A STONEMAIER GAMES PUBLICATION. Designed by Ben Rosset & Matthew O'Malley with Artwork by Beth Sobel
For 3-7 players aged 8+. Games last around half an hour. Within the rules there are variants for 1 & 2 players.
BETWEEN TWO CITIES is an aptly named tile-placing game where every game the players actually build two cities between each other.
Every turn the players play 2 tiles from their hand. One tile is played to help build a City between the player on your Right and the other tile is played towards building the City between you and the player on your Left. A cunning idea that works okay but perhaps not quite as well as it could have with a few more tiles of different persuasion.
The game starts well with its premise of having to build two cities and only scoring at the end of the game the value of the lowest of the two. Thus you are forced to help your opponents build the most valuable city possible because you need both of the cities you help create to have a high score because you only get the lower value as your final score. In fact this is a very clever idea.
Where it falls down is that the only mechanic of the game is to play 2 tiles each turn. Of course you have to make the decision as to which tile to play in which city. You are allowed to discuss the placing of the tiles with the other players but this gets a bit chaotic when you play a three player game because you are having two discussions at the same time and with both tiles for each player being on display there is no possibility of bluffing, and as you are wanting to build the best cities there isn't even the chance of wheeler-dealing, making deals. There are all the components of a good game here with a scoring system that has been used in variation many times before; you get higher scores for placing tiles in good positions. For example Offices are worth more if there is a Tavern nearby, Park tiles need to be adjacent, Houses don't like to be next to Factories; all very Sim City card game. The main difference between this game and that is the cities are only 4x4 grid blocks rather than a rambling table-full of cards going off in all directions.
The tile drawing mechanic begins with the players being dealt 7 random tiles from which they choose 2 and then place the remaining tiles high to your LEFT. Then you place the 2 tiles you held onto, one in each of your cities. When all tiles have been placed pick up the tiles to your RIGHT and go through the same process until all players have placed six tiles, the remaining tile is then discarded from the game. To begin the second round you draw three "duplex" tiles - these are double sided and are oriented either Landscape or Portrait. You place one of these in each of your cities and discard the third one.
Round three is a duplicate of Round one with the exception that you place the remaining tiles from the 7 to the RIGHT and pick up the tiles from the LEFT, the placing of these tiles ends the game with all cities being 4x4 blocks (15 tiles; 14 being single tiles and one duplex/double tile). Then the scoring takes place.
The reason it is a 25-30 minute game is that there isn't enough "game" to last any longer. If some of the tiles did different things or had some kind of ability as well as being of value to the scoring it would give the players more to think about and more decisions to make. As it is the decision making is relatively easy because there are very few options available and the tiles don't offer much in the way of action.
Despite the box art giving the game the appearance of a "gamer's game", this artwork, in fact all the artwork in the game, is absolutely beautiful, it is not a game for gamers, most hard core games players will tear it to shreds within minutes. Neither is it really a family game because there isn't anything fun in it, like for example CAMEL UP or LEO, kids are not going to feel excited about BETWEEN CITIES as they do for, say MOUSETRAP or KROSMASTER. What BETWEEN CITIES is though, is a learning experience for anyone, youngster or adult, who has never played a tile laying game. There are no complexities and there is nothing complicated about it, BETWEEN CITIES is a very basic tile laying experience. It is like a school lesson for new minds. Believe it or not there are thousands of people who like to play board games with their friends and families, especially in the United Kingdom, and yet their experiences of boardgames reach no further than Monopoly, Cluedo and the Game of Life. This game could be the very one to open their minds to a whole new world. If you have friends and family that do not understand the complexities of even easy to play games like Catan then this is something you really should introduce them to.