Splendor is an economic card game where players vie for the most prestige. Splendor plays 2 – 4, where players attempt to acquire gem mines, merchant booths and transportation. If you are successful on this journey, you may garner the attention of nobles who increase your prestige even more.
This game uses both cards and poker chip-like gems. There are 3 rows of cards which I will refer to as tiers. Each higher tier of cards are more expensive than the last but provides more prestige than the last.
Each card has a few symbols to look out for. First, in the bottom left of the card is the cost to purchase. Second, the top left of the card represents the points you get from owning the card – the first player to reach 15 is the winner. Third, the top right of the card is the colour gem that card produces every turn.
Now on your turn, there are several actions available, but only one can be performed each turn. First, you can take gems, either 3 different coloured gems or 2 of the same gem. Second, you can purchase a card, spending the gems you own as well as the continuous supply of gems on the cards you own. Lastly, you can reserve cards. You can either reserve any visible card or take a card off the top of any deck blindly. When you do this you get a gold gem which acts as a wild gem of any colour on subsequent turns.
Reserving cards serves several functions. It allows you to reserve a card that you want to eventually build up to, preventing others from claiming them. Next, reserving cards can be used to prevent another player from getting a card they need – this is commonly used as a last-ditch effort to block a win. Lastly, when there are not enough gems to justify taking 3 random colours that serve you no purpose. Reserving and getting a wild gem is a viable option, especially when you are one gem away from winning.
The components for this game are basic, 90 cards (standard card game sized) as well as 40 poker-chip like gems. In my copy of the game, out of shrink wrap, there was quite a lot of noticeable damage to my gems. For the cost of the game – $39.95 Canadian – I would expect better quality components from Asmodee. The box for the game is a little overboard, the size is massive for what is included which is a deck of cards and a handful of gems. I’d rather Asmodee reduce the size of the box making it more compact and easier to travel with – along with a cheaper price tag.
I’ll get started with the bad. This is a game with no theme, don’t let the heading ‘Theme’ in this review distract you. This is an economic game at its bone and provides no added flavour for players. If theme is a big draw for you, this game will not be for you. I mentioned the price point for such a simple game with few components in the previous section, but it’s worth mentioning again. The box does not need to be that big for what this game does. Jaipur is very similar in components but can be produced at a fraction of the size at a significant price cut.
Now for the good. This game scales well. You reduce the number of chips based on the number of people playing. So you can get the same cut-throat supply of gems with 2, 3 or 4 players. You don’t get a shell of what the game should be. The simplicity of the game makes it really easy to teach and is a hit with casual gamers. The game play is quick, making it great as a filler game.
What are your thoughts on this game? Does the lack of theme make this a game you would pass on or is the simplicity and strategy something that makes this a must play? Let me know in the comments!