Thursday, December 13, 2012

7 Wonders for 7 Players

Most board/card games cap out at about 4-5 players, and very rarely 6 players.

And here's the thing…the ones that say 6 players rarely play with 6 players in a a FUN way. Every additional player invariably increases down time, increases the amount of stuff that happens OUTSIDE your turn, and increases the variability (chaos) of the game in general.

In a game of conquest, someone might be attacked twice before they take their turn.

In an economic game, there might be 5 trading sessions, or buying sessions. 5 decision-making processes will have to make it to completion before you get to do your stupid little action again. Hooray.

So 6 player games, in general, are no good. In most situations, if you are sitting around the house with 6 or 7 people, you are splitting off to play 2 different games. It's the sane choice.

7 Wonders takes a theme, empire-building and makes it fun for 7 players.

I had heard a bit of buzz on Board Game Geek about the game but didn't really devote very much brain energy about it until I found myself actually playing it. Then I saw what people were talking about.

7 Wonders has war. It has building improvements. It has trading and empire building. But all the action happens simultaneously so there is zero down time.

Zero down time in a 7 player game. You are always thinking and always acting, and the only drag comes when someone is unsure of the card they want to take. But being the last person left holding your hand is a pretty big motivator, as you feel the burning stares of 6 other people upon your sweating brow. I don't think analysis paralysis here is really that big of a deal.

Would I want to play 7 Wonders ALL NIGHT LONG with the same group of 7 people? Probably not. In fact, the very simplistic nature of the game that makes it so speedy can turn around and start to drag you down game after game.

A powerful military is going to score you 18 points maximum, no matter how good it is. A weak or even non-existant military is going to score you -6 points at the very minimum. Science is a fantastic multiplier of points, well-worth it if you get more than a few green cards. Blue cards give you huge points, and chain really well if you can get the small ones early in the game. They all end up being just another number to count up at the end of the game.

But with the variety in card selection in hand, I would say the game is good for at least 2 or 3 rounds a night. And that's not even very long! The interaction between players is even good, since you are "drafting" from common hands to get your buildings. Your opponent wants to thwart you as much as possible, while you want to deny the winning card to the opponent YOU are passing to.

I only had a chance to play 7 Wonders with a large group, but by the way the game is structured I can see it is probably is just as good with smaller numbers of people. You only ever interact with the people to the left and right of you, so at 3 players the passing, trading, and warring must indeed by a tightly wound little engine.

And here's another great bit about playing with 7 people…in 7 wonders, you don't have to reach anything in the center of a board. We played on a HUGE table, two banquet-size folding tables stuck together, and we all had ample room to lay all the cards of our empire out as lazily as we wanted to. There wasn't a draw deck we had to all be reaching for. There is only a pile of tokens, and in our case we made two piles so that everyone could get the ones they needed.

Here's what the game looks like on a small table:

A little cramped. But here's the thing…you still know who's stuff is what. Everything has a common orientation and you never tap or manipulate your cards once they're laid down. All pieces are static, except for the money, war, and debt tokens in the middle of your own player board.

How old do you have to be to understand 7 Wonders? This is going to be something I hope to find out in the near future. My guess is…not very old. There's some simple addition and subtraction but not a lot of reading and not a lot of confusing actions during your turn. And the game goes so fast there's little chance of people getting bored. I'm going to try it with a 7-year-old, because that's what I got. But 7 years sounds about right for 7 Wonders, from a purely numerological standpoint, so we will see.

If you haven't yet, check out 7 Wonders. And if you are a hard-core 7 Wonders veteran, go ahead and tell me how you got burned out…because I can see that happening too. Right now, though, I'm really excited.

1 comment:

  1. After enjoying 7 Wonders during the same game session you did, I bought myself a copy and forced some co-workers to give it a try. I felt like adding to the discussion:

    1) Reception was overwhelmingly positive. The ways in which it trumped our usual games were immediately obvious and very popular: no downtime during others' turns; no player elimination followed by a long wait for the rest of the game to wrap up; etc.

    2) It continued to play well for four and five players. I think you turned out to be correct in your guess that game quality would be mostly unaffected by the number of players.

    3) We played the base game, and that's when I realized I'd underestimated how much of our first session's content came from the Cities and Leaders expansions. The core game is solid, but the expansions add a lot.

    4) It didn't take long for everyone to realize what we did the first time we played. One player, halfway through the first game: "It'd be really easy to cheat, wouldn't it?"