February seemed like a good time to do a string of posts highlighting different two player games! Being stuck inside during a pandemic has expanded the search for games that have less players. And, since this month is supposed to be romantic, what better way to celebrate than building a stronger civilization and dominating your significant other?
The third game in this short series will be 7 Wonders Duel! This brings the classic game of 7 Wonders down to a two player game. In this, you and your opponent will build different civilizations striving to be the best. It’s really fun to watch how the civilization grows and expands as you walk through the three different ages. But sometimes, science or military can take over and completely destroy the other civilization early. This game is a fun drafting game with interesting decisions from limited options.
One of the most interesting decisions come right at the beginning of the game. Eight random wonder cards are put into play and each player will choose four of them. This can generally determine the direction of your civilization because not only does it dictate the resources you want but each wonder will give a bonus upon completion. It might push you more into science, military, or perhaps give you extra turns to build your civilization! At the beginning of the game, you will also place out five random progress tokens. These are like one time rewards for gaining two science resources of the same symbol. Then it is time to set up the first age! The cards are placed in a central tableau and the military token is placed in the center of the board.
The first age has a card tableau that is like a pyramid, with many options in the beginning leading to less and less choices as the game continues. Each player than drafts one card at a time, either playing it to their empire, discarding it to construct their wonder or discarding it to gain money.
One thing I really enjoy about this game is that it truly is an engine builder with resource management at heart and that almost all choices matter. Brown cards and silver cards are extremely important in the first two ages as they give vital resources to help construct buildings. Green and Red cards correspond to science and military. Gold card will generally help increase the wealth of the empire and will be used to buy any resources that the empire is lacking. And blue cards a pure victory points at the end of the game. While it is important to build your empire, this game does encourage diversity of cards. Ignore science to military can be fatal and lead to a player losing the game before the game ends.
Even the drafting mechanic has more complexity than meets the eye. When a face down card is fully revealed, it turns face up. That’s why it’s very important to pivot into the position of letting your opponent reveal cards and taking advantage of what’s newly available. There is also the possibility of seeing a card you want further up the pyramid and making sure that your opponent does not have the ability draft it may become vital.
The second ages has an inverted pyramid in a reverse situation to the first age. These cards are generally more powerful but they are also more expensive. Some of the cards from the first age naturally evolve into cards from the second age which allows a player to skip the construction costs for the new buildings. For someone who doesn’t always prioritize getting building materials, these types of cards can be essential for growing your empire. But again, this opens the opportunity to hate draft away from the other player. Sometime the decision comes down to “something that is good for me” versus “taking away something that is good for them”. It makes the game interesting because the answer of which will be better in the long run is not obvious.
The third age is the last age of the game. Once again, the cards become even more powerful and even more expensive. The tableau is placed into more of a diamond shape. One interesting thing to be introduced into the third age is guilds. These cards will generally give points at the end of the game based on a type of card or a construction of wonders. If the game is going to end in a points race, this is a great way to boost your score.
One last thing I want to circle back to is the construction of wonders. You might have noticed that I said that eight wonders were drafted. But this game is called seven wonders isn’t it? That’s right! Only seven wonders can be built so that eight wonder just is left to the wayside.
I really love how this engine builder makes you constantly aware of your opponent even if you’re not having direct interactions. The need for diversity is also extremely interesting and it’s difficult to find that right balance. This is a perfect introduction to an engine builder and a great time!