Saturday, December 1, 2018

PinkFae Archive #23: Board Game Review: Between Two Cities

This week's article is another board game review in the PinkFae Archive series. This entry looks at the game Between Two Cities from Stonemaier Games. This post was first published on 25 June 2016.

Please remember that since this articles is from the PinkFae Archives, it was written before I had added the 'Gamer Profile Ratings' and 'The Six Characteristics of a Good Game' to my rating system.

A game of Between Two Cities in progress: the scoring board is in the centre, with the square tiles that form the cities in groups around the edge of the playing area. Stacks of unused tiles, marked with player pieces, sit nearby.

We have come to the time in which I review yet another board game. This time around, we will look at a very enjoyable game called Between Two Cities. This city-building game has elements of both co-operative and competitive games, using a hand turning mechanism like 7 Wonders or Sushi Go. But let's not get ahead of ourselves... we'll look at the numbers first, and go from there.

Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, and makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Gameplay: 25 minutes

An overview of Between Two Cities

Players use tiles representing buildings or parks to build two cities at the same time. You build one with the player on your right, and one with the player on your left. You can't neglect either; the final score is the value of the lower scoring city. Thus, you want to ensure they both score as high as possible!

Players start with a hand of tiles representing houses, factories, offices, parks, taverns, and shops. They select two, pass the rest to the next player, and reveal them simultaneously. Then they put one in the city on their left, and one in the city on their right. They must collaborate with the player on either side for maximum points. After the first turn, two tiles will begin a city on your right, one from you and one from the player on your right. Likewise, two tiles start a city on your left, one that you played and the other contributed by the player to your left. In later turns, you'll add to both of these.

The game takes place in three rounds; the direction tiles are passed changes between rounds. At the end, each city will be a 4×4 grid. Scoring varies between tile types. Shops score based on how many you have in a row. Taverns' scores are based on how many tavern types are in your city. Factories score based on which player has the most. Parks score based on how many are adjacent to one another. And so on...

Players mark their scores with meeples that represent architectural landmarks. Examples include the St Louis Arch, the pyramids of Giza, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After scoring both, the lower scoring city is the final score. The player with the highest score is the winner.

Permutations in Between Two Cities

This game is a lot of fun because it feels like a co-operative game until the very end. You can't expect to get a decent score without working co-operatively with the players beside you. You have to discuss the tiles you have available and choose which one will be of the greatest benefit. But at the end, when calculating scores, it suddenly switches to a competitive game, with a single player declared the winner.

Also, because the scoring is a little complex, it's hard to keep track of how many points a specific player has. This makes it harder to gauge who's in the lead, so it's easier to focus on making the best play you can each turn. This adds to the co-operative feel of the game.

There are two minor downsides to this game, in my opinion. The first is that the theme is a bit thin; you're just building a city. Still, the game play more than makes up for it, so I don't hold this against it.

The second is that, because scoring can be slightly complex, it can sometimes take a bit of time at the end to complete the scoring for each player. But that is also, in my opinion, a minor grievance.

Final Thoughts on Between Two Cities

I personally enjoyed this game quite a lot. I liked that you had to work closely with the other players in order to maximise your own score. I've also grown fond of the hand-passing mechanic, where you choose one or two cards (or tiles) to play, then pass your hand to the next player. Not knowing exactly what you're going to have available next turn adds some exciting mystery!

The game is quick and fairly easy, so it's good for light fare between meatier games, or with limited time, or even to play with kids. Younger players might have trouble understanding the scoring, but it may be worth taking the time to help them learn!

The company that publishes Between Two Cities, Stonemaier Games, has a print-and-play version on their website, so you can try it before you buy it. But I do recommend that you buy a copy; the architectural meeples alone are worth it!

Anyway, that's my thoughts on Between Two Cities. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and I hope you decide to give it a try yourself! In the meantime, have fun playing games, and I will see you here next week. Until then,

Game on!

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