Don’t get me wrong, I think 7 Wonders is a good game. I just didn’t love it as much as everyone else did, and that hasn’t changed over time. I may even like it a little less now than I did at the start. So when Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala released a two-player version of the game, I expected to be underwhelmed. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed 7 Wonders Duel, and once I added the Pantheon expansion, I loved it.
Civilization Building – Table for Two
The game progresses through three ages. You start with Age I, which I refer to as the Age of Looking for Stuff. During this age, you gather buildings that generate important raw materials like bricks, stone, and lumber. You use these resources and other fancier goods like paper and glass to add buildings to your capital city.
You will also have the opportunity to create a few wonders. There are major developments like the Library of Alexandria, the great Pyramids, or the first IHOP. Building these wonders takes a lot of resources, but they provide you bonuses and lots of victory points. Each player starts with four wonders, but only seven can be created because that’s the rule about wonders, seven is the limit.
You construct buildings by taking them from the available cards that are displayed according to a particular structure that is different for each age. Some cards are face up while others are face down, and some cards are not available until you have removed a card that covers it. Cards will either be free to construct or more often will have a cost that must be paid in resources. Resources can be purchased from your opponent if you don’t have the necessary raw materials.
During Age II, which I refer to as the Age of Serving on a Naval Vessel, you continue to build up your city. If you didn’t manage to finish building one of your wonders during Age I, then you will want to get busy and do so before your opponent shuts you out of the extra wonder.
The game can end immediately if a player fulfills the requirements for a military or scientific victory. A military victory is triggered by accumulating enough shields to move your forces into your opponent’s capital city and a scientific victory occurs once you gather enough scientific symbols to create a toaster oven. I think it takes six different scientific symbols to create a toaster oven.
At the end of Age III, which I refer to as the Age of Stammering, as in the “I… I… I don’t know what to do now” stage, if nobody has invaded a capital city or invented the toaster oven, then the winner is determined through a civilian victory. Basically, each player counts up their victory points earned from their buildings, their wonders, coins, military strength, and scientific progress and whoever has the most points wins. Maybe you didn’t make it all the way to the toaster oven, but you discovered s’mores. That’s worth something, right? Maybe you built a really beautiful palace, figured out geometry, and invented musical theater? It all adds up in the end.
Bling It Up, Buttercup
At this point, 7 Wonders Duel is my most tricked out game. I’ve got the Pantheon expansion, the Broken Token custom insert, the metal gaming coins, and all of the cards are sleeved. I’m not sure what else I can do to it. I suppose I could paint the little plastic shield that tracks the level of military power. Now that I look at it, the most useful thing I could add would be a little pencil to use with the included score pads.
I’ve played 7 Wonders Duel with my wife, my son, and other gamers and I’ve enjoyed it every time. Games are fairly short, usually under thirty minutes, and while it takes a little bit of time to set up the cards in each of the three ages, it doesn’t take so long as to be annoying. I do think the Pantheon expansion is a good addition. It replaces some of the cards available in the third age and adds the opportunity to get special abilities by spending gold to gain the favor of a god. It adds some interesting choices to the early and middle parts of the game.
Have you played 7 Wonders Duel? What did you think of it? Did you like it better than 7 Wonders? Did you get the terrible pun about Age II? I would love to hear your opinion in the comments below, or join in on the discussion on the Facebook page or message me @gameguythinks on Twitter.