There are some games I want to like so bad. ... and then we held hands is one of them. It's so pretty, and the concept is different, which seems sadly rare in board games, although that's been changing in the few years I've been into them.
Everything about this game intrigued me.
From LudiCreations and Passport Game Studios, … and then, we held hands. is a game for two players working together to balance their emotions and meet in the middle. Literally. And they can’t talk about the game while they’re playing.
The game works with ages 12 and up and plays in 30-45 minutes. It’s designed by David Chircop and Yannick Massa, and features art by Marie Cardouat, who is known for the artwork in the game Dixit.
How it works
In the simplest version of the game, each player begins with six cards. Each half of the card features a colored line. Players can choose which side of the cards to begin with, provided they use the same half of all the cards — either all left or all right.
The 24 objective cards are shuffled and dealt into three piles. Objectives have a color. To fulfill them, one of the players has to stop on a node of the same color as the objective. Then a new objective is drawn.
Players have two stones each in their color. One begins on the outer of three rings on the board, directly in front of them. The rings have colored nodes around them, with the most nodes on the outer ring, and the fewest on the inner one. The other marks their emotional balance, which begins at 0.
The youngest player begins. To move on the outer ring, which the player must do, he or she must play cards that match the color of the nodes. Nodes can’t be skipped. The active player can play his or her own cards and the cards of the other player. All the cards played are discarded into the active player’s pile.
For each card played, the player adjusts his or her balance, with red and black moving to the left and green and blue moving to the right. A player can never go more than two in either direction. If the player ends with the balance at 0, he or she can redraw back up to six cards.
The side where the player’s stone is on the board now determines which side of his or her cards are showing.
Play continues until the first objective deck runs out. The player who has discarded the most cards shuffles those back into the deck.
Players can now move to the middle ring, and the second set of objectives must be completed on the middle ring.
The same happens when the second set of objectives is completed. Players may move to the inner ring, and the third set of objectives must be met on the inner ring.
After all the objectives are completed, the two players must enter the center of the board on consecutive turns, and they must be emotionally balanced when they do.
If a player can’t make a legal move, all the cards are played, or they can’t get to the center consecutively, they lose.
There are three added levels of difficulty, where objectives with gray bars must be fulfilled by both players landing on the same space.
Players are not allowed to talk about the game or give each other hints while they are playing.
Why you might like … and then, we held hands.
This game is unique. There’s nothing quite like it out there, and cooperative games, where the players are all on the same team, often don’t work as well with two people.
The art in the game is stunning. Cadouat is known for her imaginative work, and she lives up to her reputation.
With the regular rules, the game is easy to win. It feels like you’re doing a joint puzzle rather than playing a game. But it’s a puzzle that works, and it’s pleasant.
The balance is in deciding when to hold onto cards, when to play them, and when to move just enough so that you can draw more cards. This would be easy, but since you can’t talk to your partner, you have to hope you’re both thinking the same way.
The price is excellent, less than a movie and popcorn.
The rulebook can make you feel like the game is going to be your relationship counselor, but the game is really about colors and movement on a board. And you get to look at nice pictures to boot.
The argument variants of the game — those that increase the difficulty — make it extremely challenging.
Why you might not like … and then, we held hands.
About those argument variants. If you get the right cards, you can beat the game. I think. But they make a nice easygoing puzzle into a game that’s virtually (and maybe certainly) unwinnable.
That would be OK, except that wins and losses have very little to do with your choices. Chances are high that you won’t get the cards that you need to fulfill the objectives, or you’ll get stuck because you’re both in the same space, which means you both need the same cards to move. If you have them, great. If you don’t, you lose.
And there are times you know you’ve lost the game a few turns before it ends. You also know you’ve won the game a few turns before it ends.
Not being able to talk about the game solves a real and frustrating problem in cooperative games: One player can’t tell the other one what to do.
But it seems odd to make a game about emotions and relationships and then forbid communication. It also makes you feel a bit like you’re playing alone, which is especially unfortunate in a two-player game.
… and then, we held hands. is an odd mix. I like the puzzle aspect of the game (which is unusual for me). I wish communication were allowed, even if it were limited. It’s beautiful, of course, and that makes it fun to play with. It's terribly unfortunate that most of the art is covered up during the game.
I think it’s all right, if a bit too easy, if you don’t play with the argument variants. I say that as someone who likes difficult games where the puzzle is always shifting. But the argument variants don’t feel difficult to me, they just feel like the odds are against me.
Other reviewers' opinions
The Board Game Sanctuary said every time you fail at the game, you see how close you could have come and want to try again. He liked the way the perspective changes, depending on which side of the board you're playing on. He also liked how you have to know the person you're playing with and how they play. He also said the theme of the game contradicts the gameplay.
Bebo of GameWire said she hates romance, but she was surprised that she liked ... and then we held hands.
Kaia and Joanna of Starlit Citadel said the game was unique, and they liked that it was a cooperative abstract game. They said the theme is a bit weird. They did say the emotion cards getting to the objectives didn't quite connect. They praised the game's beauty. They liked how quickly the difficulty scaled up with the arguments.
Hmm. I honestly hadn't thought about it until I wrote that heading. I don't know why you couldn't play it with kids as far as difficulty goes, but the theme is really weird for that. I probably wouldn't.
What my husband wants to do to the game
So many things. At one point, he tried to turn it into a deck-builder. He has the unfortunate luck to love cooperative games and be married to someone who isn't the biggest fan.
We were both intrigued by the mechanisms in this game, but I think the lack of communication was especially frustrating to him, since what he likes most about cooperative games is their social nature.
I received a review copy of … and then, we held hands. from Passport Game Studios. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.
Much of this review first appeared at News for Shoppers, where I wrote it.