How Many Wonders?

I didn’t realize until after the weekend that my weekend (don’t normally include Fridays but an exception here) went:  Friday, RPG; Saturday, CCG; Sunday, boardgames.

We only played two different boardgames Sunday – Scepter of Zavandor, 7 Wonders.

Scepter was a waste for me as I got Kobold and played my default strategy of maximizing early income with Opal #3 and Sapphires.  I got such a jump on the other players that my endgame production was over 100 and I won by around 17 VPs; I even had so much money to burn that I picked up the Spellbook in the late game and upgraded all my Opals to Emeralds.  Kobold suits this style of play just too easily.  While I’m not obsessed with getting the correct Druid strategy, I still want to try strategy variations.  I don’t know how many are left outside of Druid, though.  I finally played dust dude in a previous session and it was easy to do what I wanted even if it felt different.

The far more interesting thing was playing games of 7 Wonders.  I had played once, at DunDraCon for those who didn’t know.  It was seven players and I won, so I was prepared to retire my 7 Wonders career as supreme victor, having no strong feeling toward the game to where I felt a compulsion to ever play it again.  After Sunday, however, it’s going to be a staple.

I still don’t feel that strongly about it.  I actually find the cards rather lacking in variety.  But, there’s nothing wrong with it, and there’s tons of analysis that can be done.  I read through a number of boardgamegeek.com strategy threads, though too many of the games people play are three-player.

A side note:  At one point, someone compared it to Race for the Galaxy.  The primary reason for doing so was that one of my friends hates Race and likes 7 Wonders.  He tried to argue that they weren’t at all alike, but after various people pointed out analogous mechanics, the rest of us pretty much agreed that they are very similar.  Now, Race is one of my favorite “boardgames” because I like the variety of cards even if my strategies tend to be repetitive.  The reason why he hates it is that he feels like he gets screwed by random opening hands all of the time, whereas I never feel screwed in the game, just playing what I can.  Though, the people I play with explore way too much which allows me to get cards to get out of bad hands.

Anyway, back to 7 Wonders.  I’m not really into these games to the level where I’d memorize what Wonder produces what to go with what cards require what.  We aren’t talking about CCGs here where there’s enough ability to bring one’s own personality into the game that thinking hard about a game has a payoff.  I do realize that there’s a huge jump in play skill by memorizing all of the possibilities and that the game is very different when played by players who know how to play the game optimally.  Just as Scepter is a different game when players play optimally, or anything else.  It’s just that there’s little value to achieving expertise in a boardgame when your opponents aren’t interested in doing so.

So, I lost in my second game.  And, lost badly in another game.  Finally, around game four or five, I started doing better.  I think it’s because of the shift in military.  In the early games, the players on either side of me went hard on military, so I abandoned it.  When they started getting bored with that, I picked up military.  The most “we don’t really know what we are doing yet” game was when I had 56 VPs and 50 were from Science.  That game had a three-way tie (all of the games were four-player).

What do I think of the game?

I’d say the card pool is rather dull.  Yes, there are advantages to this, as it enables people to dissect the game to figure out optimal plays, but, then, I’m not really into that.  I’m a romantic chess player, not a mechanic.  On the other hand, there are 14 different possibilities of Wonder boards and a great deal more possibilities of interactions between them based on who plays what, who is next to you (or anywhere if you want to get superadvanced), and how many players there are.  So, there’s a lot of room for trying to understand different positions.

It’s fast.  It’s harmless – by which I mean that it doesn’t lend itself to griefing other players or being in positions of annoyance even when you know you are going to lose.  Drafting is interesting and I’m sure going to be a big mechanic in “boardgames” for a while.  There might be some paralysis by analysis, but it isn’t even as bad as say the endgame of Scepter where you are trying to optimize.

I don’t have a rating system for “boardgames”, so maybe I should come up with one.  The tricky part is that a game might be really good, but I might have no interest in playing it, like Puerto Rico, because of how limited boardgames are in comparison to CCGs.  So, do I rate how much I want to play a game or how good I think the game is or both?  Do I use a “most things are average” system of rating or a balanced system?

Let’s say I use a 1-5 system with 3 being average, 1 being suck, and 5 being beyond good.  From a quality perspective 7 Wonders is 4 or 5.  From a want to play perspective, 4.  I’d much rather play it than play a lot of other things.  I think I’d pretty quickly rather play it than play more Phoenicia or Stone Age or Glen More, which are all games I’d rather play at the moment, once I get a game or two more of these in.  Since it is so similar to Race, it’s not much of a surprise that it beats out a lot of other games (like Scepter).  On the other hand, it’s hard to rate anything a want to play 5, since I’d rather play RPGs or CCGs.

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