I love 7 Wonders. I learned just when I was really getting into games and I appreciated how it allowed me to make interesting decisions, and build a strategy in a game that took only about 30 minutes. For me it was reminiscent of Poker (not that I’m good at Poker) in the sense that you could observe the way other people were playing and make choices based on that. If someone looks like they’re going after science cards, there’s a good bet they won’t wanna steal that prestige card you’re after. I got to be pretty good at 7 Wonders and went on to enjoy some (but not all) of the expansions.
Why am I talking about 7 Wonders? Well, the comparisons between Hadara and 7 Wonders are unmistakable. In Hadara (which is Arabic for culture and civilization) you play over three Age…er, Epochs to build your nation’s civilization in different areas. Red cards add to your military strength, blue cards develop the culture of your nation, gold cards improve your financial standing and so on. Cards are acquired through a sort of draft, but that is one of the ways that Hadara differentiates itself from 7 Wonders.
Players each have their own personal board which are all the exact same except for the animal in the top corner. This is where you’ll keep track of all your stats. You’ll also be able to rack up silver and gold medals which we’ll get into in a bit. At the start of the game, everyone is dealt a starting card which tells you how many coins you start with as well as your starting position on the income (gold), military (red), culture (blue), and food (green). Finally, the starting card gives you your initiative which determines start order.
Now to the actual drafting with the start of phase A. The central board in Hadara is divided into five different islands. For the four different types of cards I mentioned, plus purple cards which are a potpourri of instant bonuses. In the centre of the board is a dial with five arms representing the different animals on your personal boards. The dial indicates where you’re going start the epoch. The phase starts with two cards for every player on each island. Everyone takes the top two cards of the deck their animal is pointed at and chooses from them. One of the cards (which are actually people you’re recruiting to your empire) is discarded face up to the board. The other card you hold on to is either discarded for coins (2/3/4 in the 1/2/3 epochs) or paid for in coins and added to your tableau.
The cards give you a bonus in one or more stats, which you immediately reflect on your board. Later in the game, you may go past the 10 strength barrier and you just have to add a +10 token to the track.
Once everyone has made their decision, the dial rotates clockwise, you draw the top two cards of the next deck, and make the same choice again. Cards are not cheap, and you’re likely often going to have to discard cards for coins, sometimes even a few turns in a row. You have to make some decisions about what kind of society you want to have and focus on a few different attributes. You can’t do everything well.
When each deck has been exhausted, everyone gets gold equal to their income level, and trust me, that’s going to feel really good! As I mentioned, money is tight!
Next, each player can flex their military muscle. In turn order you can add a Colony to your empire assuming you have advanced your military high enough to meet its strength. When you get a Colony, you can either plunder or integrate it. Plundering gets you money and some points. Or you can integrate, spending money instead to flip the Colony. This gets you some attribute rewards and may even add to the points it gets you.
After the players choose whether to take a Colony or not, they get a chance to carve a statue. This requires you to have developed your blue culture track. When you carve, you can choose to either give a boost to one of your attributes, or bank some end game points.
Military and culture are two different directions you can follow in the game. Likely you’ll do a bit of both, but concentrating more heavily on one or the other is a good idea.
Phase B works similar to A, but this time, decisions are made in turn order. Players take one of the discarded card from phase A and either buy it for their tableau, or discard it for coins. Phase B is interesting because these are the cards that were passed by in the first round, but you don’t really know why they were passed up. Maybe they didn’t work for a player’s strategy, or maybe they couldn’t afford them at the time, and were hoping to get another shot at them. Play continues until all the discard piles have been exhausted.
At the end of phase B, everyone gets income again, can take a Colony, and also carve a statue. But as a benevolent leader, you’re also going to have to take care of the people in your empire. This is where the green food cards you hopefully have been collecting come in handy. Your food level has to meet or exceed the number of total cards you have in your tableau. If you fall short, you have to discard cards until you’re under the threshold, losing whatever stats went with them. It’s a major bummer.
In the last part of an epoch, players can buy gold and silver medals. A gold medal will give you seven points for each complete set of the five different coloured cards you have at the end of the game. You can collect two gold medals total, making each set worth 14 whooping points! Silver medals are a bit cheaper, and allow you to pick an attribute. At the end of the game, you get points equal to half the level you achieved in that attribute. Medals get much more expensive in the later epochs, so better to buy them early if possible.
With that, a new epoch begins and you continue in the same way for three total rounds. At the end of the game, you score points for the Colonies you’ve collected, the cards in your tableau, the statues you’ve carved, the medals you bought, and every five coins earns a point.
Suffice to say, that as a 7 Wonders fan, I love Hadara. The two feel very similar, but they have their own personalities and mechanics that are different enough that I’m happy to own both. In fact, to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve played 7 Wonders, but I can’t wait to get Hadara to the table as often as possible. I don’t think the points they have in common makes Hadara unnecessary. I would simply say that if you like one, you’re bound to like the other. I really can’t recommend this game enough. One of my favourite recent plays!
A media copy of Hadara was provided for this article by Z-Man Games and Asmodee USA.