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Subject: Review of Between Two Cities rss

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Brett Baumgarten
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Oshkosh
Wisconsin
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Between Two Cities is a unique hybrid of competitive and co-operative play that sees you building a city with each of your two neighbors via tile drafting, but where your personal final score is the lower of these two cities you helped construct. It bears similarities to 7 Wonders, but can it hold a candle to the variety, popularity, and staying power that 7 Wonders has enjoyed?


Rules; or, How does this city-building-by-drafting game differentiate itself from other games?

The two comparisons I'll probably be revisiting here most frequently are the aforementioned 7 Wonders, and Quadropolis. Now, Quadropolis came out after Between Two Cities, but there are enough similarities that it is worth mentioning. One could argue as well that because of the use of tiles, you could pull other tile-laying games into the fray, such as Carcassonne, and I wouldn't argue against it. Between Two Cities has certain elements of all of these, but many differences in each case as well.

The biggest feature that sets this apart from all of those games is that notion of blending co-operative with competitive play. This is not the semi-coop featured in the likes of Battlestar Galactica, Shadows over Camelot, or others in that vein. Rather than all that nonsense involving traitors, Between Two Cities blends the coop with the competitive, linking them inextricably. You build two cities, and you sit between them, hence the name. Beyond that, you are working with a partner to build each of these two cities. The person seated to your left helps you build the city on your left, and the same for the person and city on your right. They in turn are doing the same with you and their other neighbor, all the way around the table.

Each turn of each round, you have to be mindful of the layouts of these two cities that you are working on, because your final score, the one that determines the sole winner at game's end, is determined by the lower score of these two cities. This can be difficult for some players to wrap their heads around when first learning the game. Where most games have you focused on your tableau, or your position within a map, or any of the other individual-centered aspects and working to those strengths, Between Two Cities rewards you for finding gaps or weaknesses and shoring them up. If one of your two cities tanks, you won't be winning the game, so it is always in your best interests to make sure neither of your cities falls behind.

Like 7 Wonders, you draft over three rounds, with draft direction changing. Because drafting is happening simultaneously here as well, that means Between Two Cities plays in about the same amount of time whether you have 3 people or 7, something that is a big plus for many people, myself included. Where 7 Wonders has different cards for each age, Between Two Cities uses the same tiles for rounds 1 and 3, but uses double tiles (referred to as the duplex tiles) in round 2. I often warn new players that "round 2 is where your strategy goes to die," because you won't have many of them to choose from (instead of drafting, you get 3 and pick two to use and toss the third), and they may not fit the way your cities have been built up to this point in any way, shape, or form.

Like Quadropolis and unlike Carcassonne, you are restricted to a certain amount of building space, that being 4x4 tiles in this case. You aren't immediately locked into a board location for your tiles like Quadropolis, but each city's final size cannot exceed those dimensions.


Appearance; or, How trendy/fabulous/cosmopolitan can two cities look, anyway?

There is a bit of contrast here. Some portions of the game are gorgeous, namely the box art and the city tokens that you use to represent the cities on the scoring track at game's end. Other portions are much more utilitarian, these being the tiles themselves. The box art is pleasant and attractive, almost "soft," which I feel reflects the game's low-key, mostly co-operative feel. The city tokens are cute little wooden tokens that represent monuments in various cities around the world, from the Eiffel Tower to the Colliseum. They have sharp colors, and each is unique and easily distinguishable from the others. The art on the tiles is functional, and sufficiently distinguishes between different tile types to avoid confusion. In all honesty, this is probably to the game's benefit. The counter example I'd use here would be the art in the Polish version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig. While positively BEAUTIFUL, it often gets in the way of telling at a glance what you're looking at. Between Two Cities avoids this by having the tile type's icon largely and clearly printed. The images behind the numbers and the iconography won't wow anybody, but it shouldn't be a source of disappointment either.

Component qaulity is also top notch from what I can tell. My copy of the game is already over 10 plays, and the tiles are showing little to no wear. This is a bit of an accomplishment because they get handled, passed, and shifted quite a bit. Where tiles in Carcassonne get piled up and then chosen and then placed, you'll often find yourself moving tiles around your cities as you work out with your partners how you want to arrange that turn's tiles before locking them in. The city tokens are wood, and while they aren't handled nearly as much, they appear to be just as resilient.


Gameplay; or, Is it actually fun to build cities with people who need you to win, but don't want you to win?

I would answer this question with a resounding "yes!" Between Two Cities probably sits closer to the "filler" end of the spectrum than the meatier end, but over the course of each game, you often make a healthy number of difficult, meaningful decisions. It is largely a breeze to teach once everyone can wrap their heads around the co-operative/competitive hybrid play. The game lends itself well to multiple plays per sitting, with each play feeling very unique. There are two-player and solo variants provided in the box, the latter being courtesy of the wonderful
Morten Monrad Pedersen
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as well as an included variant where you focus all your positive actions on one city, and all your negative on the other. There's a lot of game in the box, and for a reasonable price to boot.


Conclusion; or, Why should you buy this game?

You should buy this game if you want to play a competitive, interactive game, but without all the cutting of throats. You should buy this game if you like the idea of city building and want it in smaller, more manageable doses. You should buy this game if you want something that plays equally well (and long) at all player counts.

You should not buy this game if you want an in-depth city planning and construction experience. You should not buy this game if you favor "multiplayer solitaire," (and I use that phrase without negative connotation) or games where you actively disrupt the work of the other players at the table.
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Thank you for the review and the kind words .
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Evan Davis
United States
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I tend to simply read geek reviews and am not that familiar with interacting with the website. If you have written previous reviews, I'd like to know how to find them. This one was one of the most well-constructed I have read. Thanks.
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Brett Baumgarten
United States
Oshkosh
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Air Lords wrote:
I tend to simply read geek reviews and am not that familiar with interacting with the website. If you have written previous reviews, I'd like to know how to find them. This one was one of the most well-constructed I have read. Thanks.


Thank you very much for the compliment!

You can find my other reviews by clicking on my username, then going to the tab labeled "contributions." At the time of this writing, I have 9 reviews, so you just click on the number 9, and it will give you the full list of my reviews.
 
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