Thursday, July 2, 2020

Trying to make This Town et al ‘work’

I have very mixed feelings about This Town Ain’t Big For the 2-4 of Us. 

I backed the game on Kickstarter back in 2004, right when my interest in micro games was really kicking in. And, in theory, I still think it’s a great idea for a micro game. Twenty-four tiles with the symbols printed on them so you don’t need separate meeples. And I still think think the scoring system is really neat and leads to interesting choices.

In a nutshell, it’s a tile-laying game with fences and symbols printed on the tiles. Everyone has a symbol for their own. When an area is enclosed by fences, you score it. Here’s how that works. Whatever symbol has the greatest number of symbols in the area gets points equal to the number of second greatest symbols. And so on until whoever has the fewest symbols gets no points. 

The scoring system doesn’t just make for interesting decisions. It also means that drawing a tile that doesn’t have your symbol isn’t a useless turn. Instead, any given tile has the potential to be useful to you.

The idea of a Carcassonne experience distilled down to 24 tiles that can fit it in any given pocket is a really compelling one for me. One of the major draws of a micro game is as a travel game. And there are elements of This Town et al that make it its own, distinct experience.

Buuuut... there are problems.

In my experience, there have been runaway leader problems. With only 24 tiles, when someone gets a lead, they have a good chance of fighting to protect it until the tiles run out. The game play doesn’t live up to the potential This Town et al seems to have.

An additional problem I had with the published version is that it came with a bunch of expansions that used itty, bitty tokens, along with a scoring stick that also had itty bitty tokens. The value I got out of not having meeples was taken away by having much more fiddly tokens.

And since I got This Town et al, I’ve found more the one game that fit into the niche of micro tile-laying game. The print-and-play Autumn and HUE from the Pack O Games both address the issues I had with This Town et al.

However, I still want to make it work.

So I have made a beater copy of the PnP version. (Yes, I could just pull the tiles out of the published edition but making a PnP copy just felt cleaner.) Strip the game down to its absolute basics, which also solves the travel problem.  I don’t know if that will make the game ‘work’ for me but I want to give it another try.

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