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Subject: Review of 7 Wonders rss

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Brett Baumgarten
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7 Wonders (7W for the remainder of this review) is a civilization-building game that centers on, revolves around, and involves more or less exclusively the Card Drafting mechanic. Like many drafting games, 7W features simultaneous play that keeps play time to a minimum, something you don't often find in civ building games. Is it deep enough to satisfy those looking for the rich experience that a civilization builder offers, or should it be relegated to the halls of the casual gamer?


Rules; or, How does this card drafting game of building civilizations differentiate itself from similar games?

Looking at the first half of that equation, 7W uses card drafting in a very familiar and straightforward way. Beyond that, the card you choose each turn has multiple potential uses beyond what type of card it is, always providing you with flexibility. Like some other drafting games (Sushi Go! comes to mind here), 7W is played over 3 rounds and direction of play reverses from one round to the next (here I think of Steampunk Rally and many others).

The second half of the equation is where 7W differs from the conventions of its genre. Or does it? 7W focuses your attention and often your efforts on the Wonder which you are assigned at the beginning of the game. Completing it, while not strictly necessary for victory, is often a major factor for scoring well. Your cards represent the buildings and other structures of your civilization. Appropriately enough, they are played around the board representing your Wonder, further making that your focus. In that regard, you are building up your civilization, but in an abstract fashion.

One intriguing aspect of 7W is how you can only interact with your two immediate neighbors. They are the ones you go to war with at the end of each age, and they are the only ones from whom you can buy resources that you need. They're also the ones who will be benefiting from and benefiting you the cards in the draft, but that is hardly unique to 7W. In a 3 player game, these become largely non-factors. More players than that though, and there will be things going on that you have no control over and which have no bearing on you outside the final scoring.


Appearance; or, How wonderful does it look, anyway?

Consider the nuts and bolts first. Card types are clearly delineated by color, allowing you to see even from across the table (on the rare occasions you need to) just what your opponents are working with. The iconography is also bold and distinct, making it easy to recognize at a glance once you're familiar with it.

The artwork is pretty, but takes a back seat to the aforementioned nuts and bolts. I may be a minority, but I rarely pause to examine the artwork and am instead focused entirely on the mechanics of the game. Is that my fault for failing to notice, or is it the game's fault for failing to make me notice? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? For me, it's probably just about right. I don't want pretty artwork getting in the way of good gameplay (a la the Polish version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig). Conversely, I don't want the artwork so bland/unattractive that it actually detracts from my enjoyment of the game.

The other game pieces, such as they are, make themselves equally readable while remaining visually pleasing. The wonder boards are the best showcase for the game's artwork this side of the box cover, given that they have the most artistic real estate available to them. The money is appropriately thick and distinguishable, and the same goes for the military victory/loss tokens.


Gameplay; or, Is it actually fun to build a wonderful house of cards?

I have read so many opinions on how the fun factor of 7W is either directly or inversely proportional to the number of players. The general consensus that I've noted has been that fewer players makes for a tighter game, while more players is more chaotic. I've generally experienced this in my plays as well. This means that the level of fun you experience may very well vary based on what type of experience you prefer. 3-4 players is more strategic, as you can look at an initial hand of cards knowing that it will be coming back to you. 5+ players is more tactical, with you more at the mercy of a combination of the draw and the other players. Personally, I enjoy a variety of experiences, so 7W is perfect in that regard.

Also up for debate is the extensive use of iconography in 7W. It's hard to argue that it doesn't make the game at least a little harder to learn initially. It's similarly hard to argue that the symbols don't become very intuitive and easy to remember after a few plays. This is largely going to be a personal preference item. Some people are really turned off by iconography, while other like or at least don't mind it.

One of the strengths of 7W is how easily it scales to different player counts. Like any good drafting game, player turns are simultaneous, meaning that the game is only ever as slow as the slowest player at the table. This means that everyone is involved and down time is minimized. Easy player scaling is enjoyable for me as well because 7W is a game I will often sit down to play with a couple other people, and before I can finish setting up, a straggler or two shows up. Adding them to the game is as simple as shuffling a few more cards into the decks. On a slow game night we'll often joke that the easiest way to get more people to show up is to break out 7W.


Conclusion; or, Why should you buy this game?

You should buy this game if you want a game that can play a large variety of player counts. You should buy this game is you enjoy civilization building, but don't want to devote the time to doing it on an epic scale. You should buy this game if you prefer light to moderate player interaction.

You should not buy this game if you prefer your civilization building on the epic end of the spectrum, especially in its appearance. You should not buy this game if you dislike games that heavily utilize iconography.
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Liallan G
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Just random comments (which I'll preface with the fact that I do like the game):

I am one of the ones that find more players to be chaotic. I don't mind playing that way; it's just that I mind not having much opportunity to play with 3 or 4, and would probably play more if I did. The same thing that is an advantage is also a disadvantage: it's easy to add more players. It seems to be my group's go-to game when there's more players, and generally I manage to be at another table.

I never found the iconography to be difficult. They can be grouped into types and simplified by not worrying that it's wood, but rather that it matches the symbol, stuff like that. There are a few unique ones on some wonders, but I always allow choice of sides, and the unique ones can go to someone experienced. I grant you, for a non-gamer those symbols are probably tough, but I don't think this is a game for non-gamers anyway. For anyone with reasonable experience, I don't find them difficult. (Try Tournay sometime. )

I think I would somewhat disagree that this is for people who like civilization building of a non-epic sort. I don't think it has any feel of building at all. It's a card drafting (with a bit of set collection) game at its core, and that's what it feels like.

The one unfortunate thing about the game is that it is light enough, and plays up to 7, and feels like it ought to be a party game, but is difficult for non-gamers and isn't very social. So it almost needs at least a little gaming experience, but high player counts can turn off some experienced gamers. I feel the intent was having a good game that is still light and can handle that many, but hasn't necessarily pulled it off that well. I have to agree with many that this game "makes it" when the player count is down. (But can come in handy if you're someone who can deal with a higher count.)
 
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Greg Tannahill
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I don't think I'd even consider playing this with more than four players.

The icon issue isn't too bad in the vanilla game - although not ideal - but once you add in expansions you really need to have all the rulebooks handy for new players as they'll be checking every Leader and most guilds and cities.

If they released a specific English-language version with text replacing all non-resource icons I'd re-buy it in an instant. (Ideally incorporating all the non-Babel expansions in one box with an interior layout that supports easy setup/teardown.)
 
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Alaska Saedelaere
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Honestly, it is not that difficult at a higher player count. All you need is one player who is very familiar with this rules - and as you stated, with Leaders/Cities, most players need to look at the references in the rule book - which is why I printed copies for everyone to look at before our first 8 player game.

Worked just fine. cool
 
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Liallan G
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I don't think anyone said anything about higher player counts being "difficult." It's more random, and some people simply don't like that. The difficulty of the rules or iconography certainly doesn't change because of player count.
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