Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. That's how the saying goes. If you want to prevent your destruction, always know what those who want to destroy you are up to.
7 Wonders is a game that takes that saying and applies it like no other, through an interesting way of interacting with the two players who are going to be adjacent to you. Throughout the game, you will find yourself a partner in commerce with your neighbors, trading money and resources in order to make your cities as strong as possible - only to suddenly find yourselves thrust into brutal warfare with each other, immediately followed by more prosperous trade. All the while, you are constantly scheming against each other, trying to maximize your strength while minimizing thires.
In other words, a perfect representation of how ancient cities actually interacted. This, combined with a quick-to-grasp gameplay system and a short gametime, is why 7 Wonders won personal favorite board game designer Antoine Bouze his first Spiel des Jahres award, the 2011 Kennerspeil des Jahres.
So, back to the ancient world we go, to play 7 Wonders.
Game: 7 Wonders
Players: 2 to 7
Gameplay: 30 minutes
Key Mechanics: Card drafting, civilization building, simultaneous action selection
Story: You control one of the seven cities that was home to a Wonder of the Ancient World. You will seek to make the city the most prosperous, through the development and construction of your resources, buildings, military and Wonder.
What do you do? The game starts with each player being assigned a city that house a Wonder of the Ancient World: Giza, Babylon, Ephesus, Olympia, Halacarnassus, Rhodes or Alexandria. Each player is then given the corresponding player board for that city and three coins.
Next comes sorting the game's cards. The cards are divided into three Age deck, labeled Age I, Age II or Age III. Each card in the Age decks indicate the number of players required to include that card in the deck. The cards corresponding to the number of players are put into each Age deck and the Age decks are shuffled.
To start the game, a hand of seven cards from the Age I deck is dealt to each player. On each turn of the game, a player will choose one card from their hand and place it down in front of them. Once all have chosen a card, they simultaneously reveal how they will play the card, either playing it face-up to develop their city (the most common action), playing it face-down and building up their city's Wonder, or discarding it to receive 3 coins.
Playing a card face-up requires a player to be able to pay its cost in resources or coins. This cost is displayed in the upper left corner of the card. Some cards also allow you to build for no cost if you already have certain buildings constructed in your city. There are many different types of cards, all of which play a role in developing your city. The card types are distinguished by color. Here's the overview.
Brown and gray cards are resource cards. By playing these cards, the resource displayed on the card is automatically generated for you each turn, making those resources available for playing more cards in the future. The brown cards signify the game's raw material resources (lumber, brick, stone and ore) while the gray cards are manufactured resources (glass, cloth and paper)
Red cards are military cards. These cards display shield symbols. Each shield signifies one military power. Having a stronger military than your neighbors allows you to win the military battles that will happen at the end of each age (more on this in a bit)
Yellow cards are commerce cards. These cards either directly produce additional coins for you, or make it less expensive to engage in commerce with your neighboring cities (more on this in a bit, too)
Blue cards are civilian cards. These cards build general public buildings in your cities that simply produce victory points.
Purple cards are guild cards. These are another type of card that produce end-game victory points, which depend on both how you build out your city and how your neighbors build their cities as well.
Green cards are science cards. These are the cards that represent the set-collecting element that is a common feature in a Bouza game. Science cards feature one of three different symbols at its top. You score points by either collecting multiple cards with the same symbol, sets of all three symbols, or by doing both.
After picking and playing a card from your deck, you then pass it along to your neighbor. Your other neighbor will pass their deck on to you, and you're now picking your next card to play from that new deck (a mechanic known as card drafting, likely familiar to players of collectible card games like Magic)
But what if you have a card you REALLY want to play, but you don't have the resources necessary to pay its cost? Well, that's where you can look at the resources your neighbor is choosing to generate. By giving them two of your coins, you can use one of their resources for yourself. This is called "commerce" in the game. Some commerce (yellow) cards will allow you to trade for certain resources for certain neighbors and only have to pay them one coin instead of two — important for both being able to use more resources and since coins earn you end-game victory points.
Beyond playing cards face-up is playing cards face-down to build your city's Wonder. The player board has slots at it's bottom for building your Wonder in stages (usually three stages, but there are exceptions). Like playing cards face-up, each stage of your city's Wonder has a resource cost You place the card you're using to build the wonder face-down under the Wonder stage you're building. Each stage also includes a benefit, and these benefits differ depending what city you're playing as. Some cities might emphasize military powers, others more scientific, others favor aggressive construction, and other might just like a metric fuckton of victory points.
And then, of course, the third option is to simply discard your chosen card and get three coins. Recommended only as a last resort.
So this process of pick a card, pass the remaining cards continues until the hand is depleted. That signals the end of the age and it's on to military battles. Each player compares the number of shields on their played military cards to the number of shields on their opposition's military cards. Loser receives a minus-1 point token, Winner receives a victory points, the points of which increase with each battle. In a tie, neither player gets anything.
After that, players go through the Age II deck and do the exact same thing, then the Age III deck.
How to taste sweet, sweet victory: After the military battle at the end of Age III, players will use a handy-dandy score sheet to total up the victory points accumulated through their city's buildings, guilds, Wonder, military and leftover coins. Whoever scores the most victory points is the winner.
So, what makes this game awesome?
- A multitude of strategies are available. Games can be won through building up science, or civilian buildings, or guilds, or military.
- Despite the numerous ways players can go about scoring points, the game doesn't overwhelm you with options, since you're limited to playing the cards in the hand you receive.
- That being said, as the round goes on and you have fewer cards available in your hand to play, each decision becomes more interesting.
- Unlike a lot of civilization-building games, you're not entirely cut off from interacting with other players, because of the ability to buy your neighbors' resources, along with have to keep an eye on what your neighbors are doing militarily.
- The game is very colorful with fantastic graphics.
Variety is the spice of life: 7 Wonders has two official expansions, Leaders and Cities. Leaders adds a famous leader for you to play in addition to your city, with each leader having unique abilities. Cities adds black cards to the other colors that further manipulate the game.
See it in action: The wonderful Canadian explainer site Watch It Played! offers this explanation of how 7 Wonders is played.
Board Games With OB is a somewhat profane feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.
Previous Board Games With OB:[Takenoko] [Snake Oil] [Tsuro] [Dixit] [The Resistance] [Hey, That's My Fish!] [Ticket To Ride] [Survive: Escape From Atlantis] [Castle Panic] [Small World] [Qwirkle] [Elder Sign] [Carcassonne] [Jaipur] [Tokaido] [Blokus] [Puerto Rico] [Love Letter] [Can't Stop] [The Red Dragon Inn] [Dominion] [King of Tokyo] [Pandemic] [Spyrium] [Settlers of Catan] [Seasons] [Alhambra] [String Railway] [Kingsburg] [Betrayal at House on the Hill]