Review and How to Play: 7 Wonders Duel [2 player game]

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When I was looking for the best board games to purchase, the most frustrating thing for me was finding how-to-plays on them without watching an hour long play through or having to read the full instructions online. So I’ve taken it upon myself to summarize in text (and possibly in video in the future) to make it simple to read about and understand without having to spend too much time on it.

In our house, 7 Wonders is the most played game we own. So when I heard that 7 Wonders Duel was released, we jumped to buy it.

Number of Players: 2

Playing Time: 30-60 mins

Game type: Competitive/Strategy Game

How to win: Get the most victory points at game end*

*there are scenarios that end the game earlier but are difficult to achieve

If you’re familiar with the original 7 Wonders, this game is a breeze to pick up. Whether you’re playing it for the first time or are a 7 Wonders veteran, I’ve summarized how-to-plays for both scenarios.


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For 7 Wonders Beginners

For 7 Wonders Veterans

Review of 7 Wonders


For 7 Wonders Beginners

This is for people who have never played 7 Wonders before. The rules that come with the game can be confusing if you’ve never played the game and have no one to guide you. Hopefully my walkthrough below will be helpful in understanding the rules better. Note that this is not to replace the official rulebook but rather compliment it so that those who are new to 7 Wonders can get a better grasp of the game.

As mentioned above, the goal of the game is to get the most victory points. There are different ways to do so which I will list below. The victory points are the number with the little wreath symbol in it.

There are 3 “Ages”. Once these ages are done, the game stops and victory points are counted. (There are ways to end the game earlier which I will explain below.) The ages in indicated on the cards by the roman numerals on the back.

Here is everything that comes in the box stacked nicely. Note that my cards are sleeved. They DO NOT come sleeved.  I purchased these ones to sleeve the large cards and these ones to sleeve all the small ones if you’re interested in sleeving them.

7 Wonders Duel Items

Ways to get victory points:

  1. Build cards that have the victory point symbol (mostly the blue cards)
  2. Military supremacy – the weird looking long board. Whenever you build an army (red) card, you get to move the counter towards your opponent. These count for victory points at the end of the game. If you somehow manage to get to the last spot on the board on your opponents side, the game automatically ends and you win.
  3. Scientific supremacy – if you collect 6 out of the 7 symbols (green cards), the game ends and you automatically win. (This is very hard to do.)
  4. Every 3 coins = 1 victory point at the end (buy things wisely!)

Game Elements

The official rule book does a good job explaining all of the game elements. You have Wonder cards, Military tokens (red rectangular things), Progress tokens (for green cards/scientific symbols), A conflict pawn (the plastic red shield and swords in a cross), the “Board” (weird long board), Coins (money), and cards. Phew that was a long list of things that are probably very very confusing right now. But that’s okay. The game was super confusing to me the first time I played it too. (And I’d consider myself a 7 Wonders veteran.)

If you don’t feel like reading about all of the game elements in the rulebook, just pay attention to the “Wonder card” and the “Cost of Cards” sections. The rest is just telling you what things are called.

Game Set-up

The picture on Page 6 of the rule book shows set-up. Basically:

  1. Place weird long board between two players (sit across from each other have the two ends pointing to each of you)
  2. Put the 4 red rectangular military tokens on the spaces (the two in the middle are empty, then the 2 cracked coin, 5 cracked coins from inside out)
  3. Put the red plastic conflict pawn in the middle of the board
  4. Shuffle the Green progress tokens (circular green pieces) and place 5 of them in the spaces on the board face up (players get to pick a token when you have a pair of the same green symbols!)
  5. Give each play 7 coins

Now you’re ready to play. Well… almost.

Wonder Selection

Each player gets the chance to build “wonders” on their side. This stage is critical to deciding who can build what. The help sheet that comes with the game will be useful for this to understand what the symbols on each wonder mean.

As per the rulebook instructions:

  1. Shuffle the 12 Wonders
  2. Place 4 of the Wonders face-up between the players
  3. Player A picks a wonder
  4. Player B picks the next 2 wonders
  5. Player A gets the last wonder
  6. This process goes again but Player B gets to go first

Now each player has 4 wonders each.

Important Rule Note: Only the first 7 wonders of the game that get built in the game have their effects, the 8th wonder will get put aside so keep that in mind when deciding which wonder(s) to build first! E.g. Player A and B both have built 3 wonders. Player A builds his/her 4th wonder. Player B must put his/her 4th wonder back in the box and cannot activate it.

Okay, so you’ve selected your wonders. That’s great and all but how do you activate them? There’s a cost on the bottom left side of the card. This is very important to pay attention to. You will need to have all of those materials to build/”activate” the card AND you’ll need to burn a card (which is place underneath the wonder (you’ll notice an outline on the right side that fits the card size).

Separate your Age I, II, III, and “G” (guild) cards.

The rules say to take three random cards from each age and put them back in the box. They then tell you to take three random Guild cards and add them to your Age III deck. Put the rest in the box. You should now have 3 stacks of cards (one for Age I, Age II and Age III).

On to Age 1.

7 Wonders Duel

This is in your rulebook (at the back) as well as on the cheat sheet that comes with the game. Set up your age one cards like this.

Ever play pyramid? It works the same way. You start a the bottom and Player A gets to pick a card first. Then Player B picks a card. And the Player A picks the next card and so on. When face down cards get revealed, flip the card over and it becomes an option to take. The Age ends when all the cards are gone. Then setup the next Age. But wait. How do you “pick/play a card?”

On Your Turn

You can only do the following on your turn/card pick:

  • Build a card (provided you have the requirements for it)
  • If you do not have the requirements for a card and you don’t want your opponent to get it, I would recommend “burning/discarding” it. You can burn it one of two ways:
    • Discard it for 2 coins + 1 extra coin for EACH yellow card you’ve built
    • Burn it by building one of your wonders (provided you have the requirements to build your wonder)
  • Or you can simply build a wonder with a card (once again, I would recommend doing this with a card that you think your opponent would want)

Some Strategy and Gameplay Notes

  • Age I and II are the only Ages with resources (there are 5 – wood, stone, brick, parchment and glass/water). This means you should grab what you need in the early stages. How do you know what to grab/stock up on? Your wonder cards are a good place to start. Remember the resource costs at the bottom? You’ll eventually need that many of whatever resource is listed. E.g. The Piraeus wonder requires 2 wood, 1 stone and 1 brick. You can buy your opponent’s resources though so also pay attention to what they buy.
  • You can buy your opponents resources for 2 coin (paid to the bank aka your box/stack of coins on the side), PLUS the number of resources they have. E.g. you need a brick. Your opponent produces 2 brick. You must therefore pay 2 coin + 2 coins (for your opponents 2 brick) to the bank. Resources from yellow cards don’t count in this calculation.
  • Green cards will likely require Parchment and/or Glass. If you plan on scoring victory points through this route, you should pick these up.
  • If you build an army (red card), you get to move the combat icon (red plastic thingy) towards your opponent. The number of red cross/shield symbols determines how many. When it gets to certain thresholds, your OPPONENT pays that many coin (represented by the broken coin symbols). Once your opponent has paid, the symbols remain off the board. Yes, the icon gets moved back and forth a lot.
  • When collecting Green cards, remember the following:
    • If you collect a pair of the SAME symbol, you’ll get to select one of the green coins on the board. There are some really good advantages!
    • If you collect 6 different symbols, you automatically win the game (very difficult to do – there are only 7 different symbols)
    • There are duplicates of green cards. You can only have one of each building. E.g. you can’t have two Dispensary.
  • Purple cards (guild cards) are usually expensive. But they usually give you A LOT of points. Note about cards with money icons: Money is given at the time of activation, NOT at the end of the game. (We used to play the latter.)
  • If you build a card with a symbol early on, you can likely build something later in the game that has the same symbol (you wouldn’t have to pay the resource cost). E.g. If you have the Stable, you can build the Horse Breeders later in game without paying any resources.
  • The Triangle/Pyramid symbol refers to the Wonders. E.g. Arena card gives 2 Gold and 3 Victory points PER wonder that you have.

End of Game and Score Tabulation

So if the game hasn’t ended because one of you completely dominated in military (the icon has reached the end of one side of the board), or scientific (no one has collected 6 out of the 7 symbols), victory points are counted.

Victory Points to Count:

  • Military
    • Look at the combat pawn on the board. If it’s on your side, your opponent gets that many victory points. If it’s on your opponent’s side, you get that many victory points (whichever zone it’s in).
  • Victory points (number with green wreath)
    • Blue cards
    • Green cards
    • Yellow cards
    • Purple cards
    • Wonders that you’ve built
    • Points from Green tokens (Progress tokens)
    • Coins – every 3 coins = 1 victory point

In the case of a tie (has never happened but you never know), the person with the most VP from their BLUE cards wins the game.

And that’s it! That wasn’t too complicated to understand was it?

For 7 Wonders Veterans

Rules are generally the same to the original 7 Wonders so I’ll only cover the differences.

How to Win: Get the most victory points OR collect 6 different (out of the 7) scientific symbols OR dominate by moving the army pawn to the end of the board (closest to your opponent).

There are still 3 Ages. Coins are the same (except there is no 5 coin and there is a 6 coin instead). There are no wonder boards. Instead, there are 12 Wonder cards.  Each player will end up with 4 of them (see below).

Game Set-up

The picture on Page 6 of the rule book shows set-up. Basically:

  1. Place weird long board between two players (sit across from each other have the two ends pointing to each of you)
  2. Put the 4 red rectangular military tokens on the spaces (the two in the middle are empty, then the 2 cracked coin, 5 cracked coins from inside out)
  3. Put the red plastic conflict pawn in the middle of the board
  4. Shuffle the Green progress tokens (circular green pieces) and place 5 of them in the spaces on the board face up (players get to pick a token when you have a pair of the same green symbols!)
  5. Give each play 7 coins

Now you’re ready to play. Well… almost.

Wonder Selection

Each player gets the chance to build “wonders” on their side. The cost to activate the wonder is indicated on the bottom left corner.  The help sheet that comes with the game will be useful for this to understand what the symbols on each wonder mean but you’ll likely recognize a lot of them from the original game.

As per the rulebook instructions:

  1. Shuffle the 12 Wonders
  2. Place 4 of the Wonders face-up between the players
  3. Player A picks a wonder
  4. Player B picks the next 2 wonders
  5. Player A gets the last wonder
  6. This process goes again but Player B gets to go first

Now each player has 4 wonders each.

Important Rule Note: Only the first 7 wonders of the game that get built in the game have their effects, the 8th wonder will get put aside so keep that in mind when deciding which wonder(s) to build first! E.g. Player A and B both have built 3 wonders. Player A builds his/her 4th wonder. Player B must put his/her 4th wonder back in the box and cannot activate it.

Separate your Age I, II, III, and “G” (guild) cards.

The rules say to take three random cards from each age and put them back in the box. They then tell you to take three random Guild cards and add them to your Age III deck. Put the rest in the box. You should now have 3 stacks of cards (one for Age I, Age II and Age III).

On to Age 1.

7 Wonders Duel

 

Set-up the cards as indicated above. Instead of giving each player cards to start with immediately, players take turns selecting cards from the pyramid. The Age ends when all the cards are gone.

On Your Turn

Similar to the original 7 Wonders, you can do the following on your turn/card pick:

  • Build a card (provided you have the requirements for it)
  • Discard a card for 2 coins + 1 extra coin for EACH yellow card you’ve built
  • Burn a card and build a wonder with it

For Gameplay: Major differences from the original 7 Wonders game

Military:

  • Instead of tabulating after each Age who has the largest army and battling it out, whenever you build an army card, you move the conflict pawn (the red plastic thing) towards your opponent. If it gets into one of the deeper ranges, your opponent must pay that number of coins to the bank. Military victory points are tabulated at the end depending on where the icon is.

Card Costs:

  • In order to build higher age cards for free, there is no longer the name of the card indicated as a cost. It is now represented by a symbol. E.g. A Mask
  • No pink textile resource. Only the Blue glass and white Papyrus (or I call paper) are included.
  • No ore (or I call gold) resource. Only Wood, Brick, Stone.
  • Card costs are indicated across the card instead of on the bottom left side
  • Instead of paying coins to your neighbours for resources, you pay them to the bank and the amount you pay is determined by:
    • Base cost: 2 coins
    • Additional cost: 1 additional coin for EACH brown/grey card they have of that resource
      •  E.g. you need a brick. Your opponent produces 2 brick. You must therefore pay 2 coin + 2 coins (for your opponents 2 brick) to the bank. Note that resources from yellow cards do not count.

Scientific:

  • No more multiplying of points. You only get the victory points indicated on the cards BUT if you collect a pair of any symbol, you get to select one of the 5 green circular “Progress tokens” which give many benefits (see rulebook for effects).

And that’s it! Everything is pretty much the same. Score tabulation is as follows if no one has collect 6 out of the 7 scientific symbols or have completely dominated by military (the red plastic icon is at the end of one of side of the board):

Victory Points to Count:

  • Military
    • Look at the combat pawn on the board. If it’s on your side, your opponent gets that many victory points. If it’s on your opponent’s side, you get that many victory points (whichever zone it’s in).
  • Victory points (number with green wreath)
    • Blue cards
    • Green cards
    • Yellow cards
    • Purple cards
    • Wonders that you’ve built
    • Points from Green tokens (Progress tokens)
    • Coins – every 3 coins = 1 victory point

If you’ve played the game and found that I’ve missed anything, please comment below or send me a message and I’ll amend it. Hopefully this helps make it easier for veteran 7 Wonders players to start playing the game quicker instead of spending an hour or so (like I did) reading through the rulebook to find all the differences and rule changes.

Now on to my review of the game.

Review of 7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel is a great 2 player game. It encompasses most of the original 7 Wonders mechanics and yet still adds more to the game that makes it an enjoyable 2 player game. Though the original 7 Wonders has a 2 player variant, it just wasn’t as fun as this 2 player version.

Replayability: 3/5

I give 7 Wonders Duel a 3/5 in replayability. Though more fun that it’s big sister, there’s a lot more luck involved in the game. There were many times that my opponent or I had very limited choices in cards to take since you can pretty much predict who will take what card next. The original 7 Wonders had more flare in this category because you only through each stack of cards once so there remained more mystery in the decisions you were making. In 7 Wonder Duel, you have to pay A LOT more attention to what your opponent is doing in order to win.

Value and Quality: 4/5

The value of the game is great. The quality of the cards and pieces are similar to the original 7 Wonders game. Though they the cards are tiny, you aren’t holding them in your hands (like in Ticket to Ride for example), so it doesn’t matter that they’re tiny.

I had to take a point off of value however because of the insert my game came with. I’ve sleeved all my cards and once sleeved, the cards are too big for the card slots. I’ve been forced to store my cards sideways like in the picture below which is a pain. I’ve heard however that not all inserts are the same size, so I guess I just got unlucky.

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Overall: 4/5

All around, it’s a great 2-player game and I’m very happy to add it to my collection. If you want a quick game (unlike those 3 hour Catan games), this is a great and quick game to play. I still prefer the original 7 Wonders but this met all my expectations as a 2 player variant.

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