According to the story, in the time after the great flood all the peoples of the earth came from far and wide to an area known as Shinar and agreed to build a tower together. At the time they all spoke the same language, but seeing this, God decided to destroy the tower scattering them across the land and confounding their speech. In 7 Wonders Babel you will build a tower as well, but as it grows it will be the rules of the game that will be confounded and confused.
If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know that I’m a pretty big fan of the original 7 Wonders by Antoine Bauza. I rank it among my favourite games of all time. I quite enjoyed the 2-player version Duel and loved what the Leaders expansion brought to the base game. I was less of a fan of the Cities expansion. It’s not bad per se, but I think it messes up the streamlined game play in a way I’m not a huge fan of.
I had been hearing about Babel for many years before I actually got to play it. It was with high anticipation and not a small amount of nervousness that I first sat down to a table. You see, I’m not always a huge expansion fan. I often think that the designer’s got it right with the base game and expansions are more for the true fans of the game to refresh the game play a bit. That being said there have been a few notable exceptions to that and so another addition to such an important game to me was exciting.
Babel is really two expansions in one. There is the Towel of Babel part of it, and also the Great Projects. They can played on their own, together, or even combined with Leaders or Cities.
With the Tower of Babel, you will be building a tower together with your opponents in the hopes of changing the existing rules of the game in a way that are beneficial for you. The Babel board is where you will construct your monument; it is double-sided to accommodate different numbers of players. The game starts with a draft of Babel tiles that make up the different parts of the tower. Each player will have three Babel tiles to build throughout the course of the game.
These tiles offer a fourth option for players on their turn. When they discard a card, instead of taking three coins they can build one of their Babel tiles. The tiles represent changes to the regular base rules. Some punish players for constructing certain buildings or losing military battles, others will provide a benefit such as extra money for certain constructions or generate free resources. The rule changes are in play for as long as the tile is visible. As the tower is constructed tiles are added in a counterclockwise progression, so as one floor is completed the next floor begins and tiles start to be covered up. If there’s a rule change out there that is totally screwing you, it may benefit you to speed up the construction of the tower to cover that rule up. Likewise, you may want to slow construction down to keep a rule visible that is working well in your favour.
There are 24 different Babel tiles, so even in a seven player game they won’t all be in play. This ensures a good variety in the tiles that come up and the combinations of rules that you’ll see in play.
The Great Projects adds a option for players to contribute to a communal goal. A new great project is started each different age with a number of Participation tokens added to the Project equal to the number of players minus one. Each project relates to a certain type of building (Science, Commerce, Resource etc.) and also have a reward or penalty associated with them, depending on whether or not they are completed at the end of an age. Whenever a player builds a building of that type they can pay an extra cost to contribute to the Project. If they make this option they will take one of the Participation tokens.
At the end of each age you’ll look to see if the Project has been completed or not. If all the Participation tokens are gone, then, huzzah! You’ve completed the Project. Everyone who participated will get a reward for each Participation token they’ve gathered, those who have contributed will get nothing. If the Project hasn’t been completed, every player without a Participation token will incur the penalty for that Project. That can often mean discarding built cards, losing military victories or just cold hard cash. It forces players to decide if they want to invest in the project and take part in its success or ignore it and just hope that the project is completed, so they don’t have to pay the price.
7 Wonders Babel does some interesting things with the base game. The Tower causes changes to the standard rules that you’ve gotten used to. Some of those changes will benefit you, some will hurt your game. The Great Projects put players in difficult positions. They need to choose how they will approach the reward/penalty prospects facing them with each new age.
The art and components are pretty top notch, as you’ve probably come to expect with a 7 Wonders game. The game play synergizes pretty nicely with the base game and this expansion does add meat to the original experience. Do you need to buy it? …no, but bear in mind that’s what I’d say about most expansions. Babel is really very good and if you’re a fan of the series or a completist you definitely won’t regret your purchase.