SPLENDOR - Review
Splendor is an engine-building strategy game where you collect gems, with which you can buy cards, which give you more gems and victory points. You can also use these cards to collect nobles, which give you more points. The first to collect 15 victory points wins.
Pretty straight forward. But actually pretty amazing.
The Drink: Gem-lets
1 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
1.5 oz gin
Shake with ice and pour into glass, then add your coloring and stir
Onyx: Half the contents of an activated charcoal tablet
Emerald: 1 tbsp Midori, plus a few drops Blure flower extract or Blue Curacao
Ruby: 2 tsp grenadine
Diamond: no coloring
Sapphire: 1 tbsp Blue Curacao
According to the rule book, you're a gem merchant and the cards represent the various mines, tradesmen, and shops that you are collecting in your gem empire. But... I didn't have any idea about that until I went back and looked in the rules. So all those details of the theme didn't quite come through. This game would be a pretty rough one to figure out your strategy through role-playing (think Suburbia, Seven Wonders, Agricola).
Despite the filmsy theme, the physical pieces in this game are really nice. The chips are magnificent. They are brightly colored and weighty and make an amazing clacking when you fidget with them. It really makes me a little sad for all of the other games with their cheap cardboard chips. And, even though I didn't really catch the details of my "gem empire" thematically, the cards have some beautiful art.
Splendor is definitely a strategy game. There is very limited direct player interaction and the game revolves around building your engine of gem cards to buy the more expensive gem cards and earn nobles. Some cards available to buy are strictly better than others, and some are better or worse depending on the available nobles. There are strategies that are generally solid for every game, but they will definitely need to be tweaked to be effective.
Despite being a pretty interesting strategy game, Splendor is still pretty lightweight and easy to pick up. There are only a few options on each turn, so each turn isn't overwhelming and most players will be able to figure out a viable strategy by their second game. Experienced board gamers will probably have a good idea of strategies they can try even before the end of their first game.
On the other hand, there is enough luck involved that experienced players don't automatically win. This could definitely be frustrating for hardcore gamers who feel like they have the optimum strategy figured out and they're still not winning. But I like that it makes the game playable for a wider range of people and gaming groups.
One major success for this game is the balance between figuring out your own strategy and blocking other players from implementing their own. There is very little secret information, which makes it much easier to block other players without needing to remember every move they've made so far. There are a limited number of cards available at any given time and only a few nobles available in the entire game, so there's definitely an incentive to stay at least peripherally aware of what your opponents are trying to do. The lack of secret information also makes it easier for newbies to ask questions, which makes this game even easier to pick up.
One particular mechanic, that allows to reserve cards to be purchased on a future turn, feels pretty weird. And, tbh, it is pretty weird. Initially, you can use it to block other players from getting the cards they want, while only very slightly inconveniencing yourself. As you get more accustomed to the game, you can use reserving to snag cards when one particular color is in high demand, or you can grab a card early in the game to hold on to and pull off a surprise victory when everybody else thinks you are stuck.
The gems are color-coded, so the chips and cards for each gem can be easily matched. But the gems are all different shapes and are displayed prominently on the gems and cards, so this game should pose no problem for color-blind gamers.
Number of players
Splendor is sold as a game for 2-4 players. And it really does work well for anything in that range. The four player game feels a bit more random and harder to pull off complex strategies, but is also really fun and a great game to introduce baby-gamers to board game strategy. The two player game is also really fun, but focuses a bit more on the strategy and blocking other players from accomplishing their goals. We have had a lot of fun with both versions of the game.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - We pretty much love this game.
🍹🍹🍹 - DRINKERS: Drinking during strategy games is always weird, but it's short so go for it
💭💭💭💭 - THINKERS: A great gateway strategy game, also good for experienced gamers
⚜⚜ - THEMERS: eh
📖 - LEARNABILITY: There are so few options per turn; you can learn it very quickly
⌛️⌛️ - LENGTH: Takes maybe 30 minutes
🙈 - COLOR-BLIND FRIENDLY: The gems are different shapes so you don't need to rely on color