The Ancient world is filled with amazing wonders and non-stop conflicts for resources, land, and advancement. Different civilizations all vied for control to become the greatest city of their time. Video games like Sid Meier’s Civilization really put those conflicts into the spotlight, providing the world with a complex game of strategy, timing, management, and control. Implementing that kind of gameplay into a board game seems daunting and nearly impossible. Thankfully, Antoine Bauza was able to do just that with his creation of 7 Wonders.
7 Wonders is a game that puts you at the helm of a legendary city during the Ancient world. You become the leader of a great city and attempt to manage your resources, control a great army, and build your way to legendary status against all other cities.
7 Wonders is for 2-7 players, takes approximately 30 minutes to play, and is for ages 10 and older.
Setup for 7 Wonders is a relatively simple process. The first thing you do is put all of the money and war tokens in the middle of the table where everybody can reach them. Then deal a random city card to each player to discover which city everybody will play. I highly recommend each person plays their first game with the A side of the board until you are familiar with how the game works. After you get your card, grab the matching city tile and place it in front of you. Grab the age cards (the ones with the roman numeral I, II, and III seen in the picture above). Go through the cards and pull out the ones that match the number of players. They will say 3+, 4+, 5+, etc on the bottom of the card. We usually only play with 3 players, so we just use the cards that say 3+. Then grab the 10 purple cards (these are Guild cards and will be discussed later). Randomly pick a number of them based on players (for this review, we’ll be using 3 players, so for a 3 player game, you use 5 guilds) and add them to the roman numeral III deck and shuffle them. Once you have all the decks with the appropriate number of cards, shuffle them. Then deal out the First Age, or the roman numeral I cards, giving one to each player until each person has 7 cards. Take 3 1-cost coins from the money in the middle, and it’s time to play the game!
7 Wonders plays in Ages. Those roman numeral cards mark each Age as it progresses through time. The object of the game is to build one card from your hand each turn, progress through the Ages, and have the most points at the end of the game.
There are a number of different cards that can be played and built. The cards are all color coordinated to their specific field. The colors are as follows:
Red – Military
Yellow – Commercial
Blue – Civilian
Green – Science
Brown – Raw Resources
Gray – Manufactured Resources
Purple – Guild
Lead one of the seven great cities of the Ancient world. Exploit the natural resources of your lands, take part in the eternal march of progress, develop your commercial relationships and assert your military might.
Leave your mark in the history of civilization by building an architectural marvel that will transcend the ages to come.7 Wonders Rule Book
Red – Military
The Military cards have sword/shield symbols ranging from 1-3 on them. These cards signify your military might. The more sword/shields you have, the greater your military.
Yellow – Commercial
Commercial cards are there to earn you money, provide extra resources, and sometimes earn victory points or other assets.
Blue – Civilian
Civilian cards serve the sole purpose of scoring you victory points.
Green – Science
Science cards provide victory points based on how many of these you have built. The Science cards have one of three symbols on them. You score points based on how many of each symbol you have.
Brown – Raw Resources
Raw Resource cards provide you the materials you need to build all the different types of cards. The Raw Resource cards provide either brick, stone, wood, or ore. Some cards may have two resources on them.
Gray – Manufactured Resources
Manufactured Resource cards provide one of three different resources. These materials will also be needed to buy certain cards later in the game. These might contain cloth, paper, or glass. There will only ever be one of each resource on these cards.
Purple – Guilds
Guild cards will only appear in Age III. These cards provide victory points based on certain criteria from the rest of the game. Guilds can provide points for certain built card types, what your opponents have built, and a myriad of other criteria.
On the first turn, you look at the seven cards in your hand and choose one to build. Raw Resource cards will almost always be free, but any of the cards with two resources on them will cost you one coin. Manufactured Resource cards will also always be free.
Some of the cards will have a cost in the upper left hand corner of the card. The cost will always be a mix of one or more resources of varying types. You must be producing these resources by either having it on a Resource Card, provided by your city, or through certain Commercial cards. If you have all of the resources, then you can build that card. You may only use each produced resource once per turn. For example, if you have a wood, 2 ore, and a stone currently produced, you can’t use the wood twice for a card that requires 2 wood to build.
Another thing to note is that sometimes you’ll see the name of another card in the lower right hand corner of the card. This denotes a card in a later Age that you can build for free if you build this card. There is a pyramid of cards that all play off each other, and you can see this chart in the rulebook. When you get to that later card in a different Age, if you built the prerequisite, ignore the resource cost and just build the card for free for having the previous building.
To build your card, place the card down in front of you and place the unused cards face down to your left. Once every player has chosen a card, everybody will flip their cards over together. If you played a Resource card of either type, place it face up at the top left of your board. Your city provides a resource of some kind just for being that city. If you decided to build something other than a resource, place it face up at the top of your board where every player can see it.
Once everybody has flipped their card over, pass the unused cards that you didn’t choose to the person on your left. They now get to build from the cards you originally had, and you’ll get to build from the cards the person on your right originally had.
Eventually, you’ll come across a card that you can’t afford. Perhaps you haven’t built the required Resource cards. You can still technically build the card but only if you get help from your opponents.
If one of your opponents has the resource you need to build the card, you can purchase that material from them. You do so by paying 2 coins to either the player on your left or right. If you’re playing in a game with more than 3 players, you can still only purchase from the players directly next to you. They cannot block you from paying for those materials, and that player can still use the resource for their own building.
If you choose not to build a card because you don’t produce a resource and/or can’t afford to buy the resource from an opponent, you can choose to discard any card from your hand to the discard pile for 3 coins. This counts as your entire turn.
Once you have chosen a new card to build from the six remaining cards, follow the same steps as above, passing the unused cards to your left. You continue doing this until you have two cards in your hand. At this point, you build your sixth card, and then the remaining card goes directly into the discard pile.
This signals the end of Age I. It is now time to compare military strengths and see where everybody stands.
Compare the number of Military shields on your city to the opponents to your left and right. In a game with more than 3 players, you still only compare militaries to the players directly next to you. If you have more than them, you get to take a +1 war token from the middle of the table for each opponent you have beaten. If you have less shields, you take a -1 war token from the middle for each one that has beaten you. At the end of Age II, you get a +3 war token for a win but still only a -1 for a loss. At the end of Age III, you get a +5 war token for a win but still only a -1 for a loss.
Now it’s time to move on to Age II!
You play Age II exactly like Age I, only this time you pass the unused cards to the player on your right instead of your left. At the end of the Age, you compare Military might like usual. Age III plays out exactly the same, only this time you pass the unused cards back to the player on your left again.
Before we discuss how to score the final points at the end of the game, let’s talk about the three blocks at the bottom of each city tile. These are called Wonders.
Wonders are resource and reward specific to your particular city. These Wonders are areas that are completely optional to build during the game. You don’t have to build these, but when you do, you often get exemplary rewards for doing so.
In order to build your Wonder, you must have the resources listed on the left side of each block. If you have the resources, instead of placing a card face down in front of you like a normal build, you simply take any card from your hand and slide it face down under the block (like in the picture above here). After everybody has flipped their cards, you can resolve the effect (if any) for the Wonder spot or wait if it’s an end game effect. Building Wonders not only gives you special rewards, but also lets you use a card from your hand that you might not be able to build or that an opponent might benefit from playing. You must build your Wonders from from left to right.
An example of a city’s Wonder, let’s look at Halikarnossos (A side). The first Wonder costs 2 bricks to build. Building here will net you 3 points at the end of the game. The second Wonder costs 3 ore, and as soon as you build this Wonder, you get to go through the entire discard pile and build any card you want from that pile for free. The third and final Wonder costs 2 cloth and will net you 7 points at the end of the game.
When you get to the end of Age III, it’s time to do the final count. You should count your points in this order:
Military War Tokens
Add up your war tokens.
Count all of the money you have left over. For every 3 coins you have left, gain 1 point.
Add up the points listed on the Wonders you built.
Add up the total combined points of your Civilian cards.
For Science cards, see what symbols you have. If you have 2 of the same symbol, you score points by multiplying the number of each symbol you have by itself. For instance, 2 gears would be 2×2 for 4 points. Four gears would be 4×4 for 16 points. Do this for each symbol.
Commercial cards will sometimes provide you points.
Add up the total rewarded points for each Guild card based on how they provide points. For example, the Builder’s Guild would give you 1 extra point for each Wonder built by you and by your opponents.
Once all of those points have been totaled, the person with the most points wins!
7 Wonders is a spectacular little game that really puts your strategic mind to work. While these rules seem overly complicated and convoluted, once you play a few games, you’ll feel like you’ve been playing it for years. When you first look at the rulebook, you’ll feel overwhelmed and like there is too much information to really consume. As long as you keep it simple and just let yourself play as if you’re just building cards and not worrying too much about all of the symbols and what they mean, the game will play out nicely. There is a large reference card in the game box that tells you what each symbol means, so make sure to keep that close by while playing. Perhaps you’ll even be comfortable enough to play that B side of one of the cities after a few playthroughs.
This is another game we picked up on a whim while at the store, and we’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. Several expansions exist for the game. While we don’t own any of the expansions, we have played a few of them in our digital version of the game on our phones. These expansions include new cities, leaders, naval themes, and more. They can all be mixed in with the original game to change up the strategy and playstyle.
I hope you enjoy 7 Wonders as much as we do. With the ability to play with up to 7 players, it’s an appropriate and fun game for a varied number of people.
As a final note, there is a rule in the rulebook for playing with 2 players. I would not recommend playing this changed version of the game. Instead, look into getting the game 7 Wonders Duel for a 2 player game.