Spoiler (click to reveal)
Welcome to Rackenhammer’s Reviews! This is just a short blurb to explain my approach, so you can make the best use of this article. My intention is not to go into detail about the rules, mechanics, or components of the game. Instead, I structure each review around the reasons I initially purchased the game, whether it lived up to those expectations, and, if it did not, which expectations it might end up fulfilling. Along the way, I may digress into a point or two of personal interest. All of this will hopefully add up to a unique take on the game, and one that will be of value to you!
Why I Bought the Game: 7 Wonders was actually my first real foray into the world of hobby gaming. I played the classics growing up quite a lot, Monopoly, Clue, Risk, and the like; I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that really valued spending close time together, so board games were a large part of my childhood.
As I grew up though, I played them less and less, for various reasons. Going off to University was a big reason; I didn't connect with anyone who played anything new, and I hadn't heard of anything past Cataan, which I had played before, but I suppose it hadn't left that much of an impression on me. But, when I ended up moving back home after getting my Bachelor's (cheaper than most rent in the DC area, and was halfway between Grad School and work), I was clued into the current rennaisance of gaming by Penny Arcade, which pointed me to Shut Up & Sit Down, which pointed me to the Dice Tower, which pointed me to this site...
Well, that's something of a long story. Basically, it was like lifting a rock and finding a whole new civilization. Fascinating, but I wasn't sure where to begin. I consulted a list of "gateway games," but I can't recall what brought me to 7 Wonders in particular. What I was looking for was something I could play with my parents and my sister, not too complicated in the rules, but introducing enough mechanics and concepts that might allow for further explanation in the future.
Did It Live Up to the Expectations?: In short, yes!
Although I won't deny that it was a little bit of a rough start. I don't think any of us had played a game that worked quite like this, either in terms of drafting cards (pulling one from a given hand, and passing the rest), playing simultaneous turns, or having multiple scoring methods. Heck, I think this was the first game for my folks that even used Victory Points.
That said, we did get through it, and I think the theme of civilization-building does provide enough of a conceptual framework to explain how everything works: Victory Points represent the Prestige and Importance of Your Civilization, military is there to help protect against/triumph over your neighbors, civic buildings translate directly into prestige, etc. This has helped us when we've introduced other friends and extended family to the game.
The wear and tear on a game may be said to represent how much it is loved by the players, and this is by far one of the most-worn games in my collection. I've since moved out of the house on my own, but this is one I always tend to break out when we get back together for a weekend visit, or the like.
If you're looking for a family/gateway game, this one can work really well! It does have a bit of a learning curve if you're completely new to hobby games, but by the second play, you'll have most of the mechanics down, though some help with scoring might still be needed. It does reward repeated play, as knowledge of card distribution at each player count does give one an edge in forward planning.
If you've already passed that point, would I recommend 7 Wonders? That's tougher to say. I'll not turn down a play, even at this point in my hobbyism, but if your family already has a good game that you like to get together around, I wouldn't consider this an essential purchase.
If you find the theme of civilization building intriguing, this might be worth a look, though it is by no means an in-depth simulation.
If you're a fan of the primary mechanics of set collection and card-drafting, this is a good example of them.
A huge plus point that shouldn't go overlooked is that many people already know how to play this game, so if you show up with 7 Wonders at Game Night, chances are you won't have to teach everyone at the table, though one or two might need it. And as a final tip, don't count out the newbies! I've seen it happen multiple times that new players can give veterans a run for their money, depending on how quick on the uptake they are.