Tag Archives: 7 Wonders

Episode 69 – Essen Day One!

The doors fly open and tens of thousands of gamers swarm upon the Messe Essen for Spiel 2013! Meanwhile, at the other end of the halls, Michael settles in for another round of interviews direct from the show floor. This time around, we’re delighted to welcome folks from companies big and small, from first time visitors to well-established names. Oh, and there’s some REALLY interesting talk about the upcoming 7 Wonders expansion that’s due for release next year… Babel! Download the show directly by clicking this here link, or hunt it down through your iTunes.

This episode’s guests:

Thomas Provoost from Repos Production – http://www.rprod.com/

Henning Poehl, designer of The Rats in the Walls – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/147581/the-rats-in-the-walls

Colby Dauch, lord ruler of Plaid Hat Games – http://www.plaidhatgames.com/

Asynchron Games’ own Olivier Chandry – http://www.asyncron.fr/

Eric Hanuise from Flatlined Games – http://www.flatlinedgames.com/

Dave Cousins from North and South – http://www.northandsouthgames.co.uk/

Jamoma Games’ Jacob talks Suburban Dispute – http://jamoma.com/

dv Giochi’s Barbara Rol and Bang! The Dice Game co-designer Michael Palm – http://www.dvgiochi.com/

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Mr Wonderful – An interview with Antoine Bauza

I’ve been lucky enough to recently do a bit of back and forth emailing with Antoine Bauza, designer of such great games as 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories and Takenoko. Here’s what happened…

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Michael Fox: So Antoine, let’s begin with less of a question, more of a request: could you tell me a little bit about your gaming history? What kind of things to you like to play and what got you into the hobby?

Antoine Bauza: I’ve played every kind of game throughout my life; traditional family boardgames as a kid, a lot of roleplaying games as a teenager, Magic: The Gathering and others. I’m also fond of videogames. At the end of my studies (I did chemistry and computer science), I attended a game design school in France and after that, I tried to find work in the video game industry. I didn’t meet with much success; it was a bad time for videogames in Europe and it was very hard to find a job focused on on game design (which I was looking for because I suck at programming, graphics and making music…). So I took another path and became a school teacher! I started to play modern boardgames around 2003 or 2004, and started designing my own games around the same time. After several unsuccessful prototypes, my first game was published in 2007: Chabyrinthe from Cocktail Games.

MF: What were those early games like? Anything that you’ve drawn ideas from since hitting the big time?

AB: Honestly, I cannot remember precisely those early games. There was something about washing machines, one about wrestling, another about stray cats fighting for a neighborhood… The only one worth remembering is Ikebana, the big brother of Hanabi… It was my first finished prototype.

I remember I sent it to Repos Production because a friend of mine told me they were nice people. They did not publish the game in the end but the CEO, Cédrick, called me to talk about the game and give me some feedback. I really appreciated that he did that because usually publishers don’t even bother to respond to unknown designers… Then a few years later we ended up working together on Ghost Stories and 7 Wonders.

MF: Of course, those two big hitters really helped you make your name on the designer games scene. Could you tell us a little about Ghost Stories? I’ve played it a few times but have never managed to actually win… did you intentionally design it to be so punishingly hard?

AB: Ghost Stories is my only heavy (well, not so heavy I guess) game and the first cooperative game I designed. And yes, it’s a hard game and we intended it to be like that because both Repos and I are mean! Seriously though, we wanted to make a challenging game because we love co-ops and we think many are too easy for expert players. But to tell you the truth, the game is not so hard and when you know it well you cannot lose at all in easy mode and almost never lose in normal or nightmare mode. The White Moon expansion does make the game a little easier. The Black Secret expansion, well… that depends on the player who’s in Wu-Feng’s shoes… Try to find a nice guy to do it!

MF: How about 7 Wonders then? What was the genesis behind that? And did you always have it in mind that you’d be able to play with seven people?

AB: I wrote down the complete genesis of 7 Wonders on my blog but yes, the first idea was the make a light strategy game playable up to seven because there were always seven people showing up to my regular games night.

MF: Were you surprised at how well 7 Wonders was received by gamers? It seemed to come from nowhere and was suddenly on everyone’s table!

AB: Well, we knew the game was certainly going to be a success. We did a lot of demonstrations at a lot of conventions, toy fairs and we had a lot of very nice feedback before it had been released. We were confident when the game finally came out but we never expected to have this amazing level of success! You never know if such things are going to happen, that’s part of the magic!

MF: One thing I love about 7 Wonders is the opportunity for expansion. You’ve already had Leaders and Cities released and I know there’s a forthcoming Wonders Pack too. I heard a rumour that you’re planning on eventually doing Seven Expansions – is there any truth behind that?

AB: Well, my publisher planned the seven expansions… I’m just going step by step! Currently I’ve got two prototype expansions in development – codenamed Armada & Babel – but there is still a lot of work to do on both so I cannot guarantee anything right now !

MF: Do you actually get to play it much yourself? And do you have a preferred strategy or Wonder board that you always like to get?

AB: Sure, I’ve played a lot of games but I did stop for a while. Taking a break, you know, clearing my mind and getting ready to be able to work on the next expansion. I can’t say I have a favorite Wonder or Strategy but I try not to stick with just one way of being efficient! (Secretly though, I like to try playing without resources, using lots of Yellow and Green cards, but shhh! Don’t say it at loud!)

MF: Ha! We know how to beat you now, Antoine! You’d better watch out in future! Now, could we move on to Takenoko? It’s a curious little game that’s been very well received – even Wil Weaton mentioned it recently on Twitter! How did the idea for it come about?

AB: It all started on my first trip to Japan, back in 2003 when I visited Ueno Zoo. At the entrance there is a funny statue that caught my eyeThen when I got back to France, I started think about a bamboo growing game with two pandas… that was almost nine years ago.

MF: NINE years?! I didn’t realise it had been in development for so long! I suppose the success of 7 Wonders helped get the attention of publishers so you could push your other designs?

AB: Yes, sometime it takes time… The prototype had many many versions. The publishers (Matagot & Bombyx) worked for a very long time on the wooden pieces and miniatures. 7 Wonders did open some doors with foreign publishers – mostly in Germany and the US – but for now, all my games are published by either French, Belgian or Swiss ones, so the success of 7 Wonders isn’t that relevant yet… I’ll certainly take this opportunity in the future, because I like to work with different people and companies.

MF: So what are you working on at the moment, Antoine? Anything you can tell us a little about?

AB: This year I’m actually spending less time on boardgames. I want to experience something different before I get bored! Right now, I’m working on a small videogame project that involves some game design but concentrates mostly on story writing. But I’ve still got some boardgames in the pipeline: those 7 Wonders expansions, a brand new cooperative game (codename Sinbad) and a brand new resources-and-card-based development game that’s pretty different.

MF: Exciting times then! Are there any designers out there you’re a fan of? Anyone whose games you particularly enjoy playing or keep an eye out for?

AB: Besides my fellow french designers like Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti, Ludovic Maublanc and others, I always like to keep an eye on Vladaa Chvatil – he’s an amazing game designer. I like Rob Daviau’s work too!

MF: All good designers! Have you managed to try out Risk Legacy?

AB: Of course ! I think Risk Legacy is the most innovative boardgame since Magic: The Gathering!

MF: High praise indeed, Antoine! Now, finally, is there any advice you have for aspiring designers? Any suggestions you may have to help improve their games and get them noticed by publishers?

AB: I’ve seen several aspiring designers spending all their time and energy on a single idea and prototype. I believe you have to make gameS (plural!) to learn how to make gameS! You also have to be a good observer and listener, paying attention to the people playing your prototype, catching what they enjoy and what they don’t like. Then when it comes to publishers, you’ve got to actually see them and play your game with them. I don’t believe in any of that “sending the rules by email” stuff…

MF: Fantastic. Thanks for your time Antoine – it’s been a pleasure!

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The Magnificent Seven Return – 7 Wonders: Leaders review

So, 7 Wonders, yeah? Award winning game, bloody awesome, lots of fun, seven players building a wondrous society through the medium of cards in half an hour… everyone knows it. If you’re unaware of it, Antoine Bauza’s excellent game has players drafting cards in order to create great civilisations by first collecting resources then using them to pay for buildings. The different types will give you boons and points, and over the space of three rounds (representing three Ages) you’ll eventually – hopefully – create one of the Wonders of the World. The most points wins… and that’s about it.

Or at least it was until M. Bauza decided to prolong the 7 Wonders experience by coming up the first “proper” expansion for the game, not counting the promo boards representing the Mannequin Pis and Catan Island. Leaders adds a whole new element to the game – actual forward planning. Rather than just seeing what cards are handed to you and seeing how you can best utilise them, Leaders sees you given an extra four cards at the start of the game that may well influence how you play…

Some of the thirty six Leaders found in the box.

Like in the base game, these cards are drafted and you’ll play one of your chosen leaders face-up the beginning of each Age. By checking out what leaders people have selected it could well give you an insight into what kind of strategy they’re aiming for and, as such, will effect how you play as well as what cards you’ll pass round the table. It also means that your opponents will have the same knowledge, so do you focus on using your leaders and risk people screwing your plans over.

It’s a whole new level of gameplay to consider and one that lends itself to those who are more experienced in the world of 7 Wonders. With so many new ways of scoring points – including stealing them from under the noses of other players – it’s certainly not something I’d throw newbies into, or at least not until they’ve got the workings of the base game down. While it doesn’t add a huge amount of complexity to the game, it’s an extra thing to concentrate on that could put them off. Stick with folks who know what they’re doing and you’ll be grand.

ROME DEMANDS WONDERS. Actually, that’s the wrong game, isn’t it?

There are also four extra Guilds and a whole new Wonder to play with, this time representing the city of Rome. As you would expect, it’s pretty Leader heavy, but after several plays it feels pretty balanced when compared with the other Wonders available.

Production wise, it’s on the same level of quality as the original release. The artwork is lovely throughout, with the various leaders gorgeously realised by artist Miguel Coimbra. In order to pay for these extra cards, you actually get a bit more cash at the start of a game and so there’s a whole bunch of new coins (worth 6 money) included too. Unfortunately, if you have the first edition that came with the wooden coins, you may not be too pleased to know that the new 6-value ones are thick card. For those who are fussed about such stuff, places like spielmaterial.de will be delighted to supply you with plenty of discs to replace the infidel cardboard…

All told, Leaders is a great expansion for an already excellent game. Adding perhaps only ten minutes on to a game, even with seven players, is totally fine. The only downside – if it can even be called that – is that there’s a bit more maths to handle at the end (which you’d expect, of course) but hey! That’s why the excellent Boardgame Scorer App by Forrest Wang exists!

7 Wonders: Leaders was designed by Antoine Bauza with art by Miguel Coimbra and was released through Repos Production and Asmodee (amongst others) in 2011. You can pick up a copy for around £20 (though it’s currently £16.49 at Gameslore) and is well worth the investment. Now, when is Cities out…? 

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The View From The Afternoon – 7 Wonders review

I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of gamers out there are at least aware of 7 Wonders even if they haven’t played it (which, of course, a lot of people have). Antoine Bauza’s super-condensed game of city building has gained the respect of many players for several reasons, the main one probably being that it’s able to handle up to seven players at a time yet plays in around thirty to forty minutes. There’s very few games on the market that provide such a range but scale so well, so that’s invariably the reason that it’s scooped so many awards over the past couple of years – including the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres.

Each player begins with a play board depicting an ancient wonder of the world, a small amount of money and… well, that’s it. The objective is to build up your own civilisation over the space of three ages, each one represented by a deck of cards. These are shuffled and dealt out, giving each player seven to choose from. This is sorted out before play begins with a little bit of card removal – all cards are marked at the bottom denoting whether they should be included or not. Once you’ve chosen a card you lay it down, pass your deck to the next player, grab the one being handed to you then do it all over again until you’re down to two. With those, you choose one to play and one is discarded.

Brown cards are natural resources, Greys are manufactured. Meanwhile, Yellows allow you to skew the rules in your favour.

These cards can’t be just chosen willy nilly, however. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the resources available to put them down in front of you. Everyone begins with a single resource, but as the game progresses you can grab cards to add to your stack. Some cards require one or more resources before you can play them – if they have an image in the top left corner, you’re going to need to either make sure you’ve got that at your disposal. If you don’t, you can check if the player to your left or right has it, then pay them for the privilege. Sure, it may be a pain having to hand over some of your very limited funds, but if it helps you along it’s money well spent.

As you progress through the three Ages, you’ll notice that the cards get more and more powerful – and expensive. There’s one way around this; keep an eye out for stuff that you’ve already built. Some cards give you a free pass to build others, even if you can’t get the necessary bits you would ordinarily need. It’s a great way to build up your points or give you bonuses to use throughout the game, but you still have to make sure you’ve got enough resources to cover yourself for other purchases.

Blues give out plenty of points, Greens are for stacking Science. The Guilds are represented by Purples and could really swing the game your way.

Another element occurs when you end an age; WAR. When the cards run out, it’s time to take on the players to your left and right. Throughout each age you have the potential to pick up red cards that give you shields – if you have more at the end of an age, you’ll get points (one, three or five). If you have less, you’ll grab a minus one token. It’s a good way to pick up some easy points – after all, you only need to stay slightly ahead of those people next to you.

If you’re looking for yet another way of scoring, you can always go down the Sciences route. Green cards have three icons – cogs, tablets and compasses – that could potentially net you some huge points. Collecting a set of all three is good… but getting a bunch of the same is even better as the points scale, squaring as you go; one, four, nine, sixteen… it gets very valuable very quickly. Purple cards represent Guilds and are only available for drafting in Age III and can really give you some huge points too – they’re pretty expensive but could turn the tide your way. Get a couple down in front of you and the game could easily be yours… maybe.

A couple of Wonders - bonuses aplenty are available if you get to build those stages...

Of course, there’s also the Wonders from the game’s title. Depending on which one you draw, there’ll be between one and four levels that will give you a hefty bonus. Instead of putting your chosen card face up before you, as long as you have the resources you can put it underneath your playing board. Some may grant you victory points, others bestow money upon you, while a few give you extra shields or resources. It’s not entirely necessary for you to build your Wonder, but if you choose to leave it behind you’d best make sure you’re working on a few other plans.

Initial games may actually prove a bit confusing. Though the gameplay is incredibly simple – draw a card, play a card, pass the rest around and repeat – there’s such a wealth of options available to you the whole game can feel pretty daunting. Do you grab as many blue cards as possible and boost your points or focus on a military strategy to beat up on your neighbours? Should you go for Science or just concentrate on your Wonder?

Not available in the box! This one's a promo with only one Wonder level... but WHAT a level. The winner of the game has to buy you a beer!

To be honest, every time you play your strategy will be different. There’s so many different possibilities in a game of 7 Wonders that your best bet is really to try and keep an eye on what everyone else is doing, then go down a different path. Obviously this is trickier when you’ve got more players, but that’s what adds to the enjoyment of the game. While your main focus will be on your neighbouring players thanks to the whole war and resources thing, being able to have an eye on the whole playfield will certainly help.

Personally, I’m completely head over heels with this game. I love the fact that it works with such a wide range of players (though I must admit, I haven’t attempted the two player version yet) and is still finished in such a short time; it’s the very definition of a One More Go game. The artwork is solid throughout, as is the graphic design – everything is incredibly clear and simple to follow with splendid iconography.

Being a card game, it’s pretty hard to mess up the production, but thankfully the folks at Repos Productions have made sure that the stock used is nice and thick, the player boards are of good quality and the box insert is actually pretty useful. This review is based on the newer edition of the game, meaning that the wooden coins of the original have been replaced by cardboard bits. Again, these are nicely done, but I’m a sucker for wood – however, I can see why the switch has been made; not only does it save money on production, it also ensures compatibility with expansions that also come with cardboard cash.

Having played it a fair few times, I can see why 7 Wonders has won so many awards since its release. It treads that line between accessibility and slightly more complex games beautifully, open enough for even novice players to pick up quickly but still giving those who seek a challenge plenty to think about. Antoine Bauza has done something that is quite hard to do in the world of game design; he’s managed to create a relatively level playing field. No wonder the plaudits keep coming in… and you can definitely add me to the ever growing list of fans.

7 Wonders was designed by Antoine Bauza with art by Miguel Coimbra. Released in 2010 through Repos Production, between two and seven players can attempt to build their own civilisation in around half an hour. The game can be expanded through the Leaders set which is out now as well as the forthcoming Cities pack; now go and get it, for it is awesome. Oh, and if you’ve got an iPhone, I heartily recommend getting the free 7 Wonders Scorer App which makes life a lot easier at the end of a game!

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