Yesterday at my local public library’s tabletop games shelf, I played Between Two Cities for the first time. It was an excellent game for three people who hadn’t played it before, and it seems like it would expand to larger tables well.
The interesting thing about the game is that it is both cooperative and competitive. You are partnered with the players on either side of you, placing tiles to build a city. You are trying to maximize points with each city-partnership, and you are in competition with every other city-partnership, and your ultimate score is the lesser of the two cities you sit so titularly between. So, f’r’ex, in a three person game there are three cities, Zachary-and-Yolanda’s, Yolanda-and-Xavier’s, and Xavier’s-and-Zachary’s. If the XZ city is the lowest scoring, then Yolanda wins, so Yolanda and her two cities are clearly competing with Zachary and Xavier, but at the same time she is co-operating with each of them in her cities. If she doesn’t co-operate well with them, she can’t build her cities well. In a larger game, of course, there are people you aren’t sitting next to and thus aren’t immediately co-operating with, but you are co-operating with people who are co-operating with them, or with a longer chain of co-operation—at any rate, your direct plays are all co-operative, and indirect or distant plays have to go through people who are directly co-operating. What this all means is that almost all the actual game focus is on improving your own cities together with your near neighbors, without losing the element of competition and an eventual victor. I really liked that mechanism.
It also avoids (I think) my main-problem with co-operative games, where one player who is quick-thinking, loud-talking and aggressive winds up directing the entire game and using the other players as pawns. Or, just as bad, a player with those tendencies spending the game time biting his tongue to prevent taking over. That can happen in a limited way in this game, as Xavier can try to take over both the building of both XZ and YX, but (a) even Xavier is more likely to listen in a one-to-one situation, and (2) even if Xavier steamrolls Zachary in XZ, Zachary won’t be a pawn in ZY, which should be nice.
My major caveat about the game (and I have only played once, with three people who share a household, so I’m only guessing about how it would work with six people who have never met, or any other combination) is that there is the opportunity for a player who tends to play slowly, preferring to take a long time to consider all the possible repercussions of any possible choice, to bring the game to a halt for everybody. On the whole, the game goes quickly, with everybody choosing tiles simultaneously, and in theory a game with six or seven people would go as quickly as a game with three, but I don’t think I’d choose to play it with people I hadn’t played more complicated games with before.
But other than that, I was really impressed. Have any Gentle Readers played this one?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,