Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Antoine Bauza


No. of Players:
2 - 7



The box of Babel actually contains two expansions at the same time. They can be played separately, and indeed even seasoned 7 Wonders players are counseled first to play each Babel-expansion on its own before combining both expansions or adding Cities or Leaders. Considering the fact that these new expansions do not just add new cards but completely new mechanics, it is indeed sensible to follow this advice, because players really need to get familiar with the new elements before a "full" game can be played at highest enjoyment.

The first of the two expansions focuses on the building of the Tower of Babel. During setup an empty Tower-board is placed at the middle of the table, and each player receives a hand of three randomly dealt Tower tiles which are then drafted following rules similar to those of the Leaders-expansion. When these preparations have been made, the game can start with the first age, and in principle all three ages then will be played through in normal fashion. However, there is one different in so far as the players now will get a fourth possibility how to use their building card in a given round. So, a player now can decide to discard his chosen building card in order to build one of the Tower tiles from his hand, and this new part of the Tower then will be placed onto the central Tower board.

The tricky thing about these Tower tiles is the fact that each tile lists its own special effect which will alter the rules of the game. So, some of the tiles will increase the costs of certain types of cards, whereas others may allow the usage of a neighbor's building in order to acquire a free "chain" building. Other Tower tiles may modify the value of military defeats or victories, whereas even other tiles may increase of lower prices for purchasing resources from neighboring players. The choice of possible effects is broad, and each of the 24 Tower tiles lists its own unique effect. This actually might cause a fear that the game may become overburdened by rules alterations, but this fear is needless because of the special nature of the Tower itself. Only three or four Tower tiles can be in play at any given time (depending on the number of players), and with the placement of the fourth and every following Tower tile the older tiles and their effects will be covered. So there is a chance to remove a highly unpopular effect, and in order to make investments into Tower tiles more worthwhile all players will receive up to 10 extra victory points at the end of the game if they have built all three of their Tower tiles.

The other half of Babel are the Great Projects of Babel in which all players may participate. At the beginning of each age a new Great Project will be revealed, any its shows a prestigious building which the players may build together. Each great project shows one of the basic building card colours, and whenever a player builds a building of that colour he is allowed to make an extra payment in resources/coins in order to take a Participation token from the Great Project.

When the project had been revealed, a number of Participation tokens corresponding to the number of players minus one had been placed on the project card, and if the players should fail to collect all of these tokens before the end of the current age the Great Project will be considered a failure. In this case all players who have not acquired at least one Participation token during the current age will have to pay a penalty as listed on the project card, and this may be the loss of a building, money or victory tokens. If, on the other hand, the Great Project had been properly finished, all players who have participated in the project will receive benefits for their Participation tokens. These benefits range quite widely from money, military strength or victory tokens to a free building or an increase of the value of the player's wonder stages, and to keep track of all these effects a total of 166 (!) additional tokens has been included in Babel. Mind you, this is not 166 unique tokens, but apart from additional coins and victory point markers the expansion still includes multiple copies of a good number of new effect markers.

7 Wonders Babel is indeed a new milestone for the developers of 7 Wonders, because the expansion greatly changes the general orientation of the game. Up to now the players had to focus mostly on the cards at hand during the drafting process, but now the development on the common Tower board and the Great Project need to be taken into consideration. This forces the players to think in rather different ways, since resources and money need to be re-directed especially towards the Great Projects which may - in turn - turn out to be a wise investment because of the associated benefits. It may seem like a gamble to speculate whether a project really will be finished, but usually the other players will have their own interest to finish the project because of the threatened penalty. But nonetheless things may get tantalizing if a project is still unfinished before the last round of an age.

The eponymous Tower is a wonder of its own, since it introduces a new degree of player interaction which is yet unknown to 7 Wonders. I like the fact that the negative effects brought about by some of the Tower tiles are mostly indirect, so that no player sees his buildings destroyed. Instead, these tiles will force the players to rethink their current strategies in order to avoid the impact of the negative tiles, and in most cases the drafting mechanism of 7 Wonders will give the players enough flexibility to do so. However, a well-timed new Tower tile may have some nasty effects especially if it is played during the last rounds of an age, and such a late placement can rarely be tackled properly. Quite interesting is also the fact that the Tower will develop rather differently from game to game. Sometimes the players will battle for Tower tile predominance in order to get unwanted tiles out of play, whereas at other times the players should be content with some beneficial tiles available in the Tower and so everybody will focus on their own wonder. All this proves for the renewed degree of variety which can be found in 7 Wonders Babel, and even seasoned players will be surprised how different it can feel to play one of their favourite games!

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Copyright & copy; 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany