Saturday, July 9, 2011

7 Wonders Game Review

7 WondersI've played at least a dozen games of 7 Wonders and  I can tell you, this game is fantastic!  7 Wonders is a fast playing strategy game that lets you have all the fun of building a civilization in 30 minutes or less.  It accomplishes this by using a card drafting mechanic to determine what a player can build.  This means you will look at a handful of cards, pick one to play, then pass the rest along to the next player and look at an entirely new handful of cards.  This game is quick and fun, but might not have much staying power.  Check out the details below.

Not sure if I will ever get used to the term “Freshness”.  It makes me smile and want to smack myself.  Anyway – 7 Wonders’ use of card drafting as a build mechanic feels unlike any game I’ve ever played.  Sure the draft mechanic is stolen from Magic card tournaments, but it’s used in an entirely different way.  It’s a great fit for a building game.  It keeps the decisions strategic but the play time short.  I expect there will be many other games trying to copy and modify this drafting mechanic in the future.

This game has fantastic intrigue.  There are several different strategic paths, constant consideration from other players and the cards are lumped together differently each game so there’s always a slightly new puzzle to solve.

Unfortunately, here is where the game stumbles.  I loved the first dozen plays of this game, but I’m not sure how many more times I want to play it.  Remember, this game only takes 30 minutes.  That dozen or so games I played was literally three different game nights and now I’m “pacing myself” before I play it again.  While the cards are distributed differently each game, you still see the exact same cards every single time you play.  This game is in desperate need of an expansion that makes different cards available from game to game.

Elegance is this game’s strongest aspect.  7 Wonders is perfectly paced.  Three rounds of play and 6 turns to a round.  Even though there could be as many as 49 cards available in a round, you will never look at more than a hand of 7 cards in a turn and choose 1.   You always have just enough choices to consider.

While it plays quickly, 7 Wonders hits all the high points of a civilization building game.  There are build trees, military conquests, resource gathering, and trade.  It doesn’t provide the complexity and satisfaction of the more detailed civilization games, but it scratches all the right itches.  It’s also simple enough that more casual gamers could easily enjoy it.  There’s nothing about 7 Wonders that a Settlers of Catan player couldn’t handle and enjoy.

And that’s my first review in this new format.  Let me know what you think!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 5 Factors Of Cool

Here on Cool Factor 5 I’ve decided we need a standard format for judging games. 5 things. The 5 components that all games should strive to have.

1. Freshness: Good design borrows; great design steals. All design builds on designs of the past, but great design has something that feels entirely new. Dominion caught a lot of attention because it was the first game to successfully turn deck building into a game all by itself.

2. Intrigue: A game needs a mystery to solve or a puzzle to work out. This is inherent in strategy games, but present in other games as well. Trivia games are still wildly popular because people love the sensation of figuring something out.

3. Variety: There’s an ancient Chinese proverb I just made up that says a monkey can shave a drunkard 10 times before it’s no longer funny. Games lose their luster if you see the same stuff every time. Magic the Gathering, king of collectible card games, offers near limitless variety.

4. Elegance: I don’t mean it dances well and looks pretty in a dress, though bonus points if it does. Elegance in design is about using a little to do a lot. Great depth in a simple to understand package. It takes 10 minutes to learn the rules of Chess and a lifetime to master it.

5. Fun: Like the old line about pornography, fun is hard to define but you know it when you see it. Fun is personal. It’s the spark that makes you smile. Despite a rather dull and uninteresting set of rules, Monopoly has survived the ages because it taps in to the fun of being rich.

So there they are, the 5 factors of cool. You’ll note they make a snappy pneumonic acronym FIVE F. True, I had to use the slightly “dude that’s awesome” surfer term of “freshness” to make it happen, but “originality” would have made the acronym FIVE O and I am not the game police. These are the categories I will be using to tell you about games in the future and whether or not those games measure up to something worth playing. Let me know what ya think.

Next time on Cool Factor 5: The game 7 Wonders and how it holds up to the Five Factors.