7 Wonders: Babel
- Designer: Antoine Bauza
- Publisher: REPOS (distributed by Asmodee)
- Ages: 10+
- Players: 2-7
- Time: ~40 minutes
- Times played: 5 (twice with review copy, three times in playtesting with Mr. Bauza or REPOS)
7 Wonders: Babel is the most recent expansion to the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, 7 Wonders. While I would expect that most of the readers of this blog would be familiar with 7W, if you aren’t – take a minute to go read a wonderful review of the base game written 3-and-a-half years ago by Larry Levy:
There, now that we’re all on the same page – let’s talk about this new expansion – which is actually two separate expansions in one box, and they can be played either independently or together. I will describe them separately…
TOWER OF BABEL EXPANSION
This expansion uses a board that represents the Tower of Babel. There are also 24 building tiles which are used with this expansion. Each of these tiles has a different special effect on it. During setup, each player is dealt 3 Babel tiles. Since it’s 7W, there’s obviously a draft with these! You keep one of the three tiles that you were dealt and then pass the rest to your right. You then keep one of the two tiles that you are given and pass the last one to the right. Each player now has a hand of 3 Babel tiles.
During the course of the game, you follow the regular rules with the additional possible action of discarding your chosen card in order to play one of your Babel tiles. Babel tiles are build as the very last part of a turn (after all players have performed all of their building, spending coins, wonders, etc). The Babel tiles in any given turn are built in numerical order from lowest to highest number.
Depending on the number of players, there are either three or four spaces available for Babel tiles. They are always built in a clockwise fashion. Thus, as the game continues, the earliest built tiles will end up being covered by more recently built ones. Each of the tiles has a new rule for the game which must be obeyed while that tile is visible on the tower.
Examples of tile effects include
- Pay a tax whenever you build a building of a particular type or use a chain
- Ignore the resource cost when building a Wonder or military building
- You can use your neighbor’s buildings to chain a building
- If you lose in Military conflict, take 2 defeat tokens instead of 1
- If you win in Military conflict, take a smaller token
- Some affect the cost of purchasing resources from your neighbors (+1 or -1)
- You may not use the double production brown cards
The game ends in the usual fashion, and the scoring has one additional change – at the end of the game you also score points for the number of Babel tiles that you have built: 2 VPs for 1 tile, 5VPs for 2 tiles, 10 VPs for all 3 tiles.
GREAT PROJECTS EXPANSION
This expansion uses 15 different Great Project cards. In each Age, you randomly draw out a Great Project card that matches the current Age and place it in the center of the table. On this card, a number of participation markers equal to (the number of players minus one) is placed on top.
Each Great Project card shows a color card in the upper left corner. Underneath this is a cost in coins and/or resources – this is the cost to participate in the building of this project. In the bottom of the card, you will see both a penalty (for not participating) and reward (for successfully completing).
Play continues following the usual 7 Wonders rules with the following changes for the Project… whenever a player plays a card matching the icon in the upper left corner of the Great Project, the player has the option to pay the participation cost shown on the Project card. If he does so, he takes a Token and places it on his Wonder board.
Also, near the end of the Age, before you figure out the Military Conflicts – you have to resolve the Great Project.
If all of the tokens are taken from the project, then it is a success. All players who have a participation token receive the pictured reward for each token they have. In this case, there is no penalty for not participating
If there are some tokens left on the project, then it has failed. All players who have a token are safe. Those players who do not have a token have to pay the penalty pictured on the card (discarding your coins, discarding a card of a particular color, losing the use of your Wonder). If you cannot pay the penalty, then you take a Penalty token of the corresponding Age.
There is no additional scoring from the Projects other than the tokens collected along the way.
My thoughts on the Expansions
Well, I’ve played this game five times now over the past two years, and each time, I’ve played with both portions in the same game – so I can only comment on how they work in tandem. The two new ideas add a lot of flexibility (and some chaos) to the game. The framework of the regular game remains in place, and these two pieces just add an extra layer or two of complexity onto the game.
Not only do you have to try to try to draft well (and try to remember which cards your opponents might have in their hands) – but now you also have to contend with the shifting rules of the Babel tiles. Your infrastructure may also be a little smaller as you end up discarding a few more cards from play if you play your Babel tiles instead. In the original game, I already had problems figuring out when to discard cards to build the three parts of my wonder, and now with the Babel tiles, I need to possibly find three more opportunities?!
Furthermore, your resources are stretched even a bit thinner as you might be enticed to participate in the building of the Great Projects. It’s a hard decision to spend the extra coins and possibly resources to participate – but the rewards can be really good (or honestly, the penalties can be severely painful – having to discard one of your expensive cards can really suck…)
I’ve found that when I play with these added pieces, there is almost too much going on for me to track – and my solution to this is to simply stop trying to remember all the things that are going on and instead just go with the flow. Surprisingly, I’ve found that this strategy doesn’t seem to affect my ability to compete in the games, and it takes significantly less brainpower to do so!
I would probably say that I still prefer the base game on its own, but this expansion does add a few interesting twists while keeping the spirit of the base game intact. For those of you looking for a more complex form of 7W – this may be for you!
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:
I love it!
I like it. Jennifer G, Eric M, Dale Y, John P
Neutral. Luke H
Not for me…
So this review is kind of positive, which is good. I think the great projects looks interesting but perhaps not worth paying the (expensive) price for the entire expansion.