This was a game that I had over looked when it came out, because there was already a 2 player variant for 7 Wonders. I heard the name and the premise and didn’t listen to anything else. This is why the elevator speech is so important. If a publisher can’t convince me to be interested in your game in 30 seconds, I might miss out on a great game, while they miss out on a sale. Once the dice tower award nominees were announced, I took another look. I was surprised at how much it had been reworked for a true, two player game. Cortnie has played other drafting games, such as Tides of Time from Portal Games, and she tends to love them. The problem is, as soon as I say the word ‘drafting’ something in her brain tells her to become disinterested (in the game, not me).
In 7 Wonders Duel, by Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala, from Repos Production, each players leads a civilization through three Ages. In each age, players have the opportunity to play 10 cards to earn coins, develop their city, build wonders, and strengthen their army. For a how to play, check out Watch It Played.
The buildings that are used to develop the city will grant the player resource production, scientific advancement, marketplace strength, victory points, and other various privilege. Victory Points are the primary path to victory. At the end of the Third age, players total their scores, and the highest total wins.
The game is set up with a pattern of cards in the middle of the play area. Each age uses a different pattern, some cards face up, some face down, laid out so only a few cards at a time are completely uncovered. Also between the players is the military and track and progress tokens. Any time a card grants military strength, a token is moved along the track towards the opposing capital. If this token gets to an opposing capital, the game ends immediately and the player with the strong military wins. Finally 8 Wonders are randomly set out, four for each player.
Play begins with one player selecting a card that is completely revealed (has no other cards even partially on it). There are free cards, which has no cost to play, Cards that require certain resources to build, and cards that cost coins to build. When playing a card to develop your civilization, you place it face up in a row with buildings of the same color (Brown, yellow, green, blue, red, and grey). These cards then provide the benefit on them. If you do not have enough resources to pay for a card you want, you may buy the resources for two coins, plus a number of coins equal to the number of that type of resource your opponent produces. Some trade cards (yellow) change how much you pay for gaining resources this way.
If you can’t, or don’t want to pay the cost, you may instead select a card and discard it to gain coins equal to two plus the number of yellow buildings you own.
The final way to play a card is, if you have the resources to build one of your wonders, by placing the card face down, half under your wonder to mark is as built, and then you gain the benefit that wonder offers. When there are 7 wonders built between the two players, the last one may never be built.
In addition to the Civilian Victory with points at the end of the game, and a Military Supremacy victory, Science can also win the day. All of the science cards (green) have one of seven symbols on them. If a player collect six of those symbols, the game stops and they are the winner. Also, every time a player gets a pair of matching symbols, they select a progress token that gives them a benefit and stays in their city for the rest of the game.
Play continues with players selecting and playing cards until either a victory condition is met, or no cards remain in the center of the play area. When this happens the first time, players will set up the second age deck in the pattern depicted in the rule book. After that they set up the Third Age, then if those cards are gone, the game ends in a Civilian Victory.
Like most games that Cortnie has no opinion about, I just started setting it up without even talking about playing a game. As she walks past the table, she sees the pyramid that the cards are laid out in for the first age, and sits down with interest. Instead of randomly selecting the available wonders, we followed the suggestion for pre-selected wonders as a ‘first game’. I was randomly chosen as the first player, so I got the first player suggested set.
Some background on Cortnie and I; we love lighthouses. We go to the coast all the time, and Cortnie’s favorite structure is a light house. So when I had The Great Lighthouse in my group of possible wonders, she was less than pleased. (But I had The Great Lighthouse as one of my possible wonders, so I wasn’t paying my attention to her).
When the game began, there were no cards available for free, so I bought the resources I needed to take and play a card. This revealed an upside down card that, when flipped, was free. Without hesitation, Cortnie took it and waited for me to proceed. This happened the first three times I took a card. Turn four I was out of gold, and had no resource producing cards. Cortnie was building resources, and military. By the end of the first age, she had gold, resources, and had pushed the military token two steps closer to me. The second age was much the same. I had a few opportunities for a free card, and just started building resource cards. I had mostly marketplace cards and Science cards. The problem, was in the first age I had sold a few science cards, and Cortnie had a couple, so there was really no way I was going to pull off a Science Victory.
When the Second Age ended, Cortnie had three wonders built, and was one step away from a military victory. I could see two cards near the end of the third age that each moved the military track three spaces. I needed to take some military to push the track back her direction. I played a card to build my first wonder, which gave me one Military an a little more breathing room. Unfortunately in taking that card, I revealed a card that offered two military power, and I lost the game. As Cortnie respectfully celebrated her victory, I’m pretty sure I heard a muttering of me deserving a loss for taking her Lighthouse.
We had a lot of fun and will certainly be keeping this around for a long time. This game played reasonably quickly, in around 30 minutes. It was easy to set up, easy to teach, and easy to let my wife and her supreme military march to my capital and take over.