7 Grand Steps, Step 1: What Ancients Begat

Genre: Board Game, Strategy

Original Release: June 7, 2013

Developer: Mousechief

Platform: Steam

I only just noticed that there’s a room behind the game box when I added this screenshot.

7 Grand Steps is another game that I don’t remember exactly how or when it got into my library. It was probably through a Humble Bundle at some point many years ago, and I only just got around to playing it over the past couple of days.

The goal of the game is to move away from the crocodiles and collect beads in order to advance the legend you’ve chosen to pursue and stand against the “challenge of the age”

You start off controlling one character, a man named Khet, and move along the board using tokens to move to the next tile with a matching icon. You can also use the ingot at the top left of the screen to generate more tokens, though it will move your character closer to the crocodiles at the bottom. If no one behind your chosen character, they will be unable to generate tokens due to a “fear of crocs.”

Of course, when your character marries, you’ll be able to try for children, either by working together through the ingot (automatically attempts at a child while generating tokens), or landing on the same tile and clicking a flame icon that appears above the board. Depending on whether or not your characters love each other, they’ll also be able to boost the other character to the next matching tile through an “impetus of love.”

That’s pretty much the entirety of the gameplay. Children will grow up as the wheel advances and upon completing the rite of passage will take over, with a title that, as far as I can tell, only adjusts the chance of a particular token being generated.

Sibling rivalry is also a mechanic, and will impact your options by stealing tokens. The game says that you can avoid that by treating all of the children the same way, but that doesn’t seem to stop it from happening.

The game is…something. The base mechanics are simple enough, but with the game being marketed as a roughly 15-hour experience, it’s not enough to keep it going. The token generation is stingy at best, and since you have little to no control over having children, you’re likely to find yourself in a situation where you won’t have enough tokens to improve your children’s stats enough to allow them to generate more tokens, and if the children grow to hate each other, you’ll randomly lose tokens as showcased above.

Of course, there’s also the challenge of the age, which takes the better part of a few hours to arrive. Should you collect enough beads and complete enough legends, you’ll have enough advantages to succeed, which in turn will advance you to the next age. In this case, from Copper to Bronze.

The green pawn is an ally, who will boost you forward, similar to the impetus of love, and increase token generation. The red and white pawn is an enemy, who will block you from advancing if you use a token to move to the tile they’re currently occupying and prevent you from generating tokens if you use the ingot to move to their location.

The Bronze Age introduces a new mechanic where your character takes charge as the general of a civilization and has to accumulate power by satisfying the king enough to warrant taking charge of different branches of government.

There’s no tutorial for this, by the way. It just kind of shows up and the info button brings up a wall of text that goes into things you have no control over at the time that it first arrives. At first, all you need to know is that you can choose to invade one or all of the four rival nations, build fortifications, and adjust the size of your army. You have no control over the accuracy of the reports you receive until you take over the spymaster’s ministry.

And that’s about as far as I got before I got bored and gave up. Attempting to conquer a city in any of the other nations is random, and there’s no real feedback regarding your attempts until your next movement. More often than not, the rival nations will simply start paying tribute and you’ll be left trying again to conquer a city. Fortunately there’s no penalty for not doing so within the time limit given by the king. You can possibly lose cities after you conquer them, at which point the king will reprimand you and raid the war chest to penalize your actions, leaving you strapped for funds in some instances, which can in turn possibly lead to fortifications decaying or your army shrinking. It makes some sense admittedly, but being punished for something that you have no control over is unfair to the player and can deter them from continuing any further.

In short, I can’t recommend 7 Grand Steps. It has some good ideas, but the limited token generation and heavy use of random elements can leave the player in an unwinnable situation, as happened to me.

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