What: A peaceful game of gems and jewels
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 30 minutes
People: Almost anyone, really
Available: Grab it for a very cheap price on Amazon here
Why we recommend it
Most board games can be quite divisive. They are in my relationship anyway. Fancy a game of Jaipur? No, I’m not in the mood. Galaxy Trucker? Nahhhh. Netrunner? Hmm.
Thankfully, there’s always Splendor. The quiet, non-confrontational serenity of Splendor. The game thematically pits players as renaissance-era merchants trying to out-gem each other in a kind of capitalist mining adventure. The reality, however, is that the theme doesn’t really matter.
Players start with nothing, and on each turn can either select a few gems or spend some of them to purchase a building, which appears on a series of cards laid out on the table. All of these buildings will grant an additional gem for future purchases, which can be used ad infinitum.
The idea is to eventually buy the extremely expensive cards, which grant the player a point or two at a time. First to 15 points wins!
This mechanic means that players rarely get in each other’s way, unless two of you both have eyes on the same ruby mine. In that case, you might harbour a few moments of resentment, but it’s easy to readjust your plans and buy something else instead. Or, of course, you can wait for a bit and another, similar, ruby mine is likely to show up soon.
Everyone mostly focuses on getting on with their own investment plans, racking up neat lines of assets in front of them. Line up four emerald-granting cards and you’ll be able to buy something costing four emeralds for free. Quite quickly the scale of your investments starts to increase, and it becomes a scramble to acquire the best available point-scoring cards.
It’s because everyone is concentrating on their own projects that Splendor feels so peaceful. It would be unfair to label this game a ‘sedate’ experience, but it’s definitely on the more relaxing end of the board game spectrum. I like to play it in between sessions of meatier, more fiery games that might involve more aggression or treachery. It’s takes the edge off, ya know?
There are also a few other minor quirks to the game, such as the ability to attract wealthy point-scoring nobles or the opportunity to reserve cards for future purchase. Ultimately though, Splendor is an uncomplicated experience that only becomes a thinker right at the end where you might start worrying about how to stop other players from winning, for example.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the pieces. For a simple set of cards and tokens, the game feels amazing. The tokens used to represent the many gems in the game feel much nicer than they look, and are satisfyingly weighty to turn in your hand – much like a premium poker chip, perhaps. I even included it among my favourites in a post on special pieces in board games last year.
So why do we recommend it? Well, it’s a refreshingly peaceful title in the board game world, but one that doesn’t become boring or non-competitive as a result. It’s a unique kind of play, and somehow combines a handful of very basic ingredients to become a peaceful but enjoyable game with a great replay value.