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Board Game Review: Splendor

By Guest Contributor: Game Cows


Become a renaissance merchant and compete with other players for gems property and influence in the world of Splendor. If you’re looking for a fun board game that is easy to learn and teach to others, Splendor might be the one for you!


Brief Overview of Splendor


Splendor is a resource collecting, card management board game for two to four players. On the difficulty scale, it’s on the lighter side, with a 1.80/5 complexity rating on Board Game Geek. 


Playing time is only 30 minutes, making it a great family game to enjoy with kids, but also something to unpack and play when you want a quick board game session. 


Playing time is only 30 minutes, making it a great family game to enjoy with kids. 

Designed by Marc André and published in 2014 by Space Cowboys, Asmodee, and numerous others, Splendor has received over 30 rewards and nominations, including Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Winner. 

 

From the Box Splendor 2-4 Players, ages 10+ Playing Time: 30 minutes

Designer: Marc André

Artists: Pascal Quidault, Abbas Amirabadi and Mahmoud Arasteh Nasab

Published by: Space Cowboys

 

Unboxing Splendor


When you lift up the box cover, you’re greeted with an illustrated, four-page rulebook that explains the game in a few short sections. The rest of the components are stored in a tight organizer that keeps everything nice and secure.


Noble tiles are thick and durable. The illustrations feature some known aristocrats, like Henry the Eighth, but I am not certain if all are based on historical figures. Development cards have three different back colors, based on their level, and nice artwork on the front. 



Tokens are divided into 6 types and are essentially double-sided poker chips. The quality is impressive, especially for the price point. Overall, Splendor more than meets the expectations.


How to Play Splendor


To set up a game of Splendor, shuffle the development decks separately and place them on the left side of the table from level 1 to level 3 on top. Place four cards from each deck to their right. For every player, place a noble on the top of the table, plus one more. Separate the tokens into individual piles and put them near the decks.


Player Actions

The game progresses clockwise, starting with the youngest player. During their turn, a player can perform one of four actions: 

  • Take 3 gems tokens of different colors.

  • Take 2 gem tokens of the same color.  

  • Reserve a development card.

  • Buy a development card.

The game loop consists of collecting gems, reserving development cards, then spending gems to buy said cards. 


You will have to keep track of certain restrictions. First, a player cannot take 2 gems of the same color, if there are less than 4 gems of that kind available. At the end of their turn, a player cannot have more than 10 gems in their possession, and if the number is exceeded, they will have to return excess tokens.


A similar rule applies to the development cards. They can be taken from the table or drawn directly from the deck. Players can have up to three development cards in their possession, however, they cannot discard development cards like tokens. Instead, they have to be bought to free up room for other cards.


Prestige Points and Bonuses

Through purchases of development cards, players will not only earn prestige (victory) points but also bonuses that will last until the end of the game.


In the top left corner of the card is the number of prestige points given to the player that buys it. On the right, you’ll find a gem that acts as a discount for future purchases. 


Through purchases of development cards, players will not only earn prestige (victory) points but also bonuses that will last until the end of the game.

A visit from a noble happens once a player has enough influence, measured by the number of specific bonuses they’ve acquired. Once the conditions are met, the noble will automatically visit the player, and award them a certain number of victory points.


Winning the Game

The game will cycle from acquiring gems and appealing development cards to spending gems to build them until one player has accumulated 15 victory points. Once that happens, everyone gets to finish their action in the final round, so even if a player scores 15 points, someone could overtake them by the end.


Pros & Cons


Pros:

  • Skill Over Luck

  • Easy to Learn

Despite being a relatively casual game, Splendor doesn’t revolve around luck. There is a dose of randomness, both from the initial setup, and development cards that get drawn from the deck. However, there is nothing that will affect your chances of victory, so as long as you have a good plan, you’ll always be able to stay in the competition. 


Splendor is surprisingly easy to learn and teach to new players.

Splendor is surprisingly easy to learn and teach to new players. There’s no need for new players to prepare before the session, all it takes is a few minutes to go through the rules and play one or two games. After that, most people will be able to play on a competent level.


Cons:

  • Lack of Theme

  • Gameplay Doesn’t Innovate

Splendor doesn’t have any game-breaking cons, only minor nitpicks that are worth mentioning. The theme is the first one, and while it’s present in the cards, tokens, and nobles, the game quickly boils down to point collection with little to no regard for the theme.


All of the mechanics in Splendor are something you’ve seen before, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Splendor takes these well-known gameplay elements and combines them into an interesting and balanced game.


Conclusion: Verdict?


The term “filler game” has been circulating around to describe games that can be played in a small gap of time. When one player is running late, when you’re strapped for time, playing a game of Splendor will be a nice way of filling in the time.


The more complex the gameplay, the harder it is to learn. The games will also take longer to complete. In Splendor, you’ll see elements of many complex games but boiled down into a shorter experience that is still fun and engaging. 


In Splendor, you’ll see elements of many complex games but boiled down into a shorter experience that is still fun and engaging. 

For a 3–4 player game, I can’t find a better option. If there are only two of you, then 7 Wonders Duel would be my first pick as a filler/casual game. I hope you’ve enjoyed this review. Find the latest board game reviews at @ GameCows.com


 

About Our Guest Contributor Game Cows

We are Kendra and Bryan. We first met over a game of Avalon, and have since gotten engaged.


We started GameCows.com because we believe that social gaming is an important aspect of our lives and we wanted to share it with you. Playing games is a great way to make friends, spend quality time, and to challenge yourself. Board games are the original social media that we grew up with and we want to spread the love.


Visit Game Cows at: GameCows.com






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