7 Wonders: Leaders (Game Review)

7 Wonders: Leaders box

7 Wonders: Leaders

Not long after giving 7 Wonders a great review, I got sick of the game. Everything positive that I said about it is still true, but it’s a somewhat repetitive filler based largely on guessing which cards you will get later. It’s very fun for what it is, but everyone wanted to play it all the time, instead of just as a filler. Within a couple months, I’d played it as many times as I should have over the course of a year. I’m definitely in the minority here, which means that my review turned out to be more accurate for others than for me (but also means that the game keeps hitting the table, so I stay tired of it).

Fortunately, the Leaders expansion has rekindled my interest in the 7 Wonders. It’s a simple idea and doesn’t change the spirit of the game significantly, but it adds enough variety to keep it feeling fresh. It adds a new “Phase 0” in which players draft four Leader cards. Each Leader offers a unique power, and the players hold them in their hand rather than playing them immediately. Before each of the three main phases, everyone plays a single Leader. (One of your four will never get played.)

Some examples of Leader cardsSo without significantly increasing the playing time or adding new cards to the main rounds of gameplay, everyone is now in a different position. One player may receive extra symbols to support a Science strategy, while another can build Military cards more cheaply, and still another will receive points for playing certain combinations of card types. There are also cards that give immediate bonuses, or reward unusual things like having the card that lets you build a later one for free. Leaders cost different amounts of coins to play, which means money management also becomes slightly more important.

Does Leaders solve the fundamental issues I have with 7 Wonders? Mostly not. The winner will still be the person who got the most synergistic cards passed to them, which is something that skill can only partially mitigate. The Leaders arguably add another way for some people to get a much luckier combination than others. However, they also give you a new strategy at the start of each game, and make each player’s set-up much more distinct than the Wonder boards alone do. (Ignoring your Wonder is a perfectly valid strategic choice at times, but it means that your playing position is indistinguishable from anyone else’s. Ignoring your Leader cards is almost always a bad idea.)

I’m still being careful not to play 7 Wonders: Leaders too often, because I expect that it could become boring in the same way that the base game did. When just played from time to time, though, I’m happy to hear someone suggest it. I assume that for people who aren’t tired of 7 Wonders (which is most of the gaming community), the new life that Leaders adds is even more exciting. This is an excellent example of how an expansion can add something fundamental to a game without changing the elements that its fans love.

Grade: B

(Images above from Board Game Geek. Follow the links for the original and photographer credit.)


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