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By Dan Moren

A Thing We Like: 7 Wonders Duel

It’s hard to find good board games for two people. When my girlfriend and I are traveling, it’s nice to be able to throw a small game into our bag, just in case we have some downtime. I’ve found a handful over the years, but one of my favorites remains 7 Wonders Duel.

The original 7 Wonders has long been one of my favorite games, but its two-player mode was lackluster, to say the least. It was a cumbersome adaptation of a game that really is at its best with at least 3 players, as evidenced by the complicated rule changes imposed for just two players. Clearly the designers of the game agreed, because they ended up producing Duel as a version of the game that’s designed specifically for two players.

As in the full version of the game, Duel sees you each take control of a wonder of the ancient world as you attempt to build the best combination of military, scientific, and commercial advancements. However, the tweaking of mechanics for the two-player set up manages to both retain the feel of the full game while making it more manageable for two people. For example, instead of dealing out hands of cards and passing them back and forth, each round sees you constructing a pyramid-like tableau of options from which players can choose. Even better, some cards are face-up and some cards are face-down, making it a tactical decision whether you go for that one card you need before your opponent snakes it, or risk your strategy by choosing from the unknown.

There are slight changes in the way that military and science improvements work too, with the former becoming more of a see-saw that can tilt back and forth between the two players from moment to moment, and the latter providing potentially substantial game-changing effects that range from immediate advantages (like making building certain types of cards cheaper) to game-end bonuses (such as conferring extra points). As with the original, there are many strategies that can lead to a win, providing a lot of replayability.

If there’s a downside to Duel it’s that though it comes in a small box, it does have a decent number of pieces, which makes it less ideal to travel with. Even if you can shrink it down to a few Ziploc bags or smaller containers, you still run the risk of losing some of the pieces. (The cards, it’s worth noting, are smaller than normal-size playing cards, which definitely helps make things more compact) And while there is an iOS version of the full game, I don’t believe it currently includes the Duel variant.

Players of the original 7 Wonders will find Duel pretty quick to pick up, as it relies on most of the same mechanics with slight adjustments. New players should also find it a little less daunting than the full game, which can sometimes require a bit of a learning curve.

All in all, though, if you’re looking for a solid two-player game with a mix of tactics and strategy, you can’t go much amiss with 7 Wonders Duel.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

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