Bruno Cathala has designed games 100+ games and expansions over 15 years, including Shadows over Camelot, Mr Jack, Cyclades, Abyss, Five Tribes, and Kingdomino.
The following interview is about 7 Wonders Duel, a two-player strategy game he co-designed with Antoine Bauza.
Jason (GameGobble): The game 7 Wonders came out in 2010. 7 Wonders Duel followed 5 years later, and while related, is considered a stand alone game. What are the best elements of 7 Wonders that are present in 7 Wonders Duel?
Bruno: First, i have to remind readers that 7 Wonders is a game designed by Antoine Bauza, alone. This game was a huge, huge success, winning the prestigious Spiel des Jahres Connoisseur-gamer Game of the Year. It’s playable from 3 to 7 players, including a variant for 2 players. But Antoine was never happy with this variant. It works but didn’t give the game experience he wanted. So he decided to develop a pure 2 player game, and he invited me to work with him on that project.
Our target was to capture the flavor of the basic 7 Wonders but in a 2 player game. All the basic elements of the initial game are included in 7 Wonders Duel, but specifically adapted to a 2 player fight.
You will find:
- A drafting system
- The same card categories
- The importance of military / science / commerce
Nothing has been eliminated from the original game. Nothing has been added. But everything has been adapted in order to create the best game experience as possible for 2 players.
Jason: I understand you are a big fan of abstract 2 player games. How did that passion manifest in the game design of 7 Wonders Duel?
Bruno: When i was young, i was an isolated player. And finding one partner was not that easy. That’s the reason why i practiced mainly pure abstract 2 player games like chess, Go, Othello, Pente, Gyres and so on. I also read a lot of books about chess strategies.
That’s why my brain is so connected to pure 2 players mechanisms. It’s not really a choice. It’s just that a lot of my ideas which come spontaneously fit well with 2 players situations. And i think that’s why Antoine called me to help him in a field which is not his cup of tea.
Jason: There are three ways to win a game of 7 Wonders Duel. Talk about the tension you were trying to create with that design decision.
Bruno: In fact, it’s very easy to understand if you think about a chair. If you build a chair with only one foot, it could be very nice, but it’s very unstable. It’s no more stable with 2 feet. But as soon as you have 3 feet, your chair becomes stable. Probably not perfect horizontal, but stable. Then you only have to work on the lengths of the feet to find the perfect equilibrium.
It’s the same for strategy. Having 3 ways to reach the victory gives the equilibrium of the game, and leads to all these little choices that create the tension that Antoine and I love in this game.
Jason: During your creation of 7 Wonders Duel, how did you try to appeal both to fans of its predecessor and those who had never played 7 Wonders?
Bruno: Each time i’m working on a project, i don’t focus on what people would think. I’m just trying to build the game that’s exciting to me. And that’s how Antoine and I worked on 7 Wonders Duel, with the additional task of trying to keep the spirit of the original game, like i explained before.
Jason: Name one thing that you would like gamers to know about 7 Wonders Duel.
Bruno: Spoiler alert: Antoine and I are working on a second expansion !! 😉 No idea on the schedule. Nothing has been validated by our publisher yet. But i’m very excited about the new things we are developing.