Review: Between Two Cities

Designer: Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset
Artist: Beth Sobel
Players: 3-7 (with 2-player and Solo variants)
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Game Type: Tile drafting and placement

It is the early 1800s, a time of immense construction and urbanization. You are a world-renowned master city planner who has been asked to redesign two different cities. Projects of such significance require the expertise of more than one person, so for each assignment you are paired with a partner with whom to discuss and execute your grandiose plans. Will your planning and collaborative skills be enough to design the most impressive city in the world?

Between Two Cities is a tile placement game (with single tiles and duplex tiles) for 3-7 players, with a 2-player variant for head to head action and a solo variant that pits you against 2 Automas. The unique feature of this board game is you’re working on 2 cities at the same time with other players: one on your left and one on your right. So, negotiation skills are needed since you want what’s best for your city while your opponents do also.
City tiles and tokens.


When I first read you’d be conspiring with other plays to help build two cities, I was skeptical. A semi-cooperative game where you attempt to be selfish seemed tedious to me. I was wrong. It was not tedious, but tense in a fun and entertaining way. Almost like you were the entrepreneur pitching your product on Shark Tank. You want to do this, but your opponents want to do that. Sometimes, I forgot the two people I was working with also had to negotiate with someone else; that’s the beauty of this game: You don’t have to care what deals your partner makes with the other players, you only care about your shared city. One strategy I often took was to ensure I spoke with at least one of my city partners first, but that didn’t work all the time. I felt like a kid trying to get their parents’ attention.

The game is played over 3 rounds. The first round involves placing single tiles in your 4x4 city, the second round duplex tiles (2 buildings stuck together vertically or horizontally), and the third round more singles tiles. You are dealt a hand of tiles, which get passed to either your left or right at the end of the round (depending on the round). This means you can create a seed strategy after seeing a couple of hands since you’ll know what each hand will potentially have.

The actual mechanics of the game are easy to pick up. It’s the interaction and negotiation with the other players that will test your patience and force you to second-guess your opponents, but don’t let that scare you: Between Two Cities is a very relaxed game to play.

The solo version has you against 2 Automas, named AutoMasso and AutoMarta. They are working together to build Automacity while building once city each with you. The Automas are guided by a special deck of cards with symbols that provide instructions on what tiles to play in the Player Shared city and in Automacity. There is also a set of scoring instructions you follow to give the Automas the best score available. Many of the cards have “If à Then à Else” type instructions, and some are straightforward “If there’s a house in the Automa’s hand, play it”, for example. There is some math involved because the most common instruction is one where the tile that gives the high score of what’s available in the hand is played.
Typical solo game layout (full mode)

There are 2 modes of the solo variant. The Simple Mode takes less than 10 minutes to play and is great to learn the game in general. In fact, I recommend playing Simple Mode to grasp the concepts of the game, gather strategy, or just to practice whether you’re going to play multiplayer or against the Autmoas. You don’t have to think hard in this mode: After randomly assigning one tile to each of the 3 cities, you draw 3 tiles and assign 1 each so you have 2 tiles ready to build for each city. Then, based on the Automacity scoring list, you’ll build their city (the 4x4 grid is not followed for them) and work to build your city.
Automa cards used for AutoMasso and AutoMarta.

Full Mode uses the Automa cards to direct you on how AutoMasso and AutoMarta play their hands and simulates an actual game with 2 other human players pretty well. I will warn you: it’s tough to beat them. However, based on an included chart in the rules, you can change the difficulty of the game by decreasing the final score of the game to give yourself a chance. You can also increase the final score of the game to provide you with endless frustration. Or endless losses. Depends on how you look at it.


Between Two Cities is a blast to play. The strategy of one session of play may not be the same the next time you play. The difference from one game to the next gives this game an addictive quality no matter if you’re playing with others or going it alone with the Automas. Setup is quick (within 5 minutes you’re ready to play), transitions to the next game is fast, and game sessions don’t last very long. Those 3 factors mean you can play quite a few games in an hour or two.

The solo aspect gives you a great way to play the game, and I’m glad the creators included a version for those types of players. The game is challenging and provides enough variance from session to session so playing solo isn’t monotonous. The Automa cards, though drawn randomly, are well-thought out. I do wish they would have included more, but I understand that at its core, Between Two Cities is meant to be played with human opponents for maximum entertainment.

If you wanted a tile-placement game that lets you work with other players, allows you to play solo, and is simply fun, pick up Between Two Cities. The expansion, Between Two Cities: Captials releases on July 18th.

4.5 out of 5 We Roll Solos
  • Fun and relaxed play
  • Quick setup, gameplay, game transition
  • Excellent solo mode
  • Easy to understand rules
  • Needs more Automa cards for solo play
  • Would have liked a bag to pull the tiles from

Between Two Cities at Stonemaier Games

Gregory Gregory Author