…and then we held hands is a 2-player only co-operative game about a couple who must manage their emotions to complete objectives with limited communication. It debuted as a print-and-play game in early 2014, and was popular enough to see a Kickstarter late last year and saw a published release by LudiCreations with official art by Marie Cardouat (best known for Dixit, among other things). While the game isn’t available for purchase yet (it’s scheduled for release in February 2016), we have a Kickstarter copy and have gotten a few chances to play it and form our impressions of the game so far.
The theme of …and then we held hands is that of a couple whose relationship is failing, and who must work together and support each other to meet their emotional goals and keep each other in balance. The unique aspect of the game is that the players are not permitted to communicate at all about the game while playing it. The rulebook allows for casual conversation about other topics, such as the weather or the players’ daily lives, but forbids any discussion of what’s happening in the game, strategy, etc. This limited communication adds a unique challenge to …and then we held hands.
The gameplay of …and then we held hands is fairly simple. Each of the players is represented by a stone (either red or blue) on a board made up of nodes of various colors linked in a circular pattern. The colors of the nodes each correspond to one of the four emotions in the game: Black for sadness, red for anger, blue for calmness, and green for happiness.
Each player also begins with six emotion cards which have each has one of the four emotions on both the left and right side.
During the game, these cards will be splayed in front of each player so that only one side (either left or right) is visible at all times. The directions the cards splay is based on which side of the board the player ends his or her turn on, or if they’re in the middle (as they are at the start of the game), they may choose which direction their cards will go.
Finally, there is a deck of 24 objective cards, each of which depict one of the four colors/emotions in the game. These cards are shuffled and divided into three stacks of eight, which correspond to the beginning, middle, and end of the game.
On their turn, a player must travel between the nodes on the board by discarding emotion cards from in front of either player that match the nodes they visit. For example, if a player passes through a red, green, and blue node, they would need to discard cards from either in front of them or their partner with those colors showing. In addition, each player has an emotional balance scale which ranges from -2 to 2. Moving through nodes corresponding to “positive” emotions (happiness and calmness) increases your position on the emotional balance scale while the “negative” emotions (anger and sadness) decrease it. To continue the example from above, moving through a red, green, and blue node would lead to a net of +1 on the emotional balance scale: -1 for the red, and +1 for each of the green and blue. The importance of the emotional balance scale is that you only draw new emotion cards if you are balanced at the end of your turn. In other words, if you finish your move with an emotional balance of 0. Further, you can’t make a move that would push you off the scale. So, if you’re already at a -2, you can’t move to a black or red node.
The final aspect of the game are the objective cards which, as aforementioned, each depict one of the emotions in the game. To complete objectives, a player must end his or her turn on the node corresponding to the current objective. Further, for the second set of objectives, this node must be on the second (middle) ring of the board and for the third set of objectives it must be on the third (inner) ring. Once all of the objective cards are complete, players may attempt to move into the center of the board. If both players can get to the center on subsequent turns with their emotions in balance, they win!
There are a few conditions that cause the players to lose the game. If at the beginning of their turn a player isn’t able to make a move (either due to not having the appropriate emotion cards available or being too far out of balance to be able to move to certain colored nodes), both players lose. In addition, if the deck of emotion cards run out and players don’t have any cards left in front of them, they lose. Finally, the players lose if they aren’t able to enter the center of the board in emotional balance on subsequent turns. In other words, once one player has entered the center, on the next player’s turn, they must enter the center to win the game, or else they lose.
…and then we held hands seemed like such an easy game at first. Boy, was I wrong. This small game provided a powerful punch; the rule of not being able to talk was what killed me the most. However, this two-player co-op provided enough difficulty to be challenging, with changes in game play that allow for replayability, even after you’ve “beaten it.” For a $16 price point, this is a great pick up if you and someone special in your life needs a game just for the two of you . . . or if you need to secretly work out your emotions.
…and then we held hands what I would call a unique game. There aren’t many co-operative games just for two players that I can think of, and the mechanic that forbids players from discussing the game adds a twist to the gameplay. If players could talk freely, it would be pretty easy to make optimal moves because you could say things like “Don’t worry about the objective; I’ll get it on my turn”, or “Careful — if you play that card I won’t be able to move on my turn and we’ll lose!”. But as it is, players must anticipate what their partner will do and adapt accordingly. In addition, players must ensure that each other will be able to make legal moves and keep their emotions (relatively) in balance.
The components in the game as published by LudiCreations are great, especially the artwork on the cards which is certainly evocative of the emotions they’re meant to convey. The only complaint that I have is that the markers used to mark the players’ positions and emotional balance seem slightly too large and clunky for the board. It might’ve been better with just cardboard chits, but that’s a relatively minor issue for such a small, inexpensive game.
Overall, …and then we held hands is a good little game for 2 that takes only about 20 minutes to play and is a pretty good difficulty for couples who like to game together.