7 Wonders Mathematics: Military Structures
War. War never changes…apart from when it does…in 7 Wonders.
Military Structures and military conflicts are a core part of the game in 7 Wonders. At the end of each Age, players declare war on their neighbours, and the person who wins gets a set amount of points. This is based on military strength, using Shields, and the loser of those battles gets negative points.
The amount of points won at the end of each Age varies. To begin with it is a meagre +1 points. Then, in the second Age, it goes up to +3 points. Finally, in the third and final age it is a whopping +5 points. No matter what Age you are in, if you lose, you get -1 point. Since you go to war with your neighbours on either side, that means you can get a total of +18 points at the end of the game or a minimum of -6 points for your military efforts.
We could actually end this article here. Military Structures is a secondary strategy in 7 Wonders due to the value of the points; however, we wouldn’t do a good job exploring the strategy if we just say “the maximum you can get in Military is +18, when you can get +76 with Scientific Structures…nuff said”.
Instead, let’s dive deeper into the Military strategy and take it from there.
What are the Military Structures in 7 Wonders?
The Military Structures represent your actual force as a civilisation in 7 Wonders. That force is measured in Shields, and this is where it gets interesting. In each Age within 7 Wonders, there are a series of Military Structures, however, they are not quite 100% even. There are 6 Military Structures in the first Age of 7 Wonders. There are 9 in the second Age, and finally there are 10 in the third Age. Why is this particularly interesting, and gives us something to nerd out over, because it actually gets stranger. In the first Age, all Military structures are worth 1 Shield. In the second Age, they are all worth 2 Shields. In the third Age they are all worth 3. Why (again) is this interesting?
This, dear readers, is interesting because it creates a natural disjoint in the game. If all things are even and all the cards get dealt out at the start, and the players all decide to pick an evenly placed Military Structure as it comes out, then there will be one player without. In the next Age, that player can catch up, however, the players still won’t be even. In theory, by the end of the second round, there can be a maximum of 24 shields on the table. That doesn’t, once again, divide by 7 and, if they are all used, one player (minimum) will still be behind the others.
At the end of the game, there can be a maximum of 54 shields on the table. 54 again doesn’t divide by 7, so there will always be conflict. This is interesting, it is incredibly clever as a way of encouraging different scores, and it also keeps the players on edge.
If everyone was equal in 7 Wonders there would be minimal player interaction – it would only happen through buying resources and gaining points off neighbours with the Commercial Structures or Guilds at the end. Having the Military Structures in 7 Wonders forces each player to interact and keep and eye on neighbouring players each and every round.
“Oh, I see you’ve got some Military units there. Well, I’m not going to get minus points whilst giving you points so I had better get some Military prowess as well.”
How Many Shields Do You Actually Need?
So, with that in mind, there is a serious question that we can now consider. If we know there are 54 shields in the game, how many do you need each round, on average, to get the maximum +18 points on both sides? How many cards do you need to pick up in order to remain on top of the situation?
When looking at a problem like this there are a couple of things that need to be acknowledged. Firstly, there is a meta that surrounds aspects like the Military Structures in 7 Wonders that doesn’t necessarily prevail in other aspects of the game in the same sense. What this means is that, ultimately speaking, it is possible for two players to escalate the rate at which they obtain shields purely for the fun of it. In that case, working out how many shields you need no longer becomes a question about probability, but instead becomes the really simple answer “one more than the other player”. Where is the fun in that?
Secondly – yeah, this is just the maths. Looking at maths is purely using theory to judge if something should be done, and it excludes the human element. That being said, let’s look at it anyway.
So, in order to do this, we need to look at a few averages. What we are going to do is look at the average number of Shields that are out (cumulatively speaking) per Age. What this means is that, in a 7 player game –
- Age 1 – There are potentially 6 Shields out.
- Age 2 – There are 18 Shields added, meaning potentially 24 Shields out.
- Age 3 – There are 30 Shields added, meaning there potentially 54 Shields out.
Now, the maths here are really easy. We take each of those numbers, the max per round (some may be discarded at the end of each round), and we divide by the number of players to get the working average for each player. This will leave us with a decimal, which obviously is theoretical as you can’t have part Shields in 7 Wonders.
So, what are our numbers?
- Age 1 – Average Shields Per Player – 0.86
- Age 2 – Average Shields Per Player – 3.43
- Age 3 – Average Shields Per Player – 7.71
What this means is that, if we look at the average number, in order to have the best odds in Age 1 of being the winner of military combat, you need to have 1 Shield. Now, that will cut things fine, and basically leaves one player without a shield (assuming as even as possible distribution). Realistically one player may take two, and another player may not take any voluntarily. This means taking 2 Shields will make you comfortable, taking 3 would make you impossible to defeat but possible to draw with, and taking 4 makes you impossible to defeat.
In the second Age, having 4 shields will mean you have above the average. That being said, it may not be enough to secure victory against your neighbours, so obviously the more you go for the more you are likely to secure victory. That being said, having 4 is the average number you will need not to get attacked by either opponent and then ending in a draw.
Finally, and you get how this works now, you need 8 Shields, to have the average needed to win in combat. That being said, the more the better et cetera.
Of course, all this is theory. Military Structures don’t really work like that because of the meta. If you didn’t know what your opponents had then knowing the odds like this could help guide what you choose. However, every round in 7 Wonders you can see the civilisations of other players grow and grow and grow. You can deduce what kind of game they are trying to play, knowing the mathematics will be completely outdone by just looking left or right and seeing what people are doing.
It was a fun exercise though – and the averages are worth keeping in mind when choosing, especially towards the end of each Age when it becomes easier to predict what people will play.
A Note on the Strategy
There is one final thing to say about the strategy. In all games of 7 Wonders there is some inherent strategy risk. You never know if the cards you need are going to come up or if someone else will take them. Assuming you get the cards you want, however, with the Military Structures, there is an additional risk. Your opponent might get better cards. Unlike the other strategies, Military Structures hinge heavily on what your opponents decide to do on more than one level, and that makes it fundamentally unstable compared to other strategies.
Now, you can control this a bit, as one neighbour will always choose after you; however, you can’t mitigate it for the player who chooses before you. That’s not saying that you shouldn’t go for the iron price approach to 7 Wonders, as you absolutely should, but it is giving a note for consideration.
TL;DR – What Do Need To Keep In Mind With 7 Wonders Military Structures and Military Conflicts
In much the same way we did with Scientific Structures and the 7 Wonders introduction, we can break Military Structures and Military Conflicts in 7 Wonders down to a few core points.
- Military Strategy won’t win the game by itself, but it is a good supplementary strategy. You can get a maximum of 18 points through Military Structures, and it relies more on what your opponents do. This makes it harder to predict how you will do than with other strategies.
- On average, in the first Age you need 1 Shield, by the second Age you need 4 Shields, and by the end of the third Age you need 8 shields to avoid penalisation due to military conflict in 7 Wonders.
- Those mathematics are sound, but the meta means that you need to judge it based on what your neighbours are doing.
So, there we have it – a breakdown of the Military Structures in 7 Wonders, as well as a breakdown about what to do with Military Conflicts. This has been the third in our run of 7 Wonders strategy articles – next time – the Civilian Structures! OoO exciting.
Until then, please feel free to let us know your thoughts on the Military Structures in the comments below.
Interesting! I agree that military is the least mathy and the most psychological part of 7 Wonders. Arms races can be ruinous for the players involved, and often it is the better choice not to take the bait and just swallow the -1 VP. Of course, the game gives an incentive to start such a race with a cheap military structure in the first age…
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It’s always tempting, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I suppose it also stops other players from having as many points (so a kind of points denial), but is it really worth it?
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