Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Review - 7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a card game that let's you build one of the great cities of the ancient world. Gather resources, develop commercial routes and affirm your military supremacy. Build your city and erect an architectural wonder which will transcend future times.

Wow - sounds a bit more impressive than "travel round a board, buy up properties and bankrupt your friends and families" doesn't it? Let's take a look at how it plays, and more specifically how it plays in a family setting.

What's in the box?

Facts and Figures:
Published - 2010
Publisher - Repos / Asmodee
Designer - Antoine Bauza
Number of Players: 2-7
Mfg Suggested Age: 10+
Playing time: 45 minutes
Honours: Kennerspiel des Jahres 2011, plus too many others to mention. 
Mechanic: Card drafting, Tableau Building

Side A of the Rhodes board

How to play:
For all the grandiosity described in the description above, 7 Wonders is, at heart, a card game. Not a traditional card game like Rummy or Whist, but a card game.
The central mechanic is card-drafting - this is where each player is dealt a hand of cards, chooses one to play, and passes the rest to the player on the left.  

The game is played over three ages, and the aim of the game is to score the most points at the end of the game. Each age has it's own deck of cards, and these cards are marked with the number of players on them . For example, in a 5 player game you would remove all cards that say 6+ or 7+ on them.
The Baths - an Age 1 card

At the beginning of the game, each player is randomly assigned one of the 7 Wonders boards. These boards are double sided, and again the players randomly choose whether to play side A or side B. Each player is then given 3 coins, and then the Age 1 cards are dealt out, so that each player has 7 cards. Then the game can begin.
The 7 boards
Each player looks at the hand of cards they were dealt, choose one card to play and place it face-down on the table. Once all players have chosen, the cards are revealed and resolved simultaneously. The remaining cards are then passed to the player on the left, and the next round begins. This repeats until each player has two cards remaining - at which point they play one and discard the last card.
Some example of the cards
That brings an end to the first age - at the end of each age, each player compares their military strength with their immediate neighbours, and gain positive or negative points depending on their relative strengths.

What does 'playing a card' mean? On each turn a player has 3 options to play a card: 

  • They can either pay the cost and place the card into their tableau, gaining use of that card
  • They can discard the card face down, and get 3 coins
  • They can use the card, face down, to build a stage of their Wonder.
As you can see in the picture above, there are different colours of cards, Each colour has a different effect:
  • Grey and Brown are both resource cards, which are used to play other cards
  • Blue are Civic cards and give you victory points at the end of the game
  • Yellow are Commerce cards and either provide coins or resources, or makes it cheaper to trade
  • Red are Military cards, and provide military strength for the end of Age battles
  • Green are Science cards, and provide victory points, but need 'set collection'
  • Purple only appear in Age 3 and are Guild cards. These provide victory points at the end of game, based usually on what you or your neighbours have done in the game.
That's the basics of the game - there are rules regarding trading, and the Wonders' special powers, but in essence you play 18 cards over the course of the game, then compare scores at the end.

7 Wonders is an interesting game. It's certainly not a Gateway Game - despite the fact it plays in around 30 to 45 minutes - just look at the fact it won the Kennserspiel des Jahres and not the more 'family friendly' Spiel des Jahres award , and yet at the same time, it's quite accessible to new players. It's got a great amount of player interaction - not only do you trade between players, but you need to watch what other players are doing as you will be passing them the cards you don't play, and you need to make sure you aren't giving them a card that is really useful to them. 
The different Wonders go a long way to help decide your strategy, but you find that depending on what cards come up, you might change your strategy half way through the game.
It's also worth mentioning how the game changes at different player counts. With 3 players the game is a lot more strategic, as it's possible to try and work out what each player is likely to do with the cards you give them, and which cards will still be left by the time that hand comes back to you. As the player count increases, the game gets more tactical, as you will only see each hand once, so you have to react to which is the best card to play. 
The really great thing about this game though is that an increase in the player count doesn't really affect the game length - and nothing ruins a game for children than one that takes too long to play.
The end of a 3 player game

Modification for children:
We don't make any official modifications for children, but we occasionally allow Benji to take back his cards and chose a different one, and also there are times that he asks for help - the great thing about 7 Wonders is because there is no hidden information it's really easy for the player who just passed the cards to Benji to then help him chose what to play if he asks for help.

Skills used:
Forward planning
Decision making

Benji's opinion:
I'll keep this one simple - this is Benji's favourite game, bar none. In fact, the interesting thing is that Benji loves to win - and yet he will play this game despite him never winning until last weekend. With every other game we've played, that long losing streak would have probably caused him to not like the game, but not with 7 Wonders. 

The joy he felt when he finally won a game (and it was a legitimate win, neither Hayley nor myself let him win), was so lovely to see.

Hayley's opinion:
This is another game that Hayley is always willing to play. Whilst not her favourite, it's probably in her top three. I've introduced this game to a few non-gamers and it seems to be well received.

My opinion and final thoughts::

7 Wonders is a phenomenal game. It's versatility in player count, the fact it appeals to children, non-gamers and gamers alike, and does all this in a play time of 45 minutes means it is so easy to get it to the table.
On Boardgamegeek, it's currently ranked #14 overall, and #1 in Family Games. It has over 30 international awards.
Definitely a great game and one that should be in most people's collection.
The winning player


  1. I played 7 wonders the other night and got absolutely thrashed :)

    A similar game, but much more simple to play is Sushi Go!, which is a firm favorite in our house

    1. Hi Dan,
      Thanks for the comment - how many players played in your game?
      I think it works better with 5 or fewer players - 6 or 7 feels a bit too random.

      As I mentioned Benji is now playing 7 Wonders without help - it's definitely a game that 'clicks' with more plays.

      Have to confess, I've not played Sushi Go.

  2. You've inspired me to give this a go with my 6 and 8 year old boys! I had assumed that it wouldn't work with them - but I think it is just the need to get familiar with the cards that will be the issue. After all, they play Ascension with me all the time and now just "know" what a card does as soon as it comes out.

    I now just have to overcome the problem of "too many boardgames" - so our plays of any one become too "thin" with the limited time available! I mentioned to my 8 year old that we had to play Lords of Waterdeep again soon and he took me aback a bit by saying, "Yes, but you've just got too many games to play".

    1. Great - let me know how it goes it you play it with them. It took Benji a few games to really know what he was doing, but now he flies along.

      I know what you mean about too many games. I recently sat down with Benji and did his top 10 list - we have 25 'family games', and I only see him at weekends to play them anyway. If only there were more hours in the day!