Jul 132011

“Seven Wonders” is a game published by Asmodee Games. In the game, two to seven players compete with each other to build up their own ancient wonders in order to become the greatest in history. The game takes place in three ages, and is played in the style of a draft, much akin to a collectible card game booster draft. Each player has a hand of cards, and they choose one to keep, passing the rest to the player next to them. Each card they keep can be used for one of three purposes: building it for the card’s listed effects, trashing it to gain more coins, or using it to build their wonder, which also earns the player added benefits. Once all cards have been drafted in an age, each player goes into combat with the players to their left and right. This process repeats through all three ages, and once the combat phase of the final age ends, the players tally up their scores, and whoever has the highest score — surprise, surprise — wins!

The game has a number of strategic elements to it. For starters, there are a number of different card types. Some card types simply add materials to your board, which are needed to build a large number of the buildings. Once you have a material on your board, it is yours forever and can be used once per turn. Other players can also pay you to use your materials, as long as they are to your immediate left or right. This payment can be discounted through the use of market cards, which can also be used for things such as quick money-gaining or minor point-gaining. There are also combat buildings to deal with, which increase your combat force for the battles at the end of each age. Point buildings give the number of points listed on the card, science cards give you more points based on how many of a type you own and how many sets you build, and guild cards give you bonus points based on variables, such as how many point buildings you and other players have built and the like.

In addition to working with the different types of cards and trying to figure out which way you want to earn your points through them, each different Wonder has a different set of bonuses. Each one starts with a different resource, and each one gets different benefits if the player chooses to build on them. In addition to this, each Wonder has two different variations, each with their own bonuses. Playing one could lead to a completely different strategy than another one.
Outside of the strategic elements, the game particularly shines for a few other reasons. For one, it’s very quick, in terms of both learning and playing. A lot of games take forever to learn, but the easy-to-understand mechanics of “Seven Wonders” are a godsend for those who might not have the patience to sit around and learn a game for an hour. In addition to this, the game is a very quick play, sometimes taking only a half hour or so. This makes it a wonderful filler game, one to play between “heavier” games. It’s quick, yet strategic — enough to whet a player’s appetite and keep their mind active between longer games.

Another positive is the unique gameplay functions that “Seven Wonders” displays. The booster-draft format is particularly interesting — something that isn’t done much in games like this. The way that players only interact with players immediately to their left and right also adds an interesting spin to the game, making them have to pay close attention to only two other players while building their strategy. Finally, the different card types seem to be balanced well enough that there really isn’t one set strategy to winning the game. Other games suffer from this problem: once a player finds a particular strategy or combo that works very well, everyone tries to emulate it. In “Seven Wonders,” the different methods in which points are gained each seem to be a viable strategy.

The game is not without its negatives, though. For one, the game can sometimes be a bit bland. In my experience, while it was fun to figure out what strategy I wanted to work with, it sometimes felt way too much like I was just building my own Wonder and not caring about what was going on with other players, and that made it a bit less interesting. The game can sometimes seem like a lot of just picking a card and playing it, and that might turn some players away from it. In addition, while the short play time is quite nice, it might leave some players wanting more. Luckily, there is already an expansion in the works that might be able to alleviate this problem.

All in all, I find “Seven Wonders” to be an exceptional game. It’s full of strategy, it allows for a large number of players (always welcome when a lot of company is around), it’s quick to learn and play, and it’s just plain fun.

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