In InBetween two players engage in a tug-of-war to decide the fate of the citizens of Upsideville. Will they continue their idyllic lives in the suburbs, or will they be consumed by darkness in the horrifying Creature dimension? This small card game offers simplicity and a rich selection of choices, ensuring each playthrough feels different. Yet, InBetween is not a very popular game. So, should you give it a try? Please read on to find out!
The main component of InBetween are cards. Three decks, in fact, one for the Town, one for the Creature, and one representing the citizens of Upsideville. Cards are large and bright, if a little thin. But, as they are not shuffled a lot during the game, I have noticed little to no wear and tear after many plays.
The art itself is good, although inconsistent. The graphics on the player decks and the citizen cards look like they are from different games. But all cards are well labelled and readable, and most are also further explained in the rulebook. Each player also receives a player aid outlining the steps of each turn.
The game also comes with many wooden and cardboard tokens. The wooden cubes are bright and sturdy and come in different sizes. Whereas a big wooden cylinder with red and blue edges indicates whose turn it is by being flipped at the end of players’ actions. It is a clever solution and a much needed one as players can perform certain actions on each other’s turn.
The rulebook explains the game well and touches upon most points of contention. But the font is on a small side and finding a particular rule when needed can be a struggle as there is no contents page.
How to play
InBetween is also very simple to set up. There is no board – instead, ten citizen cards are laid down in a circle. The turn marker is put on one of the ten cards, with all other tokens in the middle of the circle for easy access. Each player takes an awareness card and five energy cubes from the pool. They then shuffle their decks and draw five cards, which form their hand.
Each of the ten citizen cards has two sides. The Human side with three statuses: alert, guarded and secured. And the Creature side, with its respsective three dimensions: nervous, terrified and devoured. Both players impact the statuses of each citizen by playing cards from their hand with matching symbols. In the course of the game, extra symbols can be put down on citizens to make it easier to match and get the citizens all the way to either secured or devoured status. Citizen cards that haven’t yet been affected by either player are classed as ‘InBetween’.
Both of the players' decks also have special abilities. They cost energy, however, and there is a limited amount of it that players have at any given point. Players can decide to skip a turn and rest to replenish their energy, although how much energy is regained depends on the number of citizens in that player’s domain. This creates a great dilemma as players need to consider when to rest. Is it worth losing a turn now, or risk waiting until their influence is higher?
Players can also spend energy to increase their awareness. But, each level costs more than the previous. Again, this presents players with another choice of where to allocate their resources. Player who achieves the sixth level of awareness wins immediately. On the flipside, it costs 21 energy cubes to get there. The other win condition for the Town or the Creature player is to either secure or devour three citizens, respectively.
InBetween is an easy game to pick up, but not an easy one to win. At the same time, it is rarely frustrating and losing the game feels like a product of poor strategy, rather than luck. It also rarely feels like there is nothing that can be done, even if players’ actions are card driven. For example, if advancing this turn is not possible, it is usually possible to prevent the other player from gaining an advantage.
This brings me to my biggest issue with InBetween, which is its length. Despite the advertised playtime of 20 to 40 minutes, nearly all of my games were at the upper limit, with some lasting closer to 60 minutes and above. This usually happens when players engage in the tug-of-war mechanic and try to frustrate and undo each other’s moves. As with any game, this will differ depending on players and strategies, but in my experience it happened far too often to overlook.
Thankfully, additional citizen cards, various winning conditions and asymmetrical player powers all add up to offer plenty of replayability. Playing as the Creature feels different to playing as the Human, although the cards in their decks tend to repeat. But, the game feels balanced and players need to constantly readjust their tactics.
InBetween is a very good two-player game offering simplicity and quick set up, with enough depth to please more seasoned players alike. Winning feels satisfying and well earned, while the abovementioned variables keep the game fresh. Components are not its biggest strength, but they are well made and adequate to the price point. Overall, InBetween is easy to recommend and it certainly deserves to be more popular than it is!