I bought Duel 2 days ago and Pantheon yesterday. Where I live, the base came costs 25 euro, and the expansion costs 16. I had played one game of Duel and I played one game of Pantheon.
Is this enough to give a review? That depends on you, dear reader. But there is a scarcity of reveiws for this board game and I wanted to give something back to this forum which has helped me a lot when I first bought my copy of the original 7 wonders game. I do have a lot of experience with 7 Wonders (Original)
There are several kinds of people that might show interest in this game, and I will give you all the short answer right here. Furhter reading can be found after, if you care to continue.
1. You own and have played 7 Wonders Duel.
In this case, I will wholeheartedly recommend the expansion. The biggest addition of Pantheon is not "moar points" or "moar wonders". It is the horizontal versatility of an additional action that is as close as you can get to "skip turn" in this game. And since you know just how valuable this can be in Duel, you will see my point now.
2. You don't own 7 Wonders Duel and are debating if you should get both games together, but you have played and understand the original 7 Wonders game for up to 7 players
What I can recommend is this. Buy the base game and ask the store clerk to keep one copy of Pantheon for you until the next day. Go home and play one or two games on the base game and get a feeling for it. Make sure you choose someone who would play competitively and plan out their moves. If you love the base game wou will be itching to see what Pantheon offers. Go and buy it the next day. If you hate the base game, then I suppose this kind of 1 on 1 board game experience is just not for you, and that's perfectly fine.
2. You don't own and have not played any 7 wonders game so far
Well let me tell you right now what to expect out of the 7 Wonders games. They are board games that reward planning, memory and the ability to adapt your strategy based on changing conditions. If Monopoly is almost entirely based on luck, and chess is almost entirely based on skill, the original 7 Wonders game would be 60/40 Luck/Skill while Duel is 40/60 luck/Skill. Got only 2 people? Get Duel. Got 3-7? Get 7 Wonders. Expect a tedious first session where you slowly learn the rules and constantly reference the manual because you don't know what this or that card does.
You will discover layers and layers of tiny nuances in play that could give you an advantage. Remembering what cards could be drafted and what are the costs of cards for the next age are huge advantages, for example. Just play and knowledge will come naturally with experience. If you are the kind of person who enjoys strategic thinking then you will love both games. If you just want to roll dice or guess at words, then you will find these games tedious and overly long.
The long story
I don't know why there are so many negative or "on the fence" reviews about Pantheon. This expansion does not detract from any of the features of the base game and only gives you more options and an improved flow of gameplay. It also reduces the luck factor that determines who starts first in age 1 and what cards get placed on the table.
In 7WD (7 wonders Duel) you can reliably plan your and your oponent's actions for a few turns ahead and have a reasonable estimation on what your and their best play is. With the deity cards added by Pantheon, you can have 2 or 3 turns (maybe even more if you are swimming in gold) in ages II and III that don't touch the cards on the board. Meaning you can force your opponent to play/discard a card and open up a card that would help you advance your path to victory. Pantheon gives more value to coins, so much so that you will rarely find yourself swimming in 15+ coins at the end of the game, and that is a good thing for me.
Duel allows you to pick and activate powers that offer effects that cannot be obtained through other means. It is a great example of horizontal expansion of features. The gods are not just ways to get more points. They offer things like a hard block of your enemy's war path that essentially requires them to play at least 1 more military card to reach their objective, the disabling of an enemy wonder's continuous effect (such as giving resources/points etc.) and in the process also moving that buried card back to the discard pile (which can then be dug up via use of the appropriate wonder speciality), the stealing of enemy wonders, incredible tempo plays, such as stealing an enemy grey or brown card, more ways to get the set of 6 science symbols etc. etc.
Why people would whine about this plethora of potential plays given baffles me, since 7 Wonders is all about evaluating potential moves and choosing the best one. There are a lot of nuances that are not readily apparent, such as deity placement. Let's evaluate a seemingly simple choice in Pantheon.
Baal is available. It's the start of Age II. His power is "Steal a brown or grey card from your opponent's city and add it to your own." If your knee-jerk reaction is that this is "Lame" then you are either very new to this kind of game or it's simply not your cup of tea. Let's disect the implications of this action. It's essentially pay (X) gold to:
- Your opponent loses 1 turn
- You gain a free turn.
- Your opponent loses their most valuable/impactful resources
- You gain that resource
If your oponent built a Glassworks at the start of age II and then buried or discarded the second one in order to force you to pay 3 gold per glass used and then you play this card you immediately reverse the situation. But if you play it early, they can still recover in age II. What if you activate it in age 3? They cannot find another copy of glass and must pay more. But the opportunity cost is an age III action. But this can actually be a benefit if the only actions in age III are bad for you and good for your opponnent.
The closest the base game of Duel comes to this is the wonder that discards an opponent's grey card. But wonders can be planned around from the start, since the wonder selection phase precedes the start of the game. Wonders are also random, you can only ever choose 8 out of 12, so you might not get it in that game. Deities are chosen deliberately and the way the system works is that the chance for a single desired deity to be put in play is quite high. It certainly could be planned for to some extent.
If you are a veteran of 7 Wonders and are debating if you should get Duel or Duel+Pantheon, I do think you will enjoy these games. It's essentially 7 Wonders that reduces the impact of luck, changes Science and Military victory to not be based entirely on points but rather, to be an "exodia" type finale that can win you the game regardless of the points difference. Upgrade cards now have graphical symbols that help you immediately tell whicih one you can build for free. You have more options of taking alternative paths that don't rely on hard built resources. All in all - you will like the game. Probably the best improvement over regular seven wonders is that with only 2 players there is no danger of inept players doing sub par plays that help your oponent amass points. Anyone who's had Babylon get a million points from science on the opposite end of a 6/7 player table knows what I'm talking about.
In Duel everything is in your hands and bad luck can be mitigated to some extent.
Duel has one imbalanced (IMO) token - the -2 discount for blue buildings. It is a huge advantage for the one who picks it up. It can still be countered/played around to some extent, but it is significantly more powerful than the other tokens. Pantheon adds a token that lets you build upgrade buildings at a cost of 1 coin, which essentially equalizes the playing field.
Duration of a game session: Contrary to other reveiewers I will say the game is NOT slow. Unless you are a complete novice to the 7 Wonders mechanics and are just now familiarizing yourself with the rules, you can expect a single session to last approximately 30-40 minutes, card placement and all. The more you play, the faster you will finish your sessions because you will know at a glance what the current best play is and what all the cards can do. Since this is a board game intended for a fun gaming session with a friend or your significant other, I don't understand how you would want it to be any faster paced than this. A regular song is approximately 3 minutes long. Literally 10 songs on your playlist would have passed and the game is done, and you can start over. Once you are done discussing how you could have done this instead of that and how lucky the person was to get this or that card heh.
Price: I have resigned myself that board games are relatively more expensive than digital PC games. This is to be expected, you are not only paying for the IP and design work, you are also paying for the beautiful, luxury printed cards, boards, manuals and boxes. Printed stuff is expensive. I'm not sure how the prices vary in different countries, but in the EU 15 euro can be the price of a dinner for two (where I live) or a single pint of beer (Scandinavian countries). So price is relative to your local economy and to your personal income. I will gladly spend the price of a dinner for two to get this expansion. I'm sure most westerners would spend the equivalent of a pint or two on it and even if they don't fall in love with it, it's not the end of the world.
If you have EVER spent money on movie tickets for suspect blockbuster titles, you have no excuse not to give this board game a try.
Welcome to BGG, Peter!
You're off to an ambitious start and I look forward to seeing more of your contributions.
Welcome to BGG! Thanks for the review!