Splendor is a card-buying game some friends introduced me to recently that I’m really enjoying. It has one of the hallmarks of a great game: it’s simple to learn and set up but has a deep strategy that changes with every playthrough. It’s for 2-4 players and only takes around 30 or 40 minutes to play. I’ve played it maybe 6 or 8 times now with both 2 and 4 players and really enjoyed it. It’s probably one I’ll be adding to the collection soon.
In Splendor there are 5 different colored gems that are used to buy cards. On any turn a player can 1) take 3 chips of different colors, 2) take 2 chips of the same color, 3) use gems to buy a card, or 4) reserve a card by placing it aside to be purchased later. Reserving a card also nets you a wild gem that can be used as any other color. Each card counts as a bonus gem of a certain color, so buying cards makes it easier to buy more cards and more powerful cards. The more powerful cards also give prestige points for acquiring them; rack up 15 of those and you win. There are also nobles that can be acquired by accumulating enough of the right card. They’re worth 3 points each as well. So it’s pretty simple to set up and play, but there really is a lot of strategy each time you play.
The first thing that struck me, and others as well, about the game is the high quality of the game contents themselves. The gems are represented by poker-like chips. These chips are very heavy, very solid, and very durable. They make a very satisfying “clink” sound when they hit the table (and they’re easy to shuffle, bonus!) The cards are very high-quality, very easy to shuffle, and should last a good long time, although sleeves are probably still a good idea since you’ll be handling the cards a lot. Even the box is nice, with a nice plastic tray that actually holds all the contents easily (take note makers of Lords of Waterdeep, et al!) It’s all enclosed in a box that fits perfectly on your bookshelf. So nice to see a good-looking, high-quality product like that.
The cards are divided into 3 decks based on how many prestige points they are worth and how hard they are to acquire. At the start of the game you put out 4 cards from each deck and replace them as they’re bought. The nobles are also random, meaning each game will have a different mix of gems needed to acquire the nobles and the powerful cards, as well as different lower level cards available to choose from initially. Figuring out the path you’re going to take to get where you eventually want to go is different each time and you’ll constantly be studying the board trying to figure out what to do next. Something I’ve noticed about this game is that it’s very intense; everyone is studying the board so hard and trying to figure out what to do next that it makes for a very intense atmosphere. Not in a bad or serious way though; everyone is having a good time! 🙂
One friend said on his first playthrough “It’s hard to tell who’s winning” and he is correct. You can look at how many points everyone has acquired but that doesn’t really tell you the story. It’s more about who has built up what and is in a good position to do more going forward. About halfway through most games I’ve played I feel like I’m doing really terribly but have turned it around quickly to do well or win. Conversely sometimes an opponent has suddenly taken a big lead on me without any warning.
One great thing about the game is there really are different strategies you can use to win. You can decide to concentrate on just 2 or 3 of the 5 colors so you’re in a really good position to buy cards that need those colors. You can spread out and try to get a little bit of everything to add that nice bit of versatility. Reserving cards is another option; only you can buy the card after you’ve reserved it, you get a free wild gem, and you’ve taken that card away from everyone else. Finding the right strategy and the right play on each turn involves a lot of analysis and is very fun. It seems to be a pretty addicting game; people like it right away. I know I did!
And it plays well with 2 or 4 people (I’m assuming with 3 as well but haven’t gotten to try it yet). Playing 2 player is very different than 4 player; you’d think it would be easier because there aren’t as many people fighting over the cards but it’s actually the opposite: it’s harder because the cards aren’t getting bought and replaced as often so it’s difficult to find and acquire cards you need.
Like I said I’ll probably be adding it to the collection soon, so let me know if you want to play!