Multitasking is something I like to think I’m good at, but it’s always put to the test when I sit down to play a game. Pay attention to all the things! Your stuff, everyone else’s stuff – it all matters. Between Two Cities takes that to a little bit of an extra level – because you’re working to make a 4×4 grid with the person on either side of you at the table in hopes of eking out the best-worst city.
Best… worst? Oh yes. You can make the city on your left a beacon of excellent points depending on what you’ve included – but if you end up with a bit of an industry-ridden cruddy place to life on the right, you’re scoring that city’s points at game end. Don’t let anyone down, city planner extraordinaire! Played over 3 rounds, it’s the simplicity of Between Two Cities that I think drives me back to it – not quite a filler, not quite a strategy game, but somewhere in between. Players draft tiles to place in both their cities each turn, until at game end your 4×4 city will be scored out – have you done well with your parks, your businesses, your industry and housing to get a nice balance of it all? You’ll likely not get it perfect as there’s no communication between players on what tiles to select for each city every turn, but you’ll do your best to figure out the best of the situation once tiles are revealed.
A lot of civ- or city-building games are reliant on various types of resources to play – maybe you need wood and sheep, maybe you need straight up cash – but it doesn’t get so complicated here. All you have to worry about is a nice bit of drafting of tiles, a bit of arrangement and planning and then you can hand the finished product off for someone else to deal with. No economic juggling here. As someone who generally plays the Sims as a glorified house planning game, this appeals to me – make everything nice, lay it out well and you’ll end up with a decent end-game score for your “worse” city plan’s livability.
When I think about games that can handle a larger group that don’t fall to social deduction or being a co-op, it’s tough – 7 Wonders is a go-to.. Perhaps even the great small card game Start-ups from Oink Games. Sitting a group of 7 people down for something that isn’t reliant on folks enjoying party-style play is a challenge. More of these games, please! A solid combination of drafting and the nice spatial element of tile placement really hit the spot for me. An incredibly pleasant experience with just the right amount of thinking – and I love the look of this game, too. Quality cardboard tiles, lovely art from Beth Sobel and the array of monument player tokens to choose from is the frosting on an already delicious cake.
If you are likely to make this a go-to on game nights when there’s a larger group you don’t want to split up just yet, you can’t go wrong. And if you want to level up a little bit, the Capitals expansion adds a nice little extra layer without complicating or ruining the experience. Players start with a landscape mat around which they’ll arrange their tiles – and the adjacency of certain types of districts can matter depending on scoring cards drawn for the game. I really liked the civic building tiles, which rely on you strategizing a little more about what sorts of tiles to place around them – maybe they want to be near parks and housing, or perhaps offices and industry. This is just the right amount of complexity to freshen up repeated plays.
While it’s great for a larger group, it is fantastic with 3 or 4 – and while I’ve yet to try it, the game comes with a solo and 2 player variant for flexibility. I’d be interested to see what the challenge of the soloitaire play’s “automata” provides. If your game group likes something lighter for a change of pace at the end of game night, or is just solidly into a nice lightweight game that doesn’t mean party gaming I can definitely recommend this Stonemaier title. Time for me to think about how I can cram in enough industry in my city without making residents super mad!
Between Two Cities is a tile drafting and placement game for 1 – 7 players, taking approximately 20 minutes to play. Designed by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset, with art by Beth Sobel, it was published by Stonemaier Games in 2015.
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