The short review: Babylone is ideal for those who enjoy "puzzle-like" 2-player games such as Quarto, Venice Connection or Atlanteon, the sort of game where it's as much fun to deconstruct turns as it is to play them out. That is, there's a strong desire to replay games to discover where a player made a losing move or missed an opportunity for a guaranteed win.
The game itself is painfully simple: There are 12 stone tablets, 3 each in 4 distinct colours. On your turn you will place one stack on another according to two rules:
the stacks must be of the same height.
the stacks must have the same colour stone on top.
The first player unable to move loses.
As I said, very simple but also very quick (there will be at most 11 turns in the game). As with all games of this type, I have the sneaking suspicion that Babylone may be solvable. However, even if this turns out to be the case it does not detract from its appeal as the process of discovering such a solution can be enjoyable.
In actual play, the initial turns will feel somewhat meaningless—the decision tree of possible moves is far too great to fully examine. So, you'll make a couple of quick, "what the heck" moves and see what develops. As soon as you get down to only 5 or 6 stacks you can start to see all the possible connotations of every move. Looking ahead is then absolutely critical if you hope to make the final play. Of course, the first few times you play you'll often start examining things too late to help yourself, no matter what you do, your opponent will have a counter move. As you become more familiar with Babylone it becomes easier to see further ahead and anticipate such losing positions. In some ways this can be the downfall of the game and its biggest weakness. If you play the game casually, it is almost random who will win. If you play it seriously then it requires devoting a lot of effort examining all possible moves and their repercussions. How much you enjoy such exhaustive mental work will determine how much you enjoy Babylone—the rules may be simple and the gameplay quick but it is not a light game. I can only recommend Babylone to those who want a mental challenge.
The production quality is excellent—the box is a small metal container and the stones are sculpted resin with hieroglyphic type markings. I'm somewhat shocked that the game was designed by Bruno Faidutti as he is known to love games that include a healthy dose of chaos. Babylone is the exact opposite of this and features no random factors at all and is most definitely a thought intensive game. It is not for everyone but I quite enjoyed the games I played.
- Greg Aleknevicus
Bonus Puzzle: Have a look at the photo above—what move should you make? This is a very simple example of the challenges Babylone presents.