SPLENDOR: A Gem of a Game

SPLENDOR is a game by Space Cowboys where you take the roles of gem merchants expanding your businesses and gaining prestige as you go.   You try to build your business engine by collecting gems and using those gems to buy developments like mines, artisans and trade routes.  Along the way you can also impress nobles which also add to your prestige.

Splendor is a race between 2-4 players to 15 prestige points.  The game usually takes around 20-30 minutes, and only takes a minute to set up.

Each turn a player can take one of four actions.

  1. Take three different colored gems from the pool.splendor game
  2. Take two of the same colored gems from the pool if that stack still has at least 4 gems at the start of your turn.
  3. Purchase a development card using the gems you have accumulated.
  4. Reserve a development and take a gold “wildcard” gem, which can be used as any colored gem for purposes of purchasing developments.

Prestige can be gained in the game through two ways.  Some developments have prestige points printed on them and add to your total.  The other way is by attracting nobles based on the number of types of developments you have that is needed to impress that noble.

Splendor layout

I’ve played this game countless times, and often more than once per session, as the game is so easy to set up and playgroups usually end up asking to play again and again after their first one.

The rules are so simple and elegant and so easy to teach.  It literally takes less than five minutes to introduce to even non-gamer friends.  However, after spending a few rounds playing you immediately start to realize the depth of the game despite the relatively easy game rules.

after spending a few rounds playing you immediately start to realize the depth of the game despite the relatively easy game rules.

The game’s theme, however, leaves something to be desired, as at the core of it is really an abstract economy engine building mechanic, and the gem theme only very thinly veils that elegant game system.  Once you get to playing, the theme gets easily forgotten in the background as you solve the puzzle that unfolds before you while trying to accumulate 15 prestige points before everyone else.

Splendor players at Neutral Grounds Centris
Splendor players at Neutral Grounds Centris

Tabletop gaming currently is still predominantly male-dominated, but such is not true for this particular game. Personally, I’ve found that both my wife and daughter really has taken to it like ducks to water, and they are as good if not better than me at it! The last Splendor tournament held at Neutral Grounds Centris Walk also had three women in the top 4 table!  How’s that for gender equality?

I think the appeal of the game to women is its puzzle-like quality and set-collecting nature, similar to, maybe Candy Crush? The fact that it’s colorful and has a jewelry theme might also add to the draw.

Splendor is truly a GEM of a game that deserves your attention.  It is surely going to be one of the classics, much like Catan, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonders.

I give this game a 5 diamond rating!

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