- 3-7 Players (1 and 2 player variants included)
- Approx 20 minutes
- 8+ Age
Between Two Cities puts you in the position of a city planner. If your not sure what one of those does. Imagine it as what an Architect wants to be when they grow up. Instead of just designing a building, you are designing a whole city. You are no ordinary city planner though, oh no. You are one of the top city planners of the 1800’s. In fact you are in so much demand you are tasked with designing not one but TWO cities simultaneously. No mean feat at all. You along with the rest of the crème de la crème of city planners will work together collaborating with your immediate neighbours to produce the most stunning cities of the 1800’s. Artists are judged on their last masterpiece. You however are going to be judged on the least outstanding or your two cities.
Two ways to win? Cool.
Yes and no is the answer to that. Yes you are building two cities. No your score is not based on the highest scoring city, instead it is based on the lowest scoring of the two cities. Remember though you are building each city in collaboration with your neighbour. The better you do then potentially the better they do. You want your two cities to outperform all the other cities thereby making your neighbours score off the lowest of their designs. They will in turn be trying to do the same to you.
What do I get in the box?
- 108 Building tiles.
- 24 Duplex tiles (2×1 tiles organised vertically or horizontally).
- 14 City tokens.
- 1 Scoreboard.
- 1 Rulebook.
- 7 Reference Cards.
- 15 Seating Randomiser cards.
- 23 Automata Cards.
Does not sound too bad.
Between Two Cities is a very clever version of the tile drafting genre. Using forced collaboration (you have to work together if you want to have a decent scoring city) and the “lowest > highest” scoring system. All of the building tiles use specific scoring mechanisms with some combinations giving bonuses while other combinations will penalise you. All of this in an approximate playing time of 20 minutes creating 4×4 cities.
OK so far!
A game of Between Two Cities begins before you have even sat at the table. With the blind draw of a seating Randomiser card. Will your seating be because of alphabetical names, ages or even the first letter of the place of your birth (sorry Zanzibar you sit last).
Once you are all seated comfortably you place a City Token either side between you and your neighbours. These range from The Eiffel Tower to pyramids to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, n.b. While not exactly essential these tokens do greatly help with the scoring at the end and they look great as well.
Now on to the first of three rounds which sees you drafting seven building tiles and secretly selecting two (keeping the others hidden). You are not allowed to discuss tile choices during this stage. You then place the remaining 5 in a face down pile on your left. Once all players have done this. You will all reveal your tiles simultaneously. You are then all free to discuss, plead, negotiate, coerce or otherwise convince your neighbours. Which of the tiles they have chosen will suit your connected city best. This is one of the shining lights from Between Two Cities as it really encourages player interaction in a light fun and above all friendly way. Once all players have placed their two tiles they pick up the stack from their right and repeat this process again. You will do this once more until all stacks are only one tile. These are then removed from the game. “use em or lose em”
In round two you all draft three Duplex Tiles and again secretly select two with the remaining being removed from the game. This adds a nice little twist because some of the Duplex Tiles are orientated vertically while others are horizontal. All Building Tiles and Duplex Tiles placed into cities must be orientated the same way. They must also fit into a 4×4 grid as well.
Round three consists of drafting seven more Building Tiles and repeating the same process as in round one but this time you pass the stacks to the right.
The scoring in Between Two Cities is cleverly set out. You cannot just construct one super-city and allow the other to become low rent slum-ville as you only score as highly as your worst city. This single thing helps to ensure that scores amongst players are generally very tight. With the majority of games usually being within 10 or so points. You might think this factor removes a lot of decision making from players but you would be very wrong. The way the Building Tiles score will definitely keep you on your toes.
Shops: These score in a straight line (row or column) from 2 points for one Shop through to 16 points for four. Oh and you can only count a shop once so no “L” or “T” shapes.
Factories: City with the most scores 4 points per Factory Tile next gets 3 points per Tile and 3rd gets 2 point per Tile.
Parks: A connected group score well here 2 points for one through to 12 points for three. After three you only score 1 extra point per park tile so 6 Park Tiles would only be worth 15 points (diminishing returns).
Offices: You score 1 point for one Office Tile up to 21 Points for six Tiles. In addition each Office Tile can get 1 bonus point if it is connected to a Tavern Tile. (boozy office workers he-he).
Taverns: With 4 different types of Tavern Tile you score for sets. One individual Tavern is worth just 1 point. While four different Tavern Tiles will net you 17 points. Any duplicate Taverns are scored as part of a separate set.
Houses: Each House Tile is scored based on the different Building types within your city. Scoring 1 point for each other Building type up-to 5 points per House Tiles. However if placed next to a factory it can only ever be worth 1 point. After all no-one likes living next to factories.
It is very rare that I will comment on a Rulebook, unless it is absolutely terrible. With Between Two Cities I will make an exception. The entire Rulebook is written out in a very simple clear and easy to understand way. There are some excellent Tile placement and scoring examples throughout. The flow of the game is very nicely conveyed. Also there is an excellent rule summary on the back. Meaning it is easy for new players to check a rule quickly without thumbing through the whole book and disrupting the game. Another testament is that it is an easy game to teach with you being able to explain the game to both gaming pros and non-gamers alike in under 10 minutes. The trickiest thing to grasp is the scoring and the player aides make this easy to follow in-game.
On the point of non-gamers. Although you cannot discuss Tile choice during the Drafting stage you are actively encouraged to help them with tile placement as it benefits you as well as them. This does have one unfortunate minor side-effect. It is quite easy for a new or lesser experienced player to place their tiles in such a way as to destroy the scoring chances of their two neighbours (and themselves). This is not something that will happen often especially with good collaboration. Also being such a quick game you can have another game in just a few minutes.
Overall I really like Between Two Cities and I do feel it is a very good “gateway” game for non-gamers as well as offering a “quick-fix” to the more experienced player. It is not a perfect game, but it is a game I will happily play both with family and the game groups. It plays up to 7 players (great for family gatherings) Its short playtime means you can quickly get 3-4 games in the same time it would take to play a “bigger” game. Yet it still maintains some interesting choices and provides some very good player interaction. The main thing is to try to understand the thinking of your neighbouring players to anticipate the “best” Tiles to choose. Having played this with several groups of players of different ages and abilities, it has gone down well on all occasions. It will happily sit on my shelf and get played often. A point to raise though is, depth I do think that after repeated plays the game could start to feel a little “samey” BUT This would take a lot of plays and there is an expansion that adds so much more.
Pros and Cons.
- Component quality. This is the usual high quality we have come to expect from Stonemaier Games games.
- Seating Randomiser Cards. What a great idea and a way to get you talking with each other.
- Scoring in Between Two Cities is usually close.
- Short play time. Does not outstay its welcome.
- Rules summary on back of Rulebook..Accessibility.
- Easy to teach, Easy to learn. Just what you want in a game.
- 3-7 players.
- 1 and 2 player variants included.
- There is very little downtime.
- Highly collaborative but competitive at the same time.
- Quick to play, and play again, and play again.
- Poor play from others can ruin your chances of winning.
- Possibly a little shallow in the long term.
- Building Scoring can feel a little samey.
- Engagement 5/5
- Re-playability 4/5
- Component Quality 4/5
- Player Interaction 5/5