It takes over 400 years to build seven wonders plus one surprise wonder, but of course time isn’t to scale when playing 7 Wonders II. The sequel to 7 Wonders of the Ancient World explores all new wonders including Stonehenge, The Colosseum, Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Shwedagon Pagoda, Angkor Wat, the statues on Easter Island and one secret wonder which you won’t find until you’ve put together seven pieces of a map you find at the other locations.

The runes get a makeover from the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World‘s shiny runes to the newer more stone-styled runes with etching that clearly depicts an object. Each rune is associated with a wonder, so making matches with the rune while building its wonder speeds its construction. A selected rune does a little spin as it awaits its next move, adding to the game’s character. The tutorial does its job well in orienting a player to the game’s rules and controls.

With guidance from the foreman, the builders toil at the bottom of the screen lifting the fallen bricks from tiles broken during matching and transporting them to the construction. It is hard to watch the workers while busily matching three or more runes, but you can catch them dancing and celebrating the end of a level. As a player gets closer to completing the level, there are fewer bricks for the workers to pick up and they might go on strike or leave. Thankfully, the strikes don’t happen as easily or in a maddening and distracting way as it did in the original.

An ice ball that you can use any time to destroy a whole row of runes appears when matching four runes. Create a match of five runes for a fireball that burns tiles in both a column and row. After using several freeze or fireballs, get a dice bonus that wipes out random tiles and wins bonus points. That’s a lot of help, but there’s more. The game has 12 power-ups to earn along with a shuffle bar for mixing up the pieces when running out of moves. As players earn power-ups, they can pick one to use in the level and can use it again after recharging.

Upon finishing a level in 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the game simply shows a parchment of the wonder and its construction progress. 7 Wonders II goes further by showing the construction zone and lets you place attained bricks (or you can let the game do it). Surprise bonuses appear when bricks land in secret spots. Workers pound away on the unfinished parts of the building.

Every level of 7 Wonders II contains a bonus leading to the revelation of a map piece or a secret bonus mini-game, which appears after finishing the map found in each wonder. Together, the seven pieces of the map lead to an eighth locale. In the mini-game, players have a select number of moves they can make to help an item make it to the bottom of the board. Some only allow one move and others permit three moves. The mini-game challenges players to rely on logic to make the right moves to free the star, cornerstone or other object.

While the mini-game progressively increases in difficulty, the main game doesn’t get difficult until the start of the second round and onward. 7 Wonders II offers the right amount of challenge to those who haven’t played many match three games, while experienced match three players can get through the first round quickly and enjoy discovering all the wonders, and then go to work during the second round.

The game comes with two modes: Regular for building the wonders one by one, and free play where you can revisit and play any unlocked wonder except the secret one. After completing construction of all eight buildings, the game enhances its replay value by assigning you a rank and taking you back to Stonehenge without starting over on points or difficulty.

Anyone disappointed with 7 Wonders of the Ancient World should try the immensely improved 7 Wonders II. For those who haven’t played the original, skip it and head straight to the sequel.