Board games have slowly developed from the traditional Monopolies, Scrabbles and Cluedos of this world. Mechanics have changed, stories have been implemented and now there are multiple ways to turn players (and friendships) apart. Splendor is one of these popular tabletop games which focuses on resource management during the Renaissance era. Playing as a jewel merchant, you must collect gem chips and purchase development cards to further your prestige before your competitors – the first to 15 points is crowned the top merchant.
Splendor strays away from traditional game mechanics in the way that players are no longer forced to rely on the roll of dice in the hopes of landing on the right number. Instead, during your turn you are able to choose one of four possible moves; you can choose two of the same colour coin, three different colour coins, purchase a development card or reserve a card using a yellow coin. There are three levels of development cards with the blue-backed cards providing the largest amount of prestige points, offset by their high price. The cost of a card is displayed on the bottom left corner while the points it is worth is in the top left corner with some cards being worth nothing. However, these cards are still important to collect as they stand in as permanent coins which you can use throughout the rest of the game to pay for other cards, the gem-type is shown in the top right corner and is always worth one coin. Also, if you collect a certain set of cards, you will be visited by a noble which will earn you extra prestige points.
This game works well in its simplicity which makes it easy to learn for new players. The amount of players in a game (Splendor is actually recommended for 2-4 players) can completely change your tactics to win. For example, in a two player game it is much easier to keep track of what your opponent is doing and see what cards they are planning on purchasing – by doing this you can reserve cards that they require which can set them back a few rounds. However in a four player game, it can be hard to know what cards everyone is choosing and determining which cards to reserve without ruining your chances of winning the game. Also, the first player has a small advantage during the beginning as they are able to collect coins first and thus make their initial purchase before anyone else. For anyone who is after the first player and wants to collect cards early in the game, you must aim for different cards to those making their move before you so that others do not purchase a card that you were planning on buying. A personal tactic I employ is to find two low-level cards that require similar types of coins to purchase so then I have a plan B just in case someone else buys the one I wanted – works like a charm, most of the time.
I’ve been playing Splendor for quite a few months now and I find it has a big replayability value since the cards are always shuffled which means the board is different every time. I often try to get at least one noble throughout the game although sometimes this can backfire when a certain type of development card (a diamond for example) doesn’t appear for a couple of rounds. This means that there is a level of chance to Splendor, but the game still gives you enough flexibility that if you prepare for the worst, you can still win even when it seems impossible. I remember playing a game against my sister and she was on 13 points while I was on 10. At this point, she seemed quite smug about her upcoming win since two-point cards were quite affordable at this point. However, she hadn’t been concentrating on the top tier development cards where a lovely five-point lay unnoticed. Keeping my poker face, I was able to save enough coins for the five-point card and win before my sister took the crown – a truly classic underdog tale.
Playing board games has become a regular hobby of mine and a large part of my enjoyment comes from the ability to interact with others. It creates memories as me and my friends reminisce over the epic games we’ve had or some of the times where games like Risk have screwed us over because they were based on luck. These moments create inside jokes that only those within the community would understand and is a great ice-breaker for meeting new people – especially when it is a co-op based game. Whether you’re shy or confident, turn-based games like Splendor allow the centre of attention to rotate between players because people need to pay attention to what others are doing to be able to win the game. Rather than in a conversation where the talk usually includes “two central members while other members retreat to be spectators” ( Xu et. al., 2011), board games provide a social experience for all.
- Xu, Y., Barba, E., Radu, I., Gandy, M., MacIntyre, B. (2011), Chores Are Fun: Understanding Social Play in Board Games for Digital Tabletop Game Design, DiGRA ’11 – Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play, vol. 6. Accessed at: https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/547378/mod_resource/content/2/BG%20Digra.pdf