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Today we’re taking a look at Splendor, a nominee for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres award published by Space Cowboys. Splendor is an “engine” building and set collection game where you play as the head of a merchant guild, competing to gain the most prestige.
Splendor - Setup & Gameplay
A game of Splendor has a very short setup time and usually lasts less than 30 minutes. Gameplay sees players gathering resources in the form of excellent, heavy plastic chips representing diamond, emerald, onyx, ruby, sapphire, and gold. Each gem represents a different color, while gold acts as a wild card. You use these resources to buy various development cards that are laid out in the middle of the table or, in some cases, picked up into the player’s hand. Each built development provides a bonus that can be used towards the purchase of future developments and to attract the attention of noble patrons.
Each development has a cost, shown in the lower left section of the card. The bonus provided once built is shown in the upper right corner of the card, and in some cases, a prestige number is shown in the upper left corner of the card. Amassing developments that are worth prestige points is the primary method of reaching the 15 prestige required to win the game. Once a player purchases a development, they will take it from the center of the table and place it face up in front of them. The player can use all bonuses shown on cards that they’ve purchased as a discount toward the purchase of developments on subsequent turns.
Splendor - Player Interactions and Developments
If a player manages to have built the number and type of developments shown on the noble patron cards, then at the end of that player’s turn, that noble “comes to visit” the player and grants them three additional prestige points. Once a player reaches 15 points, the current round is played to the end, and the game ends with the person who managed to accrue the highest prestige point total being declared the winner.
Player interaction is very limited in Splendor. While the game is a race to 15 prestige points, the only real way to interfere with your opponent is to build a card you suspect they might want before they get a chance to build it or to pick up a card from the table, ensuring that you are the only person able to build it, effectively denying it to your opponents.
Splendor is very fun, especially if you are looking for a game that is easy to pick up, plays quickly, and has a short overall playtime. Because it is so easy to teach and so tightly designed, I would recommend Splendor as a great place to start for people new to board gaming or for those looking to bring friends and family into the hobby.
Splendor - A Few Notes
A note on theme: The theme of Splendor is not really reflected in the mechanics and could effectively be anything. The design of Splendor is so tight, though, that even a thin theme doesn’t detract from the game’s fun.
A note on “chrome”: Splendor has beautiful art and high-quality cards, but the highlight is definitely the chips that represent the various gems and gold. The chips feel great in your hand and lend the game a wonderful sense of tactile satisfaction. The game insert is well-designed and has a spot for everything, although you may have difficulty fitting the cards in their designated space if you choose to sleeve them.
Should I buy Splendor?
Splendor is an excellent, tightly designed game with wonderful components that is easy to learn and teach and plays quickly. The theme is not reflected in the mechanics but the game is still a ton of fun. This is an excellent game to get if you are new to the hobby or looking to bring new players into the hobby, as it is easy to learn, plays quickly and is very fun. It's worth your money if you're into smaller experiences to fill space in a games night, especially ones that are easy to teach. However, if you want something with more player interaction and deep, thematic mechanics, then you need to look elsewhere.
The copy of Splendor used in this review was provided by the publisher. This review was originally published on 11-12-2014. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context.