Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR– Excellent game with no story. 79%
Basics-Time to head to the mines! In Splendor, you play a gem merchant trading gems to gather mines while trying to impress the nobility. At the beginning of the game, a number of noble characters are drawn equal to the number of players plus one. Then, three decks of cards are shuffled, and three cards from each deck are displayed. These decks all have different gems in them with one decking having cheap gems worth little to no points, another with middle value gems it in, and the final deck having the most expensive and highest point gems in it. Below the gem decks are placed poker chips with the five different kinds of gems on them. Each turn, players take actions to gather gem tokens or spend gem tokens to buy gem cards. Each gem card has a cost in other gems on it. The cheapest gems normally require between three and five gems, while the most expensive gems requiring over 10 gems. On a players turn, a player can take one of four actions: gather three different gem chips, gather two gem chips of the same type if four gems of the same type are available, reserve a card by placing it face down in front of the player and taking a gold (wild card) token, and finally spending gem tokens to buy a gem card from reserve or from the available cards. When a gem car is purchased, another is drawn from the deck. This game has an engine building component as each gem card purchased has a gem on it. Any purchased gem cards can be used in place of a gem token when purchasing another gem card on a one-for-one basis without having to discard or return the card. Thus, building up your gem cards makes it easier to buy gems in the future. Some gem cards have points on them, which are added to your point total. Also, each noble drawn at the start of the game has a number of different gem types and amounts on them. When you have that same number of gems and types of gems as the noble, you get that noble and their points for free on your turn. When one player gets 15 points, play continues until every player has an equal number of rounds. Then the player with the most points is the best gem merchant and is the winner!
Mechanics– This is where Splendor absolutely excels. Splendor’s easy to master mechanics make the game a breeze for players of any age. The game’s four actions are quick while still giving you enough meat of the game to think about what you’re going to do next and the engine you’re going to build. It’s fast, fun, and brilliant. 5/5
Theme– And here is where Splendor fails. The game doesn’t really have a story to build on. I didn’t feel like a gemologist trading gems as I moved up the international mineral ladder to conquer my opponents. I feel like a guy sitting around a table trading poker chips as I build a card gathering engine. The saving grace for the theme of this game is the art and execution. The art is nice, adding a bit of environment to the game while the substantial poker chips do add a bit of tactile feeling to the game. If you want a strong story in your games, you need to look elsewhere! Honestly, simply adding some more story in the rules would have made the theme stand out even more. 1/5
Instructions– The rules to this game are amazingly well done. The rules are less than two pages, front and back. It’s clear and concise while still having pictures to help with game play. These are rules you can read in less than three minutes and get playing in five. Well done! 5/5
Execution– I know the execution of this game is controversial with the battle lines drawn over the poker chips. I’m in the camp where I mostly like the poker chips. These are not the standard cheap-o plastic discs with some stickers. These are heavy duty, clay poker chips. I like game components with some heft, and this game delivers. Also the cards are nice, but they are a bit flimsy. I’d like them to be a bit harder card stock. The art is well done with great drawings of historical figures as well as mines from all over the world. Even the box has nice dividers that really help package the game. Overall, this game is well executed with only a few things I’d like to see changed. 4.75/5
Summary– This is a game where the score is not the great predictor of enjoyment. I really enjoy this game and have gotten a ton of plays in. But, if you need a story in your game for the most enjoyment, then this is one you want to pass by. I don’t always need a story, but that part of a game does draw me in more. However, if you just want some excellent mechanics then this is your game. It’s fast, fun, and thought provoking. Building the perfect gem gathering engine in the shortest amount of time is always a blast! I can’t recommend this game to everyone, but if you want a fast-paced, quick, easy to lean Eurogame, then this is the game to get. 79%