- Designer: Michael Kiesling, Reinhard Staupe
- Publisher: Kosmos
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Kosmos Germany
7 Steps was one of the big box Kosmos releases from this most recent Essen. When I first started in this hobby (about 15 years ago), a new Kosmos release was a very highly anticipated thing. Heck, to this day, I (and many of my compatriots) refer to the 30cm square box as a “Kosmos square”.
Over the past few years, the Kosmos releases haven’t gotten as much love from the English speaking gamers because the releases have been German language only. Many of the new Kosmos games are never released in English or they are significantly delayed. In 2013, Norderwind was the big box game, and it was pretty good, but I did take some time for Z-man to sign a deal for distribution to bring out North Wind. And let’s face it, in this increasingly crowded gaming market, a delay of six months or more is an eternity.
7 Steps is the big box release from this year – and unfortunately, there was not an English version lined up at the time of Spiel. Thankfully, the wonderful folks at Kosmos have still been willing to meet with me and allow me to review their games. I’m glad for the chance to get these games, because Kosmos is a well established publishing house, and their games generally are well designed/developed/produced.
7 Steps is an abstract/tactical game which is mostly language independent. In the game, players have a “hand” of 7 colored wood discs (hidden behind a screen). The board is made up of 7 hex-like modular pieces which can be arranged in a traditional bigger hex like arrangement or some variant shaped boards. The board tiles are double sided with one side having discs of all one color while the other has a more random mix.
Once the board is setup, players each draw 7 tiles and the game starts. On a turn, players must play discs onto the board. There are a few rules (lets say seven to stay thematic) that govern placement.
- First, when you place a disc on the board, it must match the color of the space on which it is placed.
- Second, the first disc played must be on an empty space – though if all spaces of a color are taken, you must then start at the lowest possible level for that color.
- Third, multiple pieces may be placed on a turn as long as they are adjacent to the previously placed disc.
- Fourth, when you place another disc, it must be at the same level OR one higher than the previous disc – you may NEVER build down.
- Fifth, you may never skip levels when building a chain of discs
- Sixth, you may never build on the same space twice in a turn.
- Seventh, you may never build higher than 7 discs on any given space (though I’ve never seen this in my 6 games) – if this ever were to happen, the 7 discs here are immediately distributed one disc each to the seven spaces on the board of this color.
Once you have placed your discs, you calculate your score for the turn. This is pretty simple – for each disc that you play, you score a number of points equal to the level on which it is played. Add up your total and move your marker on the scoreboard. If you scored 7 or fewer points on your turn, you are allowed to choose a bonus tile.
There are two types of bonus tiles – tiles that either help increase your scoring or tiles that give you advantages while building (allow you to break the normal rules)
- (build) During your turn, you may move one disc to another tower of the same color
- (build) You may swap locations of two towers of the same color
- (score) After placing discs, you score one extra point for each different color played
- (Score) After placing discs, you score 2 points for each disc placed of a particular color
At the end of your turn, you may return as many of your unplayed discs as you want to the bag. Then you mix up the bag and draw up to 7. The game ends when a player can no long draw discs from the bag to bring his hand up to 7. When this happens, play continues until all players have had an equal number of turns and then the game ends. There is a little bit of end-game scoring – any unused Bonus Tiles are worth 2 points at the end of the game. The player with the most points wins.
My thoughts on the game –
7 Steps is a dry and abstract game – though this should be readily apparent from the box, art and game description. The rules are really quite simple to learn, and truth be told, easy to translate from German. I was able to translate the rules fairly easily with Google, and some BGG user beat me to translating the bonus tiles. There is a nicely done one-page reference sheet which matches up the graphics of the bonus tiles with the English translations.
The game plays fairly quickly, though it seems like most players have two or three turns over the course of the game where they really have to sit and think about how to best play their discs. The game is fairly tactical – you can’t really do much planning until at most the player before you in turn order because the board changes too much, and given the rules for disc placement, you often can’t plan until you know what your options really are.
One of the keys is figuring out when you want to score less than 7 points. For your first few turns, it might actually be hard to get much past 7 as most of the columns on the board won’t be that high yet. Later in the game though, 7 is a very easy number to reach. That being said, the value of the bonus tiles can be pretty big, and if you’re only going to score 10 or 11, you might actually be better off trying to get 7 and pick up a bonus tile…
Past that, I’ll admit that there isn’t that much deep strategy to play. Look at the board and see what you’ve got. If you’ve got bonus tiles in your hand, figure out if they will help you take advantage of the situation. You can’t see the discs that any other players have (all hidden behind screens), so there really isn’t much room for defensive play – you don’t know what your opponents want to do!
There is a decent amount of variety in board setup – first you can choose to use the monochromatic sides of the tiles or the mixed up sides. Each side plays differently and leads to different strategies. Also, you can change things up a bit with the different arrangement of tiles.
If you’re a fan of Kosmos abstracts like I am (Just4Fun, anyone?) – you’ll likely enjoy this one. If you want dragons, special powers, dice rolling and random events, spend your Kosmos money on Andor instead!
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dan Blum (1 play): My “like it” rating is very tentative. I liked my play of it enough to play it again if I get the chance, but it is very tactical and I might well downgrade it after that.
Lorna (1 play): I like it. Tactical abstract. Not my favorite abstract this year but it’s decent and would definitely play again. It is a multiplayer abstract but I think 3 at the most.
Joe Huber (1 play): This fell flat for me, as it’s purely tactical, and other than the special abilities collected after a poor score (which are of significantly differing values – not unbalanced, just of widely varying value depending upon a lot of random factors), there’s really nothing more than good luck in drawing pieces to differentiate a good turn from a bad one.
Mark Jackson (1 play): Inoffensive and quick, but (as everyone else said), extremely tactical. I don’t necessarily need dragons & random events (though I’m partial to that stuff), but this is absolutely themeless.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Luke H, Lorna, Dan B
- Neutral. Ben McJ, Jennifer G, Mark J
- Not for me… Joe H