Table Top

Published on June 11th, 2015 | by Justified Croak

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Splendor Review

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Average play time per game: 30 minutes
Suitable for ages: 10+
Number of players: 2-4
Mechanics: Set Collection

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I saw this one creep its way up BoardGameGeek’s chart recently which piqued my curiosity. That and several of my friends have restricted their vocabulary down to only “OMG have you played Splendor yet?” To cease their nagging and see what all the fuss is about, let’s have a look at the latest craze in Eurogaming; Splendor.
Splendor is a set collection game by French designer Marc André and since it’s release in 2014 has already generated a huge following. Players take turns enacting the role of a merchant guild during the renaissance period, and will vie for prestige and gold as they develop their trading empire. Players must collect sets of development cards which provide various discounts on further purchases and are worth prestige points. If players hold certain combinations of developments they may receive a visit from a noble for extra points at the game’s end. Once one player has accrued 15 points the round ends and the player with the highest prestige is declared the winner. Here’s how it’s done.

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Setup
There are three types of development deck distinguished with 1-3 white circles on their backs. Shuffle all three decks separately and place them face down at the centre of the table in a column in increasing order with deck on at the bottom and 3 at the top.
Reveal four development cards from each deck and place them along side their respective deck, to the right hand side in a single row.
Shuffle the noble tiles and reveal as many as there are players + 1 (5 tiles for a 4 player game etc.), then remove the remaining noble tiles from the game.
Place the gem tokens within reach of all players, arranged in separate piles by colour.
Note there are some variances in setup if playing with 2/3 players, which alter the gems/nobles available for the game. These changes are clearly noted in the setup section of the rulebook.

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Gameplay
To win those precious prestige points players must purchase development cards. These cards are those at the centre of the table, to be purchased by any player. Development cards in hand may only be purchased by the player holding them.
Gameplay begins with the youngest player. Or not, if your group has a house rule for this, so as not to further embitter the oldest player. Play then proceeds clockwise.
Each turn a player chooses only one of the following actions.
(I) Take 3 gems of different colours.
(II) Take two gems of the same colour. Note this is only allowable if there are at least 4 tokens available of that colour before the player takes the two tokens.
(III) Reserve 1 development card and take one gold token (acts as a joker/ wild card) to reserve a development a player takes one face up development card in to their hand. These cards cannot be lost or discarded.
(IV) Purchase one face-up development card from the middle of the table or a previously reserved one in your hand. Development card costs are indicated along the left hand side of the card. A Gold token replaces one gem of any colour.
If there are not enough tokens available to take three of different colours then you may take two, or even one.
A player may never hold more than 10 tokens at the end of their turn. If they do then they must return tokens at the end of their turn until they have 10 in their reserve. A player may not conceal how many tokens they currently hold at any time.
One a development is purchased, that card is then placed in that players play area. These cards contribute to a player’s prestige total (the number at the top left of that card) and often contribute a permanent bonus to that players gem reserve(top right on the card), which may be spent on future turns in addition to their tokens. After the development card is taken, it is immediately replaced from the deck of the appropriate level.
At the end of a players turn a noble may visit that player. Each noble is marked with a certain combination of gems (eg. 3 green, 3 white and 3 blue) if at any point a player reaches a nobles requirement. then that noble visits that player at the end of that turn. The player takes that noble marker and places it in their play area, where it contributes to their total prestige for the remainder of the game
A player may not refuse a noble visit nor may a player acquire a noble from another player’s play space.

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End of Game
When a player reaches 15 prestige points (including any nobles that may have visited them) then the current round is completed so all players have played an equal amount of turns. The player with the highest number of prestige points is declared Victor/wealthiest/hoarder of the Arkenstone etc.
In the case of a tie then those of the victors with the fewest development cards is the winner. If there is still a tie, then I don’t know. Sorry.
Opinion
Pfffft. It’s okay. The end.
No, whilst the game lacks any great degree of complexity, that in no way limits it’s room for strategy. You can be the clever guy who knows exactly what he is doing and looking for, from turn one, and each round is merely a stepping stone to his prophesied conquest of the trade routes. Alternatively you can be a little less certain in your own plans but savvy enough to spot your opponent’s, and just play a horrendous spanner in their works. Maybe you’re just enjoying making your play space look pretty, but getting all the gems of your favourite colour/all the developments with a boat on. This is a very simply designed game with a lot of room for different player styles and abilities. It is for that reason that we have a great new gateway game, to get newbies involved and excited about the hobby. Call me controversial here but that is all I am going to use Splendor for; I feel this one gets old quick. You’ll find a strategy you like and then, without meaning to, find yourself in a rinse and repeat cycle. I don’t think it has enough depth to warrant replay after replay. I’m not sure if the game is intended to be played repeatedly so this criticism may seem unwarranted but I always look at replayabilty and “bang for your buck” and simply put, after playing Splendor for a few nights, It lost its sparkle. Went back to some thing with more going on, mechanically and thematically.
Splendor is far from bad; it will serve as a lovely introduction to our beloved hobby for those less experienced, but whilst there is still plenty of hype, I can’t see this being an all time classic. For the price, it’s okay: The playtime means it can double as a filler; the art work is alright; the mechanics, though not extensive, are solid.
As long as you’re looking for something light, easy to set up and learn, and playable by all, then this game could be just what you’re after. If you’re looking for a head scratcher, or something a little more interactive, then have a look at Elysium. Same company, similar concept, all though mind blowingly more involved.

Justified Croak

Justified Croak loves nothing more than books, miniatures, board games, RPG supplements and clever Ikea storage that helps me cope with all of the above.

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