Z-Man Games Edition
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In Babel, building the highest temples will make you the ultimate leader, the most feared out of all the land. Use your disciples wisely on your construction sites, but beware, your opponent will try to convince your workers to betray you and even destroy all of your hard work! In this subtle game where hand management, placement and he importance of knowing when to move your workers from one structure to another meet, Babel is very interactive…this means war!
Average Rating: 3.8 in 8 reviews
The mix of Uwe Rosenberg innovation and the excellent production values of Kosmos yield a a winner! Uwe has knack for applying the slightest tweaks to standard card play which take his games to the next level. Here was a game where upon first play, I was just waiting for the game to break. But it is along these lines that the tension grows. After a few plays, this game now always comes to a heated conclusion. Very much possessing an in your face and take that style of play. If you don't like that sort of thing, this probably won't change your mind. But me and my friends love it!
In my top three Kosmos 2 player games, Babel rates below Hera and Zeus and above Hellas. This is a game which seems like it will never bet old for me!
I am suprised to not see more stars in the reviews of this game. The strategy is deep and facinating, without being brain-bustingly painful to plan a good move. It has great components of managing resources, managing risk, balancing offense and defense, and punishment for overextension. Best of all, it isn't excessively complicated. It has enough luck to keep things interesting, but strong play will win. Games seem to last the perfect amount of time, and it is usually a close, hard-fought match up to the end. The end usually comes pretty suddenly, so you don't have a painful slow finish. While the game is on however, your game position usually isn't hopeless, so it is still fun to play when you are not winning. This is my favorite 2 player game!
When I first saw Babel in a booklet I was interested. Now I have It I love it! You can't really plan ahead a lot because the situation changes every turn but that's okay for me. You have like endless things to do but... so does your 'enemy'. Because that's how you will feel about the other if he is tearing down your 6 layer temple you worked so hard for. But it's a great feeling to steal your oponent's cards and then use them agains him. Prepare for a heated game!
I love this game! It is wonderfully cut-throat; which means you have to play it with the right person. There are plenty of options you will have to select from in deciding how best to smack down your opponent. Unfortunately, there is a big luck of the draw factor with regard to which temple cards you draw for your opponent to use. If you draw the cards they need, it can be very damaging to your efforts.
More than any card game I've played, Babel gives you quite a thrill when you are able to calculate a huge move and a surprise victory. There's always lots of tension playing this game.
One major modification to the rules that we use is that once a temple is totally completed, your opponent can no longer use the Assyrians to destroy the temple. This creates an interesting dynamic to the game and helps to make it considerably shorter, which is vital. Babel is constantly coming out of the game closet.
A new game in the [page scan/se=0546/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]two player series from Kosmos. This time by a duo, Uwe 'Mr. Bean' Rosenberg and Hagen Dorgathen.
Open the box and in the center a board is laid down between the two players which reminds me of Lost Cities, but the game play has really nothing to do with it. This game is complex. Very tactical by means of all the possible moves it allows.
The game plays on the banks of the Euphrat and Tigris (have I seen that before?) where the aim of the game is to build temples of 6 stories. Each player has 5 building locations, and the player to reach 15 points--with the opponent below 10 points--wins the game. The points are the sum of the top level. If the opponent has more than 10 points, then the game is continued until one player reaches 20 and has played it opponent under the 10 points (unless the first occasion happens first). If that doesn't work, then who has most points after the last temple card is drawn.
Well, 15 points, that is 2.5 temples. That shouldn't be too hard.... Forget it, it just isn't. Building temples is as easy as they are destructed and the best possible tactics should be chosen to balance the game for yourself. If you solely focus on building one temple, you're going to be an easy target, so you have to spread it more evenly. But the most complex issue of the game is the finding the correct tactics. The drawing of the cards (people cards and temple cards) leans heavily on the luck factor influencing the game. Somehow, you have to compensate this with tactics, and to my opinion this works (even though I had my doubts at first and I know the first game was frustrating). And tactics there are. During your turn you will have the following choices and you can use them all:
- Travel: Move the playing figure to one of the building sites.
- Settle: Play people cards at the building site (your stone (!) must be located there).
- Build: Build your temple, where you can use both your and your opponent's drawn temple cards.
- Migrate: Move 3 cards from one site to another.
- Use people abilities: Each people (there are 5 different ones) has a ability. By playing 3 of these people cards (of one kind of people) you can again: Steal temple levels of your opponent; Destruct your opponent's temple; skip a temple layer when you are building; migrate your opponents people (of 1 kind) from a building site; exchange people cards with your opponent and half the amount of cards in your opponents hand.
The game components are (as we are getting used to) of good quality. The center board is of good quality, as are the cards. The playing figure is a nice piece manufactured out of stone.
The downside of the game can be its complexity which is not suitable for everybody. It is certainly not for Lost Cities crowds, but perhaps more for Hera and Zeus or even Settlers Card game crowds (and I recommend you this game). Also those used to Uwe's other games like Mamma Mia or Bohnanza will be confronted by the game complexity.
As mentioned before, I have sometimes the feeling the game leans heavily on luck, but that seems to compensate itself. With some rules I can add question marks (like I can half my opponent's cards during the first move already; that shouldn't be allowed. Or why build rows of 10 of more cards while you only need 6 to build a temple. I need the cards in my discard pile). Anyway, these I can overcome and I'm seeing a great game in front of me with plenty of challenges still to be found out. That will keep me busy for a while. Perhaps in a while the game can reach 5 stars. For now I'll keep it on 4. Furthermore, you should be playing this game with someone just as competitive as you. When there is too much difference then the game is no fun for either.
Babel is by no means a bad game. In fact, it's a pretty good game.
I am generally not a gamer that suffers from Analysis Paralysis, but I do in Babel. There's just something about having too many options on your turn that makes players sit for WAY too long before they make their move. You're allowed to do several different things on your turn and you can do them in any order that you want and as many times as your want. This leaves you with an extreme amount of options that you have to think through. Overall, Babel is a good game. High production quality, well thought out mechanics, and a decent fun factor, but there is just something about it that makes me not be excited about it. I give it 3.75 stars. Good game, but not for everyone.
I have come to expect games in the Kosmos 2-player series to be sufficiently competitive to yield a challenging game, but not so competitive that couples need to sleep in seperate rooms after game night. This is the first game in the series that I've played (and I own nearly all of them) where the winner should expect to apply sheets and blankets to the sofa shortly after the game.
Of course, my wife and I enjoy playing cutthroat games from time to time as well, but much better choices for those evenings exist such as the Gipf series.
The reason Babel doesn't work very well for us is that, while the special actions encourage aggressive play, the halve-your-opponent's-hand rule ensures that both players keep their card holdings to a minimum. This, of course, leads to chaotic, tactical play. If the game drags, it seems to do so randomly.
Hence, gameplay in Babel is neither friendly nor strategic, it's just mean.
I'm still trying to figure out why there have been so many accolades given to this game. I find the game extremely mediocre.
I do give props for great quality components and an attempt for unique card mechanics, but ultimately the game falls short.
I'm sure that there is some strategy in there somewhere, but I found the game to be highly chaotic which luck playing a big factor. All the games I have played have ended suddenly with the winnining player not realizing how or why they won.
I'm sure further playings would smoke out some sort of strategy, but when there are so many better two player card games to play, why bother! The bottom line is I, nor anyone I played Babel with found the game fun.
Last year's Best Family Card game is still being praised to the skies. Cards represent five spirited tribes. Bring the building foreman to a tribal space by discarding a card in the tribe's color, place faceup cards there, and lay temple levels no higher than the cards allocated to the space. With sufficient cards of the same tribe at the active space, you can unleash the tribe's power. Powers are awesome, and varied enough to start your mind babbling with indecision: Should you build higher, steal the opponent's cards or temples, or destroy a temple? Win by building temples with a combined height of 15 levels. An extraordinarily high level of entertainment!
Five feisty tribes are represented by People cards in their color and a colored space on the construction site. Move your foreman to a tribal space by discarding a corresponding card. Then place any People cards there, and construct consecutive levels no higher than the number of People at that site. With three People of the same tribe placed, you can activate the tribe's Power. Powers allow you to skip building levels, steal the opponent's levels or People, or destroy a Temple. Draw three People each turn and hold however many you wish, but beware: The opponent can activate any tribe to force you to discard half your holdings! The first player to build Temples with a combined height of 15 levels wins. With its fast-paced interactions, wildly fluctuating fortunes, and ultimate balance, you'll be in heaven playing this splendid game.
A towering achievement? Actually no, but who but me could resist such an opening. But desperate to revive my diminishing reputation, I'll avoid "raising gaming enjoyment to a new level'' to conclude.
Babel does add further to the reputation of [page scan/se=0546/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Kosmos' 2-player series. I would place it behind Lost Cities, Caesar & Cleopatra and Siedler Kartenspiel (a confirmation of quality, rather than a reflection of the Rosenberg design) but ahead of the rest.
The first thing non-German speakers will need to do is draw up a couple of crib sheets to highlight the specific abilities of the five races involved. For Babel is about monument building in old Mesopotamia, and where would we be without the old Meders and their "mates''.
The physical elements included in the slim line box are a pack of People cards, a Temple deck (with building levels ranging from 1-6), a narrow board and a couple of stone towers to mark a player's position at one of the five foundation sites.
In turn, players may play any number of People or Temple cards from their hand (from an initial deal of five and one respectively). Let me expand on their use, as their distribution is paramount.
Having drawn three additional People cards, a player may Travel, Settle, Build Temples, Migrate and use Peoples' Special Abilities.
Each People is represented both on the board and within the card deck (12 each of five races). Using Rosenberg's meld device from the [page scan/se=0027/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Bean series of games, players may influence an area by virtue of a nation's supremacy. This is achieved by placing cards under the relevant section of the board in sequence (although not necessarily on the same turn).
Babel's fundamentals--Travel, Settle--are achieved by simply playing a card to move to the corresponding site (eg, A Hethiter to the Yellow section--all are colour-coded), and then expanding your personal holding (your side of the board) by laying cards (any number), remembering to integrate them sequentially.
Once in situ, a player can build Temples (starting with the '1' card (as dealt), and following the numerical pattern to '6'. A Temple's height cannot exceed the number of People cards in place, but the only other restriction is that cards must be taken in order from either of the player stockpiles (which accumulate two additional cards at the end of a player's turn).
Let's assume that The Rock has beetled off to the blue Assyrian site. Now in place, he "Settles'' three Hethiter cards and could build to level three. As established, the Hethiters can influence the opposite site. Their particular ability is to remove the top Temple card from your adversary for your own use. If, in a previous turn, Big Show had built a '2' level Temple, you could now 'knick' that uppermost card. The cost of utilising a People is one card from those in service, so four are better than three, etc.
The aforementioned crib sheet (use colour pens for the People names) should illustrate each factions capabilities. They are:
- Assyrians -- Can tear down a temple;
- Persians -- May skip a Temple level;
- Meders (Medes) -- One People migrate (to discard pile);
- Sumerians -- Uppermost People change sides;
- Hethiters (Hittites) -- as described above.
Patient placement of cards (the key), will allow a player the chance to augment his Sites sensibly. Rash distribution (in order to upgrade Temples) is usually fatal. However, you do need to build fairly quickly, because the winning condition is Temples with a combined value of at least 15 points (the opposition must have less than 10). If your rival is battling hard, and has more than 10 points, then 20 must be attained. Alternatively, "sacking'' temples could bring the number back under 10.
Babel's playing time is a suggested "45-60 minutes''. I have been stuffed a lot quicker, but the end game can dawdle a bit as players wait for the right Temple card to appear. This is a little irritating, but not a significant flaw.