The year is 2010. I’m a bus headed to a friend’s house. I just bought 7 Wonders. The game is in my backpack on the seat next to me. I have watched a review for the game (at that time, probably Dice Tower) and I imagine what the game will be like. Will my friends like it? Will I like it? Will we play it once and then will it sit on my shelf with all the other boxes I only open about once a year? 7 Wonders turned out to be a game we immediately fell in love with. That first night I brought it over we played it about four or five times in a row. Seven years later, and it is still my favorite light-weight, gateway euro games.
As with most of the best gateway board games, 7 Wonders hinges on a very simple and intuitive mechanic. At the start of each round (which is an era or age or some grand expanse of time) a deck of cards is shuffled and seven cards are dealt out to each player. Players simply choose one card and once all players have chosen, the cards are revealed. Cards can be built (added to a tableau in front of the player), sold for 3 coins, or used to build one stage of the player’s wonder. A simple, elegant, easy-going puzzle that even the most casual gamer can get into.
The enjoyment of the game comes from the interactions players have with their neighbours. When building, a player can buy resources from the player sitting to their right or their left. In between each round of the game, players will compare their military ratings and gain victory points if they are stronger, or negative points if they are weaker. As the game progresses, each player will hopefully be fleshing out a strategy for victory, players need to be aware what their opponents are up to so that they do not pass them the cards they will need to win.
Victory points in 7 Wonders are best gained by focusing on two or three paths. The game encourages some set collection, but with a balance. A number of random guild cards, which give situational points to the player who builds them, mean that putting all your eggs into one basket can be high risk, high reward. If you get the guild that rewards the victory path you’ve chosen, you’re set. But, some cards give points depending on what your neighbours have built, which could mean all that science you’ve built up is just going to give the next player more points in the end.
As a game designer, games like 7 Wonders always fill me with awe. How does a designer create something so simple yet so rich with interesting decisions and interactions? Antoine Bauza, the games designer, has given a gift to the board game community. This game perfectly straddles the line of a game that is easy and attractive for new player’s, yet still deep enough for experienced gamers to enjoy.
Personally, I tend to design games that are too complex or fiddly (too many moving parts or small rules to remember). When I play something as simple as 7 Wonders, I am faced with a puzzle outside the game, which is “How can I design something this simple and elegant?” Is it simply a matter of continued playtesting, pairing down and redesigning? Does it take a strike of creative lightning, an inspiration from the muses? All I can do is keep seeking out games like these, soak them in and hope that one day I can offer the community a prize even near the beauty of playing something like 7 Wonders.