Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A review of 7 Wonders...

Every year or so for the last little while a game has come out that is deep enough to offer long-term playability but also short enough to be addictively replayable, usually more than once per gaming session.  For our group of friends, recent examples of this have been Race For The Galaxy but more so Dominion.  Well, I was worried this year but I am happy to say that a game to rival these two modern classics has just been released right before the end of 2010.  Antoine Bauza's 7 Wonders plays like a cross between RFTG and that great little Japanese filler Fairy Tale but manages to handle up to 7 players without jumping outside of it's 30-40 minute time frame.  The mechanics in 7W are hardly original but are put together so well that the resulting experience is quite addictive and absorbing.

The entire game takes place over 3 ages in which each player plays 6 turns.  Each player starts with a hand of 7 cards and everyone picks a card to play at the same time.  Once everyone has played their card, the players pass their remaining hands to their neighbours (clockwise the first and third round, counter the second).  This is repeated 6 times until players play one of their last two cards and discard the other.  It's all pretty simple, especially if you've played Fairy Tale.  Where it gets interesting is how the cards can be played and their effects on the game.

Many cards, especially in the first age, produce one or more of the 7 resources for you once they are played face-up to your tableau.  Since you only start with one of these resources and most cards require certain resources to be played, er... "built", one often starts the game by building up resources.  And this brings me to the first interesting little twist in the game.  You can actually always purchase resources that your direct neighbours have available.  So there is often exchanges of money as well as continuous appraisals of the cards laid by one's neighbouring cities.  As well, certain cards provide discounts, extra coins, and some even lead to free plays of upcoming cards in later ages.

In the final age, a randomly determined subset of the 10 purple "guild" bonus cards show up (think 6-Dev's from RFTG).  If you literally play your cards right, you may be able to build one or more of these for an average of an extra 6-10 points each.  In a game where final scores are usually between 40 and 50, the guilds can often determine a winner.  There are also many other ways to rake in points:  every three coins gets you a point, building levels of your monument gets you a big bonus, and many of the cards lead to huge points depending on how you play them.  As well, at the end of each of the 3 ages every player checks their military might (red cards) with their direct neighbours and points are awarded or taken away according to who is the strongest, lending some much-needed interaction to the game.

In a single game, everyone usually plays about 18 cards and all players play them at the same time.  So the whole game is over fairly quickly.  But that quickness does not imply a shallowness of play.  There are many streams to victory in this great little game: heavy military red cards, green science cards, blue culture, or even building certain resources so your neighbours have to pay you tons.  But unlike RFTG where one plays a relatively singular strategy, it seems that players have to construct a more well-rounded city by building some military for protection, resources to help with building and earning money, and then at the same time take advantage of the opportunities that are passed to them.  In fact, the game feels a bit more like Agricola in that sense, just without all that agonizing, brain-burning pressure.

And herein lies the difficulty that some have with the game.  For those who say it isn't deep, I think you're wrong.  One can definitely learn the cards and their build patterns and be able to play quite well.  But it really all depends what you are dealt and also what is passed to you.  And I think this is what actually takes the game from good to great.  Players require versatility with their choices and strategy as they don't have complete control of what cards they will end up seeing in their hands.  You can plan for a certain card but in the end your neighbour may use it to build their monument or play it themselves.  It makes the game feel a little more relaxed and, in my opinion, far more enjoyable.

So what do I think of the game? Well, I like it a WHOLE lot.  The game is easy-to-teach unlike RFTG, but still has a great amount of depth.  It is super-quick whether you have 3 people or 7 people, because your play really only depends on the two players adjacent to you.  It's lots of fun, especially when you get that one great card handed to you and actually have the resources to build it.  As well, the 7 different monuments have 2 different sides to play with so the starting choices add some real variety to each game.   All in all, this may not be my absolute favourite game of the year (I have yet to play Isla Dorada and I have high hopes) but given the play-time and awesome scalability, I think this is probably the best game of 2010.  Buy it, I don't think you'll regret it.

6 comments:

  1. I got my copy today and I've been trying to learn it as quickly as possible for a 5-player game tomorrow night. I haven't bothered to read reviews or watch videos of the game until today because I knew I was going to get it and I knew I was going to like it. At the moment I can't say I've played it, but I like "learning" it which is usually a good sign.

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  2. It's a quick teach. People will catch on very fast. We played three games in a row the last time we got together.

    Oh, and don't forget to order the eighth wonder at Boardgamegeek. It's only 5 bucks!

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  3. I've only played a couple of times, but it's definitely worth getting : easy to teach, quick to play, and each time is different (and different ways to victory)

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  4. Oh yeah. I ordered the 8th wonder before I got the first 7.

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  5. I've been itching to try it and thought I'd be waiting some time living over here...but it turns out the place we go to game has a sample... and it rocked i liked the simultaneous play... An the fact that it's most def a 'lets just play a round open and there you know how to play' kind of game.

    helps that I won all but one time we played :D You have to admit a game that makes everyone who played it go.. WANT is kinda good.

    I like that it's fast and easy, yet deep. Easy to explain and theoretically non games could be into it because it's not too complicated or drawn out.. now I'm torn.. this lords of vegas or samarkand... (or I could be an ass and let my friends buy them all :D)

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  6. This has definitely jumped onto my list of games that I would like to try out. Now to see if I can find a copy of it or Alien Frontiers first...

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