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Game Night: 7 Wonders

June 9, 2017 - Board Games

What if you could build a civilization in just 30 minutes? That’s the bold promise of 7 Wonders, a highly-regarded game of ancient civilizations. Over three Ages, players draft cards to secure resources, open markets, establish military forces, and ultimately pursue achievement that will mark their culture as more advanced than any other.

7 Wonders uses a crafty and tremendously visual system to quickly establish the foundations of your civilization – each player has a hand of seven cards and chooses one to play, passing the others to a neighbor. After each player has played six cards, the Age ends and a new Age begins, one with a new selection of cards that will reward past decisions with opportunities to grow and specialize. The first Age is about resource development and the beginnings of science, culture and military prowess. In the second Age, branching options arise. The third Age does away with resource development and becomes about achievement, where major scoring decisions come into play and varied endgame opportunities become available in the form of “Guilds.”

The great thing about 7 Wonders is just how varied the strategy really is; it’s extraordinarily rare to see a narrow strategy do as well as a diversified one. Military, scientific, and cultural avenues provide major sources of points, but you’ll also see returns from your wealth, commerce, Guilds, and of course your Wonder. Each player has a unique mat that represents the Wonder of the World they’re able to build, as well as its host culture. Mats are double-sided, one side possessing common features across all cultures and the other more diversified. Choosing to spend cards to build stages of your Wonder is an important tactical option that can unlock additional victory points as well as unique bonuses that may focus or streamline your strategy.

What makes 7 Wonders click is how immediately accessible everything is; the icon-driven gameplay and color-coded cards are distinctive and provide significant information at a glance. Every selection you make is in some way a positive choice; at worst, your decision is less optimal than another might have been, and as you see the next selection of cards what seemed like a weaker move may result in more value than anticipated. Coupled with the high player cap (the base game seats 3-7), different player abilities from the Wonders, and varying strategies suggested by draft outcomes, 7 Wonders boasts not just high playability but excellent replayability. A single game rarely takes more than 30-40 minutes and there’s no part of it that feels less involving than others.

I will note that 7 Wonders has a few rough edges; the building chain mechanic is a harder rule to teach in the beginning (two-player successor Duel improved on this with icons for the chains), the icons do require memorization and a degree of interpretation (though reference sheets are included to help with that), and some player counts are a bit tougher than others – 3, 5, and 6 are definitely preferred.

The most common issue is that your most direct interaction with other players is with your neighbors only; while you can draft to interfere with players further downstream, your armies will fight the player on your left and the player on your right, and your trade opportunities lie exclusively with them as well.

7 Wonders is a great civilization game that feels light to play but has more strategic depth than its short playtime would suggest. Beautiful production values and vivid graphic design help make this a really accessible game that’s good as a one-off or on repeat. The significant player capacity is just the cherry on top. If the theme is your thing, check this one out.

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