7 Wonders: Building a Hell of a Time, Every Time


  • Courtesy of Nate Warren
Like I said in my inaugural post, there are enough board game blogs for hardcores out there. I wanted to write about these games to build a bridge between casual and hobby gamers, and maybe win a few over to my side along the way. Writing is one way; inviting folks over is another.

In that spirit, we invited two of our pals from the Independent ranks over — Associate Publisher/COO Carrie Simison and Digital Content Coordinator Craig Lemley — to see if we could create a couple of converts. They showed up with an excellent selection of craft bombers and we dug in.

Our primary vehicle for this baptism was 7 Wonders, which my wife and I have been playing non-stop since 2011. Some titles from our collection languish unplayed for months. Not 7 Wonders. It gets broken out several times a year no matter what shiny new titles we add to the stable.

We play tournaments for prize money on my birthday. I once ran to Barnes & Noble in Denver to buy a second set in a panic because we’d left our first set in the Springs and we wouldn’t be able to play it after the bars closed, if that tells you anything.

In 7 Wonders, each player is in charge of building one of seven prosperous ancient civilizations thematically based around the titular achievements of yore — Gizah, Ephesos, Babylon, Alexandria, etc. How do you grind your way, stone by stone, to these point-scoring feats? By playing a card in one of several scoring categories each turn. You have the option of building glittering civilian edifices, specializing in commercial muscle, stacking up scientific accomplishments, and much more. It’s how you have to do it that gives the game its juice.

It’s a card drafting game played in three rounds, or “ages.” You’ll start each age with a hand of seven cards. You choose one that you’d like to build and pass the rest of the hand to a neighbor. Everybody chooses, passes and builds again, with your options shrinking until there are no cards left and the round ends. This alone creates delicious tension: There are four good cards in your hand. Which might you not see again if you pass on one? Which will position you best for points? Is there one that you really need to keep one of your opponents from getting?

Every pass of the cards is a tantalizing study in opportunity cost. There’s also the aesthetic pleasure of seeing the table fill up with bright tableaus made of beautifully illustrated, oversized cards. And the surprises that come with the final scoring, when you tally up how well you did in each of the game’s seven scoring categories, provides a welcome final jolt. (Unless you have an abacus built into your brain and have already calculated the outcome; our group always “oohs” and “aahs” as the final results are revealed.)

It was a strong showing for the ladies this time out, with my wife, Genevieve, and Carrie each notching a win. Empires were built. Buzzes were cultivated. And perhaps two new converts are in the making. 

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.

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