This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us by Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim
Tasty Minstrel Games, 2014
Board Game Geek Store
Tile laying is a unique element in board gaming because, for a brief moment of your turn, all players stop breathing, waiting for you to foil their plans or advance them one more step towards victory. It’s simultaneously collaborative and competitive. Perhaps the most easily recognizable tile placement game is Carcassonne, and rightfully so. It’s been in print since the year 2000, and it was even featured on Wil Wheaton’s TableTop.
Image Credit: Sergut via Board Game Geek
Carcassonne is a eurogame wherein players take turns placing tiles to build castles and the surrounding monasteries, roads, and fields. After a random tile is drawn and placed on the board, players have the option of placing a worker pawn, or meeple (God, I love this word), from a limited pool, which will score variable points depending on its location.
What I find most intriguing and engaging about Carcassonne is its scoring mechanic. The larger a castle or field or road, the more points a player will score. American games have a tendency akin to the American spirit of fierce competitiveness and independence, but this game doesn’t quite support that attitude. Yes, Carcassonne can be played with a backstabbing nature, but it’s more difficult to achieve a high score this way. It’s when players collaborate to build larger structures and longer fields and roads that the game really hits its stride. When multiple players share the majority, each player earns the full score, and it’s mutually beneficial to build together towards a huge castle.
Tasty Minstrel Games’ This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2 – 4 of Us owes a lot to Carcassonne. This Town, designed by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, is a tile-placement game on a micro scale. Micro games are often considered fillers between heavier fare, but I feel that they stand well on their own, too. Many nights, I’m just as happy playing three or four smaller games than playing one long, intense session. The gameplay of This Town is simple enough. Players take turns drawing and placing tiles, which create corrals. The player with the most of their color brands in the enclosure gets the highest score for each completed corral. It’s easy enough.
But it’s the scoring in the game that departs from the expected. Each player only scores the number of points equal to the next lower player. This means that a corral with only one player’s brands scores zero points and a corral with five green brands and one pink brand only scores one point.
Image credit: Adam Frandsen via Board Game Geek
It took me several rounds of play to wrap my head around this concept. For a game themed in the Wild West–and the silver rush, no less–the game is far from the rugged individualism that a player may expect. The scoring mechanism in Cormier’s and Lim’s game requires players to work together in order to beat one another.
I’ve played this game with two types of opponents: the hyperly competitive, “I can’t place any tiles that will help you win” type and the more casual, “Let’s see how this plays out” type. Both approaches to the game are fine, and there are expansions that change the aforementioned scoring, adding more brands per corral and allowing other players to score at other moments in the game, but the game is most fun when all of the players are working together to have a good time. Yes, someone will still lose, but This Town isn’t a game of winners and losers as much as it is a great excuse for friends and family to sit down together and spend some time with one another, which, now that I think about it, is sort of the best part of the holidays, and, as far as I’m aware, what this series of posts is trying to highlight about gaming: its ability to bring everyone together, especially on cold winter nights.
There are still copies of the game available for purchase online, but if you’re in desperate need for a fun filler at the holiday get-together and don’t have time to wait for the mail, there’s a perfectly fine and easy-to-assemble Print ‘n Play version available, too. Just print, clip, and play.