Engine Builder Card Games

Splendor: Your Guide to a Gem of a Board Game

If you’re looking for a fun and challenging board game to play with your friends Splendor is a perfect choice! In this game, players compete to earn the most prestige by acquiring gems, mines and the favor of nobles.

The gameplay is simple but strategic, and it’s sure to keep you entertained for hours on end. In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of Splendor, cover some common rule questions, and give our thoughts on whether or not it’s worth buying. So if you’re curious about this popular board game, read on!

An Overview of Splendor

Splendor is a board game for 2-4 players that takes about 30-60 minutes to play. It was created in 2014 by Marc André, published by Space Cowboys and was nominated for Spiel des Jahres game of the year.

In the game, players take on the role of Renaissance gem merchants trying to make the most impressive works of art and build their empire by developing mines, transportation and winning the favor of various nobles.

The goal of the game is to earn the most prestige points by acquiring development cards and noble tiles.

Splendor Setup

Splendor comes with three decks of development cards and gem tokens which are about the size of poker chips. The development cards are divided into three tiers with fewer cards available at the higher tiers.

Deal four development cards from each deck keeping each tier in it’s own row. Shuffle the noble tiles and place them in a row above the cards (four noble tiles for a two player game, five nobles if you have more than two players).

Set each development card deck next to the corresponding row and place the gem tokens in easy reach and you’re ready to go.

When you’re done your board will look like this:

Let’s now take a closer look at a development card and a noble tile.

Anatomy of a Development Card

There are three important sections of a development card. I have placed a box around each of them. In the white box you see the cost of the card, this card costs 1 diamond, 4 sapphires, and 2 emeralds.

In the blue box you see that this card is worth 2 Prestige points. Not all cards have prestige points, especially at tier 1.

In the yellow box you’ll see what gem this card produces for you. After you’ve purchases this card all future cards cost one less ruby.

Anatomy of a Noble Tile

Ah — the wealthy renaissance noble, winning them over will certainly bring you more prestige but they only care about what you’ve built, not the gems you have.

You’ll notice the cost of these tiles are denoted by rectangles not circles. This means you must have enough gems produced by cards you own to acquire the noble, gem tokens can not be used.

How to Play Splendor

One of the great things about the Splendor is it is really simple to play. The core rules only take up about a page (the rest of the short rulebook is a list of components and optional rules).

On your turn you can take one four possible actions:

  • Take 3 gem tokens of different colors from the supply
  • Take 2 gem tokens of the same color from the supply
  • Purchase a face up development card from the table
  • Reserve 1 development card to purchase later (and take 1 gold token)

Cards that you purchase are placed in front of you face up. These cards give you free gems that you can use to reduce the cost of future cards and higher tier cards will also give you prestige points.

How Development Cards Work In Your Hand

Now let’s look at how things work once you’ve bought some cards and acquired some gems

Given the above example, you get 2 rubies, 1 sapphire and 1 emerald from you cards, and you have 1 emerald and 2 diamonds from your chips. If you spend the chips you have to turn them in but the cards are permanent and. essentially give you a “discount” on all future purchases. In this case you could take a card that cost 2 rubies, 1 sapphire and 1 emerald essentially for free.

The gold token that you get when you reserve a card can be used as a “wild” in place of any color gem you choose.

A player can not have more than 10 gem tokens at any given time. If at the end of their turn a player has more than 10 gem tokens, they must choose tokens to discard to get them down to 10.

When a player reaches 15 prestige points that triggers the end of the game. The players finish the round so that everyone has the same number of turns. At the end of that final round the player with the most prestige points wins the game.

Reasons we Like Splendor

There is a lot to love about Splendor!

It’s fast to teach and easy to play. It’s also a great game to play in a loud environment because it doesn’t actually require much communication. You can only do one of four things on your turn and each action is something the other players can easily see you do.

When playing with experienced players turns can go quickly without any talking at all. That doesn’t mean you can’t be social while you play, but I’ve also played this game in noisy bars with no problem at all.

Splendor is also a very different kind of game and adds some variety to your collection. It’s a card game, but it’s more about resource management than anything else. It has an interesting mix of strategy and luck which can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s usually possible to pivot your strategy.

The components in Splendor are really nice. The use of chips for gem tokens is great, they are very easy to handle which is good because they get passed around a lot. The chips themselves are quite heavy, they feel good in your hand and will last a long time. I have heard in the second edition of the game they made the chips a bit lighter, but I imagine they will still last.

What we Don’t like about Splendor

Even though we really like this game, there are areas that could be improved.

The theme is kind of irrelevant. It’s decent, but it’s unnecessary. You could change the theme or even remove it altogether and the game would be just as fun to play. This is evidenced by the fact that they made a Marvel version of this game.

Another thing I don’t like… they made a Marvel version of this game. Do we really need Marvel versions of everything? I get it, there is overlap between the people who like board games and the people who like Marvel but it just feels like a cash grab (if you want the Marvel version though here is a link to it).

Also, I mentioned that the mix of strategy and luck can occasionally be frustrating. To a certain degree you want to plan which mines you buy around the cost of the cards on the table, but those cards keep changing and it’s possible you end up with a way to produce a lot of a color you no longer really need. This is part of the game though, it’s important to diversify.

Finally, for a game with such a small footprint it comes in quite a large box. The insert keeps things well organized, but at the end of the day the game is 90 development cards, 40 poker chips and 10 noble tiles — it could have come in a smaller box. This would be a great game to travel with if you came up with something else to store it in.

Well organized, but a lot of wasted space.

Is Splendor Worth the Money?

Splendor is certainly worth the money. It’s a great family game, it’s easy to teach, fast to play, and and has well made components that will last a long time. If you sleeve the cards this game could potentially last you decades.

Can You Play Splendor Online?

You can play Splendor, along with many other board games, online for free at Board Game Arena. If you’re still unsure if you’d like it, head over there and give it a try.

Can you Play Splendor Solo?

Splendor does not have a rules for solo play. The game is designed for 2-4 players. However, there are a number of community created rules for solo play available online. If you’re interested in solo play checkout these rules at 221 Board Games, The Solo Board Gamer and Board Game Geek.

How many versions of Splendor are there?

There are two versions of Splendor. The original was released in 2014 and a Marvel themed edition called Splendor Marvel was released in 2020.

Are the expansions for Splendor?

There is an expansion called Cities of Splendor which adds four modules that can be played together or separately.

Cities: Cities are a new type of tile that replaces the nobles. Rather than acquire them for points the cities contain different objectives for players to complete. In order to win the game you must complete one of the city objectives.

Trading Posts: Introduces special bonuses for collecting a specific assortment of development cards.

The Orient: Adds three decks of cards (one for each level of development cards). Two cards from each of these decks are turned face up are turned face up and provide the player with access to special powers.

Strongholds: When you play with this expansion each player is given three stronghold towers. When you purchase a card you must place one of your strongholds on a face up development card on the table. You are now the only person who can purchase or reserve that card. Strongholds can also be moved and you may remove other players strongholds. If you get all of your strongholds on one card you may buy that card as an additional bonus action allowing you to purchase two cards in a single turn!

We have not yet played with any of the expansions, but we are excited to try them out.

Splendor Strategy Guide

  • Start by buying the cheaper cards. This will give you more options and help you get closer to purchasing the more expensive cards.
  • Try to get a good variety of gems on the cards you buy, this will enable you to start getting low level cards for free.
  • You can try to corner the market on a gem by trying to buy all (or nearly all) of the cards with that gem on it. This can be risky if the board becomes full of cards that don’t require a lot of that gem
  • Don’t be afraid to reserve a development card and take a gold chip, this can help keep cards from other players and that wild chip will come in handy
  • If you do reserve a development card, be sure to eventually buy some of the reserved cards. You can only have three reserved cards at a time

Splendor Rules Clarifications

Do you need a noble to win Splendor?

Getting nobles will certainly help you win, but it’s not required. All that is required is that you have the most prestige points after someone has reached 15. If you’re playing with the Cities of Splendor expansion you do have to complete a city objective to win.

Can nobles be stolen in Splendor?

Players can not steal nobles from other players, one you have a noble they are yours to keep.

Does it cost an action to take a Noble in Splendor?

It does not cost your action to take a noble. The noble is yours as soon as you have enough cards to acquire them. You can not take two nobles in a single turn, if you qualify for two nobles at once you must choose which one to acquire. If the second noble is still available on your next turn, you may take it at that time.

Can you pass your turn in Splendor?

No, you cannot pass your turn in Splendor. Each player must take an action on their turn.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a challenging and unique board game to play with your friends, you should really consider adding Splendor to your collection. The game is simple to learn and fast-paced, making it ideal for any environment. With its mix of strategy and luck, Splendor is sure to be a hit at your next game night. So pick up a copy today and get started on your path to prestige and riches!