W. Eric Martin
Antoine Bauza's 7 Wonders was the buzz of 2010, getting advance play at conventions in the U.S. and Europe and exciting players with the thought of a good, fast game for seven players. Since its release at Spiel in October 2010, the game has largely met expectations, with the one major critique – aside from complaints about thin cards and a flimsy insert – being that the game is largely tactical and can feel like it plays itself in some stages of the game (although exactly which stages has differed depending on who is making such comments).
Anyone who falls into this camp would do well to check out 7 Wonders: Leaders, the first expansion for this game from publisher Repos Production. Leaders includes 40 cards – 36 leaders, three new guilds for use in age III, and a wonder card for inclusion in that deck – along with a Rome wonder board, showing the Roman Colosseum.
With Leaders, players add one set-up round at the start of the game and one additional step before each age. During set-up, each player is dealt four leader cards. Each player drafts one leader, passes the other three cards right, drafts another leader, and so on until each player has four leader cards. At the start of each age, the player chooses one leader card from his hand and plays it exactly as he would any other card:
• Pay the cost and put it into play.
• Pay the cost of the next stage of your wonder and tuck the card under your wonder board.
• Discard the card for three coins.
The leader cards cost 1-5 coins, and each player starts the game with six coins instead of three.
"This expansion adds strategy to the whole game," says Repos' Thomas Provoost, "as players make choices at the start that run through everything. It also adds replayability as with 36 different leaders, the more you play, the more you discover new strategies and combinations." Money management becomes more of a concern as players now need to keep money on hand to pay for their leaders, forcing them to think more across the ages about what to keep when and how to bring everything they want into play.
What does these leaders do? All types of things – provide money, discounts or extra points for building your wonder or particular types of buildings; allow you to buy goods from the bank; provide extra points for military victories or sets of science buildings or particular combinations of other buildings; boost your military; provide points or money directly; add to your science holdings; and so on.
Provoost notes that each leader is thematically tied to the bonus provided – Midas doubles the points provided for money at the end of the game; Salomon lets you build a discard building for free; Ramsès allows you to build any guild for free; Hatshepsut gives you money whenever you buy resources from a neighbor – but (as is typical for a Eurogame) without having a special rule for each leader. Instead, all the bonuses are relayed through graphics on the card, with most of them being decipherable on first glance and others being understood after a first description.
The new guilds in Leaders are mixed with those of the base game, and the appropriate number shuffled into the age III deck. Two of the three new guilds tie into the leaders directly, with one providing a point for each leader that you and your neighbors have put into play and another allowing you to immediately copy one leader held by a neighbor. The third guild provides an additional bonus for money held at the end of the game.
The new wonder – in the spirit of Douglas Adams, the ninth in this game of seven wonders – provides no resources, as was the case with the Manneken Pis bonus wonder. Instead Rome provides its holder a bonus in regard to leaders, with one side allowing a player to nerf the cost of all leaders played and the other providing a discount on leader costs as well as additional leaders and opportunities to play them as that player completes his wonder. I played one three-player game with Rome, Manneken Pis and another wonder in play, and the lack of initial resources was an interesting challenge – especially since the guy who could actually produce something started with the leader who lets you buy goods from the bank! Lots more to explore in the weeks ahead...