7 Wonders Review – Technology vs Power
7 Wonders is a go-to game for our gaming group. It is one of a few seven player games we know that isn’t a Social Deduction, Cthulhu epic or comedy style game. Instead, it is a complex civilisation builder, with easy rules, but a difficult mastery level. There is a large amount of strategy within the game, making it an in-depth, and yet relatively quick to play, wonder in its own right.
This has made 7 Wonders a classic that will be all too fun to review.
7 Wonders Review: Core Concept of the Game and Overview
7 Wonders is a card drafting civilisation builder designed by Antoine Bauza, in which the players seek to develop one of the cities around the seven wonders of the ancient world.
They do this through three ages, each one becoming more complex than the last. In each age, they get dealt a hand of cards, of which they pick one and pass to the player on their left (for the first and third ages – right for the second age). Then, everyone reveals their cards, compares the cost to their resources, and buys any resources they don’t have. The hands comprise of several different kinds of cards –
Raw Materials are brown cards within the game, and are used to gather the resources needed to purchase some of the cards. They are Brick, Stone, Gold, Wood, and Clay.
Processed Goods are the sister card to the Raw Materials. They are grey cards, and also contain resources needed to purchase some of the other cards. They are glass, textiles, and papyrus.
Military Cards are red cards within the game. They contain shield symbols on them. These are added up, and at the end of each age the players go to war against those sat immediately to their left and right. The player with the most shields wins, gaining 1, 3, or 5 points depending on the age (the later the age the more points each combat is worth). This means that the most a player can get in the first age is +2 (winning the combat on either side of them), the second age is +6, and the third age is +10. The player who loses gets -1 for each combat lost, meaning they can have a potential of -6 points at the end of the game.
Civic Structures are blue cards within 7 Wonders and are worth victory points. They are one of the simplest forms of card within the game.
Commercial structures are yellow cards that are incredibly common during the second age of the game. Some commercial structures give resources, some allow you to buy cheap resources off neighbours, and some give money.
Scientific Structures are green cards. They contain one of three symbols that form sets at the end of the game. These are the most difficult endgame points to calculate within 7 Wonders, as there are points for each set, but there are also points for duplicate cards.
In the third age, purple Guild Cards enter circulation. These are additional victory conditions that will give you victory points off what your opponents have on your left and right, and/or what you have managed to achieve already.
Some cards require coins to buy, some require resources, and some are free with the right conditions.
The cards get passed around, with the players picking one from their diminutive hand size, until there are two cards left. They then choose one and discard the other.
At any point where they meet the conditions, a card can be used to build a wonder. For this, it is placed face down and under the wonder marker on the player mat. These are worth different kinds of rewards, from victory points to resources.
The game is over at the end of the three ages, and then scoring begins.
Scoring goes –
- Military Points
- Coins – One point per three coins
- Any points associated with the Wonders built
- Guild card points
- Commercial Structures points
- Civic Structures points
- Scientific Structures points
The player with the most points wins.
What is it like playing 7 Wonders?
What is the simplest way to summarise 7 Wonders? I think the best way is to say that 7 Wonders is a fantastic game because it falls into two categories that usually don’t cross over all that often. It is a fantastic full game for gamers who like their games on the lighter side due to how easy 7 Wonders is to learn. At the same time, it is a great game for gamers who like heavier games as it can be strategically consuming enough to pose a good challenge within a lighter game. It is because of this that it is (kind of) game group agnostic.
Where it is possible to see where randomness could play a part, especially with the initial dealing of your hand, there is also a lot of room for strategy within the game. There are so many strategies that you can play almost every single game an entirely different way. Yet, each time you play it is possible to see that the player scores are usually no more than ten points apart. The last game I played, with six players (we play this game a lot), ended up with three people each scoring 59 points each. They all came second (I was one of them) – meanwhile, there were only 6 points between last place and first. That can be, to put it in game terms, one card making the difference.
The breadth and depth of the potential strategies is probably the strongest point 7 Wonders has in its favour – however, it is not the only one. The theme and artwork are timeless, and that is something that is rare these days. So often artwork and theme can become dated or claustrophobic. They can feel stale and like the game is a one-bit time trap. 7 Wonders is not one of those games.
Instead, it is well balanced but challenging. It is fresh but classical. It is fun, but it is also a game with mathematics at its core. You need to use your brain to work out the best ROI of each card, something that sounds dull, but if you like games like Splendor then you will find it invigorating.
The more I think about it, the more I can’t help but think that 7 Wonders is successful because it has something for everyone. It is a game that can be as light or heavy as you want it to be. It is a game that can be about pure strategy and math, or there can be a lighter approach to do with culture and city-building. It can be a beardy gamer game or it can be a game for casual players just looking for something as an after-dinner treat.
TL;DR and Conclusion
So, to conclude – 7 Wonders is a superb game that fills a lot of need on the board game shelf. It is fast (at around 45 minutes a game) and fun, with room for both gamers who like heavy strategy games as well as gamers who prefer something a little bit lighter. Either way, this is a game that has been enjoyed by everyone who has played it, with very little negative criticism of feedback.
What is more, there are so many strategies that it can, more-or-less, be played any way a player chooses. Games that do that well are always worth real estate on the board game shelf.
So there we go – now it’s over to you. What do you think of 7 Wonders? Is it a game you enjoy or one you can live without? What is your favourite strategy? Let me know in the comments below.