7 Wonders Board Game Review

At the pinnacle of a hill stands a majestic monument, an architectural marvel that not only redefined its predecessors but also inspired countless imitators. This world-renowned monument continues to stand tall even today. Unsurprisingly, we are talking about the 7 Wonders Board Game Review.

7 Wonders is a card drafting game by Antoine Bauza in 2010. It is well-known for its wide player range and short runtime. 7 Wonders Board Game has the Expert Game of the Year award (Kennerspiel des Jahres) from the Spiel des Jahres Jury. But what sets this game apart?

Before we delve into that, let’s first explore how you can play the game.

7 Wonders Board Game – The Rules

7 Wonders has a straightforward premise: each player represents a distinct ancient civilization striving to construct the infrastructure that will propel their society forward. Among these structures are educational institutions, trade centers, and, of course, their Wonder—a civilization-specific monument that gives each player a primary goal to achieve. The game spans three Ages, after which players tally their points, and the player with the most points emerges victorious.

7 Wonders Board Game

In 7 Wonders, turns are taken simultaneously. Each player holds a hand of cards and must choose one to play during their turn. Once everyone has made their selection, they pass their hand of cards to their neighbor, and the next turn begins. This choose-and-pass mechanism is known as card drafting and has gained popularity since the release of 7 Wonders.

Once a card is selected, the player has three options:

  1. Play the card. This is the default option. Every card offers some benefit. When played, the card enters the player’s tableau*. Usually, there is a cost associated with playing the card, which we will discuss shortly.
  1. Discard the card to build a part of your Wonder. Each player has a unique Wonder that grants them a special advantage when built. Wonders typically require three cards to complete, and each contributed card earns a reward. The card’s original costs or benefits are disregarded, replaced by Wonder’s specified cost and reward. The card’s significance lies in its removal from circulation.
  1. Discard the card to obtain three coins, which are used to play cards.
  1. *The term “tableau” refers to the collection of cards that grant a player permanent powers in games such as Splendor or Wingspan.

So, what transpires when a card is played? Firstly, the player must pay for it. Cards display icons in the top-left corner, indicating coins or a combination of resources, which constitute the card’s cost.

Cards & Points

7 Wonders employs an ingenious resource tracking system that eliminates the need for resource tokens. Instead, resources are provided by cards previously played into the tableau. The printed resource value grants the player one permanent unit of that resource, which can be expended once per turn.

7 Wonders Board Game

If a player lacks a resource, they can purchase access to a neighboring player’s tableau of resources for two dollars each. To expedite gameplay, no negotiation is involved, and using a neighbor’s resource does not prevent its use by the neighbor or another player during that turn.

Cards offer an array of benefits, categorized by their color. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Brown and grey cards (Raw and Manufactured Goods) provide resources.
  • Yellow cards (Commercial Structures) are diverse, usually offering coins or reducing other costs.
  • Blue cards (Civilian Structures) contribute to end-of-game points.
  • Green cards (Scientific Structures) add to end-of-game points and involve a set collection mini-game. These cards display three different symbols, and players earn points for collecting matching symbols and for each set
  • Red cards (Military Structures) introduce another mini-game. At the conclusion of each Age, players compare the number of military icons displayed on their red cards. If a player has more than their neighbor, they gain points, and their neighbor loses a point.
  • Purple cards (Guilds) only appear towards the end of the game and award points based on other cards in players’ tableaus.

At the end of the game, points are determined by the values printed on the cards in each player’s tableau. Additional points may come from completed Wonders (if they provide points), military mini-games, and any leftover coins. Once players are familiar with the rules, the game typically takes no longer than half an hour to complete. However, there is a learning curve.

7 Wonders Board Game Review

7 Wonders can be a swift and enjoyable experience. The decisions players make feel significant, but the limited available paths allow for quick choices. My last two games of 7 Wonders, each with six players, lasted no more than twenty minutes.

Nevertheless…

In the past, I worked as a board game teacher at a quaint game café called Monopolatte. My role involved recommending games, assisting customers, and teaching them how to play. In 2013, when I started at Monopolatte, 7 Wonders was still a relatively fresh and popular game. What I mean is, I have played 7 Wonders dozens of times and taught it hundreds of times. Invariably, one significant hurdle for new players is the icons.

7 Wonders Board Game

Each card in 7 Wonders features at least one icon. There are icons for resources, science cards, trading, fighting, and special powers. Some icons even appear exclusively on a single card or Wonder.

During a first-time player’s initial game of 7 Wonders, they will likely need to consult the symbol reference multiple times. Regrettably, the only reference is the rulebook itself. In a group of seven novices, the first game can be a painstaking process of passing the rulebook around and waiting for one’s turn to look up a symbol.

This issue aside, I must emphasize that the icons are excellent. Once players are familiar with them, it’s easy to glance at a card and instantly understand its function. The consistent iconography facilitates smoother gameplay than if each card featured lengthy text descriptions. The game is also nearly entirely language-independent: a group of six players with no common language could still grasp what’s happening. The only exception is when a card’s name has a specific function.

Fortunately, the September 2020 edition of 7 Wonders includes three small reference sheets in the box. This addresses my primary concern with the original game, and I’m delighted to see this improvement. The new version also replaces the name functions with additional icons, making the game even more accessible to those unfamiliar with the Roman alphabet.

Future of 7 Wonders Board Game

At the time, 7 Wonders introduced simultaneous card drafting as a novel concept. It had not yet gained widespread adoption and thus, drawing early comparisons to Magic: The Gathering’s card draft.

Fairy Tale, released by an unknown Japanese publisher in 2004, may have inspired its designer’s interest in Japan; thus, it’s plausible that Fairy Tale influenced 7 Wonders in some way or another.

7 Wonders’ popularity soared after it was released in 2007. According to Repos Productions 7 Wonders Board game has earned more awards than any other board game ever. With over one million copies sold and six expansions plus a two-player spinoff, 7 Wonders was instrumental in popularizing simultaneous card drafting. An influence that even helped inspire Sushi Go!, released three years later.

Antoine Bauza’s 7 Wonders design marked an important turning point in his career. After unveiling Hanabi, Mystery Express, and 7 Wonders in 2010, Bauza followed with Takenoko the following year in 2011. The impact of 7 Wonders on both Bauza’s career as well as the board game landscape at large has been immense. There are other 7 Wonders Games as well like 7 Wonders Architects.

Worth Playing?

Absolutely! But, it isn’t perfect; let’s examine some of its pros and cons together.

Pros

Unfortunately, the selection of 30-minute seven-player games that are enjoyable but nonparty-oriented is quite limited.

Making decisions can feel weighty. While luck plays a role, every choice you make feels important and consequential.

Playthroughs in this asymmetrical card game features unique powers (from the Wonders), which alter the value of cards during each round.

Visually appealing. The illustrations are pleasing to the eye, even if players tend to focus more on icons than images.

The scoresheet is ideal, as it simplifies endgame tallying.

Cons

Setting up for a board game cafe can be tedious, especially with expansions.

Cards need sorting by player count in order to balance hands, and separating expansions can be an ordeal. In one case, the cafe decided to store expansions in their attic for easier resetting.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of icon references; however, this was addressed in the September 2020 edition.

This two-player game utilizes a dummy player. While some may enjoy this variation, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (except for 7 Wonders Duel, which is its own separate game).

It can be a somewhat isolated experience. Interaction with neighbors is limited to military and resource transactions, which may not be ideal for those seeking deeper connections.

In conclusion, 7 Wonders is an exemplary and influential game. It launched a career, inspired countless other titles, and continues to enchant players a decade after its initial release. So don’t wait any longer; take this chance on an amazing journey and create something truly remarkable with 7 Wonders!

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