Splendor is a jewel of pure strategy gaming. This app is rich in depth and replayability. No wonder it made our top 10 list.
Android & iOS
10 - 30 Minutes
# of Players
1 - 4
Splendor is an economic strategy game set in the European Renaissance. The app is quite in depth, as it is loaded with several AI opponents, online multiplayer capability, and special Challenges. I find that it has unlimited replayability. Despite the simplistic game play, the development cards are constantly changing and the available gems are always in flux. Splendor challenges me during each game, and this is in part what makes the game so rich. Splendor looks good, plays well, and keeps great in game player statistics.
A turn in Splendor is had after you gather some precious stones/gems from the available lot, purchase a development card from the board, or reserve a development card from the draw pile or game board. Splendor has little room for mistakes. I feel that even your first move (typically selecting gem tokens from the board) has an impact on whether or not you'll win the match. The tokens include Diamond, Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby, and Onyx. There are also 5 special Gold tokens that act as Jokers, or wild card tokens and can be used as if they were any of the other gem tokens.
The goal is to reach 15 Prestige Points. You earn these points by purchasing Development Cards and earning Noble Tiles. Each time you purchase a card, you earn the gem bonus as well as any Prestige Points depicted on the card. Your gem bonuses are the most important part of a winning strategy. At the end of a turn, if you possess the appropriate type and quantity of Gem Bonuses indicated on the Noble tile, you earn that tile. These bonuses also accumulate and act as gem tokens themselves that count toward development card purchases. In my opinion, it is crucial you collect these bonuses early and often.
Barrier to Entry
Splendor has a quick, three or four minute tutorial that adequately prepares you for the game. Subsequently after three or four games, I was in deep thought and careful planning while trying to achieve the 15 Prestige Points necessary to win the match. The barrier to victory, however is a bit more involved and takes an acute mind to manipulate the jewel market in one's favor time and time again.
Super Cool Loading Screen
Beginning of a four player game
Game over for the AI opponents.
Look and Feel
The look and feel of Splendor is a straight forward look down at the development cards, gems and Noble Patrons; as if you were sitting at a table and playing. The game does a great job of laying all the important game items right there in front of you. There is no need to tap to reveal certain inventories like many other board games apps have employed.
Splendor has an easy to use interface and it is difficult to do something unintended. The game progresses at a nice pace, which helps make it clear the actions your opponents are taking. In many other games this important part gets lost in the mix. The only thing I would change on the board are the highlighted Development cards available for purchase. There is a faint green border that can be easily missed if you are not careful.
Splendor has online synchronous multiplayer as well as Local Pass-and-Play with up to three other local players. During an online game, Splendor makes it clear how much time you have to play your turn before being timed out and replaced by an AI for that turn. Once timed out, you must wait until your next turn to resume the online game. As one would expect, online games take a bit longer than single player. For instance, a recent three player online game lasted 36 minutes during which we took 27 turns. I have had mixed success in online matches, but I have found it easy and quick to find a match in the online multiplayer lobby.
Playing in Single Player mode is fun and not terribly difficult to the point where it lessens the enjoyment. Google achievements can be unlocked during single player, which I always enjoy seeing pop up during and after playing. Your AI opponents do not have traditional skill levels, but rather specific strategies such as Balanced, Opportunistic, or Specialized.
Splendor's "Challenges" feature is a treasure chest of exciting quests that really enhance the game. There are over 45 different scenarios from around the world for you to solve. Each one includes a very short story about the challenge, which I think is magical. The element of time in some of the challenges really changes the game. Splendor changes from a casual day at the gem market to the "Black Friday" of the European Renaissance. Also available to play as challenges are Duels with Princes, Kings, and Queens of varying difficulties and historical significance.
Love the detailed Scoring Breakdown
Choosing a challenge to play
The Macau Challenges await....
This Splendor app review would not be complete without mentioning how hard this game is to put down. It has supplanted Onirim, Pandemic, Carcassonne, and Small World 2 for my mobile gaming time. Something that gets lost during game play is that you are actually purchasing mines, jewelers, and transportation methods in the role of a wealthy gem merchant. Each of these are depicted on the development cards, but don't really have a meaning nor direct influence on the outcome of each game. This isn't a problem, but rather a benefit, as it just a little extra story while playing.
The Wrap Up
Splendor made our Top 10 Android Apps list last month. Should you download the game, I'm sure you'll agree it's a superb way to kill some time and stretch out your brain muscle. The fun in Splendor derives from stacking up Gem bonuses in an effort to win that Noble Tile. There is something satisfying about watching your bonuses add up, knowing they will help build your future wealth in the game. As mentioned before, the app offers so much depth. You can play solo vs. the AI, join an online game, or choose from any one of the numerous solo challenges they provide.