There are some games, simple yet so innovative that they become instant hits the moment they hit the market. 7 Wonders is one of them. With a load of awards already won, let’s see what makes this game unique.
7 Wonders is essentially a card game in which each player takes control of one great ancient city: Rhodes. Alexandria, Ephesus, Babylon, Olympia, Halicarnassus, or Giza tries to make it the leading city of the Ancient world. To achieve this goal, players must exploit natural resources, develop commerce relationships with neighboring cities, advance in technology, and raise a powerful army. Moreover, players can build wonder in their city to earn more victory points or other bonuses. The wonder is built in 3 stages (except one city, which uses 2 stages). The game takes place over 3 Ages, through which the relevant card deck is used. At each Age, players have the opportunity to develop their cities and build a wonder by playing 6 cards chosen through a drafting system, similar to that used in Magic The Gathering. At the end of the third Age, players count their victory points, and the player with the most VP is declared the winner.
At the beginning of the game, each player is assigned a city randomly (there is also the option of each player choosing the city he/she prefers) and the side of the city they will play. Each player board is double-sided (A & B sides), with each side having different requirements and bonuses for each stage of Wonder building. Each city can produce a resource, shown in the upper left corner of the board.
At the beginning of each Age, each player receives a hand of 7 cards, dealt randomly, from the corresponding deck. Each Age is made up of 6 game turns. During each turn, the players put into play a single card simultaneously.
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A game turn takes place as follows:
1. Choose a card
3. Give your hand of cards to the player sitting to your left or right and receive another hand of cards from the player sitting next to you.
All cards represent a specific structure and are of the following type:
Brown Cards (Raw Materials). These are resource structures. They supply one or more units of wood, clay, stone, or ore.
Gray Cards (Manufactured goods). These are structures that produce manufactured goods: Loom, papyrus, and glass.
Yellow cards (commercial structures). These cards may earn coins, produce resources, change commerce rules, and sometimes earn victory points.
Red cards (military structures). They represent military structures that grant military power.
Blue cards (Civilian structures). These cards award victory points
Green cards (Scientific structures). These cards represent technological advancement and score victory points depending on progress in three different scientific fields.
Purple cards (Guilds). They earn victory points depending on the number of same-color cards or stages of wonders built by the player or/and his neighbors.
After choosing a card, comes the action phase of the game, in which players can choose between 3 different actions:
build the structure they chose in the previous step. Each card has a cost in resources or coins, but some resource cards can be played for free. Moreover, building specific structures during an Age allows you to build for free some other structures in the next Age, e.g., if you build the Scriptorium in Age I, you can build for free the Library in Age II. If you don’t have enough resources to build a structure, you can always trade with your neighboring cities as long as they produce the resource you are looking for. You must pay 2 coins to get the resource you want (but by building some commerce (yellow) structures, you may reduce this cost to 1 coin).
build a stage of the wonder by paying the relevant cost (shown on the player board) and using the chosen card as a construction marker
discard the chosen card to get 3 coins
After choosing a card and performing an action with it, players give the remaining cards to the left (for Ages I and III) or the right (for Age II). The game continues this way until players receive the last 2 cards, at which point, players must choose one card and discard the other. At this point, which is the end of an Age, military conflict begins, and players battle with their neighbors by comparing the number of shields on their structures (red cards) with each neighbor and gaining a conflict token (positive or negative) for each battle. The game now progresses to the next Age, until all 3 Ages are completed.
I admit that when I first played this game a few months ago, I didn’t find it too impressive. I had to play it again a few more times to appreciate its depth. And it does really have enough depth to keep you wanting to play more and more as soon as you realize that. There is enough room here for a load of different strategies, depending not only on the city you play with also on what strategy other players implement. And that’s because trying to eliminate other players’ strategies is a core element of the game. Most times, you will find yourself struggling with important decisions such as “Should I choose this card that suits my strategy or maybe should I block my opponent by using a card he needs, for example, to build a stage of my wonder?” It’s a game of continuous decision making, and luck doesn’t play any role. You will often go for a one or two-color strategy, especially if you decide to pick green “science” cards, but other times, you will try to balance between many colors.
The game’s artwork is just awesome, especially the player boards depicting each of the seven wonders. Cards are simple but efficient in design, and tokens (coins and conflict tokens) fulfill their role.
Let’s go through our usual rating system to talk about the aspects of a game that really matter:
As I said before, the aesthetics of the game are at a high level. The box illustration draws attention immediately with a beautiful mix of wonders depicted in the front. Player boards are colorful and illustrate the wonder of the city in elaborate detail. Cards are adequately designed, simple, and solid. Coin and conflict tokens could be better if they were wood or metal (maybe in a deluxe edition??). Overall 8/10
The heart of each game!. 7 Wonders really makes miracles here as it keeps wanting for more each time you finish a game. Mechanics are polished and different cities are perfectly balanced. A whole lot of strategies to choose from: you can focus on resource gathering aiming for heavy cost cards in the last Age, the balance between production and commerce, or even change the rules of commerce. You can choose to ignore military progress or not to or focus on science. But don’t forget always to keep an eye on your opponent’s moves too. The gameplay is fast and is independent of the number of players as all actions are done simultaneously. 9/10
Although the 12-page manual may seem daunting at first, the game is quite simple at its core and pretty easy to remember for future games. After dedicating some time to read the rules once, all will become clear and after a few games you will have mastered all the details. The manual’s last page is beneficial as it contains all essential information about the game’s cards. 7/10
Artwork helps a bit here. Structures are depicted on the cards with beautiful pictures, and the wonders are very impressively drawn on players’ boards. However, this is not a game of great immersion. The mind focuses a lot on the best strategy to win rather than the theme of the game. 6/10
7 Wonders is at its best here. As soon as you get the grasp of it, you keep wanting for more. Every game is a different one, and there is much space for different strategies testing. Although game rules are pretty simple in their core, the game is complex enough to keep you interested. 9/10
The fun factor in 7 wonders stems from its strategic depth and replayability. It isn’t a game that will make you laugh, and interaction between players is minimal (only commerce and during the military conflict phase). 6/10
- Each game is different
- There isn’t a single strategy that will lead to the win. The strategy will always depend on opponents’ strategy as well.
- Beautiful artwork
- 2-sided player boards allow for even more variety in the game
- Not much player interaction
- Little immersion