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Subject: Some Complex Strategies For 7 Wonders rss

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Red Porper
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The purpose of this guide is to explore some of the strategies for 7 Wonders that may not be immediately obvious. This isn't really the kind of guide for a complete Novice. It assumes a pretty decent familiarity with the game. This isn't a quick read. The guide will start fairly basic, but the concepts toward the end are going to build off of the ones at the beginning, so establishing a framework during the discussion is important. This isn't the type of guide where you can skip to the part you want to read. Without the foundation, some of the ideas discussed in previous sections, later sections won't make as much sense. Even in the wonder section, I try to build one idea off the next, so you may not get what you're looking for by jumping over the Giza section to get to Babylon.

There are going to be specific counter-examples to nearly every strategy I advance. When I say, "You shouldn't go for Scientific advances when playing Giza in a 6 player game," you can believe that someone will quote that section, remove it from all context and then tell show you a screenshot of the game where they dominated with a 90 point Pyramids of Giza / Science victory. And they probably did. But this isn't the kind of thing that's going to happen frequently. If you go into a game with the idea that you're going to reproduce someone's miracle story game every time, you're going to get beaten a lot.

There are a lot of strategy hints and tips out there for 7 Wonders, and I'm not here to tell you that they are wrong and that I am right. But you have to consider the context of any strategy advice given. Did the person say, "You can't win without any Military"? Perhaps he plays most of his games 3 player, and in that case, the advice is very sound. But in a 6-player game, that isn't necessarily the case. Did they advise you to get the resources you need to build your Wonder ASAP? Again, good advice for 3 player or 7 player, but not so much for 4 player.

What I wanted to do with this guide is to look at 7 Wonders as a whole. This guide asks a lot of questions. Why does the game work the way it does? Why does something that works so well in the 3 player game fall apart in the 4 player game? Why is the pursuit of Science so dominant in the first game we play and so utterly futile useless in the next? Hopefully this guide will get you thinking about 7 Wonders in ways you haven't considered before so that you can answer some of those questions.

I believe that 7 Wonders is a balanced game. I also believe it to be the best strategy game available today for several reasons. First and foremost, there is no guaranteed way to win every game. The game changes in subtle but significant ways based on the wonders in play and the numbers of players. Best of all, having a single sound strategy isn't enough to win the game - one also must constantly adjust to the strategy and play of one's opponents. It's easy to forget that you're playing against other players in 7 Wonders - even the ones that are all the way across the table from you. Many inferior strategy games require a player to select a strategy early and strictly adhere to it. These games generally punish a player for switching horses mid-stream. In 7 Wonders the horse sometimes drowns mid-stream. Being able to jump to another steed isn't a fault. It's often a necessity.


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS AND THEORYCRAFTING -


I have seen many posts about which cards are better/worse than others. Are you more likely to win a game with the West Trading Post or the Excavation in Age I? Could a poor first card choice really cost you the game? There are many posts about which "color strategy" works best. Green science cards rule! Or do they stink? Is military the dominant strategy, or is it better to take your -6 points and concentrate on other areas? There are many discussions about the "good" wonders vs. the "bad" ones, and whether the A or B side is the better side to play.

Up to now, most of the theories and suggestions about most of these subjects are based on fatally flawed theorycraft. Most of the statistical analysis done for this game simply doesn't hold up. For example, if I said I had analyzed a few thousand games of 7 Wonders and that card X shows up as played by the winner the greatest percentage of the time, then that would be that, right? Everyone would want to get card X if they could, because it would lead to a win. But it can't really be that easy to determine whether or not card X is really the best card can it? And the answer to that is "no."

It isn't enough to measure a large sample size and determine an outcome. What if 40% of the sample games measured contained at least 1 of 2 players? What if both of those players were exceptionally good at the game? What if both were bad? What if 80% of the games analyzed were 4 player games, and the remaining 20% were 3, 5, 6, and 7 player games? What if the Guild Card Y had only been available for purchase in 10% of the sampled games?

This theorycrafting could be narrowed in scope a little bit with a more structured statistical analysis, but it would require using real statistical principles. To determine if card X is the best card, you would have to eliminate a number of factors. The skill of the winning player, the number of players, the availability of the card, etc. To do so, you would isolate each factor. First, you would examine only 3 player games and see how often card x showed up. Then four player, then five, and so on. If it showed up as the best card everywhere, you would be on your way. Next you would want to isolate the skill of the players. You could analyze only games that contained at least one player with a greater than 50% win rate. In each of Good Player 1's wins, how often did he have card X? In each of Good Player 2's wins, how often did she have card X? In games where Good Player 1 was defeated, how often did the winning player have card X? Then run the same analysis for players who win fewer than 10% of their games.

It goes on and on. It is a lot of analysis. And even if it were done, it STILL probably wouldn't mean much. The fact is that most of the cards have more than one copy available for selection with varying numbers of players. For example, in a five player game there are six available age 3 military cards - one Arsenal, one Fortification, two Circuses, and two Siege Workshops. Are Siege Workshop and Circus better cards, or in the given sample of games are they simply statistically more likely to end up belonging to a winning player because there are more of them?

And could an Age I military card like the Stockade (1 wood cost) really be a better key to victory than the Guard Tower (1 clay cost)? If so, does it mean it's really better, or that wood is better than clay? And is wood really better than clay, or would that indicate that the Olympia Wonder (Starting wood resource) is better than Babylon (Clay resource)? Or is Olympia simply an easier wonder to master for starting players than Babylon?

The variables and factors that contribute to victory or loss are almost too numerous to accurately measure with a basic statistical analysis. It means that if someone examines only two contributing and correlative factors such as "Victories" and "Presence of Card X". The jury would still be out on "Wonder 1 is good" and "Wonder 2 is bad". It also means there is no silver bullet strategy such as "Always take green" or "Never lose a military fight".

So is it possible or useful to measure anything? Fortunately, the answer to these two questions are "Yes," and "Yes." At its core, 7 Wonders is an economic game. In the book "Freakonomics," Leavitt and Dubner describe economics as "a study of incentives - how people get what they want or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing." That is 7 Wonders. It is a 30 minute case study in how you obtain what you want or need when every other player is trying to do the same thing. but the key to the "Freakonomics" quote is "incentives". If you can control the incentives in a game, you can control the entire game. Throughout each section, ideas will be presented about how to limit the possible courses of action for others while expanding those possibilities for oneself by creating incentives for other players to react to your play.


RESOURCES -


When you look at the game, you can see that it is remarkably well-balanced but not in ways that are completely obvious at first. Some balance is easy to spot. For example, in a three player game in Age I, there are 7 cards that have a non-gold cost. Four cards that require resources (one each of wood, clay, stone, and ore) and three that require manufactured goods (one each of glass, papyrus, and cloth). There are six brown resource cards, two for each player. Each resource (wood, clay, stone, and ore) appears on two of the cards. In fact, with any number of players, each resource appears on an equal number of brown cards. Another example of balance would be the wonders. Each wonder features a different starting resource, all resources equally represented, and each plays to a different strength in the game. Some people believe that certain wonders are better than others. I'm not one of them. Some wonders just take a little more work than others.

Some of the balance is more subtle. For example, if you look at every card in the game for all 7 players, you'll see that Ore shows up on 41 cards, Wood shows up on 39 cards, Clay appears on 31 cards and Stone appears on 30. Of those cards, Ore appears on 12 military cards, Wood appears on 14 military cards, Clay shows up on 6 military cards, and Stone on 7. As For Science, Wood is king appearing on 6 cards. Ore, Clay, and Stone each appear on 4 Scientific cards. On Guilds, Wood, Ore, and Clay show up on 4 each, while Stone appears on 5.

What was all that crap about being balanced? There doesn't appear to be any balance at all. You obviously want lots of Ore and Wood, right? Not necessarily. Although wood appears on many cards, you only need a single wood for 23 of those cards. While Ore appears on 41 cards you only need a single ore for 27 of them. There are only 2 cards each that require 3 wood or 3 ore. When it comes to clay, there are only 11 cards that require a single clay. 16 cards require 2 clay, and 4 require 3 clay to construct. Stone also has only 11 cards that require a single stone, 10 that require 2 stone, and a whopping 9 cards that require 3 or more stone. Starting to sound a little more balanced now, just not in the way you expect.

So what does having this knowledge mean in game. Well, as you know, you can buy from your neighbors. Let's say that you have no wood at all and only one of your neighbors has a single wood. That's really not too bad. You may have to buy some wood, but you'll only be shut out of a few cards, and not a significant number of point scorers. You'll only be shut out of two Blue Civilian cards, both Senates. The only Green Science cards you would be shut out of are the two University cards. Five military cards and three guilds would be unavailable.

But what if you were in the same situation with stone? You have none, and only one of your neighbors has even a single stone you can buy. You would be shut out of 5 blue cards (Townhalls and Aqueducts), 4 green cards (Libraries and Academies). You would also miss out on all of the Arena cards, which are the best scoring yellow cards in the game. Like wood, you'd miss out on 5 military cards. You'd only miss out on two guild cards, but one of them is the Builders Guild, arguably the best guild card in the game. In other words, you'd miss out on a lot.

Ore is very similar to Wood. It appears in a lot of places, but primarily as a single. Clay is like stone appearing less often, but clumped into big groups. So, the verdict is that you can survive without wood or ore as long as one of your neighbors have one. Of course without wood or ore, you're going to need some money or some way to offset the cost of purchasing those resources. Hence, yellow cards. And going without BOTH ore and wood could be extremely expensive and might severely limit your choices. But being locked out of ore or clay will mean that some cards are just out of reach, and most of those cards are very good point scorers.

So that's the balance. The resources that appear on fewer cards show up on bigger point cards and in larger amounts. The ones that appear on more cards but appear in smaller amounts on cards that score fewer points. And really the ultimate balancing tool is this: the players themselves. If a player believes something to be imbalanced, she can simply attempt to acquire those particular cards in every game. It is the responibility of the other players to recognize this and devise a plan to counter this.
A very generalized strategy that has been a very good one for me in 4, 5, and 6 player games is to attempt to get one each of wood, ore, stone and clay even if that means that I might not have every resource I need to build my wonder free of charge. In 4, 5, and 6 player games, I can nearly always buy what I need for my wonder from my neighbors. But again, if you have to have 3 of one resource, you're going to be a lot better off having 3 stone or clay than having 3 wood or ore.

In 3 and 7 player games, this is not the case. Get what you need for your wonder as soon as possible, or risk not getting the latter wonder stages built at all.


RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION -


There are three types of lies - lies, damned lies, and statistics. The following is a mix of all three.

As far as the basic brown resources go, here is a quick chart of what appears per player in the game. In the first section, the W, O, C, and S refer to Wood, Ore, Clay, and Stone. The numbers in parentheses such as (3,4) indicate how many copies of the card exist in the game based on numbers of players. So a (3,4) would indicate that in a three player game, there would be one copy of the card, and in a 4, 5, 6, or 7 player game there would be two copies of a card. The Economic card "Caravansery" also provides resources, so it is included with the age 2 cards.


Age 1

Lumber Yard - W (3,4)
Ore Vein - O (3,4)
Clay Pool - C (3,5)
Stone Pit - S (3,5)
Timber Yard - W,S (3)
Clay Pit - C,O (3)
Excavation - C,S (4)
Forest Cave - w,O (5)
Tree Farm - W,C (6)
Mine - S,O (6)

Age 2
Sawmill - W,W (3,4)
Brickyard - C,C (3,4)
Quarry - S,S (3.4)
Foundry - O,O (3,4)
Caravansery - R (3,5,6)


The thing that may not be as obvious at first from the chart above is that there are an identical number of available Wood, Ore, Clay, and Stone in the game regardless of the number of players. In a four player game in Age 1, a unique thing happens. You get an equal number of resources, but wood appears by itself (Lumber Yard) on two cards as does Ore (Ore Vein). Wood and ore only appear once each on the either/or resource cards, while clay and stone appear on two different either/or cards each. This would be more a more significant issue but for one thing. There are so many resources in a 4 player game that is really won't matter much. You can see that in Age 2, you get a huge influx of resources in the 4 player game, but only a single Caravansery is added in each of the 5 and 6 player games, and nothing at all is added for 7 players.

That is a pretty good segway into discussing how scarce resources are for players. And for that we have another chart. In the table below, Age 1 cards like Timber Yard and Clay Pit are counted as two resources, as are Age 2 cards like Sawmill and Brickyard. The Age 2 Caravansery can provide any type of resource, but these cannot be bought by other players. Because the point of the table below is to demonstrate abundance or scarcity of resources on the table, the Caravansery is counted only as a single resource.

A little legend. 6c means 6 cards. 2 cpp means 2 cards per player. 8 res means 8 total resources. and 2.7 rpp means 2.7 resources per player. To make it easy, I rounded every decimal to the nearest tenth. The summary for ALL AGES includes the total amount available across all ages.

Age 1
3-player - 6c / 2 cpp / 8 res / 2.7 rpp
4-player - 9c / 2.3 cpp / 12 res / 3 rpp
5-player - 12c / 2.4 cpp / 16 res / 3.2 rpp
6-player - 14c / 2.3 cpp / 20 res / 3.3 rpp
7-player - 14c / 2 cpp / 20 res / 2.9 rpp

Age 2
3-player - 5c / 1.7 cpp / 9 res / 2.7 rpp
4-player - 9c / 2.3 cpp / 17 res / 4.3 rpp
5-player - 10c / 2 cpp / 18 res / 3.6 rpp
6-player - 11c / 1.8 cpp / 19 res / 3.2 rpp
7-player - 11c / 1.6 cpp / 19 res / 2.7 rpp

ALL AGES
3-player - 11c / 3.7 cpp / 17 res / 5.7 rpp
4-player - 18c / 4.5 cpp / 29 res / 7.3 rpp
5-player - 22c / 4.4 cpp / 34 res / 6.8 rpp
6-player - 25c / 4.2 cpp / 39 res / 6.5 rpp
7-player - 25c / 3.6 cpp / 39 res / 5.6 rpp


By far, the greatest scarcity of resources comes in the 3 and 7 player games, while the 4 player game is a resource festival. My own experience has shown the same thing. In a 3 or 7 player game, you better get what you need quickly. In a 4 player game, you can probably wait until much later in the first and second round before you get what you need.

The 3 player game deserves special mention. If a player has the Colossus of Rhodes, The Pyramids of Giza, or the A side of Babylon, they require 4 resources to build their final wonder stage. In a 3 player game, there are only 4 cards that have any given resource on them. If you're playing against one of these wonders, you can land a devastating blow fairly easily by simply denying the needed resource. This is fairly difficult to do in games with more players, but in a three player game, it's easy. For example, a Rhodos player must either obtain the Caravansery or have access to the Foundry in order to complete their wonder. And the Caravansery only helps if they obtained or have access to BOTH the Ore Vein and the Clay Pit.

An easy way to mess with Rhodos? Discard the Ore Vein or the Clay Pit for 3 gold in Age 1. Now the fun starts. If no one plays the Foundry in Age 2, or if THAT card gets discarded for 3 gold, Rhodos cannot complete the wonder. The same thing can be done to Babylon side A (4 clay) and Giza (4 stone). It is actually even easier to do this in a 7 player game. There really are fewer resources per player than in the three player game. If you catch someone not getting what they need for their wonder, you can discard the resource they need in Age 2 or bury it underneath a wonder stage.

But I never make it a point to mess with someone just because I can. Does Babylon already have a full Science set? Does Rhodos look on track to win a second complete military victory? Is Giza building up a large group of Civilian buildings already? Then go ahead and jam them up. If they're struggling by the middle of Age 2, they probably aren't going to pose enough of a threat to need to mess with them. If you need to bury or discard something, consider burying or discarding something that would otherwise eventually go to and help a more competitive player.

I don't want my first real piece of strategic advice to be construed as "screw with the winner." But a discussion of resources needs to take place before a discussion of anything else, and the denial of resources is one aspect of that discussion. The real advice should be viewed as "watch out for Rhodos, Giza, and sometimes Babylon." When good players have these, you can look for an opportunity to deny them points. With these wonders in the hands of strong players with access to whatever resources they need, the game can be over in a hurry. Good players with these wonders need to be desperate to build their wonder stages. But, in 4, 5, and 6 player games, you probably won't get the chance to deny them resources. You'll just have to beat them the old fashioned way.


MANUFACTURED GOODS DISTRIBUTION -


These are the grey ones - Glass (Glassworks), Papyrus (Press), and Cloth (Loom). They only appear in the first two ages, and they are always added in groups of three. There will always be an equal number of Glassworks, Presses, and Looms in the game. Like the Caravansery for Resources, the Forum is a yellow economic building that provides one of any good type to its owner, but the goods in provides cannot be purchased by the owner's neighbors.

Age 1
Glassworks (3,6)
Press (3,6)
Loom (3,6)

Age 2
Glassworks (3,5)
Press (3,5)
Loom (3,5)
Forum (3,6,7)


Now let's look at how many of these are available per player in games with varying numbers of players. Again, for purposes of determining neighbor scarcity, the Forum is counted only as a single resource. Again, the 3c means 3 total cards, and 1 cpp means 1 card per player. There is no resource per player breakdown - they all produce only a single resource, so the card per player count is the same as the resource per player count.


Age 1
3-player - 3c / 1 cpp
4-player - 3c / .8 cpp
5-player - 3c / .6 cpp
6-player - 6c / 1 cpp
7-player - 6c / .9 cpp

Age 2
3-player - 4c / 1.3 cpp
4-player - 4c / 1 cpp
5-player - 7c / 1.4 cpp
6-player - 8c / 1.3 cpp
7-player - 9c / 1.3 cpp

ALL AGES
3-player - 7c / 2.3 cpp
4-player - 7c / 1.8 cpp
5-player - 10c / 2 cpp
6-player - 14c / 2.3 cpp
7-player - 15c / 2.1 cpp


So you can see that while a 4 player game is a total resource festival, it contains the fewest goods per player in the game. It is far easier to get manufactured goods in a 3 player game than it is in a 4 player game. In most games, there will be enough resources for each player to get at least 2 of them if they so desire, but not everyone is going to get a shot at one of these in a four player game.

The five player game is a bit deceiving. It's very difficult to get the cards in Age 1, but gets extremely easy to get them in Age 2. This is important information to know if you're trying to get a quick start on building some green Science cards which all require one manufactured good in Age 1 and Age 2. Most of what will be available in 5 player will hinge on what type of wonders are in play. Are Ephesos, Alexandria, and Halikarnassos all in play? Then there probably won't be a big rush on the Age 1 manufactured goods. And planning to take early Age 1 manufactured goods in order to build early science cards might not net any results as those three wonders owners may nab a significant number of them with their starting goods. But what if only one of those three wonders is in play in a 5 player game? Then an early manufactured good play could lead to early science cards in the first round, not to mention the chance to snag a couple more science cards in round two while other players may just be starting to play their own manufactured goods.

In a 6 player game, there is likely to be a very large number of these goods in both the first and second rounds. But there still may be a good reason to play them. A significant number of cards in Age 3 require these manufactured goods. But most importantly, the Chamber of Commerce rewards you with both gold and Victory points for having them. This underappreciated card is worth 8 victory points if you own all three manufactured goods. You get six victory points for the goods, and 6 gold, which translates into two additional victory points. Keep in mind that the Chamber requires 2 Clay, so if you're going after all three of the manufactured goods, get some clay to go with it. Because Babylon starts out with Clay and needs the manufactured goods to obtain Science cards to pair with its wonder ability, it is best suited to grabbing all three manufactured goods in an effort to get the Chamber of Commerce later in the game.


GENERAL SCORING OPPORTUNITIES -


There are a fixed number of ways to score points in 7 Wonders. Civilian cards (Blue), Military victories (Red Cards), Scientific cards (Green), Economic cards (Yellow), and Guild cards (Purple). We will go over them one type at a time. But one thing that is important to keep in mind is how many cards you will play over the course of the game. With a couple of exceptions, you're going to play 18 cards. Every choice you make to play a card is one of the following: you're choosing to score points (blue/green/build wonder), gamble on scoring future points(red/green/build wonder), expand your ability to score points in the future (brown/grey/yellow), deny points (discard/build wonder), or throw in the towel (discard).

It is important to think of each decision to play as an individual opportunity. You shouldn't simply weigh each hand of cards based on its own merit (Except sometimes in Age 3), or even based on what you have decided that you are trying to accomplish long term. Weigh it against what you're likely to be able to do in the future. Every resource you play is going to score fewer points than virtually anything else. Every military card you play can only lead you to the same maximum 18 points. Each Science card you play is worth only a fraction of what it would be worth in a set if you're unable to complete that set. But the blue cards, well, those are easy. You know what they are worth.

It's also important to understand what you need to be scoring in each round with each card. Fortunately, we have a benchmark. The wonders themselves. In Age 1, a good very good score for a card is 3 victory points. We can decide this because the Age 1 wonder stages (on the A side of the Wonders) is worth 3 victory points. The Age 3 wonder stages are worth 7 victory points, so we know that if we can score 7 with a card in age 3, we're doing good. but what about Age 2? Fortunately, we can see from the A side of the Pyramids of Giza that the Age 2 wonder stage is worth 5 points. This means that if you can score 5 points from a card in Age 2, you're doing well. we'll talk about scoring the B sides of the wonders in the wonder section.

Now you won't be able to score that many points with each card in every round. But occasionally, you'll be able to score more. What identifying the per round scoring does is give you something to benchmark your decisions against. In each of the scoring sections, we will be looking at benchmarking your decision making.


CIVILIAN STRUCTURES (BLUE CARDS) - DISTRIBUTION


After telling you that there are no cards definitively better than other cards, allow me to contradict myself for the first time (but certainly not the last time) in this guide. Let's start with another chart. This one is much like the Brown Resource chart letting you know which buildings appear in which age, and how many copies of each there are, along with how many show up based on the number of players in the game.


Age 1
Altar - 2 (3,5)
Theater - 2 (3,6)
Baths - 3 (3,7)
Pawnshop - 3 (4,7)

Age 2
Temple - 3 (3,6)
Courthouse - 4 (3,5)
Statue - 4 (3,7)
Aqueduct - 5 (3,7)

Age 3
Gardens - 5 (3,4)
Senate - 6 (3,5)
Townhall - 6 (3,5,6)
Pantheon - 7 (3,6)
Palace - 8 (3,7)


Civilian structures are pretty straightforward. Remember when I said there are no cards that are better than other ones? Let me contradict myself now. When it comes to Civilian structures, the ones with more points on them are better than the ones with fewer points on them. This is a simple concept, but it gets away from a lot of people. I've seen players actually pass up on the Baths (which they could afford) in order to build the Altar because the Altar has a "coupon" (what I like to call them) leading to the Temple which has a "coupon" leading to the Pantheon, which admittedly is one of the better cards in the game. The only problem with starting this coupon chain is that by passing up on the Baths and Aqueduct, opting instead to build the Altar and Temple, you are going to NEED those 7 points from the Pantheon to pull even because you're already 3 points back on what you could have had instead. Besides, there is not guarantee you'll get the Pantheon just because you have the Temple. The guy with the Baths and Aqueduct may get the Pantheon, too. So NOW what are you going to do? Lose, probably.

And notice how when you add a fifth player, in Age 1 this adds another 2 point card (3 is the best). In age 2, it adds another 4 point card (5 is the best), and in age three, it adds a pair of 6 point cads (8 is the best).


CIVILIAN STRUCTURES (BLUE CARDS) - SCORING


Before we go further let's go ahead and throw in the statistical chart below. This has a little legend, too. The 3u means that there are 3 unique cards available for play. The 3c is the total number of cards available. 1 cpp means 1 card per player. Finally, I showed what the maximum number of points would be assuming you were able to play one of each unique card in that age.


Age 1
3-player - 3u / 3c / 1 cpp / 7 points max
4-player - 4u / 4c / 1 cpp / 10 points max
5-player - 4u / 5c / 1 cpp / 10 points max
6-player - 4u / 6c / 1 cpp / 10 points max
7-player - 4u / 8c / 1.1 cpp / 10 points max

Age 2
3-player - 4u / 4c / 1.3 cpp / 5.3 points per player / 16 points max
4-player - 4u / 4c / 1 cpp / 4 points per player / 16 points max
5-player - 4u / 5c / 1 cpp / 4 points per player / 16 points max
6-player - 4u / 6c / 1 cpp / 3.8 points per player / 16 points max
7-player - 4u / 8c / 1.1 cpp / 4.6 points per player / 16 points max

Age 3
3-player - 5u / 5c / 1.7 cpp / 10.7 points per player / 32 points max
4-player - 5u / 6c / 1.5 cpp / 9.3 points per player / 32 points max
5-player - 5u / 8c / 1.6 cpp / 9.8 points per player / 32 points max
6-player - 5u / 10c / 1.7 cpp / 10.3 points per player / 32 points max
7-player - 5u / 11c / 1.6 cpp / 10 points per player / 32 points max

ALL AGES
3-player - 12u / 12c / 4 cpp / 18.3 points per player / 55 points max
4-player - 13u / 14c / 3.5 cpp / 15.75 points per player / 58 points max
5-player - 13u / 18c / 3.6 cpp / 16.2 points per player / 58 points max
6-player - 13u / 22c / 3.7 cpp / 16.5 points per player / 58 points max
7-player - 13u / 27c / 3.9 cpp / 17 points per player / 58 points max


So what is the point of discussing how many blue cards there are per player in each round? Not everyone is going to get a blue card in every round. Probably not, but what if they did? If they did, then the person who got the cards worth more points would be better off than the person who got the lower value cards. But remember. The Benchmark for scoring in Age 3 is 7 points. So getting a single 7 or 8 point card would be worth more than getting two blue cards with a 5 and 6 point value. Why? Because by taking the 5 or 6 point card, you may be passing up on an opportunity to score more points by playing something else. Don't ever play a blue card simply because that's the route you are going (especially in the last round). Figure out how you can maximize your point scoring.

Sometimes it isn't that easy to figure out which card to take. Should you go for the Senate, which you can build without cost, or the Palace which would force you to pay 4 gold to the player on your left? Easy choice. Palace all the way. First of all, it is worth 2 more points than the Senate. You'd be spending 4 gold though. But with every three gold adding up to a point, you are really only spending one more point to get an 8 point building vs. a 6 point building. But of course you're giving that money to the player on your left, which enriches him. but keep in mind, it is still a +7 point advantage over this neighbor vs. the +6 advantage you would have had if you'd built the senate for free. And what's better is that you've denied him the ability to build the Palace that you would have handed him instead of the Senate he got.

It is Worth noting that Civilian Structures get easier to acquire the more players you get, with the exception of the 3 player game. You can see this by noting the cards per player in the chart above. Later, when you look at the Scientific structure distribution chart, you'll see that the Science cards get MORE difficult to acquire as the number of players increase.


CIVILIAN STRUCTURES (BLUE CARDS) - GENERAL STRATEGY


There are lots of points on Civilian structures. Ignore them at your peril. And unlike Scientific or Military structures, having just one is still pretty good no matter who your neighbor is, and no matter what your specific strategy is. But what if you want to get a LOT of blue cards? How should you prepare? First off, you'll want to make sure you have a Glassworks, or at least have access to one. Papyrus and Cloth only show up prominently on the Pantheon and the Palace (and cloth on the Courthouse). Admittedly, these are two big ones, so you want access (via neighbors) to all three manufactured goods. But glass shows up in more places. If you go with Papyrus, try a green/blue hybrid strategy and look to build the Scriptorium as it chains to the Courthouse. If you're going primarily with a Science strategy, note that the Scriptorium also chains to the Library, which in turn chains to the Senate. As for resources, you can't really afford to completely ignore any of them, but you will definitely want stone and clay, and a very early stone (for the Baths) if possible. The other things you can buy from your neighbors.

This brings me to one of my other points. Spend your gold. Spend it all. That is what it's there for. The point of obtaining gold is to put you in a position to spend it. The one victory point for each three coins is a consolation prize. Whenever I see a player with a huge pile of gold, my first thought is that they built too many resources. They were apparently extremely helpful in selling resources to other players in building lots and lots of point scoring cards. The only time you might consider saving rather than spending is in the very first round. Having money at the beginning of Age 2 can give you some flexibility in your first couple of Age 2 plays. But you may not need it. In almost every case, spend it rather than save it.

Because it starts with Stone, the Pyramids of Giza is a pretty good wonder to have in order to build a lot of blue cards. Babylon, with its clay, is not bad either. Especially since acquiring the Scriptorium or Library (which lead to blue chains) would help them in other ways, too.

By the way, do you think anyone ever got 58 points worth of blue cards? It would be pretty difficult to do. If you built your wonder stages (3 cards), and all 13 blue cards, you would only have 2 cards to play as resources. Not sure you'd be able to build all 13 blue cards if you only had 2 resource cards. Maybe you could ignore a wonder stage or two and see what you could get done. Might be something to try at some point. Assuming you lost all your military battles, you'd wind up with 52 points plus whatever you got done on your wonder. Not enough to win a ton of games, but enough to win a few. Might be something interesting to try at some point.


SCIENTIFIC STRUCTURES (Green cards) - DISTRIBUTION


Science cards are either the most dominating force in the game, or virtually useless depending on who you talk to. It can be both. If you're going to run with the green cards, it helps to go unopposed. That's how you see some ridiculous 40+ scores with science - someone got a LOT of greens and no one else got any. But if everyone is pulling a science card every chance they get, the big green point totals aren't going to manifest. Like everything else, let's take a look at a few charts first. I have my own names and symbols for the cards. I refer to them as Tablets (#), Gears (*), and Compasses (^). First, let's take a look at what's available.


Age 1
Scriptorium - # (3,4)
Apothecary - ^ (3,5)
Workshop - * (3,7)

Age 2
Dispensary - ^ (3,4)
Laboratory - * (3,5)
Library - # (3,6)
School - # (3,7)

Age 3
Academy - ^ (3,7)
Lodge - ^ (3,6)
Observatory - * (3,7)
Study - * (3,5)
University - # (3,4)


Age 1
3-player - 3u / 3c / 1 cpp / 3 cards max
4-player - 3u / 4c / 1 cpp / 3 cards max
5-player - 3u / 5c / 1 cpp / 3 cards max
6-player - 3u / 5c / .8 cpp / 3 cards max
7-player - 3u / 6c / .9 cpp / 3 cards max

Age 2
3-player - 4u / 4c / 1.3 cpp / 4 cards max
4-player - 4u / 5c / 1.3 cpp / 4 cards max
5-player - 4u / 6c / 1.2 cpp / 4 cards max
6-player - 4u / 7c / 1.2 cpp / 4 cards max
7-player - 4u / 8c / 1.1 cpp / 4 cards max

Age 3
3-player - 5u / 5c / 1.7 cpp / 5* cards max
4-player - 5u / 6c / 1.5 cpp / 5* cards max
5-player - 5u / 7c / 1.4 cpp / 5* cards max
6-player - 5u / 8c / 1.3 cpp / 5* cards max
7-player - 5u / 10c / 1.4 cpp / 5* cards max

ALL AGES
3-player - 12u / 12c / 4 cpp / 13* cards max
4-player - 12u / 15c / 3.8 cpp / 13* cards max
5-player - 12u / 18c / 3.6 cpp / 13* cards max
6-player - 12u / 20c / 3.3 cpp / 13* cards max
7-player - 12u / 24c / 3.4 cpp / 13* cards max



The first thing to notice is that in every age, the number of available cards per player decreases with the number of players. Executing a science strategy is going to be somewhat easier the fewer players there are. But this is only a general rule. If you have a 3 player game where everyone is going after green cards, it's going to be much more difficult to score big with science than in a 7 player game where only 2 players are actively pursuing green cards.

In a 3 player game, there is exactly one copy of each card. Across the Ages, there are an equal number of tablet, compass, and gear cards - 4 each. In a 7 player game, there are 2 of each card. Again exactly the same number of cards of each type - 8 each of tablet, compass, and gear. In both cases, Tablets are easier to acquire in Age 2, but Compasses and Gears are much easier to acquire in Age 3.

In a 5 player game, something unique happens. Once again, across the ages there are an equal number of cards with each symbol - 6 each. But the distribution is of when they appear is skewed for one type. In Age 1, there is only 1 card available with the gear symbol. In Age 2, there are two cards available with the gear symbol. In Age 3, there are 3 cards with the gear symbol. As you can see, it is difficult to acquire the gear symbol early, but it becomes progressively easier as the game moves on. When it comes to tablet and compass symbols, there are 2 available in each age.

In the 6 player game, things aren't as even. There are only 6 total cards with the gear symbol, and 7 cards each with the compass and tablet symbols. Just like in the 5 player game, the gear symbols have 1 available in Age 1, 2 in Age 2, and 3 in Age 3. The compass symbol follows a 2, 2, 3 distribution through the ages, while the tablet symbol follows a 2, 3, 2 distribution.

The 4 player game was saved for last because the distribution of symbols is so very different. For example, in a 4 player game there are going to be two Scriptoriums available in Age 1, a Library and a School available in Age 2, and two Universities available in Age 3. All of these cards have the tablet symbol. That's 6 chances to buy as many as 4 cards with the tablet symbol. Now take a look at compass symbols in a 4 player game. One Apothecary in Age 1, Two Dispensaries in Age 2, and an Academy and a Lodge in Age 3. That's 5 chances to get 4 cards with the compass symbol. Not quite as many. Finally, let's look at gear symbols in the 4 player game. There is a Workshop in Age 1, a Laboratory in Age 2, and an Observatory and a Study in Age 3. Just 4 chances to get the 4 cards with the gear symbol. This inequity is something that casual players don't usually notice. I've even seen many experienced players miss this.

In a 4 player game, gear symbols are at a premium. The Workshop in Age 1, the Laboratory in Age 2, and the Observatory in Age 3 all require glass. Given that the 4 player game is the one where manufactured goods are most rare, one should look at the opportunity to grab the glass in the first age very closely. Even if you had something else in mind, you should strongly consider a science strategy if you're in a 4 player game with the glass card in your hand. Because Alexandria starts with glass, the Alexandria player may also want to strongly consider a science strategy in a 4 player game as well. If you're not clear on why I would recommend science in these situations, it is because I strongly believe in acquiring sets over acquiring like symbols when executing a science strategy. For more on that, see the Scientific Scoring section.


SCIENTIFIC STRUCTURES (Green cards) - SCORING


When scoring Green cards, they score in two different ways. For a decent explanation, I suggest reading the rules. So there are two methods for going about scoring points. Acquiring lots of one symbol, or acquiring sets of 3 different symbols.

If you acquire sets serially, The chart below shows what you can score. There are only 4 unique cards that have the same symbol on them, so without Babylon or the Scientists Guild, the maximum you'll be able to score for a single category (tablets, gears, compasses) is 16 points. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd in the chart below refers to the first, second, etc card with the same symbol.


1st = 1 point (1 point total)
2nd = 3 points (4 points total)
3rd = 5 points (9 points total)
4th = 7 points (16 points total)
5th = 9 points (25 points total) - Requires Babylon's Science Wonder OR the Scientists Guild
6th = 11 points (36 points total) - Requires Babylon's Science Wonder AND the Scientists Guild


Now if you attempt to acquire sets evenly, you can score even more. This assumes that you will acquire one entire set of three different symbols before beginning to acquire a second set. And again, it assumes acquiring a complete second set prior to attempting to acquire the third. It probably isn't going to practically happen this way in most games, but for the sake of discussion and the chart, let's pretend that it does.


1st = 1 point (1 point total)
2nd = 1 point (2 points total)
3rd = 8 points (10 points total) - first complete set
4th = 3 points (13 points total)
5th = 3 points (16 points total)
6th = 10 points (26 points total) - second complete set
7th = 5 points (31 points total)
8th = 5 points (36 points total)
9th = 12 points (48 points total) - third complete set
10th = 7 points (55 points total)
11th = 7 points (62 points total)
12th = 14 points (76 points total) - fourth complete set
13th = 9 points (85 points total) - Requires Babylon's Science Wonder OR the Scientists Guild
14th = 9 points (94 points total) - Requires Babylon's Science Wonder AND the Scientists Guild


94 points looks pretty good right? But here's the thing. You're not going to score 94 points on science cards in 7 Wonders. You're not going to score 76 with science, either. Or 62 or 55. Ever. You won't score that many on science unless you're playing against idiots. So bragging that you were able to score 50+ on science says less about your own ability and more about the lack of ability in your competition.

That said, it is ALWAYS better to attempt to acquire sets evenly than to attempt to acquire like cards serially. Because there are only 4 unique cards of any one type, acquiring sets is easier. In addition, beyond the first two cards, acquiring sets scores more points, primarily because it is difficult to get more than 4 of the same symbol, and without Babylon, it's very difficult to get more than 3 of the same symbol. Against players of any reasonable skill, at least one of the cards you need to complete a 4-of-a-kind will be either discarded, buried for a wonder stage, or built outright by another player.

That being said, what do you do about the coupons? Green cards always contain a free build down the chain, usually of another green card of the same symbol. This is nice to have, but acquiring sets is more important that running up a chain. I'm not saying you should categorically pass up on a free build, but if the option is to get a free build of the Laboratory chaining from the Workshop or acquire a Dispensary which would give you your first compass symbol, I would take the Dispensary. In fact, I'd take it even if I had to pay a little gold to get it.

The exception to the serial coupon rule is, of course, the School (tablet). The School chains to both the Academy (compass) and the Study (gear). Because it branches to different symbols, it is the most valuable of the Scientific structures. It gives a player the greatest flexibility toward acquiring complete sets. The School costs 1 wood and 1 papyrus, so keep that in mind. 4 player game with a Science strategy? Make sure to have glass early in Age 1 and a papyrus and wood by Age 2. Ephesos or Alexandria anyone?


SCIENTIFIC STRUCTURES (Green cards) - GENERAL STRATEGY


So how many green cards can one player reasonably expect to get? When executing a Science strategy, I try for 6 total cards - two complete sets. And, I try to get that done as quickly as possible. Two complete sets scores 26 points. That is just over 4 points per card. Across all three ages, four points per card is outstanding. Now, if presented with an opportunity to acquire a 7th card beyond my first two complete sets, do I take it? No, I don't, and here is why. Chances are good that if I attempt to acquire a 7th card, it will be in Age 3. Remember in the General Scoring Opportunities section when benchmarking cards in each age was discussed? The benchmark for Age 3 is 7 points. A 7th Science card beyond my first two sets will score me only 5, as would an 8th. Even if I managed to make both the 7th and 8th cards the same symbol, they would only score 5 and 7 respectively - and while this is good for me, it isn't any better than taking blue cards or guilds. So it doesn't matter, right? Wrong. The blue cards will score for anyone who plays them. The guilds will probably score nicely for many players. The green isn't going to score well at all unless the player who ends up with it has been collecting science cards as well. And even if a player has been collecting greens, they may be deficient in other areas. If so, you can still afford to pass them the science card if they don't look like they can eke out a victory. Two sets is very good. And, it's good ENOUGH. Once you get two sets, move on to something else. Leave the greens as dead weight in the other players' hands. Limit their choices. Unless you're playing with idiots, of course, then just keep plopping down green I suppose and then post here and tell me how wrong I am about the two sets rule.

When is it too late to get into the green game? Age 3. What you need to look at is how many Age 3 Science cards you're going to be able to build, and individually what are they going to be worth?

You really need to have at least 2 cards going into age 3 in order to make going green worthwhile. That way, at least the third card will be worth 8 points. And even in Age 2, I wouldn't be actively looking to acquire green cards for the first time. The benchmark for Age 2 is 5 points. Getting a full set would net you 10 total, but that's just over 3 points per card. Not awful, but not great. The key to deciding to get into it is whether or not there is significant competition for greens. If there is only a single player going for green in a six player game, Age 2 really isn't too late. Since you can only build a single copy of each building, there will likely be enough to go around. Ideally, you want 4 green cards and one complete set already when heading into Age 3. That will mean your 5th and 6th cards will be worth 13 points total - pretty darn good for two cards in the last age.

Here is an example of how to make bad decisions when executing a science strategy. I'm leaving out some exact details of what's in play, but hopefully you get the idea. It's Age 2 in a 7 player game. I am going for Science as is the person to my left. I have already constructed the Dispensary this round. The player to my left has a chance to build either the other Dispensary or the School. Since this is the last available Dispensary, the player to my left constructs the other Dispensary and passes me the School. Dumb. First off, if the player had passed me the other Dispensary, I wouldn't have been able to build it, but I CAN build the Library. Secondly, in a 7 player game, there are only two Compass cards in Age 2, but there are four more coming up in age 3. Not only that, the School actually has a coupon for one of them. That's three mistakes. The player to my left didn't clog my hand with a useless card, didn't consider or know what would be available in Age 3 (significantly more compass cards), and didn't consider the impact of having a coupon for a different symbol in the next Age.

My own personal slant on whether or not I try for Science is based on two things - the wonder I start with and whether or not a good number of my opponents are attempting to go for science. If I start with one of the wonders that begins the game with a manufactured good, I nearly always attempt to play an early scientific building. Even if that's not my plan, it sends out the signal that I'm going to fight for these, and many times that's enough to influence other players to pursue something else. Even if there turns out to be a large fight, I am still ok if I can complete a single set very early. If I'm only going to be able to complete a single set, I want to make sure that I get the first two of those cards in Age 1, and the second in Age 2. The set will give me 10 points, and I'm a little ahead of the Age 1 benchmark for the two cards from that Age, which makes up for being slightly behind the benchmark for the card played in Age 2. And having a single complete set completed early can often worry the heck out of other players causing them to bury science cards, discard them, or horde them for their own sets. If they do this, then one set is good. If not, I try for the two sets.

In the case of a 4 player game, again, whether or not I go for science is greatly influenced by having the glassworks in my hand. If it's there, I go for science.


MILITARY STRUCTURES (Red cards) - DISTRIBUTION


Military cards are a very fun, unique, and interactive part of 7 Wonders. The distribution of the cards across numbers of players is very interesting. As you'll see, the 3 and 4 player games have exactly enough soldiers for each player to acquire one per round and stay even. Once you get to 5 players or more, it starts to get interesting.

Age 1
Guard Tower (3,4)
Barracks (3,5)
Stockade (3,7)

Age 2
Stables (3,5)
Archery Range (3,6)
Walls (3,7)
Training Ground (4,6,7)

Age 3
Siege Workshop (3,5)
Fortifications (3,7)
Arsenal (3,7)
Circus (4,5,6)

As always, here's a little legend. 3c refers to number of available cards, 1 cpp identifies 1 card per player, 3 shields refers to the total number of shield symbols on all available cards, 1 spp means 1 shield per player, and the maximum number of solders possible for one player to obtain appears at the end.

Age 1
3-player - 3c / 1 cpp / 3 shields / 1 spp / 3 soldiers max
4-player - 4c / 1 cpp / 4 shields / 1 spp / 3 soldiers max
5-player - 5c / 1 cpp / 5 shields / 1 spp / 3 soldiers max
6-player - 5c / .8 cpp / 5 shields / .8 spp / 3 soldiers max
7-player - 6c / .9 cpp / 6 shields / .9 spp / 3 soldiers max

Age 2
3-player - 3c / 1 cpp / 6 shields / 2 spp / 6 soldiers max
4-player - 4c / 1 cpp / 8 shields / 2 spp / 8 soldiers max
5-player - 5c / 1 cpp / 10 shields / 2 spp / 8 soldiers max
6-player - 7c / 1.2 cpp / 14 shields / 2.3 spp / 8 soldiers max
7-player - 8c / 1.1 cpp / 16 shields / 2.3 spp / 8 soldiers max

Age 3
3-player - 3c / 1 cpp / 9 shields / 3 spp / 9 soldiers max
4-player - 4c / 1 cpp / 12 shields / 3 spp / 12 soldiers max
5-player - 6c / 1.2 cpp / 18 shields / 3.6 spp / 12 soldiers max
6-player - 7c / 1.2 cpp / 21 shields / 3.6 spp / 12 soldiers max
7-player - 9c / 1.3 cpp / 27 shields / 3.9 spp / 12 soldiers max

ALL AGES
3-player - 9c / 3 cpp / 18 shields / 6 spp / 18 soldiers max
4-player - 12c / 3 cpp / 24 shields / 6 spp / 23 soldiers max
5-player - 16c / 3.2 cpp / 33 shields / 6.6 spp / 23 soldiers max
6-player - 19c / 3.2 cpp / 40 shields / 6.7 spp / 23 soldiers max
7-player - 23c / 3.3 cpp / 49 shields / 7 spp / 23 soldiers max


The most obvious thing to notice is that the 3 and 4 player games have the same number of soldiers per player available every round. That means if each person in the game buys just a single soldier per round, everyone will end up tied. But it also means that if anyone manages to get two soldiers in a round (particularly in 3 player), they're going to squeeze someone out.

In the 5 player game, there is one soldier per person until you get to Age 3, then there's a nasty surprise. Someone gets an extra. Be the first one to jump on two soldiers in Age 3 in a 5 player game and you just may score 10 points while costing your neighbors a couple in the process.

In 6 and 7 player, there aren't enough soldiers to go around in Age 1, so someone will definitely be left out. But in Age 2 there is one extra card, so one must invest more heavily to become the winner. Finally, in Age 3, you get one additional card in 6 player and 2 additional cards in 7 player. This can make for a very interesting arms race.


MILITARY STRUCTURES (Red cards) - SCORING


The first thing to keep in mind with Military structures is that you're playing for 18 points. In reality, you're playing for as many as 21 to 24 points. After all, you have to count the difference between what you have and what the opponents on your right and left have. If you have 18 points, they at LEAST have 3 negative tokens each, and often they will have given up the arms race altogether and take losses on the other side as well. That is a 24 point swing. With 24 points in mind, how many cards should you take if you're looking to max out on military? Really, you can afford to take about 5, but it's best if 4 of those 5 come in the first two Ages. Why is 5 cards a good number? Because scoring 26 points on 6 green cards is very good, and that is just over 4 points per card. So getting 24 points for 5 cards is just about the same. Remember, though, you ONLY get the points if you've won every Age. If you slip up, especially in Age 2 or Age 3. If you only managed to score 13 points on 5 cards, you probably just lost the game. If you're taking multiple military cards in the last Age, it really helps if you're not passing up on things like the Palace or the Builder's Guild to get them.

I've hear many people say that you can't win without playing at least some military. This isn't necessarily true. But in 3 and 4 player games, it's definitely more true. In 3 player games it's almost essential to play some military, and the game may hinge on whether or not you enter the arms race. I have won without any military at all in a three player game, but only because nearly everyone decided to abandon military. Most of the red cards ended up discarded or buried underneath wonder stages until the last round.

The 3 and 4 player games are unique because of the card distribution and the way military scoring works. The reason 3 player is so very different with military is because everything you play affects every other opponent. Everything you fail to play will definitely affect you unless it is buried. In four player, the effect is still fairly pronounced with every military you play affecting 66% of the opponents you're trying to beat. Add to that the limited quantity of military available to all players, and going for military structures is a pretty sound strategy with only 3 or 4 players. Even if you don't plan to go all out for military, you really can't afford to ignore it altogether if every other player is entering the race.

Now beyond 3 players, the advantage of building Military structures is not as clear. With an even number of cards per player, you can more easily predict (and plan for) who will win the Military victory. And your Military prowess affects 100% of your opponents in the You can work very hard to build enough Military to take the 18 points and have it snatched away from you in Age 3 without a chance to respond. And if you get into an arms race with one of your neighbors, the costs can skyrocket. Even if you win the fight, it probably wasn't worth it if you had to take 6 or 7 cards to get that victory. If you look at what you had to pass from your hand to the other player in order win the arms race, it almost always wasn't worth it.


MILITARY STRUCTURES (Red cards) - GENERAL STRATEGY


It should be noted that Military structures do not require any manufactured goods, with the lone exception of the Arsenal which requires a single cloth. Military structures do generally require Wood and/or Ore. There are a couple of structures that require 3 stone, the Age 2 Walls and the Age 3 Circus. The Circus, however, can be chained from the Age 2 Training Ground which requires no stone at all. The Siege Workshops, which require 3 clay, are more likely to be built by chaining up from the Laboratory Science structure than to be purchased outright. If you're planning on going heavy military, make sure to have Wood and Ore. You may want to go ahead and get a Cloth as well. Not only does Cloth appear on the Arsenal, it is required for the Strategists Guild which awards points for each -1 token owned by your neighbors.

If you're planning to go Military, do so early and often. Don't react to other players catching up to you. Put the Military victory out of reach as early as possible. You don't want to have to purchase a lot of cards in the last round to secure your victory. If you're purchasing three shield military cards in the last round to catch up to or pass your opponent, you're doing two things. First, you're probably triggering an arms race in which you're now stuck. Secondly, you're likely having to pass up on many great Age 3 scoring cards. When going Military, I like to get two Age 1 structures, Two Age 2 structures, and 1 Age 3 structure. That's probably enough to take the win, and likely enough to discourage anyone from getting into the race. I don't take my Age 3 military structure on the first play of Age 3, though, unless I have ZERO other decent cards to play. I typically like to play my Age 3 Military structure right when it looks like one of my opponents thinks they are going to sneak in and start competing with me. If we both play the Age 3 military at the same time, that is a frustrating enough experience for them to back off and let me have the win. The bad news is that if they aren't discouraged, then the two of us are in an arms race and we're both likely to pay the price for that at the end of the game.

Keep in mind that it is VERY tough to go Military if the person on your right is relatively close to you in Military strength toward the end of Age 2. If they're close in strength to you, it might be time to give up the chase, even if you're ahead by one shield. They're going to be the one passing cards to you, and if they want to win, they're going to win. You're not going to get a shot to react to them unless they pass you Military cards. This might still happen if the Military structures are clumped together. But remember, every time you pass the guy on your right, he gets a shot to come back before you do.

In 3 and 4 player games, I recommend getting your first Military structure in each age as soon as it's in your hand, even if that means paying another player to put it into play. If another player passes you a second card, play that one as well. By the time you've played your fifth card, it's all over for your opponents but the crying. Things are a bit different with Rhodos, but we'll cover that in the wonder section. Keep in mind that in the 4 player game, there are two Guard Towers, which require clay. If you have to choose between building the Guard Tower and something else, you may want to choose the other structure in hopes that one of the Guard Towers makes it around again.

In 5 player games, you should work to obtain at least one military card per round in the first two ages, but you don't necessarily need to jump on it right away at the beginning of the round. Mostly, you're just trying to keep everyone honest by forcing them to at least participate in the Military building. But, if you're getting significantly better opportunities early, you may want to ignore Military altogether. Due to the extra cards in Age 3, it's still possible to surprise someone in the last age. And another benefit to ignoring Military is that you may trigger and arms race between two other players by making more Military structures available for others to play. In 5-player, the military champion will ultimately be determined by who is able to build the extra structure in Age 3. There are two each of the Circus and the Siege Workshop. That means the final round victory turns on owning the Arsenal and/or the Fortifications. Having one or the other of those increases your chances that you'll be able to acquire a second card if you so desire. But again, acquiring two Military structures in the last round can be expensive, and if you're in an arms race, may still not be enough.

In 6 and 7 player games, I typically stay out of the military game altogether for two reasons. Take a look at the distribution chart again. As the number of players increases, so do the number of soldiers available per player. That means in a 7 player game, you likely will need one more soldier to win the Military battle than you would in a 3 player game. One more soldier might mean one more card. That may mean 6 cards to get 24 points instead of just 5. And guess where that 6th card is going to come from? Probably Age 3. And if you're unlucky, you might even need a 7th card. That's bad. The more Military structures you have to build, the lower point per card value your getting.

And here's the other bad part. You're not really getting 24 points in a 6 or 7 player game. You're really getting 18. That's because the victories you have don't penalize a significant number of your opponents with -1 tokens. In a 6 player game, 60% of your opponents could care less how many Military structures you're building. In a 7 player game, it's 66% that are unaffected. Having a big army matters less when you can't get them all the way around the world. In 6 and 7 player games, it's best to look for cheap Military points in the last couple of card plays. If you can sneak in with a good last second play (and you have no better options) then go for it. But pressing for Military supremacy too early in 6 and 7 player games could leave you without a lot of opportunity to score points in other ways. If you WANT to get major Military points in a 6 or 7 player game, you still need to go early. I just wouldn't recommend going into a 6 or 7 player game with the idea of dominating Militarily. If it comes to you organically, great. If not, there are plenty of other ways to score points.


ECONOMIC STRUCTURES (Yellow Cards) - DISTRIBUTION


Discussing the Economic structures in the same way that we did with the other types of structures won't work. You don't need Economic structures to win the game. You may play a structure with the idea that it will be incredibly useful, but later find that it isn't useful at all. I also don't think that the Economic structures work particularly well together and don't create very good synergies. They are all situationally effective, but planning your primary strategy around using Economic structures generally isn't a good idea. The primary reason being that they don't score points in the first two ages, and the ones that score points in Age 3, don't usually score enough. They are mostly consolation prizes for not getting or being able to afford something better.

Let's first take a look at what's available in each age. I put little reminder letters to help me (and you) remember what each structure does. M refers to Manufactured goods, R refers to resources. G+V means you get to Gold+Victory Points.

Age 1
MarketPlace - M (3,6)
East Trading Post - R (3,7)
West Trading Post - R (3,7)
Tavern - 5g (4,5,7)

Age 2
Caravansery - R (3,5,6)
Forum - M (3,6,7)
Vinyard - G for brown (3,6)
Bazar - G for grey (4,7)

Age 3
Arena - G+V for wonder (3,5,7)
Lighthouse - G+V for yellow (3,6)
Haven - G+V for brown (3,4)
Chamber of Commerce - G+V for grey (4,6)


The distribution of the structures speaks for itself. Most notable ought to be when a new Caravansery or Forum is added in each age. These will tip the balance of resources and manufactured goods. Also notable are the number of Arenas and the Chamber of Commerce structures, which can score nicely in the last round for the right players.


ECONOMIC STRUCTURES (Yellow Cards) - GENERAL STRATEGY

Since there are only scoring opportunities for yellow in the last round, it makes sense to combine the discussion about scoring opportunities with general strategy.

I made the statement that there aren't very good synergies. Let's take a look at the first age Economic buildings for the example. Both Trading posts allow you to purchase resources from a neighbor for a single gold, and both chain to the Forum in Age 2. The Forum gives you the manufactured good of your choice. So, you are motivated to purchase resources cheaply from a neighbor, and receive the Forum from which no one can purchase goods. How are you going to get money flowing in? Play the Vinyard? Again, it's another card that doesn't score any points, and if you have a trading post, likely won't give you as much gold since you Vinyard gives you gold for your own brown resource cards as well as your neighbors. Playing the Bazar isn't a good option in Age 2 either as the Forum eliminates the need to have many grey manufactured good cards. So while the Trading Post isn't bad and the Forum isn't bad, they don't really work that well together. The next level of chains from Age 2 to Age 3 are better synergies, but to worse cards. We will get to that in the Age 3 discussion for Economic structures.

ECONOMIC STRUCTURES (Yellow Cards) - Age 1

I do like the trade post, but I think it's only good if you really commit to using it. I think it's an ideal choice for a player who needs to get four of the same type of good to construct his wonder - Rhodos, Giza, and the B side of Babylon. It can be used either to get more of the needed resource for the wonder, or to get everything else (more specific advice on the use of the trading post for these wonders in their individual sections). But if you're another wonder and play a trading post, you're going to want a way to make money. One of the best ways is to construct all of the manufactured goods. The more manufactured goods you construct, the less motivated your neighbors will be to also construct them. After all, they can buy them from you. And that's what you want - money to plug in to your trading post when you need it. Another trading post tip. Don't EVER point it at Ephesos. Ephesos is one of the wonders that can be built and many never need to construct a resource at all. Ephesos is a money wonder, and with money, the motivation to build resources is low. A trading post pointed at Ephesos is a waste.

The Marketplace is a very good Age 1 building, but it can be one of the worst. Before you play the Marketplace, make SURE that there are at least two different manufactured goods that you can purchase. If you're neighbors both start with a manufactured good, this is a solid first play. But if you play it early and just HOPE your neighbors get manufactured goods, you could be in trouble. Even in a three player game, I have punished people for choosing this early. A Babylon player chose this and stubbornly refused to play any manufactured goods. So did I, and so did the other player. I opted for Military (which requires very few manufactured goods) and the other player went with early blue buildings. The manufactured goods were all buried for Wonder stages, and the Science cards had to be discarded for gold. Ouch. In the second round, I bought two clay from Babylon (with my trade post) and build the Forum in Age 2. Babylon broke down and constructed a Glassworks while the third player constructed a Loom. I was passed the Press and promptly buried it for a wonder stage. Now there was no Papyrus in the game for my opponents, but I had access to everything in the game. The Marketplace was virtually useless and Babylon was sunk. In the next two ages I concentrated on building anything that didn't require Papyrus to fill up my opponents' hands with things they couldn't buy. This was no great genius move on my part - I was just lucky enough to pull the Forum in Age 2. Had either of the other players done that, the result would have been different, but the Marketplace STILL would have been useless to the Babylon player. The Marketplace can be good, just make sure you can use it.

As for the Tavern, it's a tough call. The best time to take the Tavern is when you need to make a quick and bold maneuver. Building the first two wonder stages for the B side of Babylon can be very powerful. If the Tavern can help you accomplish this, go for it. Getting the second wonder stage of the A side of Olympia built in Age 1 is also a potentially powerful move. Again, the Tavern can help you do this much more quickly. If you already have a trading post pointed at a player with a couple of either/or resources, the Tavern might be your very best play, as it will eventually net you five resources. But you should have a specific plan for the 5 gold you're about to take in. Outside of those three scenarios (and maybe one or two others I'm not thinking about), the Tavern is a relatively weak card to play early. It's actually a fairly decent card to play late in the round, as it can set you up for a nice purchase at the beginning of Age 2. But I would rather have any Science card before the Tavern. I would rather have any Military card before the Tavern. And I would also probably want any resource in front of the Tavern, too. If you have the resource and your neighbor doesn't, there is a high probability that it will get purchased by someone at least once. And of course there is a high probability that you will use it at least once. There's four gold right there. Use the resource just one more time, and it has paid for itself. If three gold is worth one point, then the Tavern isn't even worth two points. It's worth less than an Altar. I'm not saying that having 5 gold early will never be useful, but it will be rare that it is more useful than just about anything else you can do in the first age. Depending on your situation on the board, though, it might be better than a trading post or Marketplace.


ECONOMIC STRUCTURES (Yellow Cards) - Age 2


The Caravansery and Forum are both excellent cards if you can afford them. They are well worth paying full price for (4 gold) if necessary. I particularly like getting one of them if I have a trading post or Marketplace pointed at me. Not only does it deny a player their chain, but it also denies them the ability to buy one of those resources from me. In a three player game, it's incredibly powerful to discard one of the manufactured goods in both Age 1 and again in Age 2 and get access to the Forum (like in the earlier example). It does, however, require a bit of luck. These buildings will pay for themselves over and over again. If you already have a couple of the manufactured goods constructed, I would strongly consider discarding a Forum or burying it for a wonder stage in order to force your neighbors to also construct manufactured goods, or buy them from you.

The Vinyard and Bazar are both Marginal plays. At best, you're probably going to get 8 or 9 gold out of them. That is three or fewer points. But if you're low on money and don't have a lot of resources, these can be decent. Then again, if you're low on money and don't have a lot of resources, you're probably getting your tail kicked anyway, so taking a bunch of money probably isn't going to turn it around for you. These are good plays when you have nothing better to do, AND they are good plays in one other situation - when you're trying to keep money away from someone else. Sometimes a player will be playing a "trade post" strategy where they get very few goods but can purchase many things cheaply. It's good to play "keep away" from these players, especially if they are doing particularly well with Science Card chains. Playing these will give you a little cash, but more importantly deny a player cash who may be able to use it very, very well. If you did happen to play both trading posts in round 1, the Bazar and the Forum are excellent choices. You should be able to turn 9 gold into 9 resources, which is a very effective use of that cash. If someone is paying me full price for my resources, that's great. If they're only paying a single gold, I want to make sure they have to discard for 3 gold at least once. They really need to be slowed down, and taking some of that cash opportunity away from them can help.


ECONOMIC STRUCTURES (Yellow Cards) - Age 3


Here are the ones that finally score some points. The worst of these are the Lighthouse and the Haven. These are consolation prizes. If you can't get anything better, well, I guess you can play one of these. The Haven is the worst. Getting a victory point and a gold for each brown resource is the worst. If you have 5 brown resources, that is a ton of them. That would make the Haven actually worth it - 5 victory points + 5 gold. But I'd rather have the Senate. Why? Because if I have 5 resources, chances are very good that they guy I'm passing it to doesn't have nearly that many. I still score 6 points with the Senate, and he scores far fewer points with his newly acquired and significantly less useful Haven. If you feel you must play the Haven, ask the following questions - Can you score more points with another card? If yes, play the other card. If no, then can anyone score more points with the Haven than you? If no, then STILL play another card and pass that Haven - especially if they'll need to buy a resource from you to construct it.

The Lighthouse is also similarly subpar, particularly if played early in the round. Again, if you have 4 Economic structures + the Lighthouse, you'll get 5 victory points and 5 gold. 4 Economic structures going into the last round is a LOT of them. The same basic question/answer session should be applied to the Lighthouse with an exception. If you've managed to play both trade posts, have a couple of other yellow cards, AND you happen to be a bit short on cash, you may want to do this to give you the money you need to buy the next few cards in Age 3. The Lighthouse isn't useless, but it's just not quite as useful as about everything else in the last age.

The Arena is either good or bad. It depends. If you've constructed all of your wonder stages, it is a 6 point card for most wonders - 3 victory points, and 3 more for the 9 gold you get. If you have the B side of Giza completed, this is a must have worth a whopping 8 points. Not bad at all for 2 stone and an ore. But you should strongly consider passing on the Arena in many cases. First, if you can score the same number of points on a different card, you may want to let the Arena go. If your opponent doesn't have all of their wonder stages constructed, you might go ahead and pass it as it would score a couple of points less for them. If your opponent is the B side of Rhodos, you may want to pass it. If your opponent is short on money and would likely buy goods from you, you may want to pass it even if they have all of their wonder stages constructed. After all, if you give them 9 gold and 4 to 6 of them come back to you in the next couple of turns, it was an OUTSTANDING play.

Finally, if you are passing to the B side of Giza in a 5, 6, or 7 player game and he has only constructed 3 of his wonder stages, you may want to pass it. Why? Because there are multiple Arenas available for play (up to 3). Once Giza constructs all 4 wonder stages, he can score 8 points with the Arena. If he only has 3 constructed (and you fell strongly that he ISN'T about to build the fourth stage) then go ahead and pass it to him. You may goad him into playing the Arena for only 6 points. If don't pass the Arena and play it instead, you may end up getting passed another Arena. At that point, you CAN'T play the Arena (since you already built one) and you'll end up passing it to Giza anyway. If you discard it, you're wasting a scoring opportunity.

Finally, you get the Chamber of Commerce, but you only see this one in 4+ player games. If you're going to play a lot of manufactured goods, keep this card in mind. You can score 8 points with this card if you have all three manufactured goods. It also costs two clay. Now, which wonder is likely to want all three manufactured goods and will have enough clay to construct this? Babylon anyone? Definitely something to consider when playing Babylon in a 4+ player game.


GUILDS (Purple cards) - General Strategy


The first two things you should keep in mind about guilds are as follows. 1) They get progressively more difficult to obtain with each player you add to the game. The Guild per player ratio is almost at 2 cards per player in a 3 player game, but drops to slightly over 1 card per player in the 7 player game. The guild you want to play is progressively more likely to be in the game the more players you add. That doesn't necessarily increase your chances of getting it, though.

But here is another critical point about the game as a whole. I've seen people comment on how fewer players makes for a more superior and strategic game, and that 6 and 7 player games are more chaotic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 3 and 4 player games are very different types of games, but chaos has little to do with it. In a game with a lot of players, 7 Wonders requires much more risk mitigation. You don't have to keep up with just a couple of other players, you have to keep up with all of them. for example, you see a player two positions to the left of you is one Compass symbol away from completing a second complete set of Science cards which would likely give him the game. After the first play, he did not play one, you did not have one in your hand, and one other player built a Lodge. The player directly to your left built his last wonder stage with the first play. How many compasses are left in the Science buildings? Where are they? Chances are good the player to your left buried one of them - why else would he bury on the first play of Age 3? If he had 2 compasses, burying wouldn't have done a lot of good, so the other two must be with the other players. Now you need to keep in mind, what can the player to your left afford? Do you need a compass symbol? Should you hold off on building your last wonder stage until you can bury a compass? After each turn, based on what you see in your hand, will a compass card you pass end up in his hand before the game ends?

In 3 and 4 player games, the decisions on each play are easier to recognize. The cards that each player has in their hands can be remembered easily. The 6 and 7 player game require more that simply remembering what you passed to the guy on your left or right. It requires that you guess what each player might have had in his/her hand on every play based on what they played. It requires remembering every card you've seen and adding to every card you've played to determine what is left, or likely to be left. But the 7 player game isn't chaotic. There are a fixed number of cards, all of which are known. But games with more players require more thought. The possibilities must become a larger matrix in your head rather than a mystery cloud of unknown stuff that someone lucky guy just played. Every game of 7 Wonders that you lose is lost honestly and without luck. Every game of 7 Wonders that you win is won fair and square.

A player must be aware on the very first play of the game what is available, and how to set themselves up in the last round to be able to play what they want. In a 7 player game, you want to play a Science strategy. What goods will you need in the last round to be able to build the Scientists Guild? My guess is that nearly everyone who believes the 7 player game to be too "chaotic" can't answer that question off the top of their head. The answer is 2 wood and 2 ore (and a papyrus, but you probably have that). So if you're going for Science and so are two other players, you stand a much better chance to be able to play the Scientists guild if you prepare to be able to receive it in the first two rounds.

Let's say you are in a 6 player game and plan to dominate militarily with Rhodos. You are handed no goods and no military in your first hand of the game, but you have all three manufactured goods. Which manufactured good will be best to have in Age 3? Again, all the folks who vote that 6 player is "chaos" probably have no idea. The answer is the cloth (Loom). The only manufactured good required to build ANY Military structure is Cloth in Age 3 for the Arsenal. Cloth is also required for the Strategists Guild which awards points for the -1 chips that your neighbors have.

Finally, it looks like the player on your right and the one on your left want to build a lot of green cards early. What resources do you need if you plan to take the Philosophers Guild in Age 3? You need 3 clay - not something you can "aw shucks" your way into at the end if you haven't been planning for it at least since Age 2. In fact, Clay is ALSO what you need if you plan not to purchase any Military structures at all - it helps with the Spies Guild.

It's round 2 and your neighbors are snatching up Civilian structures left and right. You end up with a hand full of resources, none of which you absolutely need. Should you play one? Well, the Magistrates Guild gives you victory points for your neighbors' Civilian structures and requires 3 wood to build. One of the VERY few things that requires a lot of wood. Perhaps, if you know you're going to need 3 wood to build one of your wonder stages (Giza A or Babylon A), you might stay away from large numbers of Civilian structures and concentrate on Military and/or Science instead. You may wind up building the Magistrates Guild and scoring nicely.

By far, the best piece of strategy advice I can give is to memorize how many guild cards will be in your game, and know exactly what each one does and exactly what it costs. Memorize it. When your strategy starts to form, start considering what guilds are beneficial to you, their likelihood to be in the game, and how you plan to construct them should you get the chance. There is nothing more irritating than hearing someone say, "I would have won if I'd constructed the Scientists Guild when I had it, but it cost two ore and I only had access to one. You guys got lucky." Eh, what? Lucky? More like a failure to plan for victory.


WONDERS -


It's possible to win the game with any wonder in any given game. I believe the wonders are balanced, but some are much easier to "figure out" than others. I'm going to talk about the wonders that start with a resource first, then move on to the ones that begin with a manufactured good.


THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA -


The explanation on the Pyramids is going to be a bit longer than the other wonders because I want to cover a couple of very basic wonder strategies about when and why to build wonder stages that are obvious to experienced players, but may not be as obvious to novices. These basic strategies apply to the Giza, but also apply to all wonders.

Whenever I have a group of experienced players playing with one new player, I generally start them with this wonder. And most of the time, the new player ends up somewhere near the middle in points. I find this to be a better first game experience for new players than the typical beatdown a new player will take in most strategy games. They typically want to play a second game right away, "But this time, let me try a different wonder." Giza works for new players not because it is significantly stronger than other wonders, It works well because the strategies for how to score well with the wonder are easy to grasp. You really have one main goal - get your wonder built. Then worry about scoring points in some other way or combination of ways. Both the A side and the B side play of Giza play similarly. For the A side you need access to 4 stone and 3 wood. On the B side, you need one fewer wood, but add 3 clay and a Papyrus. The convenient thing about Giza is that it doesn't matter as much (for the new player) when the wonder stages are built. They provide the same benefit in the Age 1 as they do in Age 3.

Learning when to build the wonder is part of the finesse of consistently winning with Giza. Ideally, you'll want to build one wonder stage per Age. When playing with the B side, you'll want to construct two stages in Age 1, or two stages in Age 2. The reason goes to the benchmarking that was covered earlier. If you had to bury the Altar underneath your first wonder stage, you'd be burying a card that would otherwise score 2 points for you to get 3 points. Even better, you'd be burying a card that might otherwise score 2 points for someone ELSE in order to get 3 points for yourself. The same holds true for Age 2. But if you wait until Age 3 to build your second wonder stage, you might be using a 6 or 7 point card in order to get just 5 points. This is only a general rule of thumb.

Sometimes, there are other good reasons to bury a card for a Wonder stage. For example, during a 4 player game while playing the B side of Giza in Age 1, you play the Press (Papyrus). During the early part of Age 2, you receive the second Press. You may consider burying it for a wonder stage. With only two Presses in the game (and one Forum), you may be able to deny the player across from you the chance to get Papyrus at all. And you'll ensure that at least one or two players will need to purchase Papyrus from your Press if they want to build those kinds of structures in the future. You can also use wonder stages to deny other players other types of cards as well. If there are one or two players reasonably well invested in Science cards, you may start consistently burying green. If you have a lead in Military, you may want to bury additional red cards to prevent others from catching up. It should be noted that

The other good time to bury cards is when you get the "hand full of crap." The "hand full of crap" is a hand of cards that you either cannot afford to play, or doesn't work with what you're trying to accomplish. If it's Age 2 in a 7 player game and you were just passed the Quarry and the Press for your last two cards and you already have both a Quarry and a Press, your options are either to discard one for 3 gold, or build a wonder stage - providing you can afford the wonder stage you want to build and haven't already built them all. A newer player probably won't know when to deny another player cards, but they will quickly recognize when everything in their own hand is useless to them. A very effective strategy is to simply wait until you have a mostly useless hand full of cards to bury one for a wonder stage. The real finesse of this type of playing is figuring out when you're likely to get a MORE useless hand of cards in the next hand. The dreaded "hand full of crap" is one of the main reasons you may not want to simply rush out and build all of your wonder stages as soon as possible. Even though cards in Age 3 score more, having two soldier cards to choose from on your last turn doesn't do you a lot of good if you aren't going military. If you're good at counting cards, it will be less of a guess. You'll know what's left and can judge if you're more or less likely to get something useful as the turns wind down.

One critical thing about Giza is that it requires a lot of resources - many more than you're likely to be able to purchase from your neighbors. Many novice players worry about building the first wonder stage first, the second wonder stage second, and the third wonder stage third. You can't think this way with Giza. Right off the bat, you need to be considering the fact that the last stage on either side costs 4 stone. When playing the B side, you also have to strongly consider the 3 clay for the third wonder stage. You need to quickly gain access to any card that provides stone. You can't afford to have them buried. You then should begin acquiring Clay and/or Wood. The good news is that others are probably going to buy lots of these types of resources from you. The bad news is that you'll probably need to buy most everything else from them. But the wonder stages are worth so many points, you really must ensure that you get them built.

Two strategies that pair well with Giza are a Military strategy and a Civilian card strategy. Military works well because Military structures require very few manufactured goods, but require lots of wood - something Giza will probably have at least a little of. Civiliain structures work because Giza will likely have plenty of stone and on the B side, plenty of clay. If building a significant number of civiliain structures, you'll want to have a Glassworks or Forum as well. The Giza player should also set themselves up to take advantage of playing the Arena and the Builder's Guild in Age 3. If you get the B side of Giza completed quickly, the Arena becomes one of the best Age 3 cards in the game. There are few good reasons to play a Science card as Giza. Perhaps in a 3 player game against Rhodos and Mannekin Pis you would find a good reason to go after Science. But it can be tough to build your wonder and the green cards.



THE HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON -


On the surface, Babylon seems like one of the easiest wonders to play. Just get green cards, right? Science, science, science. But if you've seen Babylon played many times, you'll know that it doesn't rack up a ton of wins. I think the reasons why can be attributed to how it is played more than how it was designed. You can play Babylon in the obvious ways, but you may end up with predictable results - often a loss. Babylon is easy to thwart because, more than any other wonder, it has such an obvious suggested path forward.

One of the main things I see a player who loses with Babylon say is, "Well, I just tried to get as many green cards as I could. I scored 36 on greens, but my total score was 52 and the winner had 58." I think this comes down to only doing one thing and/or not being efficient with the cards. Back in the scientific section, I recommended going for a total of 6 cards - 2 complete sets - in order to score 26 points. The discussion was about how this was both a reasonable and efficient way to score points. I think this is still true, even when playing Babylon. The difference is that you now only need to get 5 structures to make this a reality since the Hanging Gardens get a free science structure built in. So, if you only have to get 2 complete sets, how do you do that? You can get 1 in Age 1, 2 in Age 2, and 3 in Age 3 (again, if possible). But it gets progressively easier to do. If you're able to get one earlier, you open up more possibilities. But only trying to get 26 points with Science means you need to be thinking how you're going to score your other points. That means you can take opportunities to score with Civilian and even Military structures. You have to be disciplined enough to get your 5 science and score in some other way as well. The Hanging Gardens were not built with science alone.

The other thing I've seen players say is, "I just tried to get as many green cards as I could, but people kept taking them or discarding them." This is the "fear factor" of having lost to someone scoring 48 points with green before. Often in a group, once someone breaks out with 48 science points, you don't see it again after that for a while. Everyone tends to start jumping on the green cards in an effort not to lose that way again. There are a couple of ways to go about combating this. One way is to build a couple of early military structures. Sometimes this gets your opponents thinking about something else, especially after the second one is constructed. It really forces them to react.

If you're playing the A side of Babylon, another thing you could do to counter the "too many scientists" problem is modifying your strategy to get only 2 green cards for a single set. One in the first, one in the second, and then concentrate on something else. Military might, civilian structures, or some combination. The final stage still nets you 7 points.

Finally, if playing the B side of Babylon, you could consider not building any green structures at all. Yes, you heard me right. If you're in a 7 player game and you have 4 people actively looking to go for green (or actively burying them or whatever), you're not going to be able to get your five cards. The pool of available cards may be too diluted. The last wonder stage is expensive, and if you're not getting at least 5 green cards, it may not even be worth it to build. Go for 5, or stop at 2 - or don't even go past wonder stage 1 and ignore green altogether. Why would you not build your wonder stages? Mostly because the second wonder stage can be bad. I've seen players rush to get this second stage built so that they can play an extra three cards - but realistically, what is going to be left for you in the first two stages? If you're playing with competent players, not a lot. In the first couple of rounds, you probably will get extra resources, yellow cards, and possibly duplicates of what you already have in games with more players. Nothing that scores points. You CAN make it work for you if you're doing a double-threat of Military + Science. Then it becomes difficult for players to pass either of those cards to you in the last hand. But consider that in games that have LOTS of resources or goods (4 and 5 player) you are going to get resources or duplicates more often than not. Many times, you'll get something you could use, but can't afford to build because you've got clay and wood and not much else. When you get cards you can't use, you end up discarding for 3 gold. 3 gold is worth 1 point. Three discards is 9 gold, 3 points. Not great for a second wonder stage. Not enough.

But the first time you DON'T build your second and third wonder stages on the B side of Babylon, you will really tilt the game balance in some interesting ways. First off, you're really going to anger the Mannekin Pis player sitting next to you who has been planning on stealing either your second or third wonder stage or both). That is pretty funny. You're also going to screw up the value of the Builder's guild, particularly if you're near Mannekin Pis or Rhodos side B. And, you will likely throw everyone off by taking the resources they don't expect. They'll angrily remind you that you won't be able to complete your wonder. "No, I'll be able to get it, I think," you can tell them. Then take what THEY need for resources. They will end up paying you to build their own stages, weakening their ability to execute their own plans. And since you won't need to build your second or third wonder stages, you'll have two additional cards to play face up. Extra military, more civilian, additional guilds. And as insane as it sounds, you don't have to abandon the Science route altogether either. Once they've realized you're not going to get your wonder stages, your opponents may stop playing keep-away with the green cards. You could possibly get 6 green cards with only a single wonder stage. And when you've done this once or twice with the same group, the dynamic of how Babylon gets played gets REALLY interesting. Are you going to build your wonder or not? What the heck is going on with the Babylon guy?


THE TEMPLE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA -


The A and the B side of this wonder play very differently. The good news about Olympia is that you start with Wood, which means you may not need another wood in the game, so long as one of your neighbors takes one. And wood appears on a lot of cards, including many military cards.

Unlike most of the other wonders, the A side is actually a lot more interesting than the B side. The second stage power of the A side allows one to build a card without paying the cost. Like Babylon, you're likely not going to get something great to use the second stage power on if you build it during Age 1. But if you want to do it anyway, you'll likely need to buy a resource in order to build your second wonder stage in Age 1 in time to actually make use of it. One thing it allows you to do is to build a science card without any manufactured goods. You might even want to build a military card for which you don't have a resource forcing your neighbor to purchase resources from you to build the one that is left. Then again, you may just want to get it built in Age 1 so that you can use the power on the very first turn of Age 2.

Early in the round really is the best time to use the second wonder stage power for Olympia A. On the first couple of hands of the Age, you're going to get the most possible choices for building something that will score points. That is when you should pounce. You can wait around if you like, but your choices generally get worse, not better. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to be able to actually afford what your opponent is passing you, or worse, be handed something useless. Nothing like getting two sawmills handed to you in the last hand of Age 2. Now what? Play one for 2 Wood and a free gold, or just discard for 3 gold? You didn't make very good use of your power. Don't wait for what MIGHT come. Use the power for what you can score NOW.

In any game with Olympia A, you should look for an opportunity to use your stage 2 power to build either the Pantheon or the Palace. If you can afford to buy the resources to build something in Age 3, do it. Don't use your power to build something you can buy unless you believe you'll be short on opportunities in the next hand. Nothing as fun as spending 4 gold to get the Pantheon THEN using your power to build the Palace that someone passed you. Very powerful stuff. Remember that there are 2 Pantheons in a 6 player game, and 2 Palaces in a 7 player game. Decent shot to get one or the other. When you use your power, build something that scores points, but try to make it something you would otherwise have no shot to build. If you CAN'T build it, chances are good that someone else CAN build it. And by the same token, you can sometimes in games with fewer players, you can build a structure for which you don't have the resources, pass one that you do, and end up getting it passed back to you before the end of the round. Keep this in mind as you're gathering resources. Unlike most games when I try to get one of each resource, there is much less reason to do that with Olympia A. Having lots of resources actually counters your power a little.

The B side doesn't play the same way across games with differing numbers of players. In 3 player, the B side of Olympia is fantastic. You really have to work hard to make it score poorly. You can let the Builders Guild go. Someone else can build it and you can copy it. The chances that someone is going to build a guild that you can score well with is near 100%. You can clog up your opponents hands with resources and just purchase them for cheaply, or stock up on all of the manufactured goods so that they will end up paying you full price. Any regular resource that gets put into play anywhere can be purchased for 1 gold. In order to stop you, players have to bury resources, which stops them, too. It works pretty nicely.

There is a downside. The B side of Olympia gets worse the more players there are. Typically, this is because the third Wonder becomes increasingly underpowered. In a 7 player game, the likelihood of a neighbor building something you can score well with is pretty low. with so few guilds per player in games with more players, some players may not opt to build a guild at all. The first stage actually becomes somewhat more useful in 7 player because of the lower amount of resources, but can cause your neighbors to build trade posts of their own that are pointed away from you. And worse, if you are passed a trade post, it is useless to you. If you build a trade post AND the first stage of Olympia, you can't just get your resources for free. They each set the buying price of resources at 1, they don't reduce them by one.

In a game with a large number of players, you can play Olympia B much like Babylon B. Just skip the third Wonder stage. Heck, you might even consider skipping them ALL. The first wonder stage is pretty useful, and 5 victory points isn't bad, but having two or three extra cards to play can make up for a lot of deficiencies as well. In a 6 or 7 player game, you can outright sabotage some other players by picking the resources they were counting on to build their wonder stages (looking at you Giza, Rhodos, Babylon).


THE COLOSSUS AT RHODOS -


Rhodos really boils down to one thing - are you going to get enough ore to build your last Wonder stage? Rhodos' strength is quite obviously Military, and unlike the B sides of both Babylon and Olympia where it is sometimes wiser to abandon your latter wonder stages, you really need to get them all in with Rhodos. Rhodos isn't going to be as competitive with the Science cards, so the points count. And any wonder stage that is worth 7 direct victory points is worth building (last stage of every standard Side A wonder). On the B side, the last stage is also definitely worth the cost, we'll go into more of that later.

The problem with both sides of Rhodos is the four ore. Having four ore isn't useful for anything else in the game other than the last stage of the Rhodos wonder. So ideally, you want to only get two and buy the other two from somewhere else. However, your neighbors likely know this. And if you have 2 ore already, why would they need to build even 1?

On the A side, many people attempt to jump out and build their first couple of wonder stages ASAP so that they can get the two soldiers right off the bat. This isn't a great idea. While you're busy gathering wood and clay and building two wonder stages, you're not doing two more important things: getting ore, and building military structures. The getting ore part we've covered in the resources section. If you expect to get 4, you need to prepare as though you have to take it all yourself. Your opponents may not get any as they can always get what they need from you. Remember that Ore is very useful in ones and twos, but not so much in threes and fours. If I'm sitting next to Rhodos, there aren't a lot of good reasons for me to play an ore card. Sure I may have to buy ore, but there is a strong possibility that the Rhodos player is going to have to get it himself. If he's gathering ore, he's buying other stuff from me. And I'm limiting his diversity in other resources - all the more reason not to take ore. So, like the discussion in the resource section, Rhodos needs to target two ore if possible during Age 1. And when playing next to them, you generally don't want to take ore at all.

The building military structures suggestion I made be less obvious at first. Why would you need to build Military structures if you get two shields on the second wonder stage? The point of the second wonder stage isn't to replace shields you could otherwise get. It is to add to them. It is a slingshot to get you past the others. If you spend the time it takes in order to get enough resources for the first two wonder stages built, you probably didn't build any individual Military structures. That leaves an extra Military structure for the other players, and guess which player probably built the extra one? Someone sitting next to YOU. Having your first two wonder stages built (netting +2 shields) doesn't do a lot of good if the guy sitting next to you has the built two Age 1 Military structures. It's about more than beating this person in the first round. The first round points are somewhat important, but really it's about whether or not your neighbor is going to be able to catch up to you. If you're tied at the end of the first age, you may not get any Military structures in Age 2. If that happens, your neighbor may build one and start pressing you to catch up. If you're playing catch up with Rhodos, you're losing. The point of Rhodos is to press the other guy and to make him play catch up. What you're really hoping is that he will lose hope and stop fighting. Beat him 2 zip in Age 1. Immediately build another Military structure in Age 2, then construct your second wonder stage. At this point, your opponents on either side may start giving up. But you have to press one more time in Age 3. Put out a single Age 3 Military structure and you can erase all doubt. You've now played two Age 1, two Age 2, and one Age 3 card for 18 victory points, and -6 to your neighbors. Not bad. You're also primed for the Strategists Guild, which you probably won't get - but at least you'll force someone else to bury or discard it (or build it themselves if they're on the other side of your neighbor).

Rhodos is the first wonder we've discussed that has a wonder stage with Victory points plus something else in a single stage. Others include the B sides of Ephesos and Halikarnassos. An important concept is that each stage needs to be worth about as much as its benchmark in total victory points. Let's jump ahead for one second. The benchmark means that for the first stage of Halikarnassos B, worth 2 victory points plus an ability, you need a card worth about 1 victory point to make the first stage benchmark of 3 points. I mentioned Halikarnassos briefly because Rhodos side B only has 2 stages. Since all three stages are worth 15 points as a benchmark, you need the two stages in Rhodos B to be worth between 10 and 12 points total. That's the victory points, gold (or what you buy with the gold), and shields altogether. Why 10 to 12? Because when you only have two wonder stages, you are going to get one extra card during some stage that you will not have to bury. If that extra card comes in Age 1, it will hopefully be worth about 3 points. If it comes in Age 2, hopefully it will be worth about 5 points. Hence, 10 to 12 extra points. If you manage to get both wonder stages built before Age 3, there can be both advantages and disadvantages. You'll get to play an extra card worth more than any card in Age 1 or 2, but you are more likely to get a card that you can't use, and you will not be able to bury an additional card to keep away from other players, or in the event you end up with the "hand full of crap".

When you start to think about benchmarking the B side of Rhodos, it is tricky. Money and shields together are hard to quantify, even as just an estimated number of points. It sounds disingenuous to say "don't over think Rhodos" in a guide like this. Clearly I've asked you to over think a lot of things in 7 wonders. But the B side is pretty straightforward. Build your wonder, win the battles, build some blue cards and guilds. Prosper. You can also afford to be a little bit haughty with Rhodos. My kid loves Rhodos. I always get a taunt - "Reds and blues, Dad. Reds and blues. That's how I'm going to get you." Doesn't matter if it's 3 player or 6 player. That's the taunt. And lots of times, I'm gotten. Rhodos (and my kid) are just that good.


THE MAUSOLEUM AT HALIKARNASSOS -


All of the wonders that start with manufactured goods start with one thing in common - the ability to get a jump on the scientific structures in age 1 right out of the box. In a game with fewer players, if you happen to be sitting next to another wonder with a manufactured good, you can perhaps make an even stronger scientific play. An example would be Halikarnassos sitting to the right of Ephesos in a three player game. On the first play, the Halikarnassos player holds both the Apothecary and the Scriptorium. He could build the Apothecary for free, but instead elects to build the Scriptorium by purchasing papyrus from Ephesos. Halikarnassos then passes the Apothecary to Ephesos. This puts Ephesos and the third player in an interesting position. If they haven't built the Loom on turn 1, they have only a couple of choices. Purchase cloth from Halikarnassos to build the Apothecary, or pass the Apothecary to Halikarnassos and risk him getting a huge jump on the science game. Very fun. Puts the pressure on other player and forces them to react to your play. This can be tougher to pull off in a game with 6 or 7 players. I use this example for Halikarnassos, but it's just as easy to do with Ephesos or Alexandria.

Halikarnassos is one of the more difficult wonders to grasp. At first blush, it's terrible. Then you think you have it figured out. You score better, but you lose. Now it's time to take the last step. For a first play of Halikarnassos, I would always recommend playing the A side first. Mostly because you only need to consider using its ability one time. When do you build it? Age 2? Age 3? How many points does it score you? Using out benchmark, we know that we need the second age of Halikarnassos needs to score us about 5 points. Therefore, if you build it in Age 3, you'll have a chance to score a really good Age 3 card worth even more right? Wrong. Sometimes you get lucky, but scoring in Age 3 has a side effect. You have to BURY an extra card in Age 3 to construct two stages of your wonder. So while you get an extra Age 3 card, you lose an extra Age 3 card, too. And that isn't great. But, you could always just discard the Palace to make sure you get it, right? Of course! But now, you're losing THREE Age 3 cards. One to build your second wonder stage, one for your third, and one to the discard. Rather than increase your scoring chances, you're evaporating them.

The best time to play the second stage of Halikarnassos is in Age 2. You preserve all of your good Age 3 opportunities that way. But how are you going to get 5 points out of the stuff in the discard pile? Surely no one will discard an Aqueduct or Statue will they? Probably not. You are likely to find two types of cards that can help you. Scientific structures and Military structures. And you don't just have to pull from Age 2, you can pull from Age 1. Even a single shield can be the difference between scoring six points in Age 2 with Military structures and scoring 0. You can also do some table talk. Let everyone know you buried a shield in Age 1. Force them to over prepare for your devastating Military comeback. Then go science. Let everyone know how much you're looking forward to picking up science buildings in Age 2. Then get that Aqueduct. Table talk works, especially with Halikarnassos. When everyone is worried about jamming you up, they won't be thinking about what's best for themselves. I firmly believe that you have to play your OWN game first. You can't look for opportunities to jam up someone else. Now, if you can get your own points first THEN jam someone else up that is the best of both worlds. But you must score your own points first. Sometimes you're going to have to pass a great card to your neighbor. And many times that is the best move. I have described many opportunities where you can stick it to another player, but always in the context of helping yourself in the process. If you attempt to stick it to Halikarnassos, you'll often just be sticking yourself.

Once you've figured out the A side of Halikarnassos, you'll have figured out one of the more basic parts of the B side of Halikarnassos. Build the stages in order - most of the time. Since you get a couple of victory points with the first stage of the B side, you really don't need to score THAT many points with the first wonder stage. And you get a tiny 1 point bonus for the second stage, too. So you really can build one wonder stage per age and do very well, just like with the A side. I have seen players save up until the last round on the B side, then discard 3 great cards and build all 3 wonder stages. This is not very good. Essentially, you're playing only 3 cards in the last Age. Tough to score enough in the first two rounds to make those three Age 3 cards into a winner.
But building one stage per round can present its own challenges. In a 4 player game, what do you think you're going to end up with at the end of Age 2? Remember the HUGE amount of resources that get infused into Age 2 of the four player game? That's what you're going to find in the garbage at the end of Age 2. And in a five player game, you get an influx of manufactured goods. That means resources and/or manufactured goods in the trash. So 4 and 5 player games are a bit tougher for Halikarnassos as it can be tough to score points with cards in the second Age. But you can plan for that. You're going to get resources dumped, but which ones? In a five player game, you can grab one of the other manufactured goods you'll need for your last wonder stage. You can grab the resource you need to build the guild you want. Grab a sawmill for the Scientists Guild or the Shipowners Guild. Get some stone for the Builders Guild or a Circus. But PLAN to take resources or goods. That is what there is going to be. On the B side you COULD decide to put off your build until Age 3. You're going to suffer the same problem with discarding extra Age 3 cards, but this might be preferable to taking all the slurry left in the discard pile of a 4 and 5 player game in Age 2. If you DO decide to build 2 wonder stages during Age 3, you need to make sure to BOTH bury cards when you can't score well AND bury something your opponent wants.

Another fine alternative for the B side of Halikarnassos is not to build the last wonder stage at all. And many, many times, the cards that are left for you in the Discard pile at the end of Age 3 aren't that great. You do have a measure of control over what is discarded. But many times, it's better just to build more cards. Consider what your neighbors have. Will your neighbor score points for your wonder stage? Then why build it? The stage itself doesn't give you anything other than the ability to replace what you have buried for the stage with something that's in the discard pile. Often times, that's a bad trade. Counting the cards helps with the B side of Halikarnassos more than any other. If you really know what's there, you won't be nearly as unpleasantly surprised when you fish through the discards at the end of the game. The best Age 3 cards are ones that change the game for you. If there's an extra Military structure that takes you from worst to first in the last round, that's a great play. But if it won't put you ahead, it's lousy. If you get your sixth scientific structure and it completes your second set, that's fantastic. If you get your fifth scientific structure (assuming building in sets), it's awful. Halikarnassos requires some guessing, but it helps if they are educated guesses. When you're right, it's a great feeling. And it's the difference between winning and losing with the Mausoleum.


THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS AT EPHESOS


We've saved the best for third to last. Ephesos is second to Giza is ease of play. Because you get so much money with Ephesos, it really covers up a lot of flaws with resources, and allows you to be flexible in the strategy you want to take. You can pretty much build whatever you want. You need very few resources for your wonder stages, meaning you can build fewer resources. Every resource you don't need to build is another potential scoring card that you can build. And that's what the money is for. The A and the B side of Ephesos have subtle differences, but one thing works well for both. You can pretty much buy your way to victory. It's even possible to win building as few as a single resource (usually an either/or and usually on the B side). A double trading post build is an extremely strong move for Ephesos. The Forum and the Marketplace should also be targets. If there was any wonder made to construct a lot of Economic structures, Ephesos is it. You don't do yourself any favors by building a lot of resources. Go very, very lean with Ephesos and buy your way to victory. Because of the low amount of resources you can have, the Workers guild is typically a strong Age 3 play.

On the A side, you actually need two papyrus to score your last wonder stage. Unfortunately, you're probably going to need to build this yourself. Your neighbors won't be in a hurry to build a Press if they can get papyrus from you. If you don't get a Forum, you'll need a Press. Your neighbors may actively try to keep these away from you. You might want to try to get your Press in the Age 1. It's not that helpful in Age 1, but often it's better than having to pass on something worth even more points in Age 2. Also keep in mind that nothing in the game requires more than one Papyrus, so having a Press serves only one purpose - getting your third wonder stage. This isn't much different than Rhodos' need for 4 ore, or Babylon's need for 4 clay. There isn't anything else that requires that much of those resources either.

The B side requires you to get two more manufactured goods for the third wonder stage. For this reason, you can set yourself up for a nice run on the Scientific cards. And Scientific cards have another benefit. If you get enough of them, you need even fewer resources because they lead to "coupons" for other types of cards. In fact, looking for cards with Coupons is a really good idea. The Baths and the Temple. Walls and the Training Grounds. All good coupons for later cards. The B side has enough cash to go nearly zero resource which has an added benefit. If you don't have resources to purchase, your neighbors have to waste time building those themselves. You become a very useless neighbor to them. The down side of ultra low resources is that you're not going to generate a lot of cash from your neighbors buying your resources. But they might buy your manufactured goods.

Ephesos sets up well for virtually any strategy in the game. They can compete well with Science, Military, Civilian, and take advantage of most of the guilds. There is simply no question that the B side is better than the A side with Ephesos. You get the same victory points and more money. It takes more resources, but you don't need a wasted second papyrus. The designer did a fantastic job of figuring out the A and the B side of every other wonder. There are good reasons to choose either A or B on any wonder other than Ephesos. If you get a choice to play A or B, there is no reason to play A whatsoever. No measurable advantage over the B side, and a lot of disadvantages. That said, just because the A side isn't as good as the B side doesn't mean the A side stinks. It's still easier to figure out that many other wonders. Most notably, the next one.


THE LIGHTHOUSE AT ALEXANDRIA


It took me longer to win with Alexandra than any other wonder, at least in 4, 5, and 6 player games. It seems fantastic, especially given my penchant for wanting one of each resource. There are, however, a couple of flaws that make Alexandria almost work against itself. Alexandria is pretty tough to win with in 4, 5 and 6 player. There are many ways to be competitive with Alexandria, but I'm talking about actually winning. I've come in second far more often with Alexandria than with any other wonder. And that's pretty much what I've seen with other players, good and bad, when they play Alexandria. Near the top, but rarely the winner. It took me a long time to figure out why I didn't see Alexandria winning a as many games. Alexandria's flexibility is in the first wonder stage on the A side, and the second wonder stage on the B side. This provides extra resources. One thing that you don't generally need when you have extra resources are coupons. Scientific structures are all about the coupons. I have to admit, I may not have Alexandria all the way figured out, but I've had significantly more success with it when I stay away from science. Starting with glass, it would seem like a science victory would be a great move. I've tried this a lot, and again, I've come in second with Alexandria a lot. All of my own theorycrafting suggests that Alexandria should do well with a science strategy, but in practice, it is tough to pull off.

But back to Alexandria's strengths. Extra resources. These extra resources are really nice to have in a 3 player and 7 player game. Alexandria really shines here. You will even win a fair number of games with Alexandria in 3 and 7 player games with both the A and the B side. But in 4 player, the extra resources aren't that great when you get so many in Age 2. The A side suffers from some of the same problems as Ephesos side A. You need two glass to build the third Wonder stage. And you're probably going to have to build the extra glass yourself because again, there isn't a lot of motivation for your neighbors to build a glassworks if they can get glass from you. And I mentioned Alexandria working against itself. This happens on the B side where the second wonder stage is like a Forum, which initially sounds great. But there are lots of extra manufactured goods in 5 and 6 player games. Plus, you already start with glass, so you're not even getting the benefit of the whole Forum. You're basically getting two thirds of a Forum. Is two thirds of a Forum going to be better than the standard 5 victory point benchmark? I don't think it is.

In 3 and 7 player, both sides of Alexandria play pretty well because resources are at a premium. But in 4, 5, and 6 player games, you need to MAKE Alexandria's extra resources useful. You get extra resources, but don't necessarily need them. So, what if you DID need them? Then they would be pretty good, right? There is one way to make sure that resources are at a premium, and that is to discard them, or build them as wonder stages. One particularly strong move is to attempt to get rid of both sawmills or both foundries, or two of any of the same kind of resource in Age 2. Discard or bury one or more of the either/or resources in Age 1. Really create a deep hole of resources that cripples the remaining players. Make sure to grab the marketplace for yourself. More resources for yourself that others can't buy. This counters the "play your own game first" advice I've given for almost every other wonder, but that's one of the only ways I've gotten Alexandria to consistently win in 4, 5, and 6 player games. I've found that Alexandria does very well when playing it similarly to my kid's Rhodos strategy after burying resources. Reds and Blues. The glass lends itself well to building Civilian Structures. The extra resources go well with both Civilian and Military structures. And after you bury some resources, the greens will be violently contested among the other players lowering their value considerably. Does this approach always work? Of course not. But it's the best thing I've figured out so far in 4, 5, and 6 player games.


MANNEKIN PIS -


I really dislike the A side of the Mannekin Pis wonder in 3, 4, and sometimes 5 player games. And I don't mean I dislike playing it - I dislike it even being in the game. A lot of 7 Wonders is attempting to go unopposed in whatever you're trying to do. Mannekin Pis guarantees that someone is going to be doing the same thing as someone else. 7 Wonders isn't exactly a multiplayer war game, but it shares one thing in common with them. You and he go fight, then I win. That's why all the best war games are two player. In a three player war game, the guy who stays out of the fight between the other two wins. This is how it seems to go in a three or four player game with the A side of Mannekin Pis. The bad thing about Mannekin Pis side A is that the second wonder stage copies the power of the second wonder stage of the person on your right. The second wonder stage is the most critical one for all the side A wonders, and many of the side B wonders. And you have to copy the one off the player to your right. YOUR RIGHT. That means in the last stage, the guy whose most critical wonder stage you've copied gets to look at all your cards before you do as he passes them to you. Copy Babylon? Babylon chooses which science cards you don't get. Copy Rhodos? Rhodos filters out the soldiers. This really screws up the game for Mannekin Pis, but it generally also screws up the game for the player to Mannekin Pis' right since he ends up playing keep away which is never good. I prefer a more competitive game out of the game, and I believe Mannekin Pis A makes a 3, 4, and 5 player game significantly less competitive. Now in 6 and 7 player games, it's possible for two like wonders to co-exist more peacefully. The player to the right of Mannekin Pis is still going to have the edge over Mannekin Pis itself, but there's always a chance.

The B side of Mannekin Pis is altogether different. It works well and fairly with any number of players. It's also relatively easy to grasp the strategy of the single wonder stage. It screws up other players a little at first. There is no initial resource you can buy from it. But it makes up for this with its starting gold, which generally is given to the very neighbors it initially screws. One of the keys to the single wonder stage is the shield. If you don't win battles over at least one of Mannekin Pis' neighbors, you're just throwing that shield in the garbage. Try to make some use out of it. You don't have to dominate everyone with Military, but it would be advantageous to attempt to get near or just into double digits for Military points. The B side of Mannekin Pis does lean slightly towards Military, but otherwise is remarkably flexible. I find one of the best things to do is to just do whatever the guy to the left of you is doing, but do it better. The reason for this is that you only have a single wonder stage with which you can bury useful cards. You may want to bury science or military cards to deny them to the guy on your left, but you don't have this option. The only way to keep from just feeding them to the guy on your left is to build them yourself. This sounds like I am again breaking my own "play your own game" rule, but Mannekin Pis doesn't really have its own kind of game - you get to pick what it is. My advice is to pick the same strategy as the guy on your left, THEN play your own game. Sure going to be easier than picking the strategy of the guy to your right.


THE LEADERS EXPANSION -


I didn't like the idea of the expansion before it came out, and after it came out I liked it even less. It really makes the game less strategic because the leaders are not balanced and they are hidden. And by not balanced, I mean not balanced with the existing game. There are leaders that provide extra shields. Great, right? Wrong. Now there are even more military cards in the game which makes it harder to score the same 18 points. Likewise, there are additional science symbols in the game. But this has the opposite effect as the military. It's now significantly easier to score huge points with science. I have correctly guessed that you want to take scientific leaders every single time they come to your hand if for no other reason than to keep them out of the hands of other players. My limited experience with the expansion has so far given legs to this theory.

The fact that the leaders are hidden means that you can't plan for what another player might have. You can make the right moves all game long and just get jammed on the last turn by an extra military leader, scientist, or just some other crap that has a wild effect on the game. 7 Wonders will never get stale enough to need something like the Leaders expansion. It is a classic game, like Poker, which requires you to read your opponent and avoid being read. I would no more add a mini-game like the Leaders mechanic to 7 Wonders than I would add a quick game of LCR before a hand of Poker. Both are entirely ridiculous and add nothing strategically.

Now I won't argue that the Leaders expansion can make the game more fun for some by breathing new life into a game that may have grown tired of after so many plays. But in no way does the Leaders expansion make the game "better". I think if the Leaders phase was played face up, or perhaps if all leaders were revealed prior to Age 1, the strategy wouldn't suffer as much. But rules as written, Leaders doesn't add much to the game. The Leaders expansion is like running a blooper/outtakes reel at the end of "The Godfather". We don't need to see Marlon Brando flub his words or slip and fall down while the credits are rolling. It may be funny, but it certainly wouldn't add to the experience of seeing the movie. It may even diminish it a little. The blooper reel is a gimmick that is better suited to lighter movies like Ishtar.

Like "The Godfather", 7 Wonders doesn't need an expansion. What it needs is a sequel worthy of telling the next part of its great story. Maybe even a couple of sequels. I would have much rather seen "7 Wonders of the Middle Ages", then perhaps "7 Wonders of the Modern World". The sequels could rebalance resources, introduce new scoring mechanics and evolve a great game rather than kick the strategy of the game between the legs for a few extra giggles.


CONCLUSION -


If 7 Wonders has grown stale for you, I hope this article can breathe some life into it for you. If you felt that it was too light, I hope I've convinced you otherwise. If you liked Leaders, I hope you don't ask me to play it. Thanks for taking the time to get all the way through. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.
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Alex Brown
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Thanks for writing this up, I would have tipped for the effort alone .

I've won a lot on BSW (60% of 3er games) and these are the points I agreed strongly on: denial of resources like double stone key in 3er; sets of science over serials; two sets of science is enough.

I generally agreed with much of your strategising for the Wonders.

The perception of 7 Wonders is tainted unfortunately. Most players I play with want to see the game as 'a bit of fun', and even though they lose to me frequently, it means the game lacks the high level counterdrafting and guesswork that gives it replayability. The more a player, or players, believes in 'going Science' or generally lacks flexibility overall, the more the game as a whole suffers. This is a problem faced by all multiplayer Euros, and I'd rather play 7 Wonders in 30mins and have the same strategic depth than play Agricola for 2hrs wherein players fail to value Family Growth appropriately.

I was very surprised however that you didn't write about hand distributions. I think this is by far the most strategic aspect of the game. Military and Science plans are dependent on favourable distributions.

Also, I play Trading Posts and the Vineyard in most games. Buying resources from your neighbours is much more efficient than accruing them yourself. Of course, I could be denied these occasionally, but players don't seem to value them well.
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Moritz Eggert
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Wow, this is a labour of love and lots of thought has gone into this article. Great work, mate!
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Rich Chamberlain
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Sir I applaud you. Sterling work.
 
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Thomas Staudt
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So much for "light filler"
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Simon Blome
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A lot of work, thank you very much for this!

I am not through the whole thing but I have a certain question for your Manneken Pis section:

"In 3, 4, and 5 player games when I have to play to the right of Mannekin Pis, I often will just not build my second or third wonder stages out of spite. Really throws them off because they basically have to decide to either waste their own second wonder stage build to get to the third, or not build any past the first one themselves. And I never mention that I'm going to do it this way, and sometimes I can lure them into building that lousy second stage before they figure out that mine isn't going to get built."

I don't get that. Do you mean that the 2nd stage of the Manneken Pis is worthless if you (as his right neighbour) wouldn't build your own? Manneken Pis can copy your stage and profit from it no matter what you do, so what's the point here?


Edit:
"But the first time you DON'T build your second and third wonder stages on the B side of Babylon, you will really tilt the game balance in some interesting ways. First off, you're really going to anger the Mannekin Pis player sitting next to you who has been planning on stealing either your second or third wonder stage or both."

The same here. Manneken Pis doesn't steal anything, he just copies your wonder stages.
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Tim Seitz
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Glen Allen
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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RedPorper wrote:
It isn't enough to measure a large sample size and determine an outcome. What if 40% of the sample games measured contained at least 1 of 2 players? What if both of those players were exceptionally good at the game? What if both were bad? What if 80% of the games analyzed were 4 player games, and the remaining 20% were 3, 5, 6, and 7 player games? What if the Guild Card Y had only been available for purchase in 10% of the sampled games?

This is a fine write up, but I don't think you need to unnecessarily denigrate the work that other people have done. Especially if you aren't paying very close attention to it. For example: that 2000-game statistical research you reference was done purely on a random sample of 3-player games, accounting for player count and minimizing skill level impact.
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J
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Still reading but one thing I did notice is

RedPorper wrote:


THE TEMPLE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA -


The A and the B side of this wonder play very differently. The good news about Olympia is that you start with Wood, which means you may not need another wood in the game, so long as one of your neighbors takes one. And wood appears on a lot of cards, including many military cards.

Unlike most of the other wonders, the A side is actually a lot more interesting than the B side. The second stage power of the A side allows one to build a card without paying the cost. But one interesting way it can be used is to build the third wonder stage. Normally you need two ore to build the third wonder stage, but if you use your second wonder stage ability to construct the third stage, you wouldn't need any ore at all. You can really surprise the heck out of people like that. Like Babylon, you're likely not going to get something great to use the second stage power on if you build it during Age 1. But once in a while, you can surprise someone. You'll likely need to buy a resource in order to build your second wonder stage in Age 1 in time to actually make use of it. But you can then build a science card without any manufactured goods. You might even want to build a military card for which you don't have a resource forcing your neighbor to purchase resources from you to build the one that is left. Then again, you may just want to get it built in Age 1 so that you can use the power on the very first turn of Age 2.

I agree that side A is more interesting than side B but the power only works on cards (structures) not on stages of your wonder.
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Henrik Johansson
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RedPorper wrote:

THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS AT EPHESOS
We've saved the best for third to last.
[snip]
THE LIGHTHOUSE AT ALEXANDRIA

I actually skipped to the part I really liked to read: A while ago I suggested the top two civilizations to be Ephesos B and Alexandria B in my thread "Ranking the civilzations special abilities: Ephesus B rules!" based on my objective evaluation method presented there. It seems as if your text supports this claim.
 
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Vince Lupo
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Wow. I am picking up on it being deeper than I first thought but this article definitely ups it for me.

Either way I love the game and I know I'm just at the surface of the depth.


For example. I have played it less than 20 times but I only just really thought last night that "I should build this military card instead of that one because if they build the other one then they'll need to pay me for it more likely".
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Vince Lupo
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Also. I'm not sure if it's been mentioned but the statistics of cards that were built in winning configurations thread was interesting but I don't think it was grouped by cities. In other words, each card is probably valued differently based on which city you are playing and what else has happened that game.
 
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Vince Lupo
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Regarding Leaders I can't wait to see what other expansions come out. I feel like I don't need an expansion yet but I am very curious to see what they add.


I played with the Leaders cards with someone else's copy and felt like they were a little harder to interpret but felt like they were a neat element to add to the game. It did make me wonder if someone could get some insane combo going. But mostly it seems to be a fine thing to add to the game. Perhaps they wanted a way to give players a "card up their sleeve".


Either way I might not get an expansion until I see what comes next.


Have you considered though that maybe the leaders cards are more balanced than you thought? How much have you played with them?



But I REALLY agree that a full blown rethemed 7 Wonders of "Other Ages" would be awesome.
 
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Alex Brown
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He explained exactly what was wrong with the stats. The data is presented through false assumptions of validity and is misleading in it's conclusions.

Although dense, this is a better reference for players.
 
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Matt Crawford
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BenOni wrote:
A lot of work, thank you very much for this!

I am not through the whole thing but I have a certain question for your Manneken Pis section:

"In 3, 4, and 5 player games when I have to play to the right of Mannekin Pis, I often will just not build my second or third wonder stages out of spite. Really throws them off because they basically have to decide to either waste their own second wonder stage build to get to the third, or not build any past the first one themselves. And I never mention that I'm going to do it this way, and sometimes I can lure them into building that lousy second stage before they figure out that mine isn't going to get built."

I don't get that. Do you mean that the 2nd stage of the Manneken Pis is worthless if you (as his right neighbour) wouldn't build your own? Manneken Pis can copy your stage and profit from it no matter what you do, so what's the point here?


Phenomenal work, by the way...but I do think you have this one wrong, as Simon noted. The official rules has this clarification: "The stages of the targeted Wonder do not need to
have been completed by their respective owners for
the Manneken Pis to copy them."

So not building your second stage has no effect on the Manneken Pis.

Still, I know bringing this up must sound like nit-picking when you wrote such a great strategy guide! But don't take it as a criticism, this is all great.

Edit -- this part about the Manneken Pis got removed from the original post, so it's all copacetic now. Just in case someone comes along later and wonders what the heck I was talking about.
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sthrjo wrote:
Follow-ups has noted 2 rule violations in the original post. The original poster should edit them, otherwise the violations will maybe spread to other readers/players. There is an "Edit" button in the GUI. Please Red Porper, do the Edit and maybe just use strikethrough font on the noted parts! When you do I will thumbsup and remove this followup.


If I were him, I'd let it stand as is and disable comments out of spite.

Then again, I'm a bit of a dick.

Factual error(s) or not, it's still very impressive work and very appreciated. At least by me...
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BorderCon is Live!!!
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A power of work and thumbed for that reason.

I don't like reading these kinds of posts though as I have no desire to study a game to within an inch of its life. That's just no fun for me.
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Dan Schaeffer
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Dude, the guy said nice things about one of your conclusions and suggested you correct a couple of errors, and this is how you respond?

Here's a thumb for you: thumbsdown

Hope it doesn't hinder your efforts to get your Masters in 7Wondersology
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Alex Brown
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As much as I abhor the stats, deleting posts doesn't help anybody.

It's unfortunate that there just isnt a serious audience for this game.

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Troy Adlington
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If you play it online you soon realize the depth available.



 
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Alex Brown
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I think that's the problem; I almost feel rude IRL when I ask players to move their cards so I can read them or slow the drafting down so we can do it simultaneously.

I've played 400 games online and won close to 50%. I've played 10 games IRL and each of them has dragged on and led to linear strategies. It's a shame, but I want to play this game IRL with good opponents, and most people just don't buy into 7Wonders being that game.
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Tristan Brightman
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Quote:
But of course you're giving that money to the player on your left, which enriches him. but keep in mind, it is still a +7 point advantage over this neighbor vs. the +6 advantage you would have had if you'd built the senate for free.


This is false.

4 coins is (absent the ability to assess exact totals at the end of the game, and absent and credit crunch for someone who needs to buy goods)
1.33 victory points.

You pay 1.33 vp to build the palace, making it worth (8-1.33=6.66 VP).
The opponent receives 1.33 vp from you, making your advantage against him only (6.66-1.33 = 5.33).

If you are concerned about your advantage over this neighbour, the Senate is the correct play, by two thirds of a point. If you are concerned about advantage over someone else, the Palace is the correct play by the same margin.
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Paul S
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DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?
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Thumbed for a really well written piece that must have taken an age.

Any chance of a "distilled" version? I don't play enough to want to read it all, tbh; and it's so long and detailed that unless you are aspiring to grandmaster status, there's no prospect of digesting it all - or even a part of it - for practical use in the game.

And that would be a shame, I think, since the effort put in is plainly astronomical.

Anyway, just a mild request - a shortened, "main points" (TL;DR I think it's known as now!) version would be great.

Edit: also, a perfectly reasonable response would be bugger off, read it all as I intended or not!
 
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Vince Lupo
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Neo42 wrote:
Regarding Leaders I can't wait to see what other expansions come out. I feel like I don't need an expansion yet but I am very curious to see what they add.


I played with the Leaders cards with someone else's copy and felt like they were a little harder to interpret but felt like they were a neat element to add to the game. It did make me wonder if someone could get some insane combo going. But mostly it seems to be a fine thing to add to the game. Perhaps they wanted a way to give players a "card up their sleeve".


Either way I might not get an expansion until I see what comes next.


Have you considered though that maybe the leaders cards are more balanced than you thought? How much have you played with them?



But I REALLY agree that a full blown rethemed 7 Wonders of "Other Ages" would be awesome.




I'm still eagerly waiting on whatever expansion will show up after Leaders to see what else they could add.

A 4th age seems strange to me as I can't picture what it would be like. Military fights for 7 points? Blue buildings worth 10, 11 and 12? Buildings that cost 2 of some manufactured goods?

Leaders add to the start of an age and while I like them I can also see why you don't. I had a science leader in my hand while sitting next to a science board so I kept the science guy or at least felt like I had to. I paid for some leader that was worth 1 point at the end. And some people got leaders that combo'd very well with what they had. So in a sense leaders can act like a magnifying glass to grow the gap in points between players by as much as 20 points more than before. I don't know yet whether I like that or not. But I do know that playing with the leaders cards does seem like fun to me regardless. Despite that I won't buy it yet because the leaders expansion's icons ARE harder to understand. That is an aspect of the expansion I don't like. I guess that it'd be fine with a good player aid. But the bigger thing is that we play 7 wonders with people who probably wouldn't want to have to deal with an expansion for that added complication.

I could see them adding a card choice that happens at the end of each age but that probably wouldn't make you happy either, unless they were visible to everyone. I think that would be neat. I could turn some extra money at the end of the last round into a card worth points. Though it does make sense that leaders happen at the start of a round because of how they can affect your abilities.

It's an interesting game. The easiest thing to expand are the wonders (add more wonder boards). The hardest thing to expand are the ages/cards.
 
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Quote:
The best Age 3 (for Halikarnassos) cards are ones that change the game for you. If there's an extra Military structure that takes you from worst to first in the last round, that's a great play.


The military cards you take in age 3 has no use, because the Halikarnassos effect is after the battles.

I don't understand this:
Quote:
Halikarnassos sitting to the right of Ephesos in a three player game (...) On the first play, the Halikarnassos player holds both the Apothecary and the Scriptorium. He could build the Apothecary for free, but instead elects to build the Scriptorium by purchasing papyrus from Ephesos. Halikarnassos then passes the Apothecary to Ephesos. This puts Ephesos and the third player (under pressure)

If you play the Apothecary for free, its exact the same pressure on your neighbours.
Both can build Scriptorium and must do so or leave you a huge jump on the science game.
So why it is better to build the Scriptorium and not the Apothecary for free?
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Vince Lupo
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gallowbraid wrote:
Quote:
The best Age 3 (for Halikarnassos) cards are ones that change the game for you. If there's an extra Military structure that takes you from worst to first in the last round, that's a great play.


The military cards you take in age 3 has no use, because the Halikarnassos effect is after the battles.




Where is this in the rules?
 
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