Splendor (Overview, Set-up, How to Play, Strategy, and Tips)


One of the most iconic games being played today is Splendor. This is a mind-blowing, multiplayer, card-based, strategy board game that that is building a huge fan base.  

Splendor was designed and illustrated by Marc Andre and Pascal Quidault respectively, and published in the year 2014 by Space Cowboys. Two to four players can play this game, and it has a playing time of roughly 30 minutes.

For the best experience, you can play it with 3 to 4 players. In the past four years of the game’s existence, it has become a darling for lovers of strategy games all over the world.  One of the reasons for its success is that it’s easy to learn yet difficult to master.

This success led the game to get a nomination for Spiel des Jahres 2014 Game of the Year. In 2017, Cities of Splendor, an expansion of the game was released.  The 2017 release had four modules including The Cities, The Trading Posts, The Strongholds, and The Orient.  

Splendor Overview 

Splendor is designed as an engine building game from its foundation.  The primary focus of the game is earning development cards through the spending of your gems (or chips). Each card that you earn or buy makes acquiring future cards easier.

Additionally, you may get victory points (prestige points) as you buy each card.  The purchased cards will allow you to buy subsequent development cards at a lesser cost, thus earning more victory points.

The first player to reach 15 prestige points wins Splendor.

Splendor Setup 

This board game has several different components, which are all well made.  The most remarkable element of the game is the gem tokens. The tokens have a very pleasing weight and come in 6 distinct colors. They feel about the same size and thickness as poker chips.  The feeling of having these gem chips in your hand is very natural, and it’s easy to find yourself fiddling with the chips during the game.

Pro Tip:  Be sure to fiddle around with the chips while others are trying to concentrate on their turn.  It will be sure to distract them and give you an advantage.  At least this is the case with me.  I find it so frustrating when others are playing around with their gem chips…and I usually lose (and they usually win).  Or you can implement house rules to prevent this type of gamesmanship.

This game has a total of 90 development cards divided into three levels. As you go up the levels, each of the cards has different artwork and also increases in cost. The level 1 cards feature gem mines, the level 2 cards feature transportation and cutting, and the level 3 cards depict gem shops.

The cards are made of good quality materials that do not wear quickly even after repeated game play. 

Additionally, there are also 10 Noble tiles in this mind-blowing strategy game. The 10 Noble tiles are bonuses that players can strive to attain in the course of the game to get extra prestige.

The Noble tiles are randomly selected for each game which provides the game with some variety that will not be soon repeated.  The Noble tiles prestige points are first come first serve, so pay attention and do not forget to collect these tiles when you achieve the appropriate cards.

The game also comes with a four page rule book including the cover that describes the overlay of the game and how to play. You shouldn’t be surprised to see that Splendor comes in a quite large box for the components inside. This is probably a cost-saving measure though it also acts to shield the components inside from drops and other forces that may damage them.  

How to Play Splendor 

First, Splendor is an overwhelmingly exciting game to play whether it’s with family or friends. As a newbie, it should take you roughly 5 minutes to learn how to play the game.

As you set up the game, make sure that you divide the gem tokens into six stacks based on color. All the three levels of the development cards are to be thoroughly shuffled and then 4 cards from 4 of the stacks drawn to form a 4×4 grid. Next, the Noble tiles are randomly dealt out to the players present plus an extra one, and the rest put back into the box.  

To get the ball rolling on this game, a player takes their turn to play, and the rest follow in a clockwise manner. On each player’s turn, they have a chance of performing one of these four different actions: 

  • Pick 3 gem tokens of different colors
  • Pick 2 gem tokens of the same color
  • Pick a single development card and one gold token – the gold tokens are wild.
  • Purchase a development card from either the table or a card that they already have in hand.

On each development card, there is a number of icons that indicate the quantity and color of gem tokens needed to purchase it.   Once you have purchased the development card, you have to look at the color of the gem icon on top of it as that will be your discount on your future purchases throughout the rest of the game. 

You are not permitted to have more than 3 “un-purchased” cards in your hand nor are you permitted to have more than 10 tokens in their stash.  Furthermore, in a case where a player has gem cards equaling a quantity and type of Noble card, they can collect it and add it to their prestige score without having to use any gem chips.

Once a player earns 15 prestige points, the game ends, and that person wins.

The Overall Game Experience 

This strategy game is fascinating as it is easy to play and also easy to teach to new players as well. While playing, you quickly notice that the rules are naturally quite intuitive, and it feels like they were put in place to make the game more engaging.

Winning depends on the strategy you use when it gets to your turn.  What makes Splendor even better is the availability of open information during the game.  Luck is very scarce in this game and the only way to win is to have a better strategy than the other players.     

How you play from the start of the game will determine your chances of winning. Your ability to quickly get a Noble tile can easily change the direction of the game as each Noble tile is worth 3 prestige points.  However, if you cannot get a Noble tile do not lose heart – Splendor can be won without obtaining these points.

Final Thoughts on Splendor

If you are looking for a fun, easy-to-learn, and engaging game, you do not need to look further than Splendor. This is a game that you can enjoy with your family and friends, even if they wouldn’t consider themselves to be “gamers”.  You can find this game using this link – Splendor.

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