I am not really big into video games so for my first play journal I thought it best to cover what I do enjoy: board games (I’m sure I’ll delve into some video games in later journal entries). My siblings and I loved playing board games growing up. It helped that we’re all close in age so our ability levels were fairly comparable (except no one can beat my brother at Clue…not sure why). To this day, when we get together we enjoy gathering around the kitchen table with our favorite junk food and breaking out a game or two. For us, it’s more than just a game – it’s also a social component, which is a major component in playing board games. Amidst the strategy and decision-making, it’s fun to chat, laugh, and enjoy the company.
For Christmas, my wife got me a new strategic board game, Seven Wonders, which I had played only once or twice before. Seven Wonders is a card-based game with the theme being, you guessed it, the seven ancient wonders of the world. The object of the game is to get the most “victory” points, which one can accrue in seven different categories (the number seven is an important aspect). Here’s how the game goes:
Three to seven players are each dealt seven cards. Each player reviews their seven cards, selects one to acquire, and then passes the remaining cards to the left. Each card has a cost, either money or resources, which each player has been allotted. Once the cards are passed and the process is repeated until all the cards are used up. This is the phase one. Phases two and three are the same. At the end of the third phase, all the points are added up and the player with the most points wins. Each of the cards in one’s hand, at any given time, represent a way in which points can be accrued. Ultimately, there are seven different categories in which players can accrue points.
Seven Wonders is all about managing resources and creating a strategy for accruing points. Even though there are seven categories for gaining points, as you can imagine, it is virtually impossible to get the most points in every single category.
I really enjoy this game. I think what makes it compelling are the constraints. There are hundreds of strategy board games out there and all them have similar components: cards, points, money, etc. It’s the rules of the game and deciding how to be successful within those rules that provides a fun challenge. In addition, not only is one impacted by their own decision, they are impacted by the decisions of others. To win the game, players need to be aware of the situation of others (all accrued points are viewable by everyone), manage resources, and strategize on the fly. The design and flow of the game are intricate, well thought out, and very efficient. And depending on how many players are involved, the game should last no longer than 30 to 45 minutes. There is a certain level of unknown in that the winner is truly decided once the score is tallied.
I believe all board games provide learning experiences because they are life simulations. Especially in strategic board games, the scenarios encountered require critical thinking. All of these skills benefit players in real life. I believe most people agree on this point. I believe the real question of value is how we can take a game/concept, like Seven Wonders, and use it to accomplish a learning objective. An interesting byproduct of this game, is the fact that I now, for the first time, can name all the seven wonders of the world!