Though the outer box looks well-made with some impressive art, first impressions I though the 7 Wonders board game was possibly a holiday package with the name it has. I’ve heard plenty of praise about this game, created by Antoine Bauza in 2010 it has won over 30 gaming awards. I’ve come across card games that have managed to hit it out of the park, so I was open-minded and ready to look into this.
What Do You Get?
- 50 Age III cards
- 49 Age II cards
- 49 Age I cards
- 46 Conflict tokens
- 46 Value 1 coins
- 24 Value 3 coins
- 7 Wonder boards
- 7 Wonder cards
- 2 << 2 player >> cards
- 1 Score booklet
- 1 Rulebook
How Do You Set It Up?
- Each player gets a Wonder board and 3 coins of value 1.
- For the 3 decks of cards, return to the box the cards unused based on the number of players.
- For the Age III deck, randomly select guilds (purple cards) and shuffle them into the deck.
How Do You Play?
A game begins in Age I, continues with Age II and ends with Age III. Victory points are counted at the end of Age III.
Overview of an Age:
At the beginning of each Age, each player gets a hand of 7 cards, dealt randomly (all cards from the pile for that Age are given out). Each Age is played over 6 game turns, in which the players will put into play a single card simultaneously.
1. Choose a card
Each player looks at their hand without showing it to the other players, and selects a card before placing it face down before them. Once every player has selected their card, they perform their action.
Three actions are possible with the chosen card:
- Build structure on the card (you cannot build the same structure twice): the card is placed in the player’s play zone, face-up.
- Build a stage of their Wonder (in the order given by the board, from left to right): the card is partially placed under the board, face-down.
- Take 3 coins from the bank: the card is discarded, face-down.
3. Move on to the next hand
Each player takes the hand of cards given to them by their neighbor. The direction of hand rotation changes with every Age: Clockwise for Age I, counter-clockwise for Age II, and clockwise again for Age III. On the sixth game turn of each Age, the last card is not passed, it is discarded, face down.
Building In 7 Wonders
- Coin cost: The cost is paid to the bank.
- Free construction: The structure is built for free.
- Resource cost: The indicated resources are produced by the player’s city and/or bought using the commerce rules.
- Free construction (chain): If, in the previous Age, a player has built the structure named next to the resource cost, then that player may build the structure for free.
- Resource cost: The resources indicated are produced by the player’s city and/or bought using the commerce rules.
- The resources of a city are produced by its Wonder Board, its brown cards, its grey cards, and by some of its yellow cards.
- To be able to build a structure or a stage of a Wonder without using commerce, a player’s city must produce the resources indicated on the structure’s card or wonder’s board.
- Resources are not spent during construction. They can be spent each turn, for the entire game. A city’s production can never decrease.
- Each player can only trade with the two neighboring cities.
- Each resource bough is paid 2 coins to its owner (players can never refuse trade).
- Selling a resource does not prevent its owner from being able to use it, in that same turn, for their own construction.
End Of An Age
Each Age ends after its sixth game turn.
The players must then proceed with the resolution of military conflicts. Each player compares the total amount of shield/symbols present on their military structures (red cards) with the total of each of their neighboring cities:
- If a player has a higher total than that of a neighboring city, that player takes a Victory token corresponding to the Age which just ended (Age I: +1, Age II: +3 or Age III: +5).
- If a player has a lower total that of a neighboring city, that player takes a Defeat token (-1 Victory Point).
- If a player has a total equal to that of a neighboring city, no tokens are taken.
During each Age, each player therefore gets, depending on the case, 0, 1 or 2 tokens which are placed on their Wonder Board.
End Of Game and Scoring
At the end of Age III, once the conflict tokens have been handed out, the players total their victory points:
- Military Conflicts: Points from Conflict tokens.
- Treasury Contents: 1 Victory Point for every 3 coins (leftover coins score no points).
- Wonder: Points are earned as indicated on the Wonder’s board.
- Civilian Structures: Points indicated on the cards.
- Commercial Structures: Points indicated on the cards.
- Guilds: Points indicated on the cards.
- Science Structures
Most Guilds are worth Victory Points based on buildings built by your neighbors:
Spies Guild – 1 Victory Point for each red card present in both neighboring cities.
Magistrates Guild – 1 Victory Point for each blue card present in the neighboring cities.
Workers Guild – 1 Victory Point for each brown card present in the neighboring cities.
Craftsman Guild – 2 Victory Points for each grey card present in the neighboring cities.
Traders Guild – 1 Victory Point for each yellow card in the neighboring cities.
Philosophers Guild – 1 Victory Point for each green card present in the neighboring cities.
The other Guilds earn Victory Points according to specific rules:
Builders Guild: 1 Victory Point for each Wonder stage built in the neighboring cities and in your own city.
Shipowners Guild: 1 Victory Point for each defeat token present in the neighboring cities.
Scientists Guild: The player gains an extra scientific symbol of their choice. The choice of the symbol is made at the end of the game and not when the Guild is built.
Pros Of The Game
- Good artwork and theme
- Brings out great strategy and planning elements
- Works well regardless of the number of players
- Unique gameplay analyzing and blocking players tactics
- Easy to learn and has quick gameplay
Cons Of The Game
- Components are not of the best quality, quite flimsy
- Novice players might have trouble with advanced players
- All the symbols provided can get confusing
- Too many players can be more difficult to watch over during the game
- Some who prefer simpler games with luck might not be as into this
Should You Get 7 Wonders?
A lot of hype was tailored to this game before it came out, and it still stays strong today, so how come? For one thing it provides a unique experience which is easy to learn and has fast gameplay. Even with the maximum number of players at 7, a game can last just 45 minutes, making it flexible if you want a fairer timed spout of fun. This can be quite rare considering more players usually mean much longer playtime.
For ages 10+, the simple rules make this easy to connect for both gamers and non-gamers. Build up your own civilization through 3 ages/rounds by playing cards allowing you to provide different buildings.
A very unique concept about this card game is your hand doesn’t stick with you. All players play one card at the same time and then pass the rest of their hand to the player next to them. This means you have to select wisely with each disposable hand that you come across. This is a cool mechanic which has you making choices on not only which cards to use but also which cards to give your opponents. You want to avoid giving them cards which hands them an advantage, and instead hold them back and leave with cards they cannot use.
The goal is to get as many Victory Points by the end of the 3rd age, by which point the player with the most points is the winner.
Like you would expect from a card game, there’s not much to this in the component department. But the quality of the cards are what matter and they are well-designed, not the most amazing artwork you’ll ever see, but they’re attractive, colourful, and improves the theme of the game. They feel quite weak and could be more easily damaged in a shorter time, so greater care might be needed when handling these. Card games should always have the durability of the cards in mind.
The double-sided boards are a cool feature, each representing a wonder. These too are quite thin and weak and should be better enforced, but still have great designs printed on them. Be mindful with which wonder you choose, each is slightly different with their rules you’ll have to tailor your play to that board. Variety and improvisation to the different boards and constantly changing hands are a definite highlight that gives good replay ability.
Others may feel differently on this being replay able, particularly those who play other card games and experience different amounts of strategy and fast paces. It differs on what suits you, there is still plenty here to enjoy and you’ll get a feel if you can play regularly or sparsely after a few plays.
Players spend the game constructing their chosen wonder, earning Victory Points as well as having access to one resource each wonder provides. Everyone plays a card each turn, some needing to be paid for with resources You can produce resources using cards in order to pay for these. For example, the cost of a card is 2 timber, so you can use a card which makes timber.
Player interaction comes up when buying resources from players on either side of you. Players cannot decline sales, and any resources purchased costs 2 coins. You can even use the resource you bought on the same turn, as well as sell them for 3 coins. As players continuously use a card and passes their hand to their player on the left, once all players get two cards, they decide which of the two to use and then that age is complete.
Cards become more powerful and expensive with each age, adding more challenge. You can pay for more pricey cards by using earlier cards to build later cards for free. These earlier cards list what it can build and how at no cost, implementing great planning throughout rounds so you’re prepared. This is called chaining. Chaining may even result in building things you didn’t expect, like a military building at first instead of becoming a science building.
Between ages players compare what they’ve done with their neighbors based on their Military structures and work out who has done better construction. These result in handing out Victory points, either 1, 3 or 5 depending on the age they’re on, along with taking away 1 Victory Point from the loser.
Once the game is over the Victory Points are tallied up and the player with the most VP’s is the winner.
The set up for the game is easy and fast, and even faster once you get a handle on the rules and how the turns work. Each game you can also swap wonders so it’s like you’re playing something new.
The only part of the learning experience that can be tough is grasping on what all of the symbols mean. There are so many, and it can be confusing at times, which can be annoying for newer players trying to get into it.
Players will try to avoid giving you cards you want so you have to widen on what you can do. Focusing too much on an area like military or science will be obvious to the others so they will be sure to keep the military or science cards away from you to prevent you from progressing. However, having multiple areas at hand will make it harder to not get cards you need. This is excellent tactics and it really shines as you go along, it’s the fuel for this game.
The outer layer of the game looks basic yet when you play you can see the layers of strategy that’s involved. There are plenty of cards to work with, including Victory Point buildings, scoring science buildings and production buildings. But because these cards are so limited the game forces you to be resourceful, think ahead, and be aware of what both you and your players are doing throughout. When I think of 7 Wonders I think of the word adaptability, which is an awesome element for a game to have.
Though this is considered a gateway game, there is sometimes a worry of maybe the expert players crushing novice players whilst they get comfortable with the rules. I know this can be the same case for any game, but particularly with this one the experienced players will have a handle with chaining, scientific setups and analyzing players set-ups, which are some of the more tricky realms with this. So if you’re a newbie, you will get into things no problem, it’s just as you take your skills to the next level and face challenges, you might need a word with the pros to maybe take it easy on you initially whilst you catch up.
The card interaction between players is quite addicting, you never know what you’ll be planning next and which way to go about deceiving your opponents while building on your wonder.
Though one of the highlights of the game is how well it works with plenty of players, you still might have trouble managing since everyone is competition. You have to keep an eye on what each player is doing, which can be brain sizzling. They can be on the other side of the table and be playing a completely separate game for all you know. Still, having it capable of taking on such a group size is a notable quality.
A great combination to have in a game is to provide complexity in gameplay but simplicity in learning how to implement it, and this game does just that. Since all players play their cards at once, the run time of a game does not change regardless of how many players you have, so the fun is always maintained and doesn’t feel like its dragging. I don’t know too many games that can keep the same pace and level of gameplay regardless of the number of players like this. Very impressive.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back game, have moving pieces, or an element of luck, I would not suggest this one. Though light, you’ll have to have your gears churning throughout. It’s not actually a laugh out loud over drinks kind of social experience, but a competitive satisfying time that brings out your tactical side.
There are two expansions out for 7 Wonders, Leaders which adds a leader cards to each civilization, and Cities which adds more cards with more intricate building requirements. It seems more people prefer the Cities expansion because the leader doesn’t really add much, but you have to get to grips with the cities cards a bit before understanding what they bring to the table.
It’s hard to find much wrong with this game, it keeps you guessing and constantly thinking, it’s easy to learn and start up, there’s many different ways to take how you play, and games are of fair time with plenty of people to enjoy it with. I can see why this game would be a hit.
I highly recommend 7 Wonders and the mechanics it provides, being very unique and stands out from the crowd, giving you the kind of involvement that is very fitting of family game night for everyone, not to mention a great gateway game for non-board game fans.
This can also be considered a filler game since it’s quite fast, and though it has layers it might not be intense or deep enough that match with bigger contenders like Agricola. This isn’t the be all end all game of the century, just a cool enjoyable competitive game that seems most enjoyable in spurts.
You are tempted to go back and play to experiment different approaches to winning, and in the format it gives to you, the meat of the game is what possibilities you can muster to take the day, and that in itself is a tempting reason to play. I wonder how many of you have actually traveled to see the 7 Wonders of the World?
Thank you for reading this 7 Wonders board game review! How do you find the game? Did you pick up on it quickly enough? How many players have you played it with? Does it bring out your strategic side? Would you play it regularly? All comments are welcome!