BGG Rank #32 – 2/3/2017
7 Wonders deserves a lot of credit for its contribution to board games, as the game that popularized the ‘pick and pass’ card drafting mechanic. In a world where so many games can be described as “a mix of ____ and ____”, I have great respect for games that are unique and novel at the time of their release. But, like many of the pioneers among modern board gaming, many copies of 7 Wonders now sit on gamers’ shelves gathering dust while newer and flashier games make it to the table. So the question is this: can 7 Wonders stand up to its contemporaries, or is it ready to be consigned to history like the ancient wonders it depicts?
I had previously owned a copy of 7 Wonders and played it a number of times, but for whatever reason it hadn’t stuck as a favorite. However, after really enjoying the newer 7 Wonders Duel (currently ranked in the top ten), I’ve recently gotten the original 7 Wonders back to the table a few times. It’s a good ‘gateway’ game, one that you can bring out among fairly casual gamers without too much risk of scaring anyone off.
So as I prepared to pick a game for my 7th review, I decided it would be a fitting game to break out when our friends Winston and Rachel came over for dinner this past Friday. As luck would have it, our group of four quickly grew to six. It turned out that my mom ended up visiting the DC area this past weekend, so of course we had her join us as well. My wife also reached out to our friend Jen to loop her in as well.
To top it all off, just as people were arriving on Friday night, our neighbor Justin showed up unannounced. It might have been pure coincidence, or he might have looked out his window and seen someone carrying 7 Wonders up to our front door.
Justin claims that he had never played a board game before we moved in down the street from him. We first had him over to play games last year during the storm that many in our area of the U.S. called “Snowpocalypse”. We were originally going to play Dead of Winter (because, duh), but we switched to Mysterium to accommodate more players. Justin was so sure that the fork was the murder weapon, even before the ghost had played any cards. Out of pure luck, he was right, but from that moment on he has loved board games.
If not for board games, we might never have become friends with Justin, and he might not have pulled his best Steve Urkel or Kimmy Gibbler impression at our door at that very moment. But he did, and just like that, we were playing 7 Wonders with a full party of seven players.
Of all the times I had played 7 Wonders, I realized that I had never played it with the maximum player count of seven. And playing 7 Wonders that night with seven players gave me a whole new appreciation for it.
For one thing, 7 Wonders scales seamlessly from three all the way up to seven players. Unlike a lot of games, the experience and speed of play are remarkably similar at any player count. Sure, there are small differences you might notice, like a slight difference in the importance of military cards, and how many times you see each hand of cards in a round. But largely, I found the differences to be immaterial.
Play flowed smoothly with seven players, even though it was the first time learning the game for Justin and several others at the table. It’s an easy game to teach, for its level of strategic depth. You pretty much only need to learn one repeated action — pick one card from your hand and pass the rest to your neighbor. From the very first game, everyone picked up how to play, enjoyed it, and wanted to play again. They may have picked it up a little too fast though, because after winning the first game, I ended up coming in fourth place in the second. Rachel played a great game to come in first, in just her second time ever playing 7 Wonders.
Considering this experience, I’ve concluded that seven years after it was published back in 2010, 7 Wonders is still relevant as a game that deserves to make it to the table and not just sit on the shelf as a relic of the past. I’d definitely recommend it to those who have not yet tried it, and I’d recommend those who own it to dust it off and give it another play. If you’re already one step ahead of me in that regard, good on ya.
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