Between Two Cities

Who will create the best worst city?

Between Two Cities review by S vs J Board Games

3-7 players (with 1 and 2 player variants)
20 minutes

Stonemaier Games

Note: Stonemaier Games sent us a review copy of Between Two Cities so we could write this unbiased review.

It’s the early 1800s, which is a time of great urbanisation, and you have been asked to redesign two neighbouring city centres using all your planning skills (or your lack of…they aren’t fussy). You won’t be doing this alone though – each city centre requires two master planners to put their heads together and plan parks, offices, shops and factories in a way that is pleasing to its’ residents.

Between Two Cities is a competitive game where players build two cities simultaneously; one with the neighbour on their left, and one with the neighbour on their right. Whoever’s lower-scoring city is the highest wins the game! Confused? Well read on…

How the game works

The important thing to remember about Between Two Cities is that play happens simultaneously. That means it’s never anyone’s turn, since you’re all playing at the same time.

The aim of the game is to construct the city that is worth the most points at the end of the game – but here’s the twist – you’ll be building two cities (hence the name of the game), one with the neighbour on your right, one with the neighbour on your left. The city worth the fewest points out of the two will be your final score, so the player with the best-worst city wins the game! Sounds weird right? Well here’s how it works.

Each player begins round one with seven city tiles in their hand. These will be the buildings that make up your city. They are houses, offices, factories, shops, taverns and parks. On each turn, players secretly pick two tiles to play, one which will go into each city. As your neighbours are doing the same, each city will grow by two tiles per turn. Once you’ve all picked your tiles, you reveal them and discuss with your neighbours which tiles should go where. Then you pass your remaining tiles to your neighbour and pick two more from the tiles passed to you.

Once you run out of tiles you repeat the process two more times until every pair of players has a 4×4 city in front of them. The only difference is in round two players are selecting from a hand of three 2×1 tiles instead of seven 1×1 tiles.

How do you score points I hear you ask? Each building scores differently depending on how they are laid out within your city and you’ll find a diagram reminding you how each one scores on the tile itself.

  • Houses like variety, so score 1 point per type of building in the city, unless they are adjacent to a factory (who’d want to live next to a factory?!), in which case they’d score just 1 point in total.
  • Factories score depending on which city has the most of them. The city with the most factories scores 4 points per factory, second most 3 points, everyone else 2 points.
  • Offices are the simplest, since they can be placed anywhere and score progressively more points the more you have in your city. They are your “throw away” tile in most cases
  • Taverns are are your city’s nightlife. You score points depending on how many unique taverns you have. Placing a restaurant, music venue, inn and a pub will bag you 16 points.
  • Parks like to be adjacent to other parks, so you score points depending on how many parks you have next to each other. The sweet spot is 2 (8 points), so you’re better off having 2×2 parks (16 points) in your city instead of 1×4 (13 points).
  • Shops like to be all in a line (think high street shopping!). The more you have in one line, the more points you get.

It’s as simple as that! Once your 4×4 grids are complete, tot up the score of each city and work out who wins.

One of each of the building types. Only the red tavern buildings have variations, the four different tavern types.

Review

It’s a really fun and simple game that is ludicrously easy to teach to everyone (I even taught my Mum…), whether or not they’ve played other pick-and-pass games before. I love the challenge of trying to balance my efforts between my two cities, because you can’t afford to focus on just one, you’ll lose the game!

I love any simultaneous-play games, especially with newcomers to the hobby, because everyone feels involved all of the time. There’s no downtime with Between Two Cities, and there’s always a hum of conversation as each pair of town-planners get to work. It’s very important that more experienced gamers don’t find themselves controlling the decision making too much as this can ruin the game for a newbie.

It’s great to have more 6+ player games that aren’t party games. I love party games but sometimes with a big group you still want some strategy and point scoring, and this fits the bill perfectly, especially due to its speed of play. Thankfully it works well at all player counts, although arguably it works best with an even number of players (Since players discuss tile placements in pairs, its possible to have a small amount of down-time with 3, 5 or 7 players). As with all Stonemaier Games there’s also a fantastic solo mode and two player variant. I wouldn’t buy Between Two Cities for the two-player game alone, but its nice to have if we fancy a change 🙂

When I said it was simple, I really mean it is simple. Gamers preferring a more complex and strategic game should look more towards the excellent Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig (of which Between Two Cities is a parent game). Because it is so simple this may impact the replayability, particularly with the same gaming group. We find ourselves introducing the game to many different gaming groups, but we probably wouldn’t return to it multiple times.

A finished city. Starting from the top left, the two taverns score me 4 points in total (since I only have two different ones), my house scores me 5 points (1 for each other building type), my four parks score me 16 points (2x size 2 parks), I have three offices which scores me 6 points. I have 2 sets of 2 shops in a row so I get 16 points in total for those, Sadly I had the fewest factories so only get 2 points for each, 4 in total.

The artwork isn’t wonderful but it’s certainly not bad to look at, but the main criticism I’d have of the game is the lack of a tile organiser/holder. The game box (once you’ve popped the tiles) is literally just a box full of loose tiles and the rules, it’d be nice to have the tiles held together in some way!

Comparisons to Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig

If you own Castles, or if you are curious how Castles compares to Cities I’ve summarised below:

  • Cities is much simpler than Castles. Newcomers could unwrap this game and be playing by the time the kettle has boiled. The simplicity of the rules behind each of the building tiles means its super straight forward to learn and teach, with reminders on each tile. Castles works on the same principle but has much more complicated scoring.
  • Cities is much quicker than Castles. Because each city is only 16 tiles big, and in a 4×4 grid, there isn’t too much room for over-analysis of each move. In Castles you can build up, down and out to the side as high, low or wide as you like so the possibilities are bountiful. Tougher to explain to people but more strategy and options.
  • Castles has bonuses, Cities does not. Every time you put the 3rd/5th of the same room type in your castle you get a bonus which vary for each room type. This can take an age to explain but adds a really nice layer of strategy and alternative way of scoring points.
  • Castles has better artwork (sorry Cities but its true!).

So there you have it, a perfectly fun quick game great for a big group, but unlikely to blow any minds for its looks or its replayability. We had a great time playing it though 🙂

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Get this game
https://stonemaiergames.com/games/between-two-cities/
Check this game out on Board Game Geek
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/168435/between-two-cities

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