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Subject: 7 Wonders - A Detailed Review rss

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Image Courtesy of a_traveler

This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type - Card Game
Play Time: 20-40 minutes
Number of Players: 2 – 7 (Best 3+)
Mechanics - Card Drafting, Set Collection, Variable Player Powers, Simultaneous Action Selection
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 10 minutes and only takes 2-3 plays to get a handle on the thinking required)
Components - Very Good
Release - 2010

Designer - Antoine Bauza (Ghost Stories, Hanabi, Mystery Express, Takenoko)

Overview and Theme

Well what is left to say about 7 Wonders that hasn’t already been said? I queried what I had to offer in a recent review of Decent: Journeys in the Dark as it already had 6 pages of reviews, but that was in 6 years.

7 Wonders already has 7 pages of reviews and it was released less than a year ago. Well hopefully I can add something to the conversation.

7 Wonders is a card drafting game that uses the backdrop of Ancient Civilisations and their unique Wonders as its theme and it delivers all of this for up to 7 players in a 20-40 minute timeframe. It certainly sounds about as amazing as the Wonders the game depicts.

But the real question is this – ‘Is the game play really that amazing (as the hype would suggest) or is it really relying on a lot of smoke and mirrors?’

Well let’s find out…

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The Components

As you may expect the game requires relatively few components to work.

d10-1 City Boards – Whilst my intro may have made reference to civilisations, in truth each player actually represents a famed city from antiquity and their associated Wonders. These include the Gardens of Babylon, the Pyramids of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Temple of Zeus in Olympia to name but a few. Each of these boards are about the length of a standard square game box and that allows them to serve as a card organiser of sorts as cards that are acquired during play will be placed partially under or around your board to help organise cards of certain types (like resources) so opponents can identify what you have easily.

The artwork on each board is beautifully realised to and really helps to evoke the theme of the game and catch the eye. If the social banter and large player numbers don’t grab the attention of passersby then the artwork certainly will.


Image Courtesy of EndersGame


d10-2 Cards – 7 Wonders is a card game so it is not surprising that they are the key component that drives the play. In all the game offers up 155 cards but they will only all be used in a full 7 player game. The cards are wonderfully designed in relation to their layout and come in standard playing cad size. The card art is somewhat hit and miss though. It certainly isn’t bad, but many of the images are fairly unimaginative or predictable and the style didn’t excite me that much.


Image Courtesy of lacxox


d10-3 Military Tokens – The Military Tokens come in two forms. The positive points are red and feature an eagle standard and laurel wreath (a nod to the military might of the Roman Empire…even though they don’t feature in the base game). These positive tokens come in three sizes and are worth 1, 3 and 5 points each.

Then there are the octagonal -1 point tokens. These are used to represent military defeats and as such are really not desirable.


Image Courtesy of armourer84


d10-4 Coins – Coins are the main form of currency in the game and they come in nice thick tokens worth one (silver) and three (gold) respectively. Each player will start the game with coins totaling 3 in value.


Image Courtesy of EndersGame


d10-5 Score Pad – The score pad comes with 50 sheets to help track each player’s performance against each of the scoring criteria at the end of the game. The sheets are nicely coloured, with each coloured row matching the colour of that criteria’s card type – which is rather neat. The only way the score sheets could have been improved I think, would have been to make them double sided because given the short playtime and popularity of the game, you will be burning through these rather quickly.



Image Courtesy of balijan2


d10-6 Rules and Insert – The rules for 7 Wonders are well written, using plenty of visual examples and text in various colours to help certain points stand out from others. The special powers of the Wonders are explained in detail and given the nature of the game and the importance of card types the rulebook also includes a Card Chain diagram so players can become more familiar with how many resources there are and which cards serve as prerequisites for others. The back page is then dedicated to explaining the icons used in the game.

7 Wonders also comes with a separate reference sheet that features a set of Quick Rules on one side and another copy of the icon description on the other, which allows 2 people to reference it at the same time if needed.

The box insert is quite functional allowing space for the cards and the tokens. Having just bought the Leaders expansion I am happy to report that all of the components do fit in the base game box and it appears that they made the card wells deep enough for this purpose. thumbsup



Images Courtesy of EndersGame & armourer84


d10-7 2-Player Cards – The game also comes with two cards that are used in the 2-player variant only.



Image Courtesy of armourer84


All in all the component quality of 7 Wonders is very good but not quite excellent. This is on account that the card art could have been better I think and the actual thickness of the cards themselves could have been a little more robust. But really…I nitpick.


Image Courtesy of Acetate


Set-up

To determine each player’s Civilisation/City, a civ card is dealt to each player and they then take the matching Civ/City board, which they will represent for the game and is placed in plain view for all to see. It is worth noting here that the Civ/City cards do offer an A at one end and a B at the other. Whilst A is the recommended option for new players, experienced 7 Wonders gamers may like to have the option of using B, which is slightly more challenging.

In this case the letter which faces the player (on the card) determines which side of their Civ/City board they will be using.


Image Courtesy of EndersGame


Next comes the creation of the card decks. 7 Wonders is played over 3 Ages and the number of cards in play is finely tuned to the exact number of players. So the players must consult the numerical values on the bottom of each card to ensure that they have the right combination of cards in play for each Age. This may sound complicated but in truth it takes all of about 60 seconds if the players work together and quite often a regular play group will consist of the same number of players and the game can be packed up in such a way that the cards are all but ready to go for next time.

The deck for Age III is slightly more intricate though as it includes special cards called Guilds. How many of the 10 Guild Cards are added to Age III will depend on the number of players, so this needs to be determined and the appropriate number of Guild cards are randomly selected and added to the Age III deck.

Each player then receives 3 Gold as their starting capital (unless you are playing with the promo Civ, Manneken Pis – which awards an additional 4 gold) and the Age I cards are dealt to each player. If the decks have been created correctly each player should receive 7 cards and no cards should be left over.

A pile of Military VP Chits is created as is a pile of coins. The decks for Ages II and III are set aside for later use and the game is ready to begin.

The Game Play

The aim of 7 Wonders is to display your Civilisation’s cultural superiority and that can be achieved by scoring the most victory points.

How the game allows you to do this is through a very simple set of actions –

d10-1 The Flow of each Age and Drafting – Each player will start an Age with 7 cards and they simply have to select one of those to keep for that turn. In fact all of the players are making that same decision, based on their hand, simultaneously. Once a card is selected it is placed face down on the table. When all selections have been made, each player reveals their card and each player then passes the remaining cards from their hand to their neighbor (left in Ages I and III and to the right in Age II).

This concept of taking a card from a selection is called 'card drafting'. It is by no means new as Magic: The Gathering has used different forms of card drafting since the 90s and Fairy Tale used this exact form of card drafting back in 2004.

What card drafting as a mechanic does allow for though is a very interesting set of decisions to be made with each and every turn. I’ll discuss these a little later on.

d10-2 Paying for Cards – Once a card is revealed though, it isn’t as simple as just adding it to your play area. No – most cards (but not all), have a cost associated with them and they must be paid for with resources of one kind or another. This mechanism is something that all Euro players are familiar with.

On rare occasions a player may find themselves extremely cash poor and their card choices may not be all that great for the strategy they are pursuing. In this situation a player may choose to discard the card they have selected and in doing so they can earn 3 coins.

d10-3 Restrictions on Card Selection – There are only 2 restrictions that stop a player from selecting a particular card. First they must be able to pay the cost requirement of a card and second, a player is never allowed to have 2 cards of the exact same name in play.

d10-4 Rinse and Repeat – In all truth that is all there is to the core flow of 7 Wonders. Points one and two from above are repeated for each Age until each player is handed 2 cards. At this point 1 must be selected and the other is discarded instead of being passed on. This is how the end of each Age is triggered.

So in each Age the players will have the chance to acquire a total of 6 cards. When that final selection occurs at the end of Age III the game draws to a close and scoring takes place.

An Analysis of the Cards – The Deck Anatomy

But of course there is much more to 7 Wonders than simply the above. But before I can look at the overlaying mechanics of the game, we first need to better understand what all of these cards represent…I mean…this is a card game after all.

d10-1 Resources – Like any good game ever invented, 7 Wonders relies on resources. These include wood, clay, stone, ore, papyrus (I call it paper), loom (I call it silk) and glass. These are the building blocks of the game as they will be needed to pay for almost every card available. We can probably also add coins (I call these gold) to this list as it too is a resource that can be used to acquire things.


Image Courtesy of EndersGame


d10-2 Civilian Structures – These cards are always blue in colour and their function is to offer Victory Points. With each Age the structures become more elaborate and are worth more VPs but they will also come at a greater cost.

This is true of all cards as the game progresses from Age I to Age III and it underlines the fact that 7 Wonders is really all about building your ‘Economic Engine’ and leveraging that to earn Victory Points as the game unfolds.


Image Courtesy of henk.rolleman


d10-3 Commercial Structures – These cards are always yellow and they impart some sort of economic benefit to the players. Sometimes they will offer coins, other times they will make the purchase of resources cheaper and sometimes they will offer a free resource of a player’s choice with each turn. These are only some of the benefits on offer from Commerce.


Image Courtesy of sa266


d10-4 Scientific Structures – These cards are always green and they represent the key scientific advances made over the course of human history. Each Science card is marked with an icon, of which there are 3 different types. By collecting sets of Science cards a player can earn big points, but more on that later in the scoring analysis.


Image Courtesy of EndersGame


d10-5 Military Structures – These cards are always red and represent the Military advances that civilisations made over the time of antiquity. Being able to dominate your opponents can be a good way to earn VPs and hurt your rivals in the process.


Image Courtesy of henk.rolleman


d10-6 Guilds – These cards are always Purple and based on the number of players there will always be a variable number that are randomly selected for each game. Guilds serve very much as end of game scoring bonuses. They allow a player to leverage the strategies they have pursued and potentially those of their neighbours. I liken these to the 6-cost Development cards of Race for the Galaxy and they can be every bit as important to a player’s final VP score.


Image Courtesy of millercv


The Additional Mechanics

Now that we have covered the core flow of the game and the cards that make up each Age, we are ready to look at the additional mechanics that make the game work so well.

d10-1 The Concept of Neighbours – Whilst 7 Wonders may have borrowed the concept of drafting and economic engine games have been around for a long time, the concept of Neighbours is relatively original (although I think one play format of Magic: The Gathering may have used it).

In 7 Wonders each player only needs to be directly concerned with the players to their immediate left and right. By concerned I mean that a player will only directly interact with those 2 players, in both positive and negative ways.

d10-2 The Impact of Military – Military is how neighbours can negatively impact one another. At the end of each Age all players must tally up their total military (number of military icons that feature on their cards and Wonders) and if a player has greater military might than a neighbor then they have dominated them and will earn additional victory points (1, 3 and 5 points for each Age). Players that were defeated simply earn -1 point for each beat down that they suffer.

d10-3 The Importance of Trade – But every mechanic has a silver lining and neighbours can also be of benefit. When it comes to paying the cost of a selected card a player may find themselves without all of the required resources. So a player is allowed to buy resources at the disposal of their neighbours for the cost of 2 coins each (unless they have a Commerce card that makes this cheaper).

This simulates the existence of trade. It is important to note that any one player’s resources are considered to be finite (in that a single stone icon can only be used once to purchase goods by a single player) but that one stone icon can be purchased by the owner and both their neighbours if required.

This mechanic really is akin to genius as it frees players from the necessity of having to take every Resource card that comes their way (which frees them up to pursue other strategic paths). It gives the game a real feeling of a living economy, and it makes coins a valuable commodity also. thumbsup

d10-4 Pre-requisites – 7 Wonders also does a great job in recognising that through history some advancements played a major hand in the discovery of others. So many of the cards in the game serve as pre-requisites for other cards. Some cards will have the name of another card featured near the top of it. If a player already has this card in play then they can build this new card for free!

To help players make card selection decisions, cards that do serve as pre-requisites for cards in future Ages also have those card names listed at their bottom right corner. In this way if a player is weighing up which of 2 potential cards to keep this turn they may be swayed by the one that is a pre-requisite to another card down the track.

It also deserves mention that there is a pre-requisite link between Science and Military Cards. This is really a nice historical touch that may be overlooked by some.

d10-5 Wonders –

Image Courtesy of ZetaZeta
And so we finally come to the namesake of the game, the Wonders. Each player’s Civ (or city) board features two key pieces of information. In the top left is a resource, which that player (and their neighbours if they pay for it) will have access to throughout the game. Along the bottom are 3 card width sections and these represent the 3 stages of building required to complete a player’s Wonder of the World!

Now it isn’t mandatory to complete your Wonder, but each stage will impart benefits to its player. Of course these are not without cost and a series of icons outlines the cost for each stage to be built (just like cards). Should a player chose to build a stage of their Wonder they simply declare that to the other players and place the card they selected for that turn face down below that stage’s location on their player board (not unlike how cards are used to represent goods in Race for the Galaxy).

The benefits of stages I and III are invariably VPs and these tend to total 10 unless you are playing as the Egyptians, in which case your total is 15.

But stage II offers each player a special ability based on the Civ/City they represent and this helps to slightly differentiate the players from one another and may well alter the play style and strategies that they pursue. The Babylonian player is more likely to pursue science, whilst the Colossus of Rhodes player gains access to additional military, which in turn may spark an arms race with their neighbours or they may decide it is not worth the effort and just accept their lot.

This is the clever implications of the Wonders, they won’t only have implications for the players that own them, they will have implications for the neighbours as well. cool

d10-6 Scoring – The final mechanic worth noting is that of the scoring. Whilst players may gain access to additional coin reserves, thanks to card effects as the game progresses, no VPs are actually awarded until the very end of the game.

The score pad is designed so that a single player needs only call out the criteria being scored and each player in turn can respond with their total, which is then recorded. This is very clever as it allows the game to flow without getting bogged down during play and the scoring only takes 1-2 minutes at the end of the game…which also helps to build the tension as players await to hear the results.

Points are awarded for Military Tokens, Coins (1 VP per 3 coins), stages of Wonders that have been built, Commercial Structures, Guild Bonuses, and Scientific Discoveries.

d10-7 Science – Science deserves its own little explanation as it is the most complex (not that it is difficult) of the strategies and scoring systems. Science is all about set collection as there are 3 different icons featured on Science cards (cog, tablet and square and compass - which is traditionally a masonic icon). That last symbol adds a little bit of mystery to the game (much like the American $1 note with its pyramid and all seeing eye), but I suspect this icon was included to link science with that of secret orders in the times of Antiquity.

If a player has 1 of each icon in play they will earn 7 VPs at game end for each such set. But a player will also be rewarded for acquiring Science icons of the same type and this uses a ‘squaring’ principle.

For example if I have 2 cog cards I will earn 4 points (2 x 2). But if I have 3 cogs I’ll earn 9 points (3 x 3) and 4 would earn me 16 points (4 x 4). It’s that simple and yet by far the most intricate part of the game to explain to new players.

Whilst Science can earn a huge number of points, it is one of the most volatile strategies to go after and that is because so much relies on what other players are doing. If another player or two also pursue Science, then your potential for earning big points is severely reduced.

Now you may think that this would be the case for any of the other card types, but really it isn’t. Once a player takes a blue Civilian card, it is worth the stated number of points at the end of the game – this is guaranteed.

That is not the case for Science.

Every Science card’s end game total is totally dependent on what other Science cards can be acquired and other players can deny you access to Science cards by either playing them for themselves, discarding them for coins or using them to represent a stage of their Wonder.

Suddenly the game doesn’t seem quite so straight forward now does it?! devil

What Makes the Game Work? Where is the Appeal?


Image Courtesy of EndersGame
Well there must be something because I rarely come up with 12 things to like about a game.

d10-1 Simplicity and the Mechanical Overlay – The greatest strength by far of 7 Wonders is its simplicity, which makes the game so accessible to first time players. There is really no need to explain every nuance to a new player, all they need is a quick introduction to the base concept of drafting, knowledge that pre-requisites exist and how the Wonder stages work and they are pretty much good to go. Everything else they need to know comes intuitively with 2-3 plays.

Then there is the beautiful way that the various mechanics overlay one another and create real implications for the players. This is subtle at first but with more play you have to marvel at the streamlined design of the game.

d10-2 Balance – It becomes quite evident after 10-20 plays or so (which won’t take very long to rack up) that 7 Wonders is a game that was play tested well as the many elements all seem to have a great balance about them. I certainly believe that Science is perhaps the most situational of the scoring elements and offers an individual player less control over their ultimate destiny but there is no doubting that once Science is developed by a player, there will be implications for all – and this will come at an opportunity cost.

d10-3 Many Paths to Victory and the Feeling of Achievement – Like any good game 7 Wonders offers up a myriad of paths to attaining that high score and ultimate victory. Some will pursue Civilian Structures, others will flex their Military muscle, Commerce can be a good little earner indeed and Science can be all conquering if done well. Other players may pursue a more balanced approach and do a little bit of each. The fun to 7 Wonders for me is in trying these different play styles and being forced to adapt to what I have in each game and on any given turn.

The other point to note here is that the final result of a game of 7 Wonders is almost irrelevant and that is because with each game the players will feel like they have achieved something, regardless of whether they win or lose, because they are building and constructing their Civ with each turn. This for me is one of the key benefits of some games in our hobby, over traditional department store games of yesteryear, and 7 Wonders does it pretty well.

d10-4 Variability – It is quite possible that an observer could watch 3 consecutive games of 7 Wonders play out and conclude that the game pretty much plays out the same way every time. Each Civ will tend to see a player play in a certain way, every game is going to see resources gained, military built and science and commerce play their part.

But the beauty of 7 Wonders is that to each player, every game is going to feel quite different. With 7 (8 if you have Manneken Pis) Wonders in play and each of those having a B side, there are 16 different Civ benefits to adapt to and then of course there is the exact card sets that you will see with each turn, that will differ from one game to the next.

Then you need to factor in that the exact combination of Guilds in play will be different every time and suddenly you have a game that will be a new challenge with each play.

On top of that the neighbouring mechanic then adds another edge to the game because each Civ will need to play slightly differently based on the neighbours it is paired up with.

But there is one more element that must not be overlooked and that is the social aspect. People are diverse creatures and as such you may think you have seen all there is to see when a player is in control of Olympia and then based on seat position and the human factor, you see something totally new. meeple

d10-5 Tough Decisions – Another hallmark of any great game is that it needs to provide us with some tough decisions and 7 Wonders is full of them. Not only must a player decide on which cards to keep each turn and answer questions like; how many resources is too many, when should I start building my Wonder, do I go after Science and will my neighbours go after Military (to name but a few) but they also need to weigh up what a card is worth to them versus what cards they are allowing other players to gain access to!

This can be really difficult at times and it makes the game a lot of fun. There is nothing more excruciating than hearing a neighbouring player chuckle with glee and begin thanking you for your generosity. But then again there is nothing more pleasing than slotting that Science Card under one of your Wonder Stages and letting them know at the end of the game that you burned them totally. devil

d10-6 Time Friendly – This is one of the most obvious and yet most important benefits of 7 Wonders. With a group of experienced players a game can be knocked out in 20-30 minutes regardless of how many are playing. It is no wonder (pun intended) that the game is quite often the opener or closer to many a gaming session.

For the amount of decision making and implications on offer, the time frame required to play is excellent.

d10-7 Gamer Session Friendly – This may sound like my last point but it is slightly different. By being game session friendly I mean that 7 Wonders solves a dilemma that many gaming groups have had for years – ‘Oh we have 5 players but the games we have tonight only allow for up to 4’. So I guess we have to split into two groups or someone will have to sit out’.

This has been a pain in my club’s proverbial rectum forever and a day so 7 Wonders makes itself very appealing thanks to the fact that it can accommodate 2-7 players.

d10-8 The Ultimate Gateway – For many of the reasons already outlined above 7 Wonders is like the pin-up child for Gateway Games. But it also manages to have yet one more string to attract the casual gamer or new player. It is familiar. We all understand the concept of paying for things with resources, set collection is as old as games like Rummy and Canasta. The learning curve here is low and that helps people to feel comfortable.

d10-9 Scalability – This possibly harks back to the balance point a little but 7 Wonders scales perfectly well due to having cards that are added in or removed out based on the number of players. By doing this the relative ratios of each card type are kept in balance and this is crucial to a design of this type.

d10-1d10-0 Design Excellence – By this I am referring to the design and layout functionality of the cards. The quality of the design features for a game like this can really make or break it in terms of appeal and accessibility to a wide audience and 7 Wonders does it really well.

Each card type features a consistent background colour for easy identification, the cost of all cards is always in the top left, the names of each card are on the left hand side which allows cards to be overlapped without masking their name and the benefits and pre-requisites of each card are always located in the same place. All of these features assist new players to get to grips with the game quickly and experienced players can really prioritise cards of interest to them each turn very quickly.

d10-1d10-1 Thematically Appealing – 7 Wonders probably could have gone with a number of different themes and worked just as well, but the choice to go for Ancient Cities from a Wonderous Age serves it very well and the theme links in quite well with the need to create a developing civilization.

The artwork featured in the game really goes a long way to supporting the theme. The card art is decent but not outstanding (I’d rate the card artwork for Race for the Galaxy much higher) but the Civ boards are quite stunning. One advantage of writing a review like this is that you can take the time to appreciate the little touches. The Civ boards in 7 Wonders are quite exquisite but for me it is the small details such as the birds in flight, the workers attending to the Sphinx, the moonlight on the waters of Halikarnassos and the ripples that lap at the base of the Colossus of Rhodes that make them so wonderful. I don’t often mention artists in my reviews but I tip my hat to Miguel Coimbra for the work here.

d10-1d10-2 Please Sir can I Have Some More? – If all of the above wasn’t enough then 7 Wonders has just one more trick up its sleeve. It has that quality that makes most of its players want to play just one more game. This is largely due to the fact that it takes so little time to play, but it is also due to the fact that the finishes are usually very close (at least for the top 2-3 scores) and you just want one more chance to try and do better. I don’t think we’ve ever pulled out 7 Wonders and only played it once in a session, 2 plays and occasionally 3 is usually the order of the day.

For the game purchaser this means that your investment is likely to pay off quite handsomely if you are looking for a good games played to cost ratio.

Are there any Weaknesses? Do we Dare to Deride the Poster Child?


Image Courtesy of Yeoster
Well yes, in fact there are a couple of things that may sit uncomfortably with some gamers.

d10-1 Too Simplistic (Dull even?) – For every player that loves the accessibility and simple nature of a game, there will be someone else that finds the play totally scripted, obvious and altogether very little fun. Which side of the fence you sit on will completely depend on your own gaming tastes and preferences.

d10-2 Seat Position and the Curse of the Newbie – This can be an issue for those that want uber-competitive games. Whenever a new player joins the action, they will be something of an easy target and given the importance of ‘neighbours’ in 7 Wonders, that can skew the final result to a particular player or two. This can result in games where it doesn’t matter how well you play, if a newbie is purely focusing on themselves and leaving juicy cards to their neighbours you will find it tough to compete.

Given how many people want to play 7 Wonders, the Curse of the Newbie can go on for months rather than weeks like most titles. It won’t worry most but it will annoy some.

d10-3 The Curse of the Game Buyer: When Popularity can make one Suffer – This is a good example of how a game’s popularity can hurt it somewhat. Due to the hype, short play time and the thematic appeal of the game, lots of people are pretty tempted to give it a try. This can result in the game owner having to explain it to new people A LOT. You’ve been warned.

d10-4 Small Doses – I really enjoy 7 Wonders for what it brings to the table but I do think it is best when played in small doses. At a Gaming Con earlier this year 7 Wonders was one of the buzz games and I found myself playing and teaching it somewhere between 5-7 times for the weekend. This was enough to make me sick at the sight of it purely because it really is gameplay light and that newbie seat position began to get a little grating. 7 Wonders is best in my opinion as an opener or closer to a gaming night for this reason alone.

d10-5 Thematic…Really? – This may seem like a crazy accusation given all of the points I have made so far but the truth of the matter is that at some point the thematic artwork, card titles and even the Wonders themselves begin to fade away. In their place you will simply see cards for what they truly are – a collection of costs, benefits and endgame VPs.

It happens with a lot of games of this nature but I feel it is far more noticeable with 7 Wonders than it is/was with Race for the Galaxy.

d10-6 Cost – Whilst I don’t really buy into this argument as I see value in terms of the play a game gets, some people will feel that the game is pretty pricey for what is essentially a card game that could easily have come in a much smaller box.

Variants: 2-Player Mode and the Manneken Pis Promo

I thought I’d quickly make comment on both of these features of the game.

d10-1 2-Player Variant – The two player mode of play tries to mimic that of a 3-player game to a degree by requiring a 3rd Civ/City board to be selected, which is known as the Free City, and all cards used for a 3-player game are used.

Each player is dealt a normal hand of 7 cards and the remaining 7 cards for the Free City are left in a stack. The 2 players will then alternate being in control of the Free City and on their turn they will draw one card from the Free City Deck and add it to their hand. They must then select 2 cards for that turn, one card for themselves and one card for the Free City. The players still pass their hand of cards to the other as per the normal game.

The Free City can buy resources from its neighbours like a normal player but if the Free City can build a pre-requisite card for free that option must be selected. The game unfolds in this way until the end of Age III.

Pros/Cons – In truth the 2-player variant is fairly clever. It allows for a degree of new strategy to unfold as the players can sometimes dump cards that their opponent would want in the Free City and they can create Military headaches for their opponent. Of course the kicker here is that neither player wants to give the Free City too much Military, Science or Civilian (VP) structures such that it hurts them in the long run. So a delicate balance must be found.

But for all that cleverness I really don’t find the 2-player variant all that compelling and that is mainly due to the short and fulfilling playtime of the multi-player version. When a game is this easy to get to the table and is likely to see fairly regular play, I really don’t want to be going into overkill territory by playing it 2-player as well.

If you don't have the option of multi=player gaming is 7 Wonders worth the investment for 2-players? It's hard to say but I'd go for no as there are much better 2-player games out there.


Image Courtesy of armourer84


d10-2 Manneken Pis – This promo Civ/City board is a nice novelty but can be somewhat situational in relation to how much fun it is to play. The power of the 'peeing statue' from Brussels is to copy the powers of neighbouring Wonders. Whilst this can be exciting when surrounded by the Colossus of Rhodes or Babylon, it is somewhat dull in combination with some of the other Wonders. But at the end of the day more variety is usually a good thing and I’m glad I have it.


Image Courtesy of Ceryon


The Final Word

And so we come to the end of a review that likely took you 4,000 years to read…which is thematically fitting I think.

There is no doubt that 7 Wonders is a wonderful design that deserves much of the hype that it has received. It is by no means my favourite game, mainly due to its weight and whilst there is undeniable depth here (subtle as it may be), that depth is not as satisfying as the depth that can be delivered by a weightier title.

I do think 7 Wonders will be around for many years to come but how much mileage you personally get out of it will depend on your ‘gaming genes’. I do think it has the potential to take a place alongside games like Ticket to Ride when history eventually judges its place.

For now I will continue to enjoy a play or two of 7 Wonders every couple of weeks and I have picked up the Leaders expansion to see what it can bring to the party.

Until next we meet may all your Wonders be 100 feet tall and stand the test of time!

Links

For a full list of my 300+ reviews in a search-able Geeklist -

My Review Geeklist for Easy Reference

Other Links

7 Wonders: Leaders - A Detailed Review

7 Wonders: Cities - A Detailed Review

EDIT - Updated the visual appeal of the review
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PenumbraPenguin
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Nice review!

One comment - in the middle, talking about the VP benefits of the side A wonders, you mention that they usually total 7. This should be 10 (3 + 7).
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CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
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Thanks Guv'na for the pickup. I've begun writing on my laptop in bed on Saturday mornings and don't always have the game with me so little errors creep in from time to time.

Edit made.
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Dave's Running Club
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Great review Neil (as always).

Regarding the 2-player variant, I agree completely (not surprising since we both played it together ) - to me having one player alternately controlling the free city seemed to drag the game time out due to having to strategise for 2 instead of just your own. As you noted it just doesn't seem worth the trouble compared to the fun 3 or more players can bring.
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Anthony Boydell
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Quote:
"This is on account that the card art could have been better"


What?

Are you insane?

Yes, I think you must be insane!

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Shane Walsh
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Excellent review again Neil (Aren't they all !!)

I agree with almost everything you said - it is a great title which will introduce others to the joys of gaming and I like you look forward to playing it in times to come - but NOT TOO OFTEN . There is no doubt that this is a (VERY GOOD) filler - but still a filler nonetheless .

The only thing I will beg to differ on is teaching the game - I've done it about 30 times thus far but would actually have preferred to teach TTR , Settlers and even something like Puerto Rico to perhaps 75 % of that number instead . That may just be me / Or perhaps my groups of friends ? .....

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Gerald McDaniel
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Excellent review of a great game.

We play as a family group of 5, 6, or 7 players, usually. It's not always easy to find good games for that number of players, and we often have to modify a game to play it. 7 Wonders was a perfect fit for us, and the fact that the game play time is virtually the same with any of those numbers makes it especially attractive. It has quickly become one of our favorites.

Hope your review helps some on-the-fence folks decide to try it, although (IMO) there is no game that suits everyone, including this one.
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Craig Liken
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Yes - excellent review - your 12 points really did emphasise the things I like about the game.

Like Shane though, I do find it somewhat tricky to teach. Some people seem to struggle a bit with understanding building the wonders - also I have found people who just have no idea what they should build on each turn.

I do like the varibaility in game play. We played a game the other day and I got Gizah B, and I don't think I had ever played that before (despite 40+ plays). It was made even better because we were playing Leaders and I got dealt Amytis (2 end-game points for each wonder stage built).
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Ian McCarthy
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The big problem with 7 Wonders is that, particularly with 6 or more players, there aren't enough cards to make a plan. You will never see a given hand of cards a second time, so you cannot adequately plan a strategy, but merely hope that you will see some useful cards in the next hand.

The key to a strategic drafting experience is not only picking the best card, it's also predicting what will come around the table, i.e. what cards you are likely to have a second chance to take. In that way, you can also see what others around the table are picking. Without that element, the game forces you to guess what cards are in the current draft mix.

7 Wonders is like cotton candy. Sure, it's fun for 20 minutes, but you'll forget it immediately because repeatedly picking the best card out of a completely random pile just isn't that memorable.
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