Splendor: Review

OVERVIEW

Our Rating:

You are a merchant in the Renaissance, and you must try to increase your prestige by buying all sorts of items via tokens and card development. This includes means of transportation, gem mines and shops. Increase your wealth enough and the noble may come to visit you, further increasing your prestige and power to win the game! 

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WHITNEY'S REVIEW

My Rating:

Likes

  • The gem tokens and noble tiles are high quality.
  • Layout is always random, making re-playability extremely high.
  • It's quick to learn and easy to set up, plus there aren't many pieces so you could easily travel with it.
  • I don't feel like playing this game repeatedly gives you much advantage, so it's good to play with newbies and vets.

Dislikes

  • I feel like certain strategies may be more beneficial than others.
  • It can be incredibly frustrating to formulate a plan or strategy, only to have it blown up during someone else's turn.
  • Sometimes I feel like if you don't get setup well right off the bat, you spend the rest of the game one step behind  the other players.

Intro/First Impressions

I played Splendor once months ago, and didn't know a thing about it. Even though I lost, the game was close between all four players, and I enjoyed myself so much, I put Splendor on my "must buy" list. (Losing a game and enjoying myself? That's a rarity.) It was quick to learn with straightforward rules, so there was little confusion and repeat questions. 

Thoughts

I love the simplicity of Splendor. Essentially, you select gem tokens to buy cards, and use your cards to buy higher level cards which get you points. The first to 15 points wins. See? Easy peasy.

However. Getting to 15 points isn't exactly easy peasy. You can strategize and plan your moves, but gem tokens are limited and cards are unique, so your well-thought-out move may never come to fruition. Gem tokens may run out. Your card may get stolen. You may not be able to afford anything. The game constantly changes because of the players and limited tokens which is simultaneously challenging, fun and frustrating.

I talk about simplicity a lot with this game--simple learning curve, simple set up, simple rules, simple turns--but this simplicity is deceptive. I won't lie. I've had a couple of tantrums while playing this game (internally and externally--are you surprised?). It can be extraordinarily frustrating to focus your efforts on a few cards only to be thwarted, repeatedly, but you can do the same to other players, and it's these actions and this simplicity that makes this game so intriguing ​and enjoyable. You definitely need to be flexible and adaptable while playing Splendor. No two cards are the same, so strategy (and a little deception) is also important. Wes gets annoyed with me because I try to pay attention to what he picks up, and sometimes I buy the cards I think/know he wants just to throw a wrench in his plans. 

Gems, tokens, cards--now what?

Three decks, Level 1, 2 and 3, are set face-down with four cards from each deck set face up. Anytime a card is bought, it is immediately replaced. There are five card colours--red, white, black, blue and green--and matching gem token colours, with an additional wildcard gem. Every card has a cost of three or more gems in any combination of colours, and the decks get progressively more expensive to buy. The points they give get progressively higher, too.

The general consensus is to buy a lot of Level 1 cards to make buying Level 2 and 3 easy or cheap, but if you spend too much time buying Level 1, you may miss out on a lot of points from the cards or "nobles" (bonus tiles). What's neat about Splendor is it adjusts according to the number of players. The fewer the players, the fewer the gem tokens and noble tiles. Plus, you can only hold 10 gem tokens at a time, an easy number to hit when you can collect up to three tokens per turn. 

​In my hand above, the cards are mine to keep, and I only spend gems to buy cards I want. The red Level 1 card would then cost me one white gem. The white card would cost me one black gem, the first black card would cost me one green gem, and the second black card would cost me one red gem and one black gem.

Conclusion

This is definitely an intenser strategy game. If you want action and a fast pace and lots of yelling, look elsewhere. But, if you want a challenge and you like games that change and allow everyone the ability to win, this is a great game for your collection. ​Sometimes you think you've completely sh!t the bed only to win with the last one or two cards bought. You need to pay attention to points, both yours and your opponent's, but it's not over until it's over.

About the author

Whitney

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