- Number of Plays: 29
- Game Length: 30 minutes
- Mechanics: Card drafting, set collection, tug of war
- Release Year: 2015
- Designer: Antoine Bauza Bruno Cathala
- Artist: Miguel Coimbra
- Publisher: Repos Production
7 Wonders is a pillar of the board game community, often a entry point for many people into this hobby. 7 Wonders has the amazing ability to play in 30 minutes no mater if you’re playing with only 3, or all the way up to 7 players.
While the big brother has a two player variant included, it’s wildly unsatisfying. Each player takes a turn sinking cards into a dummy city while competing to draft the best civilization. I found it annoying to manage and while it’s nice to have a way to deny cards to your opponent other than building your wonders, it left me (and my wife) feeling like we should have found a third player, or play a game actually designed for 2 players.
7 Wonders Duel is a game designed for exactly two players. It offers a tight race with alternate win conditions should one player manage to claim supremacy in scientific discovery or military might. If neither of those two conditions are fulfilled before the end of the game then the player who built the most civilized society will claim victory.
The game begins by drafting 8 of the 12 possible wonders between the two players , which should influence how your civilization will progress. Once the wonders have been drafted the age cards are laid out into a pyramid shape, with cards on the bottom covering cards higher up. Layers of cards alternate between being face up and face down. Sometimes you know what you’re working toward, and sometimes you’re revealing a new card for your opponent.
Almost every card will require some resources in order to build them. If you have the required resources within in your civilization, you can just add the card to your side of the table and start enjoying the benefits immediately. If you find yourself short of a resource you always have the option of buying the missing resources from the bank. The cost for each resource you want to buy is 2 coins, plus 1 more coin for every one of the depicted resource that your opponent controls.
There is a workaround available, in the first age there are gold market cards for each of the 3 basic resources that allow you to buy depicted resource from the bank for 1 coin each. This is incredibly important as if you find yourself missing a resource type and your opponent has 4, every time you need that resource you’re stuck paying 6 coins.
Money ebbs and flows a lot more freely in this version of 7 Wonders. With gold cards increasing the amount of money gained when discarding a card instead of building it, it’s not THAT unreasonable to not take any resource cards. If you can get the gold market cards, and one or two of the wild if you can get a couple of the market cards. It does cost a lot of money, but when you have 20 coins in your reserve, paying 4 for a clay doesn’t feel like quite the expense. Also, many cards allow you to build a card in the next age for free.
The two alternate victory conditions are controlled by the red military cards and the green scientific cards. For every shield on a red card you push the war marker down the military track. As it passes certain thresholds it causes your opponent to lose a small amount of money. If the game ends before the war marker makes it all the way to your opponent’s side you are rewarded with a small amount of victory points. If you do manage to push it all the way to the end of the track the game ends immediately. Conversely, the green scientific cards are a set collection achievement. There are 7 different scientific symbols in the game (one is on a scientific achievement pog which may or may not be present in each game). If you manage to collect 6 different symbols, the game ends immediately with you lording over your mastery of the sciences to your peasant (I’ve always likened this to achieving a space victory in Civilization).
There are 2 copies of the 6 different symbols, and collecting a pair of the same symbol grants you a scientific achievement pog. 5 science pogs are set out at the beginning and can offer some pretty powerful rewards, such as 7 victory points, or all blue cards cost 2 resources less, or granting you an extra turn every time you build one of your wonders. These pogs usually aren’t game breaking, but they can be very powerful if collected at the right time and utilized properly.
A common theme that develops after both players have a few games under their belt is counting ahead. . Every turn someone will take a card off of the tableu so if there is a specific card you want, you can just count the turns until or if you want to deny your opponent a specific card you often count the turns ahead to see who will get access to that card. The only way to change that order is to build a wonder that grants you a bonus turn, of which you may have 4 but you may have 0, giving you much less control over the flow of cards. .This is the most common complaint about the game that’s I’ve heard, if you didn’t manage to take a wonder at the beginning of the game that had that ability, then there is literally no way to change the order. If you see the one card your opponent needs to win the game and you don’t have one of those wonders available to you, then you’re toast.
Assuming that neither player achieves a military’s or scientific victory, the game ends once all the cards from the 3rd age are taken. Both players add up all the cards that give them points and the player with the most points wins.
7 Wonders Duel is a game that my wife and I absolutely fell in love with. She gave it to me within a few months we promptly played it 20 times. We’d pull it out on the ferry, play several games back to back to back. Unfortunately we kind of burned out on it just a bit, but it’s still one of the games that is always suggested when a 2 player game is a possibility.
7 Wonders Duel is likely my third favourite game of all time. It’s simple enough that I feel comfortable teaching it to someone who shows a slight interest in games (as compared to the games that I play with people who have no interest in games). As easy as it is to teach, the game has strategic depth necessary to keep core gamers invested. There’s enough luck that can swing the game but a skilled player will win more often than not.