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7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review: 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon rss

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Farts McGee
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I imagine that my daily life of looking at the 3 stone and one glass at my homestead as an ancient Mesopotamian is perfectly depicted in the instant classic of 7 Wonders Duel. As I carefully review the intricately arranged future of my civilization I wonder how my selected deity of Nisaba really feels about my choice to build a bath instead of picking a science card. I mean er, science development. Mainly, i just want to spend more time with Nisaba or maybe Aphrodite. How will your faith be explored as you play through the pantheon in the expansion new 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon?

Overview:
Pantheon is an expansion to the popular 2 player civilization building 7 Wonders Duel. It expands the game with 2 new wonders, a replacement for the guilds in the third era and the eponymous pantheon. The pantheon consists of 15 gods from 5 ancient civilizations. Each of these civilizations have general themes which play into various strategies. The Egyptian gods grant bonuses to wonders, the Greek gods play into improvement card strategies, Mesopotamians advance science, Romans provide military, and finally the Phoenicians grant economic boons.

During any game of Duel: Pantheon, the 5 gods in play are selected during the first era by a token system. At the beginning of the first era, 5 tokens associate with various civilizations are randomly distributed to five set unrevealed cards on the structure. When a player removes a card that causes a card with a token on it to be revealed, they then get to select a god from the associated civilization. This god is placed facedown on the pantheon board. The pantheon board consists of 6 slots that assign the cost to activate a god based on the proximity to the player. The further from a player the slot is, the more the expense.

After the five gods are selected during the first era, the remaining slot in the pantheon is filled with the Gate, which acts as a wild card for the remaining unselected deities. All of the selected gods from the first era are then revealed. Starting in the second era you can spend money to activate one of the various deities. The impact of these cards generally falls slightly below the power of a wonder. Importantly, the activation of a deity does not require a card to be consumed from the structure, functionally giving a mechanism to "pass" on card selection that wasn't available in the base game. The second era has 3 offering tokens that are distributed in a similar fashion to the tokens in the first era. The offerings are discounts for activation of a god.

Finally, the third round introduces three Grand temples which provide large point bonuses depending on the number collected by the player. One temple grants 5 points, two 12 points and if you collect all three it's worth 21 points. These replace the original guild cards.

Does it make the game take longer?
Yeah, definitely. Setup is nominally longer because of the tokens to place in the first and second era, as well as the various stacks of gods that need to be set out. There are several extra steps each game with god selection that can generally be done during an opponent's turn. These shouldn't increase game time much for experienced players, but will certainly stretch out the first couple play throughs, as there are several new symbols to learn. Where game length is the most impacted, though, is having to consider a bunch of extra decisions every turns in era II on. For us, which consists of my wife, my son, and myself, this generally amounted to nearly 10 extra minutes of play time for a game of duel. This isn't a huge deal, but honestly one of the big appeals of Duel was the fact that you could crank out a play in about 20 minutes.

How much impact does it have on the game?
A ton. The fact that the gods give extra access to all of the major strategies: science, military, civ building, big money, and wonders. means that minor set backs on your path to victory may not be as game ending as they were previously. Conversely the fact that you have a means of getting extra money/wonders means you can pursue a bunch of new strategies with this as well. In our last game, my son was able to beat me with a science victory without having picked up *any* resource cards. In the dozens of playthroughs of duel prior to that, I had never seen that approach come close to working. The strategic variety offered by the gods I think makes it worth picking this expansion up by itself.

That's not the only place Pantheon matters though. This expansion addresses two major issues with the base game that became painfully evident on dozens of play throughs, at least it was for our little family meta-game. The first, controlling repeat action wonders was simply too strong. If the draws for the wonders came out wrong or if you chose wrong early, the ability to change the turn order at will could be too much of a deficit to climb out of. The pantheon allows both players to flip the turn order by not selecting a card out of the structure. Since access to the pantheon allows you pass on pulling a card you aren't always forced to give your opponent the cards that are integral to their strategies. This ability is balanced out by the fact that it isn't cheap and gets progressively expensive each time a player uses it. Dabbling in the divine will eat up a good portion of your income. This leaves the wonders that give extra turns still quite strong, but it isn't the most reliable road to victory anymore.

The second major issue that this expansion addresses is the penalty for revealing cards. Flipping cards from the structure was horrifyingly painful. You were very likely to reveal a critical card to your opponent that could be claimed or burned leaving you at a disadvantage. The use of tokens offsets the huge penalties that revealing a card brought. Choosing which deity is cheap/expensive for you is really important, and potentially game changing. The core experience of changing access to cards is left unchanged since turn order and tactical choices are still the core of the game, it just makes card flipping less of a massive penalty.

Regarding the temples in the third era, i'm indifferent. The guilds in the base game were generally lackluster. The nature of the grand temples is at least higher stakes since they may provide 21 points, but honestly they still aren't as pivotal as they could be. Any three cards in the third era could potentially be worth roughly just as much or a game win based on military/science conditions. Ideally, to me, the special cards in the 3rd era should provide a capstone scoring moment to reward a strong dedicated strategy. The guilds in the base kind of provided this, but honestly never had as much impact as say... the palace. Pantheon doesn't change this at all, they are only tangentially tied to gods, and are essentially lead in strategy independent. Most players will have either the resources or economy necessary to obtain a given temple by round 3, so the decision making isn't terribly painful there either. I think that the third era special cards are still trying to find the appropriate impact in the game, sadly pantheon doesn't really fix this.

Finally the last major improvement is the improvement to replayability. You'll only see a third of the gods in play in any given game so this allows for a lot more variability per game.

What do I think?
I like it. I like it a lot. The basic game play experience of the exceptionally tight and fluid Duel is left unhampered. Instead the expansion provides balance to the abuses of random card distribution that caused hiccups in the otherwise strong base game. Extra strategic choices and more roads to success keeps every decision tight, and more access to flipping the turn order keeps the last few turns of an era from being a painful exercise in determinism.

Unsurprisingly the art and production values are top notch. I also found out from my wife that price point on this game was 26 bucks! That's pretty painful for a handful of cards. This honestly decreases my opinion of the expansion. It's a great expansion, but if I knew how much the missus spent on it, I would have told her to wait.

The extended play time is kind of a bummer, it means that I will probably playing Duel without the expansion from time to time. Additionally new rules means that the learning game will always be without the expansion, but otherwise it's easy to endorse this expansion as a great addition to a great game.
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Adam Wolff
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is it worth it being more expensive than even the base game?
 
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Farts McGee
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No, that's bonkers. My wife picked it up and I found out last night that it cost 26 bucks. The price point is awful.
 
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Mike Qunell
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I agree. It's $35 on Amazon. I know it is available elsewhere for cheaper but the added cost of shipping still makes it pretty pricey when compared to the base game.
 
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Farts McGee
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Yeah I amended my review accordingly. Also a few grammatical issues.
 
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Stephen Sanders
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DNA results:Scottish, Dutch, English, Irish, German, French, Iberian Peninsula = 100% American!
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FartsMcGee wrote:

How much impact does it have on the game?
A ton. The fact that the gods give extra access to all of the major strategies: science, military, civ building, big money, and wonders. means that minor set backs on your path to victory may not be as game ending as they were previously.


This is what I was afraid all the new elements would do, after watching a video playthrough. Seems like it was quite a different game, that looked like something I'd played before that I really liked already, but was now a bit overwrought with options.


FartsMcGee wrote:
The second major issue that this expansion addresses is the penalty for revealing cards. Flipping cards from the structure was horrifyingly painful. You were very likely to reveal a critical card to your opponent that could be claimed or burned leaving you at a disadvantage.


It can be painful, but is a fun feature that adds a neat tension. I find that this revealing issue largely evens out, but it does occasionally provide an advantage to one player.

FartsMcGee wrote:
Regarding the temples in the third era, i'm indifferent. The guilds in the base game were generally lackluster.


I've always felt ok with the guild cards, because there are only 3 of them. The only cards I really worry about are the 2 military cards that advance up to 4 spaces, but they are expensive and sometimes players are not able to afford them.

Good, well-thought out review!
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Farts McGee
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Thanks for your reply. All valid points. I totally agree that the flipping mechanic added a bunch of fun tension and a bit of unpredictability. Importantly, that tension of revealing important cards isn't diluted with the expansion, but rather the power plays where you could burn a card, build a wonder and *THEN* force your opponent to flip to feed your next play are mitigated by the Pantheon. While those plays were fun to pull off, being on the receiving end might as well have been a shovel to the face when you're then forced to reveal a card with no options. The pantheon lets you lean on the ropes with a bail out to keep the game from running away.

I agree, though that while the fundamental experience of the game is still quite similar, your strategy will have to change quite a bit to optimize your approach to this one. Presently I'm on a huge losing streak to the wife and kid, whereas I was a dominant force in vanilla.
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Jon W
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Great review, comprehensive and well-written. Thanks!

FartsMcGee wrote:
Does it make the game take longer?
Yeah, definitely.

This sounds a lot like the impact of 7 Wonders: Leaders. It also sounds a little "messy" in terms of extra piles, steps, etc.

Quote:
How much impact does it have on the game?
... In our last game, my son was able to beat me with a science victory without having picked up *any* resource cards.

That's very appealing. I find in the base game that red/green isn't something you pursue, but rather something you get pushed into. Nice to have more flexibility, and more outs if you do get backed into a corner.

Quote:
This expansion addresses two major issues with the base game that became painfully evident on dozens of play throughs
...controlling repeat action wonders was simply too strong
...the penalty for revealing cards

This too is good news, esp. having some offset for revealing cards. I like the up/down mechanism, as it creates tension and differing valuations in the current tableau, but yeah, revealing cards sucks. Unless it doesn't, and then you start to wonder just how much luck is really involved here. So I'm glad there's at least a nod to this in the expansion.

Quote:
You'll only see a third of the gods in play in any given game so this allows for a lot more variability per game.

Given the door, one player will see two-thirds, right? Which I'm not so fond of in a casual game, as you'll need to be aware of all the god powers, not just the visible ones. But point taken.

Too bad about the price, but you've got me awfully tempted here. Again, thanks, great review.
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