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7 Wonders & Leaders Expansion

Posted by admin On April - 26 - 2012

To play Leaders or not to play Leaders?

If you haven’t played either, 7 Wonders is sort of like a open-faced deck building game. Each player starts with a random wonder board (that is double sided for further play options) and each wonder board has special starting resources and/or abilities you can gain through the course of the game. There are 3 ages (aka rounds), where players receive 7 cards from the corresponding age deck. They pick one card from their hand of 7 choices, play it face up simultaneously on/around/under their wonder board and then they pass the remaining 6 cards to an adjacent player in a left-right-left fashion. This card drafting is continued through the 3 ages, thereby creating their “great city.”

So an entire game comprised of just card drafting you say??? Yes I do say! Actually the game goes by so quickly, it feels as though you are collecting cards and building up your wonder to prepare for something grand… and then it’s over, literally it takes like 30 minutes to play. The frosting on this 7 Wonders cake is that it can play from 2-7 people and it doesn’t add any time for additional players because everyone is taking their action simultaneously!  7 Wonders is a very interactive game which revolves around yourself and your neighboring players. You must decide on a dramatic or balanced strategy while paying close attention to the opponents on your left and right. Because not only might they have something you need, but you might have something in your current hand of cards that you might not want them to have!

Last year an expansion to this game was released which I played for the first time a month or so ago. After multiple plays, I’m having difficultly deciding if I like it better with or without this expansion. In order to understand what Leaders adds to the base set, you’d have to understand what sorts of cards come in the base set and how points are calculated at the end of the game.

First there are resources which include Brown cards that are the raw materials and gray cards that are the manufactured goods. These come out in the 1st and 2nd age and do not give victory points on their own, but they are the bases for purchasing other card categories which in turn are extremely important in building your wonder and city.

Points are calculated from various categories which include:

-  Your Wonder board: each wonder board has various abilities which could include special actions you can take, resources they provide or straight up victory points.
- Military: you can go a military route by collecting military cards which allows you to gain valuable victory points during the conflict stage at the end of each age.
- Gold: gold not only is valuable during the game which allows for purchasing cards or paying adjacent players to use their resources, each set of 3 counts for straight up VP’s at the end of the game.
-  Civilian cards: these blue cards count for VP’s at the end of the game and can cost either nothing to gain or sometimes quite a bit of raw and manufactured good to attain.
- Commercial card: the yellow cards allow for all sorts of interesting tidbits from getting gold, procuring resource discounts or even gaining valuable VP’s based on how you and/or your neighbors cards play out.
- Guilds: the purple cards can be extremely valuable, and usually result in large amounts of VP’s, however, they only come out in the 3rd age and cost an arm and a leg of resources to attain!
- Science: accumulating sets or multiples of the 3 science fields can also allow for large numbers of VP’s at the end of the game.

The Leaders expansion adds a new wonder board, additional money tokens, and 42 new cards to the base game which include a combination of new purple guild cards and white colored “Leader” cards. These white colored Leader cards add a whole new element to the base game known as the “recruitment phase.” At the beginning of the game players are dealt 4 white leader cards which they draft passing to the right until every player has picked 4 leaders. At the beginning of each age you may choose to recruit a Leader. These Leaders bring an extra strategic element to the base game.

Currently after 8 or so plays with these Leaders, I’m forming a love/hate relationship with them. In the base set of 7 Wonders there are multiple strategies you can focus on and they may or may not pander out depending on what your passed. You may of course have to also switch or adjust your strategies based on the cards your passed as well. But the thing with the base set is that everyone can sort of do the same things, and you sort of need to make decisions on the fly and work with what you’re given. However, the Leaders expansion seem to add an element of planning to the game. You are given these leaders at the very beginning before any of the ages commence so you can choose to use your leaders to formulate your strategy, giving you goals so to speak during the game.

For example, if one of your leaders is Hypatia (left), and you choose to recruit her, all your science (green) cards now count an additional victory point. Which now may give you the desire to go the science route. A big part of 7 Wonders if paying attention to your neighbors and what they are doing. So if you see your neighbor is going for science cards and has Hypatia, they may try to keep you from getting those science cards. So what I find especially neat about Leaders is that since you recruit them at the beginning of each age, you could always choose to bring her out at the beginning of the last age to thwart other players from noticing your secret strategy!

At first Leaders can seem extremely powerful but can also become an absolute menace! “Platon” in the above photo, for example, gives a whopping 7 victory points for each set of every colored cards you have, however, I never realized how tough it was to get each color without completely falling apart, let alone trying to get it twice! Usually you focus on a few different strategies during a game of 7 Wonders, if you concentrate on balancing out your card colors it can be very difficult to stay focused on trying to maximize your points in other areas. Whereas other cards like the overwhelmingly top heavy Bilkis or pharaohish looking Hatshepsout (also pictured above)  seem to be always valuable since they really help in limiting the amount of money you have to spend.

So I guess when it comes down to it, now that I’ve layed it all down on the computer screen here,  when I think about it, they really end up being two totally unique games. I can’t honestly say which version I like playing better, but I can say I’m glad I own both.

Final-Final Thoughts

Overall:  8

medium-hard not too hard to learn, more difficult to master