Do you like Gems? Influencing nobles? Set collection? Building an economic engine to be more efficient? How about poker chips? What about fruit snacks? Splendor has all that. Well, maybe not the fruit snacks part. But it could.
Splendor is a card drafting and set collection game for 2 to 4 players, from 2014 by designer Marc André.
Goal of the game?
To win! But how do I do that? Umm... by having the most victory points (VPs). A novel concept that I am sure will take off one of these days.
How to play?
In Splendor you play as a medieval gem merchant who starts out with no mines or gem cutters (a.k.a. Development Cards) and ends up with a whole network of them and maybe the patronage of a noble or five.
On your turn, you get to take one of four actions:
Grab some Gems: You can take either 3 different colored gems or 2 of the same color so long as there is 4 or more in the supply at the start of your turn. You can not hold more than 10 Gem tokens at the end of your turn. So no, you can’t just stockpile all the gem tokens Mr/Mrs clever person.
Buy a card: Each Development Card represents a gem mine or gem cutting house. To buy it, you trade in the number and color of tokens shown in the lower left-hand corner minus any discounts you may have. Discounts? That‘s right, each Development Card shows a gem in the upper right-hand corner. Each one counts as a one gem discount of that color when buying cards. Many of the cards also grant you VPs. If it does, there will be a number in the upper left-hand corner of the card. Once you have bought the card you place it in front of you in your growing display.
Claim a card: To claim a card, you pick it up and add it to your hand. You also get to add a gold to your stack of gems. Gold you say? Yes Gold! Gold acts as a wild card for gems. You can use it in place of any gem you are missing when you go to pay the cost of a card. You can hold up to 3 cards in your hand.
Build a card from your hand: This works just like buying a card from the display, but this time you are building one of the cards from your hand instead.
Claim a noble: This is a bonus action you may be able to do on a turn. Next to each noble’s portrait, there is a list of the colors the noble is interested in as well as the quantity of the color they require. To claim a noble, you need to have in your gem empire a number of Development Cards equal to what they are interested in. Each noble claimed is worth 3 VPs. You can only claim one noble per turn.
You spend most of your time doing the top two actions. But judicious use of the other two can swing the game in your favor, or at least aggravate your opponents in the case of claiming a card one.
The game ends when someone reaches 15 VPs. You finish the round so everyone has the same number of turns and then the person with the most VPs wins.
The wrap up.
Ah Splendor. A splendid little game. See what I did there, eh? It is good and solid. Easy to teach. The rule book is only 4 pages long and you lose one of those to the cover art alone, and about another half-page to the pictures, bios, and credits. Easy to play. But with enough variety that it stays interesting.
I think the theme is my biggest gripe. The theme is just sitting there. The theme could have been about anything and it would not make any difference to the gameplay. It could have been about collecting the best pigs or 13th-century theologians of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Or as that one video says, about Royal Fruit Snacks Collectors. Don’t get me wrong, I like this game, it is just the theme feels tacked on. But that is a sign of how good the core mechanics are. In fact, I am really surprised they have not reskinned the ever-loving heck out of this thing actually. If they could do it to Code Names and Pandemic they could very easily do that with this. Pro-sports version? Sure thing. Collecting big cats for a zoo? Again would work fine. Horse breeding? Ya, it would work really well for that I think.
So if you are looking for a neat light game that can be played by most ages, Splendor is a good go-to. It works well for a night of light games or as the starter for a night of heavy games while you wait for that last person to show up. Good for families too. Give it a try.
Hope you get a chance to play Splendor.