Monday, January 17, 2011

Seven Wonders- Great Group Fun

I fall prey to hyped up games more often than I should. I have several AT-43 armies, a copy of Dungeon Lords, and two fleets for Uncharted Seas. So I wasted no time in starting off the new year with a copy of Seven Wonders. This game has been gathering some good buzz and I needed a group game that could accommodate seven players and move along at a quick pace. Happily enough Seven Wonders earns the hype and has been a big hit.

Seven Wonders is a game about building up your civilization better than your opponents build up theirs. Your civilization could include a "wonder" but might also feature trade routes, civic buildings, scientific discoveries, or powerful guilds. The game mechanics of Seven Wonders are twofold. Firstly, each player gets a handful of cards. The players simultaneously play one of the cards and pass the rest to the left. Then you resolve whatever effect the played cards have and repeat the cycle. Eventually there are no more cards to pass and one of three "ages" has come to an end.

The second game mechanic of Seven Wonders involves the cards themselves. A card may represent a civic building, army barracks, a scientific advancement, or a source of resources such as "clay pit." Some cards may be placed for free. Some require you to have already placed certain cards- for example, some buildings require the "clay pit" card to already be in play to simulate having the bricks needed to build. Over the course of an age you may choose to play some resource cards and then later on "build" with the resources and have a "temple" or "library." Overall this is a pretty simple process and the cards are easy to read and understand.

Finally, at the end of three cycles of card play the players are scored for their achievements. In general it pays to have a lot of something so the player with lots of buildings or lots of scientific achievements is going to do well. The scoring process takes one practice game to really grasp but is basically simple.

Seven Wonders has several great qualities. For one, it's fast and there's little downtime spent waiting for other players. You can influence other players to some extent but there's no way to really harm or disadvantage your opponents. I think that's a big plus for families as well as sensitive adults who find cut-throat play dreary. I like building civilizations and Seven Wonders rewards someone who has an imagined goal for theirs. It's fun to say "I would love a civilization based on trade routes and guilds" and that's a winning strategy. Your friend might say, "nope, for me it's libraries, laboratories, and universities," and that could win too. The only option that seems weak is the military one, which is fine with me.

The only real caveats to Seven Wonders are that you do have little effect on other players during the game and it is a bit of a light game. I think there's plenty of replay value but I don't know if it is quite as deep as Race for the Galaxy or Catan. Not a terrible flaw but it should be noted.

Caveats aside, Seven Wonders is highly recommended for groups and families. It's fast, fun, and unlikely to lead to hurt feelings or grumpy, aggressive play.