Players: 2 to 4
Game Length: 30 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2 to 4 players who want a simple game that rewards planning, and don’t mind if it’s a little dry
Splendor is a seemingly simple game where the players are gem merchants seeking to achieve the most glory, through building the most reputable gem mines, trade routes and jewellers, and appealing to nobles who prefer particular gems. Splendor was a finalist for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres, the German board game prize, and fits the mould of other Spiel des Jahres games – easy to learn and play, but with strategic depth that encourages planning and deeper thought.
Each turn in Splendor, players may perform one of three actions – they may take gems and add them to their stash, they may purchase a card and pay the required gems, or they may reserve a card and add it to their hand so that only they may build it later on. There are five basic types of gems – Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Onyx – that players can gain and use to purchase cards.
Each of these cards will cost a number of gems, and provide a permanent discount to a particular type of gem to the player who purchases it. Players are limited to holding 10 gems, and many of the more expensive cards will cost well over 10 gems, so getting discounts will be essential to purchasing these cards, as well as making the most of your card purchases through the game.
Each card provides the same discount regardless of its cost, but the more expensive cards will also provide victory points. You can also get victory points by collecting sets of cards, based on what the Noble tiles indicate – the first to collect the specified set of cards (for example, 4 Ruby discount cards and 4 Emerald discount cards) will get 3 victory points. Once a player is at 15 victory points, the game will last for one more round, then the player with the highest score wins.
Splendor rewards players who plan ahead and pay attention to what others are capable of. You’ll need to make sure your opponents don’t take a card you’ve been eyeing off, and you’ll need to watch what cards your opponents have purchased to make sure you’re able to score Noble tiles before them.
Be advised that Splendor is a very dry game. Choosing gems and making plans in Splendor is engaging, but there really isn’t much more to the game than that. All the cards have the exact same effect – reducing the cost of purchasing cards by one – with the only difference being their cost and the victory points they grant. You won’t go away from Splendor with an epic story to tell, but it can be a compelling game nonetheless.
Splendor plays well from 2 to 4 players. It takes on more of a tactical element the less players there are, as players may take actions to directly affect their opponents. Splendor is very easy to teach and has excellent components, making it a good gateway game. If you want an engaging game where you’ll need to plan ahead and don’t mind that it’s a little dry, Splendor is well suited to the task.