7 Wonders is a brilliant card drafting, set collection game by Antoine Bauza (also known for other great games such as Tokaido, Ghost Stories, Takenoko and Hanabi). It’s the game that introduced me to card drafting (a mechanic that can also be found in Sushi Go! and recently, The Isle of Cats) and is probably one of the most played games in my collection.
So, does this fantastic game need an expansion? With several expansions now available, let’s take a look at the first - 7 Wonders Leaders.
Beginning the game
In the base game 7 Wonders, players draft cards over three ages to gather resources, strengthen military power, increase scientific knowledge and build monuments and wonders. They may choose to focus on one particular area with the aim of scoring big points, but with no real direction or focus, they may also choose to dabble in all of the potential scoring areas.
This is where the strength of the expansion comes in. At the start of a game with 7 Wonders Leaders, players draft four leader cards and one of these cards can be played at the beginning of each age (you will only get to play three of your four leader cards). Players can recruit a leader by paying its cost. A key thing to note is the leaders cost coins, not resources. Fortunately, at the start of the game, players start with six coins rather than three, as in the base game.
It’s these leader cards that will guide your game in a certain direction. If having a big army is your usual route to victory, you may put Hannibal or Caesar at the head of your civilisation, increasing your military power with extra shields. You may choose to recruit Tomyris, who allows you to give your defeat tokens to your victorious neighbour, or Nero, who gives you two coins for each victory token you earn.
Of course, it’s unlikely that such a perfect combination of cards will be available to you, but the leaders do reward you for having a focus, whether it be points for each wonder stage built, or points for sets of science symbols. Some leaders allow the player to build a particular colour card for one resource less, and others give you points for the number of cards of a certain colour.
If you are able to recruit leaders that guide you in a particular direction, work together, and give you a little help along the way, it really does give you more direction. I would say that your choice of cards to draft/play becomes even more important with the Leaders expansion than in the base game, resulting in a more tense, and hopefully satisfying, game.
This is not to say that the leader cards limit your game or have to work with other, similar leaders. There are those that make it a little easier to purchase resources, allow you to build guilds (purple cards) for free, give instant coins from the bank, an extra science symbol, or that are points at the end of the game. These standalone bonuses are important on their own.
More than leaders
Of course, you are bound to have games where you don’t have enough money to recruit a leader, or you wonder what on earth you were thinking drafting it in the first place! In this case, your leader cards can also be used to build a stage of your wonder or discarded to gain three coins, at the beginning of the age. Although this can be frustrating and feel as if you are not using the leader card to its full potential, it is certainly not a wasted card and gives you other options before you begin the next age.
The leader cards really are the meat of the expansion, but it’s worth noting that it also includes the Colosseum of Rome as a new wonder board. This can only be played with the expansion, as it allows the player to recruit their leaders for free (side A), or at a reduced cost (side B). There are also four new guild cards (two of which focus on the leaders) and value six coins.
7 Wonders is a brilliant game on its own, but if it’s as popular in your household as it is in mine, you might be looking for something to add to the experience. I would thoroughly recommend the Leaders expansion if this is the case. The draft for leader cards at the beginning of the game and how those leaders then influence how you play really does add another dimension to an already fantastic game.
However, if you are perfectly happy with your base game of 7 Wonders and do not want to add another level of complexity, I would avoid this expansion and keep playing the original game you love.
For me, getting the leaders working together and having them help you throughout the game brings a lot more to think about and ultimately, enjoy.