Splendor: Easy to Learn, Hella Shiny and Enough Strategy to Keep Your Interest


  • Nate Warren
One of the foremost things driving the board game resurgence is the tactile dimension: Each game is an insular little universe that draws you in with the harmony and detail of its design. Your hands are one of the pathways into this experience, and nothing drives that home like the feel of the gem chips in the Marc Andre-designed Splendor.

In Splendor, each player takes the role of a Renaissance-era gem merchant. The premise is simple: You gather gems from the available market and start using them to buy “developments”— cards in the middle of the table that can be bought from a communal play area. These developments score you points, enabling further developments, more prestige and even the hoped-for visit from a noble, who brings your enterprise even more prestige and a step closer to victory.

Play couldn’t be simpler: you choose one of four available actions on your turn and the play moves to the left. But building an efficient way up the ladder of more prestigious and valuable developments on the table proves trickier. When we first learned the game, I won consistently. Then I sat down with my stepdaughter, who smashed me flat with a strategy so simple that I hadn’t even considered it. After that, I sat down with a couple of friends; one of them looked at the game for the first freaking time ever and ground us into dust four out of five games.

It seems like I still have a lot to learn about this lean, mean Splendor machine — and that’s what’s great about it. The play is simple, but you’ll be refining your strategy game to game. The cards in the middle and the nobles whose admiration you can earn are never the same, so you’ll have to plot a different path to victory based on changing conditions — which I apparently don’t know how to do.

Splendor is a snap to learn, fun to play and looks freakin’ gorgeous on the table. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be on the game shelf of anybody who has a spare 30 minutes during the week. If there’s one drawback, it’s that the player count maxes at four. But the first time you get one of those emeralds in your mitts, you won’t give a damn.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.

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