Out duel your opponent and build the best civilization
Android & iOS
# of Players
Outer Zone Entertainment
7 Wonders Duel is an extremely popular two player game which borrows heavily from its namesake, the original 7 Wonders. In this head-to-head duel, players build up their civilizations and, hopefully, wonders in order to emerge victorious as the most decorated. Victory can come instantaneously through military or scientific supremacy, or at the conclusion of the game through total victory points (VP). A full game can be played in under five minutes thanks to the incredibly snappy and intuitive app.
7 Wonders Duel is maybe the most successful reworking of an already popular board game ever. Duel sits in the top 20 overall on BoardGameGeek (the original sits in the top 50). It is generally regarded as one of the best two player games ever, specifically one of the best for more casual players (looking at you, Twilight Struggle, Star Wars Rebellion, and War of the Ring). The base 7 Wonders app was really well made across the board, save for the missing asynchronous play. All of this is to say, there was ample reason to be very excited when we heard 7 Wonders Duel was coming to digital.
Rather than pure card drafting from the original, Duel has each round setup with a few rows of cards, alternating revealed and covered. On a turn, you must take an available card, that is a card with no other cards touching its bottom side. When you take a card you can do a few things; discard it for gold, build the card, or use the card to trigger the building of one of your wonders.
The cards come in a variety of different types. Brown and grey cards produce resources, blue cards provide VP, green cards provide scientific breakthroughs and often points, yellow cards provide gold, make it cheaper to buy resources, or sometimes provide points, red cards provide military strength, and, finally, purple cards show up during the last round and allow you to score points. If this is ringing a lot of bells, then you’ve probably played 7 Wonders before.
The Wonders are drafted at the start of the game with each player ending up with four, but only seven total can be built during a game. When built, wonders provide instant bonuses which can be gold, points, another turn, or many other things.
The game is an engine builder at heart, although it does provide some alternate paths to victory. If you want to win by VP, you will want to build up your resource production so you can afford to cheaply, or freely, build your wonders and those VP-producing buildings. Each building has an associated cost which can be some combination of gold and/or resources. If you have the resource producing buildings necessary to cover the cost of a new building, you get to build it for free. If you don’t, you have to pay for the resources you are missing which can get very expensive as the cost is calculated based on what is in your opponent’s civilization. The more resources you have, the less likely you’ll have to pay big costs for new buildings which means fewer wasted turns of picking a card just to exchange it for gold.
The other two paths to victory are military and science. Military works as a bit of a tug-o-war. If either player manages to push the military marker to the end of the track, they instantly win the game. Military is gained by playing military cards. A scientific victory is achieved by constructing one of six different science symbol buildings during a game. There are seven total.
It’s pretty easy to see why this game is so beloved. It is fairly simple, especially if you are familiar with 7 Wonders. This is far from a gateway, and players specifically likely to get confused by having too much going on might have issues, but the basic mechanics are fairly simple. Grab a card and do one of three things with it, easy enough.
Beyond that, having three separate paths to victory is what makes this game. You can’t just focus all of your efforts on one area. If you are going hard after VP, you have to make sure your opponent isn’t getting close to a military or science victory. It can be impossible to block if you let them get too far, so allowing your opponent to get within two or three spots of a military victory can be a recipe for disaster. The other side of that coin is that if you focus a significant amount of effort on military, it is going to be tough for you to earn enough VP to compete if the game actually reaches the end.
Science provides a bit of a middle ground. Science buildings usually provide points, not many, but more than the zero provided by military. Also, if you get two of the same science symbol, you get to choose from a handful of science tokens which provide some immediate and/or ongoing effect. Going for science buildings won’t kill your chances for a VP victory, but going heavy military likely will.
This game has a huge play time difference in app compared to the physical game. This is because the app washes away so many (read: all) of the calculations you have to make in the physical game. Each available card is given a gold number showing up much gold it would cost to build, the number is red if you can’t afford it. Cards which can be built for free, either because of your resources or due to building linking, are highlighted. The cost to build your wonders is shown with the same gold icon. In short, you can absolutely fly through this game because the app does all of the hard stuff for you. You simply get to start a game and make the fun decisions. It shines as one of the best examples of digital streamlining.
Oh, it’s also a great game. The various paths to victory give you just enough to chew on that it’s not always a VP race. You will often find yourself making choices that don’t necessarily help yourself, but rather avoid uncovering those two hidden cards for your opponent to choose from, forcing them to do so on their turn instead. The powerful wonder cards add just enough variety that you always feel like you have a trick up your sleeve. They can be devastating when you think you’ve corned your opponent into uncovering that last science card you need, only to realize they had a “take another turn” wonder ready to build and your plan has been foiled.
In short, I can’t think of another five minute app that provides more of a game than 7 Wonders Duel.
Barrier to Entry
The game features a tutorial and in-game pop-up help. The tutorial runs through the basics of the game using text popups. I had an issue with tapping my way through the tutorial. It would frequently register a double-tap which would skip a popup. This would, of course, be very annoying if you are trying to learn the game.
In game, you can tap-and-hold to see details on just about everything. This is a very handy feature to help you when you are first learning.
Look and Feel
I’ve already mentioned how well this app streamlines the game. Everything is incredibly intuitive, with all of the information you need staring you in the face each turn. It’s a beautifully done digital conversion.
The controls work almost exclusively through drag-and-drop and I’ve not had any issues with them so far. Drag a card into your play area to build it, or into your coin purse to exchange it for coins. And, of course, as you hover the card over the purse the game shows you how many coins you will receive for exchanging it. The only extra step needed is in building your wonders, you need to click on your wonder card area first and then drag a card onto it to trigger the build. There is no undo button, but my concern if there were is that it would slow down the game when it’s speediness is one of its best qualities.
On the downside, the game appears to suffer from some tap-registering issues, as mentioned in the tutorial overview. For some reason, the game will randomly pop up help tips, which is a bit annoying but is exaggerated by the game inevitably popping up another window as you try to dismiss this help. This is an annoyance that should be fixed quickly, and the devs are already aware of it.
The game features real-time, cross platform online play. The game will match you to another player, usually fairly quickly, and the game will begin. It’s simple and seamless, which is all you could want. One thing you might find yourself wanting, however, is asynchronous play. Like the original, Duel does not offer this mode. It can be argued that the quick nature of this game means it is best played in real-time, but we would always prefer the app give us the choice to play it out over longer time periods.
The game features local pass-and-play. It’s a duel game without any hidden information, so this mode works quite well. A random note, the app will drop your game should you switch from wifi to cell connection.
There aren’t AI levels in 7 Wonders Duel, so all single player games are played against the same AI. In a duel game without hidden information, it’s often much more obvious what the AI should do which lets you be your own judge on the AI’s competence. It is clearly smart enough not to hand you a military or science victory if it can prevent you from getting the last card you need. Will it look a few turns in the future and begin trying to stop you before you are on the cusp of victory? Sometimes.
I feel like, overall, it does a good job, but it is really tough to say how difficult the AI is. Sometimes the cards flip in the direction of one side or the other, and the outcome is sealed because the AI is competent enough to take advantage. Is it brutally tough? I don’t think so. If there were statistics kept, I would tell you how often I win, but I feel like I’ve been winning more often than not after I got my feet under me with the game.
The physical game has a widely loved expansion, Pantheon, which was released not too long after the initial game. There is no word on whether this will hit the app at some point, but the original 7 Wonders saw its digital implementation get multiple expansions added after release. The apps are made by the same developer and the games by the same publisher, so there’s at least a strong history to make you hope Pantheon will hit the digital version at some point.
The Wrap Up
7 Wonders Duel is a wonderful head-to-head game that has been given a slick, streamlined digital port. Why don’t I love it? Well, I’m just not sure when I would actually play the app. I’ve been curious about the game for a long time and the app has been great in allowing me to try it out to see if it was for me. However, without asynchronous online play and without variable AI, I don’t see myself returning to 7 Wonders Duel very often. It’s the same issue I had with the port of the original 7 Wonders. The best use case I have for the app, beyond simply learning and testing the game, is if I had a close friend/significant other who also loved the game and I could setup real-time games. You can run through maybe five of six digital games in the time it would take you to play the physical game. As it stands, however, I don’t have much interest in real-time online games with random opponents and the AI isn’t unforgiving enough to present a massive challenge.
On the technical side, the implementation is mostly great. There are some odds and ends bugs in the tapping and annoying pop-ups, but we expect those to be cleaned up in short order.
Use the app to try out the game or to allow yourself to play a ton of real-time games with a friend. If you enjoy playing real-time games with random opponents, you will find a lot to like.