Splendor Board Game Review

Splendor Board Game Review | Gem of a Game or a Trade-In Candidate?

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Splendor is a resource management game. There are some hints of engine building in there as well. The basic premise of the game is that you are a gemstone merchant. You collect gems and use them to buy assets like gem mines and trade routes. The more you buy up, the more prestige you get. The winner is the first to reach 15 prestige points.

Welcome to STEM Geek! x
Welcome to STEM Geek!

The game is straightforward to learn. This simplicity makes it a good game for those just starting in board games. It’s also an excellent option to take on holidays as the box is relatively small. Despite its simplicity, there are hidden depths to this game.

The first time you play, you will likely focus on gathering points. As you get more confident, you’ll learn to watch your opponents and try to interfere with their plans. By reserving a card at the right time, you can throw a spanner in another player’s plans and sneak your way to a victory.

Related post: Best Engine-Building Board Games

The Pieces

Splendor Board Game unboxed
Splendor Board Game unboxed

The box is a well-designed one. All the pieces have spaces for individual storage. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a great feature. It makes setting up the game very quick and easy.

You don’t get a lot in the box, but the items you do get are very well made. There are three decks of cards, which are the different levels of resources you can buy. There is a selection of 10 smaller noble cards that are printed on very thick card stock. This makes them feel more important than the standard cards. Finally, there are the tokens. There are six different colors of tokens.

All the components are of good quality. The tokens are made of plastic with stickers on them. But they are well designed and feel pleasant in your hand. I’ve had my set for years, and it’s seen a lot of play, and all the pieces look as good as new.

How to Play

Splendor board game guide

The gameplay is pretty simple. That’s one of the biggest strengths of this game. The aim is to be the first to get to 15 victory points. You get this by collecting gem cards that have points on them as well as noble cards.

On your turn, you have two main choices. You can either buy a card or pick up tokens. When you’re picking up tokens, you can either pick three of different colors, or you can choose two of the same color.

There is, however, a third option that you can choose. You can reserve a card to use later. When you do this, you get to take a gold token. Gold tokens are wild and can be used in place of any other token.

If you wish to buy a card, you must already have the gems in your hand. Once you buy a card, it then counts towards your total of gems and helps you buy more cards. When purchasing a card, you return any tokens you used to the bank, but if you also used cards to pay the price, they remain in your hand. So the more low-level cards you buy, the easier it is to buy the higher-level cards.

Players can win the nobles’ cards by collecting the cards they have marked on them. As soon as you have the required cards in your hand, you automatically get the card. It doesn’t take a turn.

A few significant restrictions can be easy to miss but transform the game from a simple math exercise into a real strategy game. These are that you can only hold a maximum of 10 tokens in your hand at a time. You can only pick up two tokens of the same color if there are at least four tokens of that color left.


Splendor Board Game cards and tokens
Splendor Board Game cards and tokens

Playing the game with 2 or 3 players takes around 30 minutes. With four players, you should probably expect it to take an extra 10-15 minutes. Your first play through it might take a little longer, but probably not a great deal. The rules are very simple, and it doesn’t take long to understand how the game works.

Depending on the experience and age of the player, there isn’t usually a lot of downtime. You are generally able to plot your next moves while other players go. This means you stay engaged and aren’t just sat waiting around for your go.

Number of Players

Splendor is a game for 2-4 players. It’s an excellent small group game, and it works well with all these group sizes. The only change in the setup is the number of tokens and the number of nobles to choose from.

Suitable Age Range

The box says that the game is suitable for kids aged ten and up. I think younger kids can access it as the gameplay is pretty simple. It’s a good game for practicing simple addition, and it also requires strategic thinking. At 30 mins in length, it’s a good length for kids to enjoy.

Because there is some depth to the tactics and the strategy, this game also holds up well for adult groups. It might not suit you if you’re looking for a profoundly complex and immersive experience. It’s perfect for picking up and playing when you’ve got a bit of time to spare.


Splendor: Cities of Splendor Expansion

Cities of Splendor is the expansion that you get get to go with the base game. It’s a really interesting expansion pack because it comes with four different modules. You can add each of the four modules to the base game, so in essence, with the one expansion, you get four new versions of the game.

I’ve only personally played a couple of the modules, but they add to the game nicely, and I can see that they would be a great way to mix things up if you fall in love with Splendor and play it all the time.

Best Bits

  •  Simple rules that make it easy to teach and learn.
  •  Different strategies to try, which keeps the game fresh for many plays.
  •  Reasonably quick playtime so you don’t have to have a huge amount of free time to get a game in.

Weak Points

  •  Not as in-depth and complex as some hardcore board game players may prefer.
  •  The theme is not integral to the gameplay. It could be about collecting anything at all.

Games Like Splendor

When I’m trying to decide on a new board game, I often try to look for ones that have features in common with other games that I already like. So if you like any of these games, there’s a good chance you’ll like Splendor.

  • Azul
  • Ticket To Ride
  • Parfum
  • Lanterns

The Final Verdict

Splendor Board Game Layout

I’m a big fan of Splendor. I use it as something of a gateway game. It’s an excellent way to introduce reluctant board gamers to the idea of more grownup board games. The game is quick to play and works with 2-4 players. It’s a game of strategy and planning, and you can be as machiavellian as you wish. I’d recommend this for anyone over the age of 8.

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