Pantheon is the first expansion for the 2 player card drafting title 7 Wonders Duel, from Repos Production. Designed by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala, as with the base game, new wonders and a slice of mythology is added to the experience. Gods from Greek, Egyptian, Roman and more mythologies will help players if offerings are made to them. However, do the new additions lead to a better game? Let’s find out!
Note: This review details the new content and changes from the base game. If you are unfamiliar with 7 Wonders Duel check out the base game review here first.
Doubling the room on the table needed for the central board are the divinity cards and the Pantheon board section. This board section fits neatly around the science token zone of the original board, looking to those unaware like one board. The divinity cards are separated by their mythology, so the likes of Hades and Anubis don’t mix, with the card piles shuffled. These are placed next to the main board, with them coming into play from part way into Act 1. The same card draft pattern is utilized. Though, 5 mythology tokens, out of a total of 10, are added onto specific face down cards in the pattern.
During Act 1 the game plays almost as usual. This is until a player takes a card that would see one of the face down cards in the central pattern, with a mythology token on it, flipped. That player instantly gains the token. Placing it in front of themselves, the mythology token will show the symbol of one of the 5 mythologies. Drawing two cards from the respective divinity deck the player chooses one to add face down to an empty Pantheon slot, returning the other back to the divinity deck. Coming with 6 empty slots only five will be filled by players, with the sixth slot filled at the end of act 1 by the gate.
As well as three offering cost reduction tokens being added to face down cards in the pattern, at the start of Act 2 the cards in the Pantheon are revealed. This introduces a 4th action players can take, activating a divinity. Note, this is the only action that does not see a card removed from the pattern – instead the divinity card is taken from the Pantheon. From each player’s perspective the Pantheon slots have differing costs. For example, the cost of the slot closest to a player is only 3 coins. That same slot for an opponent to activate costs a whopping 8 coins.
Shaking up the experience each time different gods will fill up the Pantheon, with some of that coming from what the players choose to add there. One of the new wonders, the Divine Theater, and the gate (which is always used) do allow a player to obtain a divinity card from outside of the Pantheon. With abilities from Zeus’ card purging from the pattern to Bal’s ability to steal a basic resource card from your opponent, new strategies become viable. None feel like they are completely outside of the box, in keeping with the logics applied by powers that wonders offer.
Activating the divinity cards is the core of the Pantheon expansion, though there are temple cards that replace the guild cards from the base game. Each is freely built if the player has a specific mythology token, otherwise coming with a high cost. These score depending on how many temples a player builds as part of their civilization – ranging from 5 points for one to 21 for all three.
Coming with the new cards and content is a new wave of symbology that players will either have to learn or keep checking the rulebook for. Akin to learning the game for the first time, these new symbols are across the components, for the mythology tokens, the divinity powers and offerings. This increases the amount players have to learn and makes the expansion a no go for new players. Once players are past the barrier of entry of the base game this is like applying a new, albeit lower, second barrier. 7 Wonders Duel came with a great crib sheet of symbols, Pantheon could have benefitted from having one too.
Gameplay wise with or without the expansion feels very similar. For the first few plays there is a skew of players going for the new shiny divinity cards. This is slightly reduced after a few games, with players going for them more as part of a strategy than just because they are excitingly new. There is a higher importance of coins given their use for the divinities – especially given the way they can help you skip taking a card. Having money to spend on even a “okay” divinity card can save you revealing a card that would benefit your opponent greatly. Therefore, it is as much about being able to afford to skip a turn as it is affording an epic power.
Production wise 7 Wonders Duel Pantheon does almost everything perfectly. The board aligns seamlessly with that of the base game. The cards are full of glorious artwork making each striking as they are revealed in the Pantheon. The tokens are of the same thickness as those of the base game, keeping the standard high. The only slight oddity is that the back of the two new wonders features the same artwork but are a slightly different shade of yellow. It isn’t exactly a huge problem they just stand out a little when shuffling wonders during setup.
One issue that was present in the base game was that the backs of guild cards stood out in Act 3. This is again the case with the temples. However, while the guilds were all different so you never knew what they’d be when face down the temple are all identical. This means both players know where the guilds are and only which mythology token that makes them free to build is hidden. This makes it feel slightly less lucky compared to when a perfect guild card is flipped over ahead of your turn. This is perhaps the only benefit temples have over guilds as otherwise they feel flat. It is an interesting concept to try to build all three for maximum points. Yet, they are less inspiring than the guilds were due to no real variety.
7 Wonders Duel Pantheon fixes what many people disliked about the original, that they were always forced to take a card – no matter how bad the outcome. To get to this players will have to learn more symbols, though this shouldn’t put fans off considering the amount they learnt in the base game. Despite the additions the game length is barely touched, seeing at maximum a few minutes added. A nicety is that by ditching the insert of the base game the expansion will fit in the base game box. It may not leave the box every time though. Still, fans will appreciate the replayability and variety that the expansion provides.
(Editor’s Note: 7 Wonders Duel Pantheon was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, some of which are running dropoff services, find your local store here.)