Type: Card Drafting
Time to play: < 60 minutes (Teaching: 5 minutes)
Best played with: 2-7 players (Best with 5)
(Picture from Walmart’s photo stock – as it’s a great photo!)
Every now and then, I delve back into the games I haven’t played for a while and pull out one that is a classic or underplayed and deserves more time at the table. For me, 7 Wonders is one such game and I hope I can give it fair tribute below – after all it has been a classic game for bring more players into the hobby.
7 Wonders is perhaps the introduction of a mechanic to the most hobby players, so whilst the theme may be a bit lacking the core of the game is definitely the card drafting. It achieves this because the game is so simple in all other aspects. By distilling every other decision / action in the game, the action of selecting a card and passing the rest to the next player becomes vital. Will you pick something that works for your tableau, can you score points, or will you block your opponent from the card they need!
These are interesting and real decisions especially because the game smartly adds some blocking mechanics that have value. You can hide cards under your board to build one of the 7 wonders. This is worth points or resources to you, but it’s also the best means to get rid of opponents cards which otherwise would not help you.
The theme though does leave a lot to be desired. Whilst the 7 Wonders provide asymmetric powers, take time to build and are difficult to achieve, the rest of the hands (science, culture, military) are less engaging. The best of these has to be the military – where the game challenges you to match your neighbours (or beat them) at the end of each round. If your neighbour isn’t building for war, then you can relax and focus on the other card types. However, once your neighbour starts building the army it sets of a potential chain event which explodes around the table as each neighbour in turn considers building up their military.
The best result for a player is therefore to build on the path least travelled. If others are going for war, try to take the science cards. If those are taken, try to build up your trade for the higher points cards in the third round. With the military though, its worth being the leader amongst your neighbours, but extremely painful to your points to be behind BOTH neighbours. This fine balance keeps the game different in each version and may have you deliberately sitting in certain places at the games table so as to pick your neighbours.
Of course, being a card drafting game the initial deal matters. The fact that the game is split in three rounds means that there are effectively three initial deals that matter. That in some ways intensifies the problem, because you may be committed to a path that will be un-achievable just due to the shuffle. Equally, it will occasionally hand the win to a player in the third round as the key card falls into their opening hand.
Balance across many types, whilst still developing enough of a specialism in the final age is generally the trick. Maintaining some flexibility, but with a few clear paths to high points. Of course, the more you learn the cards the easier it becomes to manage this and to block opponents.
Enjoyable, short, and surprisingly thought provoking, I find this can be a success amongst new and experienced players, although the addition of leaders and the Babylon expansion has much to offer those who like a deeper / more strategic gameplay.
- If you like a fast and simple to teach game – this is worth investment
- If you hate the luck of the draw, avoid this one
- If you win at this game, try a different wonder (or even the B side)