7 Wonders – Ancient History Lovers Rejoice

The following begins a series on my blog prompted by my Analog Games class. I will be examining five different games with a threefold goal. Firstly, to showcase some games that I have enjoyed and that I think others could enjoy. Secondly, to demonstrate the way that games can be read as text and subsequent implications for issues of representation and culture (for more on this see Clara Fernandez-Vara’s book Introduction to Game Analysis). Finally, to briefly discuss the manner that each game could be implemented in libraries and what they could offer to library programming.

The first game I wish to examine is 7 Wonders. Designed by Antoine Bauza and published by Repos Production, the game is a city building card game with an ancient world theme. It has won a multitude of analog game awards. As a former student of Classics, I was already predisposed to this game by its theme and the mechanics did not disappoint. The game features a drafting mechanic (similar to drafting in Magic the Gathering for those who are familiar) that has each player carefully considering a pick from a hand of cards before passing it to the next player. All players simultaneously reveal their selection. They all then pick up the passed hand of the player on their other side and make a selection from there. Play proceeds in this way until there are only two cards left in a hand and then a final selection is made and the final card is discarded.

There are three ages in the game and an age ends each time hands are used up in this manner. During these ages players build resources (both simple and exotic), build their wonder (different powers for different wonders!), create science, marshal troops, facilitate trade, or buy guilds. All of these different areas are represented by different cards and each has a different means of helping you secure victory. At the end of the game, victory points in all these categories are totalled and whoever has the most wins the game. This means that it can be unclear who is ahead during play. Furthermore, the game tends to reward diversification over specialization. If someone does well in all categories they are more likely to win than someone who has only science cards, for instance.

My play session of the game ended in a tie between the Colossus of Rhodos (myself) and the Pyramids of Gizah (a friend). We both won by distinguishing ourselves in a multitude of categories. Rhodos was a military powerhouse that also excelled in trade. Gizah completed its wonder and beautified the city around it and bought a number of potent guilds. The relative unpredictability of the game helps facilitate engagement in all players. At the same time, players must consider what cards are helpful for them and what cards they should take purely to deny their opponent access to them. This back and forth makes each flip up of card selection a moment of fun tension.

7 Wonders distinguishes itself not merely with mechanics, however, but also with its theme. The artwork in the game is beautiful and all of the traditional seven wonders of the ancient world are represented. Encouragingly in the sphere of representation, expansions allow the addition of more diverse locations such as the Great Wall of China. This makes the game at least marginally less Eurocentric/Mediterranean-centric. The theme makes this game a viable tool for introducing people (Board Game Geek suggest 10+ for the game) to locations of the ancient world and fascination with what was built in that far gone time.

In terms of library programming, 7 Wonders could serve well as a free play game that is available to be used in a designated play area. Equally, programming could involve multiple copies of the game with each able to accommodate up to seven players. An exercise could be made of determining why certain wonders have the bonuses that they do in the game. Why does Gizah have so many stages of building? Why does Rhodos grant military bonuses? Why is Alexandria so good at trade? All of these mechanics have connections to real history that could help facilitate learning.

A big recommendation for 7 Wonders to those young and old, librarian or non-librarian. It is a lot of fun, involves a lot of strategy, and has the advantage of being relatively quick (about half an hour) to play.

For a more comprehensive outline of the rules, refer to the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Wfdn5Es8U

For all the details outlined on BoardGameGeek.com, click here: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/68448/7-wonders

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