After many years, 7 Wonders has earned the coveted distinction of being a definitive gateway game. “Gateway games,” in the board gaming community are games that satisfy seasoned tabletop gamers by being ripe with strategy, but also being easy and accessible enough for newcomers to learn. 7 Wonders fits this criteria, being an immensely satisfying exercise in tactics and strategy, while being simple enough to appeal to casual audiences.
Because of this, many players have found 7 Wonders to be a staple of their game nights. If you meet this description, you’ve likely noticed the various 7 Wonders expansions that tempt you on store shelves. Expansions can be a great way to add depth and longevity to your favorite games, but they are seldom created equal. If you’re wondering which 7 Wonders expansion is the best, you’re in luck — we’ve got you covered.
Honorable Mention: 7 Wonders Wonder Pack
This is more of a nice little extra accessory than a full-fledged expansion. The Wonder pack is exactly what it sounds like — a collection of extra wonders that you can add to your game. These wonders don’t introduce any additional rules (that don’t already exist in other expansions), and there aren’t any other components or things you’ll need to take time to learn.
The Wonder Pack comes with four wonders:
- Great Wall of China: This wonder provides various benefits, but unlike traditional wonders, you can build them in any order you want, a refreshing deviation from the norm.
- Abu Simbel: You’ll need the Leaders expansion to take advantage of this wonder. You can “bury” leaders for bonus points.
- Stonehenge: Stonehenge promotes a stone-heavy game, and rewards you for building up heavy stone reserves.
- Mannekin Pis: This veritable world wonder (the peeing boy statue in Belgium) allows you to copy the benefits of your neighbor’s wonders.
Each of these wonders adds a nice little twist and can mix things up if you’ve grown bored of the titular seven wonders that are included with the base game. Overall, it’s a pack that’s worth your money, but it’s at the bottom of our list on the virtue of being an extra accessory more than an actual expansion.
Third Place: 7 Wonders: Babel
Babel is certainly the most ambitious of the three major 7 Wonders expansions, and that is both its greatest strength and weakness. 7 Wonders: Babel changes the game on a more fundamental level than the other expansions do, and because of that, it’s lowest on our list. That’s not to say it’s bad — on the contrary, it can be a fantastic addition to your game if you’re a fan of its mechanics. However, we believe the best expansions are the ones that add depth without changing the fundamental feel of the game. Because Babel changes the game more than the other expansions do, it will inevitably be more indecisive.
What it Adds:
The main objective of 7 Wonders: Babel is increasing player interaction. In the base game, interaction is limited to purchasing resources from your neighbors and comparing military totals. With 7 Wonders: Babel, your actions can impact the entire table — tipping scales in your favor, or acting directly to block your opponents. There are two expansion modules included in the box, which can be added to your game individually, or played together.
- The Tower of Babel: The Tower of Babel is a module that goes in the middle of the board. Each player starts the game with three “Babel” tiles, which can be played by spending a card in your hand (similar to how wonders are built). The Babel tile is added to the “tower” in the middle, and it contains a global rule that applies to everyone. It can be a benefit, such as a certain color of cards being cheaper, or a penalty, such as being unable to use a certain resource. Do you want to help everyone, including yourself, or block people? The choice is yours. Players are also encouraged to work together — certain Babel tiles can be covered if enough of them are built, replacing them with a new rule
- Great Projects: The Great Projects expansion adds a central project to the middle of the board that everybody can “pitch in” to by building a certain type of building (red, blue, green, etc.). If the project is completed, everyone who contributed gets a nice little bonus. If it’s not completed by the end of the age, however, those who didn’t pitch in get penalized. This is a way that players can work together for the greater good.
What We Like and Don’t Like
What We Like
7 Wonders: Babel is fun because it increases player interaction. You’re not only just concerned about your little area, your actions can now directly affect everyone on the table. It’s fun being able to block somebody at a pivotal moment, or to reap major benefits from contributing the most to a great project. If you always wished that 7 Wonders had more direct player interaction, this is the expansion for you.
What We Don’t Like
The problem with interaction-heavy expansions is that they’re often added to games that don’t have a lot of player interaction. Sometimes these games attract a certain type of player because of that very fact, and if you’re such a player, you might not like the idea of adding potentially aggressive mechanics to a game that has always been relatively peaceful. Babel adds more mechanics that can negatively impact other players, and if you dislike conflict in your games, this won’t be for you.
Second Place – 7 Wonders: Leaders
7 Wonders: Leaders was the first expansion for 7 Wonders, and it still holds up. Staying true to its theme of ancient civilization, Leaders provides an entire collection of influential leaders from the old world to add to your game. Your civilization can be blessed by the likes of Caesar, Cleopatra, Plato, and more.
What it Adds:
- Leader Cards: The namesake of the game, 7 Wonders Leaders adds leader cards. The gist of it is this — before your game begins, the players collect four leader cards, which are picked from the usual drafting system. Each leader provides some kind of bonus, and many of them aren’t too different than a typical card. The difference is that they’re played before the round starts, and by having them in your hand at the beginning of the game, you can have a sort of game plan.
- New Wonder: Leaders adds one new wonder to the mix, the majestic Rome. Rome was an empire that was graced by an incredible number of amazing leaders, and its wonders bonuses reflect that idea. Rome is only playable if you’re using leader cards, as it allows you to pull more and play more of them.
What We Like and Don’t Like
What We Like
If you’re familiar with the differences between tactics and strategy, you’ll know that 7 Wonders is mostly a tactical game. Leaders is interesting because it adds a layer of strategy on top of the tactics.
In a nutshell, tactics involve making decisions on the fly — essentially being able to choose the most beneficial action based on what is given to you in the very moment. Strategy, on the other hand, means planning ahead. It’s looking at your situation from the very beginning, and creating a roadmap that will lead you to victory.
By adding leader cards into the game which provide bonuses you’re aware of from the very beginning, you can build a strategy for your 7 Wonders game instead of just making every decision spontaneously like you usually do. Suppose that you are able to draft a combination of leaders that focus around science — this will create a scenario in which science cards carry more weight for you, and you can plan from the very beginning to make that your focus.
What We Don’t Like
Truth be told, there’s not a lot to dislike about Leaders. It adds a nice layer of depth to the game while still being simple and unintrusive. However, there are some nitpicks.
First of all, there’s definitely a disparity in the quality of leader cards. Some of them just feel better than others, and since the first round is a draft that goes around your circle only once, sometimes certain players are able to draft a pull a hand of great leaders that synergize well with each other, while others might be left with relatively useless hodgepodge leaders that are better used as discard fodder or wonder cards.
And, of course, this is more of a subjective thing than a straight critique, but if the tactical, on-the-fly nature of 7 Wonders appeals to you, you might not like the fact that this expansion allows players to plan ahead.
First Place – 7 Wonders: Cities
7 Wonders: Cities is the second expansion released for 7 Wonders, and it sits at the top of our list as being the best of them. We love Cities because it’s everything an expansion should be — it makes the game deeper, more interesting, and more varied, without changing the spirit of the game or adding foreign mechanics.
What it Adds:
- Black Cards: The biggest feature of Cities is the black cards, which are shuffled into the age decks alongside all the other cards. The black cards add an extra draft to each round (meaning you’ll play eight cards each round instead of seven), and have attractive bonuses, many of which are powered up versions of normal cards. The best thing about the black cards is that they are variable in every game, similar to the purple guild cards. This means that you’ll be playing with different black cards every round, which adds some healthy diversity and replayability to the game.
- Diplomacy: Do you dislike the competitiveness of chasing military cards? If you claim a diplomacy token (granted by a certain wonder and various black cards), it allows you to bypass the military round at the end of the age. Your military cards count for nothing (even if you have more than your neighbors) and you are skipped entirely when totals are compared — meaning your neighbors compare their military counts against each other, as if you’re not even at the table. Diplomacy is fun because it allows you to just not worry about military, or it can be played as an aggressive move, forcing your neighbors to compare against each other when they may not have been expecting it.
- New Wonders: Cities adds some healthy variety to your wonder count, providing two fresh new wonders, Petra and Byzantium. Petra (AKA, the temple of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is coin-based, making you rich if you build it up. Byzantium focuses on the aforementioned Diplomacy mechanic.
- Eight Player Support: Because the black cards add an extra draft each round, it extends the player count up to eight. If you have a particularly big game group, this could be perfect for you to include that one extra person. In a world where four player games are the most common, any strategic game that can accommodate a lot of people is always welcome.
What We Like and Don’t Like:
What We Like
Cities feels like it adds the most to 7 Wonders without changing the game. Almost no rules are added — just new cards that make things more interesting, give you more options, and add replayability. We love expansions that don’t change the fundamental nature of the game. Leaders and Babel are great, but they alter the overall “tone” of the game — Leaders makes it more strategic, and Babel makes it more aggressive and interactive. Cities, on the other hand, still feels like 7 Wonders, albeit a slightly more complex version of it. While I can play 7 Wonders without feeling like I need to add Leaders and Babel, Cities is one of those “must-have” expansions that makes it hard to go back to the back to the original.
What We Don’t Like
One gripe we have about Cities is that it adds an extra layer of overhead that slows down the setup in between games. One great thing about the base game is that you can quickly just shuffle each deck and have another go right after you’ve completed the three ages. Cities, due to all the variable black cards, slows this process down a good bit. Cities also has a few cards that just feel a little too powerful, which might turn people off. It’s a bummer having the most military shields, only for your opponent to play a third age card that has a whopping five shields on it, tipping the scales in their favor. This is especially true in eight player games where you only see each hand once — sometimes there’s no way to predict which game-busting cards will come out.
While we have ranked each expansion from best to worst on this list, we want to go ahead and say that each and every 7 Wonders expansion is a quality product that enhances the game well in its own right. Yes, we have a clear favorite, but that doesn’t mean that the others aren’t worth buying. If you’re a major 7 Wonders fan, it’s unlikely that you’ll have buyer’s remorse picking any of these up.
And, it’s also worth mentioning that at the time of this article’s publication, there’s a new 7 Wonders expansion right down the pipeline — 7 Wonders: Armada, which is set to release soon. We hope to update this list with its inclusion when it comes out, so check back and see our verdict!