7 Wonders – A Review
7 Wonders by Antoine Bauza – Published by Asmodee
”Lead one of the seven great cities of the Ancient world. Exploit the natural resources of your lands, take part in the eternal march of progress, develop your commercial relationships and assert your military might. Leave your mark in the history of civilization by building an architectural marvel that will transcend the ages to come.”
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7 Wonders is a card drafting, civilization building, quick playing, game for 3-7 players (with an included 2 player variant). Each player assumes leadership of one of the 7 great wonders nations in a bid to become the most prolific nation. Whether by might, scientific acumen, civilian popular outcry, building of one of the worlds great wonders, or a combination of these factors and more, can you lead your nation to ultimate enlightenment while your enemies simply marvel at your splendor?
7 Wonders is played through 3 “Ages” of advancement and knowledge with players gaining points for their choices in each “Age”. The nation who scores the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner and leader of the most prosperous nation in the world. There is no player elimination in 7 Wonders.
What’s In The Box
7 Wonders comes in an 11”x11”x3” box that includes a fantastic insert that holds all the games components in a nice neat manner. Each “Age” of cards has their own separate section, the wonder boards have a nice slot to fit into, and even the tokens and scoring board have a nice storage compartment underneath the Wonder player boards.
7 Wonders comes with:
• 7 double sided Wonder boards
• 7 Wonder cards
• 49 Age I cards
• 49 Age II cards
• 50 Age III cards
• 46 Conflict tokens
• 24 3 gold coins
• 46 1 gold coins
• 1 score booklet
• 1 rulebook
• 2 cards for the 2 player only game
All of this retails for $49.99.
7 Wonders is predominantly a card game and the cards come with some very nice to fantastic artwork. The artwork on the cards fits the theme really well with images of open markets, people working in glass shops, silk workers, warriors dressed like centurions, all of the artwork is full color and very pleasant to look at. The game icons are easy to read and although the game does use iconography to represent card mechanics it is easy to understand and logical. The backs are also clearly marked with large Roman numerals and very distinct and different colors to easily separate the cards into the respective piles at the end of a game making clean-up quicker. The cards are an unusual size though measuring 65 MM X 100 MM which is something you will want to take note off because these cards are a tad bit on the thin side and you will want to sleeve them to cut down on the wear and tear. Granted this is a deck drafting game versus a deck building game but the cards are still shuffled prior to the start of each game and will suffer degradation.
The cardboard stock is really nice, made of thick cardboard that should endure for a long time. The artwork is also again fantastic each wonder board depicts a painting of the wonder it represents as it may have looked in its glory days, rendered in full color, and each wonder board is double sided. The icons again are really easy to read depicted with large text and in full color. The game tokens – money, conflict tokens, and defeat tokens – are also made of high quality cardboard (I have the reprinted version I do believe the first edition used wooden tokens?) for the most part they are also very nice to look at artistically, except my “Money” coins appear to have been off centered when placed in the machine punch making my coins all “Off center” which is a minor ding on some otherwise high quality cardboard pieces.
The full color rulebook is 12 pages long and is very well written and organized with images that break down the game components, describes each section of each card, describes how to set up your game board, explains all the games icons including a nice summary on the back page, and even breaks down how the cards “Chain together” between the ages. There is also an additional double sided “Quick Rules” sheet that paraphrases everything and again breaks down the iconography of the game in very simple terms.
Finally Repos Productions included a small pad of score sheets. Honestly I have a Tablet and the app Supernote which allows me to do what the score sheets can do in an electronic format so I have never used my score sheets but they are a nice addition and do make scoring games much easier (kind of how Yahtzee is easier to score with a score sheet but not mandatory). It’s a nice addition to the box and I’ll never be ungrateful when a company goes the extra step for customer satisfaction.
Components And Presentation Verdict: 9.0/10 The artwork is fantastic for the most part, the Wonder boards are made out of nice cardboard, and the box insert is a nice touch. My only negative would be the thin paper used for the cards and my coins are off centered.
How Does It Play?
7 Wonders is a fast playing card drafting game that is played through 3 “Ages”. During each Age each player starts with a hand of 7 cards. Each player selects one of the cards in their hand, places it face down on the table in front of them, and then passes the remaining cards to their neighbor (left neighbor in Age I and III, right neighbor in Age II). Players then reveal their selected card, play them as required, and then they pick up the 6 cards handed to them and repeat the process. This continues until each player only has 2 cards left in their hand. When this happens each player plays one of the two cards and then discards the remaining card. Once this is done that Age is over and then Military conflicts (if any exist) are resolved and scored. This entire process is again performed for Age II and finally Age III after which each player tallies up their score and whoever has the highest score is declared the winner!
Great, Now What Do All These Bits Do?
First we have the wonder boards. There are 7 double sided wonder boards, each with an “A” and a “B” side. Each side represents the same wonder but plays slightly differently, with the “B” side generally considered the more advanced side. Each wonder board will list a resource in the upper left hand corner that the civilization starts of producing and each wonder produces one of the 7 basic resources (clay, ore, stone, wood, glass, loom, or papyrus). Along the bottom will be 2 – 4 slots to actually build the wonder itself which grants various bonuses from end game points, to military bonuses, to resource production, and more. To produce a stage of a wonder and hence gain the bonus for building that stage a player must satisfy the requirement of that stage by producing or buying a sufficient quantity of the listed basic resources. Stages of a wonder can be built during any “Age” of the game and you could if you had sufficient resources build an entire wonder during the first “Age”. Each stage of the Wonder has to be built in order from left to right though.
The blue civilian structure cards provide end game points in the amount depicted at the top center of the card. The smaller resource symbol in the upper left hand corner denotes what resources are required to purchase the card and occasionally it will also list the name of another structure. If you already have that structure in play you can play this card to the table even if you lack the resources to pay for the card. In the lower left in larger text is the name of the card and occasionally in the lower right in smaller text will be the name of a card you can play even if you lack resources if you have this card in play. So for example the “Temple” normally costs wood, clay, and glass to put into play but if you (only you not another player) already have the “Altar” in play then you can put the temple into play even if you lack the resources. Furthermore if you ever manage to get a hold of the “Pantheon” card (worth 7 points) you can play it even if you lack the resources at that time to play the card. This is how “Chaining” of cards works in 7 Wonders.
The yellow Commercial Structure cards generally give an instant infusion of money, allow you to trade with neighboring nations for a reduced amount, grant victory points, or produce resources. They are broken down in the same fashion as the blue cards with their cost (and possible chaining card) in the upper left corner, the name of the card in the lower left, any possible future chaining cards in the lower right, and finally the provided effect is in the top center of the card. For example the Marketplace allows you to build the Caravansery which leads to the Lighthouse.
The purple guild cards are unique in that they only come into play during Age III and even though there are 10 of them in the game only (number of players +2) will ever be in a game at any time. They grant Victory Points at the end of the game usually (all except the Scientists Guild) based on what all the players have accomplished during the game. For example For example The Traders Guild will give you 1 Victory Point for each Commercial Structure your opponent to your immediate left or right has in play. Guild cards are laid out exactly like the other cards except for one minor detail, no card “Chains” to them.
The gray Manufactured Goods cards each represent one of the manufactured goods (glass, papyrus, loom) and are very desirable in the later Ages. Manufactured goods are placed in the upper left hand corner of your wonder board and will produce that good for you once each turn. Manufactured goods do not cost a resource to bring into play and like brown resources do not offer a “Chain”, otherwise they follow the standard card layout.
The red Military Structure cards represent your civilizations mighty army. At the top center of the card will be 1 – 3 images of 2 crossed swords over a shield. The total amount of these symbols represents your military strength. For Example if you have “Arsenal” which shows 3 symbols and Training Ground which shows 2 symbols, your total military strength is 5. At the end of each Age, you will compare your military strength to your 2 immediate neighbors (one to your left and one to your right – as a side note all cards in 7 Wonders that affect other players only affect the player(s) to your immediate left or right. So in a 3 player game all players are affected but in a 7 player game 4 players avoid your wrath). If your Military strength is greater than your neighbor you gain a victory token (worth 1 point in Age I, 3 in Age II, and 5 in Age III). If your strengths are equal nothing happens and if your strength is less than your neighbor then you gain a -1 victory point token. So to elaborate if you are playing a 7 player game and at the end of each age you are superior to your neighbors in military strength, you would gain a total of 18 points for all 3 ages and each neighbor would gain 2 of the -1 victory point tokens. Red cards are laid out like the other cards in the game and they do occasionally “Chain”.
The brown Raw Materials cards each represent one of the Raw Materials (clay, ore, stone, wood). Raw Materials are placed in the upper left hand corner of your wonder board and will produce that good for you once each turn. Raw Materials sometimes do cost a resource (money) to bring into play and like gray resources do not offer a “Chain”, otherwise they follow the standard card layout.
The green Scientific Structure cards are used for end game scoring in an exponential way. There are 3 different kinds scientific structures, Technology (the gear), Mathematics (the ruler), Writing (the tablet). They are scored exponentially for matched sets and for owning a full suit of all 3. This is the most complex part of the games scoring, for each matched set you score the number of matched cards squared (so 3 Technology cards would be 9 points) and you score 7 points for each set of all 3 you possess. So if your opponents somehow fell asleep and let you have 3 of each you would score (3×3)+(3×3)+(3×3)+7+7+7 = 48 points. Like the other cards in the game their cost to play is listed in the upper left hand corner and they ALL “Chain” very nicely.
Finally the 7 wonder cards are used to randomize the boards as an alternative to each player picking their own board. There are also 2 other cards that are used in the 2 player variant rules but they honestly are not really needed and are used as simple reminders about whose turn it is to control the dummy player.
Money serves a couple purposes in 7 Wonders. The most common use of money is to “buy” resources from a neighbor at the cost of 2 coins if they produce that resource. It is important to realize that the purchase of “Goods” from a neighbor does not “use up” that resource nor can it be blocked. Let’s take for example a 3 player game where Player B produces Clay. On one turn Player A could hand Player B 2 coins to “purchase” Clay from Player B. Player B on the same turn could still use their own Clay to play their own card and Player C could even purchase Clay from Player B on the same turn for the cost of 2 coins. These purchases are paid directly to the player they are purchased from and the standard cost for any resource on a Gray or Brown card is always 2 unless the player making the purchase has a Yellow card that reduces the cost to 1 coin. One final note only resources produced by Brown or Gray cards can be bartered for. Yellow cards for example might also produce resources but those cannot be purchased by neighboring players.
Coins are also worth 1 victory point for every 3 coins you have in your treasury at the end of the game.
Rulebook turn Summary.
The actual rules for 7 Wonders are pretty simple it’s deciding which cards to play that creates the challenge. First have every player either choose their Wonder or use the randomizer cards to select which wonder each player will use. Then each player is given 3 gold to start their treasury.
Every card in 7 Wonders has a number with a plus sign in small print on the bottom center of it. Before play begins rifle through the Age I deck and pull out all the cards that have the number of players or less printed on it. So in a 5 player game pull out all the cards with a 3+, 4+, and a 5+ and return the rest of the cards for that Age to the box they will not be used this game. Do this for the Age II and Age III decks plus to the Age III deck add in (number of players + 2) random Guild Cards. This should create 3 decks of cards each with number of players x 7 cards in them.
Place the Age II and Age III deck off to the side and then deal 7 Age I cards to each player.
On a player’s turn they will play one (1) card from their hand face down on the table and then hand the remaining cards face down to their immediate neighbor (left neighbor in Age I and III your right neighbor in Age II).
The face down card can be used for one (1) of the following actions:
1 – If a player currently has enough of the required resources (whether it is money, production of resources, a neighbor they can purchase from, or a combination of all three) they may place the card in play during the reveal.
2- If a player currently has the required resources, they can use a card to construct one level of their wonder. If this is the case, during the reveal they leave their chosen card face down so no other player is allowed to see it and then simply slide it under the stage of the Wonder they just built.
3 – If a player is unable to play a card or for strategic reasons doesn’t wish to play a card, during the reveal they simply discard their chosen card from the game face down (again making sure no other player sees the chosen card) and then gain 3 coins from the treasury.
Once all players have chosen their card and passed the rest of their hand to their neighbor, it is time for the reveal phase. Every player simultaneously reveals their card or announces they are either cashing it in for 3 coins or building a stage of their wonder. One important point here, you have to have access to all resources a card requires to play prior to the reveal. You are not allowed to gamble on a play and hope a neighbor puts a needed resource into play allowing you to buy it.
This process is repeated until all players are left with only 2 cards in their hand at this time they choose one card to play as normal and then discard the other card face down back to the box. This then ends the current Age; it is now time to determine military strength. Each player compares their military strength to their immediate 2 neighbors if your Military is greater then a neighbor you gain a Conflict Token, if it is equal nothing happens, and if your strength is less than your neighbor you gain a -1 victory point token. This is calculated for each neighbor so it is possible to win versus one neighbor but lose versus your other neighbor.
The same process is then repeated with the Age II cards and finally the Age III cards. After which scores are added up and a victor is declared.
A sample game might look something like this:
It is the very first turn of the first age and Player A is Rhodos (The Colossus of Rhodes). This civilization starts of producing 1 Ore and since we are playing the A side of the Wonder it has 3 stages to complete the Wonder. For our very first hand we have Workshop which is a science card that requires Glass, Scriptorium a science that requires papyrus, Altar a free to play Blue card that grants 2 Victory Points and Chains to Age II card Temple, and 4 free to play resource cards (Stone, Wood, Loom, and Papyrus).
To begin the 2 Green sciences cost a resource we do not produce so they are not playable unless we want to cash one of them in for 3 coins. The first stage of our wonder requires 2 wood and we have a wood card in hand, so we play Lumber Yard face down and then hand our remaining 6 cards to our left hand neighbor.
Everyone reveals their cards and we place our brown resource card under the upper left hand corner of our Wonder board to show we now produce that resource. We then pick up the 6 cards our right hand neighbor handed to us. We end up getting 2 Red cards (each with 1 shield), one costs an Ore the other costs wood (both resources we now produce so we could play either card). We also have 2 Yellow cards; each will allow us to buy certain resources from a neighbor if they produce it for 1 coin instead of 2 coins. Finally we have 2 Brown resource cards, one is free to play and produces Clay, the other costs 1 coin to play but on each turn it can produce either stone or wood. Since we have 1 wood already and a card that can produce stone a resource we do not have is a good find, we play Timber Yard face down and then hand the remaining 5 cards to our left hand neighbor. During the reveal we put 1 coin back into the box and then place Timber Yard into play. We then grab the 5 cards from our right hand neighbor and continue on.
Simplicity Of The Rules: 9.5/10 – The rules to 7 Wonders are simple and elegant. The cards are consistent there are very few obtuse rules and the symbols used in the game are fairly intuitive and not overused like some games (I am pointing my finger at you Race for the Galaxy). All in all a fantastically well designed game.
Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly?
As a father of 2 future board gamers, a large concern of mine is how secure am I in letting my eldest son play and or rummage through a game box. Granted, BGG and board games themselves very clearly tell you a minimum age, they don’t tell you exactly why that minimum age was chosen. My hope is to arbitrarily tell you why I think this age range was chosen for this game and then hopefully give a few ideas I might have for a game to make it easier on the young ones. Finally I will close with what seems to be the “sweet spot” for number of players and if the game has solo rules I’ll comment on those too.
7 Wonders lists as a game for 2-7 players ages 13 and up. This game is full of some pretty fantastic artwork but there isn’t anything overly violent or risqué depicted in any of the artwork unless you are offended by topless Greek statues. Even the cards that do depict violence like “Arena” do not depict any blood and simply shows a man armed with a dagger standing over a downed opponent. The military cards are also fairly benign tending to depict engines of war versus depictions of warlike massacres. The only card that even comes close to being risqué is the “Baths” card which depicts the backside of a woman with her feet in the water and a topless woman in the background who has her arm over her chest. Even that card is tastefully done though. The rules are very easy to understand and the only difficulty comes in knowing which cards to play and when. Considering all of these factors I think 10 years and older is a fantastic age range for 7 Wonders.
Family Friendliness Verdict: 9/10 – Great game especially for larger families which is easy to teach, easy to learn, and is fun for all.
7 Wonders suggests an average play time of 30 minutes and even with 7 players I don’t see this going much beyond 45 minutes. The asynchronous game play and the quick rounds really make this a filler length game in deep fun game’s clothing. I wasn’t too enamored with the 2 player variant though since it required the players to alternately control a “Dummy Player” which to me just seemed to detract from the game. The rules as written do give the player controlling the dummy player a slight advantage (they gain one extra card to choose from) yet the Dummy Player isn’t really an opponent who will defeat you. Don’t get me wrong, the 2 player rules are well written and seem balanced since control of the dummy player switches each round, the problem is it just makes you want to play with more players and almost feels like a chore controlling the Dummy Players move each round. 7 Wonders is great for 3-7 players but if you play with more than 5 I would suggest playing musical chairs between games so each player gets a new neighbor to interact with.
* Civilization game that plays in under an hour even with 7 players
* Fantastic production values, from the arrows on the back of each card reminding you which direction to hand off cards to the simple iconography it all meshes well
* Some really fantastic artwork
* Great insert that holds all the components and even has enough room to hold all the cards sleeved
* Quality of the cardstock used for the cards
* The 2 player variant was OK but I can think of better 2 player games
* Some might consider this a con others not but it is possible to screw over an opponent by discarding cards you know they are looking for
But Is It Fun?
7 Wonders is a fantastic card drafting game. It feels very well balanced, plays quickly, and it has that “One more game” feel to it. It is hard to get the feeling of a civilization building game in under an hour especially with 7 players but 7 Wonders somehow makes that happen. The production values are really top notch too. Giving cards different backgrounds for easy sorting after a games end, adding in the little reminder arrow on the back so you know which direction to pass the cards, even the “Chain” cards are color coded on the cards letting you know which color the chained card will be. The cards are also designed to cascade on top of each other to save room, but still allow you to see the important game mechanics which is definitely a nice touch.
I really only have 2 negatives with the game, the cards are thin and I just was not impressed with the 2 player variant rules. It truly felt almost tacked on in my opinion, yes the rules work, but so do the rules for any game where one player controls 2 teams so to speak. If you are getting 7 Wonders only as a 2 player game I would suggest you look around at some of the other games available. If you plan on playing with 3 – 7 players but might occasionally play with 2 then 7 Wonders is definitely worth purchasing.
This is also a great family game for family game night. The rules are quick to teach and the game is quick to set up, play, and then clean up afterwards. One slight warning though there is a slight screw your neighbor aspect to the game and it is part of the advanced strategy. If you can stop your opponents from getting cards that will allow them to score points it is a good strategy to actually discard those cards for coins or use them to build stages of your wonder.
Overall Final Game Verdict: 9.25/10 – 7 Wonders is a fun card drafting game. It is well designed and definitely deserves to be on your gaming shelf
Michael V K
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