Searching for a fast, fun strategy game that doesn’t take a group to play? The original 7 Wonders hit the market about 10 years ago, establishing itself as an instant classic with a laundry list of board game awards.
The box claimed a player range of 2-7. That’s technically true; it’s possible to play with two. As is often the case with games like this, though, the two player version of the game leaves a lot to be desired.
So what if you can’t get so many people in one place to play a board game regularly?
Thankfully, the creators heard the cry of the casual board game player. 7 Wonders Duel updated the game specifically for two players and the results are incredible!
For those new to these kinds of board games, the mechanics may seem intimidating at first. Once you start playing, everything will start to make a lot more sense.
I would encourage you to play a game along with this guide your first time to see the mechanics in action.
Are you ready to build the greatest civilization your living room has ever known?
I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to play this civilization-building board game!
- 2 Players
- Running Time: About 30 minutes
- Recommended Ages: 10 and up
- 1 Game Board: This has a military supremacy track for progressing toward a military victory. The spaces at each end represent each player’s capital. The spaces along the top are slots for 5 progress tokens.
- 23 Age I Cards: These are the buildings available to improve your civilization in the early game.
- 23 Age II Cards: Buildings for the mid-game.
- 20 Age III Cards: Buildings for the endgame.
- 7 Guild Cards: 3 of these are shuffled into the Age III deck when the game begins, the rest are set aside.
- 12 Wonder Cards: As with the guilds, you don’t use all of these every game- only 8.
- 4 Military Tokens: There are spaces for these on the game board, below the military supremacy track. When a player pushes the conflict pawn into the zone above one of these tokens on the track, the other player loses the amount of gold printed on the token and it is removed to reveal the victory points below. This only happens the first time the conflict pawn enters each zone.
- 10 Progress Tokens: Powerful effects which are difficult to obtain. There are 5 placed on the board at set-up, the other 5 are set aside.
- 1 Conflict Pawn: This pawn is the physical tracker for the military supremacy track. If this pawn reaches your opponent’s capital, you’ll win a military victory.
- 31 Coins of varying values.
- Scorebook, rulebook, and help sheet.
The Basics: May the Best Civilization Win!
7 Wonders Duel puts you at the helm of a civilization, vying for dominance against your opponent’s civilization.
There are 3 ways to go about proving your civilization is the strongest or hippest in all the lands – military supremacy, scientific supremacy, or a civilian victory. I’ll get into how each of these work specifically later on, but for now you just need to know that you have different paths to victory available to you.
As the game progresses, you build up a city using age cards. Every time you clear all the cards in an age from the table, you move into the next age (going up, from I to II to III). It’s possible to win a supremacy (scientific or military) victory at any point in the game, which could end things before all the ages are seen.
If nobody has won by the end of Age III, a civilian victory will occur. Whoever has the most victory points at that point wins!
Foundation: Setting up to Play
First, get the game board and lay it out between the two players. Position the board to one side of the table, leaving plenty of room in the middle. The two ends of the military supremacy track should be pointing towards the two players. The final space on each end of the board represents the capital of the player it is closest to.
Place the conflict pawn in the center space of the military supremacy track.
Now, place down your military tokens in the appropriate spaces. The tokens with a value of 5 go beneath the zone next to your capital, covering the victory points printed there. The tokens with a value of 2 are placed one zone further in on each side. The inside zones, nearest the center, should not have any military tokens.
Mix around the progress tokens face-down and pick up 5 tokens from among them. Those 5 tokens are placed in the spaces along the top of the board. The others are set aside.
Both players take 7 coins from the bank (two 3’s and a 1). This is your starting treasury.
It’s about time! Next you’re going to draft your wonders for this game.
The choices you make during the wonder draft will inform your overall strategy for the game, so really think about which ones you take and how they might work together!
Shuffle up the wonder cards. Deal 4 wonder cards to each player, and return the remaining 4 to the box.
Each player may select 1 of these 4 wonder cards to draft. Place that wonder in front of you, face-up on the table so you can both see it. After both players draft their first wonder, trade the remaining 3 wonder cards with each other.
Select 2 wonder cards this time, placing them on the table in front of you as you did with your first drafted wonder. Give the remaining wonder card to the other player.
You should both have 4 wonder cards in front of you now. During the course of the game you will be able to build these wonders, bringing them into play with powerful effects for your civilization.
As a final note, only 7 wonders can be built. Go figure, right? After the 7th wonder is built, one unlucky player will be stuck with only 3 wonders.
Dealing the Ages
The final step in setting up your game will be dealing out the Age I cards. Each age is dealt in a different, very specific, format. You only deal down 20 of the 23 cards in each Age, the other 3 won’t appear in that game.
Remove 3 random cards from each of the Age decks and return them to the box without looking at what they are. This includes the Age III deck! Though this brings you to 17 Age III cards, you will be adding 3 other cards to that deck in a minute to bring it back to 20.
For the first age, deal the cards as shown in the first example above with the brown cards. The white cards are dealt face-up, while the colored cards are dealt face-down. The face-up cards on top of the structure are the buildings available to both players on their turns. The other cards are made available as the top cards are taken.
In future ages, refer to this graphic again – blue is for Age II, purple is for Age III.
Before you get the box out of your way, find the guild cards. Shuffle them up, draw three, and add them to the Age III deck. The rest can be put aside.
Making of 7 Wonders Duel:
Taking Your Turn
At long last, the stage is set!
Both players have their wonders. The Age I cards are set up in the pyramid formation in the middle of the table. The military supremacy track is ready to go, with the conflict pawn on the center space and the military tokens in their proper places.
You’re ready for the action to begin in earnest!
Flip a coin to see who goes first. On each turn, you may perform 1 of 3 possible actions. All three will involve removing one of the age cards in the middle of the table. I’ll go into more detail on these soon, but here’s a brief overview of your choices:
- Construct a Building: This is the bread and butter of the game. Buildings allow you to improve your city in various ways: they may give victory points, military power, resources, or other unique benefits. You can only build from among the top Age cards – the others are made available as the age progresses and the top cards in the structure are removed.
- Burn a Building: If you can’t or don’t want to build one of the available buildings, you may instead burn one of the available buildings to gain coins. Discard the chosen building card and take 2 coins from the bank, plus 1 coin for each yellow building in your city. This action can serve the dual purpose of getting a little coin while also preventing your opponent from getting a building you know they’d want.
- Build a Wonder: This is what we’re here for! Wonders are much more difficult to build than other cards, but their bonuses are powerful. When you build a wonder, you still take an Age card from the middle – it goes face-down beneath the constructed wonder. Remember that only 7 total wonders can be built!
Building Up Your City
In order to construct a building, you must be able to pay the build cost. You’ll notice icons in the top left corner of many age cards – these tell you what resources you need to construct that building in your city. Some buildings require coins to build, which are paid to the bank. If there are no icons there, that building is free to build.
Resources are obtained from buildings in your city and some wonders. Along the top of a brown, grey, or yellow age card you will see an icon representing the resource(s) provided by that building. The total of all resource icons in a city is your available stockpile to build for each turn. It does not accumulate – if something takes two stone to build, you need two stone resources in your city. Resources also aren’t used up when building with them; they are available to you every turn.
If you lack the resources to build a card you want, you can instead spend money to trade for that resource. The cost – paid to the bank – starts at 2 coins, but goes up 1 coin for every copy of the resource that your opponent controls. This means you can get locked out of a resource if you aren’t careful!
Some buildings have a small white icon printed on the top right of the card, called the chain symbol. In future ages, some buildings will list a chain symbol in their build cost as an alternative to the resource cost. If you possess that chain symbol, you can construct that building in your city for free!
Card Icon Breakdown
There are quite a few icons to keep track of, but fortunately you’ll have a helpful guide in the box for the game. You’ll want to take advantage of it!
The most plentiful icons you’ll see are raw resources – orange for clay, green for wood, and grey for stone. These three resources are used to build most buildings and wonders in the game.
There are also two kinds of manufactured goods: blue for glass, brown for papyrus (paper). Alongside the raw resources, these are used for building.
Some buildings and wonders will grant you victory points. Represented by a victory wreath, these cards will grant you the number of points printed on the icon toward a civilian victory at the end of the game.
The icon of crossed swords over a shield represents military power. When you construct a building with this icon printed along the top, advance your conflict pawn one space toward your opponent’s capital for each of these icons on the card.
Finally, there are scientific symbols. Whenever you build an identical pair of scientific symbols, you can collect a progress token of your choice from the 5 on the board. If you gather 6 different science symbols, you’ll win a scientific supremacy victory.
Wonders are built in much the same way other buildings are, though they tend to be more expensive. The resources needed to build a wonder are printed on the left side of the cards. When you build a wonder, take a building from the available age cards and place it face-down beneath the wonder. The icons printed along the right side tell you what benefits you will gain from it.
Let’s take a moment to go over what each wonder does, since some of the icons on these cards don’t appear anywhere else in the game:
- The Appian Way: Take 3 coins from your opponent and immediately take an extra turn. Worth 3 victory points.
- Circus Maximus: Destroy (discard) a grey building in your opponent’s city. Advance the conflict pawn one space toward your opponent’s capital. Worth 3 victory points.
- The Colossus: Advance the conflict pawn two spaces toward your opponent’s capital. Worth 3 victory points.
- The Great Library: Take 3 random progress tokens from the ones that were set aside (not the 5 on the board). Choose one to keep and play, set the others back aside. Worth 4 victory points.
- The Great Lighthouse: This wonder can produce one of the raw resources (wood, stone, or clay) printed on it of your choice each turn. These resources do not impact the cost of buildings for your opponent the same way other resources in your city do. Worth 4 victory points.
- The Hanging Gardens: Take 6 coins from the bank and immediately take an extra turn. Worth 3 victory points.
- The Mausoleum: Take all the cards that have been discarded during the game and build one card for free in your city from among them. These do not include the 3 cards set aside at the beginning of each age; only the cards you discard during turns. Worth 2 victory points.
- Piraeus: This wonder can produce one of the manufactured goods (glass or papyrus) printed on it each turn. As with the Great Lighthouse, this has no effect on building cost for your opponent. You can immediately take an extra turn when you play this wonder. Worth 2 victory points.
- The Pyramids: This wonder is worth 9 victory points.
- The Sphinx: Immediately take an extra turn. Worth 6 victory points.
- The Statue of Zeus: Destroy (discard) a brown building in your opponent’s city. Advance the conflict pawn one space toward your opponent’s capital. Worth 3 victory points.
- The Temple of Artemis: Take 12 coins from the bank and immediately take an extra turn.
As you can see, these wonders provide powerful benefits for your civilization!
Seeing what wonders your opponent is going to be able to build after the draft will give you a lot of information about their possible game plan. Just don’t forget they can see your wonders, too.
Moving to Next Age
When all 20 cards of the current Age are picked up, the age ends immediately. If you decided to construct a wonder that grants you an extra turn as the last move of an age, the extra turn is lost.
Shuffle up the cards for the next age and deal them down in the structure for that age (shown earlier in the guide). The player who has the weaker military chooses who goes first in the next age. You can tell easily who this is from the position of the conflict pawn. If it’s closer to your capital, you’re it!
If the conflict pawn is in the center space of the track, whoever played the last card of the previous age will go first in the next one.
The 5 progress tokens on the board can be obtained by building two science buildings of the same kind in your city. Here’s a rundown of what they all do:
- Agriculture: Take 6 coins from the bank. Worth 4 victory points.
- Architecture: Future wonders you build cost 2 fewer resources. You can choose whichever resources you like to be free when building each wonder.
- Economy: When your opponent has to spend coins for resources to construct buildings or wonders, the money goes to you instead of the bank. Note that this doesn’t include coins spent as part of the usual build cost for a card, only extra coins put up for resources the player lacks.
- Law: Provides a science symbol for that victory condition
- Masonry: Future civilian buildings (blue) you build will cost two fewer resources. As with architecture, you choose which two each time.
- Mathematics: Score 3 victory points for each progress token you control at the end of the game, including this one.
- Philosophy: Worth 7 victory points.
- Strategy: Every future military building (red) you construct will gain 1 extra military power icon. This does not affect the military power of wonders or buildings you have already built.
- Theology: Future wonders you build will grant you the extra turn effect. If the wonder already grants an extra turn, this token has no effect.
- Urbanism: Take 6 coins from the bank. Every time you construct a building for free with a chain symbol, gain 4 coins.
Remember putting these into the Age III deck way at the beginning? Guilds are a great pick-up in the late game, usually providing a large amount of victory points. Here’s how they each work, so you can quickly look up the 3 that come up in your game:
- Builders Guild: Worth two victory points for each wonder built in the city with the most wonders.
- Moneylenders Guild: Worth 1 victory point for every 3 coins in the richest city.
- Scientists Guild: When you build this guild, gain 1 coin for each green card in the city that has the most green cards. This card is worth 1 victory point for each green card in the city with the most at the end of the game.
- Shipowners Guild: When you build this guild, gain 1 coin for each brown and grey card in the city that has the most of those cards. This card is worth 1 victory point for each brown and grey card in the city with the most at the end of the game.
- Traders Guild: When you build this guild, gain 1 coin for each yellow card in the city with the most yellow cards. This card is worth 1 victory point for each yellow card in the city with the most at the end of the game.
- Magistrates Guild: When you build this guild, gain 1 coin for each blue card in the city with the most blue cards. This card is worth 1 victory point for each blue card in the city with the most at the end of the game.
- Tacticians Guild: When you build this guild, gain 1 coin for each red card in the city with the most red cards. This card is worth 1 victory point for each red card in the city with the most at the end of the game.
These guilds offer the coins and points to the player that builds the guild, regardless of which city has the most resources of the type listed. So even if you’re opponent has the most red cards by a long shot, the Tactician’s Guild is still a good pick-up since you’ll score your coins and points from their city’s red card count.
Also note, the city that you count for victory points may be different than the city you initially count for coins. Check again at the end of the game for each of your guilds to see which city they will use for victory points.
The 3 Paths to Victory
I’ve talked a bit about the 3 victory types already. To recap, they are: military supremacy, scientific supremacy, and civilian victory. In the interest of having all the information in one place to make your life easier, here’s a detailed rundown of how each one works:
- Military Supremacy: You achieve this victory by moving the conflict pawn into your opponent’s capital space (the space closest to them) on the military supremacy track. You do this by building age cards and wonders with military power icons printed on them. Your opponent can fight back by building the same kinds of cards to expand their own military and advance the pawn back towards you. This victory can happen at any point in the game.
- Scientific Supremacy: You achieve this victory if you have 6 different science symbols on buildings in your city. There are a total of 7 science symbols in the game, their icons are noted in the rulebook. You’ll find these on green cards (scientific buildings). You can also gain one from a progress token (Law). This victory can happen at any point in the game.
- Civilian Victory: If you reach the end of Age III and nobody has won a supremacy victory, the civilization with the most victory points is declared the winner. Count up all the victory points on cards and tokens in your city. The player with the stronger military (the player that has pushed the pawn toward the opponent’s capital) gains the victory points printed at the bottom of the zone the conflict pawn ends in. You also gain 1 victory point for every 3 coins in your treasury at the end of the game. In case of a tie, the player with the most victory points from specifically Civilian buildings (blue cards) will win. If both players have the same victory points from these blue cards, the game ends in a tie!
A Wonderful Evening
7 Wonders Duel offers a great alternative for 2 players to the original 7 Wonders. It includes all the strategic punch of the original game adapted specifically for a head-to-head format.
The game plays smoothly, with a short 30 minute average running time. Since not every card and progress token sees play every game, each game will have some fresh aspects to it. A different set of wonders will also have a drastic impact on your long term strategy.
The level of variety isn’t quite enough to be your only two-player option. If you’re looking for a good game to supplement an existing two-player collection, though, 7 Wonders Duel is an amazing choice!
Top Image Credit: Yoppy @ Flickr