Review – Two by Two from Valley Games
Designed by Rob Bartel
Art by Patrick LaMontagne and Mark Poole
note – thanks to the folks at Valley Games for providing a copy of this game for the review
I love a good family game and there are certainly a lot about in many different shapes and sizes. As I am a proponent of family gaming as one useful tool to help keep families together, building their relationships, and teaching children many valuable social skills, I am very pleased when I have the opportunity to promote a game that is very clearly aimed at families.
So Two by Two from Valley Games, for 4 players ages 8+, hit the table a couple of times and it is certainly a game for parents to consider purchasing. Actually, adults may very well find this one a nice light game as well.
The components are lovely and yes they are charmingly cartoony which the kids will love and adults will enjoy. Well made tokens with animal pictures one one side and jungle foliage on the other. There are also tokens representing ocean water spaces. There are also 4 wooden Arks which the players move to travel and collect animal pairs, which, by the way is the object of the game. Yes, a nicely souped up version of “snap” is what this game is all about. The Noah’s Ark theme is nicely presented as the reason to collect the pairs and the collection of animals “two by two” works a treat.
The game process is very simple.
First the animal tokens are flipped over and shuffled and then placed jungle side up on the island except for the beach spaces. All animal tokens adjacent to a water space are turned over revealing their animal side. The Arks are placed on any Ark start space. Scoring tokens are placed in a staggered start order on numbers 1-4 on the scoring track although I would strongly recommend that when playing with children this will not seem fair at all so just have them all so just have all players start on space 1. For an adult game, I found an explanation of the rationale for the staggered start as explained by designer Rob Bartel as follows –
The staggered start on the score track was added to address a small start player advantage that would otherwise be inherent in the game.
The best way to explain that advantage is to imagine the start of a 4-player game. Each player begins one space away from the shoreline. Imagine that all three animals within the starting player’s reach represent one half of a face-up pair. The mate to one of those animals lies in reach of Player 2, the mate to another lies in reach of Player 3, and the mate to the third lies in reach of Player 4. That starting player is guaranteed to be able to claim a pair but, in doing so, he is reducing the number of options that will be available to one of the subsequent players on their starting turns. If Players 1, 2, and 3 were all to claim a pair where the mate lay within reach of Player 4, that would leave Player 4 unable to claim an animal on his opening turn (regardless of how many other animals had been turned up in the meantime).
So that scenario presents a fairly extreme and unlikely case but the basics hold true nonetheless – the starting player has a slight statistical advantage over Player 2, who has a slight advantage over Player 3, etc. By staggering the initial scoring, those slight statistical advantages are accounted for and the game is made fair again – not vital for the kids game, perhaps, but important for more competitive adult play.
Ok, I can accept this but I shouldn’t have had to go and find this on boardgamegeek.com. This explanation should have been included in the rules. Yes, I am being picky as the rules are otherwise very clean.
Each turn, the players –
– Place a water token on a land space. You can cover an animal token to prevent other players collecting it. You score one point for each water space your token is adjacent to and then turn over any animal tokens next to your placed wter token.
– You may then optionally move your Ark to an adjoining water space and rescue a pair of animals and place them on your Ark. You can do this in any order.
Collecting pairs scores points and each Ark identifies specific pairs as worth double. Arks can hold any number of pairs.
As soon as –
No water tokens remain
All animal tokens have been revealedand no other pairs (except fisbones which are worthless) remain
The game ends.
Points are tallied and Game Over. There is a basic scoring and an advanced scoring for more experienced players allowing for a more cutthroat and competitive game.
Did it work for me?
Two by Two is a clearly a game aimed at families. A simple and solid design that works well within its basic structure. It certainly is engaging for youngsters and very attractive and eye catching. For adults, I think that it has limited appeal and not a lot of staying power except as a short and light filler. However, I do think that it is not strong enough to stand out as a memorable gaming experience. There just isn’t a lot to it. But having said that, its not meant to be more than it is and as a simple and fun family game it does the job.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6 out of 10
Absolutely. This is the core audience and I would say that it can be understood and enjoyed by ages 6+
For more information about valley games go to – http://valleygames.ca/