Did you ever want to build one of the great wonders of the ancient world? Be the ruler of your own city state in the ancient Mediterranean? How about beat up your neighbors for glory? Let the brilliance of your research shine through the ages? Build such a powerful economy that your neighbors have to come to you for goods? Then 7 Wonders is for you.
7 Wonders is a card drafting game for 2 to 7 players first published in 2010. It’s from the wonderful Antoine Bauza, who has brought us such remarkable games as Tokaido, Hanabi, and Terror in Meeple City to name just a few.
Goal of the game?
To win! But how do I do that? Umm... by having the most victory points. A novel concept and one that I am sure will take off one of these days. As novel as stacking stones one on top of each other in a pyramid shape.
How to play?
The game takes place over 3 Ages. Each Age has 6 turns. Everyone gets their own city/wonder board. This represents their city and the wonder they are trying to build. Some examples are the Colossus of Rhodes, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and (of course) the Pyramids of Giza.
At the start of each Age, players have 7 cards to choose from. Each turn they pick one to play. Once everyone has picked a card, they reveal which action they are doing with the card. Then they pass the rest of the cards to the left or right, depending on which Age it is. So the next turn they have 6 new cards to choose from, etc. This happens until there are only 2 cards left. They pick one for the final turn and the other one is placed in the discard pile.
You can play cards in one of three ways. You can either build it, use it as one of the stages for your Wonder, or discard it to earn 3 cashie monies:
1) Build it: You build the card for its face side to use its ability. The cost is in the upper left hand corner and the benefit or ability is listed at the top of the card. This is the most common action you will take. Some cards chain. So if you build the first structure of the chain you can build the rest of the chain for free in later ages. To quote the great Tom Peterson “Free is always a good price!”
2) Mark a stage of your Wonder: With this one, you pay the cost listed on the stage of your wonder you are building. It does not matter what the card says as you are playing it face down to denote that you have built that part of your wonder. This is a good time to hate draft a card your neighbor really wants, but you can not use it otherwise. (Yes, I am looking at you Addie.)
3) Discard it for money: Pretty straight forward. You put the card in the discard pile and take 3 cashie monies from the bank pool and add it to your city’s treasury.
Each card represents a structure you can build and they come in 7 colors.
Brown cards are Raw Materials. Things like wood and stone. The basic building blocks of any building project. The cards grant you access to one or two units of the appropriate resource.
Grey cards are Manufactured Goods. Like glass and paper. The advanced resources needed to make your city shine. Work just like brown cards.
Blue cards are the big civic buildings that every city seems to collect over time. Things like palaces and aqueducts. They mostly just grant victory points at the end of the game since it is nice to have big shiny public buildings in your city.
Yellow cards are Commercial buildings. Places like markets and caravanserais. They allow you to gain money or buy things cheaper. Always handy to have.
Red cards are military structures and units. Here you have your standard walls and barracks. That kind of thing. They give you “shields” that you beat up your neighbors with at the end of each Age.
Green cards are scientific structures. Here you find your universities and other research centers. There are 3 types of science. You score points for having sets and runs. So the more the merrier.
And Purple cards are guilds. They show up only in Age III and grant victory points based on what you or your neighbors have been up to.
The Wonder Board
Each player has one. They represent the City you are playing and the wonder they hope to build before the game ends. Each city provides a starting resource and has 2 to 4 stages that it takes to build their wonder. The vast majority of them have 3 stages, so that is considered the default number. Each stage either grants you more victory points or some kind of cool ability. For example, with the Lighthouse of Alexandria you get access to one raw material of your choice each round for free. Or with the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus you can go through the discards and build one of those cards for free, like you're some kind of weird necromancer for buildings instead of zombies or skeletons.
The End Of Each Age
At the end of each Age you may have to fight with your neighbors if you or they have built any military cards. You only compare the number of “shields” with your left and right neighbor since you only fight locally. If you have more than them, you get victory points. And if you have less than them, you lose points. After combat you deal out the cards for the next Age, or at the end of Age III you start the final tally of victory points to see who has the greatest wonder and city in the classical world.
The wrap up.
As a disclaimer: I am a bit of a classical historian. So I tend to love anything that is set in the classical world. And I love building things. So this game has checked off two of my favorite things. I love this game. And here is why.
Player count. The box says 2 to 7 and it is right, except the 2 player game uses a dummy hand, a mechanic which I always find annoying. The sweet spot is 4 to 7. Not many games support 7 folks. And play well at 7 to boot. Speaking of which…
It scales really well. Each turn people are drafting and picking simultaneously, so adding more people does not necessarily add more time. Many games you have to factor in half an hour to an hour per player. So if you have 6 players, it will now be a 3 to 6 hour game. With everyone taking their turn at the same time, this game does not bog down with more folks. (Other than needing to coordinate that many bladders and appetites that is.)
Did I mention the expansions? No? Well it has expansions. Some add a new card type, like Cities, and others a new card type and new mechanic, like Leaders and Babel do. I like Leaders as it helps you either double down on your wonders specialty/flavor or gives you a really good boost to go against the grain on it. For example, if you are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon you tend to go with science since your wonder helps with that. But, you could go with commerce leaders who help you make money and build better trade networks.
You want to watch everyone but pay most attention to your neighbors. You only ever buy resources and fight with your neighbors, so keep an eye on them. But, you can’t totally ignore the other side of the Mediterranean, as what they are drafting will tell you what they are up to and what may or may not be in the pile of cards passed around the board.
A few small things I like, that often get overlooked by other games:
Card passing. In Age I and III you are passing the cards to the left (clockwise for the analog crowd.) And in Age II you are passing to the right (counterclockwise). I like the switch up, as it means I get to yell and shake my fist at someone else for one of the rounds instead of always being downstream from the same person. Many games with multiple rounds you will always be given the leavings of the same person. (So the real lesson is to not sit to the left of Zeke in those games.)
Going cross grain. Many games if your city/race/character has a specialty you are kind of locked into it. They make it so expensive to go against the grain that you basically can not do it, and expect to do well, much less win. 7 Wonders can reward you at times for doing something completely different. Instead of going the yellow money route with the Temple at Ephesus, you could go hard into the blue civic buildings or red military cards instead. I also like the fact that you do not totally control your resources. They represent business in your city, but they are still run by independent merchants, so they are always willing to sell to anyone. You get money when they do, as a form of tax, but you can’t dictate what they do. Plus, you have access to what they have so you do not have to manage how many logs you have. Just that you have access to one or three lumber mills etc.
So ease of play, quick turns, scales well with more people, can play up to 7 (so when you have 7 you do not always have to play the party games), a classical setting, and you get to build things, makes this a great game. One could say a Wonderful game. (Was that a bridge too far over the river Pun?) Give it a try. And with the many expansions available (15 listed on BGG as of time of publishing this) you can season it to taste.
Hope you get a chance to play 7 Wonders.
Bonus Game: I have included the links for the 7 wonders the base game comes with. 2 points for each one you knew before clicking the link. 1 point if you got it after checking all the links. And 1 bonus point if you knew who Tom Peterson was before checking out either of his links. A score of 15 is the max score. You are doing well if you hit 8 to 10. If you got a 0, please reach out to me and I will recommend some good books for you.