Designer: Adam Kwapinsi
Publisher: Board and Dice
Ages: 12 and Up
Time: 20 – 40 minutes
Times Played: 3
I was lucky enough to marry a board gamer, which means there is always someone around to play games with. While many games these days do have a two-player option, I am always on the lookout for games designed specifically for two players, and I was happy to come across this game at Essen – especially since it comes in a compact box.
The game takes place in a town called Upsideville. There is a creature trying to draw the residents of the town down into the depths so it can devour then, while the town itself is trying to keep the residents safe and secure from the creature’s machinations.
To start a game of Inbetween, each player chooses a side – either the Town or the Creature. The game suggests that the player who most recently set off a fire alarm (there’s a “start player” suggestion you don’t see every day) be the town, but since that would be my husband until such time as I set it off, we have just been rotating it.
There is a deck of eighteen double-sided character cards. One side of the card represents the town and the other represents the creature; both sides of the card have a safety track, some symbols and a special ability. These cards are shuffled and ten cards are dealt out in a circle; the first card is placed human-side up; the rest alternate between creature and human. Each card has a safety track, which indicates where the character is on the road between the creature and safety, symbols that match player cards, and an ability. The character cards start in the inbetween – not being swayed in one direction or the other.
Each player has an Awareness Track card, five energy markers and a deck of cards specific to their role as well as several symbol tokens. Each player draws three cards to start the game.
The action marker is placed on the first character card with a star, and the game begins. The action marker is double-sided, with one side in each player color – at the end of one player’s turn you flip the marker over and put it on the next card, so it is always clear whose turn it is.
The first phase of each round is the Awareness phase. Each player has a card with an Awareness track that you can choose to move up on as part of your actions and each level has a special ability on it; once -and only once -during the game you can choose to trigger the special ability for the level you are at. If you don’t want to or can’t trigger the ability, you move on to the action phase.
During the action phase the active player plays a card from their hand and chooses to either:
- Add a safety marker to a card or shift the Safety marker one space on a card with a matching symbol – this put the character one step closer to being devoured (and thus controlled by the creature) or being secured (and thus controlled by the town), or
- Place a matching symbol token on any character card. All cards have one preprinted symbol of each player color; a token with a different symbol can be played or moved from another card. The player can then choose to activate the ability on the card by spending the number of energy cubes equal to the card’s activation cost. The abilities let you remove cards and energy from the other players or adjust conditions on a character card.
- Prepare – the player can discard as many cards as they like and then draw their hand to five cards
- Rest – the player takes as many energy cubes as there are character cards in their dimension.
After the Action phase, the game moves to the Activity Phase. The player whose dimension the current character card is in may move up on their Awareness track by spending energy cubes equal to the number of the next level. In addition, if the Safety Track of that character is on guarded, secured, terrified or devoured the special ability of the character is activated.
The activity marker is flipped over and moved to the next character card and the other player takes their turn.
The game end immediately if one of the four victory conditions is met.
- The town has made three characters secure, in which case the town wins
- The creature has devoured three characters, in which case the creature wins
- A player gets to level six on their awareness track, in which case that player wins
- There are only five character cards left in play, in which case the player who controls more characters wins
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I was pleasantly surprised by this game. While we bought it at Essen, we didn’t get around to playing it until last month. At that point I had discovered that a lot of the lesser-known/reported-on games we had taken a chance on were not good – and in some cases actively bad – so I had really low expectations. By the end of our first game I was optimistic and now, after 3 plays, I am a fan.
The production of the game is good. The components are of good quality, the rules are well-written and clear and it was pretty easy to get up and running. The art in the game goes well with the theme. The abilities on the character cards can be a little hard to read when they are laid out in a circle, but there is a guide to the characters on the back of the rules, which helps, and you are generally mostly concerned with the next couple of cards.
The game play itself is interesting. Each side has their own unique deck of cards; the creature has a wider variety of cards, but the town has equipment cards that provide some reaction and defense abilities and sometimes remain in play until used. The cards seem to be balanced and allow you some manipulation that seems to balance out the random card draw. The fact that you don’t automatically refill your hand means you have to think about how best to play what you’ve drawn so you aren’t forced to rest more often than necessary. I also like that the cards have two levels – you can play them for their base abilities and can choose to spend energy to activate them or not.
The push and pull of the Safety track makes for some interesting decisions; you want as many characters as possible to be in your dimension and at a point on their Safety track that lets you use their special ability, even on the other player’s turn, but you also have to try to lure characters from the other side. The fact that you are also actively engaged during the other player’s turn also keeps it interesting.
My only concern about the game is that in all three of the games so far, the creature has won. I am still not sure it’s actually a problem (three plays isn’t enough to be sure), and I suspect at most the town player may need to finesse their cards a little bit more, which would be possible with a game or two under their belt – our third game was much closer than either of the other two.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. Tery
Not for me.
A game inspired by Stranger Things?
We did think that when we saw the title!
Nice review : )
I like this game very much, but we had a different experience. At first it was the town that kept winning most of the games, and I had the feeling that playing the creature is more difficult due to the higher number of icons needed to influence the characters.
Just a minor correction: I think that the timing for the character’s (with the activity marker on it) ability to trigger (if the safety marker is in the required positions) is during the Activity phase, after the decision on whether to raise the awareness.
Claudio, I am happy to hear that your experience is different; I look forward to trying it again to see what happens.
You are correct that I had that sentence in the wrong spot- thank you!
Are you bringing it to the Gathering? I’d love to play it with you!
I will now!