Splendor is not a game I would have reviewed if it came out back when I started this site. It’s amazing to me what kinds of games appeal to the more casual gamer these days – and I mean that in a really good way! While Splendor may not be the game to force upon your non-game playing friends, I’m guessing (and frankly hoping) that if you’re reading my site that you have at least 1 or 2 friends who enjoy games with some strategy to them.
Splendor is my kind of game. It’s got some strategy that hasn’t gotten old after playing it a couple dozen times, it takes less than 30 minutes to play (less time if you’re playing a 2-player game or against players with more experience), and there aren’t so many decisions that you don’t know where to start or feel overwhelmed.
How to Play
The goal of the game is to be the first player to reach 15 “Prestige Points.” Points are accumulated by collecting cards that are worth points (not all are), or getting a visit from a noble — which is actually collecting the right combination of gems on your cards so it equals one of the 3 noble tiles in play. On your turn you either select up to 3 gem tokens, use gems to buy a card, or take a card (to reserve it) and a bonus piece of gold (replaces any gem). The slightly confusing bit is that you use gems tokens to buy cards that then are gems themselves – so the example to the right shows that you’re going to buy the card for 4 rubies (which get returned to the playing area) and you get a card worth 1 Prestige Point and 1 sapphire. If then on your next turn you want to buy a card that costs 2 sapphires and 1 diamond, you’d only need to pay 1 sapphire token and 1 diamond token because your card takes the place of one of the sapphire tokens. Yet unlike tokens, cards don’t get returned to the playing area when used. This is really the backbone of the game – deciding which gem cards to buy to make it easier to buy cards worth lots of Prestige Points or that will help you collect a noble.
There are a few other little nuances that make your turn a little more interesting: you can only have 10 gem tokens at one time, when you select tokens it has to be either 2 of the same gem (only if there are at least 4 of that color) or up to 3 that are all different, and the only way to get gold is to take and reserve a card – but you can only have 3 reserved cards in your hand at one time.
The cards themselves are laid out in 3 rows (see above). The row of green cards are easiest to get, and most of them aren’t worth any Prestige Points. The gold row is harder to get and cards are worth 1-3 points and the blue cards are very difficult to get and are worth 3-5 points. Interestingly, I’ve played games where no one has purchased a blue card and won using only green and gold cards and the bonus Prestige Points on the noble tokens.
Overall I highly recommend Splendor. I’ll admit I’ve never played with 4 players but I’ve played a couple dozen times with just 2 and thought it was great! So if you’re getting sick of Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne and are looking for something new – grab a copy of Splendor!
~$25 at Amazon and most local game retailers
Ages 10 and up