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Splendor was one of 2014’s nominees for the Spiel des Jahres, quite possibly the most prestigious award in board gaming. I picked it up on the strength of that alone. Was it worth it?

What Is It?

Splendor Game Setup

A game of Splendor set up for 3 players

Designed by Marc Andre, Splendor is, at its heart, an engine building game for two to four players from Asmodee and Space Cowboys. Players take turns performing actions with the goal of acquiring cards. Each card counts as a specific color gem going forward, making later card purchases cheaper. Some cards are worth points, especially the most expensive ones. On your turn, you can either:

  • take three tokens of different colors,
  • take two tokens of the same color provided there are at least four tokens of that color at the beginning of your turn,
  • take a card from the center of the table into your hand and receive a wild card token,
  • or purchase a card, from the center of the table or from your hand, by paying its cost.

At the end of your turn, you check your purchased cards against a series of “nobles” looking to visit. If you have the requirements for one of the nobles, you take that noble for the rest of the game and each noble is worth three points. When one player reaches fifteen points, the turns finish going around the table so that everyone has the same number of turns. The person with the highest score wins. The game plays in about thirty minutes to an hour depending on the players.

Splendor Player Image

A player’s engine beginning to develop.

What Do I Think Of It?

My family has had a lot of fun with this one. My eight-year-old daughter actually requests to play it and she won the first game we ever played. The game is straight forward and easy to grasp. My daughter was able to figure out quickly what she needed to do. I only have to remind her of the possible actions on occasion and that’s becoming less frequent as we play more.

The components are of good quality, but the gem tokens are of particular note. They’re made of plastic with stickers on them. They’re about the size of a poker chip with a significant amount of weight. This makes them satisfying to pick up and hold. I actually spend my time between turns fidgeting with them. Splendor also has a nice, useful box insert. More game companies should really put thought into how useful their box inserts are going to be to their customers.

Splendor Gem Chips

These chips are excellent quality.

I do have some concerns about the game, primarily in the longevity department. The theme is definitely a veneer and the game could have as easily been an abstract without harming the game play. I’m concerned that over repeated plays I might find the mechanics of the game a bit repetitive. I think I have a ways to go before that becomes the case though, and by then I will have more than gotten the value out of the game.

Final Thoughts

Splendor Box Insert

I’m a sucker for a useful box insert and Splendor has a nice one.

The obvious question most people have posed in regards to Splendor is whether it is better than Camel Up, the game that won the Spiel des Jahres. I can’t answer that question as I don’t own Camel Up and probably never will as it doesn’t look like my sort of game. I suppose that is an answer to the question in and of itself. In my opinion, this game is well worth picking up, especially so if you have younger or more casual gamers among your group. It doesn’t take very long to teach or to play and can serve to prime the pump for something heavier on a game night even for more hardcore gamers.

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