Splendor is an addictive and simple game that lives up to its name


Released 2014
Designer Marc Andre
Publisher Space Cowboys (Website)
Players 2 – 4
Playing Time 30 minutes
(I would say 10 minutes per player)
Category Card Drafting
Set Collection
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Have a spare 20 minutes? Let me show you a quick little game. Which you will want to play for the next 3 hours.

When I play board games, one of the things I look forward to the most is the interaction between the players. This can be anything from light-hearted chit-chat to the mind games you can only play with real friends.

Splendor is a game I enjoy. Up to 4 players take the role of gem merchants, trying to build your wares and attract the notice of the local nobles.

You do this by gaining and trading in smaller gems (represented by the poker chips) and buying gems of note (cards). These gems stay with you, increasing your purchasing power and prestige. This prestige is used to attract nobles to you, adding to your score.

That’s it for the theme, Splendor really has a simple premise. And part of the beauty of Splendor is that the rules are just as simple.

You choose between 3 actions – collect gems, buy gems, or reserve. Everyone has the same goals and abilities. Teaching time is about 10 minutes, including a couple of sample rounds.

And that is the trap of Splendor – oh and what a beautiful trap it is. You have the hang of Splendor in minutes, but like any good game will take you quite some time to master.

You can zero in on your play area and act completely independent of everyone else. You will soon learn this is a sure way to stay away from the winner’s circle though.

The game encourages you to not only keep tabs on your strategy but on all the other player’s plans as well. Achieving this is not as hard as it first appears because there is a small amount of information hidden. Don’t think though that it is a game you can stop and analyse any player at any time though. Remembering your opponent’s moves is vital to attempt to divine their intentions.

The quality of the components is excellent. The art style is simple but gorgeous. Each scene and noble gives the feeling you are plying your trade during the Renaissance. The poker chips are of excellent quality and feel great in your hands. You find yourself not wanting to trade them in because you enjoy playing with them in your hands.

I do need to clarify though my chips are of excellent quality, being in the very first print run.  With manufacturing cost increases, Space Cowboys have decided to lower the weight of the chips with reprints rather than increase the cost of the game.  I think this is a questionable call as the weight of the chips really adds to the pleasure of playing the game.

Not all of the reprints have bad choices though.  I got some promotional nobles from an organised play tournament (yes, they exist for Splendor!) showing that the colours also had the shapes of the gems printed on the cards.  This made identifying what was required easier overall and was much appreciated.

Setup is a breeze – the box and inserts make it simple to setup, and you can be from box opening to playing in a minute.

The only real negative I have is that Splendor is a game I play with some people where there little interaction. Of course, this is not counting the groans/eye rolls/threats of harm/curses condemning players’ entire bloodlines.

Splendor played with four competent players is played in relative silence. A cloud of seriousness surrounds players hunched over the game. Hands reach out almost simultaneously to the untrained eye.

Think of those movies of old men playing speed chess with their pride on the line in Central Park. The only real difference is this is up to four players instead of head to head.

A game with four good Splendor players looks the same as a game of four beginners. You hear social chit-chat where everyone is enjoying themselves. The only silence occurs on occasion as a player tries to remember a rule or stops to adjust their strategy.

Think of those same old men in the park playing chess against a feisty up and comer. They have already played the game out in their head, and are just letting their opponent enjoy the ride.

There is a split of opinion if Splendor is a strategic game or a tactical game. Bottom line – I don’t think it matters, Splendor is enjoyable to play, and that’s all that counts.

A much bigger split though is people that enjoy Splendor – you will enjoy it or you won’t. The number of people I play with that say “It’s OK” is minimal – love it or hate it are the only real options.

I recommend trying someone else’s copy first or the digital version for a low-cost trial.

Splendor - A game that can be as deep as you want it to be

Final Thoughts

Definitely a game I can recommend playing with 2, 3 or 4 players as the game scales brilliantly.

While not for everybody, Splendor has the rare ability to make you want to play again even after you lose – it gets under your skin.

It has you thinking about the moves you made, your opponents moves and makes you want to try again and again.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  Simple to teach and play
  •  High level of strategy
  •  No single way to win

Cons

  •  Box is too big for such a small game
  •  You love it or you don’t – no real middle ground
  •  Newer releases have included lighter chips, which does affect the tactile satisfaction of collecting them

Extra Musings

What is this?!? Yes, I have even more to say about Splendor!

There will be an upcoming review of the expansion set Cities of Splendor.  This adds four small modules that can be combined with the base game, giving incremental changes that can grow with you.  I will also be doing a review of the digital version of Splendor in the near future.  (Link is for Steam, but iOS and Android versions are available as well).

One thing that I have heard for quite some time though is a game status of ‘Splendor Killer’ attached to certain games.  Basically, some reviewers have rightly or wrongly been looking for the game to replace Splendor.  One example of this is Century: Spice Road.  While I can see the parallels, I can’t see why it would be a ‘Splendor Killer’, especially when the same designer possibly released the most appropriate title to replace Splendor in Majesty: For the Realm.

While Century: Spice Road and indeed the whole family of Century games will be getting reviews, I was also thinking of posting a comparison piece between Splendor and Century: Spice Road and the whole ‘Splendor Killer’ phenomenon.

Is this something you would like to know about?  And if so, would you prefer an article or a Blatherings?  Maybe both?  Let me know!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD