(This game was discussed at length in Episode #00025 of the Perpetual Geek Machine podcast.)
Feels like it’s been awhile since we’ve taken a look at an analog game, feels good to get back in the saddle! This week we’re going to take a look at a game that’s been burning up the charts in the board game world, the card development game 7 Wonders!
In alot of ways 7 Wonders is like Civilization (the PC game) the card game. You can try and acquire victory in different ways, such as through as military or scientific means. There are tech trees involved that allow you to build up in areas when you specialize the types of structures you focus on. And, like it or not, you end up fighting with your neighbors. So yeah, it’s an awful lot like Civilization except for one glaring difference. 7 Wonders is super easy to learn and only takes about 30 minutes to play (as opposed to the 5 hours that the PC game does). It’s been awhile since a game is blown me away as quickly and as thoroughly as 7 Wonders has. Not since Dominion have I fallen so head over heels for a game, but 7 Wonders is very quickly rising to that level in my collection.
Each player will be owner of and have the potential to build 1 of 7 different world wonders, things like the Pyramids of Giza or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This wonder is represented by a board that sits in front of the player for the duration of the game. It’s up to the player as to whether or not they want to build any parts of their wonder, it’s not necessary to have it built to win the game. But it’s good idea since building the wonders do yield decent different rewards.
But most of the action isn’t in the wonders, but in the cards you’ll be playing. There are 3 different decks of cards that will be used over the course of the game, each one representing a different age of the respective civilizations. The game starts with each player being dealt 7 cards from the Age 1 deck. Each person then selects which card they would like to play (in effect which building or structure they will build in their city) and places is face down on the table. Then the players will turn them up simultaneously and place them in front of them. The remaining cards in their hands will be passed to the person next to them. This will be done 6 times for each age. Last card is just discarded.
So how do you determine which buildings you can build? Well you have to satisfy the resource cost printed in the upper left hand corner of the card. In the beginning most of the cards cost nothing, and are simple things like a rock quarry or a lumbar yard. Those cards can be played for free and from then on for the rest of the game you’ll have that as a resource to build more complex cards. So for instance if you play the lumber yard first for the rest of the game you can play any cards that have 1 lumber as their resource cost. You can use the resources you have in front of you turn after turn, they’re infinite once you have them in front of you. As you move through the ages costs require more and more resources however, so luckily there’s a few other ways to get the resources together that you need to build.
For instance you’re allowed to buy resources that your neighbors make (the players directly to your left and right) to help play cards. They can’t refuse the trade but it doesn’t take the resource away from them so there’s no down side. You pay them in gold (which you can generate from trades or different commerce buildings) and then can use their cards to play yours. Thematically and game wise it works, since it’s almost impossible to have all the resources covered yourself so you’ll need the help of your fellow cities.
The other way to play cards is through the use of the tech tree. Building structures in an age will sometimes give you the ability to build a later building for free (ignoring it’s resource cost). So for example in the picture below of the 3 blue cards. I can play the Altar in Age 1, and in Age 2 I could build the Temple by producing lumber, brick and glass OR have the Altar built in front of me (see how the word Altar is printed there next to the resource). In the lower left hand corner they tell you what buildings you’ll be able to build for free in future Ages so you know what to be on the look for. You can see for the Pantheon in Age 3 we’d have to produce a ton of stuff to build it from scratch so it’s much easier to just have build the other buildings earlier.
Of course you can not build a card on one of your turns and build a stage of your wonder instead, which happens the same way. Resources are printed on the wonder card and if they’re met you play any card face down under the board to represent building it. You could also just discard a card to get some trading money (these are both good ways to get rid of cards another player would like to get).
In between Ages you battle with your neighbors with the military cards you have in front of you. Losing means taking penalty points that subtract at the end of the game and winning gives you more victory points. After 3 Ages of playing and passing cards the game ends. After that we add up the victory points each player has accrued, through cards, military might and their Wonder. Whoever has the most wins!
What I love about 7 Wonders is the simplicity of it. Once you see it in action for one or two turns it instantly makes sense. The other thing that really sets this game apart from me is that is supports 3-7 players but ISN’T a party game, which is just super rare. What makes this work is that each person takes their turn simultaneously, so there’s no long wait while you wait for the turns to work their way around the table. In addition when it comes to battle and trade you only ever deal with the two people sitting next to you, so you have no real effect or worry about what the person at the other end of the table is doing.
On the downside I will say however the game does take up a pretty large amount of table space. Once everyone has cards spread out in different trees and on their wonder board it doesn’t become a lot. Also when the game ends adding up the score is a bit of a pain since some victory points depend on your neighbors. So you kind of have to go around the table and do the final scores one by one. Not a huge complaint but worth mentioning.
The 1st printing sold out in a heartbeat and now there’s a second printing hitting stores now. The new printing has a MUCH nicer insert to hold everything but lacks the wooden coins that the first one used for money. The new one just uses cardboard. A plus and a minus I suppose. Also, I don’t do it often but I choose to sleeve my cards because even after just a few plays I noticed cards getting a little wear around the edges. I really really wish companies would stop using black borders on their cards, they just show wear to quickly (looking at you too, Dominion).
But overall I couldn’t recommend this game enough, it’s truly awesome, easy to teach and great for gamers and non-gamers alike. Definitely becoming one of my favorite games to break out.