Sometimes we like to step away from video games and play games of a physical type. This column will take a look at a different board game every week. This is The Board Game Fanatic.
“Every time I look at the box, I’m not surprised to see all of those awards.”
These are words my friend often says out loud whenever we open a box of 7 Wonders. Having played many sessions, it’s hard to disagree with his statement. Like last week, we’re going to talk about a simple game with complex scenarios and outcomes. Unlike Betrayal, however, 7 Wonders may be a bit less accessible.
Or maybe I just have an impossible time explaining the game to others without simply referring it to “drafting like Magic the Gathering.” Even though that’s essentially what the game actually is.
The premise of 7 Wonders is short and sweet: get the most points to win. You’ll accumulate these points over three rounds as you draft cards. Drafting is a process where you’ll be given a stack of cards, select a card for personal use, and then pass the remaining stack to the next player. You’ll then pick up the stack given to you and repeat the process until the cards run out.
Without going into detail about the game itself, the drafting process adds in its own layer of strategy. Veterans of Magic the Gathering will already know exactly what I’m talking about, but I’m aware that there are those who haven’t fallen victim to the cardboard cocaine just yet, so allow me to explain. There will often be times that the “correct” card choice isn’t terribly obvious, so you’ll have to think of various scenarios in your head: “which card has the best chance of coming back to me?” “What type of cards am I likely to be passed next?” “Which card does the next person need the most so I can just take it from them out of spite?” The game’s mechanics allows for critical thinking before you even begin to worry about collecting points, adding to what was already a challenging process.
Let’s talk about that very process. There are several ways to gain points. You can play cards that flat out give you victory points. Larger armies will win points at the end of every round. Building science cards can have extraordinary payouts to the point where I personally rely on them a bit too much. Of course, you can’t expect to play these cards for free. You’ll need proper materials to build them, so it’s generally wise to play these cards first. Should you not have the proper material in front of you, it’s possible to purchase the proper goods from the people to your right or left, meaning it’s wise to have spare change handy.
The true beauty of 7 Wonders shines as the game progresses. There’s never a clear cut winner until the final score has been tallied. Sure, I could be doing well after the first two rounds, but everything builds up to the final round, where the game is won and lost. If I put all of my eggs into the science basket, for example, and don’t see any science cards come my way, then I’m up a creek without a paddle. It’s remarkable to see people pull off some pretty insane comebacks and even more entertaining when people sniff them out and begin hate drafting cards to put an end to the shenanigans at play.
This is what makes the game so fun: the constant evolution of gameplay during play sessions. Is it accessible as last weeks’ game, Betrayal at House on the Hill? Definitely not, but it’s just as easy to pick up once you get going. I’ve often seen people come through and win despite having never played before. Could it be the fact that veterans are over thinking their strategies? Possibly, but that’s one of the many reasons why 7 Wonders so enjoyable.
There are people who will argue that the game takes up a fair amount of space even when you’re playing with, say, three or four players (the game allows for up to seven). Truth be told, I only find this to be a minor complaint. A lot of people will also point out that the best way to victory is through science. While, yes, if no one else is doing science then it’s easy to use that to win, but more often than not I’ve found that a mix of strategies was used by a game’s winner. There’s a lot to like about 7 Wonders. It’s short and simple game with mechanics that allow for a change of gameplay between rounds without interrupting its flow.