7 Wonders by Repos Production is a board game my family greatly enjoys, however when it comes to explaining the game to newcomers we’ve hit a few walls. My siblings and I may have had the benefit of slowly walking through our first game together with our manual at the ready, however even just watching a round unfold can prove incomprehensible considering rules are filled with various notes and exceptions, while in-game card images might as well be hieroglyphs to a beginner. Explaining every rule is in fact a longer experience than playing the game itself.
That said, not every bit of information needs to be understood right at the start, and certain details can be relayed mid-game once they’re encountered (if at all; there’s no guarantee which cards you’ll receive). With that in mind, I thought it may be nice to put forth what I consider to be an abridged version of the game instructions, allowing a priority order for information to flow naturally and provide some context for new players when making their inaugural decisions. The best way to learn 7 Wonders is to play it, but the following is always worth keeping in mind:
Goal: The ultimate goal of the game is to acquire points, represented by the laurel icons in the game’s materials. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins! There are many ways to acquire points, which I’ll summarize in the “Earning Points” section.
Board Overview: Each player will receive a unique game board based on one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Each board features an A side and B side for use, but new players are encouraged to stick to the A side as they are slightly easier. Boards contain a starting resource for eventual use in gameplay (such as brick or glass) and will also carry between 2-4 tiers of development to “construct” your wonder, working from left to right. Building your wonder is useful, but not required as it’s only one of many ways to earn points.
Card Overview: Cards will offer many benefits with some easier to comprehend than others. Some cards may be free to activate, but most will require either coins or resources, indicated in the top left corner. As an alternative to requirements, some may be free due to a previously-played card that is currently active; in these special cases such relationships will be indicated on both cards of the set. All cards will fall into one of seven color-coded categories:
- Materials (Brown) and Goods (Grey) – These cards are permanent resources to be used to meet requirements for completing your wonder or for activating future cards. Neighbors can pay you 2 coins to make use of your resources, while you can pay them for theirs. Players must be able to match resources individually within the same turn to meet any requirements (so a “2 stone” requirement can not be met by owning 1 stone for two turns, but can be met by owning one stone and purchasing another from your neighbor in one turn).
- Military (Red) – Red cards will build up armies for the end-of-round conflicts against your neighbors (3 per game). The size of your military is represented by the number of sword icons between your cards.
- Commercial (Yellow) – These are mostly money related; some net you additional coins, some give you a cache of additional resources for private use, some allow discounts on your neighbor’s resources (so you pay 1 coin instead of 2), and some even offer opportunities for additional points.
- Science (Green) – Science offers a unique points venture where between three different icons (Compass/Tablet/Gear) you need to match up either the same of a kind (max is 6, but is unlikely to occur), and/or one of each to create a set (I’ll explain in greater detail below).
- Guild (Purple) – Guild cards are native to the late game, and mostly offer additional points or coins based on the number of cards neighbors possess of a certain color.
- Civilian (Blue) – simplest of all, these cards just give you points; number indicated on the card.
General Flow: The game is divided into three rounds (known as “Ages”) that consist of card-based play, followed by a “conflict” assessment of acquired military strength against your neighbors. Prior to the 1st Age, game boards and starting coins will be handed out, and each age will begin with a fresh set of cards to the player. Cards will be of greater value with each age, but will also likely demand a higher cost.
Card-based play can be summarized in 3 steps:
- The player chooses a card from their hand
- The player completes one of three actions using their card:
- discard their card to pick up 3 additional coins from the bank.
- activate their card, provided they can meet any requirements to do so. Keep in mind that a player can’t play the same card twice; nobody can own two marketplaces, for example.
- use their card to construct a piece of their wonder on the game board, again provided they can meet the requirements. Doing so does not activate the card and what’s on the card played can’t be used to meet any requirements.
- The player passes their remaining cards to their neighbor (direction differs by round)
This process repeats until players are left holding two cards, where one card is then selected for a final action and the remaining card is discarded. All active cards should remain visible to you and your neighbors so they can plan their strategies accordingly.
Earning Points: As I mentioned, earning points is the ultimate goal of the game, and along with 7 wonders and 7 color-codes, there are 7 different ways to earn points.
- Completing your wonder – Each stage you complete will net you a reward, most often points. Not all wonders award the same point amount, and vary in stage count, but most have 3 stages and when complete will award 10 points.
- Coins – at the end of the game, players earn 1 point for every 3 coins they possess.
- Military victories – points totaled from each end-of-age conflict. Losses always net a -1, while victories are +1, +3, and +5 depending on the age.
- Blue cards – points totaled from active civilian cards
- Yellow cards – points totaled from specialty commercial cards
- Purple cards – points from specialty guild cards
- Green cards – science offers exponential points for matching icons (1=1, 2=4, 3=9, 4=16), plus 7 points for every set of all three icons. Example: 3 compass, 2 tablet, 1 gear would net 14 points for matching icons (9+4+1), plus 7 points for 1 complete set for a total of 21 points.
Closing Thoughts: Strategy will come down to determining ways to strike a comfortable balance between the different ways to earn points, likely with a focus towards one or two specific areas. My family’s seen victories through science, victories through military prowess, and victories from simply grabbing every blue card they could! Through repeat rounds we’ve also seen some increased success rates for wonders like the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pyramid of Giza, although the level of balance in the game is evident.
That should be enough to get new players moving, although there’s plenty more to learn from the game’s manual. New players should also be encouraged to ask questions as they go with symbols they don’t understand; since all cards move around the table, and active cards are constantly visible anyway, there’s little need to withhold information.
That covers the base game, but of course there are also the expansions; we highly recommend the Leaders pack which adds a unique phase that really enhances the overall experience. Hopefully these instructions can offer a bit of early clarification to the larger game at hand, as my family really does enjoy the game, and want to play it as much and with as many people as possible to share the fun!