Newly arrived, and out of the wrapper, is 7 Wonders: Duel. Designed by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala, it takes the 7 Wonders theme to a two player level, using some clever mechanics to deliver an excellent and challenging game.
As in the original game, you have a city to build, aiming to get the most VPs from a variety of sources. The player with the most VPs at the end of the game wins. However, Duel introduces a sudden death victory condition: you can win by collecting six different science symbols, and you can win by accumulating a large enough military power. So, instantly, there are several winning strategies to follow.
Instead of cards being passed from player to player, here the 20 cards in each Age (there are three) are laid out in an overlapping grid. You can only take a card that is not overlapped, and as you take cards, you may uncover better cards for your opponent. Each Age has a different grid patter, with alternate rows face up and face down. This means you can do some planning – I want that card – but fate and your opponent may intervene.
As well as the cards, there are wonders to build, each of which gives a different set of bonuses. Also, collecting matching scientific symbols grants you a choice of the available advancement tokens, again with different bonuses.
The physical production standards are high, and the symbology is easy to follow. The rulebook looks worse than it is, but that’s because it carefully takes you through the game, and is very thorough. In other words, when you start to read it, and use it, things flow smoothly.
I was very impressed with the game, because it packs a lot into the box without being complex. The interactions, tactics, and playing techniques may take some time to master, but the game is quite accessible, especially if you have played the original 7 Wonders. It’s not quite a bridge game, being one to introduce first time non gamers, but it’s not that far away. And it plays quite quickly – easily under an hour, unless you or your opponent are struck with analysis paralysis.
In short, this is a pretty damn good two player game.