Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+
Difficulty to Learn: 5/10
Mastery Curve: 6/10
Luck Variance: 4.5/10
Publisher: Repos Production
Awards & Honors:
Board Game Quest Awards Best Card Game (2015)
Golden Geek Best Card Game (2015)
Golden Geek Best Two-Player Board Game (2015)
The Dice Tower Best Two-Player Game (2015)
Tric Trac d’Or Award (2015)
Kennerspiel des Jahres Recommended List (2016)
The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design: Origins Award for Best Card Game (2017)
Theme and Overview
7 Wonders: Duel is a turn-based game in which players race to build competing empires and assemble up to four of the seven wonders of the world.
Players begin each of three “ages” (rounds) by arranging the cards a deck specific to that age. Each age features a unique formation for set-up by which the cards are to be laid out in the center of the table. In these formations, only the face-up cards that are completely uncovered are currently available for purchase by any player. As these cards are removed, other cards become available and should be revealed if they were previously face-down.
The game ends at the end of the third age or if a player has advanced their military beyond the threshold of the opposing player’s domain as signified by the track included on the game board. Additionally, players can win immediately at any point by collecting a full set of science symbols.
The cards purchased represent resource production, research and development, military strength, or trade, and allow for either advancement in your own empire or an assault on your opponent’s. In addition to purchasing Age cards, players have the opportunity to build one of four Wonders selected at the start of the game by placing any available Age card face down underneath it and fulfilling its cost requirements. If the game has not ended before the close of Age III, each player totals up their success in a variety of categories representing their cultural prowess (using a pencil and scorecard) and a winner is determined based on a comparison of points.
For those that are familiar with the original game, “7 Wonders”, you’ll notice a lot of similarities in “7 Wonders: Duel” but with some very significant procedural changes. The game plays QUITE differently even though it involves a lot of the same concepts.
7 Wonders: Duel contains two different types of cards; 67 Age cards (45x68mm), and 12 Wonder cards (65x100mm)
Corey: I really love this one. It’s refreshingly different from the original, 7 Wonders, and involves some very unique gameplay mechanics that are really pretty clever. Even though Nikki always kicks my butt at 7 Wonders: Duel, I never feel like I’m out of contention and every game is close. It’s extremely well-balanced and ridiculously well thought out.
I feel that well-designed games put a lot of weight on the decisions that players make rather than relying on the variance of the draw or die roll to determine a winner. While there is a variance factor at play when the face down cards are revealed as they are exposed in the formation (this could result in your opponent finding the last science symbol that they need to win the game), players are given many opportunities to make decisions to avoid those risks or could benefit big-time from taking them. This risk/balance adds yet another element of choice to the game which allows players to express themselves based on their playstyles. Do you tend to prioritize your own high score over defending from your opponent’s success?
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: This is one of my favorite games (It might be due to the fact that I have a winning record)! I really enjoy the three different win conditions as it allows a player to fake their opponent out by switching their focus from military to science to victory points as the need arises – it definitely keeps both players on their toes!
NIKKI POINTS: 9/10
Corey: The variety in different ways to win the game provide so much diversity in the way that your experience will unfold. Beyond that, it’s not often that your plan will be exclusively oriented towards blue cards, for example, and most builds will feature of a combination of styles and be somewhat informed by the combination of Wonder cards you’ve drafted at the start of the game.
COREY POINTS: 8/10
Nikki: No two matches are exactly the same when playing 7 Wonders: Duel. For starters there are a total of 12 Wonders available at the beginning of the game and each player drafts 4 of them so it is pretty rare that you will get the same combination of Wonders each game. Also, in each Age there are more cards than required for the card structure so there is almost always a different set of cards in a different order during each play-through (which may require switching up your strategy each time you play). An added bonus for “replay-ability” are the expansion packs (Pantheon and Agora) which we hope to play someday!
NIKKI POINTS: 8.25/10
Corey: I don’t know that thematic immersion from a historically accurate perspective was necessarily a priority of the developers in this case, but this game certainly makes me feel like I am building an empire much like I would in a real-time strategy game like Age of Empires or Civilization. The game’s themes are based on a mixture of historical nonfiction that don’t necessarily play out in a chronologically accurate way, but instead call out to the concepts, scenes, and imagery of those ages.
COREY POINTS: 8/10
Nikki: As far as the feeling of building an “empire” is concerned I think this game achieves this as the drafted development cards in each of the Ages build upon each other. In the initial Age I, opponents are tasked with creating a base for their empire through garnering resources, acquiring small armies and starting scientific research. These items are built upon in Age II in which resources are more abundant, sizes of armies are increased, and the subjects of scientific research are expanded. Finally in Age III, an empire is flourishing which allows for the development of even more science, even bigger and badder armies and the rise of guilds. Does this specifically make you feel like you are a Pharaoh in ancient Egypt or the Emperor of the Roman Empire? No, but you are free to imagine that you are as you crush your opponent through your mastery of science, trade, and war.
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Quality of Components
Corey: 7 Wonders: Duel’s components are almost entirely cardboard (save for the plastic military marker) but are still very well-crafted. At first I thought the small size of the Age cards (45x68mm) might have been a gimmick to differentiate 7 Wonders: Duel from it’s multiplayer counterpart but after playing the game once, I realized the importance of these smaller cards in the set up of each Age’s formation as a necessary space-saving measure on an otherwise crowded table.
Overall, the game’s small, predominately cardboard components allow for it to fit into a succinct and portable container, readily capable of travel, that retails at an affordable price.
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: The Development cards, game board and Wonder cards are all of good quality and fit tidily into a nice, small box. The development cards are small, but it is perfect for this game because it keeps the table from getting too cluttered (it might be nice to have a version of 7 Wonders with small cards as well because a table quickly gets crazy, especially when playing with the maximum 7 players).
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Corey: 7 Wonders: Duel brings more of the detailed and colorful artwork-centric cards that you’ve come to known from the original game. Though the cards are small in size, the developers have done an excellent job of depicting the necessary game mechanic information in a concise way to spare nearly 2/3 of the card for full-color art.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: I have always admired the artwork of this game, along with the original 7 Wonders game. The art is not only beautiful but also very consistent and cohesive. The Wonder cards all depict fantastic, colorful images of the wonders of the ancient worlds and the development cards in each Age successfully portray an empire developing from resource gathering to a flourishing city center.
NIKKI POINTS: 9.75/10
Our overall score based on the responses of both reviewers in five different categories (10 points possible for each).