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    Review: Splendor

    November 17, 2014


    The goal of Splendor is to become the most successful gem merchant in Renaissance Europe using a very simple mechanism of card-acquisition which represents mines, transportation methods, and artisans. It takes about five minutes to learn and a full game can be played in about 40 minutes to an hour. Overall, Splendor has a strong production value and its components are absolutely lovely – the gems themselves are represented by heavy chips that are amazingly satisfying to play with.

    To set up a game of Splendor, the development cards are separated into three respective decks. Four cards from each deck are placed face-up in a row, making a grid of twelve cards. This represents the different kinds of developments that each player must purchase in order to score prestige points and win the game. Each development shows its cost in some combination of colored gems. Each card also has the type of gems that it will produce once a player has purchased it. Finally, some cards will have a prestige point value in the upper left corner. The first person to acquire fifteen prestige points is the winner and the most successful gem merchant in Europe!

    The gem supply is placed above the development market. There are five colors of gems represented by colored chips, plus yellow chips which represent gold. Gem chips are used to purchase developments and gold chips are used as wild cards and can count as any color. Lastly, noble tiles are placed in the middle of the table. These represent wealthy patrons that will back the first person to have the combination of bonuses in which each noble is interested. Nobles also have victory point values, and therefore are another way to reach to the goal of fifteen points.

    Once the game begins, players have a choice on their respective turns. Players may either acquire gems by simply taking them from the supply or they may purchase a development card from the grid. To acquire gems, a player may either take three gems of different colors or two gems of the same color. To purchase a development card, a each player must pay its cost in gems back to the supply. Development cards are placed in front of the purchaser and permanently increase the players’ purchasing power with the colors that it produces. After a purchase, the grid is always replenished by another card from the appropriate deck. In this way, each player’s purchasing power steadily increases allowing them to buy stronger (and more expensive) cards. Development cards always increase purchasing power by one, but the victory point value they confer can range from one to five. Players may also reserve development cards without immediately purchasing them in order to deny their opponents the best picks on a given turn.

    What makes Splendor so addictive is its numerous combinations of variance: the interaction of the randomness of the cards, the combinations of production desired by the nobles, and the decisions of your opponents. No two games can possibly play the same way, and each time you have to outmaneuver your opponents to get the best purchases – but the best purchases aren’t always obvious! Satisfying the nobles can also be very important, as getting those points is not an action and can move you to victory a turn or two before your opponents. I love games that have a simple mechanic which leads to complex decisions. Splendor delivers a great experience with a very elegant set of rules and immense replayability.

    My favorite measure of a game is whether I want to play it again immediately after the first time I have played it. This has been more true for me with Splendor than with any other game to have come out this year. In fact, that feeling has not diminished after several dozen plays of the game. I may be looking at a mild addiction at this point…


    If you like: Medici, Dominion, Ticket to Ride
    You’d definitely enjoy: Splendor
    MRP: $39.99
    Designer: Marc André
    Produced by: Asmodée