Splendor (Boardgame, PC, iOS, Android)


sp_Icon-Splendor_152Splendor is a gem-themed game of economic growth.  Players use consumable gem chips to purchase point cards, which serve as permanent gems.  As players accumulate cards, they are able to purchase more expensive cards worth more points.  In this way, the game steamrolls into a finale of large point card purchases.  While it sounds rather dry, the game has an attraction as a simple “snowball” game where one’s resources accumulate and become more powerful over time.



Splendor the boardgame received mixed reviews, garnering high praise from some and a more apathetic reception from others (few thought it was simply bad.)  The simplicity and depth of the game was its main attraction.  The fact that the included five different colored “gem” poker chips (a sixth color serves as a wildcard) were fun to use certainly helped. They were high quality, heavy chips not often found in a boardgame.  



The game begins with three rows of four gem cards.  The bottom row are the least expensive and they get more expensive on the second and third rows.  Cards on the bottom row typically cost a4 or 5 gems, second row chips typically 6 or 7, while the top row runs around 10 to 12.  Players start the game without any chips.  On a turn a player can take 3 different color chips, take 2 chips of the same color, spend chips to purchase a card in the tableau (which is then replaced), or procrastinate by setting aside a tableau card for your personal later purchase which also garners you a single wildcard chip.  Note, the chips are fairly limited so a few rounds into the game certain colors can get into short supply.  A player also has a maximum total of 10 chips before needing to discard any extra.  




Players go through the game collecting chips or purchasing cards from the tableau.  The key aspect of the game lies in the gem color of the purchased cards.  Each card represents a gem color (irrespective of the the card game cost.)  After purchasing that card, it represents a “permanent chip” for the rest of the game.  In this way, players will accumulate more and more permanent gem values and will find it easier to purchase the high-cost big point cards.  There are also four bonus point tokens in the game.  Worth three points each, they are awarded to the first player to accumulate the required permanent-gem cards.  These three point cards either require three sets of three of a kind or two sets of four of a kind.  If more than one bonus is fulfilled on a turn, only one can be taken that turn.  



Players move through the game collecting chips and spending them on cards. Eventually a player can start buying cards without spending any chips.  However, at some point it will become time to start to buying the high cost, high point chips.  The largest portion of strategy in the game is figuring out when to make this transition.  After one player reaches a set number of points, the game ends and players compare their scores.  (Actual chips are worth nothing, and most of the cheaper cards aren’t worth points either.)  A typical game runs around 20 points or so.




Splendor is a fun little game that has a nice feeling of “growth.”  During the game a player feels more and more powerful as they become able to more easily purchase the higher value cards.  While the cards in the center can be somewhat fickle, not providing the colors you are hoping for and somehow turning up perfect for your opponents, the game has plenty of strategy to give the advantage to the smarter player.  I like this sort of growth game, and since there are very few mechanics at play it is one of the least complex growth games around.  It is easy enough to play with my younger kids.  The theme is pretty dry (yay, trading gems around) but the game does have some nice bits in the form of the poker chips.



iOS, Android, and PC versions

The boardgame has been ported over to electronic form for iOS, Android, and PC (on Steam.)  It has a nice interface with all information easily accessed in the display at all times.  Graphics are clean and easily read and the point and click interface is well done (particularly on touch screens.)  A nice tutorial teaches the basics of the game, and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting an easy way to learn the physical boardgame as well.


The best part of the electronic version is the challenge mode.  You can play standard games against the computer (2 to 4 players) or against online opponents, but for solo play I enjoy the included sets of challenge games.  However, these challenges use slightly different rules (starting setups and winning conditions) and often include turn limits.  One might only have a limited number of chips to use in the game, need to score a certain number of points, or even start with a large bonus but be required to win quickly.  These little abnormal games switch things up and make one think in new ways about the game.  I’m a sucker for this sort of thing as I find it adds to my long term enjoyment of the game.  I may soon tire of a simple implementation of a boardgame, but provide me with new, interesting challenges and I’m all in.  I’m not a fan of online play, as I prefer to look my opponent in the eye (or really just socialize) when playing boardgames, but play against the AI and particularly the solo challenge mode make me give the electronic version of Splendor two thumbs up!



Kid Factor:

No bad images, simple play requiring little or no reading comprehension, moderately fast play, all add up to a great game for younger gamers.  They’ll need to be interested in a little strategy and thinking – since the theme is pretty lightweight.  The physical boardgame has those wonderful tactile chips, while the virtual game takes care of all the setup and upkeep to make the game fly by.  The game does have an online mode, so all parental advice is in effect for monitoring online interactions.

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