In the board gaming hobby, there is a growing demand for 2-player games. Over the past couple of years, the industry has responded with a larger offering of these types of games. …and then, we held hands is a 2-player cooperative abstract strategy game where players go on an emotional journey together with the hope completing an impressive feat of coordination. The catch is, the players are not allowed to communicate with each other about the game. This poses a challenge that the players must overcome.
…and then, we held hands. is published by LudiCreations in partnership with Passport Game Studios. The box is small enough to throw into a purse or backpack, takes up a small footprint, thus making this a great game to take on the go.
In terms of components, the game comes with 74 cards, 48 cards make up the emotion deck, 24 cards are objectives, and 2 cards are cover cards. The game comes with 4 player tokens, 2 for each player, and a double-sided game board, with one side containing symbols for the convenience of those who are colorblind. Also to be noted, the cards all have symbols on them for the same convenience.
The goal of the game is for 2 players to work cooperatively on their relationship. Over three rounds, players non-verbally must work together to complete objectives by doing this emotional dance, trying to maintain emotional balance, and ultimately meeting in the middle.
At setup, the emotion deck is shuffled and 6 cards are dealt to each player. The emotion cards have 2 emotional components on them.
Players will choose one side of the cards to be revealed and the cover card placed on top. The cards are fanned in one “perspective” revealing one side of the card. Players also place their tokens in a state of balance on the board, one on the outer ring of nodes, the other on the emotional balance track. Finally, the objective cards are shuffled and divided into three piles. One pile is chosen for the first round to work through, having the first objective card revealed.
The objectives are revealed one by one and completed, until none are left. to complete an objective, a player must end movement on a node that matches the objective’s color.
Over the course of the game objectives can only be completed on certain rings of the game board, with new sets of objectives working closer to the center.
In order to complete objectives, players must play cards from the tableaux, known in this game as emotional rows, in order to conduct movement. Players can choose to play cards from either their own tableau or from their partner’s but may not discuss the choice of cards. This is part of the challenge of the game, being able to read your partner and make choices without discussion. There are some restrictions for the movement, including, not using the same node more than once in the same turn, not passing through the other player’s token, and moving in such a way that the emotional balance does not move past the +2 or -2 on the balance scale. Each time a card is played the color is checked on the balance scale and the balance marker will move towards that color; for every blue or green color half used, the balance moves once to the right, and for each black and red color half the balance moves once to the left.
It is important for players to try to end their turn with the emotional balance at “0” so they can draw emotion cards to refill their hand to the limit of 6. New cards are added farthest from the cover card and spread according to the existing perspective.
An interesting element in the game is the perspective in which the cards are displayed. Depending on where the player’s token is on the board in relation to center determines the perspective the cards are shown. Ending movement on the opposite side of the center will change the perspective of the cards in the emotional row. If a player ends in a center node, he or she can choose which perspective to display, without looking at the cards.
Players continue to work through the objectives to finally attempt to win the game. Players win if they both enter the center space on consecutive turns. BUT……both players must have a balanced emotional state, meaning their marker is on the “0” space of the emotional scale. Players lose if: they fail to find a way to consecutively end their turns in the center space in emotional balance, at the beginning of a turn a player cannot make a valid move, or the emotion deck has been depleted and the players have no emotion cards in front of them.
The game also has a variant that uses arguments, as indicated by gray bars shown on the objective cards. This has an effect on where players must end movement in relation to each other and adds for increased difficulty for the game.
So, …and then, we held hands. is a compact abstract strategy game. The components are of good quality, especially the card stock. The game presents itself in a minimalistic style with simple markings on the board and cards. The artwork on the cards was done by Marie Cardouat who also did card art for Dixit. The artwork on the cards offers a surreal feel to them and lends to the theme of the game being an emotional journey, which is not in a physical state. I appreciate the accommodation for color blind players with the symbols on the cards, and one side of the board having the symbols on the nodes. The rulebook is well written and explains the game very well.
The gameplay experience is unlike any other game I have played so I have nothing to compare it to. From the surface, this game may come across as a filler, but as you delve into the game, there is a lot more than meets they eye. The combined elements of non-verbal communication, a row of cards with a perspective that is displayed in relation to the player marker on the board, and an emotional balance scale that restricts movement and also when new cards are drawn, lend to a brain-burner of a game. As you dig further into the game, you start to see the importance of the cards that are available for both you and your opponent, and so the choices of what cards to play become more challenging, especially towards the end of the game when trying to win by being in a balanced state.
I have to give credit where credit is due, and I find this to be an excellent, fresh game design. In a way, the game is sort of like couples’ therapy as the game has 2 people working their way through a series of challenges, by trying to read each other rather than talking through them. From a family perspective, this game will challenge players to more complex thinking, and will also put players in a position to make sure that whatever one player chooses to do, it allows for the other player to also be successful if possible. I see this game being a good fit for gaming couples who are partial to abstract games, as well as older teens who are able to comprehend the game’s mechanics. I think given the nature of the game and the mechanics, it is too complex for younger players. Given the complex nature of the game, it does offer replayability, especially using the argument variant. To me the game is challenging enough without the arguments, and I don’t prefer them.
I think this game is going to have a limited audience and that is where the game to me suffers. People who will be interested in this game first have to be into cooperative games, and then be ok with playing an abstract strategy game on top of that. Like any game, players have to be in the mood to play certain games, and to me despite the cool mechanics, I don’t see this game hitting a lot of tables. For me personally, I appreciate the game for its design. I think it is an excellent design and solid gameplay, but it does not really appeal to me or the people I play with so this one will not be staying with me. However, if you are looking for something that is unique in gameplay, is for 2-players, and satisfies both an abstract and cooperative itch, then I would say check out …and then, we held hands.