7 Wonders Revisited & Two Must-Have Apps

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7 Wonders

It’d been awhile since I last played 7 Wonders and I was thrilled when it hit the table today. It’s now considered a classic gateway game, but its scoring (especially the science structures) can seem like too much for new gamers.

In 7 Wonders you and your opponents are building your empires over three ages (rounds). Of course, no empire is complete without an architectural wonder to attest to its greatness and each player has an individual board representing the one that they’re building (The Statue of Zeus in Olympia, the Pyramids of Giza, etc.).

If I was teaching this game to new players, I’d teach Sushi Go! first to get them familiar with the card-drafting mechanism. It makes for the perfect segue, since you’ll be drafting cards throughout 7 Wonders.

Everybody starts with seven cards, then chooses one and places it face down. All cards are revealed simultaneously, then you either build the structure, discard it for money, or use it to build one stage of your wonder.

All cards are structures and produce either resources or victory points. In the first age you’ll be able to build some structures for free, but most of the time the structures cost either money or resource(s) to build. If your empire is producing those resource(s), then you can build the structure for free. If not, you can buy the resources from your neighbors on either side of you. Some of the structures in the early ages allow you to build others for free later in the game.

That’s the basic gist of the game. Play ends after the third age and victory points are awarded for each type of structure you build. The trickiest to score are the scientific structures, but it’s basically set collection and a multiplier.


The word elegant is used to death in board game reviews and sometimes my brain is too tired to think of a better way to describe a game. Elegant, though, is how I’d describe 7 Wonders. You have cards, you choose one to play, then you play it and pass the rest to your opponent. Simple, effective, and silky smooth.

Where 7 Wonders gets its depth is from its multiple paths of victory. You can go heavy on the military, pummeling your opponents for VPs after each age. Or you can build up your science structures, hoping to complete sets of three different symbols to score the most points.

There’s a decent amount of interaction, too. Obviously, you’re passing cards around every turn, but if you’re paying attention to your opponents, then you can draft the cards that they need. Or you can choose to build resources that you know they’ll need to buy from you. Or you can simply discard the cards you know they’re waiting for.

Best of all, the game plays quickly, no matter the player count. It’s easy to play simultaneously, as long as you keep track of money and who’s paying whom for what.

For those thinking about getting the game or teaching it to new gamers, I highly recommend downloading these two apps:

Augmented 7 Wonders (free on Android and iOS). An amazing and simple-to-use app that uses augmented reality to explain each card and player board.

For example, if you need help remembering what the Vineyard did, simply open the app and point your phone’s camera on the card. A text explanation hovers over it. Awesome!

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And it works on your player board, too!

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7 Wonders Score Sheet (free on Android; there are some paid options for iOS). There’s a score pad included in 7 Wonders, but this app does all of the math for you, including figuring out those pesky science structure scores and converting your money into points. Just punch in the numbers and the app does the rest, including applying any tiebreakers. The app supports all of the expansions as well.

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With these two apps you can easily teach new players or get your regular gaming buddies to revisit this classic game. I’m glad I did!

Update 6-27-18: You can listen to me read this post on YouTube.

 

 

On the Tabletop: Cobra Paw

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From the makers of Bananagrams comes Cobra Paw, a light family game of pattern recognition and real-time action. Two to six players (“ninjas”) attempt to be the first to collect six stones and win the game.

There are 21 stones that have different symbols and colors on them. The active player rolls two dice and whoever can match the symbols on the dice to its corresponding stone must grab it to add to their collection.

If the symbols match a stone in someone’s collection, they can be stolen from them. First one to have six stones (or eight stones in a two-player game) wins.

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This is a simple and fast game. The components are top-notch, featuring big, chunky dice and solid domino-like stones. The rule book is whimsical and offers a few variants to the basic game.

Cobra Paw is great if you have young ones looking to participate in game night. For more experienced gamers, this might work as a filler between heavier, more involved games.

Thanks to Bananagrams for providing a copy of Cobra Paw for review.

Kingdom Builder: When Insomnia Pays Off

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I couldn’t fall asleep Wednesday night so I started reading my Twitter feed when I came across a link to an Amazon deal. It was for Kingdom Builder, an abstract game that I’d first played over a year ago. I remembered liking it then and for less than $9, I couldn’t resist. I bought it then fell asleep about an hour later.

When I woke up it felt like a dream. Did I really buy a Spiel des Jahres winner for less than the cost of a meal? I re-checked my account and, sure enough, it was already on its way.

Today it showed up at the front door and after punching out the bits and reviewing the rules, I was ready to play. But first, dinner with my wife at our favorite local Thai restaurant. When we got home I wanted to see if the game was as good as I remembered.

It was!

Kingdom Builder is a terrific gateway game, with excellent components and an easy-to-learn ruleset. Players are trying to build the most valuable kingdom by laying settlements throughout the land. The simple turns make for a quick game: draw a card that determines your placement, then do any additional actions you’ve unlocked during the game.

It’s not a brain burner, but it does force you to plan carefully, especially during your first few moves. Thanks to its handful of different scoring rules and extra interlocking game board pieces, there’s a lot of variability since you won’t be trying to score in the same way and the board will be different each time.

This was Donald X. Vaccarino’s follow-up to Dominion and while Kingdom Builder didn’t set the gaming world on fire like Dominion, it’s still worthy of being on any gamer’s shelf. Especially when its price is a single digit.

Challenge Completed

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Over on boardgamegeek.com they run a 10×10 challenge, in which participants attempt to play 10 different games at least 10 times each during the year. I did it last year and like the Lakers winning championships back in the day, I repeated the feat this year.

Here’s are quick thoughts on the 10 games on my list. Thanks to my wife, nephew and niece, and regular gaming buddies (two on Twitter: Daryl and Oscar) for helping me finish my list.

Santorini. One of my favorite abstract games ever. The game is ridiculously easy to learn: on your turn you move to any adjacent square, then you build on any adjacent square; to win, you must move up to the third level of any building. That’s it. It has surprising depth and lots of replayability due to its God Power cards, which add new moves, abilities, and/or win conditions for each player. Simply brilliant. (25 plays)

Mint Works. Everyone I’ve played Mint Works with has loved it. It’s a stripped-down-to-basics worker placement game that fits inside an Altoids tin. Games take no longer than 15 minutes, but it always manages to satisfy that worker placement itch. (10 plays)

Karuba. This was an insta-hit with my wife and our extended family of gamers. The tile call-outs reminds me of bingo, while the puzzle-like game play is always a blast, as each player tries to guide their adventurer to their temples while scooping up gems. (10 plays)

Onitama. Another abstract that gets bonus points for its terrific, road-trip-friendly packaging. While Santorini provides more depth and replayability, Onitama is even easier to learn: play a card and move any of your pieces according to the card’s directions while trying to capture your opponent’s master pawn or moving your master pawn to your opponent’s side. It plays faster than Santorini and I’m happy that both are in the Gaviola Game Library. (18 plays)

Red7. Any fan of card games should give Red7 a try. It’s a quick filler-type game, but has lots of interesting decisions throughout a game, thanks to its unique card play. Each card can be used in multiple ways so you’re always trying to find just the right card to play on your turn. The win condition is simple: be the last person standing. (17 plays)

Tiny Epic Quest. I love the Tiny Epic series of games. Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games manage to pack a lot of game into small boxes and Tiny Epic Quest is the best of the lot. I enjoy the puzzle-like nature of the Day Phase as you try to complete Movement Quests, but it’s the dice-chucking, push-your-luck Night Phase to complete Treasure Quests that’s an absolute blast. (28 plays)

Guess Who? My wife and I took a weekend cruise to Mexico earlier this year and the ship had a lounge that had a few shelves of board games. Unfortunately, it was multiple copies of chess, checkers, Connect Four, and Guess Who?. Thankfully, we were too busy chillaxing and enjoying the trip to care about how shoddy the selection was. We did, however, play 10 straight games of Guess Who?, so at least I was able to get my board game fix. (10 plays)

Tiny Epic Galaxies. No surprise here: I played another Tiny Epic game 10 times this year. This was my favorite in the series until I got Tiny Epic Quest. Galaxies is a lot of dice chucking, which always makes me happy. The solo game is fun (although TEQ has also supplanted it as my favorite of the series) and the Beyond the Black expansion added some nice touches to it, including new ships and abilities, and set collection and push-your-luck mechanisms. (14 plays)

Imperial Settlers. I’m not sure what I expected with Imperial Settlers, but I heard a lot of good things about it and won an auction for it last year. I like the civilization building aspect, along with card drafting. As the game progresses it becomes a good brain-burning exercise as you try to squeeze as much as you can out of each of your cards. (16 plays)

Viticulture Essential Edition. I lucked out last year and found a BGG user who had a brand new copy for half price. Not sure why I waited until this year to play it, but it was love at first play; the theme and mechanisms blend in so well together. It’s a classic of the worker placement genre and easily makes it into my Top Five Games Ever. When I added the Tuscany Essential expansion a few months later, it took the game to a whole new level. (36 plays)

Challenge Completed: Every Night Is Game Night

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I completed my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge for May!

It took me a few extra days into June to finish, but it was a fun experience sharing my thoughts on the games I played during the month. Thanks again for reading and for chatting with me on Twitter.

Here’s what I played and blogged about in May:

  1. Indigo
  2. Pandemic
  3. Rolling America
  4. Loopin’ Chewie
  5. Stone Age
  6. Tiny Epic Galaxies
  7. Star Realms
  8. Red 7
  9. Dead Man’s Draw
  10. Paris Connection
  11. Friday
  12. Octo Dice
  13. Lotus
  14. Harbour
  15. Patchwork
  16. Ethnos
  17. Loony Quest
  18. Lost Cities
  19. La Isla
  20. Kanagawa
  21. Potion Explosion
  22. Formula D
  23. Tuscany Essential Edition
  24. Sagrada
  25. Tiny Epic Galaxies (again)
  26. Lords of Waterdeep
  27. Alhambra
  28. Clank! Sunken Treasures
  29. Backgammon
  30. Dragon Run
  31. Cubist

 

Every Night Is Game Night: Cubist

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Technically, my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge is over, but I missed a few days so I’m writing about other games I played during May. This is post no. 31, so consider my quest completed. What are you playing these days? Tweet me and let me know!


I’d heard good things about Cubist, but didn’t really know what to expect. I knew it was some kind of dice allocation and puzzle game, but that was it. One of the guys at my Thursday night group had Kickstarted it, so I finally got a chance to play it. After a few turns, I knew my wife would like it, so I made sure to add it to my Amazon wish list.

Players are architects building art installations, using their rolled dice to complete the works featured on the community cards. The first one to complete the card collects it and earns the victory points listed. There is also a museum card that all players contribute dice to and they’ll score points there, too.

Dice placement rules are simple to learn: you may place dice adjacent to each other if they are one more or one less. You may place dice on top of each other if they are of equal value. So, place a 2 next to a 3 or stack a 1 on top of a 1, etc. You place the dice on your “work room” (your player mat), then remove the dice when you’ve completed an installation.

Turns go quickly and I loved the theme. There’s a nice way to mitigate bad rolls, in the form of artist cards that you can claim for a special action.

After I played Sagrada I was asked if it replaced Cubist. There are similar features (dice allocation, special powers, and a puzzle-like mechanism) and while I lean toward Sagrada as the better game, I enjoyed both equally. Sagrada might be easier to pick up for new gamers, but it fails in the accessibility department (colorblind players may have trouble with it).

Cubist, on the other hand, has the cool three-dimensional element to its puzzle, as you try to complete your works and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a solid game that I hope to see on the tabletop again soon.

Every Night Is Game Night: Dragon Run

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Technically, my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge is over, but I missed a few days so I’m writing about other games I played during May. This is post no. 30, so I’ll write one more and consider my quest completed. What are you playing these days? Tweet me and let me know!


Dragon Run has a special spot in my gaming heart: it was the first game I played with my current gaming group nearly two years ago. We played a five-player game and two of us still attend the game night weekly, while the others stopped showing up due to relocation and new work schedules.

Last year around my one-year anniversary of being a part of the group I asked the owner of the game to bring it in. It was fun revisiting a blast from the past, especially with one of the O.G.s (Original Gamers) that I knew.

Dragon Run is a fast, push-your-luck card game of grabbing treasure in a dungeon before a dragon wakes up to burn you to a crisp. The dungeon is a deck of 10 cards: nine of them direct you to take an action or stop, the 10th is the fire-breathing dragon. Each player has two hit points, so you hope to only see that dragon once on your turn. You’ll also have a special ability specific to your character.

In addition to collecting treasures, you’ll get potions and artifacts that help fend off the monster. Any time the dragon shows up, the dungeon deck is reshuffled and the hunt continues until only one player remains or if the dragon is done breathing its fire. In this latter case, the player with the most treasure wins.

I’ll never turn down a game of Dragon Run, if only because it reminds me of my gaming past. It was the reason why I couldn’t resist buying my own copy when I found it at Gamex 2017 a few weeks ago.