From bored to board: Explore the Seven Wonders
BY LAWRENCE GRABOWSKI Special Columnist
Seven Wonders is a Resource-Collection game where players try to accrue the most points using a number of different strategies. Each player has a board named after one of the Seven Wonders of the World that lends itself to a particular play style. The game consists of three rounds, called eras. Each player begins the era with seven cards that are either resources or ways to score points. A turn consists of selecting a card, playing it facedown, and passing the remaining cards to an adjacent player. Everyone then reveals his or her card simultaneously and does whatever the cards indicate. Once the seven cards have been used, the players go to war, which involves comparing the number of military symbols everyone has. After the third era, points are tallied and a winner is declared
Seven Wonders shines for a number of reasons. The randomness is regulated, being limited to the card order, and the game is won by the person with the highest score, not the first to a certain number of points. These ensure that the game doesn't drag. Everyone playing simultaneously means little downtime, which helps people stay engaged. The negotiation component is much less obvious than a game such as Settlers of Catan, but it is certainly present. Hate Drafting, the act of purposely discarding or using a card simply to deny it to another player, is essential, and fun.
Of particular note is the way the game handles player interaction. It supports up to seven players who are all competing with each other to win, but each player only ever interact with the two adjacent to them, for resource trading and war. This opens up some interesting possibilities. For example, there are seven resources, four basic and three advanced. It is possible to box players out of a resource by simply not building it if one can get it from your other adjacent player.
The boards also add an interesting play element. Each board has a number of tiers that can be unlocked. Some of them give points and some give a boost to particular strategies, the Colossus of Rhodes helps you win during the war phase for example. To unlock a tier, you tuck a card under your board instead of revealing it as normal. This is a great way to Hate Draft someone while still deriving benefit from the card.
The rules use a number of mechanics that most people will be familiar with, needing specific combinations of cards to achieve something, for example. The greatest barrier to entry, rules-wise, is that resources have no physical representation. If a player has a quarry that generates two stone, every turn has two stone. If you haven't used them both by the end of the turn, they go away. Even if you use both of them, you also have two stone available for purchase by either player adjacent to you.
If you like Resource-Collection games, you could do worse than picking up a copy of Seven Wonders, and you would be hard-pressed to do better. The rules are simple enough to be understood after a single play through and the listed playtime is fairly accurate. Enough variability, between card shuffling and player interactions, keeps the game unpredictable, and several levels of depth can be teased out.