Get on Board: Splendor

A tactical game for all with massive replay value

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The success of a board game often comes down to striking a balance between required skill and luck, and many fall just short of the mark. A game dependent on luck isn’t necessarily a bad one but it can be infuriating to players who roll bad dice combinations constantly or turn over the wrong card. Those dependent on skill can be deeply satisfying to the most dedicated of players, but not much fun on a games night where the beers flow freely. Enter Splendor.

Released in 2014 Splendor is already becoming a staple of the casual gamers’ collection. It comes in a large, serious-looking box, but don’t let that intimidate you. The set-up takes around two minutes, learning the rules takes around 15, and a game can be played in under 30.

The aim is to impress Renaissance nobles including Henry VIII with your properties and gems. Development cards are earnt by gem tokens, but are also worth a gem themselves. A player gradually buys properties, which results in buying more expensive developments and expanding their gem collection. Once you have the required number of gems you earn yourself a visit from a noble. Various development cards are also worth prestige points, as are the nobles themselves. The first to 15 prestige points is declared the winner.

What is so compelling about the game is that on your turn you only have four moves to choose from. Pick any three different coloured gems, pick two of the same coloured gem, reserve a development card, or buy a development. This allows for strategy as every player has the same goal, but only a limited way to reach it so it’s a level playing field. It may sound contrived, but it lets players stop other participants from progressing quickly and games from becoming lopsided. Everyone has a chance of winning up until the crucial last five minutes, where everyone is just a couple of points away from succeeding.

The gem tokens are high quality and the artwork and design are elegant and clear. The instruction booklet is concise with little need to refer to it during gameplay. With luck being a very small factor in Splendor, players are content and competitive throughout. The designer’s focus on basic gameplay has led to a tactical game for all with massive replay value.

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