7 Wonders

You would be hard pressed to find a board gamer who doesn't recommend 7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a card drafting game from Belgium publisher Repos Production. The game is suited for players from two to seven. When the game was first released in 2010 the hype surrounding it was huge. Seven years down the line 7 Wonders remains a board game staple on many shelves, but is it still worth taking down to play today?

How to play?

The aim of the game in 7 Wonders is to build the most successful ancient city using various cards throughout the game. Players start by randomly choosing an ancient wonder from various boards that depict them. These boards are the base for player’s cities and where they build their civilisation. The game takes place over three ages. Each age, players have a small hand of cards to choose from and will be taking cards to place a card in front of them, ‘building’ the structure on the card. Cards are placed simultaneously and then the hand is passed on to another player, so with everyone taking their turn at once the game moves quickly. Once all but one card from each hand has been placed, the age ends.

To win the game you need to have the most amount of victory points, these are amassed via many different aspects of the game. Science structures add up depending on how many of the same symbol you have collected. Civilian structures - things like statues and baths - are just straight up victory points. Guild cards are added in the third age and offer victory points dependant on cards you have already placed. Military cards work slightly differently – they come with a set number of shields, and at the end of each age if you have more shields than your immediate opponents sitting near you, you’ll win victory tokens. If you are on the losing side of the military, you lose one victory point for each person who defeated you.

Most of the cards require resources to build them. You’ll start with a single natural resources but you’ll need to take some time to place other resources to build an economy for the more expensive cards in later ages. You can also buy resources from other players for a monetary cost. In Age 2 and 3, some structures can also be built for no cost if you have a prerequisite building from the earlier age. For example, if you build a library in one age you’ll get a science building called the scriptorium for free in a later age – if you happen to have that card in your hand. You can also choose to discard a card to build stages of your wonder and claim the reward it offers, or you simply discard (burn) a card to gain three coins. While building your wonder will normally give you victory points and special abilities, despite the name of the game you don’t have to finish your wonder to win the game and ignoring wonders completely to instead build other cards is a viable option.

At the end of the three ages players add up all their victory points from there various cards and structures, as well as victory point tokens from military conflicts. Money left over counts per one victory point for three coins. Usually by this stage a player will have built several guild cards which normally award victory points based on you or your opponent having a certain type of card.

Is it fun?

I have played 7 Wonders a lot. At a guess, over thirty times with a variety of different people. A major thing I love how many different strategies there are to try to win. For example, in my recent game I was dealt the city with military power as one of the stages of my wonder, so although military victory is not my preferred way of winning it is important to play to your cards abilities at least to some degree. I managed to sneak a few military victories in as the other players were counting just my cards, and not my wonder ability when decided how much military to build. That’s one example of how players in 7 Wonders are not limited to one way of winning: there are hundreds more. In fact, if you do try for a single strategy the chances are quite high that you are going to lose. It’s easy for the other players to spot you if you are trying for just a science victory for example, as you need to match those identical symbols. And there’s plenty of opportunity for them to act on that information. Players can burn cards you might need, but they could also use those cards to build their wonder, giving them a useful turn AND ruining yours.

A wide range of cards are available to build

With the amount of plays under my belt, I think it safe to say I think the replayabilty is high, even if you’ll be playing with the same group of people. I find the game works better with three or four people. The turn times aren’t much longer with three than they are with seven, but due to the fact you only ever interact with the player to your left and right, with larger groups there isn’t really much added to the game, and even with simultaneous turns there’s usually the inevitable small slowdowns that happen with larger groups. The group I play with most regularly have managed to get our play time down to around twenty minutes. Even adjusting for new comers and getting used to the game, 7 Wonders is one of my favourite games to recommend when people ask for a title with a good depth to play time ratio.

I am not a fan of the two-player variant in this version of 7 Wonders, which feels like the worst of both worlds between the enjoyment of a larger group game and the tightness of the excellent 7 Wonders Duel, which I thoroughly recommend for two players as it replaces some the mechanics that simply don’t work well with the base game for two players.

A lot of reviewers class 7 Wonders as a gateway game, but it is worth noting that the sheer number of symbols can be quite off putting for new players. Looking at the sheet of explanations with fresh eyes to the game it can feel a bit like you’re never going to remember what each card means. That doesn’t mean 7 Wonders isn’t a gateway game - after just one of two games I find most people can be confident in the basic symbols – but it’s something to look out for and something other beginner titles like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne avoid. Luckily the game also comes with handy reference guides for all the iconography so you don’t have to flip through the rulebook every card you find.

Visually, 7 Wonders is a beautiful game and all the cards and components are in keeping with the ancient theme. They are great quality components, however there are certain cards in the decks that get played with a lot more often than others due to cards being added when there are a larger number of players, and wear and tear on these cards is much easier to spot. However it is an easily solved problem with card sleeves. Another nit-pick is it can be a bit frustrating sorting out which cards are needed for which games depending on players. It’s still a shorter set up then many games, but it takes longer than I’d like considering how quickly the game itself can be played.

Conclusion

7 Wonders is a game I feel I will always come back to and play. I have played this game with lots of different people and 90% of the time the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. For those who I have introduced it to and who have not loved it, I am not giving up and am eager to get them to try again soon. It’s the kind of game I want to be genuinely good at, I find myself Googling strategies and different ways to victory and eagerly awaiting the option to try them out.

I recommend every board gamer has this game on their shelf. It’s very accessible both in terms of mechanics and theme and has a ton of replayabilty and depth.