I recently picked up a copy of Splendor while I was in the Bay area. I had played it a few times already, and I knew that I liked it but I wasn’t so sure that I was going to buy it. It’s a good game, but what finally tipped it into the purchase category was the production value.
Slendor is a new release from a couple of French dudes, designer Marc André and artist Pascal Quidault. The edition I purchased at Games of Berkeley was produced by Space Cowboys, which I think is awesome because I assumed that all they did was ride around on rocket horses, rounding up space cattle, occasionally singing sad songs on their space cowboy guitars.
Mechanically, Splendor is a pretty simple game. The players represent gem dealers during the Renaissance who gather resources from mines, ships, artisans, and merchant houses and then use those resources, represented by cards, to accumulate additional gems and prestige points. If you gather enough resources of a particular type, then you might receive a visit from an important noble or dignitary, which gives you additional prestige points. You cannot refuse the visit of an important historical figure, even Machiavelli, who is a total ass hat.
“Honey, Henry the VIII is at the door!”
“Oh crap. Get that turkey leg out of the fridge and send Becky to the mall for a while.”
This resource gathering is really pretty dry; however, the physical production of Splendor somehow elevates the game into a very enjoyable 30 minutes of play. Not only is the art on the cards and tiles absolutely gorgeous, but you also get 40 casino-style chips that make great clicking and clacking sounds as you play with them.
Splendor plays from two to four players of ages ten and up, and retails for about $40, which just rides the cost/value edge, but I think it’s worth it for the aforementioned production value. I suppose I could have said “previously mentioned” or “that stuff I wrote before this” , but I’m afraid that if we don’t use certain words every so often, then they will disappear and be replaced with emoticons, hashtags, and animal-like grunts and burps.
I asked my friend David Gullett what he thought about Splendor, because I know that he is someone who values the physicality of games. He described Splendor as being both elegant and quick, but didn’t mention anything about the bits or the art. He went on to say, “Splendor has a simplistic depth to it, but few rules. It can be played as a family, where one just takes their turn to benefit themselves, or “gamery”, where you can play on a deeper level and really consider what your opponents are up to, what their best moves are, what they need, what you can get away with waiting on, etc.”
I agree that Splendor, in spite of the simplicity of the rules, lends itself to multiple levels of play. I think that says a lot about the design. Good job, French dudes! Yippee-ki-yay, Space Cowboys!