Splendor game review

When a game is one of three finalists for the prestigious 2014 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) and wins multiple Golden Geek Awards, it sets high expectations. Splendor delivers on that front: a strategy game that is simple to learn and quick to play, yet fiendishly tricky to master.

I was provided with a copy of this game for review purposes.

We were introduced to Splendor over the summer holidays by long-standing friends with a shared love of board and card games. Our children were immediately taken by it and it is very much their current game of choice – it was played at least 15-20 times during half-term week alone.

The aim of Splendor is to accumulate as many ‘prestige points’ as possible. To accomplish this, players collect variously coloured gem tokens which are used to purchase development cards of three increasing levels of difficulty. These confer both points and further gem bonuses. In turn, collecting the right combination of gems enables players to earn nobles, who yield more points.

On each player’s turn, they must choose one of four basic actions that involve picking up either tokens or cards. The end of the game is triggered as soon as one player reaches 15 points. Play continues to the end of the round (so that everyone has taken the same number of turns) and whoever has the most points is the winner.

And that’s essentially it, rules-wise. Splendor is an easy game to pick up but one that offers multiple strategic game-play options – there is no one obvious ‘best’ way to play. Victory requires a considered trade-off between efficiency (to build a collection of the right-coloured gems quickly) and flexibility (to adjust your strategy in response to other players’ actions), with just a smidgen of luck thrown in.

A game typically lasts 25-30 minutes, building slowly at first as players gradually collect lower value cards to establish a foundation from which to trigger a frantic dash to the finish. We’ve found that there is rarely more than one turn between winning and losing, meaning the result is often in doubt until the closing round, which makes for a tense, exciting finish.

Splendor is played by between two and four people, although we have found that five-player games are (just about) possible. The more players who are involved, the richer and more varied the game-play. It’s intended for ages ten and over, although it can be played by younger children if they are familiar with strategy games. Isaac (9½) and Toby (7½) have won games against us on merit and even Kara (5½) understands the fundamentals well enough to at least be competitive. If your children enjoy games such as Ticket to Ride, they will love Splendor. There’s even a digital version of the game that is available on iOS, Android and PC.

Splendor sells at a recommended retail price of £24.99 and is available from a variety of retailers such as Amazon UK. If you’re looking for a more strategic type of game that is simple enough for older kids to grasp and doesn’t take hours to play, then this would make an ideal Christmas present.

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