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I have played about 15 games of Seven Wonders now.

When I ask the winning player why they won, they tend to tell me what they did rather than why they did it, and rarely does it involve anything clever. The smartest thing I've seen a winning player do was start with the board with Glass as a resource and bury to Glass cards to build up his wonder for the first two phases of his wonder. But winning often is related to things out of your control, such as

  • Your neighbor builds up lots of resources so that you can use them for trading.
  • No other player goes for the same strategy as you so they don't build the cards you want.
  • Your neighbors build up little military, so you don't need to waste resources contending with them and can still get lots of points from beating them.
  • Your neighbors pick the same strategy as each other, so you can get a valuable guild.
  • You get access to resources needed to progress through building your wonder early.

In contrast, Dominion and Race for the Galaxy, both games that I really enjoy, a skilled player can exert a lot of control over the game. I readily admit luck is a factor in both games, but there is a lot of room for skill to influence the outcome. Whether its from picking a better strategy from the initial board setup and picking appropriate card counters as the game progresses in Dominion, or building a tableau to mitigate advantages in probable phase selections and choosing actions to counter opponents selections in Race, there is a big return on skill for both of those games. I just don't see the same room for planning, strategic decisions and maneuvering in Seven Wonders.

What am I missing?

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I've only played one game so far, and that was the 2 player variant (and we were getting to know the rules too), so I'll have to get back to you when I've had a few more goes! I get the impression that there's a lot of skill you can bring to bear; but that skill lies in adapting to circumstances rather than coming to the table with a fixed strategy - and even then, in a 7 player game, there may be little you can do to deal with someone on the other end of the table, other than play the best game you can. But it only lasts 30 minutes, so no need to stress out, just have fun with it! –  thesunneversets Dec 29 '10 at 3:46
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The simplest, but ridiculously effective, starting strategy for 3-5 players is Reds and Blues. –  Joshua Shane Liberman Aug 20 '12 at 18:59
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I think you are missing a third choice in the title. 7 Wonders is tactical. So is RFTG btw –  Andrey Aug 21 '12 at 13:24
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9 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Your strategy should be highly dependent on your particular city's special strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you're the city (I forget which one) with the "science wild card" special power, then you have some benefit to concentrating on green cards. If you're Giza, you'll need a lot of raw materials to build your wonders, so it would be risky to depend on your neighbors to do so.

The biggest factor in your strategy's success is seeing the inherent relationship between your city and your neighbors' cities.

Check to see what materials you need to build your wonder levels and how those compare to what your neighbors need to build theirs. I have seen several games in which players could not build their last level because there was one item they needed that neither they nor their neighbors supplied.

When you have a special city power that involves free buildings, or getting something from the discard pile, then timing your build is very critical. Don't build the "rifle through the discard pile" when there is no discard pile yet. Obviously the later you use this power the better.

One handy tactic with the "free building from the discard pile" power is to discard a very expensive high-value card like the Palace, turn it in for the three coins, and then build the special power level, in which case you get it right back -- a free build plus three coins.

With some cities it's best to build the levels early, and others to wait as long as possible. Don't forget to make a mental note to set aside cards to build your levels, cards that you can't use. Don't get to the end of Age III with two cards and two unbuilt levels.

As for military power, the players I've played with tend to be either/or. Very rarely do they start with a red card in age one and then add a few more over the course of the game. The benefit of being without any red cards depends a lot on the players TWO cities away from you.

It's about opportunity costs -- is building that next red card worth the VP of the cards you're passing over?

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7 Wonders is a very different kind of game than Race or Dominion. Race & Dominion are both "group solitare" games. By that I mean that there is little one can do to affect one's opponent. The game is mostly your own strategy.

7 Wonders is strictly an "adaptive" game. You cannot go in with any kind of strategy; even choosing wonders is random according to the rules. Every decision you make affects all other opponents, neighbors more than the others. If you don't take that into account, by, say knowing "I'm going to pass these 6 cards, and I know my left neighbor will likely choose this card, so I should choose to do X", then yes, the game will feel random.

My biggest criticism of this type of game is that weak players give other players big advantages. If you want to enjoy 7 wonders, play with people who know the game well, start thinking about everyone's tactics not just your own, and stop worrying about strategy.

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Excellent insight and well said. –  Matthew Frederick Dec 29 '10 at 7:07
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I've played several times now - always with six to seven players - so I have a few thoughts.

1) Go with one major strategy and one minor strategy (Ex: Primary red, secondary blue.). Which ones to go with varies from game to game of course, but blue is often ignored and easy to go with (especially if you're focusing on building off of prerequisites instead of using resources).

Why? Because you're spreading your risk. Also, players tend to not have a strong strategy, and their scores suffer for this.

2) Science (green) is worth crazy points, and is often easy to sneak past your opponents. For reasons I don't understand, players tend to pay too much attention to your resources, and your warfare icons, and overlook the science icons. When in doubt, go for green as your primary strategy. This is doubly true if your neighbors keep passing it to you.

3) The primary mechanics of the game are card drafting, followed by set collection. If some of the players are weaker at card drafting than others, the players they're passing cards to have an advantage. If the players receiving cards are very good at card drafting, they're going to do well. Consequently, if you're playing in a group of unequally skilled card drafters, you should watch what everyone is laying out, make a point of pointing out players who are doing especially well (especially in green), and (however uncouth it may be) offer advice on what not to pass that player.

4) Money is worth points at the end of the game, and resources are useful during play, so it's worthwhile to have a lot of resources that you (and your neighbors) can use. Money they give you turns into victory points later.

5) 7 Wonders is very much about assessing what you've been given, what your neighbors are ignoring, and what you'll be able to build into later. Like I said above, it's a card-drafting game; if you understand card drafting, you'll do better.

6) Unless they fall into your lap, you can largely ignore red cards. Warfare doesn't net you massive points. On its own, a perfect warfare score will net you 18 points. Similar effort in other areas (green, blue) typically does better. If you ignore it and fail as completely as possible, you'll net negative six points. Typically, if you ignore it, at least one neighbor will also and you'll net negative three points.

...and that's pretty much what I have to say on it.

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I was about to take issue with "on its own, a perfect warfare score will net you 18 points", but I see you did address the -6 you can also save. In real terms, warfare can be worth 24 points, assuming your neighbours aren't completely uninterested in picking up red cards and giving you defeat tokens. That's about the same as two sets of three science cards... and almost certainly you won't need to spend 6 plays setting it up! I agree that science is probably underrated by players to begin with, but it seems crazy to discount warfare, especially if your group starts fighting over science! –  thesunneversets Jan 5 '11 at 21:52
    
S'truth, and I'm glad you're pointing it out. I sincerely believe that every color has a lot to offer and presents a good path to victory. I suspect that once I get to play with more experienced players, I'll find that Science is less easy to score big with (and I may fall into Warfare, who knows?). –  invisiblejon Jan 6 '11 at 23:59
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Strongly disagree about ignoring warfare. In addition to being able to net 20-24 points, often with only 4 (or even 3 with the right wonder) red cards, there is the "twist the knife" guild which gives you a point per -1 chip of your neighbors. While I don't generally play them early in the round of turn 1, it could work as an intimidation tactic if you've already got the resource to play one. –  Drew Hoskins May 30 '11 at 8:04
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Woah, I was totally shocked at the one person who responded about Science, Warfare and Card Drafting.

First and foremost, in response to this: "Consequently, if you're playing in a group of unequally skilled card drafters, you should watch what everyone is laying out, make a point of pointing out players who are doing especially well (especially in green), and (however uncouth it may be) offer advice on what not to pass that player", I am totally appalled. There is certainly nothing in the rules that state you can't say anything, but trying to tell other people how to play the game not only makes you seem controlling but also lessens the fun of the game. Save the comments for after the game is complete, and then suggest what things others might have done differently (winning the game might help your cause here). For all you know, you are telling them to burn a card so their opponent doesn't get it, but in reality there is a card there that would net them 10 victory points.

Second, going all military is worth more than 18 points. Depending on how many people are playing, it could be worth up to 24. By getting 18 points, you have also reduced two opponents by 3 points each. Put this in perspective that the majority of the games I have played (with 5 or 6 people who thrive on boardgames and boardgame strategy) winning individuals typically finished with 60 points, this is a quick and easy way to 1/3 of the total points needed. True that you do not know how much you will need to invest into military (which is why I try to wait as much as I can into round 1 to decide), but in a normal game, 4 military cards is enough, which is one of the lowest card-to-victory point ratios in the game. With the exception of some Guilds and Yellow Cards that give victory points for opponents resources, Military is up there.

As for Science, I don't see anyway to not make your strategy obvious. You can get away with two rounds of going for science, but after that, everyone knows. This does not mean that you will necessarily be halted in your strategy, but that coming across those cards then becomes increasingly more difficult.

I do agree for the most part that there isn't any one particular strategy that wins the game. This isn't an overwhelmingly strong strategic game, but it has some elements of making the best decision for yourself at every opportunity.

I've played this game dozens of times at this point, and can honestly say that there are only a few things I have learned.

First, do not bother with cards that can get resources from your opponents for 1 less coin (unless you truly have no other better option). This isn't worth it, as you should be avoiding borrowing resources as much as possible. Choose a resource card over these cards and pay the 2 coins if necessary to get the resource you need in the future. You'll spend less coins this way and have more resources for future cards.

Next, try to diversify your resources. This will give you more flexibility in your card choices as well as give you extra income from the opponents who need to borrow the resource. I'm particularly careful to take a resource card that I see neither of my neighboring opponents have (or their neighbors as well!).

In connection with the diversifying your resources, it is also worth the 1 coin to get the resource card with either two types or two of the same resource on it. Don't waste two actions by getting a free brick and free wood card, when you can spend 1 action and 1 coin for a card that does both. Actions are the most valuable thing you have (you typically only get 18 actions per game, excluding some special circumstances), and given the option, I would pay far more than 1 coin for additional actions.

Finally, do not underestimate the ability to build free cards. This is where science can be extremely helpful. For your first few games, just start to become familiar with them. After you have played enough, pay special attention to them. I can't tell you how many times I could have swept the game if only I had built a Library in the second round. Do not confuse this strategy with only taking cards you can get for free, as you should be taking whatever cards will maximize your score, even if they cost money.

Those are my thoughts anyway.

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"Don't bother with cards that get resources from your opponents for 1 less coin". In a vacuum, perhaps these cards are underwhelming. But Seven Wonders is never played in a vacuum. If one of your neighbours is building up a vast array of resources, then why bother aggressively competing with them? For the cost of one card, and a very reasonable fee thereafter, you can get all the benefits of their hard work, and spend your valuable plays doing something more interesting instead. What I like about Seven Wonders is there are few awful strategies: just ineffective use of your neighbours! –  thesunneversets May 24 '11 at 20:17
    
Hi Sun, I can't argue with that. There is certainly a time and place for any strategy or situation. I have just found that it is better to grab a resource (which gives it to you for free) than a card which can get an opponents resource for 1 coin. If you simply can't get resource cards because your opponent(s) are grabbing them all up, then you have to adjust accordingly ... and the yellow card is a good way to adjust. –  Neptune May 24 '11 at 20:23
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-1 for bad advice about trading posts. The "yellow card" strategy is fairly underappreciated. I scored 68 once by playing no resources, only yellow cards. Don't forget that there are cards later that get you VPs and money for every gold card you have. What's wrong with generating cash plus buying all your resources from your neighbors? –  Drew Hoskins May 30 '11 at 8:09
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Drew, I see you are taking the "I once won a game when I did ..." road that so many people employ when someone else offers their opinion/advice on a game. Let's assume your post is accurate. You have clearly uncovered that the game is broken, and that an all card yellow strategy is the best method. Everyone should employ this strategy at all costs. My post was more of a strategy in general, not an end all "absolutely never buy a yellow card". There is a time and place for all strategies. I'm merely offering a suggestion when employing a normal strategy, not some specific situation. –  Neptune Jun 1 '11 at 20:13
    
I agree with you when talking about trading posts. I noticed that when player builds resources cards, he collects more points more often than playing without them. If you build resource card you can get additional money and points from your neighborhoods and from trading cards you gain nothing - just spending your money. And it is always better to build up resources earlier as you can while other users are lacking of them. P.S. @Drew Hoskins you don't need to -1 comments only if opinion is different from yours. –  Pawka Nov 7 '11 at 6:22
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The short answer is that the strategy part of the game is to maximize your ability to apply tactics - if you do that, you will score well. Even the best tactician will lose if they fail to grasp the strategies for maximizing choice.

Think ahead strategically about how you are going to be affording cards in later rounds. There are various techniques that all work.

  • Lots of diverse browns, use yellow cards to get greys.
  • All three greys, few browns, use yellow cards to get most browns.
  • A small, diverse set of resources (say, a couple either/or cards) plus cash/yellows
  • upgrades (best with wonder ability to occasionally play cards for free via your wonder.)
  • mostly gold cards
  • hoard resources of certain kinds (and build your wonder with copies of it) so you can get paid a lot of gold; use that gold to buy others. (I haven't actually tried this one but have seen it work well.) Best with a wonder that requires lots of one or two resources.

It's important for the strategy to be coherent. For example, it's a bit better better to focus on brown or grey (or both) than to mix a bit of each, due to later cards that reward concentration, as well as the fact that it's easier to find complementary yellow cards when you are weak in one and strong in the other.

What you're going to buy with the resources is more tactical, and is generally based on what comes easily rather than overpaying for that perfect card. You can win with a bit of this and a bit of that, or going whole hog in one thing. You can mix in military or not. You can go for 1, 2, or 3 sets of science cards. You can build blue chains or just get expensive blues at the end with your lots of resources.

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Having played this for the last year and normally on a bi-weekly basis if not more, I can atest there is a lot of strategy. But at the same time there is still the luck factor based on what is in each set, your leaders, and the board chosen.

Strength of group and knowledge of the game is by far the biggest factor in the game. If you know what your doing more points are available to you. As another pointed out Military is a solid 21 point difference on both sides of you if you win it all.

At the same time you have to assess what is going to help out your opponents, and I've come to the conclusion that unless your pure feeding your opponent everything that is worth points while not making any yourself, its more focusing on your own goals than opponents. Then again my group is more of a competitive fun than anything else, as if we were a bit more hardcore I think our games would be quite a bit different.

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Welcome to B&CG! Thanks for your insight. –  Pat Ludwig Aug 20 '12 at 15:45
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Start by reading this "dissertation", as somebody on that forum put it: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/691370/some-complex-strategies-for-7-wonders. Nobody addressed this, but the strategy depends a lot on the number of players. With 6-7 people, your feeble attempts to build up the powerful army are only going to take points away from 2/5 = 40% or 2/6 = 33% of the players, while in the 3-player game, the wins and losses affect everybody, and you cannot afford to ignore the military. A three player game is short on brown resources -- play them when they come by, or bury them under if you can, especially if you already have it, and thus are the main provider of this material. A four player game is short on the gray resources -- same mantra.

The Pyramids of Giza give you a clear indication of what you should shoot for: 3 points per card in the first age, 5 points in the second stage, 7 points in the third age. So if you are playing a 5-point blue card in the third age, that's not the greatest achievement; and likewise if you are playing a lonely technology symbol in the third age for 1 point, that's hardly great, either -- but it's a totally different story if that green card completes your second triplet of technologies, bringing you 10 points, way better than the benchmark of 7. (The only excuse to play that lonely green card is if it is the fifth card in the third age, you see your neighbor to the left missing just that card, and the remaining two are purple guilds for which you have nothing at all, or military that won't change anything in the balance of power.)

The military aspect is probably one of the greatest and funnest aspects of the game: I rarely go for it unless I have the Rhodes (in which case I do everything humanly possible to build it up in the first era), and point fingers in the final scoring to my neighbor to the left, of whom I got +1, +3, +5 (and he got -1, -1, -1) with a single shield from the first age, and the neighbor to the right who totally won over me with 9 shields, but lost every round to the fourth player with 13 shields (and the guy with 13 shields won over my left hand neighbor with 4 cards, while I won with just one). [Well, that was in one of the less experienced players game, obviously.] The useless, costly and addictive arms race is a great feature.

All in all, there is no single winning strategy, but you need to be aware of multiple strategies, and adapt your game to whatever you can grab at the moment. Usually, by about the third card in the second era, you already know what you have to do to keep afloat -- and if you are lucky, you win.

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I don't think 7 Wonders is based much on luck, it has a lot of strategy and in a very clever way because players must choose their strategy in every game according to a number of variables such as:

  • the number of players
  • his wonder
  • the strategy of his neighbour players

This is what makes this game interesting and unique. It's never the same game. However there are some general guidelines and usually your wonder gives a good indication of what you should go after. Check out a strategy guide I wrote.

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What you are missing? The same thing I was. This article helps alot! It explains the "why" in great detail.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/691370/some-complex-strategies-for-7-wonders

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Would you please summarize some of the important bits here? If that link ever goes dead (and they frequently do), your answer will have no content. ...also, this is exactly the same link as in another answer, that was posted last year. Your answer isn't adding anything new. –  Paul Marshall Oct 31 '13 at 5:30
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