Once in a while you come across a game that you're convinced is going to be a dud. That was the case with Seven7s, by Jason Tagmire. I read the rules, I watched a couple of how-to-play videos, and I was convinced it was going to be an exercise in chaos and frustration. Much to my surprise, it turned out to be a reasonably fun and light filler that can be played in little more than 10 minutes. Any longer, and it would have been a dud, but as it turned out, it worked quite okay, and the more I played it, the more fun I had with it!
So what's it about? Well maybe you've heard of a wee game called 7 Wonders? Of course you have! Well Seven7s doesn't just have 7 Wonders, but a whole lot more 7s: the 7 Ages of Man, the 7 Colors of the Rainbow, the 7 Deadly Sins, the 7 Holy Virtues, the 7 Lucky Gods, the 7 Seas and the 7 Wonders of the World. Each of these suits consists of seven cards numbered 1 through 7, and has special powers. Game-play is simple: from your hand of three, you play a card (activating its power) to a common tableau, and draw a card, with the idea being to be the player with the highest scoring point cards in your hand of three at game end.
Seven7s is appropriately number seven EGG series of games by Eagle-Gryphon Games, a series of portable small box games, and is suitable for 2-4 players. Let's show you what you get and how it works!
The game box is conveniently portable in size, and features the seven colours featured in the games, as well as the artwork for each of the seven suits.
The back of the box introduces the theme as follows: The magic number 7 holds meanings, powers and coincidences dating back to the dawn of time. In Seven7s, you have the powers of seven of the most famous 7's in history. Use these powers carefully to defeat your opponents."
Inside the box we find the following:
● 49 cards
● 4 reference cards
The deck of cards consists of 49 cards in seven "suits: Ages of Man, Colors, Deadly Sins, Holy Virtues, Lucky Gods, Seas, and Wonders.
Each "suit" consists of seven cards numbered 1 through 7, in the seven different colours of the rainbow.
There are four double-sided reference cards, one for each player, which summarize the special powers of each of the seven different card types.
The rules are on a small paper that unfolds with 8 panels. You can download it here from the publisher.
Flow of Play
During the game, all players will together be working on building a tableau with seven columns corresponding to the seven different types of card in the game.
To begin, shuffle the deck, deal three cards face-down to all players, and flip one card from the deck face-up to begin the first column.
On your turn, you play a card from your hand to the column corresponding to that type, activate the card's power if applicable, and then draw another card to replenish your hand back to three. That's it!
The real fun of this game lies in the special powers of the cards, which are as follows:
● Deadly Sins: Discard a random card from an opponent to the matching column.
● Holy Virtues: Draw a card and take another turn.
● Lucky Gods: Guess the colour or number of the next card from the deck; if correct place it face-up in front of you for 2 bonus points at game end.
● Seas: Take the most recently played card from any column into your hand.
● Wonders: Look at and re-order the top three cards of the deck before drawing your next card. You can also use this ability to look at up to three player cards.
The remaining two special powers deserve separate mention and explanation:
● Ages of Man: These cards can be played in one of two ways:
a) On any other column: to make that column be finished more quickly (but without activating that special power.
b) On the Ages of Man column: each card here prevents a high card from scoring; e.g. one card negates all 7s, two cards negates all 7s and 6s, etc
● Colors: The most recently played card in this column sets the Wild Color, which has two effects:
1. Cards of that color can be played in any other column to activate that special power
2. Cards of that color at game end score are worth the highest possible score allowed by the Ages of Man column, e.g. if Red is the Wild card and there are two cards in the Ages of Man column (negating 7s and 6s), then all Red cards are worth 5 points.
The game ends as soon as one column has seven cards in it, with the final card played in this way still counted as part of your hand, and not activating the special power.
Your score is the cumulative value of the cards in hand, plus 2 points bonuses for any cards earned through Lucky Gods.
In most cases your score will just be the total of the three cards in your hand, but the effect of the Ages of Man and Colors column can tinker with the value of your cards.
Pictured below is a more complex example of scoring. There are four cards in the Ages of Man column, so 7s, 6s, 5s, and 4s in hand are all worth zero, and the highest scoring card possible are the 3s. The top card in the Colors column is red, making it the Wild color, so all red cards are worth 3 points.
The player on the right triggered the game end and has three red cards all worth 3 points each since that is the Wild color. He scores a total of 9 points.
The player on the left scores nothing for his 4 and 5 (due to the Ages of Man effect), and gets 3 points for his 3, and 2 points for the bonus card (7) he got with a Lucky Gods play earlier in the game. He scores a total of 5 points.
What do I think?
Length: Seven7s plays surprisingly quickly. Once you know how to play, you can knock off a game in around 10 minutes, which is just perfect given how light the game is. One remarkable 3 player game was over in about three minutes! We typically find playing it 4 or 5 times in a row each time we pull it out - it's that kind of game! Certainly the game is best enjoyed when played quickly and without agonizing over your choices. The short length is perfect given the lightness of the game-play.
Decisions: In the early game it is hard to plan, because you don't know what cards will have the most value until the late game, and as a result the game can feel quite chaotic. However, much of the game is about working with the chaos, and trying to carefully discern how the options for scoring cards narrows as the game progresses (e.g. the number of Ages of Man cards that eliminate the higher scoring numbers); you need to capitalize on these narrowing options to do well. It's true that all that matters are your final three cards, and cards like Deadly Sins will force you to lose one of the three in your hand, so your hand can quickly change, but this is fine because the game plays as quickly as it does, and you have to try to guess what cards you think are going to be best to have at game end. This concept sounds like it can't possibly work, but oddly enough in reality we found that it works much better than it seems!
Tactics: Seven7s is a very tactical game, where the landscape of the game and value of cards can swing quickly. But the best move is never obvious, and this ensures that decisions remain fun and varied, because you can approach the game in different ways. Timing is also important. You do have a say in when the game ends by forcing a column to be filled with seven cards; doing this at the right moment can be critical, and it also ensures tension in the end game. It's only in your interests to end the game when you have a decent hand, and we've often found scores to be very close.
Special powers: While most of the special powers are fairly straight forward, the two that really help elevate this game from the mundane are the Colors and the Ages of Man. In an instant they can change the complexion of the game - the Ages of Man cards by causing high valued cards to become worthless, or by being played on any column, and the Colors cards by functioning as wild cards or as high valued cards at game end. While much of the game is tactical, these powers add a layer of strategy to work with, and give some real flexibility.
Fun: We were surprised by how much fun this game turned to be. Using a 7 Deadly Sins to get rid of a card from your opponent's hand at an important moment is very satisfying. And flipping to see if you successful Lucky Gods attempt is suspenseful - although playing a Wonders card on a previous turn can help set you up for a successful call! There's suspense as the columns build, and you can't be entirely sure when the game will end, or which one will trigger the game end. And a growing Ages of Man column can make your higher cards worthless - although there are ways to deal with this, especially the Seas card which will let you remove the most recently card played from any column. All of these are small pleasures, it has to be admitted, but considering they come in a 10 minute package, they feel just right.
Scalability: We played most of our games with 2 and 3 players, and both worked well - the game length doesn't change much, because the end of the game is determined by a column in the tableau being full, so typically the same amount of cards need to be played for that to happen.
Theme: I'm not crazy about every aspect of the theme, but the concept of famous 7s does work fairly well. This game is mostly about numbers, colours, and special powers, and so the theme is pasted on, but the idea of famous sets of sevens isn't entirely absent, because where possible these are matched with gameplay - e.g. the 7 Deadly Sins appropriately are the nasty "take that" cards, while the 7 Lucky Gods appropriately are used to get bonus points with a lucky guess. The famous sets of seven give a classical feel: I discovered that the Seven Ages of Man originates with Shakespeare, the Seven Seas are the Arabian Seven Seas, and Seven Lucky Gods are the ancient Seven Gods of Fortune or Fukujin deities in Japan; and of course the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Virtues have medieval roots.
Rules: The rulebook isn't the best, but fortunately there are some good game-play instruction videos you can watch (link), which will help you learn the game quite easily. If you watch one of these before reading the rules, the game is quite straight-forward. Any remaining questions are covered by the forums on BGG. Snoozefest has also written a good and helpful rule summary.
Components: I love the quality of the cards, and the artwork and graphic design. Very nice job all round! This is definitely one of the strengths of the game, and most people speak very highly of this.
What do others think?
The critics mostly noted some concerns about the rulebook, and the chaotic/random nature of play, although many admitted that they only played it once or twice and then gave up on it.
But is it true that you only have control in the last few plays of the game, and no planning is possible in the first half of the game? That was my impression after my first play as well, but over time I realized that this isn't quite fair. Certainly there is a lot of randomness, but it plays quickly, and in the first part of the game you're trying to get a sense of what options you'll have in the end game, and the cards you play will also play a role in determining that. The level of randomness would be an issue if it was a longer game ... but fortunately it isn't.
Most people seem to agree that this game shines with repeated play, and shouldn't be judged too hastily:
"Much better the second and third time through. There is a lot to this game that doesn't come through the first time. Stick with it and you'll enjoy it!" - Catyrpelius
"This is a filler that has slowly grown on me, working out the strategy that lives within this game has only seemed to surface once you've played it a number of times." - relfy
"Really enjoyable card game. There is a lot going on here and that makes it fun. It's easy to learn, quick to play and super fun." - TheMatrix
"A clever tactical game with surprising depth." - mattwolfe
"Fun filler that grows in you after a couple of rounds as you get familiar with all the cards into play." - vokab
"Another game that I've gotten more and more enamored with as the plays go on ... I'm a sucker for a small card game that offers you more than you first think." - relfy
"Grows on you, nice strategy game, easy to learn and play." - cgrzywacz
"Even though this is a fairly light game it is deeper than it seems. It can be random as you can only play what you get, but you have some control of the game state and certain cards can help you mitigate some of the randomness." - jcrog
So is Seven7s for you? This is not going to be a game that works for everyone; some will unfortunately be put off by what they've heard about the somewhat sketchy rulebook (which isn't as bad as it sounds - especially if supplemented by a video or two); others by the amount of potential chaos they experience in their first game. But these problems are more real than imagined, and if played lightly and quickly and casually, and given half a chance, this can turn out to be quite a fun game, albeit a light one. Most critics seem to be in the camp of those who gave up after one or two plays. The experience I had with the game seems to be more common with people who did appreciate Seven7s: what seemed to be mediocre initially, turned out to improve with subsequent plays.
If you like fast and fun fillers that are light and quirky, and don't involve too much brain power, this might be a good game for you to check out. For me, at any rate, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and judging by reactions I've read from others who have played it several times, I'm not the only one. Perhaps you'll find the same!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Credit: Most photos used in this review are my own, but kudos to Steph (punkin312) for three great game-play photos I included here.
If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please consider giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
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- Steph HodgeUnited StatesWell, it's no Ginkgopolis...
Thanks Ender for the credit!
I wish I got to play this one again before I traded it away. So many colors and a game I wanted to love more than I did on my first play.
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punkin312 wrote:I wish I got to play this one again before I traded it away. So many colors and a game I wanted to love more than I did on my first play.As I mentioned in my review, this seems to be a common experience: people find it lack-lustre on their first play, and never play the game again. Which is a pity, because it's really only after a couple of plays that you start to appreciate the game for what it is, and get won over by it.
I really wasn't that impressed after my first play either, but I'm glad I didn't give up on it - we've played it quite a bit the last couple of weeks, and my family is usually happy to play a round or two when we have a few spare minutes.
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