The early 1800s was a time of growth as new industries, technologies and cities created excitement and anticipation. Between Two Cities is set in this period as players become city planners helping in the construction of two different cities. A three or more player game of Between Two Cities is a unique experience as players work with two different people to build their cities. They only score points for the lowest scoring city, so they must balance what tiles they choose for each city. This review will not be looking at the three or more player game; rather it will focus on the two-player variant. In a two player game, the players still build two different cities, but they work alone while doing so. They score both cities together rather than only the lowest scoring city.
Components / Set-up
Between Two Cities is a tile drafting game and thus comes with 108 single building tiles, and 24 double building tiles. There are also fourteen city tokens that represent famous architectural wonders including the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, and the St. Louis Arch. There are seven reference cards showing scoring examples. The scoreboard is beautiful and very detailed even if it only used at the end of the game. A seating randomizer deck is included for three player or more games to help mix up players creatively. Cards for solo play are included as well.
The game is easy to set up. Give each player a scoring token for their two cities. We like to use two different scoring tokens so we can quickly score each of our two cities individually and then add the scores together. Next, shuffle the city tiles and put them in separate stacks of single and double tiles and the game is ready to begin.
The game plays over three rounds with each player drafting tiles to place in their city. In a two-player game, players are building two of their own cities. At the start of each round, players draw a random hand of tiles and choose one tile for each city and they then pass the remaining tiles to the other player drafting the tiles to place in their cities. Both players reveal and place their tiles at the same time.
Round 1a – In this round players draw seven building tiles, choose, reveal, and place two of the tiles (one in each of their two cities) and then pass the others to the second player. They continue to do this until each player has only one remaining tile which is then placed out of the game. The tiles must be placed in a 4×4 square and once a tile is placed it cannot be moved.
Round 1b – This round is the same as Round 1a.
Round 2a – In this round the players draw three of the double tiles and choose and place two (again, one in each of their two cities). They do not draft with these tiles.
Round 2b – Same as Round 2a.
Round 3a – Same as Round 1a.
Round 3b – Same as Round 1b.
After the end of round three score the tiles to see who is the winner. Add the score of both cities together and whomever has the most points wins.
Shops – When you place shops be sure to connect them in a straight line, which could be a row or column. Shops score points for being connected in a row – two points for one shop, five for two, ten for three, and sixteen for four. A tile can only for counted towards the scoring of one set, so if they cross in a “T” be sure to score each set separately.
Factories – The player who has the city with the most factories will score four points per factory, the second place city scores three points per factory and in all other cities the factories are worth two points each. If there is a tie, the tied cities all score the points.
Taverns – The tavern tiles will have one of four different symbols on them. Taverns score one point for one in the city, four for two different symbols, nine for three different symbols and seventeen if you have all four symbols. Each set of taverns scores separately.
Parks – Parks score in groups and the larger the group, the more points it will score. A single park scores two points, two tiles together score eight, three score twelve, four score thirteen, and five score fourteen. To be a connected group of parks they must share a border with another park, but it does not need to be in a straight line.
Offices – The more offices you have in your city, the more points you will score. One office scores one point, two scores three, three scores six, four scores 10, five scores fifteen, and six score twenty one. If there are seven offices in the city the seventh city scores one point. When an office is next to at least one tavern it scores and additional +1 point. The bonus only happens once per office, but if there are multiple offices next to a single tavern, they each get the +1 bonus.
Houses – Houses are interesting tiles and are worth one point for each other building type in the city. So if a city has four different types of buildings the house is worth four points and if it only has two different types of other buildings, the house is only worth two points. Be careful with houses next to a factory as a house will only be worth one point if it is next to a factory.
I have come to associate Stonemaier Games with quality; from the rule book to the components, artwork, and graphic design everything works together to create an elegant game that is fun to play and beautiful to see.
Components / Artwork
There is a lot of detail and personality in the artwork that requires a closer look to appreciate. When you take a closer look at the building tiles, you start to notice that each one is slightly different. For example, there are different people walking on the park path, vines growing on the factory wall, or colorful plants growing outside of a house. I appreciate this attention to detail and the extra touches that set the game apart from others. There is a unity to each tile that makes it easy to identify, but each is still slightly different and unique. The chosen color palate is works very well with the theme and is eye pleasing.
The graphic design is seamlessly integrated into the artwork. It is easy for players to identify the tiles, quickly see how they score in points and in placement. It does not take anything away from the artwork but allows players to decide quickly which tiles to choose and how to place them without consulting the rule book or player aide.
I love the score tokens, but I’m a sucker for cute wooden pieces. They represent different architectural wonders from countries all over the world and are another example of the attention to detail in the game as they could have easily been wooden cubes or discs. The tokens are also very useful for scoring and remembering which city is which.
While I do not see myself playing this game solo, the included solo play cards are a nice touch and the seating randomizer cards would be useful with a larger player count. The cards that I did find useful in the two-player games were the player aides as they are a helpful reference I find myself looking at throughout the game. There is also a two player variant that brings in these solo play rules. These rules have the two players using the robot as the third player. For players looking for a two player game similar to the 3 player and up experience these rules are the ones to follow.
The scoreboard is just as beautiful and detailed as the rest of the game and does not need to be on the table until the games end which is nice when you have limited table space.
The rules are well written and straightforward. There are pictures that show the components, set-up, scoring and placement examples. All iconography is explained in detail and in multiple places to clear up any confusion. There are also notes that highlight areas where players may have questions. On the back of the rule book is a quick reference guide with a round summary, placement rules, tile scoring and final score. I was impressed with the rule book and it clean graphic design. After one read through (and with the help of the player aides) we understood how to play and found no need to go back to the rule book for questions. The two-player variant is included in the rule book.
Tile laying is one of my favorite mechanics in a game and city building is a theme I love. At first I shied away from Between Two Cities thinking that it was only for three or more players. Happily I learned of the two player variant but was still a bit skeptical about whether it would be a good game with two. After playing, I believe it works well as a two player.
With two players the game plays quick and competitively. You need to make decisions to create the best two cities possible and balance the needs of each city as you score both cities together. You must also be aware of what your opponent is doing in their cities. I may not be as drawn to drafting games as many, but it works very well in Between Two Cites. You need to choose two tiles to go into the separate cites. These tiles must work with each city and at the same time you don’t want to give your opponent something that would enhance their city. Each little decision is important.
I love the spacial aspect of tile laying games. In Between Two Cities I enjoy the balance that some tiles matter where they are placed, while others do not. It puts less pressure on creating the perfect city, but rewards good planning. At the end of the game I also feel I have built something unique; each city develops it own personality and appearance. During the second round players must add two double tiles to each city. This adds to the game as players must plan for these double tiles as they can be horizontal and vertical. You need to be sure that you can add them to the city. I like that there are not only single tiles, but these double tiles that add to the decision making and spatial aspect of the game.
The six types of tile each score in unique ways and some tiles interact with others. This set collection element is an enjoyable part of the game that must be balanced with the other scoring varieties. You might want to collect six different offices, but this may keep you from scoring five points for each of your houses if you get the diversity of tiles. These scoring variations allow players to find different paths to victory and also allows for the possibility of expansions. It also cannot be said enough that the graphic design allows players to understand the scoring and make quick decisions.
- Artwork / Presentation
- Symmetry of artwork and graphic design
- Small Box
- Ease of Play – everything works together to create a balanced game without rough edges
- Drafting combined with a spacial aspect
- Number of Players – a game of two or seven players should play in about the same amount of time
- Quick play time
- Lots of decisions could cause some Analysis Paralysis with more players
I found that the two player variant was a viable option for Between Two Cites. While there isn’t the cooperative element found with a larger player count, the fact that you are completely in charge of your cities allows for quicker decision making and competitive play against your opponent. The game is beautiful, and the special touches are greatly appreciated. Do not shy away from this game as a two player and if you wish for the more cooperative variant, try the Automa rules here: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1335527/2-player-variant-using-automa.
Designers: Matthew O’Malley, Morten Monrad Pedersen, Ben Rosset
Artist: Beth Sobel
Publishers: Stonemaier Games, Ghenos Games, Morning Games
Players: 3-7, With two player and solo variants
Game Length: 25 minutes
Ages: 8 and up