Review: Splendor

Splendor review

I first played Splendor about 2 years ago, I can’t say that I enjoyed it. There was a lot of hype around it and I felt that it did not feel like it lived up to the hype. Then I got another chance to play it a few weeks ago on ITTD. I picked up my own copy on my way out…

Splendor is a 2014 release from Asmodee. It was one of the more popular games that year and it even won a golden geek award. I have to say that I’ve warmed up to it and played it quite a bit in the time that I have had it.

For the TL;Dr version click here

Opening the box

Specs on the box

  • 2-4 players
  • 30 min
  • Ages 10+ (you can go lower, it’s not difficult to learn or to teach)

This is one of those games that has a box that is far larger than necessary. It could have easily been ½ the size. I would have preferred that TBH. The game does not need too much table space so it should actually be able to travel better than it does, also it would shave some shelf space.

Splendor review
Lovely insert, but if you store it upright things tend to fall out, Not too much though.

In the box there’s a small rules leaflet, it will take you about 2 -3 minutes to scan through and then you will never need it again. The rules are that simple. The components are really nice even if they are very few. 3 decks of cards, stacks of poker chips and a small set of tiles.

Now, I’ve been told that I’ve got a newer printing where the quality of the components have dropped but I don’t actually care. The poker ships have a nice weight to them and I’ve sleeved my cards. The only thing I’m mildly concerned about are the tiles. Shuffling them might scratch them up a bit, so far they are still good but I might give them a quick varnish at some point.

Sleeves

I sleeved all of the cards with these:

Theme

In Splendor each player is a Gemstone merchant. It’s your job to not only buy and sell gems but to use your wealth to purchase mines, jewellers and stores so that you can build your own jewellery empire. Specialising in particular gems will attract the attention of the local nobles who will become your patrons and provide you with wealth and prestige.

Gameplay

Setup

Setup is super easy, my son does it on his own and will adjust the game for the number of players without looking at the rules. There are 3 decks of cards which are shuffled and then 4 are drawn from each to create an offer.

Splendor review
A 2 player game ready to go.

Then a number of tiles, these represent the nobles who can become your patrons are laid out. Finally the poker chips are arranged in stacks according to colours. Each colour represents a different gem or gold. The number of chips and patrons varies based on the player count, it’s a sliding scale that is easy to remember.

Turn sequence

On your turn you can do 1 of 4 actions:

  • Take 3 gem chips (each must be a different colour)
  • Take 2 chips of the same colour (if there are at least 4 left of that colour)
  • Use your chips to buy a card in the offer
  • Reserve a card and take a gold chip (gold is a wild card and can be spent as any colour)
Splendor review
The big number on the top left is the points. The gem on the top right is the benefit that card will give you. Lastly, the icons on the bottom show the cost.

That’s pretty much it. The cards that you purchase give you “free chips” each turn making it easier to buy the more expensive cards which in turn give you Victory Points. The nobles will automatically go to the first player to own the required number of cards of each colour that they like and then give that player an extra 3 VP.

The game ends when a player reaches or exceeds 15VP. Any player who has not yet played this round will get to take their final actions so that everyone has had the same number of turns. The person with the most VP is the winner.

Splendor review
The nobles are a sour looking bunch…

Conclusion

It seems simple. Get chips to buy cards. Use the cards plus chips to buy better cards. Rinse and repeat. It is that simple. Kind of.

The premise is simple and the actions are too, what is not simple is when someone else has the same idea that you do. Then you are fighting for chips (limited supply) and fighting for the cards that you want to buy. Do you reserve it now or get the chips to buy it next turn? What if someone else reserves it in their turn? Maybe you should reserve a card that they are planning to purchase just so they don’t get ahead of you?

Splendor review
After buying this ruby mine you will get a “free” ruby to spend each turn.

With only 1 action per turn each action becomes that much more critical. You need to plan out the best way to score the most points with the fewest actions, while still watching what your opponents are up too. The game end is a sneaky one, if you’re not looking the game will end while you are just getting into your stride.

It’s a bare bones engine building game. I personally prefer complex, Rube Goldberg type engines where it just looks cool or does neat stuff but there’s something about this game. An elegance that just makes you want to play it again and again. It’s not often that a game gets over 10 plays in under 2 weeks in my home but Splendor is one of them.

It’s easy to learn, easy to play and very engaging. This is a great game for players of all ages and it’s fairly quick so it will never over stay its welcome.

How does it play solo?

Sorry no solo here, still a great game.

Can I play this at a braai?

If I could play this on a hospital bed then you can certainly play this anywhere. After your first few games you tend to figure out your plans fairly quickly. All you need to know between trips to the braai is a 20 second update of what’s changed since you’ve been gone.

Splendor review
Playing games kept his mind off of the hunger from not eating before an operation. Luckily, he did not need to have his appendix removed.
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