Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+
Difficulty to Learn: 3/10
Mastery Curve: 7/10
Luck Variance: 5/10
Awards & Honors:
Board Game Quest Award Best Family Game (2014)
Golden Geek Best Family Board Game (2014)
Golden Geek Game of the Year (2014)
The Dice Tower Best Family Game (2014)
Spiel des Jahres Nominee (2014)
Tric Trac de Bronze (2014)
The Academy of Adventure Gaming & Arts Design: Origins Award for Best Card Game (2015)
Theme and Overview
In Splendor, players race to accumulate points by acquiring development cards available from a central marketplace and earning visits from nobles. When the 15 point threshold is reached, the round is finished so that all players have had the same number of turns and the player with the highest point total is the victor.
Splendor challenges players to balance between investment in one-time use actions (gems) and permanent resources (development cards). Both can provide any of the game’s basic resources — Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby, Diamond, and Onyx — but only development cards can provide points.
On each turn, a player can choose from one of the following actions:
- Take 3 gem tokens of different colors
- Take 2 gem tokens of the same color (only possible if there are at least 4 tokens available in that color)
- Reserve 1 development card and take 1 gold token (wild)
- Purchase 1 face-up development card
Players cannot hold more than 10 gems at a time. If they ever end up with more, they must return tokens to the bank until they have just 10 left. When these gems are spent on development cards, the resource depicted provides a discount in that same amount for any future purchases (effectively providing one permanent source of that resource for all future turns).
If at any point, a player’s collection of purchased development cards is capable of producing the amount of resources depicted on any one of the noble tiles active in the game, that noble will immediately ‘visit’ that player, providing them a bonus 3 points as shown on that noble tile. That noble remains with that player as a bonus through the end of the game and is not available to any other player.
As stated in the rule book, Splendor was intended to simulate the experience of merchants engaging in trade during the Renaissance. The development cards represent locations that provide resources such as mines, artisans, or methods of transportation that will “allow you to turn raw gems into beautiful jewels”. Seemingly, if you’ve made a name for yourself at this and the size and focus of your developments match the interests of the nobles, some of them may take note and involve themselves with you. You’ll measure your success in Splendor not only with your wealth but the size and prowess of your social circle.
Splendor contains 90 development cards (63.5x88mm)
Corey: One of my favorite parts of Splendor is how quick it is to get started. I’m not only talking about the set-up, but conceptually, the game is simple enough to explain to new players in just a few minutes. That said, the game involves some incredibly challenging decision trees that certainly allow for a very high learning curve. I’d imagine that a player with lots of experience playing Splendor could really leverage that experience against a newer player.
COREY POINTS: 8/10
Nikki: As someone who was not really into “euro-style games”, in college I was invited to play the likes of Settlers of Catan, Dominion and Lords of Waterdeep, I am surprised that it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was introduced to Splendor. It really is a fantastic game for introducing the resource development game mechanic and learning how to leverage resources efficiently. Every time we’ve played I’ve had a lot of fun trying out new strategies and racing Corey to get the most nobles to pay me a visit. The quick set up and play time also make this a great go to game when we are short on time but still want to spend a little time together.
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Corey: I enjoy this one and I certainly find myself coming back to it often when we have friends over who may not be so receptive to the more fantasy-based titles in our collection. I don’t know that I’d be likely to play game after game of Splendor, though. Each game plays out relatively similarly and the randomization of which nobles are available to each game doesn’t quite do enough to refresh that experience.
That said it does have a raw competitive element to it that I can see many groups being drawn to. It’s easy to set up a new game quickly and “double or nothing” when someone feels like they want another shot. It’s also a good length for the type of game that could be played at the end of a board game night with friends when you don’t have time for a lengthy set-up and rules explanation.
COREY POINTS: 7/10
Nikki: Once you have played a few rounds and really sussed out your favorite strategies for this game, it can get relatively stale. That being said, it’s a great game to play with new or younger players and I can see it being potentially a favorite repeat selection for a younger player as they develop their own strategies to try to best their parents or older siblings. While Corey and I might not play this one frequently, it’s a great game to have around for guests and family game nights.
NIKKI POINTS: 6.75/10
Corey: You know, I’ve played this one for years and it wasn’t until I did the research for this review that I fully understood what all the game pieces were supposed to represent. The trade theme is relatively apparent and the gems clearly function as the currency in the exchange. The development cards have a variety of different images depicted on them but most of them seem to have little to do with the function of the card. I can understand why a card depicting a mine would provide resources and the images of boats may provide transportation to bring home what has been harvested. Why do the third age cards images of the city streets? Am I missing something?
COREY POINTS: 7/10
Nikki: I always got the feeling when playing this game that I was to be some sort of adventuring jewel hunter traveling the world and racing against all the other hunters to haul in the most gems and sell them to the Italian nobles in Rome. In doing this review, Corey finally gave me the official story, and I’d like to think that my interpretation was close enough even though it might not have fully explained all of the images on all of the cards.
NIKKI POINTS: 7.25/10
Quality of Components
Corey: Deciding to purchase our own copy of Splendor had a lot to do with the quality of the pieces. They are fantastic. I am especially impressed with the very solid and brightly colored poker chips that represent the gem tokens.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: All of the components of this game are extremely sturdy from the gem tokens to the noble cards. The cards are textured and feel solid, which is great because we play this game with a number of people who are used to playing with standard card decks or poker chips and are not always as careful with the game materials as we might like them to be.
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Corey: The art in Splendor is wonderful and reminds me a bit of a Renaissance version of 7 Wonders or 7 Wonders: Duel. My only complaint is that some of the same art is reused on cards with different resource costs.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: From the resource cards to the noble tiles, every card is filled will beautiful images. I can tell that a lot of time was spent making the game art. Unfortunately, they cut a few corners by repeating images on some of the resource cards which is a shame, because I would like to see more of these beautiful images!
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Our overall score based on the responses of both reviewers in five different categories (10 points possible for each).