Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Impressions - 7 Wonders: Cities

  • Designer:  Antoine Bauza 
  • Publisher:  Repos Production
  • Time:  30 minutes (45-60 minutes for the team game)
  • Ages:  10 and up
  • # of players:  2-8 
  • Times Played: 3 with a pre-production copy
The real trick for any expansion is to, well, expand the scope of the game in some way that doesn’t mess up the goodness of the original creation. In the case of 7 Wonders, that means you have to add more choices to the game without adding extraneous fiddly rules and/or mechanics – the streamlined nature of the base game is a key part of its popularity.

I’m happy to say that the Cities expansion does exactly that – possibly better than the already published Leaders expansion (which I enjoy as well). 7 Wonders: Cities adds new cards to each age deck to expand the initial hand to 8 cards. These black-faced cards are the dark underbelly of civilization expansion: spies, gambling dens, mercenary forces, cemeteries, black markets & the like. Rather than adding particular cards based on the number of players (as in the base game), these cards are added randomly – shuffle each set of Cities cards and add as many cards are there are players in the game. Most of the new cards cost money – so, for example, you can ramp up your military at a faster pace if you’re willing to risk running short of cash.

Living on the edge financially may or may not be a good idea, though, thanks to one of the new concepts in the game: debt. There are now cards (and wonder steps) which cause the other players in the game to lose money – and if they go into the negative, they are forced to take on debt tokens (similar to military defeat tokens).

The other new game concept is diplomacy. Certain cards (and wonder steps) enable players to receive an embassy – which forces them to bow out of the next combat resolution. Their two neighboring players now attack each other!

Of course, there are two new Wonders in the Cities expansion: Petra (which is money-hungry) and Bzyantium (which is peace-loving). There are also new Leader cards that work with the Cities cards as well as three new Guilds.

Finally, the expansion includes rules for team play. Similar to Ticket to Ride: Asia, partners sit next to each other – but in this version, they share hand information and can plot which cards to send on to their partner. There are some slight changes to combat resolution (affected by the new diplomacy rules) but otherwise the gameplay is not substantially different than the original game.

I played one “normal” four player game with the expansion – and we never saw a diplomacy card. I found the uncertainty added spice to my decisions – until the hands had passed completely around, I wasn’t sure how or if my plans were going to work.

I also played two “team” games – one with 4 players & one with 6 players. The team rules make the game a bit longer (45 minutes to an hour) but there still isn’t a great deal of downtime. The added minutes are spent consulting with your partner and speculating about how best to maximize what you’ve been given.

As I said at the beginning of this “first impression”, I think that this is the best expansion (so far!) for 7 Wonders. Even if you’re not a fan of the 7 Wonders: Leaders expansion, I think there’s a lot to like here.

This first impression was originally published on the Opinionated Gamers website.

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