The first section of this review is solely regarding the base game “Splendor”, if you’re looking for information about the upcoming “Cities of Splendor” expansion, please scroll down.
Splendor Base Game
“Class! Please open up your books to page 45, to the chapter titled “The Renaissance”. Today we will be learning……about………the…….a..m….a…z.z…z.z.zzzzz…..” And that is about where I fell asleep every time the word “Renaissance” was used in school. I knew it was a time period where people in Europe were discovering things, and creating stuff, and things of that nature. Right? Let’s be honest, do any kids find European history interesting? Or any history that doesn’t involve some cool battle scene? Well thankfully a strong history knowledge base isn’t required to become filthy rich merchants in the board game “Splendor”.
In Splendor, a 2-4 player game by Space Cowboys, players take on the roles of merchants during the Renaissance, buying and selling resources to buy mines, trading caravans and other merchant things in order to earn power and prestige. Basically, the point is to become the filthiest and the richest. But I guess filthiness is not necessarily required to win the game.
Players take turns gathering gem tokens of different colors. Rubies, Diamonds, Emeralds and such. These tokens are used to purchase cards indicating trading caravans, gem appraisers and things of that nature. Cards each have a bonus that the player will have for the rest of the game. The bonus is basically an extra gem token, but instead of needing to cash it in to use it, this bonus stays with the player for the entire game. Once players buy enough cards, they can eventually buy cards that also have prestige points on them. When a player gets to 15 prestige points, they win the game. During the game there are also rich noble men and women who will come and visit the player who secures the gems that the nobles are looking for. Having a noble visit you is a very prestigious affair.
Splendor is an absolute gem of a game. Pun absolutely intended. It is a game of simple mechanics and complex strategy, which makes it really fun to play, and very easy to learn. Splendor can be played with dozens of different strategies, and each strategy can lead to success, if the cards fall right, and your fellow players don’t foil your plans. Sometimes you may want to play the long term strategy and aim for having nobles visit you, other times you may try to get as many cards as you can early to give you a leg up further down the line. I have won with multiple different strategies depending on how I was feeling at the time.
Players are definitely competing against each other, but it is more passive competition than active. Players will often take the card that you have been planning to take, and preparing to get, for multiple turns. If you learn your competitors plan, you may do this purposefully.
Game play is fast, and players need to make lots of decisions as the cards are different every time it gets back to your turn. Having a strategy and sticking to it early is a good way to be successful. It’s also important to be flexible. Sometimes the strategy you started with is just not feasible in the long run.
Lets take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of the game
Easy mechanics: This game can be taught to a friend in about 2 minutes. It usually takes one round of play to solidify what you’ve taught, so one good practice round and you’ll be on your way.
Quick set up: 2 minute set up, tops. The clean up is just as easy.
Components: One of the greatest parts of this game, strangely, is the great quality of the gem tokens. The tokens are the same weight as poker chips which makes them really fun to pick up, put down, and fidget with while coming up with strategies. It may sound strange but this game is much more fun because of the high quality of the gem tokens.
Replayability: This is my wife’s favorite game, so we play it VERY frequently. I still love the game. Each game is different. Each time I play with a unique strategy. I am never bored.
Fun with any number of players: This game is just as fun with 2 players as it is with 4 players. The number of players does not affect the replayability or variance of the gameplay.
Game Length: This game will play for 30-45 minutes. Every time.
Great balance: You will often win this game one turn before your opponent does or lose it one turn before you have the chance to perform a winning move. Every game is a neck and neck race to the finish. Watch out, it can get blood thirsty.
Number of players: As I have stated in other game reviews, I prefer when games have at least 5 players. This game is 2-4 players. It could easily be adjusted to fit more players.
I really love Splendor. I love the theme, I love the game flow, I love the components, and I love that I enjoy playing this game even when I lose. I highly recommend this game to any kind of gaming group. This game could be played and enjoyed with families with younger kids (the recommended age is 10+, but I could see 8 year olds having a great time with some coaching), by your hard core gamer friends, or by your casual gaming friends who normally play scrabble, but who feel they are intense gamers because they have Apples to Apples. I consider this a core game in my gaming collection. It should be owned by all. So far, it’s the only thing I find exciting about the renaissance. Do I sound biased? I am.
Basically, if you don’t have this game yet. Buy it now. You will not be disappointed. This is a great addition to a giant collection, or a great way to get started.
Cities of Splendor Expansion
In Cities of Splendor, players have the opportunity to visit Iconic cities of Europe like Venice, Lyon, and Seville, build trading posts, build strongholds to secure their goods, and even visit the Orient (as referred to in the game).
I have been a long time fan of Splendor, and was thrilled to hear they were coming out with an expansion. With all of the success Splendor has had, it seems like a great game to expand. I honestly wasn’t sure how they were going to add on to the base game. The game is so well balanced, it seems something too dynamic might completely destroy the core concept. I was also hoping for a possible 5th player variant. I am ALWAYS hoping for a possible 5th player variant. Doesn’t everyone have a single friend to invite for games?
Cities of Splendor has not one, or two, or three, but FOUR game variations in one expansion. Talk about bang for your buck, right? Each variation gives specific but subtle rule changes. For example, when visiting the Orient, players can grab new cards giving them double the normal bonus, or cards that double a card the player already owns.
A few of the other variations include players unlocking special powers throughout the game, like doubling the bonus of gold tokens, and saving cards by putting them in your stronghold.
Each variation changed how I had to think in order to win. In the Orient, going for prestige points early is important because opponents can quickly stack up gems. In the Cities variation there are multiple ways to win, so figuring out how your opponent is planning to win is important if you want to sabotage them.
I was happily impressed with the choice to make the variations subtle and interesting instead of dynamic and game changing. I like the base game, and don’t want an expansion that changes the game, just something that gives me a little change to make things interesting. I feel it worth noting that some others who played the game with me wanted more game changing type variations.
Lets look at some highlights and lowlights for Cities of Splendor
Variations to game length: One great aspect of this expansion is that the developers took into account game length. Some variations add to game length and others reduce game length.
Quality Components: Like with the base game, the components in Cities of Splendor are great quality. I particularly like the miniatures added for the Strongholds expansion.
No extreme variation: Even though I prefer the slight variation to major changes, I think its important to note this since many potential buyers may expect more drastic changes to game play.
Cities of Splendor is a great addition to an already great game. If you like Splendor, I highly recommend buying this expansion.
Cities of Splendor is set to hit shelves soon (late August 2017) so make sure to look out for it.
Play on boys and girls.
Difficulty (Low = Easy)
Duration (Low = Short)