7 Wonders

Can a game based on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World stand the test of time? Let’s hope it lasts longer than six of them.

7 Wonders Box

Players:  2 – 7                                           Best with:  4 – 7

Age:  10+                                                  GN Age:  Pre-teen

Game Type:  Board                                Time:  30 minutes

Publisher/Year:  Repos Production / 2011

Game Play: Card Drafting, Resource Management, Engine Building

Available from: All Retailers

Score:  Score 11  out of 12

7 Wonders Setup
The setup is easier than the rules imply. Each player gets a Wonders Board, 7 cards from the Age I deck, and three silver coins. The Age II and Age III decks are set aside for now and the other coins and Conflict Tokens are placed in the center. The Scorepad won’t be used until the end of the game.

The theme of this game is something very dear to my heart. Ever since I was a lad, I’ve been fascinated by the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. I was astounded by their beauty. I was mesmerized by their magnificence. And I was inspired by their ingenuity. I knew all the facts, figures, and trivial details. And I knew all 7 by name. The Colossus of Rhode Island, The Hanging Gardens of Baba O’Riley, The Tomb of Some Dead Guy, Some Big Temple but not the one in Greece, A Lighthouse (or was it a Library?), Maybe Another Statue, and those Triangle Things in the Desert. Yes sir, I was a veritable Encyclopedia Brittanica of the 7 Wonders.

7 Wonders Cover2
Okay, the actual Seven Wonders are (from left to right) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, The Colossus of Rhodes, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, The Great Pyramid at Giza, The Lighthouse of Alexandria, and The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

Sadly six of the 7 Wonders have gone the way of the dodo, but Repos Productions has crafted a game to recreate the grandeur and splendor of that Golden Age. A game where you take command of your own ancient civilization; harvesting resources, creating trade routes, gathering troops, constructing your city, and if you get around to it, building an everlasting monument as a testament to the pinnacle of human achievement. No pressure.

7 Wonders WW
There are 75 different structures (not counting your Wonder) in the game that you use to build your civilization. This photo has just 2 duplicates. Can you find them?

For those of you who are mechanically inclined, 7 Wonders is a card drafting and engine building game. It is also a resource management and point salad game, but we’ll get to that in a minute. “Hey, that’s great Game Night Blog, but what does all this mean for those who don’t speak “Spiel” (German for game)?”

A Card Drafting Game means that your hand of cards, from which you choose the action you will take, changes every turn. There are 3 rounds in the game, called an Age, as in Bronze Age, Iron Age, etc. At the start of each Age you begin with a set of 7 cards. You choose one card to do as your action, and pass the remaining cards to the player next to you. (The direction changes from Age to Age). Then you choose your next action from this new hand of cards. Your new cards are “drafting” behind the player before, as in auto racing. Sometimes these new cards play perfectly into your strategy, but if the cards are not in your favor, you may have to change tactics entirely. This constant cycle of change, adaptation, and evolution is a perfect metaphor to the progress of civilization.

7 Wonders Age I
In this mock game, at the end of Age I, Babylon has good sources of natural resources (brown cards), but no manufactured goods (grey cards). Fortunately, the Marketplace card (yellow) allows us to purchase those goods from our neighbors cheaply. The first stage of our Wonder is built (face down card), but we have no army (red cards) and are low on coin. 

Speaking of progress, that is the Engine Building aspect of the game. When the game begins, your engine (in this case, the city you are building) starts off small, but as you add more and more abilities and resources to it, your engine grows bigger and more powerful, allowing you to build better and more valuable structures. As the game evolves from Age to Age, new structures and more advanced elements are introduced, such as guilds and universities. Hopefully, you’ll have the resources to pay for them.

7 Wonders Colossus
The Colossus at Rhodes. Dedicated to the Sun- God, Helios, he stood at the entrance to the city’s harbor. Over 100′ feet tall, he was about the same size as the Statue of Liberty. Destroyed by an eartquake in 226 BC. Later melted down and sold for scrap.

Resource Management is another key element of the game. There are 7 resources in the game. Are you detecting a certain theme here? Some are natural materials such as wood or stone, others are manufactured goods like glass or paper. Most every structure you can build requires a construction cost of one or more of these resources. For instance, to build the Palace in Age III you will need all 7. There’s that number again, what can it mean?

7 Wonders Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. A monumental series of tiered gardens built for King Nebuchadnezzar II in the 5th century BC. This is the only Wonder that is unproven to have existed. Its exact location is unknown, though believed to be in Iraq, yet no remnants have been found.

Most of Age I will be spent collecting cards to generate these resources. For those building materials you cannot obtain, if you get the right cards, you can build Trading Posts which allow you to purchase resources from your neighbor for half price. This ability to buy resources is always an option, even without the trading posts, but you pay twice the cost. Or you can focus on building defensive structures to increase your military might allowing you to crush your neighbors in the inevitable conflict that occurs at the end of every Age, and more importantly earns you victory points at the end of the game.

7 Wonders Zeus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia. Dedicated to the God of Gods, and erected in 435 BC by the sculptor Phidias, this is the only Wonder actually located in Greece. The seated statue was over 40′ tall and made of ivory and gold. Destroyed by fire 800 years later in the 5th century AD.

And that bring us to the final element of 7 Wonders, the Point Salad. To win the game, you need to collect victory points. And there are a number of ways to collect points. Can you guess how many? That’s right, there are 7. This variety means that there is always more than one path to winning the game, and no one gets out to an early lead. This uncertainty is one of the best aspects of the game; everyone stays engaged and has a fair chance of winning.

7 Wonders Age III
At the end of Age III, we’ve completed our Wonder, built a number of structures (blue), invested in educational pursuits (green), and founded 2 guilds (purple). This earned us a respectable 58 victory points. Is it enough to win? Maybe. Who knows? The outcome of the game is impossible to predict.

Another feature we love is that the game plays slightly different depending on the number of players you have. Each new player adds new cards to the decks which you might not be familiar with, and more players add new complexities to how you manage your resources, trading posts, and armies. When we played with 7 people, the game felt completely unique, compared to playing with our usual four. The card drafting element was different, trading became far more important, and it was impossible to tell who was winning, which is a good thing.

7 Wonder Mausoluem
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Built to entomb King Mausolus (hence the name) around 350 BC in Turkey. About 45′ tall, this was the 2nd longest surviving Wonder. Destroyed in 1494 by an earthquake, many of its statues and artworks can be seen in the British Museum.

Needless to say, we love 7 Wonders, but there are a few minor negatives to the game. First, it has a strange learning curve. The rules make the game seem more complicated than it really is. Once the game is going, it all makes sense, but when you are reading the rules, it seems very confusing. Secondly, while each player has a great deal of interaction with the players to the immediate left and right, they have no interactions with those across the table. This is especially noticeable the more players you have. I wish that the game allowed engagement with all the players, not just the closest two.

7 Wonders Alexandria
The Lighthouse at Alexandria. Built in 3rd century BC, at the mouth of the Nile Delta in Egypt. At over 330′ high, she is one of the tallest ancient structures ever built. Damaged by earthquakes, she was dismantled in 1480 to build a nearby citadel. Site recently rediscovered by scuba divers.

Lastly and most sadly, the game doesn’t really integrate the Seven Ancient Wonders theme into the game. 7 Wonders is a terrific ancient civilization simulation game, and your personal game board has a lovely painting of your particular Wonder, but it doesn’t really matter which one you have. There are no significant differences between them, they are all constructed in the same abstract way, they serve no real function, and you could just as easily be building a capitol building or a palace. The Wonder doesn’t matter.

7 Wonders Athena
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Dedicated to the goddess of the hunt, this third version of the temple was built in 323 BC in Turkey. Alledgedly the grandest of the Wonders, she was over 450′ long and 60′ high. Destroyed by invaders in 262 AD, her site was rediscovered in 1869.

Just writing that sentence breaks my heart. These Wonders have served as an inspiration to me my entire life. The desire to create something artistic and beautiful that will endure long after the artist is gone is a powerful desire, and the Seven Wonders are the apex of that ideal. To see them diminished in any way is painful. And to use them as just another way to score points in a game, even one as good as this one, feels less than wonderful.

7 Wonders Pyramid
The Great Pyramid at Giza. The largest, oldest, most famous, and only surviving Wonder. Built as a tomb for the pharoah Khufu and completed around 2560 BC, over 2000 years before any other Wonder. At over 480′ tall, it was the tallest structure in the world until 1311 AD saw the completion of the Lincoln Cathedral.

But forget all that. We still love 7 Wonders. It is fun, fast-paced, and well balanced for playing with the entire family. It is one of the very few games that all four family members agree is a great game and we all love to play it. And just to get the two boys to agree on anything is a minor miracle in itself. Whenever we have a Game Night, at least one person chooses 7 Wonders, which says a lot, given how many games we own. 7 Wonders is a wonderful game and would be a welcome addition to any Game Night. When it came time to grade 7 Wonders, I was going to give it a 10 (no, not a 7). But my oldest son insisted that I score it an 11. As my son said, “Even though I can’t win at the game, I still love playing it.” That is high praise indeed.

7 Wonder Montage
The 7 Wonders Board Game. Built in 2011, and crafted by Antoine Bauza and dedicated to the indomitable human spirit and ingenuity of our ancient civilizations. Measuring 11″ square and weighting just under 3 pounds, she fits perfectly on any game shelf.

As always, to the ancient Greeks, the number 7 represents perfection and plenty and is the number of the (then) known planets plus the sun and the moon, and Game On!

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’ – Antipater of Sidon, 2nd century BC

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