We all love the gateway game Splendor however should this app be added to collection? Is this port a noble attempt or an absolute gem?
Splendor is a quintessential engine builder where you trade in gems to buy cards, earn VP and ultimately win the game. As with any engine builder you start with the ability to buy lower powered cards however each card you purchase improves buying power until you are able to afford the higher value cards. Splendor utilises this mechanic by offering a limited supply of gems at the beginning of the game which means it’s essential you upgrade your engine. A turn consists of one of three actions; take up to 3 gem tokens, reserve a card for future purchase or purchase a card and add it to your tableau. Each card purchased provides you with a gem bonus which is added to your store and is available to spend at the start of each turn and possibly some VP’s which are immediately added to your total.
The crux of the game lies in the fact that using the gem tokens available at the start of the game is not enough to be able to afford to purchase cards containing VP. You need to add gem bonuses to your purchasing power in order to buy better cards. VP can also be earnt from buying noble cards which become available to you once your volume of gem bonuses meet certain requirements. The first player to reach 15 VP is crowned the winner and that’s all there is to Splendor.
The app version of Splendor looks fine, the graphics and art style are nothing to write home about but they are also not terrible. It’s a matter of taste as to whether you like the design of the cards and gems and while they aren’t particularly to my taste I can’t argue if they appeal to you. Elsewhere Splendor does a great job with the actual interface. It is clear exactly what you are able to do on each turn. The iconography is simple to understand and there is little room for misunderstanding exactly what resources you have available to you at any time. Everything within the game fits easily on the screen and at no point did I wish for any area to be larger or clearer. Animations are no fuss which thankfully means games can be completed in around 10 minutes even with the maximum compliment of 4 players.
Speaking of 4 players, Splendor comes with a number of multiplayer options with both synchronous online multiplayer as well as local pass and play for up to 4 players. Should you want to play solo you are able to with a number of customisable AI options. So far I have found the AI challenging enough to be fun without being disheartening and I enjoy that you are able to customise their strategy rather than the difficulty level. This is a nice change to the normal easy, medium and hard we find with some AI. Longevity is added to thanks to a number of challenges which sees the game alter game rules and winning conditions. These increase replayability in an interesting manner and are a welcome addition to the game on the initial download. Splendor currently also has 2 available expansions which add additional mechanics to the game via city cards and trading posts and are affordable additions to the game.
All in all the digital version of Splendor is a success. I enjoy an engine builder mechanic and Splendor provides enough of a challenge that I can go to it whenever I want to scratch that itch. My main criticism of the game is that it can occasionally feel like you are just going through the motions which is probably down to how simple a gateway game Splendor is. Often I find myself going for the exact same strategy game after game so it can have a little deja vu feel to it when I sit down for a marathon session of Splendor. With this in mind I now treat this app as a warm up to a more in depth gaming session or a way to fill time with a game which is a little less lightweight than the likes of Camel Up. Splendor is a lot of fun and a worthwhile addition to your board game app library (at least until someone ports Century Spice Road…)