7 Wonders and birdwatching

My geeky life started with birdwatching. From my earliest years I have memories of for example sitting on my fathers back trying really hard to drop my wellingtons, just because it was so exceptionally funny, while my father tried to work out the status of a nest of an osprey or other. I have realised that I still categorise many things according to birdwatching nomenclature. That is also true for games. For example, when I finally got hold of Tales of the Arabian Nights, I rejoiced with the knowledge that I had secured yet another cosmic mindf**ker – something really cool and rare. Yes, there are lots of nice words around. The most important thing in this is ticks. When you see a new species, you get to make a tick in your tick-list. I, of course, have a tick-list for games in my head.

Another term is shame-ticks. To be honest, this is my translation of the Swedish term skamkryss. The English equivalent is actually rude and misogynistic, so I won´t use it. It stands for a species, that one should have seen a long time ago, considering how many other species one has seen. One of my most serious shame-ticks in gaming has until recently been 7 Wonders.

As probably everyone knows, 7 Wonders is a card game where you try to build the most developed civilization, through advances in science, warfare, trade, production or monuments. You do this by collecting cards in a drafting mechanic, where you get a hand of cards, keep one and then pass the hand on to the next player. The really hard choices you have to make are when a hand contains both cards you want to collect for yourself and cards that you really have to deny your competitors around the table. This puts you in impossible situations and you have to choose, and you can´t and you panic and oh, its so nice.

An interesting thing is that this game is so wide-spread. You can buy it not only in specialist game stores but in almost every book shop. It is even translated into weird languages such as Swedish or Finnish. Games this easily found are either really bad (like monopoly) or really easily accessible. 7 Wonders definitely falls into the latter category. It is easy to start playing. The thing is, though, that it is also very punishing. If you are a beginner and play against experienced people, you will be crushed. Trust me, I know.

A week or so ago, I finally had a chance to play a game of 7 Wonders. With me at the table were my older two kids, an old friend who is a fellow gamer, and his girlfriend who is not, although obviously with a sharp mind suited for gaming. My son went for a strategy of total war, my daughter chose science and some buildings, my friend took as many of the monuments and buildings as possible and his girlfriend somehow managed to get hold of an awful lot of guild cards – cards that let you count other cards of different types in your own and, sometimes, your neighbouring players´ tableaus and give you an awful lot of points for them. I ended up trying a little of this and a little of that, which proved to be a really lousy strategy. Or maybe lack thereof. Me and my warrior-son ended up last, my daughter a number of points above us, my friend with quite few more and his girlfriend with a victory of about a mile.

I was intrigued of the game mechanic, of the fact that the theme actually came through and of the depth. It is, as I said before, easy to learn enough to start playing, but after that you have quite some way to go to get good. This obviously makes for a really good game, but I am a little amazed that it seems to have such a wide an appeal, even to non-gamers.

Anyway, a good beating like that and the feeling that this game has a lot of replayability made me sure that this belonged in my collection. I ordered it online, and here it is now. I am going to study the rules and hopefully get it played within next week. A good point is that also my kids got really enthusiastic about it, so a safe bet is that we are going to spend at least some part of next week-end with this lovely box. I´ll also make sure to get them to be able to list the seven wonders of the classical world…

Questions:

1. Should a good entry-game be as skill-based as 7 Wonders?
2. Can anybody teach me how to get good at this? Help!

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