Bow down to the Pantheon!
I have already reviewed 7 Wonders Duel (follow the link if you’d like to have a read) and I was actually genuinely surprised when I heard an expansion was coming. Needless to say, since I’ve enjoyed Duel so much I had to pick it up; let’s face it, it’d be pretty rude not to. Enter 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon. For ease of reading, I’ll just call it Pantheon from here on in.
Immediately upon hearing about Pantheon, I had to ask “is an expansion really necessary?”. Even now, I think the answer is probably no- or at least not for me. I’ve played Duel probably 30 odd times which is not tonnes, but it’s not exactly a low amount either. I think it’s a solid game and the difference in setup each game keeps it fresh. However, how does Pantheon work out with it? Well….
Hammer of the Gods
First things first, Pantheon mixes up a few things. There’s a whole new board which fits over the top of the normal war track board. There are also some tokens which are added to the card setup in the first and second ages, and this adds the first layer of additional strategy.
In the first age, the person which exposes the card with the token on collects it, whereas with Duel prime it would be the person which collects the card which gets the bonus. Sneaky sneaky!
The token has a representative image of one member of the Pantheon on it. The player then has a choice of 2 out of the 3 pantheon cards belonging to the Pantheon on the token (you can only choose the top 2 of 3 cards). Once they have chosen one, they get to place the Pantheon card on the additional board which comes with the second layer of new strategy.
Every place for a card on the Pantheon board has 2 costs on it, one for you, and one for the person you’re trying to humiliate in defeat. The closer the card is to you, the cheaper it is. However, the more expensive it is for the other player. As such, if you have something you want on the cheap, you need to snag and place it early, but if there’s something you want more then you have to ensure it’s not placed too far away otherwise you’ll incur the wrath of the god of frugality. That and it’ll cost you considerably more than if you place it near yourself.
In the second age, there are “offering tokens” which are added to the back of some of the cards. These quite simply offer a reduction on the cost of one of the Pantheon cards in the top when you go to purchase them. More layers of strategy! Do I swoop in and buy what I need early on or do I sit and hope for a cheap discount in the second age? Decisions, decisions…
In the third age, the guild cards which were normally placed in, in the base game are now replaced with Pantheon “Grand Temple” cards. Instead of offering you good ways of netting points at the end of the game in different ways like the guild cards do, the Grand Temple cards just offer you tonnes of points. You get 5 points for being in possession of one card at the end of the game, 12 points for 2 and an utterly decimating 21 points for having all 3. More layers of strategy!
What else is in the box though?
Alright, keep your hair on and I’ll tell you! Patience is a virtue you know.
The other things which have been included in Pantheon are 3 more green tokens to use during setup which are really powerful, 2 more Wonders, a snake token and the “Minerva Pawn” (I know, it sounds like adult programming, but is really useful). I am giving the list below on the assumption that you have already played 7 Wonders Duel. That’s my little caveat to say that if you don’t understand, it’s not you it’s me.
The new progress tokens included with Pantheon are:
Engineering- allows you to construct a building with a symbol on it like the sun or moon for one coin, even if you don’t have the other building.
Poliorcetics- I had to spell check that one a few times! Thinking about it, it sounds like an ancient Greek drunkard or something. Once collected this costs your opponent one coin for every space on the war track you advance.
Mysticism- Scores 2 points for each offering and Pantheon tokens you have at the end of the game. This is pretty self explanatory and I can’t think of any witticism to add to it.
The new Wonders brought in by Pantheon are the Divine Theatre and The Sanctuary; both of which have Pantheon related bonuses.
The snake token is a bonus used by activating Nisaba (of the Mesopatamian Pantheon- every day is a school day and thank you Google for the quick lesson) and it means that you can place it on your competitor’s science symbol and use it as your own. The Minerva pawn is placed on the War Track and is used to halt your opponent in their tracks, and is then discarded. Especially useful if your opponent is keen on military victories, or if you look suspiciously like you’re going to be decimated by one!
One thing that is always worth a mention, is how amazing the artwork is. The artwork for Duel was really good and they have certainly pulled out the stops for displaying these deities. I’m tempted to display some of them if I decide not to play Pantheon any more. It seems to be aimed towards adult men, but being an adult man I can see the appeal of them doing that, and even my wife agreed to a certain extent.
Godlike gaming, or shelf filling fluff?
Now that you know what’s in the expansion, the important question is: “is it worth having?”. I honestly think that the answer to that question is down to personal preference. If you have played a lot of Duel and are bored with it, then Pantheon is definitely the way forward. It shakes up the game enough that it will open up new strategies to get you towards the big win, but the core mechanics stay the same; meaning that you don’t have to re-learn the game to be able to play. For me, I think that the answer is yes, it is worth having, but this may not be the same for everyone.
All in all, I am really glad that I have Pantheon. It is a truly inventive addition to Duel and it is great fun to play too. I don’t think that I am going to rush it to the table all of the time, or even most of the time, but that is purely because I don’t feel I have had enough of Duel yet. But, I know that time will eventually come and I am well prepared for when it does.
Pantheon is probably the most innovative expansion I have seen to a game. I’m more used to expansions for deck builders where it’s just more of the same game, with slightly different strategy, so Pantheon has really opened my eyes to what an expansion can do. Playing with Pantheon really is a solid experience and the designers need commendation for the innovation. It is after all an expansion which changes the game enough, but not too much to alienate a player. Clever stuff!
For me, Pantheon is a fantastic play, and it will sit in my collection waiting for its calling. I’m sure it won’t be too far away, but I think it is still a way away yet. All in all, Pantheon is a great expansion. For the right person it’s a great addition to Duel. As such, I have to give it a truly deserved 8 Minerva Pawns out of 10. Cue the 70’s funk music….
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.