TL;DR

What is it? A remixed version of a modern classic, designed with couples in mind
How many people? 2
How long does it take? 30 minutes
Who is it for? Lovers. Friends. Siblings. As long as there are two of you.
Buy it: Support Best Play and get yourself a copy from Amazon here.

The Gist

Why we recommend it

The original 7 Wonders board game is one of the most popular and best established of the modern board gaming landscape. In fact, it was my brother’s first game that he owned and among the very first I played as an adult. The classic version pits up to 7 players (fittingly) in a bid for civilisation supremacy. It is unusual in that you only really interact with your direct neighbours; namely, those sitting either side of you at the table.

While there is a two player mode available in that, the game did start to creak a little bit with a dummy ‘NPC’ style player making up the numbers. It makes sense then that the game has been re-thought to cater for sparring couples, featuring a recalibration of the rules to be optimised for two-player action.

Duel is the title given to this remix, and it seems as though it’s not just the player count that has shrunk. The box for Duel is far smaller than the original, making it better suited for travel – perfect for a romantic getaway, perhaps?

It’s not only the box either. The cards themselves are also remarkably small, almost to the point of annoyance. The game is very much centered on these cards too, as you each take it in turns to select one from a large grid of randomly placed cards. More are made available as they are chosen, meaning deciding which card to take for yourself must also factor in which cards will be revealed to your opponent as a result.

These cards each represent a new building or element in your civilisation. Some might be mines or quarries, granting you access to better materials with which to acquire higher quality cards in the future. Others could be merchants or similar outlets, all able to enrich your civilisation with deeper pockets for yet more purchases. You can also add buildings of significant cultural value to your growing city, with theatres, temples and aqueducts doing little to boost your economy but scoring you important victory points instead.

These victory points are crucial – it’s how you win the game. Once all the cards have been drawn, the city with the most illustrious (ie. with the most total victory points) is the winner.

But.

But.

You’ve realised that your civilisation is a bit … lacking. A few dusty old mines with a tavern or two isn’t going to win the European Capital of Culture this year. So what else can you do? Well there is an alternative. Start exploring the scientific world and your inventions might just snatch you a victory. Collect the right number and variety of science cards, and the game instantly ends in your favour, regardless of how many victory points you each have.

Tired of all these poncy, cultured shenanigans? High brow, aristocratic lifestyle not really doing it for you? Is the pursuit of science a blasphemy against all that is pure and holy? There is one more option for you to explore.

Military might is the least finessed of the strategies you can employ, but bulldozing your opponent’s city to the ground is a perfectly valid – and depressingly historically accurate – way of winning the game. Amass enough forces to smash down your rival’s defences and the game is instantly declared over, meaning all that pursuit of culture was for naught.

As you can probably imagine, 7 Wonders is an excellent argument-generator, if you were for some reason looking for one. It’s a clever twist on a modern classic, and does well to distort and distill the fundamental elements into a game that works perfectly with just two of you. The dynamic always gives you a plan B (or a plan C or D) when things don’t go your way, and the allure of being able to steal a victory from t he jaws of defeat keeps each session alive until the final moments.

7 Wonders Duel comes heartily recommended by us at Best Play, and you can support us by buying from Amazon using this link. For other great games for couples, check out our favourites here.