When a threat as big as Thanos comes around, old grudges have to be set aside for the survival of all living life in the galaxy. So as he races to collect all of the Infinity Stones, you can't help but stare in wonder as you see the teams assemble around you to rise up against the mad Titan. Iron Man and Captain America are here, but so is Medusa, and Bullseye, and She-Hulk, and Spider-Ham. But here's the real question: can you gather a strong enough team to collect the Infinity Stones and claim the Infinity Gauntlet? That's the task set out in front of you in Splendor: Marvel, a new iteration of the classic set collecting game Splendor designed by Space Cowboys and distributed by Asmodee.
In Splendor: Marvel, and its predecessor Splendor, the goal is to collect cards which grant both points and resources, in an effort to fulfill an endgame condition. In the case of Splendor: Marvel, you're trying to collect one of each resource and have 16 points to win. On your turn, you can either gather a few different colored chips, which have a one-time use or spend resources to gain cards that you lay down in front of you (and which contribute points and resources on an ongoing basis). It's a simple structure that leads to plenty of nail-biting moments, especially when multiple players are all vying for the same card. How do I gather the resources I need without being too obvious about it, seeing as all information is out in the open? Should I take a few more chips to go for a more expensive card down the line? Or do I grab a cheaper, but less useful, card right now? These are the questions that turn what could be a simple game into something wonderfully strategic.
One of the most exciting aspects of the game is the fact that this was clearly made by fans of Marvel. And not just the MCU, but fans of the comics, with respect and admiration for the lore. Deep-cut heroes and villains are all represented, and there are no repeat characters or artwork on any of the cards (even the original Splendor had repeating artwork on its cards). It should be noted that there isn't much narrative flow to the game. Basically, you're collecting little chunks of Infinity Stone and collecting cards with characters' names on them, but it's not like the characters have individual powers that do anything useful. But in a game like Splendor, you don't need the added clutter of interlocking special mechanics and rules. All you really need is for the game to run as smoothly as it does with its clean, inspired design. And really, it's a treat to flip a card and see a character like America Chavez staring back at you.
I’ll admit when I first sat down to write this review I was struck with the curmudgeonly thought of “why do we need a Marvel version of Splendor?” And this thought came chiefly from the fact that I just love the original Splendor so damn much (it may be in my top 10 games of all time). And part of why I love it so much is because of the theme. You play as Renaissance gem merchants, wheeling and dealing to produce valuable goods for your patrons. It's a charming theme that fits its mechanics well, so why put Marvel on top of it?
But the answer to that question is a pretty simple one. Why put Marvel on top of this great mechanic? So more people will play it. A game with mechanics this good deserves to be experienced by as many people as possible, and attaching the Marvel IP to it will do just that. So while a web-slinger could never replace the image of a Renaissance noble dressed in green felts, there's something thrilling about thinking that a whole new audience will discover Splendor.
Get This Game If...
- You're a fan of clean game design
- You want to create a whole new Marvel phase
- You already miss Tony
Avoid This Game If...
- You're looking for a Marvel game that draws on the uniqueness of each character
- You just can't say goodbye to the Renaissance noble dressed in green felts
What do you think of Splendor: Marvel? Will you be adding this to your game shelf? Let us know in the comments!
The copy of Splendor: Marvel used in this review was provided by Asmodee