Game: 7 Wonders: Duel
Publisher: Repos Production
Designer: Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala
The original game of 7 Wonders is one I played quite early when we started gaming. I really enjoyed the drafting mechanic and the early winning streak I seemed to have in the game. It’s also one of the quickest high player count strategy games I’ve encountered. We played 7 Wonders a couple of times with the two-player variant and although the game wasn’t at its best, we didn’t mind the dummy third player mechanic too much as it did add a different layer of strategy. However, 7 Wonders Duel is a 2-player only implementation of the same game, so does it replace 7 Wonders, exist well alongside it or have we found we still prefer the original, even with two players?
The game of 7 Wonders Duel starts with a draft of the wonders. Your choice of wonders can often affect the strategy you’ll play in the game, because building different wonders gives different rewards. The game then takes place over three rounds, each with a different card set-up. On your turn you take a card from the central pattern, and pay its cost to play it into your tableau or alternatively use it to place under a wonder. If you can’t or don’t wish to pay a cost then you can discard the card for money. The cost of a card is sometimes money or can ask for different resources that you must either have in your tableau or pay for. In 7 Wonders Duel, the cost you pay is dependent on whether your opponent has that resource or not.
As you might expect from a two player game, the choice of card can be pretty tactical, choosing whether to discard something your opponent obviously wants or to take something you don’t really want just so you don’t risk revealing other cards that might be really valuable to your opponent. In this way some of the essence of the original 7 Wonders, where the drafting mechanic really makes you make the decision between good for you or good for the next person in the draft.
|The game setup. The next player who takes a card will reveal a new card for their opponent if they take the card on the bottom right.|
A round ends when all the cards on the table have been taken and you make a new setup for the next round. After 3 rounds the game ends and points are scored in the different categories, however you need to also be wary of two other victory conditions in 7 Wonders Duel. Firstly you need to be aware of the military tug-of-war – if your opponent manages to outstrip you in military prowess and cause the token to move all the way to 10 military victory points in their favour, then they automatically win. Secondly you need to watch out for the science victory – if you get 7 different science symbols in your tableau, that’s also a victory condition. We’ve found that the science victory rarely happens, because it’s easy to keep on top of your opponent, but the military victory often is a game end condition because of how the cards fall and some of the cards have 3 (which can even boost to 4) points on them.
|One player's tableau. No wonders have yet been built as these would have one upside down card beneath them.|
7 Wonders Duel manages to do what many 2-player games do not, by creating a directly competitive game where you can deliberately make moves to mess over your opponent, but with enough overarching strategy that means it doesn’t feel like a vicious 1-on-1 game. I don’t think I’m as enamoured with it as many other people seem to be – I still think I prefer 7 Wonders, but they can’t really be compared since the 2-player version of the original game now seems pretty weak. 7 Wonders Duel packs quite a lot of meat into a quick 2-player game and for that, the Yellow Meeple gives it a 7.5/10.