7 Wonders actually hits mobile devices, was it worth the wait?
Android & iOS
# of Players
1 - 7
7 Wonders is the classic card drafting game in which players work towards building up their city and great wonder in order to reign supreme over their opponents. The game is often synonymous with card drafting as this point, a mechanic which has players simultaneously selecting one card from a hand and passing the remaining on to an opponent. Players select cards to build which may directly provide victory points or allow you to work towards other goals. A game plays three to seven players and flies by in about five minutes in app form.
7 Wonders starts with each player assigned a wonder which is built in stages, each of which provides a bonus to the player when built, such as victory points or military strength. Players are then dealt a hand of seven cards, from which they choose one. The chosen card is most commonly built into your city which can provide resources, points, coins, discounts, or military strength, but can also be trashed for coins or sacrificed to build a stage of your wonder. The remaining cards are passed to a neighbor and the process repeats until there is only one card left in everybody’s hand, which signals the end of that age. Between ages, military conflict between neighboring players is resolved. You match up with the player on both sides in separate comparisons of military strength. The stronger player receives point bonuses, while the weaker player loses a point. The game plays out over three ages, each of which adds new, advanced cards to the mix. After the the final age and military conflict, scores are tallied and the player with the most points wins the game.
The ultimate beauty of 7 Wonders is in the simplicity of the mechanics. “Take a card and pass the rest on” is so easy to describe and, generally, quick to execute that the games tend to fly by rather quickly. The weight of the game comes in with the various paths to VPs. Military conquest, for example, will only get you points between rounds, but if you can win all six of your battles (two per age, three ages), you are looking at 18 total points, and negative three for each of your two neighbors, that’s a huge swing. You can also play cards that directly result in VPs, but those will take some resources you must build up, of which there are six separate types. There are also certain cards (chains) which allow you to build cards that show up in the following age for free, these can provide major advantages in their categories. There are also Guild cards which allow you to score points based on what you and/or your neighbors have built. The wonders give you three points for the first stage, and seven for the last, but the middle stage varies from extra military, coins, more VPs, etc… Oh, you can also flip the wonders over, in which case the rewards for each stage completely change and are wildly different from one wonder to the next.
The point of all of this; there are a lot of ways to win 7 Wonders, and you only have 18 cards in which to play the game. The strategy of trying to do everything simply won’t work. The game demands the players frequently make important tactical decisions. It is often a solid plan to try to work towards being able to complete all three stages of your wonder, but that isn’t necessary. Military domination sure sounds like fun, but if you spend all of your resources locking up those 18 points, you are going to get lapped by everyone else building multiple routes towards points. 7 Wonders requires players be able to adapt and make the best use of whatever cards they wind up seeing on each turn. There is a reason it is a classic game, the simplicity of the base mechanic combined with the large number of paths to victory strike a great balance that has kept players entertained for years.
Barrier to Entry
7 Wonders contains a tutorial which walks you through the major aspects of the game. If you are brand new to the game, the tutorial might run through these aspects a little too quickly, but playing through it twice to reinforce the rules would certainly help. There is no rulebook to use as a reference, but you can press and hold on any card to get details on what it does. This is a vital component for some of the cards the tutorial doesn't cover, such as Guild cards.
7 Wonders isn't the most complex game, but it can be a bit overwhelming to new players with the large amount of iconography and learning what each of the various card types do and how you pay for them. The tutorial here covers the basics but could do a better job of hammering home some of them.
Age I, Turn I
Pre-game wonder selection
Look and Feel
7 Wonders is one of the best looking and smoothest games we've played. The controls are snappy and intuitive while the overall responsiveness and load times throughout are simply fantastic. The artwork is solid throughout, adding pleasant, if a bit bland, backing artwork which fit the theme well. The game adds some very handy visual cues such as color coding the cards in your hand based in which ones you can build without additional costs (green), cards you can build but require additional coins or goods (yellow), and cards you can't build due to lack of funds or having already built that card (red).
One complaint is that on phones (even large phones) the resource costs for wonders are difficult to see and zooming in on them doesn't increase the size of the resource icons. This is an issue because some of the resource icons look very similar. Normal cards have the same problem, but zooming does enlarge them in that case.
Now is when it's going to get a little weird; the app implementation is almost too good. The app works so seamlessly that it makes it tough for new players to pick up in some of the intricacies involved in playing off of what your opponent is doing. Jumping into the app without 7 Wonders experience, and the tutorial doesn't help in this matter, it seems very much like this is a multiplayer solitaire game. It is very easy to ignore your neighbors quietly compiling unstoppable science combos, or passing them a high scoring guild card because you have a slightly better option available. The color coding mentioned earlier, while great visual cues, also don't help as new players will be drawn towards the cheaper green cards while maybe ignoring more beneficial cards with some cost. It's tough to blame the app for all of this, they made a fantastic digital version of the game that allows players to enjoy the game in the most streamlined way possible, and isn't that the goal? It just feels like some nuance will be lost for new players. The flip side here is that experienced players will get to test out different strategies in no time at all given the speed at which the games fly by.
7 Wonders offers synchronous online multiplayer for three to seven players. You select the game size you want to join from the menu and the game starts trying to match. Frequently, the exact size game won't be found, but the game will quickly expand the search to other game sizes. We have found ourselves being placed rather quickly thus far. We are big advocates for asynchronous games here at Pixelated Cardboard, but this might be the rare case where we can admit that asynchronous play might not work too well. The quick pace of the game lends itself very well to quick real-time games. Of course, it would be great to get the option to try async, but we're not sure we'd actually use it if it were there.
You can also start or join custom games which allows you to choose the player count and also password protect the game. This functions in place of allowing you to invite friends, which isn't an option in the app.
Online play is good, it plays exactly how you would hope, but it isn't perfect. If the game doesn't fill up quickly, it can be started with AI bots filling in spaces. That's okay, but why not just drop the bot from the game to make it a human only game? The games are also hosted by one player, and if that player quits, the game gets abandoned which is frustrating.
Online play is blocked by corporate/school networks, which isn't rare, but 7 Wonders allows you to try to join games on these networks and it fails. Most games won't let you sign in to even attempt online games in this case, that 7 Wonders allows it but then won't connect to a game is a bit odd and it was confusing to me at first what, exactly, was happening.
Finally, there is no pass and play option. It is rare that this feature is not implemented, but given the simultaneous action in this game, it is somewhat justified. You would spend considerably more time passing the device around to each player than actually playing the game.
Despite the complaints, 7 Wonders does play well as a real-time online game. We love the quick nature of the game, it sets up well for online play and the app does deliver despite a few nitpicks.
You can play 7 Wonders solo against two to six bots. The bots don't have varying difficulty levels. I've been playing 7 Wonders occasionally for a while but I'm certainly not an expert. From my experience, the bots here play a decent game. I usually finish near the top against AI, but certainly don't have a win rate over 50% and bad strategies can lead to a truly awful score. Others with more extensive experience may or may not find the AI too forgiving, but for an average player they should provide a fun challenge.
The only game option available currently is assigning the wonders randomly or individually to each player. You will be able to toggle purchased expansions once they are available. No stats are kept and the game does not include any form of achievement system.
In game board
7 Wonders has two available expansions as in-app purchases; Leaders and Cities. Leaders adds a new wonder, four new guilds, and new Leader cards which are played at the beginning of each age by each player. Cities adds a variety of new cards including a new type, the overall goal of Cities is to increase interaction between players. In a great feature, the app lets you play through a game learning the new rule twists of each expansion before purchasing. This preview is a great way to "try before you buy."
The Wrap Up
This is a great implementation of an app that had been in development for years before seeing release. Outer Zone nailed the implementation here, the game looks, controls, and plays splendidly. The big concerns of note are the lack of AI difficulty levels and that the extreme streamlining might leave new players behind. The AI issue is a bit of an unknown as I've found the AI to be a fun challenge, this is a non-issue for me as an average player, but the lack of higher difficulty levels raises a flag that better players might not be satisfied with the AI. Finally, the streamlining of the app is a hard one to judge. The new players we've exposed to the game tend to miss out on the importance of what their neighbors are doing, but experienced players will love the streamlined package the app provides.
7 Wonders as an app has a long, complicated history, but fans can breathe easy that the product that was finally released is very well made. The app looks and plays great, an active online user base will keep players busy for a long time and the forthcoming expansions will only add to the depth.