7 Wonders, winner of multiple awards, has had a refresh. It is “old” by the standards of most games and won the coveted Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel award way back in 2011. Repos Productions have decided that it needed bringing up to date in terms of colour and tone. This feature compares and contrasts the two editions. Like a car that gets a slight facelift and is brought up to date with some styling issues, 7 Wonders 2nd Edition has been tidied, streamlined and “modernised”. This will enable it to feel right at home with other games on the shelf, or better still, on the gaming table.
7 Wonders is a game where between three and seven players are competing to build and complete one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is a card-drafting game. The cards represent some of the resources needed to construct buildings. Some of these are free to develop, such as a log pile or clay pit. Other cards might enable you to trade and acquire other commodities (like a loom to make cloth). The different card types are represented by a different colour.
This means that primary resources (brown) can be distinguished from manufactured goods (grey), civic buildings (blue), markets and trades (yellow) or even military establishments (red). Not only can you allow your wonders to grow, but you can choose to allow the arts and science to flourish (green cards). These allow you to make technological and educational advancements (such as building a school or university). A thriving city will ultimately make it easier for other developments to occur. 7 Wonders 2nd Edition is all about selecting the best cards and combinations of cards to build.
The game is played out over three rounds (Ages). At the start of each age, players receive a hand of seven cards. Everyone simultaneously selects one card from their hand, passing the remaining cards to the next player (to the left or right). There is no “downtime”. The aim is to play these cards into your city and build the wonder. Some cards have an inherent cost which players must pay from their cash. Other cards might release or generate funds.
For example, if you acquire a tavern for your town, you will gain some cash that you can then use for other trades. If you do not have resources yourself to build or develop your city, you might choose to buy from your neighbouring players (to the immediate left or right). This gives them cash, but lets you continue to expand and grow.
The choices of which cards to keep, and which to pass on, will depend on what has already been played. Having chosen and played one card, each player receives the remaining cards from their neighbour (one less this time). The same card-drafting mechanism occurs and the remaining cards are passed around the table. If just three or four players are enjoying 7 Wonders 2nd Edition, towards the end of the Age you will receive some of the cards that you first started with. If six or seven people are playing, then none of the original cards will make a complete transit around the table.
A Choice to Bear Arms
With each Age, the direction that the cards are passed changes. For the First and Third Age, you pass cards to the left and receive from the right. In the Second Age, the direction is reversed. This ensures that a player’s position around the table is not a disadvantage. There are numerous options and strategies available. If a player feels as though resources are limited, they might choose to develop science and technology.
This is rewarded by access to additional points or city developments. This is where the concept of linked building or “chains” is valuable. The creation of a small building might facilitate the easy development of a more prestigious structure later, but without the building costs. For example, the building of the baths will allow easy construction of the aqueduct at a later age for free.
Other players might choose a military strategy. Military might enables a player to score points (and victories) against their immediate neighbours. This might encourage an “arms race” on one side of the table, as gamers try not to be militarily disadvantaged. They could choose to use cards and resources constructing army barracks to defend themselves at the expense of other city buildings. Players on the opposite side of the game can look on in amusement, blissfully detached from the ensuing battles, instead of concentrating on amassing a strong trading or civic community.
Ultimately, there are numerous pathways to victory. After three rounds (Ages) it is a point salad of scoring to identify the winner. Whether playing with three or seven players, 7 Wonders usually concludes within 30 to 40 minutes.
Thoughts about the Second edition
7 Wonders 2nd Edition has certainly received a “lick of paint”. The title is gilded, colours more vibrant and box artwork clearer. The box itself is a fraction larger, by only five millimetres. Open the box and there is more evidence of the thought given to presentation. A large cover sheet with a big “7” greets you. The punch-out cardboard is of identical thickness. The only change is that the military conflict victory tokens are now black (instead of red). The defeat (-1) tokens remain red. This makes it easier to distinguish them during the military battle phase.
One significant improvement is in the rule book. The previous set of rules was slightly cluttered and had an almost muddy appearance. These newer rules are clean with a larger font and printed onto light paper. This makes the understanding and rule clarification much easier. As an aide-memoire, there are three additional printed sheets for players to use during a game. These summarise some of the icons and symbols and also will explain the cost of certain buildings etc. This is perfect for players who are new to the game and could be useful when taking on the second edition cards for the first time.
Seven Cards and Seven Wonders
The wonder cards themselves are a significant step up. The first edition cards were labelled A and B, but were identical on each side. This time, the two sides depict day and night. The colours and images are vibrant and realistic. It also makes it much easier to see which “board” your opponent is playing. The requirement of each wonder is almost identical between the two editions. The rewards you gain from building each stage of the wonders are also almost unchanged.
There are still three Ages to play in 7 Wonders 2nd Edition, with seven cards dealt to each player. The mechanics of drawing a single card to use to develop your wonder and city is identical. Players still pass the remaining cards to the left or right and receive the remaining cards from the player on the other side. The game is firmly marketed as a 3-7 player game. There is no scope for the two-player automaton variant that the first edition offered. That said, 7 Wonders Duel is a far superior two-player game and Repos Productions have rightly removed this element of gameplay in the second edition.
The reverse of the game cards are clear, shiny and have a premium feel. They are completely different from those of the first edition and the other first edition expansions. This also means there is no backward compatibility. Gamers need to be aware of this, although Repos will no doubt release second editions of the other 7 Wonders expansions with time. These are not yet widely available. The actual dealt cards are almost identical in type and form. During the First and Second Age, many of these cards are resources or manufactured goods, perhaps with a few low-value civic buildings. The Third Age is where the wonder develops and the building phase kicks off.
7 Wonders 2nd Editions is badged as colour blind-friendly. To assist those with colour recognition problems, each card type still has the same colours: brown for resources, grey for manufactured goods, yellow for trading etc. However, each has its own specific shape or icon. This is placed subtly alongside the title of the card. Each card’s title is clearly written in a clean font across the top of the card. This means its type, value and cost will always remain visible when laid on the deck to enhance the city.
Free Buildings and Chains
The new elements on the cards are the small icons to inform players of the available “chains”. This enables more “expensive” structures to be acquired purely by owning a “smaller” card in the chain. The symbols on the left of the cards still show the cost of playing other cards. However, these new icons replace the written text on the cards that featured in the first edition. The symbols are very much in the style of 7 Wonders Duel. No longer are there any three-card- chains. Every chain for all card types is a simple pair of cards. This simplifies the chain mechanism.
The card names are the same, with the exception of the pawnshop being replaced with a well in First Age, and a change in a military card in the Third Age. These tiny amendments would only be noticeable by serious 7 Wonders aficionados.
The final scoring is a sum total of all of the victory points. In 7 Wonders 2nd Edition, each card type generates a number of points in exactly the same method as the first edition. The layout of the score sheet is a little cleaner and clearer. The attention to detail is evident, with colours and symbols in use to distinguish card types. Repos games have, rather sensibly, in my opinion, placed the scoring for the Guilds (purple) at the end of the score sheet now. This corrects the slightly nonsensical positioning of the Guilds row in the earlier edition's score pad.
Finally, the box insert itself has been redesigned. The cards, coins and wonder boards still fit snugly (as before). However, the compartments for coins and military battle tokens are shaped to enable their retrieval. This means that the box itself can be used during the game to hold these items.
7 Wonders 2nd Edition: Final thoughts
7 Wonders 2nd Edition is a fabulous game. In a season of COVID lockdown, it will not be suitable for everyone, as it does require at least three to play. I believe the “sweet spot” is at four or five players. This second edition brings even more colour and vibrancy to the table. The mechanics are identical but with a few tiny tweaks; this later edition makes gameplay even smoother. For any family of gamers, 7 Wonders is a “must” to have in any collection. If you already own the original, the enhancements themselves do not warrant buying the second edition. However, you should bear in mind the availability of future expansions, which may only be compatible with 7 Wonders 2nd Edition.
The first edition is very good and is more than adequate. This second edition is excellent. Any gamer who wants to enhance the experience with subsequent expansions should consider 7 Wonders 2nd Edition.