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Between Two Cities Board Game Review

A while back, we had the opportunity to review Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and although we admitted that it is much better with more people, we really enjoyed the game and everything it brought to the table. Between Two Cities Essential Edition is going to give you the exact same feelings, with similar goals and scoring opportunities, but in the context of a city, not a castle. Is it worth having both of these games on your shelf, or does one outshine the other? Let’s take a look!

Between Two Cities Essential Edition | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

In Between Two Cities, players will be working on building two cities, one to the left of themselves and one to the right. On their turn, players will choose two tiles to place, and will then decide which city they should play their tiles in. As you can expect, you won’t be building your city alone – instead, you are working with the people siting beside you to create the best city possible with the knowledge that your final score will be the LOWER score of the two cities you are working on.

The above video from fellow Canadian Rodney Smith outlines how to play Between Two Cities. We are reviewing the Essential Edition as opposed to this one from 8 years ago, so take that into account when watching! We do feel Rodney does the best job explaining games, so for a more fulsome overview of how to setup and play, we suggest watching his channel! For an overview of the Essential Edition, we suggest watching this video from Jamey at Stonemaier Games!

There is more to it than that, of course. You will be using terrain boards that will have certain hinderances that you will need to work around, and trying to get as much as possible in your 5×5 city is a lot harder than you would think. Each piece you choose will require a lot of thought and discussion with those around you. There is no easy turn in this game, at least not in my opinion, because very single tile really does matter. Some people like this type of game, where one or two poor decisions could remove you from winning contention, while others might prefer a more relaxed experience with various catch-up mechanics to keep things close. This isn’t that – this is a lighter rules/teach type of game but still with some deep strategy game, in my opinion, that requires good thought processes and solid awareness. Knowing how each city is going, what you need in each city, and how you balance your two cities, is key to success.

Between Two Cities Essential Edition – Stonemaier Games

Every piece you play in your city will require different things. Houses, for example, want to be around other buildings but not next to factories. Businesses want to have lots of other businesses in town. No one wants a monopoly here, I suppose! There are plenty more tiles all with different requirements. You need to analyze what’s coming up, what you already have, and what will maximize the points in your city.

Further, there are end-game scoring bonuses that are randomized each game, but will also factor into your decision making. This district scoring can earn you a ton of end-game points, so that means you need to pay attention throughout and play towards what you see.

Between Two Cities Essential Edition

I like this a lot – it’s so easy to teach and so easy to learn. This is a game you could play a ton and quickly become tired of because there isn’t a ton going on outside what was just described here. Sure, the district scoring changes things slightly, but after half a dozen plays you know exactly what’s going to happen each round, and how you should try to manage that. As we don’t play a game to death like that, this is one we will keep around for a long time. I find this much easier to teach and table than Between Two Castles, so I would recommend this for more causal players. Understand, however, that there is still a fair bit of strategy involved. Easy to teach doesn’t necessarily mean easy to play, and I think that factors in here.

One thing worth noting is that you are relying somewhat on other players, so if you get a bad placement at the table – perhaps between two new players – you might not have as much fun as you would in a setting where everyone knows whats going on. Outside of that, though, this is a really accessible, really quick title that makes a great filler on board game night!


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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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