If i were trapped at a family or social gathering with people who aren’t into board games, and i had to choose one game to introduce to them, it would be Century: Spice Road. But a close runner-up would be Splendor, a little set-collecting puzzle where you’re figuring out the best pathway through a series of cards en route to 15 or more points.
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Splendor, a simple set collection game for 2-4 players. Let me show you how to play!
You and your friends play rich Renaissance-era merchants turning raw gems from mines into… you know what? Don’t worry about it. The theme is completely tacked-on and doesn’t matter at all. What you’re doing is buying these cards using poker chips in various colours, and the cards themselves become a permanent currency that you use to buy more and better cards at a discount. The first player to 15 prestige points triggers the end of the game, and then you finish out the round. After all players have had the same number of turns, whichever player has the most points wins!
Here’s what the table looks like after set up. The game’s currency are these gems: emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and onyx. These gold tokens are wild. The cards you’re buying are set up in three rows, and the cards in each row get more and more expensive as you move up the table. The points each card is worth are listed at the top left. The cost of each card in gems is listed down one side. So this card costs 1 diamond, 1 sapphire, 1 emerald, and 1 one ruby. These tiles across the top represent influential nobles – we’ll talk about them shortly.
On your turn, you can do one of 3 things: buy a card, reserve a card, or take more gems.
You start the game completely broke, so you’re gonna wanna take gems on your first turn. You can either take three differently-coloured gems, or you can take 2 gems of the same colour, as long as there are at least 4 tokens of that colour in the stack. So yes, you can take 2 rubies from this stack of 4, but the next player couldn’t take 2 rubies, because there are now fewer than 4 in the stack.
You can have up to 10 gem tokens. If you ever take more than that, you have to give them back. And later in the game, if there aren’t enough gems left, you may not be able to take your due. Gems are a limited resource.
Once you spend a turn or two collecting gems, you can use them to buy a card from the tableau. Pay however many gems the card costs back to the supply… put the card in front of you, and pull a new card from that row’s deck to fill the gap. As the game progresses, these decks may run out of cards. Like the gems, the cards are limited.
The cool thing about buying cards is that they become a permanent currency. So when you buy this card, it becomes a permanent diamond. If you were to buy this card later on, it would only cost you one sapphire, one emerald, and one ruby, since your card covers off the diamond cost. As you buy more of these cards, you can stack them to get deeper discounts, to the point where you can eventually start buying cards from the table without actually spending any tokens. And of course, as you buy more expensive cards from higher rows, they’re worth more points towards the 15-point total that ends the game.
The third action you can choose to take on your turn is to reserve a card into your hand. You’ll generally do this when there’s a really good card on the table and you can’t afford it yet, or if you see your opponent is about to buy a card, and you want to stop him or her. Take the card from the table and put it in your hand, filling the gap with a new card if one is available. You also get to take 1 wild gold token when you do this. These wild tokens stand in for gems of any colour. When you reserve a card, you can take any face-up card from any row you choose.
Your hand limit is 3 cards. You can’t discard a card – the only way to get rid of a card in your hand is to pay for it to put it out in front of you. Cards in your hand do not give you their listed discount – you have to pay to build them to get that. And wild gold tokens do count towards your limit of 10 tokens.
These nobles are worth extra points. At the end of your turn, if you meet any of the prerequisites listed on a noble’s tile, that noble comes and hangs out with you, giving you those extra points. Claiming a noble doesn’t count as taking an action on your turn. And the prerequisites refer to the gem bonuses on the cards you’ve collected, not your gem tokens. If you qualify to claim more than one noble tile at the end of your turn, you just take a single noble tile of your choice. You don’t replace noble tiles after they’re taken like you do the cards.
The first player to buy a card or claim a noble that puts his or her score at 15 prestige points or more triggers the end of the game. You finish the round such that everyone in the game has had the same number of turns, and then you count up the final scores to see who’s won, because it’s possible in your final turn to pull ahead of the points leader with your last action.
To set up the game, deal out 4 cards from each of the decks marked with one, two, and three white dots, with the priciest cards in the top row. Deal out player-count-plus-one noble tiles, and put the piles of gems on the table. In a 3 player game, get rid of 2 tokens of each gem colour, excluding gold. In a 2 player game, get rid of three tokens in each pile, excluding gold. The youngest player goes first, and play continues clockwise.
And now, you’re ready to play Splendor!
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Get Your Own Copy of Splendor
Splendor is a great game to have on hand if Grandma thinks everything you own is “too complicated” and she’s threatening to make you play Crazy 8’s again. To add your own copy of Splendor to your board game collection, use the Amazon link below, and we’ll receive a small commission!