First Impressions: 7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a card based, engine building game for three to seven players.  The players are trying to build their civilization based around one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The game takes place over the course of three Ages, and in each age the players are dealt a hand of seven cards appropriate to that Age.  The players will then each select a card from their hand and build the structure listed on the card, discard that card for money, or use that card to build part of their Wonder.  Once everyone has played their card, then the rest of their hand is passed to their neighbor and the process is repeated.

The end of an Age is reached when there is only a single card remaining in each player’s hand.  At the end of each age, each player combats both of his or her neighbors.  Combat is determined by military structures, and the winner receives victory points (increasing each age), while the loser loses a single point.  Because you fight both neighbors, it is possible for a player to gain points in one battle, but then lose points in the other.

Finally, once all three Ages have past, the scores are tallied.  Players gain points through their various structures that they have built.  Some, such as Civilian structures, give a flat number of points.  Others like Science, Merchant and Guilds give varying amounts based on the number of structures you or your neighbor built.  The stages of the Wonders can also award points, as does money leftover at the end.  These are then added to the points gained through combat and then player with the most points is the winner.

I have played 7 Wonders a total of nine times now.  Five of those were with my wife, three were with five people and once with six.  The game itself is quite easy to teach.  The box included a handy double sided Quick Rules sheet that explains the basic rules on one side, and has a cheat sheet of the multitude of icons on the other.  Speaking of icons, there is very little text on the card themselves.  The only text is the title of the card, and any combo cards.  Otherwise all of the rules are handled through large icons at the top of each card that make things very easy to understand.

The cards themselves are slightly oversized and have large artwork on the majority of the card.  The left side of the card contains the title of the card and the cost to play the card.  This makes it simple to fan the cards in your hand and see what everything is.  The cards are also color coded, so that you can quickly tell what kind of card it is, and where it should be played.

The game itself flows quite smoothly.  The first Age starts out with some very simple cards.  Most have no cost associated, and will provide resources in later Ages.  Others provide simple benefits like the ability to buy resources from neighbors for less.  The second Age starts to contain more complex cards.  There are still some resources available in the second Age, but many of the cards cost one or more resources, so buying them from neighbors becomes more important.  The third Age contains no resource cards, and many of the cards cost a large number of resources, so it’s very important that resources were developed early, or are available from neighboring civilizations.

Another facet of the game is build chains.  Many of the cards in the second and third Ages build off of cards built in the earlier Ages.  What this means, is that if a player wants to build a card in the second age, and he had already built the corresponding chain card in the first age (listed in the upper left of the second age card), that second age card can be built for free.  For example, the Baths (available in Age I) card chains into the Aqueduct (available in Age II) card.  The Aqueduct lists the Baths in the upper-left next to its normal price.  If a player had built the Baths in Age I, then in age two, he would have the option to build the Aqueduct card without paying the normal resource cost for the card.  This chaining ability allows for a bit more flexibility in resource management and building.  A lot of the Science cards chain into each other, so it is possible to get the basic ones built in Age I and then not have to worry about resources to build structures later.  At the same time, this is gambling with what your neighbors will pass you in future hands of cards.

Overall, the game is fairly simple in structure.  Everything is played face up (except for discarded cards or cards used to mark the stage of the Wonders) so it is easy to see where all the players are at for points and military strength.  Keeping track of the surroundings is also important so that neighbors can be denied important cards, or military strength can be increased to stay ahead.  There are also quite a few strategies that can be focused on as well; military, science, guilds, etc.  In my experience, a balanced approach is the most consistent, but a strong military or a heavy science focus can be quite powerful.

In short, 7 Wonders is a quick, easy to learn game with quite a lot of depth.  It has been well received by my gaming group, and I have high hopes of it going over well with my less gaming focused family.  I would highly recommend it for any gaming group.


2 Responses to “First Impressions: 7 Wonders”

  1. 1 ianthecool July 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I am also working on a 7 Wonders post. It is a great game and yes there is depth, but I always keep hoping for more.

    I like that playing with 7 people still runs pretty smoothly. What is it like with two players?

  2. 2 Rkik July 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Two people is interesting.

    There is a kind-of dead hand, but you get to see the same hand quite a few times, so there’s a bit more planning than in something like a 6 player game where you have no idea what is coming next.

    It’s definitely a medium weight game. Enough depth for 30 minutes as a filler without getting old too quickly.

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