Relationships. Sometimes successful, sometimes not. When it does not go the way you think it should go, you can quit and leave everything behind or you can try a little harder and fix what is broken…
…and then we held hands.. is a two-player, cooperative, abstract strategy game from designers David Chircop and Yannick Massa. You are a couple fighting for their relationship, you go through all kind of emotions and you need to balance these emotions and your feelings for one another.
The board shows three rings, every ring is made up of different nodes with different colours. There’s also a balance scale for every player ranging from -2 to 2. In addition to the board there are two decks of cards, an objective deck and an emotions deck. Every player starts the game with four face down objective cards, six emotion cards, a pawn on the zero space of their balance scale and a pawn on the middle node of the outer ring. There are four emotions (calm=blue, angry= red, happy=green, sad=black). Every emotion card shows two emotions, one on the right and one on the left side of the card. You only reveal and use the side of the card that matches the side of the board you are on.
The goal of the game is to reach the heart of the board within one turn of each other and both in balance. To do that you must complete your own and each other’s objectives. To complete an objective you simple need to end your turn on a node that has the same emotional state/colour as the active objective card. To travel to a node you must hand in cards that match the colours of the nodes in between you and your destination. You can also use the cards of your partner. For each node you pass you must adjust your balance rating (black/ red +1, green/blue -1). You may only redraw up to six cards when you are emotionally balanced.
When you’ve completed all eight objectives, you may go to the next ring and you get four new objectives. When you’ve completed your last eight objectives you may try to enter the heart of the circle. When you both succeed and you are in balance, you win. You’ve saved your relationship! You lose and break up when the emotion cards run out, you can’t move or when you have an emotional balance of +/- 3.
This is a very nice abstract game with three elements that I find interesting. First of all, the emotion cards and the way you can only use the same card side as the side of the board you are on. When you are in a difficult situation it might help if you go to the other side of the board. The other card sides may provide new opportunities and new insights.
The next interesting element is the balance scale. You may only redraw when you finish your turn in balance, but sometimes you can’t or you don’t want to do that. Then you just have to deal with the fact that you have less cards. Maybe your partner has some cards you need.
Another idea that is very interesting, especially in cooperative games, and I haven’t mentioned it before, is that you can’t discus tactics during the game. You can’t say “Well if I do this, then you must do that”, you have to rely on the notion that you both know what needs to happen. Trust is important in a relationship.
Then the theme, relationships or couples therapy. Firstly, it is very original and the theme also works very well with the game concepts. Basically, it’s just an abstract game, but this theme makes everything you do in the game a little more meaningful, a little less abstract and that’s cool.
All in all …and then we held hands.. is a very enjoyable, medium light, strategy game and definitely worth trying.