Brass Hats

Fighting the Good Fight

System Requirements:
Win XP SP2+ or OS X 10.3.9+
Square Earth Games

Brass Hats is very much a game in the vein of Advance Wars or Military Madness. It's turn-based, you have your guys, you move them around, they attack other guys, they die, maybe you build some more, maybe you don't, and hopefully they kill all the bad guys. If there's something really witty left to be said about this subgenre of game, it ain't gonna be here and now.

What I love about this subgenre is the attention required from you is completely on-demand. Whatever other swarm of media devices you have ongoing in the background, your attention can shift seamlessly between them and this type of game, given its quick, turn-based nature. But games like this can be a little too simple when you have the brain cycles to spare. However, Brass Hats, with some small additions and adjustments to the overall formula, sharpens the strategy to a finely honed point.

You earn cards that represent special powers that can be used once on your turn, and you pick the subset of cards you want to have available during the match when you start. Your units gain experience through combat, in addition to all the other standards (a small number of terrain types, transports, air and sea vehicles, capturing bases, and building units). It can be easy to dismiss all the individual small strategy elements as being too simple until you look at the clock and have to account for those missing hours.

The game achieves this depth with as few moving parts as possible (minimalism = yay). The progression of complexity is very smooth, rarely leaving you with a mission that doesn't provide any new challenge compared to the last one. Although every once in a while, that progression does hiccup. (I died on one of the otherwise well done tutorial missions -- wtf?)

You play the "Allied Forces" fighting the "Central Army" in what is loosely World War I (the "Great War"). The way the game treats the subject matter, though, removing detail to fit with the stylized artwork, has an odd effect. For instance, no countries are mentioned, you're simply told to defend your "allies to the north" when your campaign reaches Britain. So the game continues a trend of the cartoonization or mythologization (yeah, those are words -- they are now anyway) of the last century's major conflicts. But then again, how much has really changed since then? Only these days I think we're at war with Eastasia, not Eurasia.


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I'm always on the lookout for good turn-based, non-fullscreen games, so I had high hopes. Alas, this did nothing for me but steal the full screen, screw up my screen resolution, freeze, and have to be killed.


then you might want to just try

'free' hex based advanced wars in a browser

"But games like this can be

"But games like this can be a little too simple when you have the brain cycles to spare."

Initial thoughts after one battle: I feel like the devs avoided making a more finely balanced game, by making the player consume too many brain cycles dealing with which boat sprite represented what in the 'paper, scissors, rock' aspect of sea combat. But then, that's also the hook that might engage me further.


Crashy? Really? Ew. I run on Vista so I pretty much still assume I'm getting the crashiest version of any software I'm buying, but I didn't have any issues.

Well, got home to my trusty

Well, got home to my trusty Mac, and it has no issues with it at all. Must be one of the usual lurking horrors of my Windows box.

I agree with the comment above about all the naval units looking basically the same. Would it have killed the devs to make them slightly different sizes or something? Also, windowed mode steals the pointer, thus neatly rendering itself totally useless. Didn't the gaming world get over locking the pointer in the window back in, oh, 1998 or thereabouts?

Otherwise, a fairly solid casual TBS.

A request

Longtime lurker here making my first comment -- it's a request that instead of linking directly to the game installers in your reviews, you link to the index page of the developers' web sites or at the very least their download pages. There are a few reasons:

1) Many small shareware/freeware developers that Play This Thing likes to support have ads on their web sites (as you do) and rely in part on page views and/or click-throughs for revenue (as you do). This is just common courtesy.

2) Very much related to #1, some developers make these shareware/freeware games as "loss leaders" for their main commercial products. By not linking to their web sites at all, you deny them your readers as a potential audience.

3) In a lot of cases, the file names change with new versions. Brass Hats is a good example -- when the developers put out v1.2, your links will be invalid.

4) In some cases (but not this one) I've noticed you link files hosted on third-party public storage services like Amazon S3. While there's nothing wrong with these services per se, there's no way to determine if the file you link to is the legitimate file made by the developer. It could be anything. This might sound kind of paranoid, but trust is important.

Anyway, linking to the developers' sites instead of the executables themselves wouldn't inconvenience even your most impatient readers any more than one click. If you think that's too much, than at least please add the developer company names and a link to the site to your review template "info box" (or whatever it's called -- the bit with Type/System Requirements, etc). Often the developer names don't make it into the body of your reviews.

All that said, I'm a big fan of Play This Thing. Your reviews are usually pretty interesting and it's a great resource for shareware games I otherwise wouldn't have heard of.


BTW, This one looks right up my alley. Love this kind of game. Thanks for making me aware of it.


mkozaqii -- when we link to a file on Amazon S3, it's because we're hosting it (meaning Manifesto Games) -- in these cases, it's usually a commercial game, they probably sell it through other channels than Manifesto, but obviously if we generate some interest in the game through the review, we'd like to benefit by the sale. (We also host some freeware games through Amazon S3, but in this case it's always with the developer's permission--and indeed, with their blessings, since we're bearing the cost of download and they're not. We use Amazon S3, btw, because it's considerably cheaper, in terms of bandwith, than almost any other option available to a small company.) But in any event, when the link is to Amazon S3, -we've- vetted it -- we do have permission, we've scanned for malware, etc.

In some other cases, we link to a download rather than the developer's site for what are fundamentally crass commercial reasons: the developer sells its games through a company such as BMT Micro or Plimus, which offers an affiliate program. We're affiliates of both operations (as well as RegNow, eSellerate, and Reflexive), and our links include our affiliate code, so that if and when any purchase occurs, we gain a share of the revenue.This, along with the advertising , helps pay the cost of running the site. Just for the record, the revenue it generates does not cover our cost of hosting plus the (small) amounts we sometimes pay reviewers. But it helps.

For what it's worth, our policy is -not- to feature games -because- we might make some money off them; we choose games to review because we want to. If it turns out they have an affiliate program or something, we take advantage of it, but reviewing cool games is the main goal, and earning a little money (and it -is- a little money) is secondary.

However, less than half the games we review falls into either of these two categories (games Manifesto sells, and games that we can sell as an affiliate) -- probably less than a quarter, really, given that about half the games are free, and probably half of the for-sale ones aren't something where we can share in the sale. So for these, there's certainly a strong argument for linking to the developer's site, rather than directly to the download.

My attitude in the past has been that most people want "no bullshit" links, meaning ones that let them get the game with as little fuss as possible, without having to click through a bunch of other pages first. However, I'm prepared to have my mind changed, if others agree with you.

Incidentally, exactly once, I've been contacted by a developer who has asked us to link to his page, rather than to the download. I agreed, and changed the link immediately.

Re: Links

All good points.

Your stake in affiliate links is absolutely valid. I didn't mean to suggest depriving yourselves of that. But as you say, these are in the minority.

I wasn't aware that your hosting the files on S3 was authorized by the developers' whose games you review. Thank you for clearing that up. You might consider adding that information to your About page. The bandwidth cost argument is a good one, and I suppose for some developers it outweighs the advantages of eyeballs on their sites.

Your remark about vetting is understood: Even if you didn't, I'm sure Amazon does at least do some scanning of the file. I suppose what I was trying to get at with my point about "trust" was that not everyone has their web browser's status bar on, and without being able to see the URL of the file, you just wind up with some random binary on your desktop. (ok, seeing the URL is not a failsafe, but it's a part of knowing what you're downloading before).

With regard to files on the developers' sites themselves, I have to say I'm surprised that you've only been contacted once on this subject. Most of the people I know in similar lines of work really frown on that kind of thing.

In any event, keep up the good work.