Tuesday, July 12, 2016

7 Steps doesn't quite step high enough for me

After several games of 7 Steps on Yucata, I still haven't decided if I like it or not.

It's an abstract placement game with some luck of the draw, not unlike two of my favorite games, Ingenious and Qwirkle. One of the designers is Michael Keisling made history with his collaborations with the great Wolfgang Kramer and Reinhard Staup is no slouch either. So 7 Steps seems like a game I'd go for.

However, I really feel like the luck of the draw is significantly more powerful in 7 Steps and the actual gameplay becomes more and more resticted.

The gameplay is very simple. You get a hand of seven tokens that are in seven different colors. On your turn, you place the tokens on spaces that match the color. You always have to place your first token on the lowest possible space but you can begin stacking tokens up so you can be forming a staircase or tokens on your turn.

You get points equal to the height of the tokens that you put down. If you get less than eight points, and draw a card from one of two decks. One deck gives you scoring bonuses and the other gives you ways to break the placement rules. Then you get to discard discs before drawing up your hand.

The game ends when someone can't draw their hand to seven and whoever has the most points wins.

One thing that makes the game interesting is that it has a modular board. Seven puzzle pieces. The basic side has every piece as one color and the advanced has them all mixed. I also learned that you don't have to put the pieces in a circular pattern but in other shapes. That said, I'm not sure if that's a good thing. Breaking up the puzzle pieces like that seems to increase the random factor.

Okay, let me get one issue I have with the game clear. I'm very colorblind and it is not even remotely colorblind friendly. Three of the colors are virtually identical to my eyes and a fourth one is very close. Using the mixed board side is virtually unplayable for me. (Pictures of the physical version look not as extreme but, seriously, seven different symbols would have been that hard?)

Still, the color issue aside, the placement restrictions have too often left me with moves that only involves placing one or two discs. And the board can change enough between turns that trying to plan ahead often fails. Spaces and even whole colors can become effectively dead.

The bonus placement cards can help overcome that and can help set up big moves. However, I always feel like I am making them up on the turn as opposed to working my way up to them. And the fact that you really need the cards to make the game work indicates how restricted placement can be.

I do enjoy the individual puzzles that every move gives me enough that I'm still playing the game. However, playing on Yucata means I don't have to own the game and it isn't taking up any precious face-to-face gaming time. Ingenious and Qwirkle have proven themselves to be games I can keep playing for years and have a definite place on my game shelf. I don't think 7 Steps will follow in their footsteps.


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