When comparing Splendor vs Junk Art, the Slant community recommends Splendor for most people. In the question“What are the best board games for beginners?” Splendor is ranked 4th while Junk Art is ranked 10th. The most important reason people chose Splendor is:
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.
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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 Good for beginners
The game’s rules are easy to grasp, but Splendor also features quite a bit of depth and strategy, which makes this a great gateway option for people just getting into board games, even children.
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.
Pro Easy to start playing
The basic premise of Junk Art can be taught within a minute or two. The whole game revolves around stacking pieces and getting points from your structures. Each game has three rounds – three cities you must go to, which are either chosen or randomized at the start of the game. They are sort of like mini-games that each have their own rules – what must be built, what is the win/lose condition, etc. The goal of the game is to be the player with the most fans after three rounds.
For example, Indianapolis makes players simultaneously flip the top card of their 10-card deck, find the matching piece, place it, and say “Done!” The last player to say it doesn’t place the piece. This is done until all cards have been played, the player with the most pieces gains the most fans.
There’s almost never a dull moment while playing Junk Art because most of the time everyone’s playing at once. Every round will be different – some cities are time-based, others just require you to keep building, but all of them involve some sort of interaction between players – passing cards, swapping places, cooperating, etc.
There are plenty of laughs to be had while playing Junk Art, be it funny creations, memories of someone’s tower falling apart, or a specific city.
There’s a sense of achievement when you manage to create something that looks cool and doesn’t instantly fall apart. Creations tend to get quite unstable, so there are going to be some intense moments where they wobble around a bit, but both outcomes are good – it falls, and everyone laughs, or it doesn’t, and everyone still laughs.
Some of the cities you’ll encounter in the game can also create hilarious and memorable moments. for example, Montreal, where you must choose one out of three cards, pass one to the player on your left, place the piece you received, and then swap places with the next person in the direction of play. Basically, you pass bad cards to your opponents, but if your opponent manages to place them, then that becomes your problem in just a few seconds.
Pro Good components
The game excels with truly high-quality components. The box itself is made of wood and works as a great storage for all the small pieces. The stackable pieces are either wooden or plastic, depending on which edition you’ve got. Either way, both materials are durable and do not feel cheap.
Many of the stackable pieces are unusual shapes – partially curved figures, dumbbells, flowerpots, etc. However, their centers of mass are very well-balanced, which means that no piece is better than another – it’s all situational.
Pro A lot of variety
You will never play the same game of Junk Art twice. Usually you’ll get different combinations of cities and your constructions will be unique every time. The base game comes with 12 cities (one of which requires the game “Flick ‘Em Up” to play) and 3 blank cards for custom cities.
The 12 cities are diverse – some require you to be the fastest, others make you compete in creating the highest structure, and there are even some especially interesting cards, for example, Montreal makes you swap places with other players, or Paris requires you to cooperate and create one structure together.
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.
Con Not for people with shaky hands
It’s no surprise that dexterity games require steady hands, otherwise creations risk falling. Some cities allow room for errors, but in others the round ends as soon as someone drops a piece or two, which is fine occasionally, but if it happens too often because of trembling hands it kind of ruins the gaming experience with an abrupt ending.
Junk Art is quite a pricey game due to the components – there’s a lot of them and they are of high quality wood or plastic. The version of the game with wooden pieces sells for $40-60, whereas the plastic version goes for $25-40.
Con Environment dependent
Junk Art is a game that requires you to stack pieces together – this demands a completely even surface, so the tower won’t fall over, and some room for every player, so they don’t accidentally elbow each other. Moreover, this game can’t be played outside or next to an open window very well because a gust of wind might ruin your construction.