7 Wonders Cities Expansion in action.
About this post:
This post is an explanation of the gist of the new 7 Wonders Cities expansion and a review based on the first couple of play-throughs with the gang. I’m going to assume that you are already familiar with the 7 Wonders board game, and have at least heard about the Leaders expansion. For those who haven’t played Leaders, all you need to know for this review is that Leaders introduces leader cards into the game which either give players extra bonuses at the end of the game for specializing in certain collections or alternately little bonuses along the way. Leaders is great for incentivizing a ‘game plan’ early on for each player.
Now the overview:
Ok, I must say I was pretty pumped when I saw that there was another expansion for 7 Wonders in the works after Leaders as it really is one of my favorite games. While there were some early-buzz posts on BGG, I didn’t really grok how the expansion was going to play out in real life until it made its debut on the game table but let me assure you, I’m very glad I pulled the trigger.
7 Wonders Cities is not a ‘game changer’ (pun intended) quite the way Leaders was, but adds some nice twists and variance to the experience. You end up with 9 new cards for age I, II, and III (all black background to set them apart), 2 new wonders, some new leaders, guilds, and two new kinds of tokens that represent new mechanics in the game.
New bits you get in 7 Wonders Cities. In real life they are far less blurry.
New mechanic #1: Debt.
Some of the new cards introduced have broken coin symbols on them as follows.
In this case everyone besides the card builder would have to pay 3 big ones to the bank.
When built, these cards force everyone at the table to pay the amount of money listed to the bank *except* for the person who built it. If you don’t have enough money to pay the bank, or for some reason would rather take on the debt rather than spending your money, you take the corresponding amount of debt tokens.
Debt tokens = shame.
These represent negative victory points at game end and are un-wipe-out-able! Once taken thats it, you are that much boned at the end.
New mechanic #2: Diplomacy
The other new card type with the shield and dove is Diplomacy.
Building this gets you a sexy stand-up diplomacy token!
When you build one of these cards (or build it on your wonder board) you instantly take one of these sharp looking diplomacy tokens and place it in front of you for the world to see.
This is what it looks like .. when doves fly.
If you have this token this means that you DO NOT participate in the next battle *even if it would be to your victory point advantage to do so!*. You effectively duck out of your position on the table and now your neighbors to your left and right fight each other instead of you. This adds some interesting twists to gameplay as the diplomacy might be acquired very close to the next battle and that “sure thing” battle you had been expecting might all of a sudden be with a much badder-assed adversary. Diplomacy tokens expire after each round and get returned to the game-bits pile so this is a once-per-person-per-round mechanic.
Funky new cards:
*Note, to accommodate for all the following new cards, when you play with Cities, each round you deal everyone 8 cards and end up using 7 vs. the standard dealing of 7 and using 6.*
As you might expect, there are new leaders who give bonuses that play off of the new black age I, II, and III cards. There are 6 of these and get worked into the main Leader pile if you are playing with Leaders. Pretty cool.
Caligula lets you build one black card per round for free. And, you know, orgies.
There are also new cards with mask symbols on them like this.
At the end of the game this counts as if you owned one of your neighbors science cards.
If you build one of these bad boys, they count as a copy of any science card that one of your direct neighbors has built for final scoring. These can be pretty huge when you get into the awesome math of science scoring.
It’s not strictly speaking a different type of card than you’ve seen before, but there is also this bad mamma-jamma.
In my book, 7 Wonders Cities is a whole-hog thumbs-up expansion to the 7 Wonders universe and definitely a no-brainer if you already have Leaders. As I alluded to, this isn’t as much of an gameplay changer as Leaders but everything it does do, it does well. The gang had a great time playing and most everything went smoothly from the get-go. You will of course be passing around the new manual a bit while people get used to the new leaders, etc but I anticipate some consolidated Leaders cheat sheets will show up on BGG in the not too distant future. Once you understand the new bits, there isn’t so much of a learning curve as there are a lot of new directions to explore.
If you are introducing 7 Wonders to new players from scratch, it would definitely be a bit much to have this in the mix on the first go-around as you end up with a massive table of cards like this:
Pretty awesome amount of splayed out stuff.
But if you have played before you know this all quickly becomes second nature.
In our group, the new gameplay bits played out with different levels of potency. The ability to have yet more science card combos via the mask cards is clearly super-powerful if done right. Debt on the other hand didn’t really seem to get into our way all that much and even with 5 people playing and the debt cards being built, we barely put a dent into the pool of debt tokens the game comes with. Diplomacy was somewhere in the middle. It certainly flip-flopped some wins into losses and vice-versa and made things interesting. It was fun to see it out there and building it can be a tricky decision when you have a middling army and are trying to decide if you want to go this horribly cowardly route.
Effects of these new mechanics might be more or less pronounced when playing with fewer than 5 people, we shall have to see. We found in our games that the average scores went up quite a bit. Here is the result from the excellent ’7 Wonders Scorer‘ iphone/ipad app where Laurie handed our asses to us through super-science building.
Crushed by my wife in my own new game. Sigh.
A word to the wise: In the original Leaders expansion there is a Leader called Semiramis which served as more or less a blank card that you could use to come up with house rules for whatever powers you wanted to bestow upon them. In the Cities expansion though there is a legitimate Semiramis card which caused some confusion when these accidentally got passed around in the same group of cards during leader picking time. Don’t let this happen to you!
Don’t use both of these! It’s madness.