Slkkjoj llshdhhjik jjaslpp mm öpaaoa lllwiwik lla …yeah, complete random jibberish to most ears I suspect, but to someone it could well be instructions for constructing a monumental tower. This is the problem with a workforce enlisted from all over the world… which ever world. A foreman’s job is not an easy one, that’s for sure!
So What’s All The Fuss About?
If the complete rubbish I have just written does not provide you with a brief incite into the nature of Blabel, well Language is what all the fuss is about. This is a cooperative game for 3 or more players where each player takes the role of a foreman (during their turn) who’s principle job is to ensure a part of the tower of Blabel is constructed. The snag is that no two players speak the same language. Each takes an individual dictionary containing words that represent building material and architectural features. From this starting point everyone involved must try to communicate with each other in order to construct a great, and imposing tower within a specified number of rounds.
Immersion or Subversion?
The game is light and has a basic theme of construction, building a somewhat abstracted fashion of tower. However, to say it is light on theme does not suggest it is light on game play. The fact that language is the principle mechanic and driving force of the game, makes it thoroughly engaging, especially as we are really unfamiliar with the language of our fellow builders. And, let’s be honest, Google translate is not brilliant at many of the languages it tries to translate, so we are better off without it in this game… So, building is the final objective but the manner in which we carry out said construction is the crux of the game… and really is its key engaging factor… even if nature is also trying to reduce our tower to rubble.
As construction workers we all receive a double sided playing card with four words printed on it. The face has four words and the reverse also has four words. These words refer to four building materials and four architectural features (arch, door, steps ect) illustrated on the front and rear covers of what is essentially a player’s dictionary. No two players have the same sets of words, although two words in each dictionary share similarities with words in other dictionaries. (all dictionaries additionally have a “yes” and “no” word)
Communication is restricted to the individuals dictionary and head shaking or nodding. Somehow, when we takes our turn, acting as the foreman, we have to communicate to our building needs… what material and architectural features, we wish to build (a stone door, for example). Our collective aim is to construct a pyramidal tower… the Tower of Blabel but we must help our workforce understand our language. Guessing and deduction are key and failure to identify the foreman’s needs results in no construction. With a finite number of turns, it is paramount for us all to become familiar with each other’s languages. As play continues we all have turns at being foreman, but our collective efforts may become thwarted by disastrous natural events like fire…unless we are careful and assign lookouts who, using their own language can warn the construction team about the nature of impending disaster.
Wood Chits And Cardboard Bits:
I have a prototype copy and the artwork, text and layout may be subject to change during the kickstarter campaign. It may be worth checking the campaign page out for up-to-date details (link below)
Meeples and Standees:
Designer: Tomas Tarragon
Playtime: 30+ minutes
Age of Consent: 10+
Gangs of One: 3-9 players
This is a cooperative game, but as the key focus is communication, use of unfamiliar languages and guesswork, it is not currently possible to automate an AI player to become involved in such human decision making, so it remains a purely multiplayer game.
The Real Nitty Gritty
- Winners and Losers: This element is completely reliant upon our ability to communicate. The physical requirements to complete a tower with in the allotted number of turns is simple to achieve if understanding of each other’s specific language has been achieved… and here lies the crux. Effective communication and cooperation win us the game… lack of communication and misunderstanding lose us the game
- Rules is Rules is Rules: My copy of the rules came as a pdf but will be something akin to the physical rule book. It currently stands at 13 pages of clear gameplay rules and numerous illustrated examples of play. It explains clearly the game expectations, mechanics and turn sequence
- Lucky Bugger Buggers: There is no luck rolls or chance in this game, with the exception of disaster cards, which means we create our own destiny, as it were
- Lows and Highs: We win together and lose together so individually there should never be a low time. The humour and interaction keep the game flowing and with the likelihood of repetition very low, each new game is a new challenge
- Footprints All Over My Table: The tower is constructed from small Euro sized cards and only a sprinkling of other cards need to be displayed. As such, I guesstimate the play area could most comfortably fit within a 60cm x 60cm area
- Set It Up Just To tear It All Down Again: The only time consuming aspect to the game is distributing the personal dictionaries and familiarising our selves with the new vocabulary. There are a number of other cards to sort but basically after five minutes, players should be ready to play… equally, pack up is a matter of seconds to box the card components and small collection of tokens
Me, Myself and I:
As I am a British national living and working in Estonia, learning languages has become of great interest to me… so this title really appealed. And I was not disappointed. The basics of the game…the tower construction ect, is not the most complex gaming task, but as the bulk of the game focuses on communication, this building element is almost arbitrary. It really does force us to cooperate, to analyse and deduct before we even think about effective construction. It is not easy and with only a limited number of turns to complete our tower, we cannot afford to spend the day faffing about. It is fun trying to pronounce these words, but also deceptively tricky using the language to communicate ideas. Having so many variations in dictionary construction, the game remains fresh as memorising words will not be of any real benefit. The dictionary … or rather, our own unique dictionaries is a particularly novel concept. As an “all win-all lose” format, the game is high pressure for a group but most entertaining in the process. It really starts to make you think how language has developed and how we use it day to day to share ideas. I think it is a novel and pretty clever concept for a social game
Yay or Nay?
Whether a language nut, strategist or just part of a group that likes to have a laugh during some not so serious gaming, this is definitely a title to consider. Blabel nka$$kj jsjwjh oiu#%^uahs nasgs the BsoMT 1d8 die kbncwd kjjkkx kkj 6.5 (my die has become quite clever at awarding point five’s to scores these days, especially when language is complete nonsense)
…noh, ma olen juba õhtusööki söönud, nii et pean vist nüüd oma torni hakkama ehitama (Estonian)
Something For The Weekend Sir?
Blabel on Kickstarter:
Blabel on social media: