Oh man, if there was a board game I enjoyed for the entirety of last year, that would be none other than 7 Wonders. Instead of explaining the mechanics of the base game, I wanted to focus on the recently released Wonder Pack!
The Wonder Pack features 4 Wonders that provide new strategies and abilities not seen in the other Wonders. This allows for more variety, without breaking the game. A common pattern found in these new Wonders is that the natural resource each start with, generally have tech bonuses that don’t use the natural resource at all. At times, the focused strength of these Wonders make them seem like superior versions of older Wonders, but in the end they are just as fair as any other ones.
Disclaimer: Upon playtesting, we still randomized Wonders. The purpose of that is to show that the point of the post is not to showcase the flavor of the Wonders, despite doing that.
Great Wall of China
This Wonder features great flexibility of different abilities, as well as not being restricted to a certain Wonder order. This allows nearly any preferred strategy to be available in a whim. The tradeoff is that none of the Wonder pieces themselves are worth any flat points.
In my games using this Wonder, I simply focus on resources and build the Wonders quickly. The bonuses are simply amazing, but it also allows a weaker focused Wonder. But hey, having bonuses that which aid you in all types of strategies despite having no flat points makes you realize that flat points can be outweighed. It fits nearly all styles of play and retains flexibility of options. A great addition is that this is the only Wonder where you do not have to tech up in a certain order. This allows you to focus on certain strategies, or cover many different paths to victory. The best part, which isn’t even the best, is that you can tech up four times, allowing a powerful Arena or benefit from a card that synergizes with Wonder count.
Everything went according to plan, but somehow there were only two stone on the field, so I could not build the academy to complete my science set.
I have yet to figure out how to optimize Stonehenge. Just because it has a unique benefit of a Stone point bonus based on the number of Stone icons your brown cards produce, that only allows a maximum of 4 to 7 Stone possible, depending on how many players play. If the monopoly on Stone allows quality trades to you, only then do I find that a solid idea. Otherwise, I don’t see much of a point of going past 3 stone since no current draftable cards possesses 4 stone within its cost. Not only that but just to tech the Wonder with the stone point bonus requires triple ore or triple wood. I’m sure there is plenty of strategy I did not delve into, but I did have cases where I did not tech the third age because it would be only two points. Stonehenge B side has an interesting ability for its second Wonder ability: gain 1 point for each matching color your neighbor has for the same color you just used to build the Wonder. I don’t sense flexibility in this Wonder but at the same time perhaps you engage in strength of production, and then power away age 3 points via Guilds and win with Military. Still, for side A, you’d want 3 stone but your 3rd stage would feel weaker at 6 points, while 3 stone on side B is about average, providing 3 points and 3 gold. Perhaps there’s hidden tech to mix this with Architect’s Cabinet, but I never quite thought that far ahead as one should not really rely a strategy on a card that might not even appear at all.
Abu Simbel allows consumption of leaders for double the cost value in points. It feels excellent on leaders who do not provide direct points.
I found Abu Simbel very intriguing, simply because you can mummify one or two of your leaders. What that means is, when you do a tech with the symbol that has a leader on it, it means taking one of your leaders and removing it from the game. In exchange, you gain a point value equal to two times the cost of the leader. This would seem obvious to aim for consuming high cost leaders that don’t necessarily generate VP directly. An easy example of this is Bilkis, who is useful throughout the game but is also very expensive. The problem lies when you hit a situation where you only had inexpensive leaders or if the high cost leader actually generated sufficient points. Personally in my usage, I aimed at not particularly going for raw or manufactured resources, sneaking in value with leaders that either reduce cost or allow cards to be played for free, then consume them after maximizing their use.
Although the original side B Mannekin Pis with the beer drinking was all in good fun, it was sadly removed in the more official release. Likewise, they made both improvements and downgrades to the A side. Instead of having very low costs to copy neighboring Wonders to your left and right, you have to copy the costs identically, but at least the 3rd stage copies the last Wonder on the left, preventing situations where neighbors having only two stages would render its 3rd copy ability useless. I find Mannekin Pis more flexible since it’s not based on itself at all, and becomes further amusing with The Great Wall of China as a neighbor, for any of the technology can be copied, as opposed to a specific order. Since Cupertino is not an official Wonder board in terms of retail release, Mannekin Pis remains the only Wonder board that starts you off with more gold.
The general build went according to plan, but I actually ended up not trading.
In conclusion I find these Wonders most interesting. While The Great Wall of China seems too flexible, making it nearly a favorite, I don’t believe these Wonders are particularly broken in anyway. It keeps a fresh enough design to implement creative abilities, while retaining the core feature of skillful drafting. I approve of this Wonder pack, and look forward to the next expansion of 7 Wonders!