30 Minute Playing Time
7 Wonders Duel is a two player spinoff of 7 Wonders. The original game included a variant that allowed 2 players to compete by using a 'dummy' player, but it was regarded as very average by most and 7 Wonders Duel is here to rectify that. Duel gives the impression its a 7 Wonders game and fans of the original will recognise things like the three ages, the color of the cards, most of the symbols and icons, as well as the basic feel of the game. However there are a few key differences in how 7 Wonders Duel is played, that make this a new game, and will need to be learned before you can jump straight in.
Gone is the original drafting method of playing a card from your hand and passing the rest onto the next place, players will now instead alternate taking cards from a pre-laid out in a pattern on the table. The ages are formed in different layouts with some cards revealed face up and others face down, until the cards on top of them are first played. You still will need the correct amount of resources (or a possible free upgrade) to put a card into play, however this time any resources you don't have in your wonder can be purchased from the bank. The catch with purchasing resources is that you have to pay a higher rate for every resource of that type that your opponent already has. Players can also discard for gold, but the amount received depends on the number of yellow 'commerce' cards they have in play. Upgrading your wonder is also still an action but instead of a single wonder the players are dealt four each, with a maximum of seven that can be upgraded and used during the game.
One of the other big changes to Duel is that there are now three ways to victory. There is the familiar endgame victory points, but new to Duel are two ways for instant victory - through military and science. Each time a military card is played, a shield marker is moved the corresponding number of spaces. If a player is able to move the shield to the end of their opponents track into their capital, its declared an instant military victory regardless of victory points or any other factors. Likewise with science, each science card has a symbol on it and if you are able to collect six different science symbols you instantly win through scientific supremacy. Gathering two of the same science symbol will also grant the player a science token which generally can benefit your empire greatly. 7 Wonders Duel plays out similar to the original, with each player expanding and strengthening their empire by playing cards through the three ages with the winner having the most endgame victory points, unless one of the aforementioned victory conditions come into effect.
Duel really feels like a duel - your not just playing the game your actually playing your opponent and constantly trying to stay ahead of both the military and science races. The reward of an all out military attack is victory but the risk is often a loss in victory points if your opponent manages to survive, and while a failed science supremacy isn't as damaging your still often left with potentially wasted cards that haven't been efficiently played which again can easily cause you to lose. Their inclusion of potential instant victory really adds to the game and creates some tense moments especially in the third age. As always 7 Wonders rewards you by making you feel stronger with every card played, you legitimately get the feeling of your empire improving and seeing a well hatched plan come to fruition is as rewarding as ever. This time only having one opponent really focuses you to try and stay ahead or on the attack, rather than simply react to the other player.
Most of your game plan is catered towards your opponent, and that goes beyond the aforementioned military and science supremacy. Resources play an even bigger role in this version and stock piling the common ones can really cripple your opponents ability to build and play cards, as they'll constantly be out of money. Upgrading your four wonders first also means they have to choose which wonder is least valuable to their strategy and again put them on the back foot. There are many ways in this version of 7 Wonders to directly effect your opponent and really mess up their planning and strategy which really brings out the 'Duel' and less of the traditional 7 Wonders.
7 Wonders Duel is mostly able to retain the spirit of its parent game while at the same time flipping the game on its head with some new twists. There is enough different here that fans and haters of the original may have a different opinion on this two player edition. The new drafting method adds a different element of strategy and planning as your able to see about half of the cards available each age from the very start. When you know your opponent needs a certain card, usually you can find a way to stop them from being able to acquire it through smart selection or upgrading a wonder with a 'play again' effect. Adding in all the new direct interaction as well as the victory conditions has spiced up the 7 Wonders formula with some new flavors. 7 Wonders Duel is designed as a two player affair, and without much competition from the main game is easily the best way to play 7 Wonders with two.
My Verdict: BUY
A neat version of 7 Wonders for two with some twists
Lots of direct interaction and tense moments
I just played for the first time today, and loved it. I wound up gambling that one of the final two hidden cards in Age III would NOT be a red card, and lost to a military victory.
Thanks for the great review.
One of my favorite games for the past 2 months. I bought the metal coins for it and the wooden insert for the box. That shows how much I like it. My daughter and I battle it out every time. We are about 50/50 on wins. I can hardly wait for the expansion to come out next year.
Yeah there's luck involved with the unrevealed cards but thats what makes duel so nerve-wracking!!
I find the last age to be tense most games as your either trying to finish your victory requirements with a KO or stay alive to take it to points.. kinda like a boxing match!
I havent actually seen the metal coins!! I bet they make the game that little bit more special
And yes pumped for the new expansion - awesome you and your daughter both enjoy it. My kids are too young now but look forward to the day we can sit down and have a good board game session!