There is nothing more I hate then having a game on the shelf that I haven’t cracked open and played yet. Right now there are four games I have on the shelf that need to be played; War of the Ring, Twilight Struggle, Fury of Dracula, and Stone Age. Last night I was able to get that number down from five by bringing Splendor to the table with Kim and Tom.
Splendor was published in 2014 and was designed by Marc Andre with art by Pascal Quidault. Splendor has won numerous awards and was nominated for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres but lost to Camel Up. I purchased the game because I had seen a lot of positive feedback on BoardGameGeek as well as people I knew who personally had played it, so needless to say I was itching to play this one.
When we first opened the game I was pleasantly surprised of the quality of the components. For a game that cost less than 40 bucks to have a large number of cards with nice looking art on them, noble cards that were thicker cardboard, and poker chip style gem tokens, I was very happy with what I saw.
The premise of Splendor is that each player is a merchant during the Renaissance trying to gain the most prestige points by collecting gems and purchasing mines or other merchant related items. Each player is able to take one action per turn and there are four different actions they may take. The first option is to take one of three different coloured gems and add them to your collection. The second possible action is to take two of one coloured gem, but this may only be done if there are at least four of that colour gem. The third option is to take a gold gem which is a joker, and reserve a card by taking it from the playing field and putting it into your hand. The final action a player can choose to take is to purchase a card from the board or from your hand by spending gems that you have collected and applying any discounts you may have from any cards that you already own. You earn prestige by buying cards, and getting visits from nobles by having a certain combination of gems in your collection. The first person to 15 prestige points triggers the end game and the round finishes so that each player has the same amount of turns. Simple as that!
After we setup the game, which took only a few minutes, Tom started us off by collecting gems since each player starts with nothing. After a few rounds of collecting gems we started into our strategies that we made up on the fly since neither of us had played before. It appeared as Kim and I were playing the same strategy, to buy cards from the lower section that were cheaper and would give us discounts. Tom was reserving higher cost cards with a greater number of prestige points while trying to collect gems to purchase them. The strategy that Kim and I decided to try seemed to work the best as when the end game was triggered by myself with 15 prestige points, Tom was behind. Kim had the final turn and was able to sneak the win by buying a high cost card that she had in her hand and having the right gems to coax one of my nobles to visit her. In the end she was able to gloat by edging me out by just a couple of prestige point.
What the game did right: There is nothing better than a game that you can learn or teach in just a few minutes. The rule book for this game is only four pages which made it easy for me to read through it and learn the game in a few minutes. After learning the basics the game becomes very strategic and everything becomes a difficult choice that seems to affect the entire game. The components are very high quality and the price is very reasonable compared to other games that are around the same price point.
What the game could have done better: We found that while we were playing there would be turns that we would not be paying attention to what the other players do and that is because at the end of the day there is not very much interaction between players. Other than someone buying a card that you wanted to buy, or targeting a noble that a player has, there really is not many actions you can take to get in another player’s way.
Overall, Splendor was a very enjoyable experience. I would recommend anyone who is into easy to learn but strategic card games to take a look at this game. All three of us had fun and even though Kim won I have a feeling this game will be hitting the table quite often.