...in which I veer - not stray - from the DCC RPG path to gush about the glorious new offering from Repos Production. 7 Wonders: Babel caught my eye while on the shelf at Gateway Games & More in Cincinnati, to where we'd made our second pilgrimage of the year just to meet up with the Mutant Murder Hobos for the night.
Could I have waited & ordered it from Amazon? Hell no. Had to support our favorite FNSLGS (friendly not-so-local game shop)... and, well, truth be known, I'm a bit of a fiend when it comes to 7W. It's eerily similar to my fascination with DCC.
The packaging needs to be this size primarily for the first expansion, Tower of Babel. Granted, the base board could be thinner/smaller and still impart the same feel, but after repeated use it - and the tower segments - would probably disintegrate quickly. This first expansion allows you to affect costs, penalties, and bonuses for the entire table, throughout the Ages (they do not reset at the end of each Age). All of the visuals fit in perfectly with the preexisting art, but I do wish the main the board had a little more to do with the regular gameplay. I am chomping at the bit to play this with 6 others, as it does lose something in a 2-player game (the "blind" Free city has no impact). Combining the two seems preferable in this case.
The second expansion, Great Projects, places one card in the middle of the table (just a little larger than the normal Wonder boards) and all players have the option to cooperatively help build the project within one Age for a considerable bonus, provided they can produce a building of the corresponding color. There are a lot of strategic opportunities here -- if you discard or bury the card(s) your opponent(s) are looking for, you could stick them with the hefty penalty for not completing the project after starting it. It is possible to participate with each hand, and for each participation token, you gain that many instances of the reward upon completion.
The first thing the insert tells you is that these expansions should be played separately before combining them together or with the other expansions (Cities, Leaders, or the Wonder Pack). They're not blowing smoke. If you try to jump into one (or both) without easing your way in, it could be very frustrating. Do yourself a favor and allow 5-10 minutes before play to go over the rules, and you'll realize the strategic value!
(Incidentally, it's the first actual review I've had been "published" on Amazon.)
Hope this helps nudge anyone who's on the fence about getting this one -- but please, suck up the retail price and support your FLGS!