Board Game Breakdown: Between Two Cities

Between Two Cities is a tile-drafting game that was published in 2015 by Stonemaier Games. Yes, it was published almost seven years ago. But, that doesn’t stop it from being an interesting collaborative and competitive game that deserves some recognition. The game’s premise is that you and the people sitting to your right and left are building cities in the golden age of the Industrial Revolution when urbanization and construction were rampant. The person who builds the best city wins the game, but you have to rely on those you’re also competing with to help you get the points you need. The objective sounds convoluted when first introduced but becomes clear once you dive into the mechanics.

Image via BoardGameGeek

The game starts by choosing the building piece that represents you and your two partners; you need a piece for each partner you have. You get to choose between some classic architectural structures, such as the Colosseum (a personal favorite), the Eiffel Tower, the St. Louis Arch, etc. which you place each between you and your partners. There are additional corresponding pieces that can be set off to the side or placed on the bottom of the scoreboard; they’ll come into play during the scoring portion of the game. 

Between Two Cities then operates as a collaborative game where you work with the “city builder” to your right and to your left to build the heart of what will be a great city. At the start of each round, you draw seven building tiles and then choose two to assign to each of the cities you’re constructing. Your tile choice is kept secret until the next phase in the round when you reveal them. Once you’ve drawn two tiles, you place the rest of the tiles under the building you and your partner have chosen. The partner you pass to (right or left) is determined by the round. You don’t want to neglect one city over the other. So, you and your partners should talk (separately of course) about what combination is best for your city structure. The round continues as you pick up the stack of tiles under the building you share with the opposite partner (i.e. if you’re placing tiles to the right then you’re picking up from the left, choose two, reveal, discuss, and place until there is only one tile left under the building piece. That lone tile gets tossed back into the building pool, and the round ends.

Image via BoardGameGeek

The game has six types of building tiles: factories, parks, houses, taverns, offices, and shops. Each has its benefits and can be combined in specific ways to help you maximize your city’s livability score. Tiles must be placed in a 4×4 square, and the game throws in a curveball in round two. You start the round by drawing three duplex tiles. As the name implies, these tiles have two random types of buildings on them that can be arranged vertically or horizontally. Just like in round one, you pick two of these duplexes. A tile for each city. Once the discarded tile is set under the appropriate building piece, everyone can reveal their tiles and you can discuss strategy with your partners.

Remember: your city must be 4×4. Take this into consideration when placing your duplex tiles. Once the duplex tiles have been placed, the discarded duplexes can be taken out from under the buildings and returned to the building pool.

Round three follows the same as round one but the passing order is reversed. By the end of the third round, all players should have built two 4×4 cities. You end the game by scoring each of your cities. Take the other building pieces that correspond with the ones you share with each partner and place them on the scoreboard. There are two ways you can go about scoring: by building type or by city. Each way will result in the same amount of points assigned, but the lower score of both your cities is your final score. The player with the highest final score is the winner.

Image via BoardGameGeek

Players: 3-7 Players

Time: 20-25 Minutes

Objective: Have the city with the best livability score. 

Between Two Cities is an engaging and quick partnership game that combines a good amount of collaboration with a healthy dose of competition. You can’t win without the help of your fellow city builder, but you still want to have the highest score to come out on top. Quality tabletop games are synonymous with Stonemaier Games as they’ve produced some of the most popular games out there right now, like Wingspan and, a personal favorite, Scythe, so it’s no surprise that Between Two Cities is a fun time.