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Board Game Backloggers: 7 Wonders

Ahh, board games.  Getting lost in a world of cardboard, plastic, strategy, and overall nerdiness is something I like to dedicate at least one night out of my week to, and this week was no exception.  As always, I’m back to keep my beloved readers informed (or at least intrigued) when it comes to what games are worth playing, and what games aren’t.

This week, I sat down with the usual crew of friends to play 7 Wonders, a game designed by Antoine Bauza and published by Repos Productions.  The game goes for around 30 bucks on Amazon, and is well-reviewed overall.  It supports 2-7 players, and (based on my experience and what I’m seeing on the web) plays in about 30 minutes to an hour.

As with most of the games I review here, the object of this game is to finish with the most victory points, and as is also often the case, these victory points can be attained in various different ways.  The basic structure of the gameplay, though, is this: in a given age, each player is dealt 7 cards.  They play one of these cards, and pass the remaining cards either to the left or the right depending on the age.  After each player has played 6 cards, the age ends.  After each age, points are awarded based on military strength and wonders attained, and after three ages, total points are tallied and the game ends.

7_Wonders_Ages

Three ages. Seven Wonders.  One incredibly nerdy (but fun) game.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed playing this game as much as I did was because it so heavily involves drafting.  Though I have friends who take part in drafts for Magic: The Gathering, I don’t have a whole lot of experience in doing it myself, but I like it.  The essence of this game is deciding which cards you can play to give you the most points, while also accounting for long-term strategies (military power, research goals, etc.) you and the other players, most notably those adjacent to you, may have.  Of course, you also “pay” for cards based on resources available to you.  You can build and diversify your resource pool by taking resource cards or commerce-based cards that allow you to trade with the player(s) next to you at a reduced rate.

While we’re on that topic: trade is a big part of the game, and chances are you’ll need to do some trading with the players next to you in order to buy cards that will help you win.  At the beginning of the game, you are given your city board, which defines both the goals you can work to achieve (which usually give you some special ability, or just straight victory points) and the resource allotment you start with.  In the two games that I played, I was Rhodos (a.k.a the Colossus of Rhodes) and Giza, which featured more goals than other cities.  In any case, aside from the initial resource you have, you will need to work to gain access to other resources, and an easy way is trade.  Each player has a bank of gold (attained through trade and cards) that they can use to buy resources from other players.

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Some example city boards, featuring unique wonders.

Some of the other ways you can gain victory points:

Military Might: at the end of each age, if you have more military power than your opponents, you get a certain number of victory points (1 for each adjacent victory after the 1st age, then 3 after the 2nd, then 5 after the 3rd).  Ties result in no points, but if you are defeated by an opponent, you lose a point.

Guilds: These purple cards are exclusive to the Age III deck.  The points that these provide can be pretty abundant, and are usually based on how many of something else you already have (brown cards, grey cards, yellow cards, etc.) or how much of something your neighbors have.  These are definitely the most swingy of the cards in terms of points and are decidedly the most important, but they also depend strongly on what you’ve accomplished in past ages.

Science Structures: These green cards come in three types: the Compass, the Gear, and the Tablet.  Gaining complete sets of one of each gives you 7 points; in addition, for each duplicate you have of a given type, you get the amount you have of that type squared (i.e. if you have a compass, a gear, and three tablets, you get 7 + 1 + 1 + 9 = 18 points).  It’s not hard to tell that these points can stack up pretty quick.

Civilian Structures: These blue cards usually just give you victory points, but hey, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

7_Wonders_Cards

Some examples of the cards you can draft during play.  Pretty!

It’s also worth noting that some cards are free provided you have already paid for its predecessor (i.e. a similar structure from a previous age).  I feel like this is something I didn’t adequately take advantage of during my two play-throughs.  In any case, it’s definitely a fair amount to keep track of, and you’ll need a relatively spacious table to play this game.

7_Wonders_Table

Make sure you play with a big table!  You’ll need the space to admire your opponent-crushing empire.

I really enjoyed playing this game, especially since drafting is so prominent in its mechanics.  As far as complexity is concerned, it’s a significant step up from Zombie Fluxx, and it’s roughly on par with the complexity of Libertalia, but it’s not quite as involved as Xia.  It’s relatively quick to learn and is quick to play through, especially when you have some experienced players involved.  Due largely to its excellent design and its near-optimal fun-to-thought ratio (a crucial element when it comes to reviewing any game), I’m going to award this one 4.5 out of 5 dice.

Have you played 7 Wonders?  Let us know what you thought in the comments!

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