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Subject: A guide from your friend who somehow wins this game every time rss

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Nicholas Green
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I've seen a lot of threads here about seven wonders strats, and I thought I would add my two cents. This is probably my favorite board game, and of the numerous times I've played I've only lost a handful of games. What I love about this game is what I think makes it so difficult for people to find a strategy that works for them; every game is different and your strategy has to adjust to the wonder and the hand you're dealt.

Lets start high level. The goal of the game is to get victory points. An average scoring game with expansions will see most players just below sixty points, a high scoring game will see players in the seventy to eighty range. If you break ninety points you have almost certainly won, and ordinarily breaking seventy will put you far ahead of everyone else. If you are playing with heroes and black cards you will play a total of twenty one cards and three heroes. If you can make each one of those cards worth three points to you, you will probably win the game. If you can do that you will have 72 points, almost certainly more than your buds.

That makes sense, right? The complicated part is getting there, but again, lets go high level. The first and second ages in the game contain resource cards, the third stage has none. Instead of resource cards, the third age has points, more points than any of the other ages. The game is structured so that whoever positions themselves to get the most points in the last stage will win. This means making sure you have the resources you need before you get to the third age, so in each hand you can simply select which cards are the most valuable to you.

So we've got the birds eye view, but lets look a little closer. One thing that was probably obvious is that certain strategies require you to start moving before the third age to really work, and in fact are designed to get you points before the third age. These include science, wonder stages, military, and blue cards. Every strategy is situational, but if you're trying to score points early wonder stages and science often offer more bang for your buck, and here's why.

Look at the majority of wonders that contain stages granting straight victory points and you'll notice that those numbers tend to be higher than cards available in the first or second stages. Many wonders end with a stage worth seven points, a number that is higher than anything you'll see in the second stage and very solid for a card in the third age. However, you can build a wonder stage as soon as you have access to the resources. That means that a card in the second stage that as a blue card would be worth a maximum of five is now worth two more points. But even beyond that, building wonder stages gives you more flexibility, because you can choose when to do build a wonder stage instead of playing a card. This gives you a mulligan whenever you get a bad hand. Instead of playing a resource you don't need, or a science card worth one point to you, you can use that card to get a higher number of points than even the best card could give you in the second age.

In addition, many wonders have benefits that mean more earlier in the game. Things like resources or military, the ability to play a card without paying costs or even play your last card in the age. To fully take advantage of some of these wonder benefits you have to build early.

Lets talk science. Love it or hate it, science can be a huge source of points in the game. Because science points are scored in part exponentially, with bonuses for complete rows, if you are going to start getting science it is to your advantage to get as much as possible. Three rows of completed science gives you 48 points, or two thirds of the points you need to seal a victory. Four complete rows gives you 76 points, and generally the win. If you think about it, four rows of science is only twelve cards, which if you're playing with expansions is just over half of the non hero cards you'll play. Depending on which guilds and heroes are available and how many players there are four rows may not be possible. But it is fantastic goal to aim for and a terrifying one to fulfill.

In addition, science, like wonder stages, gives you points typically at a higher level than other cards during the first and second stages. Each card in your first row of science will be worth three points so long as you complete a full row. Each card in the second row will be worth about five points if you get a full row, and each card in the third row will be worth around eight. Science can be very, very powerful if no one stops you. Adding to the compounding effect of these points is that science generally acts as the prerequisite to build other science (and sometimes military and blue cards) for free. That makes pursuing an aggressive, resource low science strategy viable. You don't need resources if you have a building that everything chains off of.

Then why is science situational? Because your friends will do everything they can to stop you from getting too much science. Stopping someone from getting too much science is easy--burn science under wonder stages. Or if you're feeling a little like diversifying, choose one of the types of science--gears for instance, and collect them all. This will leave leave anyone else with a bunch of incomplete rows, but will still give you a decent return on the cards you pick up.

To be successful in science with competent players you have to be able to act so fast that they can't stop you. This means either having early access to a manufactured resource (i.e. have your wonder produce a gray card) or drawing archimedes. In these instances you should be able to pick up enough science cards that even if everyone starts frantically burying the cards as they see them you will pick up a decent return on your investment--so long as you prioritize science cards first over all in the first and second age. If everyone is burning it won't win you the game alone, but it will get you points no one has access to. This can mean the win in a close game.

Why are military cards and blue cards generally not as useful in the early game? The short answer is they typically aren't worth enough points. The question of when to pursue either type of card early on is slightly different for blue cards and red cards. For red cards, remember the total victory points you can gain is 18 points. That means that you're goal overall should be to make as little investment as possible to get those eighteen points, and to always be aware that is the maximum you can win. Playing one to three cards for eighteen points makes a lot of sense, but entering an arms race and passing up high point cards in the third age does not. Some wonders will give you an edge militarily, and some heroes will make military more valuable. This should weigh into your calculus, but always remember that no one actually dies if you lose the war.

As for blue cards, you have to weigh the value of the points you'll get now versus the value of the cards you'll be able to play later. Because age three cards are worth six to eight points and age one blue cards are only worth two to three points it makes sense that getting the resources you need to build those later cards is more valuable than the quick points now. That said, if there is nothing else to play or if you have enough resources, there's no reason not to score a few points early.

So, I keep saying everything is situational. How and when do you make your strategy? Once you get a wonder, and look at your first hand of heroes you might have a general idea. Your wonder or a hero might give you an advantage in military or science, and if that's the case that should factor into your plan. But ultimately your style will shift based on what cards you get and what your neighbors do. It might be reasonable to get good trading cards, or it might be necessary to get the resources yourself. No one might be taking science, so it might be worth it to jump in. No one might be escalating with military, so it might be worth it to buy a little. Watch what the other players are doing and adjust to try and get a bigger piece of the pie.

One Final point in this brief overview: your goal should be getting points, not denying other people points. Because there are more than two players in this game denying one person points isn't the same as scoring points. If everyone else plays that game (trying to hurt the other players) and you don't, you have a natural advantage because you'll pick better cards for you. Only hurt another player if it makes sense for you. You're ready to build a wonder stage? Then burn that science so no one else can get it. But never do something stupid like exchange a card for coins instead of playing a card that could actually earn you points.

Also just as an aside, and because it is my pet peeve: burning cards for coins almost never makes sense. Three coins are only worth one victory point, which means by burning a card you get only one victory point. If you are doing this in the last stage when each play could be worth as much as eight points you've made a mistake earlier in your strategy. In most situations there are cards that provide either more than three coins or a combination of coins and victory points. If you can hold out then use those. Burning a card for coins is the least efficient use of your play, avoid it at all costs.

I hope this was helpful, please feel free to ask questions or post comments. Good luck!
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Robert Dupond
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[...] "but always remember that no one actually dies if you lose the war." [...]

That's so true!
By the way, good tips!
 
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John Snowulf
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Nice guide!
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6element
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BSW history for 7 Wonders has 14309 players who played 10 and more games. The highest win rate for non-bot players seems to be 10 won games out of 12. For players who played reasonable number of games (let's say more than 200) the highest win rate is 184 out of 294.

So, unless you've played very few games with very weak opponents, it is quite unlikely your win rate is 100% ("win every time").

Which is not a surprise, it's a card game, there is luck involved.

Good luck
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M. B. Downey
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6element wrote:
So, unless you've played very few games with very weak opponents, it is quite unlikely your win rate is 100% ("win every time").


Maybe read beyond the headline? This is the second sentence of the review:

analytic wrote:
This is probably my favorite board game, and of the numerous times I've played I've only lost a handful of games.
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R. O. Schaefer
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Good basic overview for beginners.

analytic wrote:

Look at the majority of wonders that contain stages granting straight victory points and you'll notice that those numbers tend to be higher than cards available in the first or second stages. Many wonders end with a stage worth seven points, a number that is higher than anything you'll see in the second stage and very solid for a card in the third age. However, you can build a wonder stage as soon as you have access to the resources. That means that a card in the second stage that as a blue card would be worth a maximum of five is now worth two more points. But even beyond that, building wonder stages gives you more flexibility, because you can choose when to do build a wonder stage instead of playing a card. This gives you a mulligan whenever you get a bad hand. Instead of playing a resource you don't need, or a science card worth one point to you, you can use that card to get a higher number of points than even the best card could give you in the second age.

In addition, many wonders have benefits that mean more earlier in the game. Things like resources or military, the ability to play a card without paying costs or even play your last card in the age. To fully take advantage of some of these wonder benefits you have to build early.


Certainly you don't want to build all wonder stages late - a mistake beginners might do surprisingly often. But buildung stage 3 for 7 points during second age won't give in game advantages and has the potential drawback that you can't react to useless cards in age III by wonderbuildung them nor you can hatedraft during age III. This might or might not be an issue depending on your resource situation.

analytic wrote:

Why are military cards and blue cards generally not as useful in the early game? The short answer is they typically aren't worth enough points. The question of when to pursue either type of card early on is slightly different for blue cards and red cards. For red cards, remember the total victory points you can gain is 18 points. That means that you're goal overall should be to make as little investment as possible to get those eighteen points, and to always be aware that is the maximum you can win.


Probably a common comment at this point: It's also minus 3 to each of your neighbours, which makes it stronger in 3 player games. The number of players is quite essential for a strategy guide for this game, so you could at least briefly mention it and link to other guides which explain this in detail.
But I agree on the arms race thing, of course.

analytic wrote:

As for blue cards, you have to weigh the value of the points you'll get now versus the value of the cards you'll be able to play later. Because age three cards are worth six to eight points and age one blue cards are only worth two to three points it makes sense that getting the resources you need to build those later cards is more valuable than the quick points now. That said, if there is nothing else to play or if you have enough resources, there's no reason not to score a few points early.


This is a bit simplified, leaving out chains from the analysis.

downeymb wrote:
6element wrote:
So, unless you've played very few games with very weak opponents, it is quite unlikely your win rate is 100% ("win every time").


Maybe read beyond the headline? This is the second sentence of the review:

analytic wrote:
This is probably my favorite board game, and of the numerous times I've played I've only lost a handful of games.


I've read through the whole post, but I'm not a big fan of the title either, even if it is a tiny bit tongue in cheek. Everytime someone writes in the strategy section: "I've won x games with that strategy." I'm thinking he could just have written "that strategy appeard to be winning in our games." With the latter the focus is more on the strategy and not so much on "Hey, look at me - I'm a smart player." But this might just be my personal preference.
 
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M. B. Downey
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Califax wrote:
I've read through the whole post, but I'm not a big fan of the title either, even if it is a tiny bit tongue in cheek. Everytime someone writes in the strategy section: "I've won x games with that strategy." I'm thinking he could just have written "that strategy appeard to be winning in our games." With the latter the focus is more on the strategy and not so much on "Hey, look at me - I'm a smart player." But this might just be my personal preference.


My personal, preference is for someone to say "I've used this strategy to win!" rather than "So, maybe this kind of works in some situations, or whatever." I want strategy posts from people who have played and feel confident in their strategy, not from someone who is dismissive and passive of their own victory. That's not a good strategy post, to me.

But obviously, YMMV.
 
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Grarrrg Grarrrgowski
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downeymb wrote:
My personal, preference is for someone to say "I've used this strategy to win!" rather than "So, maybe this kind of works in some situations, or whatever." I want strategy posts from people who have played and feel confident in their strategy, not from someone who is dismissive and passive of their own victory. That's not a good strategy post, to me.

"Singles in your area are using these HOT strategies"
"Top ten ways to dominate the game, you won't believe number SEVEN!!!"
"How to score 20 points in 2 turns! Secrets the designers don't want you to know!!!!!!!!!!1?!!"
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M. B. Downey
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Yes, that is EXACTLY what I meant!
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Nicholas Green
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Thanks for commenting on the thread!

Califax wrote:
Certainly you don't want to build all wonder stages late - a mistake beginners might do surprisingly often. But buildung stage 3 for 7 points during second age won't give in game advantages and has the potential drawback that you can't react to useless cards in age III by wonderbuildung them nor you can hatedraft during age III. This might or might not be an issue depending on your resource situation.


The logic behind my advice to build late wonder stages earlier is that they are almost always more valuable than other cards that can be built in age one or two. Although having flexibility is valuable in the third age, because there are so many more points available in the third age it's generally better to use the wonder stage as an opportunity to score points early. Otherwise you might end up wasting an opportunity to score points from another card in the third age when so many valuable cards are coming out. However, everything is situational. If you anticipate needing that flexibility in the third age you're absolutely right that waiting to build that last wonder stage could be viable.

Califax wrote:
Probably a common comment at this point: It's also minus 3 to each of your neighbours, which makes it stronger in 3 player games. The number of players is quite essential for a strategy guide for this game, so you could at least briefly mention it and link to other guides which explain this in detail.
But I agree on the arms race thing, of course.


You're right that the military calculus is slightly different in three and two player games. I almost included the detail, but my intention was to simplify a little and leave out strategies that wouldn't apply to every game. I think we both agree a lot of people overthink and overvalue military. A certain type of player rather than calculating the affirmative points they gain tends to think of investing in military as both gaining them points (1,3 and 5 in each age) and denying their opponents points (2,4 and 6). In their calculus military is effectively worth 30 points, which almost inevitably overestimates its value. I was trying to short circuit that sort of thinking by emphasizing a play style focused on raising the individual player's score, and talking about the negative points other players get sort of detracts from that theme.


Califax wrote:
This is a bit simplified, leaving out chains from the analysis.


You are correct that examining the chains of blue cards could be an important part of a low resource (probably science heavy) strategy. But generally speaking only two cards chain off of blue cards in the third age, the Pantheon (a good card worth seven points) and the Gardens (not the greatest third age card). That means that the average player will have to have the resources to build other cards, and that makes the blue chains not really that valuable. Most players will need to position themselves to be able to play cards like the Palace, and if they are in that position won't have that much of a problem playing the Temple or the Gardens. There were a lot of details I would have liked to go into (and might in an advanced guide). Thanks for sharing your thoughts / criticisms!

But of course I'm a fan of the title. It's a good title.
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6element
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The proposed approach to military alone would give win-rate on BSW in low-mid 40-s percents, which is way lower than claimed.

The estimate is based on experience (10K games, five years, etc).

Good luck
 
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Nicholas Green
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6element wrote:
The proposed approach to military alone would give win-rate on BSW in low-mid 40-s percents, which is way lower than claimed.

The estimate is based on experience (10K games, five years, etc).

Good luck


Not sure what you mean. If you have a different approach to military please offer an explanation of your strategy. If your talking about the game without expansions or heroes, military can be slightly more important, but ultimately the valuation should follow the same logic.

Thanks for commenting!
 
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R. O. Schaefer
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analytic wrote:
Thanks for commenting on the thread!

Califax wrote:
Certainly you don't want to build all wonder stages late - a mistake beginners might do surprisingly often. But buildung stage 3 for 7 points during second age won't give in game advantages and has the potential drawback that you can't react to useless cards in age III by wonderbuildung them nor you can hatedraft during age III. This might or might not be an issue depending on your resource situation.


The logic behind my advice to build late wonder stages earlier is that they are almost always more valuable than other cards that can be built in age one or two. Although having flexibility is valuable in the third age, because there are so many more points available in the third age it's generally better to use the wonder stage as an opportunity to score points early. Otherwise you might end up wasting an opportunity to score points from another card in the third age when so many valuable cards are coming out. However, everything is situational. If you anticipate needing that flexibility in the third age you're absolutely right that waiting to build that last wonder stage could be viable.


I can see your reasoning. Even when you mostly forego red and blue in age I/II, I imagine building wonder stages consequently early will have an opportunity cost in foregoing some resources (not only quasi resources = chains) and being more expensive. But, I'll have a look.

I'm not that used however, to the standard version anymore (even expansion included). We are playing with team variant almost exclusively, because it increases your planning possibilities so much.
 
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M. B. Downey
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Playing team reduces the need to hate draft, since usually every card will be good for one of you. This is definitely a big difference and why going for wonder completion before Age III works better in teams.
 
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