Upon opening the box, Splendor appeared to be a complex game that required a lot of skill and tact. After playing the game a few times it revealed that the challenge is what made Splendor so entertaining.
Created and designed by Marc Andrè, Splendor is set in the Renaissance period in which gamers are merchants making their way up the economic ladder as they bid their gems in order to gain prestige amongst the other players. Marketed to those ten years and up, the game requires two to four players and takes about thirty minutes to complete. The end-game is to acquire 15 prestige points before your other opponents do. The board game was the first published by Space Cowboys in 2014, a relatively new gaming studio that was founded by the core leaders of Asmodee, a highly anticipated and well known French gaming group taking the market by storm. The game was nominated on a number of occasions following its release, winning the 2014 Golden Geek Best Family Game Board and Game of the Year title.
Upon selecting the player order, Splendor begins with each player deciding to either:
1. Take 3 gem chips of different colours or take 2 gem chips of the same colour.
Once each player has had a turn, they can decide to follow the first action or subsequently:
2. Trade the gems for a card
3. Reserve a card with a gold chip
As the game progresses, the players are required to consider how to effectively manage their resources in order to win the 15 prestige points needed to conclude the game.
After studying the rule book, consulting YouTube for advice on how to set up the game board and getting started with gameplay, it became quite clear why Splendor was described as such an immersive and visually interactive gaming experience.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Splendor is the unique design and game mechanics in which it employs. The game not only has cards with detailed depictions of transportation and shop fronts — these development cards are aesthetically appealing thanks to the work of artist Pascal Quidault, — but also has tiles with intricately drawn nobles who have the ability to grant the player with an easy win. Then there are the game tokens, a series of brightly coloured chips representative of gems. These pieces are gambled with throughout the gameplay, acting as a currency that differs from traditional game money. The materiality of the gem tokens and being able to see their value translate during gameplay added to the experience. The slightly abstract nature of Splendor — how many popular games on the Australian market are Renaissance inspired and leave you bidding for prestige points? — combined with the game’s design is what makes it so interesting and entertaining.
Playing Splendor in a group of four, I found that each individual was more attentively trying to accrue their own stockpile of gems and prestige points rather than trying to eliminate one another. The bidding and buying process added a competitive element to the game that lacked the element of hostility. Unlike some games I have played in the past, Splendor was relatively low-confrontation as each player almost did their own thing each round. Maybe this was because the game was based on pure strategy, required deliberation and a more thoughtful gameplay.
As challenging as Splendor appeared at first glance, the game was actually much more simple that I had thought. Once I had a strategy that I felt would work in my favour to win the game, each round got quicker and the end of the game seemed to approach quite fast. Despite not actually winning any rounds, the process of accumulating prestige points, collecting gems and buying the items I thought I needed to win was more satisfying. I think that this, combined with the low level of confrontation Splendor incited, its unique design elements and the well-crafted mechanics it produced, is what makes Splendor so replayable.
Boardgamegeek.com, 2017, Splendor | Board Game | BoardGameGeek, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017, [https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/148228/splendor]
Moore, C., 2017, “Digital Game Cultures”, DIGC310, University of Wollongong, Lecture Notes, March 2017.