The dog days of summer may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time to stay inside with the AC and play some board games. I’ve got a couple of unique ones on the list today. Shall we?
Between Two Cities
Between Two Cities is the first game I’ve played that can be described as a double co-op game. You are trying to build the best city you can but you are playing two separate games — one with the player to your left and one with the player to your right. A 4×4 city is built between each pair of players using tiles. In the first round, you look at your hand of 1×1 tiles, choose one for each city, and pass the remainder to the right. In the second round, you choose from a hand of 2×1 tiles and again choose one for each city. The third round is a repeat of the first round but you pass the tiles to the left.
The kicker is that your final score is the score of your lowest city, which means that you can’t focus on one city and completely neglect your other partner. You have to be smart and try to keep the score of each city on the rise. Tiles score in different ways — some are scored for a set, some exponentially, some by placing them next to another type of tile, etc.
Between Two Cities is easy to learn and plays in about 20 minutes. The double co-op aspect is very, very cool and can lead to a bit of haggling if one of your partners wants to put something in their other city when you think it would help your co-owned city more. I’m a big fan of this one.
Don’t Mess With Cthulhu
Indie Board and Cards, makers of hidden role games like Coup and Resistance that I’m such a big fan of, recently shipped their newest game which was funded on Kickstarter, Don’t Mess With Cthulhu. It is, as you’d expect, a hidden role game. Players are put on one of two teams, either the investigators or the cultists, with a face-down role card. The investigators are trying to stop the rise of Cthulhu while the cultists want to unleash him on the world.
The game is played over however many rounds as you have players. The deck of cards used also changes depending on the number of players, so I’ll be talking about my couple of plays with four players. The deck for my plays consisted of 15 no-op or false lead cards, four elder sign cards, and one eponymous Cthulhu card. The deck is shuffled and dealt evenly to each player who gets to look at their cards, shuffle them, and lay them out face down in front of them. Each player then says out loud how many elder signs they had in their hand and if they had Cthulhu or not. Truth is optional here. The leader decides, after however much arguing or convincing takes place from everyone else, which card they want to see. That card is flipped over and the player who the card belongs to chooses another card to see. In my four player example, four total cards are seen before the remaining cards are shuffled and dealt back out. Over the course of the four rounds, the investigators won if they flipped over all four elder signs before the end and the cultists won if either the fourth round ended or if Cthulhu was discovered.
Deduction and social clues are key to Don’t Mess With Cthulhu for a few reasons. Since you don’t know who is on your team, piecing together clues from round to round can help you decide whose cards you should and shouldn’t be flipping over as the game progresses. Thanks to the constant shuffling and the distribution of card type, a game where almost all of the elder signs are found in round one can go the full number of rounds. There is also always the chance that the game ends instantly by flipping over the Cthulhu card. My Kickstarter copy came with support for up to 10 players and two alternate ways to play, which I hope to dive into soon.
My wife and I are always looking for new two-player games, which is what Patchwork is. Both players are trying to create the best quilt they can by sewing together patches of varying size. All of the ~30 patches are laid out in a circle around the time board and a marker is placed between two patches. Any of the three patches in a clockwise direction from that marker are available for purchase. In a similar fashion to Tokaido, the player furthest away from the end space gets to act. On each turn, you can do one of two things: move one space ahead of your opponent to collect buttons (currency) or purchase a patch. Patches cost between zero and 10 buttons and come in various sizes. Once you buy a patch and place it on your board, you move your time marker the number of spaces specified on the patch and move the purchasing marker up to where the patch you just bought was, making three new patches available. If you instead choose to move directly ahead of your opponent and collect buttons, you’ll get one for each space you moved plus an additional button for each one shown on the patches on your board.
Space management is big in Patchwork since you cannot move a patch after placing it on your 9×9 board. There are five 1×1 patches on the time board that are picked up by the first player to pass them, which can help you fix holes in your work of art. Scoring is fairly simple — count up the number of buttons you have left and subtract two points for each empty spot on your board. If you were the first one to complete a 7×7 space on your board, you get seven bonus points. The player with the most points wins.
Keeping an eye on both quilts can be the difference maker in Patchwork. There may be a patch up for purchase that doesn’t really help you that much but could be enormously beneficial to your opponent, so maybe you buy it before they get a chance. Thanks to the “farthest player acts” mechanic, it’s possible to string together two or three turns in a row and make a comeback. Patchwork is fun and pretty quick to play, just know that it takes up a decent amount of space when everything is laid out.
Spyfall is another social deduction game with a couple of twists. There are 30 different locations that each have a corresponding deck of role cards. Each card in the deck has both the location and a role that belongs to that location. For example, the deck for the airplane location has a pilot, flight attendant, mechanic, etc. Each location’s deck also has a card that says spy on it with no information about the location. Once everyone sees their role, an eight minute timer starts. Player A asks player B a question, which they must answer. Player B then asks someone a question, who answers and asks someone else.
You have to be careful in both your questions and answers. While the goal of the non-spies is to uncover the spy, you don’t want to ask too blunt of a question and give it away. You also don’t want to be too vague and draw unwanted scrutiny to your answers. The spy, on the flip side, has to listen for clues in the questions and answers to learn which location the round is taking place in. If the non-spies correctly guess who the spy is either at the end of the game or in the middle of the game via clock-stopping vote, they win. If the spy either avoids detection or outs themselves and correctly guesses the location during the game, they win.
The timer adds pressure to every question and answer. Again, you don’t want to ask a total curveball of a question and be incorrectly chosen as the spy, but you also don’t want to give the spy any hints. Sometimes as the spy you have to straight up guess, too, as you might not have enough information for a good answer when asked a question. Spyfall is a really fun game, great for big groups and easy to play.