7 Wonders Strategy: An Introduction
7 Wonders is one heck of a game. Designed by Antoine Bauza, one of our all time favourite game designers here on Start Your Meeples, 7 Wonders has players pitted against each other as they aim to build an ancient civilisation. As a game, 7 Wonders revolves around the hand drafting mechanic, and it uses that mechanic astonishingly well.
7 Wonders has become an icon of gaming, and to be honest we have probably talked about it criminally little on this site. It is for that reason that over the past few days I have been writing a 7 Wonders guide that we will be publishing over the coming weeks. Let’s break down 7 Wonders and, most intriguingly, let’s break down 7 Wonders strategy. It’s an amazing game and there is a lot there.
Before we begin however, you can read the original 7 Wonders review we wrote here. Likewise, if you want to read about what the actual wonders are, then you can read that here. That guide breaks down the Colossus at Rhodes, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens at Babylon, the Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus from a historical perspective. Those are, after all, how the game gets its name.
Understanding 7 Wonders Strategy and the Hand Drafting Mechanic
To fully understand 7 Wonders however, we are going to need to fully understand what the mechanic is like. Let’s say you start with 7 players. At the start of the game, each of the 7 players gets dealt a hand of 7 cards. They will choose a card from that hand to build in their civilisation, or they can burn a card to gain a wonder level. They then pass the hand around.
There are six turns per age in 7 Wonders when played with 7 players, a somewhat ingenious decision as it means the game remains balanced. There are 3 ages – first, second, and (yes, you guessed it), third.
The final card of each round gets discarded, and this is something that comes in handy with some of the expansions; however, in the base game of 7 Wonders, each player takes six cards per turn.
Seems simple, right?
Well, yes it is. It is deceptively simple; however, it is also beautifully deceptively complex. There are, within the game, 7 types of cards (you can probably sense a theme) and those cards fulfil separate functions. Raw Materials, for instance, are exactly what they sound like. They are materials that help you build cards later on in the game (most cards cost something). There are Manufactured Goods, which are the next level of Raw Materials. Next we have Civilian Structures which give straight up glory or victory points. When playing, building Civilian Structures is my favourite way of gaining points because it is simple. Military structures are the final “simple” type of structure.
Once we have the basic structures, there are structures with far more complex rules. For instance, there are Scientific Structures that multiply per set of the same and set of different icons. Commercial Structures give all kinds of weird and wonderful bonuses (and are the hardest to quantify), and then we finally have the Guilds. Guilds are special – not all are played at once, and they are only in the third and final age.
Each turn you draw your card, you place down your card, you pay the cost (or acknowledge the cost if it is not money) and you pass your hand on. Beautiful, elegant, and smooth.
What are the Cards in 7 Wonders?
So, here’s the deal. I have spent a whole evening this past week inputting all the data into a giant spreadsheet. It is because of this I can tell you that our version (assuming we are not missing any cards) has 146 cards in the game. There are 49 in Age 1. There are 48 in Age 2. So, by deduction, there are 49 in Age 3 – of which, as mentioned before, not all guilds are played with at the same time.
These can be broken down by the category they fall under, and this is where we can use mathematics to start guiding the strategy –
As you can see, there are fewest Guilds, and there are most Civilian Structures. I am sure (said he, only getting part way through this article so far and already promising more to come) we will cover those in the not to distant future.
Now, we can start using this graph to begin formulating a strategy, or at least strategy hints. There are no raw materials or manufactured goods in the third and final Age. This means that you have to get those during the first and second Ages. There aren’t many guilds, so maybe we should look at grabbing those as they come about.
That being said, we can also break down the cards by what they actually do or give. If we do, we end up with a much larger graph, and one that is overly extravagant, but let’s do it anyway.
Okay, so right away there are a few more items to note. For instance, straight up Victory Points are the most common items in the game. Next, there are 7 cards that give each of the Raw Materials, and 4 for each of the Manufactured Goods. Some of those Raw Materials cards have either/or options.
Now, if we weight resources equally against each other in 7 Wonders (which for all intents and purposes, as someone who has spent an evening browsing the cards, they are) then this leads to a really interesting couple of points. Everyone starts off with one resource on their wonder – that may be a Raw Material or a Manufactured Good.
This means that there are only just enough Raw Materials for everyone to have one by the end of Age 2 if everyone played perfectly balanced in a 7 player game – and there are not enough Manufactured Goods for everyone to do that. This creates a really interesting dichotomy between the Raw Materials and the Manufactured Goods. It also means, more importantly and less philosophically, that you will most likely end up buying goods. If you can’t get enough materials or goods to feel comfortable in the first age, then make sure you get one of the first age Market cards. They will make buying goods off other players cheaper.
What does knowing the number of cards also tell us? Well, it actually helps determine the scientific strategy. This involves quite a bit of maths, so we’ll look at it in more detail in a later article (maybe the next article – oOo, saucy spoiler). In the meantime, let’s just look at the basic points of using science as a 7 Wonders strategy.
As a player there are 6 cards you will add to your empire each Age, assuming you don’t build a Wonder at any point. This means throughout the game you will pick up 18 cards, in a 7 player game. There are, unfortunately, 24 science cards, meaning you will be unable to pick up all. There is also a rule where you can’t have more than one of the same named card…which also kind of gets in the way…
Assuming you find ways to get the resource, you could, in theory, create around 4 full sets. That means 3 of each type of card, creating (7*4)+16+16+16 points. That, in a pure numerical value, is a whopping 76 points. It’s a pretty reasonable score.
More on that later, but we know that doing that is, in theory, a possible 7 Wonders strategy.
TL;DR: 7 Wonders Strategy Tips
Okay, so we’re going to try and end all the articles like this, but when looking at the 7 Wonders strategy we are going to break down a few core tips at the end of each article. In this one, here are our top 3 take-aways.
- Plain Victory Points is the most common card type.
- All resources are created equal, but the players ability to collect them is not. If you can’t get enough resources then ensure to get the markets during the first age.
- There are enough scientific cards to get crazy points, but be careful – getting crazy points that way requires a whole strategy unto its own right.
And on that note, let’s bring this introduction to a close. These strategy articles will be released systematically over the next few weeks so please be sure to keep an eye out (or even subscribe) if you are interested. Until then, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.