards, which is a lot more expensive than producing a map on its own.

D: Do you know any statistics for the champion Brass players?

M: Er, no. Sorry, do not keep track of competitions.

D: How many times did you play BRASS? What is your best result?

M: I played it a lot during development. Since then I think I have played it once. If I sat down with a semi-experienced player no doubt I would lose.

D: Have you seen any custom game components or player aids created by Brass fans?

M: I received a copy of the Spanish map, which was very nice.

D: Which of your games is your personal favorite?

M: To be honest, whichever game I’m presently developing. Once I finish a game I rarely play it again.

D: So it means, that you don’t play Brass these days?

M: Actually I am, but only because I’m developing a new map based in the Midlands (Birmingham). I’m planning an updated version of the game to be released via Kickstarter.

I had a pleasure to meet Martin during Essen Spiel’14. And as I once promised, I’ll write about this meeting (and our way to get a licence for a mobile version of the game) in a future entry.