Preview: Between Two Cities

Last October, at Essen Spielmesse, Ben Rosset asked if myself (along with a few others) would like to play test his game. He seemed like a decent guy so we figured why the heck not! We sat down and played “Between Two Cities”, only it wasn’t called that and we didn’t know much about when or who was publishing the game. 2015 was all Ben would say. After playing the game I knew it would be a game to look out for so I kept it in the back of my mind because I really enjoyed the multi-player version (and it got better). Later I got an e-mail (again along with many others) from Stonemaier Games asking if there was anyone who wanted to playtest their next game, you guessed it, “Between Two Cities.”

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

To be honest, I don’t playtest too many games because my group isn’t a big fan of playing a non-finished game, but Jamey had something planned that got my attention, a solo variant. Morten Monrad Pedersen was designing an Automa like he did for Viticulture/Tuscany and so I signed up to help out.

All of that was in the full disclosure category. I did help playtest the game and I got to play it before it was announced to the masses. This preview though is not going to take that into account. I am not concerned whether you like the game because it will somehow pad my ego since I played a very little part in the refining of the game. Trust me…it won’t. What the goal of this preview is is to show you how the solo variant will work if the project reaches the $150,000 stretch goal and it becomes included in every copy of the game.

To sum up, very briefly, the original idea of the game, you work together with your two neighbors to build two separate cities in order to win…by yourself. You draft tiles and work together to build two good cities because the lower of the two cities is your score for the game. If you let one city wallow in its mediocrity, then you will lose. Each city must be a well designed city in order for you to win.

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

So, how does that work in a solo game? How could you possibly get the same feeling of cooperating with two other people in order to beat everyone? If you would have asked me that question before I playtested the solo variant I could have honestly said, “I have no idea.” It’s a good thing that I am not the designer of the solo variant. Instead Morten Pedersen is and he did a great job.

The solo game works with an Automa system that Morten developed in order to simulate two AIs playing against and with you without adding a lot of book keeping or too much fiddliness being added. The way it works is pretty similar to the original game. You still draft tiles and they get passed around the table just as normal, but when the AIs take their turn you flip a card over and it tells you what kind of tile to keep for your shared city and then what tile to place in the city that is shared with both of the AIs. On the card it has symbols that tell you what tile to take form the stack of available tiles and if it is there then great, if not you move down the line until a symbol matches one of the available tiles (they always do eventually). It is that simple. Ok, so there is a little more to it, but in general it is that simple.

What’s Good?

  • The feeling that you get when playing with other people is maintained very well in the solo variant which isn’t always the case.
  • It plays quickly so you can easily get a few games in when you have an extra few minutes.
  • The game is fun, I enjoyed every play test that I did and honestly what more needs to be said about a game?
  • The game is tactical where you have to go with the flow and make the best possible choice.

What’s Not So Good?

  • My only minor complaint is the scoring. It isn’t super difficult, but since each type of tile gets scored differently it can take a while to get a grasp on what the best move is for each city.

What’s The Best Part?

  • For me the best part of the solo variant is the varying difficulties and modes that Morten created. First there are the varying difficulty levels that Morten created that tweaking the scores from certain categories within Automacity (The AIs shared city). A simple solution that can make the game easy for beginners or very difficult no matter who you are. Morten also set up several modes including a variant just to learn the game before teaching it, a full solo mode and then the campaign mode (my favorite) where you play multiple games and get a bonus for one category each time without repeating the same category. I will be running challenges on a monthly basis over in the BGG 1 Player guild.

If you are reading this before the Kickstarter ends head over there and check out the game to find out more about the multi-player version or to help us reach the $150,000 stretch goal for the solo variant. I would love it too if you mention that you were sent over from the Whose Turn Is It Anyway website!

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