Game Buzz: Splendor

There’s a game that just came out recently that’s really getting a lot of buzz.  It is called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Splendor is a 2-4 player game designed by Marc André and published by Space Cowboys.  In the game, you are gem merchants in the Renaissance trying to acquire prestige.  I know, I know – my eyes rolled too.  But it does seem to be capturing the imagination of lots of people, so I wanted to give the rules a look to see what I thought.

The game comes with 90 development cards, 10 noble tiles, and 40 poker chips that represent the gems.  In the beginning of the game, four cards from each of three levels are revealed and laid out in rows.  A number of nobles equal to the number of players (plus one) are revealed, and the rest are removed from the game.

On your turn, you take one of four actions:

  1. Take three gems of different colors.
  2. Take two gems of the same color, though you can only do this if there are at least four tokens of the chosen color left.
    • You can never have more than ten tokens at the end of your turn.
  3. Reserve a card by taking it from one of the face-up rows or drawing it from one of the level decks.  The reserved card goes into your hand, and cannot be discarded.  You can’t have more than three reserved cards.  When doing this, you also get a gold token (a joker).
  4. Purchase a face-up card or a previously reserved card by paying the appropriate tokens.  These cards can give you points and discounts on future purchases.

At the end of your turn, if you have met the requirements for a noble, you get the tile, which gets you more points at the end of the game.

The game ends when someone reaches 15 points.  Keep playing until everyone has had the same number of turns, then see who has the most points.  They win.

Splendor looks like a very simple game about managing your resources and trying to produce points.  There are a couple of interesting mechanisms here.  The ability to reserve a card is a cool idea – you don’t have to be able to pay for it yet, you’re just putting a hold on it so no one else can take it.  This takes blocking to a whole new level – instead of someone buying and benefitting from the card you’ve been shooting for, you can just put a card on hold.  This could even be used to make sure someone else can’t get it, even if you have no intention of using it.  The other thing that appeals to me is the idea that you can build bonuses to make other cards cheaper later.  You’re essentially building an engine that will hopefully get you lots of cards for free.

Splendor looks light, but I can tell there’s lots of strategy bubbling under the surface.  I would like to give it a try sometime – it seems like something I’d like, even with the boring theme.  Thanks for reading!

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