7 Wonders: Duel
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- Similar style of play as the award-winning original, 7 Wonders
- Designed specifically for two-player, head-to-head battles
- Build a civilization that will crush your competition and flourish for centuries
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CHOKING HAZARD -- Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.
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One of the most celebrated games in the world can now be experienced in a two-player arena. 7 Wonders Duel takes the game play and excitement of the original and adapts it for one-on-one battles. Take control of your civilization and decide to invest in science, military or prestige. Two new ways to win will keep you on your toes and watching every move your opponent makes. If you fail to build defenses your capital city may be destroyed, but ignore technology and your people may be left in the dark ages. It's a constant tug of war. 7 Wonders Duel is an exciting new way to play the game that took the world by storm. Great for both fans of the original and those new to the hobby.
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The 7 Wonders universe has always had great artwork and gameplay, and Duel meets all that. However, Duel takes a significantly different approach to how cards are built throughout the game. The main 7 Wonders game and all its expansions were based on a hand of cards passing around the circle, and then card-drafting your civilization from that. Duel takes a different approach of laying the cards out in different combinations of face up and face down pyramid shapes, with cards overlaid on top of others. This ensures that both players can see some of the cards that will be available in future turns, though not the face down ones. On your turn, you might hesitate to build a Stone Quarry (even though you really need stone!) because doing so would open up a key card or cards for your opponent. These back-and-forth risk/reward decisions that players will make would be interesting enough on their own, but Duel also adds a twist to three more mechanics: military victory, science victory, and Wonders.
Military Victory. In Duel, at the start of a game players will start with a neutral position on a two-way "tug of war" style military chart. As military strength is built up, the military token will swing back and forth between the two players. If one player is not careful to keep the other's military in check, they can easily be overrun and lose immediately when their opponent's army reaches their capitol city. In the original 7 Wonders, one could often ignore military power entirely and still win. In Duel, if your opponent decides to go for a military win and you ignore it, you will most likely lose. This adds a much appreciated tension to the game and makes the "Duel" moniker very applicable.
Science Victory. Another way for an immediate victory in Duel is to build six unique Science symbols. This is harder than it sounds, since your opponent will be doing everything he can to ensure that you don't. However, since being "too" defensive is equally as poor of a strategy, they'll have to allow you to get close, but not too close. With equally skilled players, these Science and Military victories won't happen as often as the typical "Most Victory points" win, but they are immediate and satisfying when they do.
Wonders. Each player will start with 4 Wonders available to build, and only 7 can be built during the game. The Wonders in Duel are satisfyingly expensive, and several of them have a "take an extra turn" mechanic that can be used strategically to bury a card that your opponent especially wants, and then snatch the next card underneath it before your opponent has a chance to take their turn. This enhances the tension of the back-and-forth card taking because you're never sure when your opponent is going to use it to take two turns at once.
In the ten games that we've played, everything seems near-perfectly balanced. Everything, that is, except one specific Progress token which led to a runaway victory when paired with a specific Guild card. In fairness, we were both new to the game at the time, so I didn't have a game plan to combat it. It may have just been a random "perfect storm". Since then, we've been able to mitigate that from happening.
Other than that minor quibble, I don't really have anything else negative to say.
Duel benefits greatly from the two-player only design. It plays relatively quickly (35 min) but packs a lot of interesting decisions without being too brain-burning (i.e. Five Tribes). After ten plays, you start to appreciate even more the tightness of design. The interplay between the Military/Science/Victory Point strategies keeps you on your toes and ensures that you can't just fall into the same game plan every time.
We're huge 7 Wonders fans in our group, and happy to say that this game would stand up even without the 7 Wonders name. It's easily our favorite "two player only" game that we own. I wouldn't be surprised to see this game get a flood of expansions as well; it's that good.
Quick note on the components: the cards are reduced in size quite a bit from the original game, mostly because of necessity, but that makes it also easy to transport.
Note: full review of this game, including gameplay descriptions, more bad puns, and a lot more pictures available at playbegins.com
This is the best 2-player game I have ever played, bar none.
To start, know that I have never played 7 Wonders (the original game), so I can't compare it to that. We also are extremely late in picking this up due to owning Splendor, Among the Stars, and Roll for the Galaxy (as well as many others), each of which has 2-player engine building style gameplay, similar to 7 Wonders Duel [7WD].
Despite that basic similarity, however, 7WD has several features that simply places it on the top, where it will stay for quite some time.
- It has multiple unique win conditions. This is so important in a 2-player game, I almost refuse to play any 2-player game where this is not a feature; at least give us multiple paths to the same victory condition! Knowing you will lose starting on turn three is no fun whatsoever. In 7WD, you can win by points, by conquering your opponent, or by gaining enough variety in the sciences. The latter two still count as a victory even if you have zero points. So it is entirely possible to be winning the whole game, then have your spouse swoop in for a victory on the last phase! This makes every game tense and enjoyable for both parties; you are never out of the fight...
- It is an engine building game at heart. Engine building games are great for 2-spouse games because it allows you to win without stomping the other one into the ground. Humans are competitive; we tend to stay mad at the opponent for a while after a loss! So, having an engine building game where it is more "your city versus theirs" is nice. For whatever reason, psychologically the loser feels less angst towards the winner about the loss, probably because the loser knows the losing city wasn't built properly!
- It is inherently random. Each game is set up in a Tri-Peaks style pyramid, meaning each game is unique. On top of that, you only see the faces and abilities of about 50% of the cards; the rest are face down. This provides a substantial amount of replay value between games, as within each phase of each game you are constantly having to rethink which victory you are pursing and how. The facedown cards do not always fall in line with your first thought!
- It is thematic. Building an ancient Greek city is such a cool idea.
- It is fast. We are parents. As much as we love sitting around playing five hour adventure romps on cold nights, a 30 minute game is much more reasonable. Plus, 2-player games are just better when they are shorter: finish it up, move on to the next round, give the loser a chance for redemption - or time to grab a beer...
- The titular Wonders are very well done, in both their art and their mechanics. They provide a race mechanic (8 are dealt, but there can only be 7 on the board!) and are incredibly helpful with their game-altering mechanics, but they are not inherently overpowering. I have still won games where my wife dropped all four of hers on the board in one fell swoop. Again, that's rare, but it's yet another example of how you aren't out of the fight until its over!
7WD has set the bar for 2-player game enjoyment. It isn't the most complex, it isn't the prettiest (but its close!), and it is certainly only one genre: engine building. But it understands what a 2-player game needs and delivers on all fronts. Hopefully, other genre's of 2-player games will learn from 7WD's success.