Asmodee Games’ “7 Wonders” has won more awards in two years than most games will win in their lifetime. It is a deeply strategic, yet elegantly simple card game for 3-7 players that plays in about 30 minutes. It has many characteristics of a Euro-style game, including resource management, limited player interaction, and no player elimination. “7 Wonders” is considered by many to be an excellent gateway game, useful for getting non-gamers interested in hobby games. I think it depends on who is playing.
Here’s a brief overview. “7 Wonders” is played over three ages, each lasting 6 turns. Players take their turns simultaneously, playing one card from their hand and resolving it. Cards do a variety of different things, such as providing resources, constructing buildings, strengthening military power, and developing scientific prowess, just to name a few. Additionally, every player has one of the titular 7 Wonders, which they are attempting to build throughout the game. Sounds pretty standard, right?
Well, what makes the game interesting is that each turn, after played cards are resolved, players pass the remaining cards in their hand to a player next to them, thus giving each player a new selection of cards every round. Obviously, this can make the game somewhat chaotic. However, it adds an interesting level of strategy, forcing players to make difficult decisions about which cards to play. Do you play Card A, which would be awesome for you, and then give the player to your left Card B, which would be awesome for them? Or do you play Card B, even if it may not be the best choice for you, so as to deny your opponent the card they want?
“7 Wonders” really shines in its replayability. Depending upon the number of players, the optimal strategies can change drastically. For example, at the end of each of the three ages, military points (red cards) are scored. This scoring is determined by the numbers of military symbols players have on played cards. If, at the end of the first age, I have 3 military symbols on cards I played, the person on my left has 2, and the person on my right has 4, I will receive a 1 point token for having more than the left player, who will in turn get a -1 point token for having less than me. I will then receive a -1 for having less than the right player, who receives a +1. In later ages, the military rewards are +3 / -1 and +5 / -1. Thus, in a 3 player game, military cards seem to be an excellent strategy. Get points for yourself, while hurting all opponents. In a 7-player game, though, this strategy may or may not be effective, because you are only interacting with the players to your left and right, thus leaving 4 players whose military strength does not directly affect you.
The game is very well balanced in this regard. There aren’t really any overpowered cards, but certain cards can be better than others depending on the actions you have taken previously. In my experience, the only “best” strategy is to focus primarily on one or two types of cards to build up, rather than trying to get a little of everything. Science cards (green), for example, get scored partially based on the number of like symbols squared. As such, if I only have one science card, I will score substantially less than if I had been collecting science symbols all game.
While “7 Wonders” is very easy to play, it can be very difficult to teach. As I have expressed earlier, I feel that I am very good at teaching games. Still, I have found this game to be tricky to teach, even to somewhat experienced gamers. It’s hard to explain why this is, there is just a lot of information for players to keep in mind, enough that it can be overwhelming.
I think this difficulty is due to its attempt to be language independent, relying on pictures and symbols over words and text. As I have suggested, this game is very symbol-heavy. For a first time player, it can be overwhelming. While the rules do include a key to what the symbols mean, it can delay the game to have 6 people trying to determine what all the symbols in their hands mean. Furthermore, this game gets big, and can look intimidating. When I play, I usually just set up the game on the floor, because it takes up a lot of space.
That being said, the pieces are very nice. Oversized cards and thick, sturdy cardboard components showcase the solid production value of the game, but the best part is the game art. It is STUNNING. The individual Wonders are beautifully illustrated, providing appealing visuals and aesthetic themes.
“7 Wonders” is one of those games that’s learned easiest by playing. I think this is a good thing and a bad thing, depending on who is learning. Some people like to know every single solitary word of the rule book before they start playing, others like to have the overall concept explained and learn the details as they go. If the people you game with seem more the latter than the former, this game might be a great addition to your collection. “7 Wonders” is a pretty good, light game, the kind that can be enjoyed by large or small groups. It’s definitely not my favorite game ever, but I enjoy playing periodically. Give it a try, if you get the chance.
Does it deserve 30+ big time awards? I don’t know. It’s a good game, and I’ll leave it at that.
Overall Rating: B