Publisher: Repos Productions
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Players: 2-7 (2 player game requires a variant)
Duration: 30 min.
The ancient world. You work hard, building your empire, but what’s that? On your left, a rival empire grows as well. They have wood and stone, which you need to build your great wonder. You could purchase it from them. But what’s that on your right? A new empire comes in, with a growing military. Maybe you need to think about reinforcing yours. You were a peaceful nation, focusing on science, but maybe that’s all about to change…
7 Wonders is a card drafting and set collection game. It just hit that 7 year mark, but still remains one of the best of it’s class, mainly due to its wonderful mechanics, short playtime and how well it scales from 3-7 players. So is the game who won the inaugural Kennerspiel des Jahres (connoisseur game of the year) worth all the hype? Let’s find out.
What’s in the box?
The game comes with 7 wonder boards (one for each player, representing the 7 wonders of the ancient world) and a card for each board, 49 age I, 49 age II and 50 age III cards, a plethora of conflict tokens and coins, a score pad and cards for a 2 player variant.
Components are top quality, and the artwork is just gorgeous. Everything is well designed, but the theme does feel tacked on. You could have replaced the resources with just colours and the game would still work, but that doesn’t mean that the artwork doesn’t shine. It really does. You can tell how much detail went into the design.
So how do you play?
The game is played for 3 rounds (called ages). You build a deck of cards for each age, this is done by taking the cards and separating them by the player count on the bottom (example, for a 5 player game you add the cards that say 3+, 4+ and 5+ and remove the cards that say 6+ and 7+). You do that for ages I and II, and for the 3rd age you remove the cards and add the amount of guild cards required (5 for 3 player, 6 for 4, 7 for 5 and so on), shuffle the decks and put them down on the table. Then you take the wonder cards, shuffle them and deal one to each player. Now, each wonder board has a A side and a B side, how you flip that card determines which side you will use. For your first few games, it is recommended to use the A side as it is simpler to use. Then every player recieves 3 coins and you take the age I deck and deal it out. Each player will have 7 cards, and the game begins!
As I mentioned, this is a drafting game. What that means is that every turn, you will take one card from your hand and play it, then pass the remainder of your hand to your neighbour to the right (in age II, you will pass to your left) and repeat, until you have 2 cards left, then you will choose one and discard the last. It’s that simple right? Well, let me explain what the cards do. On the top left of the card, you will find the cost. Some cards are free to play, while others have a cost, be it money or resources. The top middle of the card has the function of the card, be it a resource, money (which you receive when you play the card), points, military etc. The bottom left is the name of the card, and the bottom right has a future card in a later age that the card will correspond with.
Each turn, you will select a card and put it down in front of you face down. When everyone has chosen their card, reveal the card you want to play face up and put it in front of you. So how do you play these cards? If you look at the top left of your wonder board you will start with one resource, which you can use once per turn to purchase a card or build a wonder (I’ll get to that later). What happens if you don’t have that resource? Well… thats where your neighbour comes in. You can buy resources from your neighbours (but only the player directly to the left or right of you!) by paying them 2 coins for each resource. Let’s say you want to buy a card that requires 2 stone, and you only have one stone, and the player to your left has one. You can use one of yours and pay him 2 coins to use his stone and build that card. You can buy from both players as well, but remember, you have to pay 2 coins for every resource, and if they don’t have enough resources you can’t buy the card.
So what happens if you can’t afford the card or any other card. Well, you have the ability to either not reveal the card and discard it, and get 3 coins from the bank. Alternatively, you can play the card as a stage in your wonder! If you look at the bottom of your wonder board, you will see (usually 3) spaces for card with a cost and a reward. Slide your card without revealing it (make sure you have the resources or pay your neighbours if they have them) and get that reward. You can use any age cards to build the wonders (if you wanted, you could build them all in age I), but you MUST build them in order from left to right. You can’t skip stages of wonder construction.
Going back to what I said earlier about some cards having names on the bottom right; these cards will allow you to chain cards and essentially ignore building costs for some cards in future ages. If you look at the picture above, you will see on the age II and III cards that beside the cost on the top left, there will also be a name of a card. If you have built that card in a previous age, you can play that card for free (just in front of you, not as a wonder!). That’s something that you might have a hard time keeping track of your first game but you will get the hang of it.
So, you keep playing until you finish the age. Then after every age, you will compare your military (the red swords+shields on your cards and wonder boards) with your neighbours. If you have more than them you will receive military tokens (worth 1 for age I, 3 for age II and 5 for age III) and they will receive a -1 token. If they have more than you, they get the points and you get the -1.
Play through each age and then at the end of the game, you will count all the points (wreaths) on your cards, wonder board and military tokens plus your green cards (every similar science symbol on the green cards are worth itself squared… example, if you have 3 gears, you would multiply 3×3 which is 9 points. Also, for every set of 3 different symbols its worth 7 points) and points for money (every 3 coins is worth 1 point). It sounds like a lot to add up, but the game comes with a score pad which makes it a lot easier. There is also an App available that can do it for you. Once you count your total points, the person with the most is the winner! In case of a tie, whoever has the most coins breaks the tie and wins!
Is it any good?
There is very little that I dislike about this game, so let me get it out of the way. First, there is a lot of iconography in this game, meaning on your first game you will be overwhelmed. Don’t worry… the game comes with a handy reference guide, and the rulebook (while not always being clear on the rules) does explain every single symbol very well. By age 2 or 3, most people have caught on and with the game only taking 30 minutes, most people I’ve played with want to go again. The only real negative thing about this game is… the 2 player variant is terrible. Don’t even try it. There is a MUCH better 2 player version of this game. The original printing of this game was actually 3-7 players only, the 2 player rules were added in the revised printing and it really feels tacked on.
So now that we have that out of the way… this game is absolutely fantastic! The drafting is fantastic! I’m usually not a big fan of “point salad” games (where you score for a ton of different things) but this game has it all. I love how the resources work, how you can buy off your neighbours, if you don’t have the money you can use the cards for money or build wonders, and how every board forces you to play different. And seriously… how many games play 7 players like this out of the box? Usually you need some expansions, and when you add that many there is so much downtime… but not with this. Turns take the same amount of time whether its 3 or 7 players because everyone is playing simultaneously. And with 2 sides for each wonder, the replay-ability is there. And there are numerous expansions available to keep it fresh (one even bumps it up to 8 players!)
Some games don’t age well, if you go back even 3 or 4 years they just don’t have that wow factor anymore. Not this one. 7 Wonders still feels fresh and exciting every time I play it. It’s easy to play once you’ve figured out the symbols, plays quick and keeps you engaged the whole time. From someone who’s new to games to someone who’s been playing for years, this is a no brainer. Highly recommended
- Still one of the best drafting games ever made
- Amazing at all player counts (3-7)
- Gorgeous artwork and quality components
- High replayability
- Iconography might be a little intimidating for new players
- Don’t even bother with the 2 player variant