7 Wonders

Image by a_traveler

Flexibility can be a very important factor to look for in a board game.  Britannia is one of my favorite games, for example, but you need four players with four to six hours to get through a game.  It is seriously fun but tough to pull out on a regular basis.  As much as we love our epic games there is something to be said for a game that we can table up no matter how much time we have or how many people show up for games that night.

Which is why 7 Wonders is such a brilliant game.  It’s difficult to find a game that supports and plays well with a wide number of players, but 7 Wonders plays from three to seven without batting an eye or even really increasing play time.  It’s fast, easy and seriously fun.

7 Wonders is essentially a card drafting game that takes place over three rounds.  You are dealt a hand of seven cards, pick one to play and pass the rest.  Continue until the sixth card is played, discard the seventh, dealt out cards for the next round and so on.  Cards do a variety of different things, but generally they all serve to either make it easier for you play cards down later or earn you victory points at the end of the game.

Each player has a wonder they may construct.  Instead of playing a card from their hand that round they may instead choose to use one of those cards to build a stage of their wonder.  Each wonder provides different abilities was you construct them, which may help focus your strategy and adds more replay value as you try out all the different wonders.

Image by Fran Moli

There are really two things that make 7 Wonders work so well:

+ Long-Term Planning: A game of 7 Wonders takes place over three ages, each with a new set of cards.  Some cards, when built, make other cards free to play.  It is very satisfying when you are working towards a given strategy and get those freebies built.  You are getting a new hand passed to you each time you play a card so you never know for certain what will make it around to you.  I find the balance between long-term planning and dealing with what is handed to you extremely satisfying.

+ Limited Player Interaction: It’s not often you see me consider limited player interaction a good thing in a board game, but it really is central to why 7 Wonders scales so well.  You are always passing cards, purchasing resources and fighting against your immediate neighbors.  If you are playing with three or with seven, it really doesn’t matter much as you only really have to worry about two people at the table.

It also affects card drafting.  When I get my hand, I need to not only think about how I can best put those cards to use but must also consider what cards I’m passing along.  If there a card in my hand that is worth a lot of points to my neighbor, I may consider using that to build my wonder or discarding it for cash instead of playing something else I could use.

There’s really only one thing I can fault 7 Wonders for:

– Confusing Iconography: Most cards have icons indicating what they bestow upon you once played.  Unfortunately the icons can be confusing at first, especially given some of the mechanics.  For example, any time you see a money icon you earn that money immediately, but victory points are always tallied at the end of the game.  There are a few cards that do both and it always takes new players awhile to remember how those two differ.  They also changed the symbols a bit from the first and second edition and I feel like they’ve actually made them worse.

Image by henk.rolleman

That’s a very small blemish on what is an otherwise outstanding game.  Your first time playing will very much be a learning game.  Yes, it’s simple to learn the basics but difficult to see how your early choices impact the game later.  With its fast playing time, though (easily under a half hour once everyone knows how to play), people are almost guaranteed to be asking to play again right away!

If you can, get yourself a copy of 7 Wonders.  The price may seem a little steep for what is basically three decks of cards but I promise you’ll  get your money’s worth in plays.  It is easily one of my favorite games in the past few years and is one we can table up any game night no matter who shows up!

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