Review: “Splendor”

Designed by Marc André
Art by Marc André, Pascal Quidault
Published by Space Cowboys
2-4 Players
20-50 Minutes

It seems like everyone likes to talk down “Splendor” these days. Once a pinnacle in the hobby, it has somehow slipped into that category of games that have become cool to hate. This distaste for the game has even given rise to a community-wide search for a “Splendor-killer.” I take issue with this. No other title has received this kind of dirision within the hobby; and no game could be less deserving of this ire.

“Splendor” is a fairly straightforward title. Each turn, a player may take only one of three actions:
• Draw resource tokens: three of different colors or two of one color.
• Reserve a card and receive one gold (wild) token.
• Buy a card.
There is a light engine building element here, as each card will upgrade your buying power by permanently adding one gem to a color. Some cards will also have point values, as do the noble tiles. Noble tiles are earned by collecting cards of specific colors. When one player hits 15 points, the round is finished out, and the player with the most points wins.

At it’s core, “Splendor” is commerce in miniature, obtaining and moving goods while growing in financial power and reach. The game embraces a depth over complexity approach that I tend to enjoy. All I ask is that a game allows me to make one significant decision per turn; and on that count, “Splendor” delivers in spades. Undoubtedly boasting some of the smoothest gameplay I have ever experienced, this title makes a perfect gateway game, and it’s also just as compelling for seasoned players.

Let’s get honest here: No conversation about this title is complete without mention of the art and theme. I guess you’re trading gemstones in exchange for mines and caravans? I don’t know, it doesn’t make any sense; mechanically or thematically. A lot of guff has been made of this, but I’m not convinced that it merits as much attention as people tend to give. Yes, “Splendor” has a weird theme- in an industry full of games with weird themes.

Score – 8/10

“Splendor” is an amazing game with a odd choice in theme. I think what gamers resent the most is that something so streamlined can be so engaging. I feel like there’s this expectation within the hobby that for a game to be good, it cannot be simple. But these two things are not mutually exclusive, and “Splendor” is a shining example of that. So, you heard it here first, Token Opinion loves “Splendor.”

2 thoughts on “Review: “Splendor”

  1. If it’s true that players want to trash “Splendor” for being both simple and engaging, what’s their excuse for loving “Ticket to Ride”? Maybe, as you point out here, a weird theme is undermining an otherwise enjoyable game?

    Good review!


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