Splendor, released in 2014, is a fast paced card and chip collecting game that can be played with 2-4 players. With an average 30 minutes gameplay, it’s technicality and difficulty is relatively low. Designed within the Renaissance, players aim to gain points through a system of gem collecting, building mines, creating transport and forging places to sell these gems. The first player to gain 15 points becomes the winner.
Marc André is the author of Splendor. It was his second published game, his first game with another developer. Space Cowboys is a relatively new game making publisher founded in 2013. Splendor became their first published game to much success. The creation and distribution of the game is all centred within the French gaming scene however the publisher’s brought on a series of American employees in order to expand the outreach of the games created and to blend both American and European style gaming.
Each player in splendor becomes a merchant and the game begins with collecting either 3 different coloured gem tokens or two of the same tokens. There are five different tokens and then a golden ‘joker’ token that can be used for reserving cards and as a sort of ‘wild chip’. As you amass your tokens, you have the ability to buy cards. Initially a player can only afford mines but as they build their collection of tokens and card they move on to being able to buy transportation and shops which equate to more points.
The artistic direction of the game, thanks to artist Pascal Quidault, gives the entire game its regal feel and perhaps enhances the play by being set in a time period. As we discussed in our group, the fact that tokens were used in the gameplay not only enhanced the game but would have inevitably given the publisher a reason to create the game as more than a card game. Tokens and poker chips give players something tangible to play with and stack and slide across the table. Playing the game this happened almost subconsciously as I watched one person slam down their chips to buy a card and another rolling them in their hand. The game has slow beginnings as it’s hard to get anywhere quickly but as the first few points are gained the speed and intensity of the gameplay definitely picked up. There is elements of strategy and luck in the game, and within this different strategies will work in different circumstances. The luck resides in what cards are placed down and what other players decide to do.
I quite enjoyed the game once we got beyond the initial fumbling with the rules. If you wanted to win, you had to think ahead for your next couple of moves, much like chess. I also enjoyed the length of the game, not so long that it becomes tiresome but long enough that you feel as though you built something and grew with the game before its culmination. My one improvement would be that perhaps rather than just getting to 15 points and winning, gaining 15 points means you reach some goal in the chain of gem trading. You get a special card or token, perhaps a royal card.
Space Cowboys 2013, viewed 3 March 2018, <http://www.spacecowboys.fr/#games>.
Splendor 2014, viewed 3 March 2018, <http://www.spacecowboys.fr/splendor/infos>.