Thursday, January 8, 2015

Quick Review - Splendor

Designer: Marc André
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Quick Review - Splendor
Splendor is a game that's been talked about a whole lot lately.  It was a Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) nominee and has garnered a ton of buzz.  Splendor is a fast paced set collection, engine building game for 2-4 players ages 10+ (although again, both my 5 and 8 year olds play the game with no trouble at all - in fact they beat my wife and I as often as we beat them).  It plays in about 30 minutes, when you don't have kids that like to sing a song about every turn they take =)

Every year for Christmas we get our family a game to play on Christmas Eve.  This year I let my boys pick out the game.  So after watching a bunch of game review videos they came to a consensus.  Or rather, didn't, as siblings are apt to do.  My 8 year old wanted Takenoko.  My 5 year old insisted on Splendor.  So what's a dad to do?  We got both, of course!  Takenoko ended up being our Christmas Eve game and we saved Splendor for New Years.  I also went a little overboard and bought acrylic gems and brass drawer pulls that I cut the backs off of so we have fancy gems and gold coins instead of the chips.

Upon opening the game I was surprised at how solid the chips were.  I had been expecting light weight plastic chips, but these were solid, heavy poker chips with beautiful images of gems printed on them.  Playing with them is just great.  The gems and coins I added to the game make it look spectacular, but really aren't needed to have a great game.  The components in the game are awesome as is.  Oh, and a bonus, the gems that I bought fit nicely in a baggie and then under the plastic box insert, so everything stays together nicely.

Whether you use the standard tokens or the fancy gems I found, the game is beautiful!
Playing Splendor with fancy gens and coins!

The gold coins are brass drawer pulls that I bought from Lowes.
The black gems are just glass accents I got from Michael's.
And the acrylic gems I got from Amazon.  I needed two bags of
these to have enough of each color and I have plenty left over for
something else.

So how does the game play?  We absolutely loved it!  The instructions are super simple and the game can be taught in just a few minutes.  And gameplay is fast and exciting.  There's a little bit of analysis paralysis when trying to decide what development card to work toward when someone snags the one that you had been shooting for, but the game moves quickly despite that.  There is very little downtime between turns, so you need to think on your feet and plan a few steps ahead.  However that doesn't always work.  My 5 year old likes to reserve the expensive cards right away and then slowly work toward acquiring enough gems to buy those cards.  And often he ends up winning!

Most of the games we've played have been fairly close, except the one game my 5yo won - when we realized he had a lot of points and counted them we realized he had 23 points (only 15 are needed to win) and should have won several turns earlier.  My wife and I only had about a dozen points each and were very humbled =)

Splendor is the type of game you can pull out and play any time and in almost any company.  Gamers will like the game because there's the possibility to think and plan 4 or 5 turns ahead, but also that feeling of despair when someone snags the card you've been working for, or the feeling of triumph when you are the one to grab that card out from someone else's nose.  Non-gamers will enjoy the game, too, for its simplicity, fast action, and just overall fun!  I haven't played Camel Up, the winner of the 2014 Spiel des Jahres, but I have a hard time thinking that it could be a better all-audience game than Splendor.

Technically this isn't really a First Play review since we've played it a half dozen or so times already, but since we played it five times the first day we opened the game, I didn't have much choice =)  My family really loves Splendor and I think it'll be a favorite for a long time to come, whether we use the fancy gems or the awesome, standard tokens.

Preliminary Rating: 8/10

All set up and ready to play a four player game!

The acrylic gems do take up more room, but they look great!

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  First Play Impression reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first time playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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