One of the problems with working in a toy store is that we are expected to understand, explain, and demonstrate the games that we sell. One of the perks of working in a toy store is that we have “demo” copies of those same games, which we can take home and play in order to learn how they work. Talk about making lemonade from lemons!
7 Wonders, published in 2010 by Repos Productions and authored by Antoine Bauza, is a multiple-award-winning game. In 2011 alone, it won over 30 international awards, including the prestigious German Kennerspiel des Jahres (which translates roughly to “connoisseur’s game of the year”) and the Golden Ace Game of the Year award in France. We have sold a whole bunch of this game over the last year or so, and we had taken home a copy for review, but we had never played it. Until this weekend.
7 Wonders attracted me first of all because, although it is a strategy game, it boldly advertises right on the box cover that the game play should take around 30 minutes. This is an amazing advantage as far as I’m concerned–I’m no longer interested in games that require me to set aside an entire day (or, God forbid, a whole weekend) in order to play them. You can play 7 Wonders right out of the box with as few as 2 (there are some special rules that apply in that situation) and as many as 7 players. This is also a bonus, since there’s no extra cost involved to accommodate more than four players (I’m looking right at you, Settlers of Catan. Yes, you and your 5-6 player add-on.)
The basic premise of the game is that each player will build a city, based upon one of seven historical wonders sites. The sites are chosen randomly at the start of the game (I received Alexandria, Egypt in two of three games). Each site confers different advantages and encourages particular strategies, although the advantages are mutually balanced among the sites. The game is played in three rounds of six turns, so game play is tight and there is little time to fix errors.
In each round, the cards–representing resources, structures, and opportunity cards–are dealt evenly between the players. On each turn, players select one card from their hands to play, and the balance of the hand is passed to the player on the left or right (direction alternates between rounds). This game mechanism is known as “card drafting”, and is used in many strategy games. It means that you have to keep an eye on what your neighbour is doing, since you’ll be passing your unused cards on to him or her at the end of the turn (and you don’t want to give him anything remotely useful if you can help it!)
On any turn, players may use that one card to stockpile resources of different kinds against future need, to build structures that add to their cities’ worth using resources they already own (or can buy from adjacent cities), to build a part of their particular Wonder (each part of which either confers Victory Points at game end or may allow some other action), or–if they so wish–merely discard that one card in lieu of playing and receive coins from the bank. This can be a great strategic move, believe it or not, as coins equal Victory Points as well as providing cash for purchasing resources. Discarding a card can also ensure that it doesn’t fall into the hands of your opponents (see above!)
7 Wonders, rather like Settlers Cities and Knights expansion, requires players to balance city development and city defense. At the end of each round, there is a combat resolution in which neighbouring cities compare army strength (indicated by total number of shields on military structure cards). Cities who “lose” conflicts receive a minus-1 Victory Point token for each loss, while victors receive tokens of varying worth: 1 VP in the first round, 3 VP in the second, and a massive 5 VP for each win after the third round of play.
Victory Points are the name of the game here, and there are lots of ways to rack ’em up. At the end of the third round, players tot up their points, which are achieved in seven different ways:
- Military victory points, both positive and negative, accrued over the three rounds
- Coins, which confer one VP for each gold coin (or 3 silvers) owned
- Stages of Wonder built, the VP for which differ from site to site
- Blue civilian card structures, each of which earns a particular number
- Yellow commercial structures, some of which will give you points based upon what your neighbours have built
- Green scientific structures, which are more valuable in multiples
- and purple Guild cards, which award points kind of randomly but which can provide a nice boost to victory.
It took the four of us–only one of whom had played before–one round to get the idea, and one game to start dimly seeing the strategic possibilities. We played three games over two evenings, none of which took longer than forty minutes, and even the (relative) non-gamer in the group enjoyed herself, especially since she won the first two games! I know that I will want to play again, so that I can try to establish some sort of strategy other than “hoping for the best”.
Our rating: 8.5/10 Highly recommended.
In stock now.