Splendor is an engine-building and resource management game for 2-4 players. The players take the roles of Renaissance gem merchants attracting the attention of nobles and buying transportation, shops, and gem mines to earn prestige points. The game is won by the first player who reaches 15 prestige.
Pro Easy to learn
The basics of the game are very straightforward and easy. You can start playing in a matter of minutes, which is great for absolutely everyone – young and old, experienced and new.
The game begins from the youngest player and continues clockwise. In their turn the players can perform one of three actions: take three different gems, take two gems of the same color, reserve a development card and take a gold gem, or purchase a development card. All development cards give permanent gem bonuses for later buys and some cards give prestige, which is required to win. Prestige is also gained from nobles, which can be attracted if specific conditions are met.
The game enters the last round when a player reaches 15 points. The game is won by the player with the most points after this round.
Pro Fine-looking artwork
Splendor’s artwork is follows a Renaissance theme and is quite detailed and beautiful. The cards of the game feature depictions of ships, gem mines, and shops from the era. The coins are colorful and have stickers on them representing the type. There are also portraits of historical figures on the noble cards, for example, Henry VIII, Isabel of Castile, and Elisabeth of Austria.
Pro Can be played aggressively or peacefully
The game is suited for both playstyles mostly due to the card reserving mechanic. This is great because you can adjust to the company you are playing with, whether they want to be fully competitive and try to deny each other’s plays or laid back and just watch the empires grow without interfering.
You can reserve a card to use it later or, even better, so your opponents can’t use it. You also get a “wild” gold piece, which can substitute any color required in buildings. You can have a maximum of three cards reserved at once.
Pro Scales well
The game plays very well in the designated 2-4 player range. It has some nuances that depend on the number of players, for example, the amount of coins and nobles in play.
It’s possible to go past the 4-player maximum by getting another copy for more coins. Another solution would be to add something like poker chips or other types of coins to the game.
Pro Satisfying to see progression
It’s enjoyable to watch your trading empire grow. The game starts slowly with you gathering gems to create some basic buildings and futureproofing yourself, by the end of the game there’s quite a lot of cards on the playing surface. You can also get points for attracting nobles to your side by getting a specific combination of gem cards, which gives you a building direction and a goal to work towards.
Con Very poor component quality in newer editions
The game used to be widely complimented on the great overall quality of the coins and other pieces, but the materials changed in 2014. All the printings since then have reduced quality – chips are very lightweight and sometimes the color seems off, and all the components have a cheap feel to them.
Con Luck of the draw
The building cards that are drawn from the decks are random, which means that the game can often boil down to top-decking a building that’s either very valuable or completely worthless to you or an opponent. The nobles are random as well, but they won’t impact the game as critically – they are there just to direct you to a goal.