Designed by Antoine Bauza
Release Year: 2010 Complexity: Medium
👥 2-7 Players ⏰ 30-45 min 💸 ~$50 🔗 Buy
7 Wonders is a card-drafting civilization game that will have you selecting cards over 3 ages to build your unique Wonder, invest in science and infrastructure, and war with your neighboring opponents. All turns are performed simultaneously, with each player selecting a card from their current hand to play, and then passing the remaining cards to the next player. Once all but the last card in each hand have been drafted, the Age ends and you compare your military power to the players on your left and right, distributing victory points based on the results. New hands are dealt at the beginning of each Age, and after 3 Ages the players will tally their final scores.
Each time you select a card in 7 Wonders, you can decide to play it for its effect, use it to build a stage of your wonder, or discard it for 3 coins. Many cards require you to have the matching resources to play, so collecting resource production cards is important for having more playable options. However, you can also pay either of your neighbors two coins to use one of their resource icons, and some cards can also be played for free if you have the prerequisite card from the preceding Age.
You are constantly faced with decisions like, “Do I take this card that immediately benefits me, or take this other card that will give me the potential of stronger options later?” If you can acquire a lot of money, you may be able to get away with fewer of your own resource cards. But be careful, if neither you nor your neighbors have a specific resource going into the late game, you may be locked out of playing any cards that require it. If you want to gain the powerful benefits from building your unique wonder, you know that, multiple times during the game, you will need to pass on the options in your hand to play a card face down. But when is the right time? Do you push your luck that a future hand will have worse options than your current hand?
While most of what your opponents are doing does not affect you directly, the sharing of resources, military battles, and overall strategies of your two neighbors give you plenty of reasons to keep an eye on what they are doing and take those variables into account whenever you select a card. Especially with abilities like the green technology cards that can multiply to huge totals if a player collects a lot of them, you don’t want to be the player that kept passing your neighbor the perfect cards for them to amass a ridiculous amount of points.
Player Counts - 7 Wonders plays well across a wide variety of player counts, mainly because of its use of simultaneous card drafting. There is a 2-player variant which we can’t recommend directly, though some people seem to enjoy it. And if you pick up the Cities expansion, it pushes the game to 8 players which still works great.
Abstract vs. Thematic - The asymmetric wonders and use of resources to build cards help to reinforce the civilization theme, but the theme definitely fades into the background as you start thinking about the card effects and which ones to keep.
Luck vs. Skill - There is a nice balance of luck and skill here. While the hands of cards are randomized, your strategy is constantly informed by the cards that you and your opponents are playing. However, the card drafting causes the skill in the game to lean more towards repeated tactical decisions than long-term strategy.
Multiplayer Solitaire vs. Highly Interactive - The core mechanisms don’t sound particularly interactive as each player is working on their own tableau, but the strategies of others, and especially your neighbors, really have a lot of influence on how you approach your own decisions.
Short Setup vs. Long Setup - It is a fairly easy game to set up, with the main chore being removing cards from the decks to configure them for your specific player count. But then you can just deal hands and get playing.
Easy to Teach vs. Hard to Teach - While 7 Wonders is relatively easy to teach as far as strategy games go, we think it is trickier to teach well than it often gets credit for. Players need to understand all the card types and how resources and prerequisites work, and the hidden, simultaneous card drafting means that it is a little harder for experienced players to help out new players that may be confused by their options.
Low Setup Variability vs. High Setup Variability - Each player getting a unique wonder and dealing unique hands gives this nice setup variability, though the deck for a player count will always be the same outside of some of the purple guild cards that are randomized in the Age 3 deck.
Things to Like
✅ Every Turn Is an Interesting Decision - One of the great things about card drafting is you are constantly given a choice among several good options, and every time you receive a new hand from your neighbor, it is a new puzzle figuring out which of those cards serve you best. The interest of the decision is amplified by some cards helping now versus others, such as resources, investing in the future, as well as the fact that you want to make sure you aren’t passing the next player something too good.
✅ Almost No Downtime - The other great thing about card drafting is that turns are performed simultaneously, and you are rarely waiting long for the next interesting decision. This comes at the expense of some direct player interaction but is still a huge strength as it allows everyone at the table to have a satisfying strategic experience with a game length that remains short even with larger player counts.
✅ Great Ratio of Depth to Game Length - And it is really the combination of those interesting decisions and quick play time that give 7 Wonders an outstanding ratio of depth to game length. For a larger group that is still looking for a more strategic experience, 7 Wonders gives them great bang for their buck.
✅ Variety of Strategic Routes - And the game remains interesting after many plays, largely because there is a lot of room for your strategy to play out differently. There are some extreme strategies such as spamming blue point cards, green technologies, or dominating military battles, but there are also any number of hybrid strategies that could be victorious. If you want to play well, you really need to be willing to adapt to the cards you receive, the decisions your neighboring opponents make, and the opportunities afforded by your unique Wonder.
Things to Dislike
❌ Falls into Narrow Niche of Complexity - In our experience, 7 Wonders can fall into kind of a weird in-between category where it can have too much complexity for some less experienced gamers, but can also leave some gamers feeling like it isn’t complex enough. As long as you have a group that all fall within those bounds they will likely have a great time, but for a game that can play all the way up to 7 players, the odds go up that at least one person in the group falls outside the target audience and it can make it a little harder to get to the table.
❌ Hate Drafting Can Feel Forced - And while keeping an eye on your opponent makes the tactical decisions more interesting, there are also times where you feel you have no choice but to block your opponent from an amazing card, and it can feel less fun giving up a turn to take something that may not be very good for you.
Ryan (94 Plays) - 8 Daniel (80 Plays) - 8.5
Is It For You?
If you want your interaction to be a little more direct or prefer strategic planning over tactical decisions, 7 Wonders might not be the best choice. 👎
But if you want a strategy game that can support higher player counts while still playing quickly, enjoy figuring out the best card out of a hand of options, and like building up your own tableau of cards in front of you, 7 Wonder fits the bill and still holds up after over a decade. 👍