The ABCs of Gaming: The Number One Number Game

It was a year ago tomorrow that I started this 27-part series on The ABCs of Gaming.  We’ve finally reached the end, and quite coincidentally, it lands right on this blog’s 200th post.  So, without further ado, the number one number game is…

image by BGG user a_traveler

7 Wonders was designed by Antoine Bauza and published in 2010 by Repos Productions and Asmodee.  It’s a game for 2-7 players aged 10 and up that takes 30 minutes to play.  The game is primarily about drafting cards, which you’ll do as you try to build up your little civilization around your wonder.  7 Wonders was the first winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, and remains a very popular game.  It won the numbers poll with a whopping 56.8% of the vote, which was by far the highest percentage throughout the polls.  It beat out second place 1960: The Making of the President, which had a comparatively paltry 11.1%.

Components – image by BGG user Acetate

The game comes with 7 double-sided wonder boards, 49 Age I cards, 49 Age II cards, 50 Age III cards, 7 wonder randomizer cards, 70 cardboard coins, 46 military victory chips, and a scorepad.  At the start of the game, each player gets a random wonder card which indicates which wonder you get and which side you’ll use (the A side is less complex than the B side).  Players also get three coins.

There are three ages in the game.  At the start of each age, you’ll be dealt seven cards from the corresponding age deck.  From those cards, you’ll choose one.  Once everyone has chosen a card, all are played.  The remaining cards are passed to the left (in Ages I and III) or to the right (in Age II).  After each player has played six cards, the remaining one will be discarded and the age ends.

You have three options for how to play a card:

  • You can play it face up in order to take advantage of its benefit.  Brown and gray cards are resources.  Yellow cards generally involve money, giving you discounts on purchasing resources or extra cash.  Blue cards get you points.  Green cards have science symbols that will give you points depending on the combinations.  Red cards add to your military strength.  Purple cards are guilds, and don’t come out until the third age.
  • When playing a card, you may have to pay a cost in money or resources.  One resource will be printed on your wonder board, and you can add more to your pool by playing brown and gray cards.  If you don’t have the resources you need, you can purchase from your neighbors on your right or left for two coins each.  If you can’t pay for a card you want to play, you can’t play it face up.
  • You can play a card face down under one of the wonder slots on your board, paying the indicated cost for that stage.  This will get you a benefit that could be points or something unique to your wonder.  You must build the first stage before the second stage, and the second stage before the third.
  • If all else fails, you can discard the card for 3 coins.

At the end of the age, you’ll compare your military strength with the players on your right and left.  If your military exceeds theirs, you get points (1 in Age I, 3 in Age II, and 5 in Age III).  If it’s a tie, nothing happens.  If you lose, you get -1 point.

At the end of the third age, points are added up.  Cash on hand gets you 1 point per 3 coins.  Blue, yellow, and purple cards get you points as indicated on the cards.  Green cards gets you 7 points per complete set of three symbols, plus x-squared points for the number of cards you have of each type (one would be one point, two would be four points, three would be nine, and so on).  You’ll also add up your military points.  The player with the most points wins.

7 Wonders is not a complicated game to learn.  The difficulty comes in figuring out the optimum strategy.  There are a lot of symbols on the cards, and the amount of stuff you can do can be a bit overwhelming.  However, general tendencies can be picked up.  The best idea would probably be to do something that your neighbors are not doing.  That way, you’ll get passed cards you need and they don’t.  It’s hard to zero in on a strategy early in the game, which is why I think the Leaders expansion really elevates the game – you get a goal from the outset.

Card drafting was not a new mechanism when 7 Wonders came out.  Games like Fairy Tale and Notre Dame made use of it in varying degrees, but 7 Wonders was unique in that the drafting was pretty much THE mechanism of the game.  It also plays well with seven people in a short period of time, which gives it a good place in a lot of collections.  There are detractors out there, but I’m very comfortable with this game winning the numbers category.

The other nominees in the poll:

  • 1960: The Making of the President (2007/Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews/11.1%): A game about the 1960 presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.  It was Matthews’ next game after Twilight Struggle, and was called a Eurogame that wargamers could play.
  • 1830: Railways & Robber Barons (1986/Francis Treshem/8.6%): The king of 18xx games, this game took the basic mechanics of Treshem’s 1829 (considered to be the first 18xx game) and expanded them.  Mayfair reprinted it last year.
  • 6 nimmt! (1994/Wolfgang Kramer/8%): A very fun push-your-luck style card game where players are trying to avoid getting points.  I’ve played a couple of times, and had a blast each time.
  • Other (5.7%): Nominees included the 10 Days series, 1000 Blank White Cards, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, 1880: China, 221B Baker Street, 2nd Fleet, 42, and 7th Sea CCG.  Of those, I’ve played a couple of 10 Days games (good educational geography games), 1000 Blank White Cards (stupid fun where you make it up as you go), and 221B Baker Street (good deduction game with a lamentable roll and move element).
  • 51st State (2010/Ignacy Trzewiczek/3.2%): A post apocalyptic card game set in the world of Neuroshima.  7 Wonders was the first game I talked about on the blog, 51st State was the second.  And you see where they are now.
  • 2 de Mayo (2008/Daniel Val/2.9%): An abstract wargame based on a skirmish between the citizens of Madrid and Napoleon’s occupying troops on May 2, 1808.
  • 20th Century (2010/Valdimír Suchý/1.4%): An environmental game from the “other” Czech designer (who is more of a Euro designer than Vlaada Chvátil).
  • 1856 (1995/Bill Dixon/0.9%) and 1870 (1992/Bill Dixon/0.9%): Two 18xx games from the same designer.
  • 18AL (1999/Mark Derrick/0.8%): A print and play 18xx game set in Alabama.

Now I’ve said my ABCs.  Next time, won’t you sing with me?  Thanks for reading along.  I added a page of links to every post in the series to the top bar.  It’s been fun, and I do plan to start a volume two at some point.  For now, however, I’ll stick with my usual format of previewing games and reviewing a few.  I have ideas for other series to try out, but nothing concrete at this time.

And, as the series ends, I have to mark my 200th post on the blog.  I noticed about a month ago that it could work out, and so I made sure I did enough posts that we would hit the two century mark at the end of the ABCs.  And, to top it off, it’s a post about the very first game I ever talked about on the blog.  Anyway, thanks for reading…we’re just getting started.

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