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Board Game Review: Splendor

By Zane Rowland

One of the newest games in my collection is Splendor, and in the short time I’ve owned it, I’ve already had the opportunity to play a lot of great games. Splendor is a strategy game that is light, fun, and fast, but will require you to be thinking on your feet from the very first turn. In fact, the first few times I played it, I thought my brain was going to bust from all the different choices available to me.

Quick Facts
# of times played: 10
Players: 2-4
Components: Development cards, chips, and noble tiles.
Play time: 30 min.

In Splendor, each player plays as a merchant during the Renaissance period. You acquire mines, trade routes, and artisans that are represented by different development cards, in order to build up your business and turn raw gems into precious jewels. While collecting sets of different kinds of gems you will develop your business, and certain cards will earn you prestige points, with the object of the game to earn at least 15 prestige points before anyone else. During the course of the game, if you have acquired the right combination of development cards, certain nobles will be attracted to your business and pay you a visit. These nobles earn you additional prestige points and are oftentimes an integral part of winning the game.

The game is for 2-4 players, and I’ve played all three modes on different occasions. One great thing about this game is it plays out differently each time. Games with fewer players can become very strategic as they tend to go a bit slower, and even more cutthroat if you start locking your opponent out of a certain type of gem. Games with four players will move quickly and I’ll be so engrossed with the ever-changing board and my own strategy that I can scarcely focus on what my opponents are doing on their side of the board.

I originally bought this game with the intention of it being one that my girlfriend and I could play and enjoy together. Each card and chip is represented by sparkling gems and jewels, so the art is beautiful and appealing, especially for the ladies since they seem to like those sorts of things. (Hint hint!) But don’t let the art fool you, this game will not insult their intelligence, and in fact, you’ll probably be the one dumbfounded after she kicks your butt all the way to 15 prestige points and you’re still wondering what happened.

Another great thing about the game is its simplicity in playability. I can teach others to play Splendor in about five minutes, making it a good pick when introducing newer board gamers. However, the game also has enough depth in its strategic appeal to attract hardcore board-gamers. Game length is right around 30 minutes; which is the perfect amount of time for me when I just want to play something light and kill a little time. I should mention that I’ve never played this game just once after I pulled it out either, which is another testament to how fun it is.

Overall I give this game a 7.7 and here’s why. I love a good overarching theme that will carry me through the entire game. Although Splendor’s theme sounds new and intriguing, in actuality it falls flat for me. Basically, it comes down to you spending different colored chips to get different colored cards, and no one is thinking about purchasing mines and trade routes or building up a business.

The game could have nearly any other theme pasted onto it, and there’s really nothing specific to the game that makes the theme jump out at you, aside from the nobles who pay you a visit later. It’s almost nonsensical at times because you spend massive amounts of gems just to acquire one specific gem, then turn around and spend massive amounts of the gems you just purchased to get another specific one. There’s no gem hierarchy that makes one more precious than the other, and it all depends on how the cards fall. Lastly, nearly every game I’ve played is very close, which makes it very exciting up until the end, but I wonder about the ratio of skill vs. luck. I enjoy this game a lot, but I still feel like, for a strategy game, luck is playing too big a part of how a player wins. Even after playing this game 10 times, I can sit down and still get trounced by someone who’s never played before. But hey, maybe I just need a better strategy, what do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

© 2017, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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