Around the Classroom in 80 Games: 7 Wonders

A six-year old game that still feels as fresh as the day it was first published is exciting to encounter. 7 Wonders, published in 2010, is one of these kinds of games. Fun, compulsively replayable, easy enough to learn but with great complexity and featuring lots of paths to victory, 7 Wonders is both the sort of game that is useful to play in a classroom right out of the box and that gives of itself to the gamifying teacher. Its mechanics are straightforward. Take a card from a diminishing hand of cards and play it to your play area and then hand what’s left of your hand to the person on your left or right, depending on the game phase you’re in. Pretty simple, but because of the large number of different “suits” of cards you might have in your hand, the mechanical simplicity is made maddeningly fun because of the difficulty of planning.

Using the game right out of the box could be easily useful in a classroom setting. It’s a useful way to examine resource scarcity, for example, as there are only so many science cards to go around and they have to be grouped in a precise way or the player playing them is bound to lose. While all of the resources are affected by scarcity, in my judgment the science cards are particularly susceptible to it. Better still is the way the game can teach resource balance. I would think it a useful way to spend some class time to play 7 Wonders and then have students write reflective journals on the kind of society they built as a result of playing the cards they played. What sort of society maxes out the score of military cards and doesn’t build any civics? How about the society that prefers the commerce cards but builds no science? 7 Wonders simulates (but not in a hardcore takes six hours to play sort of way) the consequences of choices made by societies. An interesting way to begin grade 9 history or a course on human geography.