Publisher: Repos Productions
Designers: Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala
Duration: 30 min
As you know by now, I really enjoy 7 Wonders, but I really disliked the 2 player variant included with it. What even shocked me more was to find out one of my favourite game designers Bruno Cathala helped with the variant. I can just picture how the conversation between the designers went:
Antoine: “Hey Bruno, that 2 player variant for 7 Wonders you gave me input on? It’s not very good at all.”
Bruno: “Well, that’s because you didn’t do it right.”
Antione: Well, then maybe you should design your own version if you think that!”
Bruno: “Well fine, maybe I will!”
Ok, I’m sure there wasn’t an argument, but nevertheless, the two designers teamed up together to design a 2-player only version, appropriately titled 7 Wonders Duel. The only question is… does it work better than the 2 player variant? And, does it live up to the legacy of 7 Wonders?
What’s in the box?
Inside you’ll find a game board, 66 age cards + 7 guild cards, 12 wonder cards, 4 military and 10 science tokens, 1 conflict pawn for the military track, 31 coins and a score pad. It comes in a small box, but there is a lot included. Everything is so well organized inside and the components are of top quality.
I’ll be referencing 7 Wonders quite a bit and as you can see, a lot of components are similar but much smaller in size. Main differences are because of the card size, you’ll notice that the words that are used for card upgrades between ages have been replaced with symbols which I find easier to track. The board used to track military and science is also top notch and I have nothing but praise for all that’s in the box.
So how do you play?
7 Wonders Duel is still a drafting game, but you don’t draw cards into your hand and pass them around. Instead, every age you set up a pyramid (in age III it’s more like a tower) and you take turns drafting cards that way. Some cards will be face up and visible, and some will be hidden. As soon as any cards unblock a hidden card, it gets turned face up and is available for selection.
So how do resources work? Similar to 7 wonders, you still have to have resources to buy cards… or you can buy them, but not from your neighbour. Each resource costs a base of 2 coins plus a coin for how many your opponent has (example, if your opponent has 2 wood, wood for you costs 4 coins. 2 as the base cost and one for each of their wood).
So during your turn, you can build a card, discard a card for coins (this works a little differently as well, you will get 2 coins + an extra coin for every yellow card you have built) or build a wonder. Wonders work differently in this game, you will also draft them in the first round, and each player will have 4, with each wonder only having one stage instead of 3. The only catch? There can only be 7 wonders. As soon as one player builds their 4th wonder, the other must permanently discard one of theirs.
Military and science also work differently. Instead of comparing military at the end of each age, every time you play a military card or from your wonder, you will move the pawn towards your opponents city. As you progress deeper, you will uncover tokens which will make them lose money. It’s a constant movement back and forth as you both play military cards, but if you overwhelm your opponent and move into their city (see picture above) you instantly win the game! I’ve never had this happen yet, but I’ve come close to both winning or losing that way, and it’s something that really keeps the tension up and balances the game. Also, science works differently, as there are 7 symbols and 2 cards of each. As soon as you collect 2 of the same, you get one of the scientific progress tokens on the board, which can be money, points, or powers you have the entire game, which can be really powerful. Also… if you collect 6 of the 7 science tokens, you automatically win the game!
If those 2 conditions haven’t been met, at the end of age III you add up all your points (on the wreaths from cards, wonders and the military track, plus 1 point for each 3 coins) and the person with the most wins!
Is it any good?
When I saw this game first, and saw that one of my favourite designers co-designed it, I was both excited and a little nervous. I can tell you after my first play through, I was more than pleased. This game takes the 7 Wonders experience, and gets everything right. The drafting feels a little similar to Jaipur, another excellent 2 player game but this game takes it a step above.
Everything is fluid and tense throughout. There are so many strategies, pressuring your opponent through military, monopolizing resources to drive up costs for your opponent, building wonders that give you extra turns, taking a card you can’t afford, but know your opponent really wants it and you scrap it in front of them. It’s very aggressive, which might also be it’s only flaw… it can be mean. If you’re playing with someone who gets easily frustrated when you ruin their plans, they won’t like this. But you don’t need those kind of people in your life anyways, right?
I really can’t express enough praise for this game. If I had to choose between 7 Wonders and this game… I would actually have to lean towards this game. It’s that good. Luckily, I don’t have to choose as this is only 2 players and 7 Wonders 3-7 players. But the designers really took a amazing game and managed to make it even better. Sometimes… less is more.
- Amazing components and great storage in box
- Best 2-player drafting system I have yet played
- Tense, tactical gameplay that keeps you on edge
- Gameplay can get very aggressive and some might even call it mean
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