Who is behind Brass Board Game?

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Who is behind Brass Board Game?

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Board game fans have no problem answering this question. The  designer is so well known that it’s hard to imagine someone not knowing his  name. However, we realize that the electronic version of Brass board game will be played  not only by fans of unplugged games. For those who do not follow the world  of board games, we decided to present the designer.


In a nutshell

Martin Wallace playing brass mobile

He comes from Great Britain, lives in New Zealand, and his games are  played worldwide. That’s Martin Wallace in a nutshell. Struggle of Empires, Brass, Age of IndustrySteam - these are just a few of his successful  titles. He has won gamers’ hearts thanks to his elaborate strategy games which  combine the features of Eurogames and Ameritrash. His popular board game Brass has probably been his greatest success. It takes place in the days of the  Industrial Revolution. Players act in eighteenth-century England, taking on the  roles of entrepreneurs trying to earn the most money in various branches of  industry. These include cotton spinning, coal mining, and engineering. Although  it is a difficult brain-burning game which can last up to 180 minutes, it is still  among the top-ranked games, as rated by users at BoardGameGeek.

 

Martin was surrounded by board games from  childhood. He eagerly awaited Christmas, because  then the whole family sat down to …. Monopoly. He was also “always”  fascinated by war. Around the age of 12 or 13, he became interested in “real”  board games:

“My science teacher was a keen figure gamer and ran a games club at school (…) Through him I joined the local figure games club, along with a school friend. At about the same time I took the plunge and bought my first board wargame, SPI’s Starforce. (…) At 15 I was playing games like Air War (…) At college I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons, the edition with the blue cover. This opened up an incredibly exciting fantasy world.” (Source)


Beginnings

A few years later, thanks to this passion, he began to earn his first money. In college, Martin Wallace got a job in a wargame shop. He could spend entire days playing, explore new titles, and, thanks to the employee discount, expand his collection. He also had a year-long “episode” in the computer game industry, with one simple game. However, studies absorbed him so much that Martin took a “break” from games for a while. He returned to his passion in 1990. That was when the idea of “designing games” was born.

“At first I worked on wargames, as that was all I knew about. For some reason I thought it would be possible to sell designs to companies like GDW. How little I knew then! Luckily I binned all of my early designs. Eventually I came up with a game that had promise. This was Lords of Creation. With help from a friend at the local games club I printed 50 copies off of a Macintosh. Another friend had introduced me to the Mike Siggins’s Sumo, to whom I sent a review copy. The first review was positive and then the orders started coming in, with a surprising number coming from Germany.” (Source)

 

The first board game with which Martin arrived in 1994 to Essen for the SPIEL expo was Lords of Creation. This trip was a turning point in his “board game life”. Also this year, his publishing house Warfrog was founded. So it all began with 50 copies of Lords of Creation – and now Martin’s games are sold in the thousands. Wallace quickly became a “professional” game designer. He became known as a creator of very thematic titles, because he usually starts his creation process from the theme:

“My usual approach is to read a few books and then try to draw out what the important features were of the period. Then it is a case of coming up with the mechanics. Sometimes the mechanics fit nicely, as with Liberté (…) What I do not try to do is make sure all aspects of a period of history are jammed into the game. I think it is more important to give a taste of the period rather than simulate everything.” (Source)

 

Versatility

He designs not only historical games, but also, for example, board games based on the works of Terry Pratchett. He ideally combines the German care for innovative mechanics with the American search for a well-implemented theme. Martin is also associated with railroad games. He began with Ferrocarriles Pampas (1997), a game which started the Prairie Railroads series, created jointly with John Bohrer. Wallace published his next railroad game (Lancashire Railways) in 1998. Thanks to this game, he started another series: Early Railways Series. This game is also considered to be an ancestor of later bestselling titles: Age of Steam (2002) and Railways World (2005).

 

A little known title, but important in Warfrog’s publishing history, is Mordred (1999). It is a dice game where every round presents interesting decisions, and the game can end in two different ways (an idea used later in Liberté). Although it’s a really interesting title, the quality of the components was very low. The game sold so badly that Martin decided that the components in later productions would be much better quality. This was an important step in the publisher’s development.

 

The first games published with higher quality components were Empires of the Ancient World and Way Out West (2000). That year, Wallace also made his debut at a German publisher house with his game Der Weiße Lotus. The year 2001 was a breakthrough year for Martin. He released three different games with three different publishers (Liberté, Pampas Railroads, Volldampf). Each of these titles enjoyed great popularity among players and reviewers. They were also nominated as Strategy Game of the year 2002 by the International Gamers Association (IGA). Liberté, set during the French Revolution, attracted the most attention. Martin’s following releases further strengthened his position in the board game market. Each following game was a success. Every year, his fans can count on new titles. It is worth listing some of his most popular games, which include:

  • 2002 Age of Steam
  • 2003 Der Herr der Ringe: Die Rückkehr des Königs
  • 2003 Princes of the Renaissance
  • 2004 Struggle of Empires
  • 2005 Byzantium
  • 2007 Brass
  • 2008 Tinners’ Trail
  • 2008 After the Flood
  • 2008 Steel Driver
  • 2009 God’s Playground
  • 2009 Automobile
  • 2009 Rise of Empires
  • 2009 Last Train to Wensleydale
  • 2009 Steam
  • 2010 Age of Industry
  • 2010 Moongha Invaders: Mad Scientists and Atomic Monsters Attack the Earth!
  • 2010 London
  • 2011 A Few Acres of Snow
  • 2011 Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
  • 2013 A Study in Emerald
  • 2013 Field of Glory: The Card Game
  • 2013 The Witches: A Discworld Game
  • 2014 Mythotopia
  • 2014 Onward to Venus
(Source)


The greatest success: the Brass board game

His games are successful not only in terms of sales, but are also nominated for and receive many awards. Age of Steam was the first game for which Wallace received an award. It won the 2002 Meeples’ Choice Award and the 2003 International Gamers Award. Brass board game was the 2007 winner of the Meeples’ Choice Award, and in 2008 was a finalist in the International Gamers Awards. A year later, Automobile was also a finalist for the same award. In 2010, Steam received the French award Les Trois Lys, and London won the Meeples’ Choice Award. God’s Playground received the Polish award Gra Roku in 2011. A Few Acres of Snow won in 2011 in three categories in the Golden Geek Awards (Best 2-Player Board Game, Best Innovative Board Game, Best Wargame) and won the International Gamers Award in the 2-Player category, as well as the Meeples’ Choice Award.

Photo: www.internationalgamersawards.net

 

 

Not only games, but also their designers, can receive awards. Wallace received, among other awards, the Brazilian Best Designer Award in 2008, and the Special Award at the UK Games Expo in 2010.

Martin gained momentum, and there were even some years in which he published 4 games (e.g. 2009). They were published both by his own company (Warfrog Games) and by other publishers. In 2010 Warfrog changed its name to Treefrog Games.


New Zealand

A few years ago, Wallace left behind the chilly British isles and, encouraged by his wife, packed up his life and publishing business and moved to New Zealand.

“The main reason for coming over was to escape the cold weather that seems to be a permanent feature in the UK at the moment. The lifestyle out here is much more relaxed and the scenery is simply stunning.” (Source)
 

Photo: www.ciekawegry.wordpress.com

 

 

Martin’s main occupation is still designing games, and he still likes to visit the old continent, for example, during SPIEL in Essen.

“There are many talented artists and programmers, as well as a number of budding game designers. The gamers I have met so far have been incredibly friendly and supportive. I’m really looking forward to seeing what ideas I can come up with in my new home. I already have a few ideas for a New Zealand themed game.” (Source)
 

His exotic new surroundings have not distracted Martin from work; on the contrary, in 2014 he released two new titles: Mythotopia and Onward to Venus. For 2015 Treefrog announced, among others, a revised second edition of A Study in Emerald. And in autumn, the mobile version of his bestselling Brass board game will be launched. This project is being developed by PHALANX Publishing and CUBLO Games.