2-4 Players. Best With 4
Space Cowboys (T.I.M.E. Stories, Elysium)
Tableau Building, Resource Management
I first encountered Splendor in 2014 at my former gaming group while home for a business trip. The power style chips seemed very impressive and got my intrigued in the game which I watched before playing, as they had already started. The game must have just come out in the states because no one else had heard of it. After watching the first game, I was very eager to try it out and felt tense the entire first game (in a good way). It was the runner up for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2014, losing inexplicably to Camel Up.
Splendor is a lighter engine style game where tokens are taken from an exhaustive supply and put into your hand, where they are used to purchase gems for points and discounts on future gems. The player with the most points at the end of the game, triggered at the end of a round in which one or more players have fifteen or more points, with all players taking an equal number of turns. There are also Nobles who provide three bonus points to the first player able to meet specified criteria in terms of gem color and quantity. Cards are divided into three tiers of value to help guide players in the progression of the game and tiers do not replenish when depleted.
Splendor is quick to explain given its very limited set of rules and turns are extremely quick, assuming no analysis paralysis. You can either take tokens or purchase one of twelve cards, most of which are well beyond your reach in the early game, limiting the choices to tier one alone. The game can easily be played in 30 minutes for two or three players, although a fourth player might require an extra ten minutes, which is still reasonable.
All cards follow the same anatomy pattern which allows them to be deciphered quickly: they have a cost, a discount and zero or more points. There is no hidden information in the game with one exception: players may reserve the top of any stack without knowing what it is when they choose to do so, keeping it concealed after the fact from other players; I have never seen this occur and do not expect I ever will. The frequency of costs and colors is not necessary in order to play the game effectively, so no metagame knowledge is needed. Players will need to know what their opponents can purchase on their next turn in order to block them.
Although the gameplay is straightforward, Splendor is a game of efficiency mixed with a little bit of luck. New players will have difficulty winning against very experienced players, although the score may be competitive. There is no way for players to handicap themselves other than playing sub-optimally. However, the game’s length and simplicity often lead to an immediate second playthrough in which players will fare much better. It takes time to learn what moves provide value and which do not.
Splendor can be exciting in unexpected ways. When you purchase a card, a new one is revealed, and you don’t know whether that is the exact card your opponent has been waiting for. In my experience, players enjoy being able to purchase a card for free, regardless of the value it provides. The race to acquire a noble can also lead to enjoyment as you are hoping that you will acquire that last color before your opponent does.
Splendor can be found in many mass market stores such as Toys R Us, Target and Barnes and Nobles. Any game store is going to have several copies available. Splendor has a regular presence on Amazon’s Toys and Games sale and is available with Prime Shipping. The price point tends to fluctuate, I have seen it anywhere from $20 (a steal) to $40 (overpay), which is likely due to the high-quality components that come with the game.
Splendor has very simple rules that are easy to teach and easy to remember. The rulebook is short at four pages long with detailed explanations of all moves and steps. Some players have difficulty remembering how many tokens are in play based on player count, as well as how the Nobles are acquired (gems only, not tokens), but these are remembered after the first playthrough.