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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of 7 Wonders) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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West Virginia
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Build your ancient wonder of the world and make your civilization the best civilization in all the world.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Family, Strategy
Play Time: 30 minutes
Theme: Civilization Building
Number of Players: 2-7 (2 player mode available)
Main Mechanics: Card Drafting, Set Collection, Simultaneous Action Selection, Variable Player Powers
Components: Okay
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
I don't know that I can really see a blend of the theme and mechanisms in 7 Wonders. This is understandable due to the light weight of a game that is based on building a civilization. I seldom feel connected with my civilization like I do in other civ-building games because the game abstracts things pretty heavily, but many of the areas of the genre are represented in the game.



GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
7 Wonders is played over the course of three ages. Each age has enough cards to allow up to 7 players to start an age with a hand of 7 cards. The age that the cards belong to is indicated on the back of the card.



Each of the three ages have 6 different standard colors of cards and the third age has a 7th color (purple) that are Guilds.



Blue - Civilian Structures - Provide victory points.

Brown - Raw Materials - Provide 4 of the 7 types of resources.

Gray - Manufactured Goods - Provide 3 of the 7 types of resources.

Green - Scientific Structures - Earn victory points based on the progression of each type of science.

Yellow - Commercial Structures - Earn coins, produce resources, change commerce rules, and sometimes earn victory points.

Red - Military Structures - Increase military might.

Purple - Guilds - Earn victory points based on specific criterion.

At the beginning of the game each player will receive a Wonder Board (player board) that provides a resource in the top left and three stages of the Wonder that can be built to provide the player bonuses.

Wonder Board


Starting Resource


Level 1 Bonus


Each player will start the game with 3 silver coins (value = 1 each) but there are also gold coins worth 3. These coins are used to pay for commercial transactions between neighboring cities. Players may pay two dollars to the owner of a particular type of resource needed to build the structure he or she would like to build to purchase the resource for one turn. The card does not exchange hands, the purchaser may just use the resource as if he or she had a card that provided the resource.



Each Age consists of 6 rounds. Each round consists of three steps.
1. Choose a card
2. Action
3. Pass your cards


At the beginning of each round players will receive 7 cards from the current age. Each player will select one card to add to their civilization (making sure to be aware of the card's cost).

Card Cost


The cost of a card is in the top left corner. The cost of this particular card (the Forum) is either two clay resources (so two clay symbols among all the cards the player owns or has purchased from a neighboring city or the prerequisite structure (the Trading Post). Therefore, had the payer previously built the Trading Post he or she would not have to pay anything to build the Forum. The future card that a card will allow you to build for free will be indicated on the right bottom corner of a card to allow you to plan ahead when possible.



Once each player has bought a card he or she will perform one of three actions. The first action is to build the structure. If the player chooses to build the structure he or she will place the card in the corresponding area of their playing area. Each color of card has its own area that players should try to use to keep their civilization organized. Some of these areas are defined (such as the gray and brown cards) and some of the areas are at the player's discretion). Here is an example of how the playing area may look.



The second action the player may take is to build a stage of their Wonder. to do this the player must be able to pay the cost of the stage of the Wonder (Shown on the Wonder Board) they are building and then turn the chosen card face down and slide it under the corresponding stage of the Wonder on the Wonder Board.



In this case the player must be able to pay two stone resources and turn the chosen card face down and slide it under corresponding stage of the Wonder. The stages of the Wonder must be built in order so the player has built the first stage and will now be able to build the second stage on a later turn.

The third action a player may take is to discard the chosen card face down out of the playing area to receive three coins.

Once each player has performed an action the players pass the remaining cards in their hand to the player on the left or right according to which age they are currently in. The players will then repeat this sequence of steps again until 6 of the 7 cards in each starting hand have been used. When players are choosing between the final 2 cards in a hand they will choose one and discard the other faced own out of play.

Each type of card will impact the player's civilization differently over the course of the game but the two that deserve the most explanation are the Military Structures and the Scientific Structures.
Each Military Structure provides a number of Military Symbols (1-3) at the top of the card. At the end of each Age players will compare their Military Might with both of their neighboring cities in two individual battles, meaning a player will compare their Military Might with the city on their left and then with the city on their right. To compare the Military Might of two cities players simply count their total number of Military symbols on all their cards and the higher number wins the battle. If there is a tie nothing happens, but if one player wins the battle then players will receive a specific type of Conflict Token based on which age they are in. No matter the Age the loser will receive a -1 VP Conflict Token but the winner will receive a +1 Conflict Token at the end of the first age, a +3 in the second age, and a +5 in the third age. These Conflict Tokens will impact the player's final score at the end of the game.



Each Scientific Structure has one of three symbols at the top. At the end of the game players will score points based on sets (one of each of the three types of symbols) and the number of each type of symbol they own.

The scoring for Scientific Structures is as follows.

- 7 points for each complete set.
- 1 point for an individual symbol.
- 4 points for 2 matching symbols.
- 9 points for 3 matching symbols.
- 16 points for 4 matching symbols.



In this example the player has one complete set of symbols, one tool symbol, one tablet symbol, and two gear symbols.

Therefore the player would score:

1 point for the individual tool symbol.
1 point for the individual tablet symbol.
4 points for the matching gear symbols.
7 points for the complete set.

13 total points.

At the end of the game players will add up scores from several areas of play in a specific order to determine the winner.

1. Military Conflict Tokens
2. Treasury Contents (1 point for every three coins)
3. Wonder (bonuses from Wonder Board)
4. Civilian Structures (blue cards)
5. Scientific Structures (green cards)
6. Commercial Structures (effects of yellow cards)
7. Guilds (purple cards)

The player with the most points wins the game.




ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy


7 Wonders offers a solid amount of strategy. There are several areas of the game that provide points so formulating which combination of areas you would like to focus on allows each player to customize their approach to the game. With that said, the Military Structures and Scientific Structures each have a nice upside if one player is able to obtain a large majority of either throughout the game. If left alone a player can accumulate a ton of points from the Scientific Structures and can get some significant points from the Military Structures because not only do the Military Conflict Tokens help the players that are winning the battles, they hurt the player's that lose the battles. Therefore, each player's strategy has to account for these two types of structures, but they can then compliment their efforts in these areas with specific approaches to the other areas of the game.

Any game that encourages or forces you to be invested in and aware of what the other players are doing is enjoyable for me. People often claim that 7 Wonders does not offer enough player interaction and what interaction it does offer is really only between you and two other players, even in larger player counts, but just because you interact with the players beside you does not mean you are not competing against everyone from a strategical stand point. The players beside me may have no interest in Scientific Structures or have simply fallen behind in the development but I may be fully invested in the Sciences and am in a battle to gain as many points as possible because a player across the table is also attempting to do so and I cannot fall behind him or her. This not only impacts what I am taking but other players between me and my competition may also want to influence the competition for the Scientific Structures.

My complaint about the game's strategy and gameplay is not in the lack of player interaction, it is in the fact that your strategy is pretty dependent on what is available to you on each turn. For the most part you will have some type of card that is useful to you but when considering Military and Science you can end up at a disadvantage when trying to obtain those types of cards if they happen to clump up in the hands on the other side of the table and get taken before they reach you. This is somewhat circumstantial, but the game seems to keep you from implementing the exact strategy you would like to in some cases.

As for the overall depth of strategy though, I believe there is plenty of opportunity to make decisions and those decisions definitely impact your performance in the game. You just many not get to make the decisions you were planning or hoping to make. This varies quite a bit based on the number of players in the game.



Depth of Strategy:
3.5 = There are multiple viable strategies that are thought-provoking and competitive.




Replayability


I think this game offers a substantial amount of replayability. The way the wide range of player counts is handled by having more cards to include in the game for higher player counts allows for a lot of opportunity to manipulate the gameplay from play to play. This requires you to find more of less players but it offers you the opportunity to play a solid game with small or large groups. Even if you are regularly playing with the same number of players the random starting hands and different combinations of cards a player will have at their disposal each turn will allow the game to feel fresh from play to play. The Wonder Boards add a very subtle difference between players but they do help to outline a strategy that makes for potential differences from play to play also. There are several small areas of the game that will keep the game from getting too dull. I don't know that it is something that I would want to play every session but it is not a game that will just sit on your shelf. When choosing a game to play I often times look at a game and think to myself... Do I want to get that game out tonight? That feeling comes from multiple things that 7 Wonders doesn't seem to suffer from, like length, player count, complexity, accessibility. 7 Wonders addresses all of those things well. The issue is that the task you are achieving (civ-building) and the approach the game takes to doing so is just not always what I am looking for to entertain myself and the game doesn't have a huge "fun-factor". Nonetheless, I enjoy the game and have very little trepidation about it's replayability.


Replayability:
4.5 = A go-to in almost any situation.




Quality of Design


Card Drafting: Personally, I am not a huge fan of card drafting. I do appreciate the dynamic of play that card drafting creates in a game but sometimes it can be frustrating to deal with the massive influence each decision has on your play. I like tough decisions in games. I like to stop and think, man, what should I do? The issue with card drafting is that when I make a decision I have to live with the decisions because there's a very good chance that I am not going to get the other card I really needed, leaving the outcome of my performance to fate. Again, I appreciate what the mechanism does. It just seems to have a massive impact for such a simplistic mechanism and sometimes I grow tired of it.

Simultaneous Action Selection: The only significance of this mechanism is to speed the game up and that is obviously welcomed in most, if not all, games. It is well implemented and warrants no complaints in 7 Wonders.


Set Collection: The set collection mechanism is not exactly unique but is a bit different than it is in some games where the progression of your set collection is hidden. Your progression of each set is public knowledge in 7 Wonders and allows any player to hinder your progression at a whim. I don't mind that though because I think it adds to the decision-making process in the game.


Quality of Design:
4 = A good design that engages the player for several plays.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
7 Wonders is a weird game for me. I enjoy most areas of the game most of the time and yet I'm not always jumping at the bits to play it. I never fight tooth and nail to not play it. I mentioned that I grow wary of card drafting at times but I don't want it to seem as though it keeps me from liking this game. I find the game entertaining and it is a nice quick way to scratch an itch for a civ-building game. My wariness of card drafting is not a deep hatred, just something that I don't always feel up for, and it does not keep me from liking 7 Wonders. However, it does keep me from really liking this game a lot. The game is designed very nicely and allows for such a nice pace of play that it is hard to hold too many things against the game, such as the abstracted feel of the theme or the way you sometimes feel you are only playing with two other players at the table.

On a very positive note the amount of progression you achieve in this game for the amount of time you play is a significant upside for the game. If you are playing well and you don't get unlucky, you can feel as though you have organized a civilization that works together and offers multiple areas of a civilization, albeit, very abstracted. This is what keeps me playing this game. It allows me to do just enough in the amount of time it takes to play, no matter how many people are playing.

I'm not sure I can think of a particular group of players that will not find something to enjoy in this game. I think it is more of situation where individuals from all types of gamers will find an issue with the game, but the majority of people in each type will enjoy the game.


Overall Rating -
7 Wonders is a great game to have in your collection.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple

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Rainer Fuchs
United States
Massachusetts
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Wow, finally someone found a way to put my ambivalent feelings about this game in words. Every time I play it I find it entertaining but it has never become a go-to game for me. You put it perfectly: "... I enjoy the game..." but "the game doesn't have a huge "fun-factor"".
 
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Michael Carpenter
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I was concerned that I was going to seem a bit too contradictory when I wrote about 7 Wonders because it is as if the game is mechanically satisfying yet doesn't generate much fun as I play. I'm glad someone agrees! Nonetheless I still appreciate the game and won't turn it down.
 
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