Thursday, May 05, 2011

Best Card Drafting Game Ever--A Review for 7 Wonders

Published: 2010
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Publisher: Asmodee

Price: ~$35

Rules Complexity: Easy
Players: 2-7 (yes Seven)
Type: Competitive, Card Drafting, Civ-Lite Production
Artwork: A Bits: A Gameplay: A+
Playing Time: 25 - 35 minutes

Objective: Out-point and Out-wit your foes by drafting the best combination of resource and scoring cards

7 Wonders is quite simply the best Card Drafting Game I have ever played. And frankly, it is one of the easiest games of recent vintage that both has enough meat to keep you interested and is simple enough to learn in just a couple of plays. 7 Wonders will have long term staying power because there are a number of options for you here and those options will change each game.

Plus it plays seven. . .and not a wonky seven. . .a solid option for seven players. . .a rarity for sure.

The Game

7 Wonders plays in three ages. . .you are given a famous "Wonder of the World" that represents the Civilization that built said wonder and your goal is to maximize your standing and build both the wonder and your points by drafting a great mix of cards.

The game starts with dealing out a pile of cards to each player. . .the player picks up the pile and chooses the best card for him. In the first stage cards pass to the right. . .in the second to the left and then to the right during the third stage.

In the first stage you want to target production cards--essentially allowing you to gain things like wood, brick, cloth, etc. to build your wonder sections and other buildings. Essentially, your play area will look something like this:

Who knew you only needed a few cards to build the Great Pyramid. . .

In the second and third ages you tend to shift to drafting building, economy and science cards--as these are gateway cards to getting you more points instead of goods. In fact, none of the cards in the third age get you resources--so the game forces you to do that part in the early stages.

Don't Forget About your Wonder

The Wonder can be key to your game. . .depending on your "Civ" that is. Some of the Wonders simply give you Victory Points, but others allow you to do some other cool stuff like giving you free resources, allow you to buy resources at a discount or even supplies military strength. When you draft a card you can turn it upside down and count that as your Wonder Level--this provides you the ability to hide a card from your foes or bury a strong card that you cannot use yourself.

Your Neighbors are Not Your Friends

A key element of 7 Wonders is the interaction between your neighbors. These two "Nations" are the only ones you can affect and the only two that can negatively affect you, so you must watch what they are doing because you can take cards and bury them if you think they can use them. You can also purchase goods from both of the neighbors and, finally, you can try and suppress them with military might during each of the three ages. You can get bonus points for building an army stronger than a neighbor--up to 5 points for the third age.

Keys to Victory

7 Wonders gives you a lot of different options to score points and you really need to focus on two or three areas to get the win. Some of the more juicier ways to win are the Science Cards and the Guilds.

The Science Cards show up in all three rounds and allow you to stack them vertically and horizontally for major bonus points.

Stacking your Science Cards (Green) get you a beaker full of points

The Guilds are special cards found only in the third age that allow you to gain points for both your neighbors and your progress. These are driven by the number of players in the game and are random draws each game. . .meaning some are buried beforehand but all are powerful and can sway games by the number of points given. Some examples are giving you bonus point for the number of colored cards or for how many levels each neighbor (and you) has built on their wonder.

Getting the Right Mix of Guilds can be a real Game changer. . .

Ultimately, the person who sticks to their gameplan, runs counter to or sticks their neighbor with less optimal cards should do well. Like I said before, there are a number of paths to take to score points and this game lets you go down these paths numerous times in a short amount of time.

The Final Verdict

I don't get to play as many games as I may have in past years, but it doesn't mean I can't crown a clear Game of the Year Finalist when I see one. 7 Wonders is that kind of game. . .it's simple but straight-forward design, it's balance of depth and the ability to "pick-up and play" make it so. And really, after you read this review, go take a tour of the major online board game shops. . .nearly all of them have this on backorder. Sometimes you can say outlandish stuff like this is the hot game right now. . .7 Wonders is literally the hot game right now and should stay that way for months (if not years) to come.

Final Grade: A+++

Pros: Easy to Learn, Quick to Play, still offers a ton of depth and options for multiple plays

Cons: The 1st edition has bad money bits, which were replaced with actual coins in the 2nd edition. That's literally the only bad thing I can say about the game. . .

Recommendation: Buy (if you can find it) but more than likely six of your boardgaming friends already have this on backorder!


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