Splendor is an elegantly designed board game for 2 to 4 players where merchants compete to collect gems and appeal to the nobles to gain prestige. It is one of the best board games for beginners as it’s easy to teach, but has a lot of strategy to make you want to play again.
How to Win
In Splendor each player assumes the role of a leader of a merchant guild in a race to see who can quickly develop their resources, attract the interest of noble patrons, and ultimately accrue the most prestige points for themselves and for their guild. A typical game of Splendor lasts about 30 minutes and to win, a player must reach 15 points.
How to Play
Each turn you have 3 options: collect gems, reserve a development card, or purchase a development card.
You have two options when reserving gems in Splendor; you can either collect 3 different colored gems or two of the same gem. However, if there are only 3 left of the gem you are interested in, then you cannot take 2 of them.
Finally, if you have more then 10 tokens at the end of your turn, then you will have to discard down to 10.
Reserving a Development Card
If you decide to reserve a development card in Splendor, choose one card from either the existing cards on the table or from the deck you are interested in. If you take a card from the table, make sure to replace it it with a new card from the Splendor deck.
After you reserved your card, you also collect a gold token which does count towards your 10 gems.
Purchase a Development Card
To purchase a card on the table or in your reserve, simply pay the amount of gems listed on the card. If you have a gold token, you can use it in replacement of an existing gem.
The top left corner of the card represents the number of prestige points you can earn. If there is a gem in the right corner, then you get permanent gem that can be used towards future purchases.
Once you’ve collected several gems, you have the option of attracting a noble which can only happen once per turn. Nobles typically require a larger supply of select gems so make sure to establish a plan early to get one.
My Impression of Splendor
Deceptively simple, Splendor combines satisfying strategic depth, gorgeous art, and superbly balanced mechanics with a relatively brief play time and easy-to-learn rules. It’s a great 2 player board game because it plays quickly and allows for opportunities to block your competitor.
Splendor’s strength is clearly its elegant gameplay and mechanics. The game layout is clean and the mechanics are easy to understand. Play proceeds in turns, with each player limited to only one of four actions each turn.
While this may seem simplistic, Splendor possesses a strategic complexity which rewards thinking ahead and careful husbanding of resources in a manner reminiscent of Dominion.
Space Cowboys, Splendor’s publisher, did not skimp when producing this game. Though Splendor comes with relatively few components compared to similar games, their quality is readily apparent.
Furthermore, each component is covered with stunning art evocative of exotic locales, powerful aristocrats, or precious gems, all executed with a realism reminiscent of Renaissance art.
If Splendor has a weakness then it lies in the connection between the game’s flavor and its mechanics. Splendor’s premise–that of competing merchant guilds during the Renaissance–is evocative, but bears very little connection to its gameplay. For example, while playing Diplomacy, players feel as if they were actually European powers jockeying for position at the turn of the 20th century.
While playing Splendor, players do not feel as if they were merchants in 15th-century Europe. Splendor is still a very fun, challenging, and and involved board game. However, it does not seem that its mechanics or gameplay was at all inspired by its Renaissance mercantile flavor.
Final Thoughts on Splendor
Don’t let the last paragraph convince you, however, that Splendor is in any way a poor or unenjoyable game.
Quite the contrary. Splendor dazzles (pun intended), and deserves the hype it has been receiving. It’s a great 3 player board game and also works well if there are only two players. If you want a board game that provides elegant gameplay and puzzle solving mechanics, then Splendor is for you.
It’s also great for players that like board games such as Dominion, Diplomacy, and Carcassonne. You will not be disappointed.