Today I’m going to be reviewing one of my favourite games, 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders is a fantastic game that takes another element of limited M:tG and makes it into an entire game. In this instance, it isn’t deck building, but drafting.
I first encountered drafting when I was about 16 years old at 401 Games in Toronto. The owner there put it to us that we should play a draft with our packs and we got underway. I was amazed at this very new way to play Magic that was both fun and needed me to make decisions on the fly. Furthermore, our collections didn’t matter. A friend of mine who didn’t have a particularly good collection smoked us all, and I found out that I wasn’t actually all that good at making a killer deck or even playing the game. THIS was something new and awesome.
Following that, draft has been my favourite M:tG format and I pretty much eschewed other forms of playing in favour of draft. There’s so much to do in draft- you have to keep track of what your opponents are picking, what cards are coming back around the table, and what colours are being passed your way. Drafting is not just about picking the best card out of the pack, it is also about remembering what cards you have picked and tailoring your picks to make synergies with the rest of your deck.
7 Wonders makes draft THE GAME. That’s the whole game. Pick a card from a hand of cards, play it, and pass the cards to the next player. Then repeat it until the end of the game. The whole time, you’ll be building up your civilization, working towards your Wonder goals and trying to build the best balanced empire possible. I’ve played it a few dozen times and haven’t got bored of it yet- drafting is a really fun mechanic.
One criticism that can be leveled at 7 Wonders is that you don’t really care about what some of the other players at the table are doing, and I think that’s a fair criticism. You can get VERY lost in what you’re doing, or what your immediate neighbors are doing, and can’t really affect what is happening across the board. Another criticism that 7 Wonders is susceptible to is that it is not a very interactive game. You can spend the entire game in silence. The game also gets a bit samey after a while, but to be honest, this is a criticism that can be leveled at most board games.
Criticism aside, 7 Wonders works because you’re always doing something. While not every game can be a constant roller coaster of decisions, 7 Wonders is, and it is able to make up for a lot of the criticisms by this fact alone. There is no downtime in 7 Wonders. Well, there’s SOME downtime (you’ll be waiting on someone to pick a card and pass you a hand), but it’s at most maybe a minute. At other times, you’ll be the person agonizing between two very good cards. The game makes you make decisions all the time and that’s great. Will you decide to advance your own interests or screw over the person to your left by taking a card that they really need? All of these decisions are what make 7 Wonders a beautifully crafted game.
7 Wonders also has some very good expansions, but the Leaders expansion is particularly good. Part of what makes 7 Wonders so good is that it’s very understandable by new players. They GET that the Pyramids of Giza took a lot of materials to build, and so it is going to take a lot of materials to BUILD your Wonder. They understand the symbols and the history and that makes it easier to get into the game. The Leaders expansion adds on this idea by adding historical figures to your game. New players GET that Julius Caesar was a military leader. This game is easily understandable to the new player. As you play, the theme fades away, and what is revealed underneath is a good game. Often, when the theme fades away, you’re left with something that isn’t very interesting. In this case, there’s a great game here, and the theme enhances the game. The Leaders expansion adds yet another draft, and then makes you make even more decisions! Should you use your gold on playing a leader, or should you just save your gold for your normal turns because you haven’t really played resource cards in the first two ages? Leaders is a must after you’ve exhausted the main game.
Leaders also scales well with the number of players you have. It’s one of those rare games that is as good with 3 people as it is with 7. Since there’s no downtime, you can easily play with 7 people without getting bogged down and bored. That’s an incredible feature that will give 7 Wonders a prominent place on your gaming table.
7 Wonders is that rare game that takes one mechanic, does it really well, and can overcome criticisms that would cripple another game. Dominion and 7 Wonders share a limited sense of interaction, but 7 Wonders overcomes those concerns by having just enough interaction, and then making the game all about doing ONE thing at the same time as everyone else. There’s no time to get bored in 7 Wonders. So go out and get it, if you haven’t done so already.