7 Wonders Babel is the expansion I was waiting for all last year! 2014 was a year of solid expansions across the board. We saw additions to some already great titles like Eldritch Horror and Terra Mystica. However those games for the most part were good enough already and the expansions were just icing on the cake. However, I felt that 7 Wonders was overdue something new! It’s a solid game already and one of my favourites, but simply sticking in more cards isn’t enough, it needed something more, something new!
Looking for More Wonder??? Then Check Out Babel!!!
So, finally, we have 7 Wonders Babel - which seeks to address the main complaint that people seem to have about 7 Wonders… The lack of interactivity or concern for players more than one space away from you!
Now I’ve never agreed that the interactivity isn’t there. You have to really keep an eye on your neighbours and you can’t simply ignore the other players. What if someone further afield is harvesting science cards? Are you going to simply hope that a neighbour throws a spanner in the works or are you going to get your toolkit out? Granted, it’s not as direct as some might like, but in a Euro game this is a pretty standard affair.
So does Babel resolve the problem?
MODULE 1 – BUILDING THE TOWER OF BABEL!!!
The 7 Wonders Babel expansion comes in two modules. The first involves the construction of the legendary tower of Babel which uses a new board and a ton of tiles with the classic 7 Wonders iconography on them.
Each player drafts 3 of the tower tiles before the game begins and on their turn, as an action, they draft a card and discard it to place one of these tiles on the tower board.
Each tile confers an ability or effect that affects everyone at the table. These abilities range from additional resources, imposing a tax on building specific colour cards or even rewarding players for building them. The tiles are placed in a ring, but once the ring is complete, any further tiles are placed on top of the first tile placed on the board. This overlap of previous tiles causes the tower to grow in height, so as you play the tiles you are essentially building the tower!
Finally, at the end of the game you will receive bonus victory points for having contributed to the tower.
This is my personal favourite of the two modules. Those who thought 7 Wonders was essentially semi-solitaire can think again. These abilities can be game-changing when played right and as they affect everyone globally, you can now think more about the players further afield. If they collect the blue culture cards, then that tile in your hand that taxes the player to build blues can mess them up and force them to either play more tiles to cover yours or change strategy mid-game. I made a killing in one game where I imposed a law that doubled all military defeat tokens and then I proceeded to steamroll the petty defences raised by my neighbours.
There’s a large amount of variety in the Tower of Babel tiles and there’s enough that your games will rarely play out the same way – especially with larger player counts.
Now, there are a few more symbols to learn in Babel, as is always the case with 7 Wonders expansions, but let’s face it… You’re likely already a 7 Wonders veteran by this point and the symbols are pretty self-explanatory! In fact, some symbols are exactly the same as their counterpart cards and the new ones are easily worked out with a bit of common sense.
I know some people will still claim it’s more complex, but I humbly disagree; perhaps I’m just good with iconography!?!
MODULE 2 – INVESTING IN THE GREAT PROJECTS!!!
The Great Projects module is a unique idea that forces players to consider working together for the greater good. At the start of each of the three ages, an oversized Great Project card is drawn, which shows a project in progress. Wall ramparts, for example, a sewer network or a trading caravan road. Each great project is tied to a specific colour which is important during play.
Several wooden “participation” tokens are placed on these oversized cards and as each player plays a card of the same colour as the great project, they have the option to pay an additional cost! This cost is on top of the card cost, in money and/or resources, and let’s you take one of the tokens off the card.
When an age finishes, if all of the participation tokens have been removed, all players who contributed to the build receive a bonus of money, VP’s, one-use abilities, etc. However; if at least one token remains, the project fails and those who didn’t contribute suffer a negative penalty! Be warned… If you can’t pay the penalty, you lose victory points!
This is definitely the module you play if you want to see the group interact more. In the later age’s, the additional cost of taking a token can be considerable and you’ve no guarantee that the project is going to succeed so you’re trying to negotiate with other players to contribute or at the very least try to avoid the penalty themselves. From experience, it’s also very satisfying to sit back and let a project tank just to deny others the bonus! Again, as with the Tower of Babel tiles, there is a good amount of variety here because you only use one card per age.
SO HOW DOES THIS ALL COMBINE??? IMPROVING 7 WONDERS!!!
The two new modules can be played separately, or together, but in all honesty there is no reason why you would use them separately other than to learn the game to begin with. Even then, by now you’re probably a 7 Wonders veteran and can easily adapt to the new additions – in fact they require less effort than Leaders did! In Leaders you added a whole new phase to the game, with these you’re simply adding a new action and a new choice for an already established action! Easy! I’d go as far to say that this expansion, in its entirety, is easier to teach to new players from the off than Leaders is! Also, speaking of Leaders, you don’t actually need Leaders or Cities to use Babel!
By adding the 7 Wonders Babel modules, you’re adding more choices to the game beyond simply choosing your card in the draft phase. The global effects of the tower cannot simply be ignored and you now have to think about whether a project is worth investing in or whether you can take the brunt and let it fail, thus picking your battles.
Time wise 7 Wonders Babel doesn’t really extend the game that much other than maybe 5-10 minutes max to account for drafting the Babel tiles at the start and the additional element of book-keeping for the projects at the end of each Age. We’ve barely noticed the difference on our plays using every expansion possible!
The only issue you may face with 7 Wonders Babel is the storage. This expansion comes with a lot of pieces, you’ve got the Babel tiles for a start, but then you have the project cards and the tokens that represent all of the potential rewards (including some tokens that add to previous ones) and penalties that you may suffer from them. It seems a little overkill and I highly recommend the use of a tackle box or craft box with dividers to keep the pieces in, one that fits inside the base game box! I’ve managed to do it as you can see below and I have every official expansion to date fully sleeved, but it’s a close call, so you might want to hang on to the Babel box just in case. Be prepared for a bit of re-organisation when you get this, but at least you feel you got your money’s worth.
The Final Verdict… Is 7 Wonders Babel Wonderful???
With 7 Wonders Babel, the base game has a new lease of life. The actions of the other players in the game now carry more significance and everyone has more choices during their game. If you are concerned that 7 Wonders is dying down in your group, grab this expansion and resurrect it! The added mechanics seem so small at first glance, but make a big improvement overall! All you have to do is learn a few more symbols which are very intuitive (more so than Leaders & Cities by far) and quickly become second nature. Just have a backup plan for storing the game ready, especially if, like me, you own every single 7 Wonders expansion!
You Will Like This Game If:
- You already love 7 Wonders and want to increase the choices and interactivity in the game.
- You want an expansion that isn’t dependant on having Leaders & Cities to implement.
- You don’t want to make the game too complex – each module can be played on its own and taught in mere minutes.
You Will Not Like This Game If:
- Storage is a concern – you can fit everything in one box, but it will take a little effort.
- You don’t want more symbols to learn – they’re fairly intuitive, but some people aren’t a fan.
- You don’t want the game to be too punishing – novices might get left behind to begin with.
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.