What It Is
Inspired by the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as compiled by the Antipater of Sidon around 140 BC, 7 Wonders sets you in that world and gives you the chance to construct one of those iconic structures. Each player controls a different city board, and throughout the game you’ll play cards to either establish buildings in your city or work on your wonder itself. Both buildings and the different stages of your wonder confer bonuses to your side- money, military strength, victory points, and so forth. The historical theme is high, both in the depictions of the wonders and their different bonuses, and also in the names and functionality of the buildings you can choose from. Don’t know an aqueduct from an apothecary? You will after a few sessions with this one.
The central element of 7 Wonders is selecting which cards to build- and which ones you will pass to your neighbors to use. Over the course of three rounds you will take turns selecting one card from a hand and passing the remainder to your left or right, meaning you have to think on your feet to build up a successful strategy since you won’t know for sure what cards will be in your next hand. In effect though this also limits how much brain-burning you have to do…while long-term planning is still beneficial, there are only so many known choices to consider at any given time. It can be freeing not having to envision 4 hours worth of moves from the beginning of Turn 1.
How It Plays
7 Wonders plays fast, and overall is a light strategy game. Most sessions can be completed in under 45 minutes, which is a bonus for those new to board gaming, or anything without enough time (or attention span) to really get into long games. There is certainly enough strategy involved to keep it interesting for serious gamers, but at the same time it is on the lighter end of the spectrum, which can sometimes be a nice change of pace from something like Agricola or Axis & Allies.
Since you’re passing cards to (and receiving them from) your opponents, there are extensive opportunities to let spite guide your choices. However, for the most part it is usually better to play something that really helps you rather than something that hurts your neighbor, unless your group is particularly vindictive. There is some luck involved in the arrangement of the cards into various hands but this is a game with no dice, so it’s not usual to feel like anyone won or lost primarily based on luck.
7 Wonders can be played with up to seven people, and while 4-5 usually flows best it is impressively enjoyable with just 3 or a full table of 7.
It May Be For You If…
This game fills a short/light game itch in a similar way to Ticket to Ride or Citadels. The greatest strength of 7 Wonders though is with a large group. Each player chooses his card simultaneously, so the amount of downtime you’ll experience is likely a few minutes total over the course of a whole game- even with 7 players. Anyone with a large playgroup should look into this one, especially if your friends are used to falling asleep or running side games while waiting for their turns. Military competition between players is mostly abstract so you never feel like you’re being gunned for too much, and in the end many different strategies are always viable- there is never one “best” path to victory.
The 7 Wonders of the ancient world were:
- The Great Pyramid of Giza
- The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
- The Mausoleum of Helicarnassus
- The Colossus of Rhodes
- The Temple of Zeus at Olympia
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
- The Lighthouse of Alexandria
How To Dominate Your Friends
Concentrate on diversity. The less obvious your plans are, the less likely your friends will intentionally bury cards to hurt you. It’s also important to realize there are a *lot* of high-powered cards in Era III, and they each require large numbers of different resources. Build up a diverse city and capitalize on all those opportunities others leave behind.
In Era I, never overlook the power of the brown cards that provide a choice between two resources. Yes, they cost a gold to build, but the flexibility they provide is priceless. If you can get two of these during the opening Era with at least one resource each that pertains to your wonder stages, you can often set yourself up to build almost anything without ever having to purchase materials from your neighbors.
As far as your wonder itself, it’s up to you how much it is worth pursuing. Don’t go too far out of your way to get resources for it, but do look for opportunities to bury cards that are worthless to you or would help others, and get a wonder stage at the same time. It certainly is possible to win without building any part of your wonder at all, as odd as that may sound at first.
Lastly, the path to victory through science can be a powerful one that you should always consider, especially if you open with a city that provides a grey resource. If you can get three of each symbol you’ll net 48 points, often enough for victory with a dozen or so thrown in from your other pursuits. Even two of each symbol generates 26. To go science though, you usually need to go all-in from the very start. Build green structures at every single opportunity, even over other quality choices or if you have to pay your neighbors to afford them. If you can’t build a green, build a grey resource card whenever possible for future green builds.
Science is the easiest strategy to notice, and thus to sabotage. Opponents burying green cards more than once or twice can really spoil your chances of stockpiling them, which makes taking every one you can get even more critical. This route works better with fewer players, as a result. With 7 people, between multiple people running science paths and other people burying greens, you’re usually better off going a more diverse route.