Theme: Players are gem traders looking to corner the market in the gem trade and gain the notice of the local lords and ladies.
How to Win: The game ends when one player earns 15 points and all players have taken the same amount of turns.
Components: Good quality cards and cardboard noble cutouts. The gems are solid poker sized chips.
How to Play: During your turn, you have four choices – purchase a card, take three different gems, take two of the same gems (needs to be four or more, to begin with), or grab a ‘wild’ gem and take a gem card to play later. Once you pay for and add a card to your tableau, it becomes a permanent gem for you to use towards future purchases. This allows you to purchase the more ‘expensive’ gems in future rounds while relying less and less on picking up the single-use gems. You may also score points by gaining the favor of a noble. Each of the nobles are worth three points and is earned when you purchase a certain amount of cards. Typically it is four of two colors or three of three colors. These are chosen at random and offer enough variety to keep each game exciting.
Thoughts: I want to start this review by saying that it is one of my wife’s favorite games. Splendor is quick. A typical game takes us less than a half hour. It has a quick setup and quick teardown thanks to the packaging and provided insert. While on the surface this looks like a quick friendly game, it is anything but in our house. We are both very competitive, but since our board game time is usually our ‘date time’ away from the children most games come with a fair bit of banter and chatter. Splendor is different. Splendor is quiet and at some point I start pretending the poker chip sized gem tokens are poker chips, clanking them together in anticipation for my big move.
Playtime mainly depends on a player’s level of familiarity and if a player was paying attention. Even if you are playing with a novice no single turn should take more than three minutes. Like Chess, you need to have a plan in place and an idea of what cards you are going for to make sure you have the gems to do it. One of the things I find refreshing about Splendor is that there is no surefire way to win. For example, we had a draw of three nobles with similar color combinations. So, I spent my time building towards the nobles. My thought process is – If I can take all three nobles that’s nine points and in a game where fifteen is the goal, I was set. My wife, on the other hand, went about executing her own strategy which wasn’t focused on any of the nobles. I grew more and more confident that I had the game in the bag as I collected all three nobles. When the dust settled and we tallied up our points, she somehow managed to pull off a victory. I was flabbergasted. How was that possible when I had three, yes…all three…nobles?!
This was one of our first games when our collection began and we have played through all four of the expansions. We have had a few three player games, but I feel Splendor works best with two people. In a three or four player game, you can’t possibly plan ahead as that card you were eyeing is most definitely going to be gone by your next turn. That’s a different story in a two-player match. As you inch closer to the top tier cards (four to seven points each) the tension becomes palpable. I’ve found myself counting how many turns until I can grab that card and counting how many cards my wife has. Is she going after my card? Can I get it before her? Should I buy another card just to be safe? These are all questions I have racing around my head, while I try my best to keep my face cool, calm and collected.
Some would say Splendor is a good ‘gateway’ game. A game that is simple enough to teach people who still think Monopoly and Clue are the pinnacles of board gaming achievement. While I agree, because of its simple ruleset and concept, it goes deeper than that. It deals in the high risk/high reward area, as well. You will constantly be asking yourself which gem will be your best move and hope your opponent doesn’t have the same idea. Splendor still gets pulled out more often than not because of the strategy and quick playtime. Splendor doesn’t care if you are new to gaming or have played every game known to man. I would recommend Splendor to anyone looking to have a good time.
[This post contains affiliate links, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I wouldn’t recommend a game I didn’t like or think you wouldn’t enjoy. Any games linked have been recommended to friends and family long before this blog.]