Stats at a glance
Publisher: Repos Production
7 Wonders is one of the classic board games that have helped skyrocket the hobby into new heights. It has consistently retained its spot high on many players’ “Must Play Lists” and our list of Best Cheap Board Games. It’s also one of the first stops on a board gamer’s journey toward ever more complex games.
The only real problem…
It can be a pain to find enough players with the same schedule to actually sit down and play it.
That’s where 7 Wonders: Duel comes in. This version takes the theme and many familiar mechanics from the original and condenses it all into a quick and fun 2-player card game.
Table of Contents
Brief Overview of 7 Wonders Duel
Each player controls the development of a rival city and must attempt to outbuild and advance their city faster than their opponent.
In 7 Wonders: Duel, cards that are drafted and placed in front of you will represent buildings, technology, and military might. It’s a very simplified civilization game that still gives players that 4x (Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) feeling in a very compact package.
7 Wonders: Duel has been given dozens of awards, including many Golden Geek, Meeples’ Choice, International Gamers, and Swiss Gamers nominations as well as awards. It was also granted the “2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres Recommended” award, a category given to more complex games, which is roughly translated as “Connoisseur/Enthusiast Game of the Year”.
Versions & Expansions
7 Wonders (Original Game)
You are the leader of one of the 7 great cities of the Ancient World. Gather resources, develop commercial routes, and affirm your military supremacy. Build your city and erect an architectural wonder which will transcend future times.
This groundbreaking, card-drafting, city-building game from 2010 has become a board game staple and an excellent gateway game for new players. Winning dozens of coveted board game awards, 7 Wonders has become an instant classic, continuing its legacy with numerous expansions and spin-offs.
7 Wonders is a tour de force in the board game universe. From its incredible artwork, tight mechanics, and immersive theme to its inexpensive price tag and ability to play well with a high player count, this game will continue to impress for years to come.
7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon (Expansion)
This expansion adds to the complexity of 7 Wonders: Duel by adding the powers of gods into the mix. The ancient pantheons now aid you in your civilization-building objectives, lending their abilities to each side.
The gods don’t work for free, however. During the first two Ages, you’ll need to court the gods: pay your respects by collecting mythology and offering tokens before activating their powers in Age III. At that point, you can also build temples to your deities, earning even more victory points for your civilization.
Choose from 5 ancient pantheons of gods:
- Greek gods will help develop your city.
- Roman gods will grant their strength to your armies.
- Egyptian gods will have an impact on the construction of Wonders.
- Mesopotamian gods will grant their help to your scientific discoveries.
- Phoenician gods will help fill your city’s treasury.
This expansion also includes two new Wonders that you can build: the Sanctuary (which gives you an additional turn and allows you to invoke deities at a reduced price) and the Divine Theatre (which grants points and access to additional gods).
With the gods by your side, how can you fail?
Unboxing 7 Wonders: Duel
I really like the box and setup of 7 Wonders: Duel. There are some game companies out there that will throw a few components into a much-too-big box for retail reasons but Duel actually comes in the perfect-sized box. The cards and board all fit into the box very easily and everything looks really well done.
The artwork for both the cards and instruction booklet is gorgeous. The board is small, yet functional and the table presence of the game is enhanced by the layout of the cards.
Overall, there’s really nothing that I can fault in the production value. It’s mostly a card game, so having quality cardstock and artwork are a must, and 7 Wonders: Duel delivers.
• 1 Game Board
• 23 Age I cards
• 23 Age II cards
• 20 Age III cards
• 7 Guild cards
• 12 Wonder cards
• 4 Military tokens
• 10 Progress tokens
• 1 Conflict pawn
• 31 coins (14 value 1, 10 value 3 and 7 value 6)
• 1 Scorebook
• 1 Rulebook
• 1 Helpsheet
How to Play 7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders: Duel is played over the course of 3 Ages. These are basically the 3 rounds of the game. As players move through the Ages, the level of scientific technology, available buildings, and resources increase.
It’s similar in style to original 7 Wonders, so if you’re familiar with the original, a lot of the concepts will be easy to pick up.
Set-Up: Card Patterns
Each Age is set up in a different pattern on the table. The cards are shuffled and set into either a pyramid pattern or a diamond pattern. The first 2 Ages will be pyramids (right-side-up and upside-down, respectively) and the third Age will be a diamond. It’s all spelled out in detail in the instruction booklet.
Some rows of cards start face-up and others face-down. You’ll only be able to purchase/choose the ones at the lower ends of the card layout. This adds a bit of planning and randomness to the game by giving glimpses of the cards available.
At the beginning of the game, each player draws four (4) Wonder cards that they can build during the game. There are a total of ten (10) Wonders, with eight (8) Wonders used in the game, but as the title of the game implies, only seven (7) will be built during the course of any game.
[Note from history-nerd Kendra: The original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World are: (1) the Great Pyramid at Giza, (2) the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, (3) the Lighthouse of Alexandria, (4) the Colossus of Rhodes, (5) the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, (6) the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and (7) the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.]
Now that we have the card layout, let’s look at the cards and see what they actually do.
There are 7 different colored cards that you’ll use.
The cards are all color-coded to represent different types of improvements built in your city. They start out basic and as your technology grows through the ages, your city will get access to more advanced buildings.
Brown: These are your basic resource cards. They’ll give you things like wood or stone that can be used to build more structures in your city. For example, you’ll find a lot of low-tech structures like lumberyards or quarries that literally become the building blocks for future expansions in your city. Everybody has to start somewhere right?
Grey: The grey cards all represent manufactured goods. This could be a glassworks that produces glass bottles. Consider the manufactured goods as second-tier resources. The basic stuff from brown cards (basic resources) will allow you to build up the essentials in your city and the grey cards will allow you to purchase specialized buildings.
Blue: These are civilian buildings. They’re just pretty to look at. They can be a little pricey but they are worth victory points. If you have the resources, grabbing a few of these cards is never a bad idea.
Green: Green represents your science/technology level. When you purchase a green card, you’ll get the associated science token on the card. This is one of the ways to win the game, with the added bonus that green cards are also worth victory points. Keep an eye on your opponent’s tech level, because if they get too far ahead, you’ll lose.
Yellow: Yellow cards are considered commercial buildings and just as an economy is diverse, so too are the yellow cards. They do a little bit of everything. They can make certain cards cheaper, grant resources, give money, and they can even be worth victory points. There’s a lot of different strategic elements that each card can add to your game, so make sure you’re nabbing the ones important to you or alternatively, you could focus on denying your opponent particularly good benefits if you keep an eye out for yellow cards.
Red: Unsurprisingly, red cards are buildings increase your military might. Your military might represents your spot on the military board. It’s a tug-of-war-like battle as players increase their military power to push the conflict pawn on the board towards their opponent’s city. One of the 3 ways to win the game is by eradicating your rival’s city by pushing the conflict pawn across the entire board and into your rivals city. The red military cards are something you can’t ignore. You’ll need to pick up a few military cards or risk getting overrun in Ages I and II.
Purple: The final card type you’ll encounter are the guilds. They’re worth victory points but they could be worth quite a lot of victory points, depending on the player. Each guild card has a specific set of criteria on it. Age III is the only place you’ll find the guild cards. By the time you hit Age III, you’ll also notice that all of the brown and grey cards are missing. They’ve been replaced by the guilds which will prep you for end-game scoring.
Each turn, you’ll choose a card in the pyramid/diamond stack and you must use that card. How you use it is entirely up to you.
It can be played by paying the resource cost on the card. Some cards don’t cost anything, so they can simply be picked up and played in your city.
Players can choose to discard the card and receive 2 coins plus 1 extra coin for every yellow card built in their city.
The last option is to use it to build a Wonder. Players will place the card underneath the Wonder they want to build and pay the cost of the Wonder. The card chosen has absolutely no bearing on the Wonder. It’s just used to keep track of turns and show that the Wonder has been built.
Players take turns choosing cards and actions until all of the cards of the current Age are gone. The player with the weakest military might gets to choose who goes first in the next Age.
Winning & Ending the Game
There are three ways that the game can end: including the regular end-game and two special situations.
Special Military Victory: If a player ever manages to push their military all the way across the board, they will have effectively destroyed their rival city for the win.
Special Tech Victory: The other instant win condition is by means of science/technology. If a player manages to scoop up 6 of the 7 different progress tokens, they are considered to have surpassed their rival in technology to an unreachable point.
Regular End-Game: The most common end to the game, however, is after Age III. After Age III has been played, the game automatically ends. Players then tally up their points and the player with the most victory points wins. You gain victory points from buildings, wonders, military points, and cards you’ve placed in your city.
From there it’s just a quick tally of points and the winner gets to gloat over their supremacy. It is a duel after all.
Your First Game of 7 Wonders Duel
The first thing you’ll need to do is set up the game.
It may seem like the logical move to set up all 3 Ages before the game is played but that gives away a lot of crucial information about the upcoming Ages before you even get there. I thought it made more sense to make all of the card pyramids/diamond beforehand but if you do that you run the risk of trying to expand with specific cards in mind. It is a bit of a pain to stop playing between rounds to set up the new pyramids/diamond, but it does go pretty quickly after you get used to the setup. It’s just a weird pet peeve of mine.
The actual board in 7 Wonders: Duel just functions as a tracker for military power and holds the science/technology coins. Keep in mind that whenever you gain military power, you immediately move the conflict token on the board towards your opponent’s city. It’s not done at the end of the round, it happens immediately. I messed that up on my first time playing and it got a little weird when it came time to do end-scoring.
Usually, the game ends at the end of the Age III but that doesn’t mean you can neglect the military or technology paths. If nothing else, you’ll need to keep a similar military strength to continually push back, so your city doesn’t get overrun. If you see that your opponent only needs 1 more technology token to win, you’ll know that you can’t let them get that last one. It should be your priority to block each other as best you can.
Pros & Cons
- Beautiful artwork and theme
- Specifically designed for 2 players
- Plays quickly
It’s very rare to find a solid 2-player game that feels like a big-box game. Sometimes you just can’t wait for game night to get a big group together and you really want to play something. The fact that 7 Wonders: Duel is specifically designed for 2 players is a big win in my book. Sometimes you can play your favorite games with only 2 players but the game and experience are compromised. You have to change up the rules or look online for fan-made variants to make the game playable with only 2 players.
Another pet peeve of mine is when games advertise themselves as being 2-whatever players, only to open the box and find the 2 player version is a shell of the original. 7 Wonders: Duel fills that gap on my game shelf.
- Finicky setup
The only thing that really irritates me is the card pyramid. It’s not really that big of a deal but I find that setting it up always slows down the game. It feels like I have to return to set-up three different times over the course of the game. I’m not sure how I would fix it, other than setting up the cards all at once at the beginning, though. Doing the whole setup at the beginning does give a little bit of knowledge to the players that they shouldn’t have but I do it anyway because it’s just faster.
7 Wonders: Duel Review (TL;DR)
7 Wonders: Duel is not 7 Wonders.
Both use similar terms and themes but are overall very different games. 7 Wonders: Duel was designed specifically for 2 players but somehow still feels like a big-box experience.
It can be played in about 30-45 minutes but the setup of the card pyramids can be a bit of a pain to setup.
Players will draft cards that represent two rivals cities. The goal of the game is to beat your opponent, technologically, militarily, and by gaining the most victory points throughout the game.
7 Wonders: Duel is played over the course of 3 rounds called Ages. As the Ages progress, the available technologies and complexity of the cards increase.
7 Wonders: Duel is not a replacement for 7 Wonders.
The mechanics and core games are different, despite a lot of similarities between the two. They share a basic theme and aesthetic… but that’s about it.
That’s not a bad thing. The original 7 Wonders does have a variant that plays with only 2-players but it’s just that: a variant. Many of the rules have to be fundamentally changed in order to have a playable game.
7 Wonders: Duel isn’t exactly the same as the original but as a 2-player game, it’s far superior. If you ever find yourself in a situation with only 2 players (which I often do) it’s a better overall gaming experience. It’s designed and balanced specifically for that 2 player experience that’s usually an afterthought in many board games.
There have been plenty of games that claim to deliver a 2-player board game, only to have you throw out half the rules. This is one of my pet peeves about conventional board game design, so I am very excited to see a completely separate game that focuses on the 2-player experience that still delivers that big-box, epic game feeling.
We hope you enjoyed our 7 Wonders: Duel review! Have you played 7 Wonders: Duel or the original? We’d love to hear what you think. Drop a comment below and let us know!
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Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.