Review: “Splendor”

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 hatred within the hobby; and no game could be less deserving of this ire.

Designed by Marc André

Art by Marc André, Pascal Quidault

Published by Space Cowboys

2-4 Players

20-50 Minutes

Gameplay

“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, 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.

Thoughts

At it’s core, this title is about depth over complexity. Undoubtedly boasting some of the smoothest gameplay I have ever experienced, “Splendor” makes a perfect gateway title. It’s also just as exciting for seasoned players. That said, despite my praise, I do take issue with a few design decisions:

First, with a few additional components and some rule tweaks, this game could have easily accommodated six players. I’m fully aware that I can always buy another copy (as many folks do) but I really don’t believe that should be necessary.

Second, the resource token count has never felt quite right to me, as if there aren’t quite enough. Occasionally the game can get a bit stuck, especially when everyone needs the same color. I’d submit that two chips of each color (and one gold) per player might fix this issue.

Finally, the “player can take two chips of one color unless there are three or fewer of that color left” rule is completely unnecessary. We never play with this rule, and I actively recommend you ignore it as well.

None of these criticisms make the game bad, I just see them as tics against an otherwise stellar title.

Rulebook

The one page rulebook included with the game is just about as perfect as it could be. It’s extremely concise, and leaves no room for rule debates.

Components

The game features good cards, cardboard noble tokens, and real clay poker chips. The cards in particular have been a highlight; they have proven to be far more durable than I ever would have expected them to be. And of course, the poker chips are absolute magic.

Unfortunately, I have to nitpick the box. It’s not deep enough to accommodate the cards in the insert as intended. If you do store the cards vertically, the box lid actually rests on top of the card edges. It’s not all bad, you can place the cards down flat in the same spot, and use the noble tiles as spacers for the decks.

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 – 9/10

“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!

    Like

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