Is There a Draft in Here?--A Double-Take Review of 7 Wonders: Duel

Today's review is 7 Wonders: Duel, the 2-player version of the hit Spiel des Jahres game 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders is praised for being a great introduction to the mechanism of drafting, and for the ability to play with up to 7 players. 7 Wonders: Duel boils the parent game down to its essence. So is this the next great wonder of the world, or will you be wondering why they even bothered to make this? Let's find out!

The Components

The vast majority of 7 Wonders: Duel is cards, broken down into three different Ages. You'll also find Guild cards, and Wonder cards. Finally, you'll find a few tokens for money, Progress, and Military. There's also a plastic Conflict pawn that tracks which player has the highest military at any given moment.

The Setup

Place the board between the two players and the Conflict pawn in the neutral space in the middle of the board. Shuffle the Progress tokens, and then draw and place five onto the Progress spaces on the board. Each player takes seven coins.

Then players each draft four of the 12 Wonders. Each of these has different costs to build, and different rewards for being built. 

Separate the decks into their Ages, and then randomly remove three cards from each Age without looking at them. Shuffle and draw three Guild cards without looking at them, and shuffle them into the Age III deck. Finally, lay out the Age I deck in a pyramid shape, with certain cards face-down, and certain others face-up, as shown in the setup sheet. (For Age II you'll deal out an inverted pyramid, and for Age III it's a sort of loop.)

Let's quickly look at the different available types of cards.

  • Raw materials (brown): produce wood, brick, or stone
  • Manufactured goods (grey): produce paper or glass
  • Civilian buildings (blue): provide end-game VPs
  • Commercial buildings (yellow): can be worth coins, produce resources, change trading rules, and be worth VPs, depending on the building. 
  • Scientific buildings (green): provide VPs and grant a Scientific symbol. If you build a green card with an identical symbol to one already in your city, you immediately choose one of the available Progress tokens to play in front of you, granting you a boon for the rest of the game. 
  • Military buildings (red): for each Shield symbol on the red card, you move the Conflict token that many spaces toward your opponent's edge of the board. 
  • Guilds (purple): provide end-game VPs based on specific criteria. 

The Gameplay

In 7 Wonders: Duel you're still drafting cards, but you're drafting them from the available face-up and uncovered cards. Each turn a player takes an available card and does one of three things with it. 

Construct a Building: Most cards have a cost on them (in coins, resources, or both), and if you are able to pay that cost with coins or cards you've built, you can take that new card and add it to your tableau. If you're missing one or more resources, you can "trade" for those resources by paying money. Finally, some cards chain with other cards. So if, for example, you build the Baths, you can later build the Aqueduct for free. You're never forced to build these chains, and there's also a regular cost on those cards, so your opponent can still build cards that are part of a chain. 

Discard for Coins: You can simply discard the card and then take two coins, plus one coin for each yellow card in your city. 

Construct a Wonder: You pay the cost of the Wonder (not the Age card), and then place the card facdown, sticking out from under the Wonder so everyone knows it's been built. Since the game is called 7 Wonders, once seven of the eight Wonders have been built, that last one is discarded out of the game. 

Once you've played all cards from the current Age, you'll build the next Age's structure of cards, and the player with the weakest military chooses who begins the next Age. 

The game ends in one of three ways:

  1. If you manage to collect six of the seven different Scientific symbols, you immediately win the game with Scientific Supremacy. 
  2. If the Conflict pawn reaches the end of your opponent's side of the board, you immediately win the game with Military Supremacy.
  3. Otherwise, if you reach the end of Age III, you count up VPs from Military, Building cards, Wonders, Progress tokens, and money (1 VP for every three coins). Most VPs wins.  

The Verdict

Firestone--I've made it clear that I think 7 Wonders is a completely average game. Every time I play it just seems to be missing...something. Something I can't quite put my finger on. So when a friend suggested we play Duel, I wasn't very excited. I'm glad he talked me into it, because it's AWESOME.  

Jeremiah--Well unlike Scott, I enjoy 7 Wonders, so I was very hopeful going into 7 Wonders: Duel. And my hopes were not dashed: 7 Wonders: Duel is great!

Firestone--It seems like there's a lot going on in this game, but it's very intuitive. My 9-year-old was playing this when he was 8, and picked it up easily. And he loves it; it's in his Top 5 games, for sure. And it only takes 30 minutes or so to play!

Jeremiah--Agreed, my wife even plays this one even though it does take a few minutes to teach because of the different card types and different ways you can win the game. But my 8-year-old loves it and is actually quite good at it, there's something intuitive about it that just makes sense and makes it super easy to learn. But it replays very well because of the randomness of the cards that come out each game and the random order in which they come out.

Firestone--A 2-player card-drafting game shouldn't work, but it really does. Turns all have interesting decisions. You're looking at cards you want. You're looking at cards your opponent wants. You're looking at what cards are available, and perhaps manipulating things so your opponent reveals a bunch of new cards.

Jeremiah--Yes, the tension is very high in this one because everything is out in the in the ope;, the game is right in front of you so you you think you know exactly what your opponent wants to do and you're trying to manipulate the game in order to stop them. Once you get through the first page in your first game you have a really good grasp of how to play it and it becomes super fun trying to foil the plans of your opponent and also work on your own plan to become the victor! I really love games like this that have high player interaction and not a lot of downtime!

Jeremiah's Final Thought--7 Wonders: Duel is the perfect companion piece to the original 7 Wonders--it plays fast, it's fun, it's relatively easy to learn, and it's just a super clever game that has high replayability, and high player interaction! This is a GREAT, GREAT GAME!!

Firestone's Final Thought--7 Wonders: Duel isn't just one of the best games I played last year, it's one of my favorite 2-player games ever. Fast, fun, fresh, and terrific. 

Thanks for reading! What about you? Have you played 7 Wonders: Duel?